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In the Huddle: Despite Mizzou’s struggles, fan support should be better

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Missouri has been up-and-down this year, but why does the fanbase seem to focus mostly on the down? Terry Dennis takes us In the Huddle to examine what role fan support plays in the team’s success.

Missouri v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Embarrassment.

We all feel it. It’s a familiar feeling for the Mizzou faithful who just watched the red hot and newly-ranked Mizzou football team fall short to a one-win Vanderbilt team resting at the bottom of the SEC standings. Donning a new all-white jersey combination with a retro touch, the Tigers carried a little extra swagger into this past weekend in Nashville. That swagger would quickly fizzle, as the hype surrounding a team that seemed to be coming into their own was out-executed, out-smarted and out-played.

Was it that the Tigers were out-coached? Coach Odom feels so.

Was it that the Tigers were unprepared and truly did not come ready to play? QB Kelly Bryant seems to feel that may be the case.

Whatever else you could come up with on a laundry list of things that went wrong, that would probably be right as well.

But does this loss carry enough weight to effectively shatter the already-broken spirits of Mizzou Nation? Riding a 5-2 record going into a 2-week road test beginning with Kentucky, the Tigers are tasked with having to put all the pieces together and win. An argument can be made that Mizzou Nation gets built up only to get knocked back down by Mizzou Football time and time again. However, there is no better time than right now to show support.

The 2019-20 season is unique. Traditionally, Mizzou Football has been an obscure emotional roller coaster filled with high triumphs and low expectations, and there are some Mizzou fans who stick with the Tigers through thick and thin. However, support in this manner feels like it has grown increasingly smaller, even with a team that shows so much promise.

In a sense, this team is still in a great position. The nation — even if for a moment — took notice of the Tigers’ promise, and had it not been for such high hopes, those conversations would have fallen on deaf ears.

On the other hand, with great promise comes great responsibility. The Tigers have lived up to the hype in some ways and fallen short in others, leaving the Mizzou faithful to ponder over this team’s real identity. It’s like they can’t decide who to be — so neither can the fans.

It’s justified to want consistency from this roster, and some of the frustration comes from the need for a greater support system. It’s not to say if the Tigers played better, it would be because of the fanbase. But it seems some followers don’t understand those who stick around through thick and thin. The fans who come early and stay late, who’ve cheered for years in the lowest of lows, and still manage to find optimism even after losing the games they should’ve won.

Don’t fans deserve to cheer for a team that wins when they’re supposed to, and wins, more often than not, when they shouldn’t? Or is it fans are the only ones who have the right to choose to deliver or not? Why does it seem — for those in the stands and watching on television — that they are the only ones allowed to waver from the goal of winning, even if they’ve tried their darndest?

Or is it after so much disappointment over the years, that even with a 5-2 record, the Tigers still have to make Mizzou Nation believers?

No matter how it’s sliced, the Tigers still average less-than-capacity attendance at home games, and are given up on bit by bit every week. Having spent the money to look the part of a competing SEC school with facility upgrades, coming up with amazing jersey combinations, and coming away with some quality wins against SEC schools already this season, is it possible that many Mizzou fans are content just to look the part as well?

This is not to downplay the role of fans in the grand scheme. In fact, they play a pivotal one. Take the “12th Man” concept from Texas A&M. Win or lose, we’re talking about a football program that’s shown progress in recent years, while still occasionally letting its fans down. Nevertheless, there is an overwhelming following — not because it’s something to do on Saturday, but because they’re faithful. Not to compare apples to oranges, but it is possible here.

This week across the internet, Mizzou Football was riddled with negative voices. The same voices that, had the game turned out the way everyone wanted, would have shown support and admiration. Every once in a while, it seems okay for family to make excuses to get you out of trouble. We haven’t seen that this season. It seems that for everything good the Tigers have accomplished, there are at least 10 people making excuses as to why things aren’t as good as we think.

The Tigers are 5-2 — “But they haven’t beaten good teams”.

Following the loss to Vandy — “Let’s all take a poll on why there won’t be much attendance at the next home game”.

One thing Mizzou Nation has to realize is, as long as this team continues to go to class, earn degrees, strap up for practice, load the bus, and show up to play, they haven’t given up. They have no choice. In fact, if they did give up, they wouldn’t show up, period. So why should this team expect less support from a fanbase that shows up primarily to feed the negative? To say that the Tigers are the reason would be like saying spoons make people fat. Still, to the fans’ credit, what they’re consuming shouldn’t leave such a bitter taste.

Above all, both this team and its supporting cast need to better. Where one doesn’t necessarily depend on the other to deliver on their jobs, it sure does help when things get tough. Understandably, the initial thought might be, “They’re football players. They’re used to tough love. They can handle it.” That statement isn’t false, but it’s also not completely true.

There was a comment made on social media this week where someone stated, “Maybe we should focus more on winning games than wearing cool uniforms”.

Well, when you look good you’re supposed to play good. That’s not always the case, but it’s something that helps build confidence and draw attention. At the same time, the team is here to win football games, and everyone in the family deserves to eat well. As a spectator, it’s easy to place blame in whichever area they see fit.

Many blamed Coach Odom. The makeup of this team doesn’t change in his absence, and this team has proven it can win big under his direction. Many blamed miscues in all phases of the game. Losing is a combination of all things together. Teams are only as strong as their weakest link, and even at 5-2, the Tigers are tasked with identifying that link on a weekly basis. The important question to ask is, “Have I done my part?”, both program and fanbase.

This is a program with a target on its back, and most of the heat comes internally from its own fanbase. Forget the NCAA, this week, Coach Odom asserted things will get corrected. He’s said it before, and delivered. Do the Mizzou faithful have the ability to go week-to-week with new expectations, or are they their own weakest link, with the inability to let the past be the past?

We’ve seen better and certainly done better, even in the past. For all Mizzou Football has been over the years, Mizzou Nation has shown resiliency. This team suffered some scars this season. It’s time the collective Mizzou Nation, team included, shows their skin is thick enough to withstand the scar of embarrassment, and get back to being One Mizzou.