M-I-Z... E-R-Y: Flea Kicker vs Tony Van Zant's Knee

We being the M-I-Z... E-R-Y voting with a battle between the most talked-about (by Mizzou fans) limb of the 1990s and the most talked-about limb of the 1980s: Shevin Wiggins' foot versus Tony Van Zant's knee.

The Flea Kicker

I was in the 14th row in the student section. Actually, no. I had started in the 14th row, but by the time the play happened I was in the 14th layer of students, standing on the second row bleachers. It was just my sixth Mizzou home game, my fourth as a Mizzou student. The game had already been the most incredible sporting experience of my young life. Mizzou had entered as 27-point underdogs and traded haymaker after haymaker with the supposedly invincible champs. There was the bobbling Torey Coleman touchdown. The Harold Piersey interception. The Brock Olivo touchdown reception that almost shook Memorial Stadium off of its foundation. The backwards Corby leap. The Eddie Brooks go-ahead touchdown that still gave me goosebumps as I typed the words "The Eddie Brooks go-ahead touchdown."  (It just did it again.) The stories of Brent Musberger going to the bathroom during a fourth-quarter commercial break and exclaiming "Can you believe this game????" to everybody he passed. The shots of Larry Smith's eyes welling up on the sideline. Al Sterling's near-interception with less than a minute left. (I still swear it should have counted, no matter what the replay says.) It was an amazing, amazing game. And then it became immortal. The ball deflected away from Shevin Wiggins, the crowd surged (and I mean surged) forward ... and the ref's hands went up in the air, signalling touchdown.

After the game, my friends and I retreated to Hatch Hall, eventually settling in somebody's room, sitting around and staring at the floor, then watching the evening's highlight shows, over and over again.  All I could think was, "So this is how it's going to be, huh?" There is perhaps no single play more imprinted onto Mizzou fans' psyches than this one, no play more "Mizzou" than this one. Since this play, things have gotten better, then worse, then a lot better. But 14 years after watching with awe, adrenaline and incredulity from the 14th row, I still can't think of this play without shaking my head.

Tony Van Zant's Knee

When I got to Mizzou in 1997, the Tigers had one of the more impressive backfields in the country: Corby Jones, Brock Olivo, Ernest Blackwell, Devin West, Ron Janes. But I heard Tony Van Zant's name almost as much. He was the myth, the crutch, the tipping point for all that went wrong in the 1980s and 1990s. If he hadn't gotten hurt, hell, Woody Widenhofer might still be at Mizzou! The Tigers would have never fallen apart (well, they had already suffered through a 1-10 season before he arrived, but they would have bounced back). Mizzou would never have become a laughingstock. The Fifth Down wouldn't have happened. Everything would be great! Alas, the most highly-touted recruit Mizzou ever signed tore up his knee in a high-school all-star game, long before your torn-up knee could be restored to good-as-new status within a year. He still fought for Mizzou, still lettered, still ripped off a few nice runs. But it wasn't the same. It was the what-if to beat all what-ifs.

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