Basketball Live Thread: Missouri At Missouri Southern

What: The One State, One Spirit Classic
Who: Mizzou at Missouri Southern
When: 5:47 PM CT
Where: Leggett & Platt Athletic Center (3,240), Joplin, MO

TV: ESPNU (John Anderson, Fran Fraschilla)

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The 2011-12 Missouri Basketball season opens (sort of) tonight with the most well-intentioned exhibition game in the country. The One State, One Spirit Classic starts tonight at 5:47 PM on ESPNU and is presented by Leggett & Platt.

I mentioned earlier today that you become a sports fan primarily because of the great wins and great moments. Tonight represents a different kind of moment. You root for your team/school because they're yours, but when they help bring a state together, when they contribute something beyond simple wins and losses, it means that much more. I was so happy to hear both that Missouri had helped to come up with the idea of tonight's game and that the NCAA was going to allow it. It will be an emotional evening for so many people affected, and hopefully it will do what is intended: raise money, awareness and spirits.

Here are a couple of articles to read while you wait for tip-off.

The Trib: Missouri exhibition game returns focus to Joplin Tiger Extra

"This is big for this area," Missouri Southern Athletic Director Jared Bruggeman said. "It’s big not just because of the financial component that’s going to go out. It’s big because it also focuses attention back on Joplin nationwide, being televised as it is. It’s important to let people know where we’re at and what we’re doing and it’s not over yet as far as the rebuilding process."

Bruggeman believes the game is also important as a distraction for some of the people still suffering.

"People love sports," he said. "There’s a reason why it’s got its own section in the newspaper. It’s a big deal, and it’s a big deal to see Mizzou come down here to play in Joplin. … They don’t come here, and they’re here and in all likelihood will never be here again.

"So it’s significant to take people’s minds off what’s going on and focus on a good, enjoyable basketball game knowing there’s a great intent behind it."

He and Corn are quick to deflect credit for making the game happen. They insist it rests instead with their counterparts in Columbia.

After waking up to Monday morning news reports detailing the destruction May 23, MU administrators began discussing what they could do to lend assistance to those affected. Those conversations carried down to individual departments.

After speaking with Athletic Director Mike Alden, Coach Frank Haith met with then-men’s basketball spokesman Dave Reiter for a brainstorming session. It was in that meeting they came up with the idea of playing an exhibition game in Joplin, an unprecedented event for the state’s flagship school.

KC Star: Contemplating lives touched — but blessedly, not crushed — by the Joplin tornado

I was in College Station, Texas, on Saturday, covering the Mizzou football game at Texas A&M. I cannot make it back in time to get to Joplin today.

But my mom, like many of you who won’t actually be at the game, will be sitting in front of her television set for the game, which will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

And I will be thinking about Joplin. And Mary. And probably crying in joy that she is still with me and able to laugh at herself, and me.

It is a blessing. Because while my mom lost some beautiful old trees, while her house had to be re-sided and the windows and the front door replaced, a mere two blocks north was sheer devastation.

Houses blown apart. Blown away. Trees stripped bare of all leaves and but a few limbs. The church across the street was picked up and part of it dumped into the front entrance of Joplin Senior High School.

When I first arrived in Joplin and tried to drive a few blocks to the old home of best friend Jack Glover, I couldn’t find the street. Landmarks, and not just street signs, were gone. Driving through the south central part of Joplin in the wake of that storm was like driving through a city I had never visited.

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