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Fanthropology, Part II: True Sons are True Sons

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for submissions for Hyundai's Fanthropology contest. The question was simple: Why are you a Mizzou fan? OKCtiger was your winner. I asked him to write an extended post on the same topic. Here it is.

The Savitar

I grew up 40 miles from Columbia. My earliest memory is from when I was five or six. On fall Saturdays, my mom, dad, aunt and uncle would go to Columbia for football games. I would be shipped off, five whole blocks, to my grandparents' house and would listen to the games on the radio with my grandfather.

In 1960, for my birthday, my parents took me to my first game. Dad bought a $1 GA ticket, and I sat on the hill. It was great! From then until 1969, I didn’t miss a game. And in 1969, I only missed a game because I was still sick from sitting in the rain and cold the week before.

I always got a “hill” ticket, but I learned quickly that after about the first quarter I could sneak into my mon and dad’s section (Section M, Row 42) and always find a seat. So, for the most part, I sat in very good seats on the cheap. Also learned that the Boy Scouts help serve as ushers, and that if I wore my Scout uniform and volunteered to be an usher, I could get in for free. I did that for several years; once the game started, we were off-duty.

Side note: My parents and I “tailgated” for every game. For us, that meant stopping at the McDonalds at Providence and the Business Loop and getting burgers, fries and a soda. We would park on the street in the neighborhood on the east side of Providence just south of Stadium and eat lunch before heading to the stadium. Game time was always 1:30pm.

Harry Ice and Bob Stueber sat directly in front of my parents. Houston (Hoot) Beatty sat next to my mom, and there were a number of other former players all around us. Hoot was an all-conference center back in the day, and one of his quarterbacks was the legendary Paul Christman. Hoot taught me everything about football. He and I would talk during the entire game. He would explain the play, the formations, etc., and we would even try to out-guess the coaches on what the next play would be. He was a great friend and a kind gentleman. When Bob Broeg wrote Ol' Mizzou, he did a book signing at one of the games. I bought the book, had it autographed, and took it to show my parents and Hoot. Hoot thumbed through it, and said, “I’ll be back.” Off he went with my book. About 30 minutes later he shows back up and hands me the book. I open the cover, and there are so many autographs! Hoot had taken the book to the pressbox, and got everyone he saw to autograph it for me … including Don Faurot! Today, it is still a prized possession.

In 1970, I enrolled at Mizzou. It was the only college to which I applied. I am a True Son and would not have gone anywhere else! I met my future-wife in college. I graduated in ’74, she in ’76.

In 1973, I was working at KBIA-FM … the “Fun 91," as it was called. Mizzou went to the Sun Bowl that year. A friend of mine was the editor of the Savitar and got me field passes. I was a “photog” for the Savitar and did radio reports for KBIA. One of my pictures from the game is in the Savitar (uncredited), but the highlight for me was getting to do a one-on-one interview with Coach Al Onofrio the night before the game.

Through the early 1980s, I had still only missed that one home game in 1969.

By then I was living in Topeka, and family and business started getting in the way. Our son was born in 1981, followed by a daughter in 1984, and my work sometimes had me on the road. We still had season tickets, but I just didn’t get to go to all of the games.

In 1988, we moved to Oklahoma City for a new job, one I still have now. By then, the kids were becoming of “school age,” and travelling 1,000 miles, round trip, with little kids was more difficult. As they got a little older, they got involved in competitive swimming, which took up many weekends. Eventually, we gave up the season tickets, but during the 1990s we would still try to make it for a couple of games per year.

Fast forward to 1999: Our son was Senior in high school and one of the top swimmers in Oklahoma. Recruiting started, and eventually he began talking with Missouri. He made an official visit in the spring of 2000, was offered/invited to swim at Mizzou. It didn’t take him long to say “yes,” and in the fall of 2000, he became a student-athlete at Mizzou.

It was time to once again buy season tickets! My wife, daughter and I began driving up for almost every game. The son was at Mizzou through graduate school in 2006. Daughter chose not to swim in college -- could have, just didn’t want to -- and went to the University of Oklahoma (full-ride academic). But on Fridays, she would leave Norman to come up to OKC and ride with us to Columbia. She’s a True Daughter of Mizzou; she just happens to be an OU grad.

Now, we rarely miss a game. Occasionally work-related travel gets in the way -- we missed Vandy & Alabama this year due to work -- but most football weekends we’re in Columbia.

In October, my dad celebrated his 99th birthday and my mom her 92nd birthday. They gave up the tickets several years ago, as it was just too much for them to go to the games. When they did, they were No. 8 on the list of longest season ticket holds, with a streak going on 60 years. They still watch or listen to every game.

My top 10 memories to date:

10. No. 9 Mizzou 44, No. 20 Oklahoma 10 (November 8, 1969). I remember it because of one of the funniest and oddest touchdowns Mizzou has ever scored. Mizzou kicked off to Oklahoma late in the game. The ball bounced off the helmet of Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens and rolled into the endzone, where Mizzou recovered for a TD. It was and is the funniest thing I had ever seen in a game. Very, very odd.

9. No. 15 Arizona State 49, Mizzou 35 (December 23, 1972). This was both my first bowl game and the first ever Fiesta Bowl. Mizzou played the Danny White-led Arizona State Sun Devils. While Mizzou lost, it was still a great experience. You never forget your first (insert your own joke here).

8. Mizzou 34, Auburn 17 (December 29, 1973). As I mentioned above, I was photog for the Savitar and stringing for KBIA. That alone moves it into the Top 10, but other things added to the trip: six guys in a Ford Gran Torino road tripping from Columbia to El Paso. We made the 1,100-mile return trip, non-stop, on New Year's Eve so we could make the party back home. We stayed at the same hotel as Marching Mizzou (of which I knew about half of girls in the band). Let's just say the hotel bar ran out of tequila before we were ready for them to run out.

7. Mizzou 55, Kansas 7 (November 24, 1979). This one was in Lawrence. Best moment: The Mizzou faithful chanting "We Want 60!" late in the fourth quarter.

6. Mizzou 20, No. 2 Alabama 7 (September 8, 1975). I was not in Birmingham for this game, but I was working at a radio station in Jefferson City, a Mizzou radio affiliate, that night. After the game, it was announced that the Tigers’ flight would be arriving at Columbia Regional around 1:00 a.m. When my air-shift ended, I drove up to the airport, and there must have been 5,000 people awaiting the team’s arrival. The place was simply crazy!

5. Mizzou 41, No. 10 Nebraska 24 (October 11, 2003). I was not at this game, instead driving across West Texas back toward Oklahoma City. I was listening to KMOX in St. Louis when Brad Smith and company took down the Huskers, and my son, then a Mizzou student-athlete, called me from the stormed field after the game.

4. No. 18 Mizzou 36, No. 3 Oklahoma 27 (October 23, 2010). Game Day! An eight-hour pre-game tailgate, an 8:30 p.m. kickoff, the opening kick returned for a touchdown, Bob Stoops "waving the white flag" late in the fourth quarter, the scene as the clock went to 0:00. This was simply the most electric atmosphere in Faurot Field history. And I've seen a lot of them.

3. No. 3 Oklahoma 31, Mizzou 24 (October 5, 2002). Two words: Brad Smith! Sure, his breakout game was the season opener against Illinois, but after the Oklahoma game, the entire country knew that he was something very special.

2. No. 3 Mizzou 36, No. 2 Kansas 28 (November 24, 2007). Arrowhead. Chase, J-Mac, T-Ruck, Danario, Tommy, Willie-Mo, Ziggy, 'Zo, Coffman, Tony the Tiger, D-Wash, Jeff the Mizzou Diver, and so many more. Lorenzo Williams and company sacking "Sod" Reesing for a safety and ending the rivals' dream season (kU football: A tradition since September). So, so great. And the next day, Mizzou was No. 1 in the country!

1. No. 14 Mizzou 41, No. 12 Kansas State 38 (November 1, 1969). This is, without a doubt, the greatest game I have witnessed. Terry McMillan and the Tigers verses Lynn Dickey and the Wildcats. McMillan and Dickey were two of the best quarterbacks in the country, and both had great receivers, including Mizzou’s Mel Gray and John Henley. WIth McMillan throwing and running backs Joe Moore and Jon Staggers eating up yardage on the ground, Mizzou gained 664 yards of total offense to KSU's 636. Staggers had a 96-yard kickoff return, threw for a touchdown, and caught a touchdown pass. McMillan and Dickey punched and counter-punched all day. An interception of Dickey with under a minute left sealed the victory for Mizzou.

There's so much more, of course. Some wins and some losses. Penn State, Alabama, and Notre Dame in Columbia. The 13-12 victory at Nebraska in 1973. The infamous 5th down game. The almost-as-infamous “Flea Kicker” game. The comeback over South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl. The dismantling of Arkansas at the 2008 Cotton Bowl. Et cetera, et cetera.

And the players. Johnny Roland, Mel Gray, Brad Smith, Kellen Winslow, Jon Staggers, Roger Wehrli, Leo Lewis, Phil Bradley, Henry Marshall, Andy Russell, James Wilder, Gary Lane, Russ Washington, Eric Wright, Joe Moore, Corby Jones, Francis Peay.

In summary, I've seen it all. The Devine years, Uncle Al (good and bad), Warren Powers, Woody's Wagon, Larry Smith, and now Gary Pinkel. For those of you who are math-challenged (not Bill C., but the rest), this is my 53rd season watching Mizzou football. I am a fan because I am a fan. It is what I know, and it is what I will always be.

Here's to hoping for season no. 54 and many, many more to come.

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