Like Don Faurot, Norm Stewart benefited significantly from the simple fact that the Internet did not exist (in any prevalent form, anyway) for most of his coaching tenure.
I owe the Internet more than I can even describe. It has, to say the least, done a lot for me. It brought me this site, it has brought me a little bit of income, it brought me numerous friends (including one of the two people who gave the toast at my wedding). It seems to magnify everything good and bad in life, and especially in sports.
Obviously right about now, a day after a) losing to Kansas, and b) losing a third game in a row overall, the negativity is what's noticeable. In the process of putting together the bones of the next Classic Study Hall post (hint: it's from 1997 ... and probably not coming up until tomorrow), I paused to look for some Steve Moore news. (Strangely, I really haven't found any. He did limp off the court in a lot of pain yesterday, right? That wasn't my imagination?) That meant, of course, perusing other message boards. Granted, there's no way in hell I would sniff around over on Tigerboard right now, but ... let's just say that between this place and PowerMizzou, the grand statements about Mike Anderson (he's peaked, he's terrible, it's time to question his abilities, etc.) and the future of Missouri basketball have commenced.
For all the highs experienced during Stormin' Norman's 32 years as Missouri head coach, there were plenty of lows as well. And all the themes through which we are suffering today would have been very, very prevalent through his tenure as well.
- Norm's best days are behind him! (After going 59-21 in the 1970-71 through 1972-73 seasons, Mizzou falters to 12-14 after the departures of and Mike Jeffries.)
- We've peaked as a program! (Mizzou goes just 27-31 in 1977-78 and 1978-79 after three strong years.)
- Norm can't win the big one! (Mizzou wins the Big 8 in 1979-80 and 1980-81 with Steve Stipanovich, Jon Sundvold and Ricky Frazier, but loses in the first round to Lamar in 1981.)
- NORM CAN'T WIN THE BIG ONE!! (Two-seed Mizzou loses in the Sweet 16 to six-seed Houston in 1982.)
- HE WASTED TALENT!!!! (Two-seed Mizzou loses to seven-seed Iowa in the second round in 1983.)
- Norm's best days are behind him!!! (Mizzou goes just 34-28 with NIT bids in 1983-84 and 1984-85 after Stipo and Sundvold leave.)
- We're settling for mediocrity!! (11-seed Mizzou loses to UAB in the first round in 1986.)
- NORM CAN'T WIN THE BIG ONE!!!!!11!!!! WE'RE WASTING TALENT!!! (Mizzou loses as a higher seed in the first round in three of four years from 1986-87 to 1989-90. The glow from reaching No. 1 in the country in 1990 lasts about a week.)
- NORM'S AN EMBARRASSMENT!! (Mizzou gets put on probation.)
(Sub-meme: "THE NCAA HATES US. KANSAS IS THE ONE DOING THE REAL CHEATING.")
- Norm's best days are behind him! (Mizzou limps to 19-14 in 1993 with Anthony Peeler and a bunch of juniors, advancing to the NCAAs only because they won the Big 8 Tournament and getting thumped by Temple in the first round.)
- (Silence during 1994 ... and probably 1995 too.)
- Norm's best days are behind him!! It's so obvious!! (Mizzou goes 51-47 in the three seasons following Tyus Edney.)
Yes, Norm clearly accomplished far more than Mike Anderson has to date, but once the negativity takes hold, that doesn't really matter, does it? Less than seven full days after Mizzou beat Oklahoma at Faurot Field this past fall, the "Pinkel can't win the big one!" meme started all over again. For fans, a great portion of Norm's tenure would have been spent either defending Norm or announcing in grand fashion that it's time to look in a new direction. All that in a career successful enough that the university felt the need to put his name on the court.
This season has not gone as intended (especially the last three games), and there's no harm in being disappointed by that (I think I've made it clear where I stand over the past few days) or thinking about the future. And if you're a worrier, then go ahead and worry. But it's worth noting that approximately 20-22 of Norm's 32 seasons would have resulted in some variation of similar disappointment -- either near-misses in reaching the NCAA Tourney, earlier-than-expected tourney exits, sideways steps (when more was expected), or overall steps backwards. Sports are inherently disappointing. This current Mizzou Basketball team is maddening, but guess what: it's still the third-best Missouri team of the last eight seasons. We can hope for more, and we can decide that Mike Anderson should have done more with this squad than he has ... and then we can move on when the season's over, recover, and gear up for more hope next fall.