A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the Kansas City regional dinner for the University of Missouri's Jefferson Club. A packed house of Tiger supporters came to celebrate Mizzou's basketball history and their own commitment to the University.
I've given lots of talks about Tiger hoops, but never in a room so alive with the program's history. Norm Stewart was there, as was Ed Matheny (who played from 1941 to 1943), Phil Snowden (who played for Norm Stewart's freshman team in 1957 before going on to greater fame as a Missouri quarterback), George Flamank and Ned Monsees, Don Early (1962-65), Greg Flaker, Bob Johnson (1970-71), John Brown, Al Eberhard, Gary Link, Bill Flamank (1973-75), Willie Smith, Kim Anderson, Derrick Chievous and Lynn Hardy. It was a remarkable assemblage of men who spanned nearly sixty years of Missouri basketball.
I talked about the beginnings of Tiger basketball, Missouri's World War I era Golden Age, and stars of long ago like George Williams, John Cooper and Bud Heinemann. We celebrated the program's history, Norm Stewart's upcoming induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, and the brotherhood that binds these men and their school.
The past players came to celebrate all of that, but as much as anything, they came to support Bill Flamank, a hard-working forward and a second generation Tiger who was the third member of his family to wear the uniform. Bill has endured a year of incomprehensible tragedy, losing his wife and suffering devastating injuries in a terrible car accident, for which has undergone five surgeries to date. Though he moved about on crutches, Bill walked tall.
Coach Stewart spoke a few words after I finished, and praised Bill's perseverance. As you spend time with the men who played so hard for Coach Stewart and his predecessors, you can see why they were so successful. They are tenacious, dedicated men of character, and they make for a tightly-knit fraternity. John Brown made the trip to Kansas City from Rolla because he wanted to ensure that Bill got out to a dinner where he could be supported by his friends.
No one made a show of why they were there, and Coach Stewart spoke of Bill's circumstances in only vague terms. Everything about it was understated and dignified, but stirring nonetheless. It was one of those times when you really could be proud to be a Tiger.
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