It can be rough being a Missouri fan, and no one knows this better than Dave Matter.
Matter isn’t a Missouri fan, but he’s covered the Tigers for as long as anyone currently on the beat. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer co-wrote “Pinkel” — Gary Pinkel’s autobiography — last year. Now, on Sep. 4, Matter’s latest Missouri historical effort hits the shelves: 100 Things Missouri Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.
And, as Missouri fans know, there are some difficult chapters to re-live.
“The long-time Missouri fans, they have this scar tissue built up because of these things that seem to happen,” Matter told Rock M Nation. “Every fan base has their bad memories of things that didn’t go their way, but they were just of epic proportions when it came to Missouri.”
Fear not, however: Matter’s latest book isn’t meant for the most masochistic Missouri fan out there. Because the unique tradition of Missouri athletics gave Matter plenty of opportunities to focus on the good, but also approach the bad from updated angles.
“You would do a disservice if you leave out those things,” Matter said, “but I think you have to balance them with the good things that happened, too. Do more to tell those stories of the bad times. You don’t want fans skipping over the chapter because, ‘Oh, i remember what happened on the 5th Down Game. I don’t need to read that.’
“Well, here’s a version of it or perspective of it that’s a little bit different from what you read in the past.”
The Fifth Down, Tyus Edney, the Flea-kicker — they’re all in there. But there’s also a substantial amount of research done about some forgotten eras of Missouri athletics, specifically in football. Matter — again, as well-versed as anyone — said what stood out to him were the chapters where he learned something new.
Those chapters serve as a must-read for Missouri fans, especially the younger fans that may not realize some of the specifics of the past, even in the down times.
“Missouri football was known for being so bad and so irrelevant for long stretches that I think, people forget, especially the younger generations, just that there were some really good players during those years,” Matter said. “There were really good reasons for why coaches struggled.
“I have a chapter on four head coaches in a row who just could not get momentum at Missouri, and just kind of explain why things didn’t work out for them, why it became known as the Graveyard of Head Coaches.”
Some of Matter’s other notable chapters are one on former Missouri basketball player Jeff Warren — not an All-American, Matter said, but a player that was beloved by fans and his teammates — and one on Gary Link.
“Turns out that was another one I had to edit a little bit, because he was fired from the university last year after I’d already written the chapter,” Matter said. “He was a great source of information because his knowledge and his relationships with Mizzou spanned so far back, and he just had a take on so much because he worked in the athletic department, too, after he was done playing at Missouri.”
100 Things Missouri Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die was actually “pretty much” written two years ago, Matter said, but the Gary Pinkel book put this project on hold. In the end, that delay gave Matter time to update and edit some of the chapters. In addition to the Link chapter, Matter had to make changes to a chapter on former Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson.
But even with the no-brainer chapters — Norm Stewart, Dan Devine, Don Faurot, Chase Daniel — Matter tried to add something new, so it wouldn’t read like a Wikipedia page.
“There’s a lot of stories of things that happened in the 60s in football,” Matter said, “or the best Norm Stewart years that are just sort of legends that are passed down from generations.
“I wanted to get past that and tell the real stories that happened.”
Mission accomplished. Whether it’s the good memories or the bad, Matter’s latest book brings new information and new perspectives to one of the most uniquely decorated fan bases in college sports.
100 Things for Missouri Fans to Know and Do Before They Die is available on Sep. 4. Fans can buy it online here, and it will also be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.