This week’s SB Nation theme was “Sports moments that made you cry,” and if there were ever a theme suited specifically for Mizzou sports fans, it feels like this one.
Over the years there have been a number — quite a big number, in actuality — of moments that have inspired tears from Missouri fans. There are probably at least three or four that instinctually pop into your head, and that’s only if you’re actively trying to wipe the rest of them from your memory!
Yes, Missouri has been a bastion of misery and woe, but there have been a fair number of moments that have inspired tears of joy, too. We got together three members of the Rock M staff to recall their most vivid memories of Mizzou sports moments that made them cry, two sad and one happy. So why don’t you join us in our commiseration? After all, misery loves company!
The Flea Kicker: An Introduction to Mizzou Fandom
My grandfather was a professor at Mizzou and an NCAA referee for both football and basketball. My father and both of my uncles graduated from Mizzou. I didn’t have a lot of choice as to which sports I was going to become a fan of; I went to every Mizzou event possible and was born into my fandom.
Now, I came into this world during the Woody Widenhofer years so, as a kid, I did not get the satisfaction of having a good, competent team to root for. I would get so bored watching the Tigers get rampaged by Oklahoma and K-State that I would, a.) be more entertained by the popcorn and soda I got, and b.) beg to leave by the second quarter.
So you have to understand — when you grow up treasuring each win and being impressed with MULTIPLE wins at home, having a team that could...gasp!...be actually good and bowl eligible? I didn’t know what to do with that information! And when the 1997 season reached the end of October and the Tigers were sitting at 5 wins, a total I had only seen once before in my entire life (1996), you’ll certainly appreciate that I thought they were the greatest team in the world.
So when the actual greatest team in the world, No. 1 Nebraska, came rolling in to Columbia on Nov. 8th, 1997, I was excited beyond belief. Walking around the Hearnes Center before the game, we ran into plenty of obnoxious Cornhuskers fans, listened to their annoying band and avoided the multiple pockets of red camped around, flocking towards the biggest home crowd I had seen to that point in my life. Even with the red and white hoard en masse, the black and gold was EVERYWHERE, and the cries of, “M-I-Z,” echoed off of every building and tree we walked by. I was only 11 and knew very little about the sport at large but I knew the Huskers were good, the Tigers were better, and on that day we were going to win.
In a vacuum, the ‘97 Missouri-Nebraska game is easily one of the best football games ever played. Corby Jones, Brock Olivo, Devin West, Ron Janes, and Ernest Blackwell pummeled the Blackshirt Defense while the Tiger defense, easily the best I had seen in my young life, kept Scott Frost and the Huskers from running roughshod over Faurot Field. When Corby Jones dove backwards into the end zone the stadium erupted and Larry Smith cried. But those happy tears from Larry were only the beginning.
With Missouri up 38-31 the Tiger offense couldn’t get a first down and punted with 1:02 left in the game. Nebraska proceeded to march down the field on an absolutely gassed Missouri defense but were held at the 12-yard line. The next pass seemed to hit the ground but was kicked up in the air by Nebraska’s Shevin Wiggins and caught by Matt Davison. Instead of deeming it an illegal kick the officiating crew decided it was accidental, the Huskers tied the game, and eventually won in overtime.
I was devastated. Beyond devastated. I mean, the atmosphere, fans, the story lines, the play... everything that had happened leading up to and during the game should have meant we won. But it didn’t and I was 11, and this was the worst thing that had happened in my sports life at that point. I cried. WOW, did I cry. I don’t think I stopped until we got home.
My family parked in the VA on game days. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the trek through the lot around the stadium, under the tunnel, and along the grassy knolls of the VA along the road. Neither my dad nor my grandfather were much for emotion and only rare outbursts underlined the severity of whatever situation it induced. That game was the first time I saw my dad yell and scream in happiness.. .and on the walk home, he was back to the silence that I was used to. But I’ll never forget him looking down at me and seeing the tears stream down my face. This is a guy who went through an even longer period of crappy Missouri football so he was familiar with crushing defeat. He looked down at me during that long walk back to the car, and when I felt his eyes on me I looked up at him, hoping for some encouragement.
“Son,” he said instead, “Welcome to Missouri football.” — Nate Edwards
Henry Josey caps his comeback
I think Henry Josey was the first Mizzou star I felt connected to. He wasn’t the first I experienced, mind you. I distinctly recall Brad Smith running circles around the Fighting Illini in 2002, a performance etched in my memory along with the hordes of gold-and-orange emblazoned fans that filled the Edward Jones Dome.
But while many a Mizzou legend passed in the years between Smith and Josey’s debuts, there was never quite one I felt a kinship with. Smith was a myth, Chase Daniel was a titan. But Henry Josey? Henry Josey was a mortal, a mortal who ran faster and juked harder than everyone around him. It took a career-threatening injury to bring him down, and what are heroic stories if the hero never falls?
That’s what made the 2013 season extra special. Amongst the layers of narrative juice those Mizzou Tigers provided (the two-QB system, the towering receiving corps, the birth of D-Line Zou and Michael Sam’s coming out), Henry Josey’s comeback story was neatly tucked away. It always seemed like an indulgence that he was as good as he was that year, a cherry on top of a particularly good sundae. After all, couldn’t Mizzou have done it without Henry Josey? The backfield was particularly studded with offensive weapons. Josey’s story felt good, but it was often an afterthought in the wider scope of the season.
But not on November 30. Despite the rushing of the field, the contested L’Damian Washington jump ball and the presence of Johnny Manziel, Henry Josey is what stands out most clearly. I remember watching on TV, my knees knocking at the prospect of a trip to Atlanta. And when Josey exploded through the line, Brent Musburger’s voice rang out, carving itself in the deepest recesses of my mind...
“Foot race! For the end zone! 20! 10! Hellooooooo, touchdown!”
And I cried. I cried not for Mizzou Football, or the fans who shared their joy with me or the players making good on the move to the SEC. I cried for Henry Josey, a player who saw his star diminish in the light of a horrific injury. I cried in thought of his long, painful nights of recovery, of the moments where he was told he may never lace up his cleats or his pads ever again.
I cried for the moment he found himself in then, soaking up the limelight in one of the signature moments of Mizzou Football history. No one deserved it, or my tears, more. — Josh Matejka
Norfolk State, where dreams become nightmares
This is a story of breaking down in tears in a Buffalo Wild Wings on Grindstone Parkway one Friday afternoon. Let that settle in. Ahh... memories...
It was March 16, 2012. While I had to look up the specific date, what happened haunts me to this day. Is there a such thing as basketball-induced PTSD? If so, I definitely have it. Even the local media had it to an extent. When I waded back into old posts to relive my nightmares, I found the majority of outlets had wiped this game clear of its existence. Only articles on PowerMizzou and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch remain... I wish it was that easy to erase it from my brain.
It was my first NCAA Tournament since moving back to Columbia in late 2011. I’d moved away after college to teach and coach in NC, and after being out there for a while, I felt the pull of the midwest and moved back for a job and to be closer to my Tigers. During this time, remember, it would have been hard for me to watch them on tv with any regularity— streaming wasn’t really a thing back then. So, as a lifelong Mizzou fan, the pull of the black and gold to come home was very real for me.
I still remember the air of excitement surrounding that season as it progressed. Nobody saw the magic coming, and it was incredible. Left for dead by Mike Anderson and with new coach Frank Haith in tow, the Tigers did the unimaginable and tore through the season, amassing a 30-4 record and winning the Big XII tournament on their way out the door to the bright futures of the SEC. That team, as Kimmie liked to say, would “reconcile by winning.” And win they did. They were good, man. So good. And so fun to watch! They went into the NCAA Tourney a 2-seed. A 2-seed! We all had dreams of an improbable Final Four run. And I was going to be HOME to watch it all unfold! How awesome is that?!?
So on that Friday afternoon, I left school with some of my fellow teacher friends and raced over to Buffalo Wild Wings to take it all in (hey— it was close by). It was packed and no one wanted to sit down. Even with a not great first half, I truly don’t think it ever crossed my mind that Mizzou could actually lose this game. I mean, this was Norfolk State! From the MEAC! A 15-seed! COME ON. But they stuck with the Tigers and every time Mizzou would get a lead, the Spartans would take it right back. There were 22 lead changes and 14 ties. Even in the waning seconds, I still didn’t believe it would happen. It couldn’t. The Tigers — MY Tigers — were a team of destiny. Right?
When Flip’s last ditch 3-pointer at the buzzer didn’t go in, it was like time stopped. The whole damn bar stood in shocked silence. No one moved. Then came the tears. I don’t know if I was the only one crying (I probably wasn’t), but that was the first time I remember crying over the Tigers, and y’all, I cried A LOT. My heart broke that day. For fans, for myself, and most of all, for the team.
“I bled, I sweat and I cried for these six letters on the front of my jersey,” Kim English said in the post-game. “I came here with aspirations of helping to take this basketball program from the dumps and trying to take it somewhere our fans couldn’t fathom. And we tried, we fought and we fought for four years...” UGH.
In retrospect, it’s still hard to comprehend how Mizzou lost a game in which Flip, Dixon, and Denmon scored 62 points. The team shot 53 percent from the field AND made 13 3-pointers. Surely that would lead one to victory... right? WRONG. Not if Norfolk State suddenly goes unconscious from 3, shooting some 20 percent better than their season average. Not if they seemingly get ALL the rebounds. Not if big man Kyle O’Quinn goes for 24 and 15. Sigh.
So, yeah... March 16, 2012. The date of that bleeping Norfolk State game, and the first time the Tigers made me cry. It, sadly, would not be the last. Oh, and thanks for ruining BWW for me, Mizzou. Just kidding. It was never that good anyway. — Karen Steger