The Braggin' Rights broadcast last night highlighted something I'd forgotten about: a Kim English quote to the effect of "losing to Illinois means it's going to be a bad Christmas." When Kimmie was playing these games, of course, they meant more. Mizzou and Illinois were solid, upper level power conference programs playing a serious rivalry game. Last night was depressing for a whole host of other reasons - most significantly, what used to be a fun nonconference rivalry (yes, Bill Self, they exist) was totally without significance. A bad team beat a worse team in front of a skeletal crowd.
In a lot of ways, it caps off what's been one of the more trying Mizzou sports years in recent memory. Yes, Mizzou will play Arkansas Pine Bluff next week, but a meaningless game against a midmajor team is a footnote at best or worst. The basketball team was bad last year; it's bad again this year. The football team stumbled its way to 5 wins, and the best Mizzou football coach in most of our lifetimes went out with a lymphoma diagnosis and a whimper instead of the thundering Faurot cannons he deserved. Maty Mauk pulled off an impressive heel turn by going from a great clubhouse leader to suspended indefinitely in the course of a few brutal months.
Which doesn't even get to the off-the-field issues. Whatever side you come down on with regards to the on-campus racial tensions, they've put a pretty ugly piece of Mizzou's character and history on national display, and they've divided fans and campus alike. Any year with the amount of administrative turnover we've seen in 2015 is probably not a very good one.
Now, given my reputation around here as a sunshine pumper, especially for basketball, I'm sure you're expecting me to talk about how Mizzou basketball can still turn it around. I could talk about Wes's career night, about how likable many of these players are, and about Kim Anderson's D2 national championship. I won't. We've had enough conversations about it for now. I could also talk about how exciting Barry Odom's first few weeks on the job have been, and how, even with the sad reasons for the turnover and the risks associated with his inexperience, he's very clearly a leader with vision and charisma, and it's easy to get excited. But it can be, and has been talked about elsewhere, too.
No, I want to talk about all the other reasons we have to be thankful to be Mizzou fans.
Let's talk about how, even with the misery of this football season, we've enjoyed 15 of the best years Mizzou football has ever seen. Let's talk about Homecoming in 2010, Arrowhead in 2007, and Georgia in 2013. Let's talk about Henry Josey, Michael Sam, and how even this year's dumpster fire of an offensive line will probably send two eminently likable players to the NFL in Connor McGovern and Evan Boehm.
Basketball has been more ups than downs, but let's talk about the Elite Eight in 2009, 30-5 in 2012, and guys like Clarkson, Brown, and Phil Pressey. Let's remember the incredible Braggin' Rights game in 1993 that resuscitated Norm Stewart's last great season. Let's raise glasses to Zaire "Big Shot" Taylor beating Kansas, and to Tyshawn Taylor bricking free throws in front of College Gameday and one of the best crowds Mizzou Arena has ever seen. Let's talk about Laurence Bowers reading to kids the same day his season ended, and Kim English sleeping in the locker room.
Let's talk about all the wonderful things Mizzou sports have added to our lives. The tailgates with friends and family, with shared food and beer aplenty. The high fives and hugs when things were going well, and the commiserating when things were going less well. Let's talk about the feel of community and belonging even as our lives take us to all points of the compass and the far reaches of the US and abroad, even in Alabama, Ohio, New Mexico, DC, and Seattle we all get to feel a part of something bigger than we are, and the simple joy of shouting "M-I-Z!" to any passersby who happen to be wearing the black and gold.
And let's talk about this wonderful, contentious, bizarre community we've all found ourselves a part of. We like to talk at Rock M Nation about how we try to be different than other corners of the internet. Maybe we succeed at this, maybe we don't. Regardless, this community has created great friendships, online and in real life, and has given us all a reason to pay attention to Mizzou sports even when things are going badly, or aren't going at all.
And let's be glad we aren't all Kim English or Kim Anderson. We don't play or coach for the University of Missouri, which means, when things are going badly, we can compartmentalize. We can focus on the good things, disengage a little from the bad things, and put our energy into other places in our lives. Christmas is a time for joy, and while I wish we could all be celebrating a Braggin' Rights win as the year winds down, there is still much to celebrate. Let's focus on why we love Mizzou sports, not the ways in which it has let us down, and let's focus on our families, our loves, and all the other things we have to be joyful for as we wind down 2015.
Thank you for all you bring to the Rock M Nation community, for your sense of humor, your spirited discussions about both the meaningful and the meaningless, for your thoughts, insights, and analyses, and for everything not listed here.
On behalf of everyone here at Rock M Nation: Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.