As a college freshman, I remember walking on to the quad and passing through the columns. I was a naive kid with the world ahead of him. I went to my first Tiger football game as a student and cheered (most likely, cursed but this a PG post) as the opposing team was pelted with oranges. It was a Mizzou football tradition and unfortunately the only good licks we put on the visiting team. And that’s when the pain started. You should never lose your first home football game.
Education and opportunity aside, I’m convinced that the State of Missouri should give students free tuition. All Mizzou alumni should receive a refund check in the mail. No money will ever make up for the amount of pain students, fans, and alumni have lived with watching Tiger football. After seeing the 5th down fiasco against Colorado in 1990, I should have known. How can the officials miss what an entire stadium saw? Why shouldn’t the officials give the undefeated and Number 1 nationally ranked team an extra shot at the end zone to win it? And then to have the NCAA and the Big 8 let that stand, it’s un-American. I don’t care what Carl James said. It is a “post game correctable error.” Only in college football would this happen. This is the same sport that came up with the BCS rankings system. After that, I should have just walked away.
But no, I kept at it like Tiger fans do. In 1997, the Cornhuskers came into town with an 8-0 record, held the Number 1 ranking in the polls, had only given up seven points in their last three games, and had beaten the Tigers 18 straight times. Mizzou needed divine intervention and it arrived as God put his finger on Corby Jones for three marvelous quarters. He could always run but never had he thrown with such accuracy. The Tigers had the Huskers on the ropes the entire game. I still remember that wild eyed look on Larry Smith’s face, it was priceless. But on the last play of the game, the flea kicker is born. This is how Wikipedia describes it:
The Huskers were on the Missouri 12-yard line with only seven seconds left when Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost threw a pass intended for wingback Shevin Wiggins. The ball hit Wiggins directly in the chest near the goal line. The ball immediately shot down and hit a Missouri safety in the foot and popped back in the air. Then Missouri safety Julian Jones tackled Wiggins as time expired. As Wiggins was pulled to the ground, his leg popped up, kicking the ball into the air for a second time. Cornhuskers receiver Matt Davison leaped for the ball, his hands scraping the turf as he managed to make the catch in the end zone for a touchdown. Missouri fans stormed the field in celebration, thinking they had won.
I won’t even get into the fact that it is illegal to kick the ball into the air. Penalty. Fifteen yards. Game over. It doesn’t work like that in Mizzou football. The rules are irrelevant. Only in a parallel universe could this happen. A universe where the laws of physics do not apply. That parallel universe has created a bubble around the Mizzou football program. I think there is a Fox Sports TV show that is still trying to replicate the flea kicker using professional soccer players and no roaring crowd. Well, they can keep trying because this could only happen in a Mizzou football game. It can’t be simulated. It just doesn’t work that way.
This isn’t saying that Mizzou football has fallen on hard times. Our football stadium isn’t in Lawrence, KS. We have been respectable, and even great in some cases for well over a decade now. And we have been so close to getting to that title game. Remember beating the Jayhawks in Kansas City? Every few months I still pull up pictures of the Kansas quarterback with that big chunk of grass in his helmet. The headline underneath, failure. Then, the Big 12 Championship game hit. Oklahoma brought us back to earth again. How many National Title shots have Big 12 teams lost to this game? Too many. Kansas State fans can agree.
When the season started, I had muted expectations. I felt we had to beat Tennessee and Vanderbilt to be bowl eligible. The other games were too risky, especially after last season. Yet, Mizzou just kept winning, handily. Then, Franklin went down. Of course, this would happen. It’s Mizzou football. Franklin always gets hurt. There is always a catch.
Somehow, the backup quarterback steps up. Maty Mauk leads the team to victory. This is unexpected. Everything seems to be on track again. The Tigers look resilient. Then, Mizzou gives up a big lead to South Carolina in the fourth quarter. I remember getting these texts, This always happens to us. I’m tired of this… (enter explicative of choice here).
Yet, nobody told the Tigers. I started emailing a friend of mine that’s an Alabama fan at the beginning of the season. I made the joke that Mizzou wold beat the Tide in the SEC championship game. Week after week I told him we were coming. After each win, I’d drop him an email, and I’d get a reply saying that would only happen in a fool’s dream. I give Tide fans credit. He emailed me bright and early Sunday morning and wished the Tigers all the best. I was taken back. After all, I’m used to Cornhusker and JayHawk fans. Most SEC fans seem to have manners. But it’s good to see someone else get a little taste of Mizzou’s parallel universe. Welcome to the jungle, Alabama. It’s not the flea kicker but a 109 yard touchdown return after a missed field goal as time expired, well, you just don’t see that everyday.
As I watched ESPN yesterday, they have now anointed Auburn the team of destiny. What’s worse is that Auburn is doing the same. Who does that? Accountants don’t go to work saying, Today I’m the accountant of destiny. I’m sure it’s hard not to get swept up in the hype. Almost every analyst has predicted that Auburn will beat the Tigers by four touchdowns.
Today, I have decided that I will not accept this. I have been waiting on Mizzou football to enter its parallel universe. I have been waiting for us to lose all year in miraculous fashion. It’s in the DNA of all Mizzou fans, that belief that something will happen to ruin it. I have decided to map a new genome. I believe that we can create our new reality. Mizzou fans are getting out of the parallel universe. We are packing our bags and finding new real estate. So, here is what is going to happen:
Mizzou is going to beat Auburn. Instead of James Franklin taking one on the chin in the first quarter and being carted off the field, he will play better than Corby Jones did against Nebraska before the flea kicker, or whatever nonsense that was. He will throw for accuracy, Mizzou will overcome a few lame holding calls, and the defense will rise to the occasion. They have done it all year, why not now?
After blowing past Auburn, Ohio State is going to get what it finally deserves. In 2006 and 2007, I watched the Buckeyes lose a game early, take most of the month of November off, and become the lucky loser. Eventually, the lack of a Big 10 Championship had them playing for the title. I grow tired of hearing how the Buckeyes haven’t lost in two years and are more than deserving. At ole’ Mizzou, I can point to a few decades of pain. Can anyone stack up to that resume? And does anyone really want to see the Buckeyes again in the big game? This year, the Championship game will bite the Big 10. I can thank Nebraska for this because without them defecting there would be no Championship game.
So, let’s go Mizzou. Enough is enough. I have high expectations. Go win this thing.