I came downstairs two days ago, after watching the first half of the Netherlands-Denmark game to find my father comatose on the couch. An hour later, he was pronounced dead at Arlington Medical Center.
Even now, I can't quite believe that I'm procrastinating working on the eulogy by checking Rock M Nation. I suppose it's a fitting tribute, in a way; he never got to see just where Mizzou ended up in the conference roulette, but at least I'm up to speed now.
Mizzou athletics has given me and my father so much. I remember the game that made me a Mizzou fan, watching on a grainy 13-inch TV. My dad called me from my video games and said there was an incredible upset brewing, with a remarkably close score at the half. I'd taken a passing interest in the sports teams around my birthplace, though having moved from St. Louis to San Antonio very early in my life, I'd never become a huge Tigers fan. That would be rectified as I saw Corby and the Tigers go blow for blow with the team of the '90s. I'll never forget my dad's response to the play that robbed us of the upset. Two days after his passing, I can't watch ZouDave's tribute without crying.
Fast forward to 2007. I'd stopped following sports pretty much altogether, save for some brief attention paid to the world cup a year before. I was returning to Kansas City, where my mother's side of the family lived, for Thanksgiving break, and my dad told me the incredibly surprising news that the Tigers were GOOD- number 4 in the nation, playing the 2nd-ranked (!) Jayhawks. It was far too late to get tickets, of course, but we rejoiced in Sod Reesing as much as the Mizzou fans in the stadium. We resolved to attend the Border War together for as long as possible, and got our tickets early. It was expensive, but worth it to see the last two heart-pounding games in person, sitting next to my dad. We froze our asses off in 2008 in the nosebleed section, and while the result wasn't in our favor, it's still one of my most cherished memories of both sports and my dad. Next year we'd get our revenge, of course, watching Super DaNario run wild. I finally managed to convince my dad, someone never to break his agreements, to shuffle on down to the better seats when the fourh quarter was nearing its end; we got to see that epic last drive, and Ressel's game-winning field goal, sitting near the field on the 20th yard line,. I still remember my dad arguing with one of the loud-mouthed fans behind us, so offended that Pinkel had decided to kill the clock before kicking the game-winning field goal. Apparently that meant that we didn't trust our defense enough.
Living in Dallas as a Mizzou fan has its perks. I didn't get to attend that fateful Big 12 championship game where Oklahoma crushed our national championship dreams with dad in person, having returned to school to finish out the semester, but he was there. Later, as Mizzou got snubbed for bowl games, we'd secretly rejoice. Sure, the Organe, Holiday, and Insight bowls would have been better- but at least my dad and I were within driving distance of the Cotton, Alamo, and Texas bowls. I still remember singing the Portal song- newly released that year (This was a triumph! I'm making a note here: huge success! It's hard to overstate my satisfaction!)- while walking back to our car after watching Tony Temple break the Cotton Bowl rushing record, and we were there to see Chase Daniel's final 9-yard pass to Jaremy Maclin to win the game against Northwestern in overtime. About the only regret I have is that the last Mizzou game we saw in person together was the Texas Bowl, about which little needs to be said.
Most of all, I suppose I want to thank the people here at Rock M Nation. Were it not for your insight and analysis, I would imagine my Missouri fandom would have faded with the number 1 ranking, and we never would have had those last two years. I can't count the number of times I'd call my dad to discuss the latest predictions or complicated stats analysis. I will always treasure following the last two years of Mizzou football with my dad, and you guys were a big part of that. Thanks.
His name was Larry Vonder Haar, he was one of us, and now he's gone. Pour one out for him.