Details are sketchy. I remember the world of the before times. We had won the SEC East, to the surprise of everyone—even ourselves. We had gotten off to a solid start on the season, defeating teams we believed to be far beneath us. We were easily supposed to win one more, before the real season began. And then.. A flash of light came down from the B1G. A blinding light, and we were all caught unawares. There were muffled sounds of explosions off in the distance. There was talk of bad snaps, poor blocking, and a late use of a time out. Then everything fell silent. "Kansas," I thought. "This is what it feels like every day in Kansas." I turned off the TV, turned off twitter, and I knew better than to go anywhere near the Rock M Live Thread. Instead, I gathered my family together. We sang a few hymns, and we entered the family bunker (which had been dug by hand following New Mexico, 2005). There, inside the cold, stone walls lined with cans of toasted ravioli, we hunkered down together in hopes that dawn would come. Somewhere in the night I heard a Paul Finebaum air raid fly overhead. Many fans would not survive the night, but there was nothing I could do to help them.
What would this mean? Would they send us back to the Big 12? Would they put us on Junior Member status like poor Nebraska? Would we fall off the map entirely like Colorado? I guess no one can answer those questions yet. Whispers of a Sun Belt sit-down with Mike Alden persist, but "We do what we do," repeated ad nauseam, was the only message I could pick up on the short wave (that, and I also heard Lou Holtz manage to reference Notre Dame while previewing Florida State v Clemson). Dark are the days that stretch between Sunday and Saturday.
By noon on Sunday we had already gone through our provel reserves, and the subsequent vomiting had left us dehydrated and smelling foul. With nothing else to sustain us but our iPhones, choices had to be made. In the before time, my wife was grandfathered for unlimited data—Jr and I weren’t so lucky. But AT&T had been trying to trick her into relinquishing her plan for years, and now they had their excuse. Her data was canceled moments after the clock ran out, and in the ensuing chaos, we missed our window to argue with customer service. It was all gone now. Not that it really mattered; we forgot to bring a charger into the bunker. In any case, our hand had been forced. We had to venture out of our bunker and face what was left of our world.
Already an outsider living in Texas, the days are never more bleak than those following a Mizzou-fails-to-make-halftime-adjustments facepalm game—which does happen every so often. The last one was against Syracuse, and the natives enjoyed that immensely. This time, I had hoped the damage might be less due to the fact that t.u. is its own epicenter of devastation these days. But then again, even their disaster seasons are better than our disaster games, or some such. Even the memes are tired now.
I opened the front door, and the fires of the overnight were now smoldering and quiet. Trash and debris was swirling in the morning breeze. Few signs of life. A mongrel hound was sniffing through the neighbor’s trash, and I could hear weeping off in the distance. The only other Mizzou fan in my subdivision lives in the next cul-de sac over. Do I risk it? Maybe he has news. Maybe we can make plans. I went back inside and handed my son a shotgun. This is nothing unusual; we live in Texas. I kissed my wife and told her to bolt the door behind me. Other words weren’t necessary. Picking up my walking stick and a satchel of meager provisions for my journey, I set out to walk the two blocks to Stan’s house. I don’t get out much.
I passed a Kia Soul with its windows blown out and the roof on fire. It looked better than it did yesterday. Stan’s house had been looted, and he was boarding up the windowpanes from outside. I didn’t know what to say.
"So…catch the game?" I cringed at my own stupidity. He stopped hammering and slowly turned to face me.
"[Sigh] Did you really think they wouldn’t score a TD after we kicked that field goal? Ha! I knew we were already dead. With 2.22 on the clock, I knew. With that pass interference call on fourth down, I knew. I KNEW!" [Throws hammer]
"Yeah. Me too. So what do we do now?"
"[Shakes his head] We are leaving. We can’t stay here. The Red 6 virus was…elegant. It destroyed everything. We have to leave."
"Where are you going?"
"There’s another Columbia, you know, far to the east. And what’s left of our Tigers are going there. And they’ll fight again. And it won’t be just me. Switzy’s are coming from the north, Jimmies from the Capital, even Green Chiles and DC Tigers are coming out from the west. There’s work out there, they say. [hands me a tattered flyer]. It’s our only chance."
"Stan, I’ve heard of this. People pack their families onto jalopy trucks and head all over the SEC looking for jobs and/or tailgating. We really aren’t part of that culture! Heck, we aren’t even Southern OR eastern for crying out loud, and this isn’t satire! We.. We don’t belong out there!"
At this point he grabbed me by the throat and slammed me against the broken windows of his looted breakfast nook.
"Now you listen to me, you bandwagon fan! We are SEC now! Look around you, the Big Eight is dead. DEAD! We do belong! I’m sure Bama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn—they’ve all had worse losses than this! No examples come to mind, but I’m sure they have. And don’t forget, we still have Vandy and Kentucky on our schedule!"
"[Just above a whisper] They.. Both.. Look.. Much.. Improved.. [gasp]"
"That’s not the point! [Loosens grip]. That’s not the point. The point is, we’re SEC now, and that means football is everything. It’s everything. Now, I can’t speak for you and your family. But as for me and mine, we’re headed to South Carolina. And if this flyer is a lie, if there are no jobs there, then we’ll move on during the bye week. And we’ll keep moving on, even if our final stop is Shreveport, Louisiana!"
"Stan, no! That’s crazy talk! Not Shreveport! You.. You might as well stay here! This place is still about three apocalypses away from being a Shreveport! You can’t drag your family all over the Southeast only to end up at the Independence Bowl! Do they even have a sponsor this year?!"
"I don’t care. That’s what we signed on for. That’s what YOU signed on for, in case you've forgotten. Do what you want, but I’m still a Missouri Tigers fan. See you around, Fin." And with that, he picked up his hammer and went back to securing his abandoned house against the Longhorn riffraff.
On the long walk home, I had time to consider many things. What if Markus Golden is healthy? What if Josh Henson decides to call the touchdown play? What if Gark remembers to look at the game clock? I came through the door with renewed purpose and spirit.
"What’s out there, Fin?" asked my wife. "What’s out there?"
"Boy, load up the Santa Fe. We’re going to South Carolina!"
[Junior loads shotgun]