This is in no way an admission of my own political leanings, but when it comes to sports, I'm a card-carrying socialist. Of the two major college sports--basketball and football--basketball is by far more democratic, and it only results in pain. In college football, the joy is spread. Only one team wins the national title (most of the time), but over one-fourth of D1 teams get to finish the season with a bowl win, while lesser teams might end their season with a win over a big rival in mid-November. About half the teams in the country end the season on at least a briefly satisfactory note at the end of a good--or simply mediocre--season, and hey, what's not to like about that? Happy > Sad, right?
In basketball, however, only one team truly ends the season on a happy note--the NCAA champion--while a few others--the NIT, CIT, and CBI (and ABC, 123, BBC, XXX, PER, PPP...) champions--end on a pretty happy note, though those wins will be accompanied by a bit of a "Why couldn't we have played that well a little earlier in the season??" nag. Aside from a few Ivy teams, independents, and dregs from smaller conferences that don't bring every conference team to its tourney, everybody else is pretty much guaranteed to finish with a loss.
In basketball, the better the season you have, the more painful the season-ending loss is going to be. The more exciting moments you've had leading up to your final game, the more hope and feeling you're going to have before your season gets beheaded. In the end, the goal is just to feel something in basketball. The pain is satisfaction.
Previous Missouri seasons ended with little pain, but there was little excitement throughout the journey either. This year, the pain quotient was high. There was no Cotton Bowl reward. As much pride as I felt in knowing that we had beaten Memphis and then earned even more respect by not folding up shop and putting a serious scare into UConn (causing, with 10 minutes left in the game, the same "Who are these guys??" moment that most of the college football watching world experienced in late-November 2007), the self-pity was still taking me over after the game. Another Elite Eight game where we couldn't buy a bounce to save our lives. Another tantalizing run ends a step away from the promised land. I mean, did you see Kemba Walker's all-but-game-clinching bank shot?? That thing almost broke the backboard! But of course it went in, and Mizzou ended up getting sent home. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy college basketball, but I'd also forgotten how cruel it could be.
(I didn't contribute much to the "Thank you, gentlemen" thread, partially because I was hustling to crank through the stat wrap-up, and partially because I was too busy still wanting to feel sorry for myself. I wasn't switching gears to "The loss stinks, but what a run!!!" mode without a fight.)
As we get further away from 6pm on Saturday, when the season officially ended for Missouri, the pride is starting to overtake the pain. I'm realizing how lucky I was to witness these last two months of great basketball, how lucky I was to be this close to the action, and most of all, how lucky I am to have chosen the last couple years to start a Mizzou blog.
Rock M Nation could not possibly have timed its entry into the SBN blogosphere any better. The first official sporting event after RMN came into the world was Missouri 41, Nebraska 6. Since then, we've experienced...
- The two best Mizzou Football seasons since the '60s
- One of the best, most enjoyable Mizzou Basketball seasons of all-time
- The personalities of Martin "MotherRucker" Rucker, Chase "Watermelon Balls of Fury" Daniel, Chase "Thrust Nunchuk Upward" Coffman, Jeremy "Cheat Code" Maclin, 'Spoon, Willy Mo, JYD Carroll, Good Leo, Bad Leo, Goose Lawrence, Jesus Tyrannosaurus Tiller, Zaire "Mr. Coffee" Taylor, Party Starter Bowers, Laffy Saffy, Soulcrusher Denmon, and Kimmeh English
- The emergence and shining moments of two of the classiest coaches in all of football/basketball, Gary Pinkel and Mike Anderson
- The crowning of another Mizzou national champion, Mark Ellis
- The emergence and/or sustained success of the Mizzou Wrestling, Baseball and Soccer
- The unintentional comedy of Athenagate (the dude used a frying pan!)
Personally, I like to think that RMN was the cause of this sudden golden age of Mizzou Athletics, but I guess I'll go on with life assuming that is not the case. What I know is true, however, is that Rock M Nation has taken off. Almost every month has seen more hits and page views than the one before it. The number of comments has exploded.
Granted, some of that almost certainly has to do with the aforementioned success of the football and baseball teams, but this community has quickly and clearly taken on a personality of its own. People are coming here to participate, not just to click on the morning links, and that is, in a word, awesome. Tremendous. Fantastic. And we're greedy--we don't want it to stop.
Over the coming months, as we distract ourselves with softball, baseball, and a healthy dose of spring football, football recruiting, and basketball recruiting (Come to Columbia, Jarrid Famous...please, please, please), we are hoping that the same crowd that has made this place so much fun during these fun seasons will continue to come by and participate. The community that is developing here at RMN is so unique and diverse in terms of age, background, emotion, and even gender (!!)--let's not let the fun stop just because the season is over!
This week, we will slowly shift gears and let go of this amazing basketball season. Expect a variety of posts and reflections this week, including a final stat wrap-up, a comparison of Mike Anderson's tenure to the early year of Nolan Richardson, a statistical comparison of this team's players to players in Mizzou's past, a year-in-review piece, and more (and this says nothing of Meme Madness). And then it will officially be time to start allowing our eyes to drift toward spring football. Come along for the ride.