This year has been a hell of a lot of fun. Let me start by saying that.
But I also feel like it’s appropriate that we acknowledge what this year’s edition of the Battle Line Rivalry game was: a beatdown. A no-holds-barred, out-and-out demolition. So, in honor of Mizzou’s brutal beating of Sam Pittman’s Arkansas Razorbacks, I present one brutal beatdown of a track.
This song never fails to get me freaking wired, which is how I imagine the Tigers felt before delivering the whooping of a lifetime on the poor, poor piggies.
Personally, I’ve really cooled on sports movies over the years.
It’s not just that they tend to be of a lower quality by nature (notable exceptions included, this doesn’t concern you Remember the Titans and Moneyball.) It’s the fact that they’re not true to the experience of a sports fan. I’ve always found one of the endearing parts of the sports communities we form is, in fact, the losing. The “almost” moments. The “oh god, NO” heartbreaks. Those are what form us as fans of a team, program, athlete, etc. What deepens your relationship to the University of Missouri? The fact that you watched them win back-to-back SEC titles in 2013 and 2014? Or the fact that you watched them flounder for a year in the SEC before picking themselves up for two surprise runs to Atlanta?
As sports fans, we are formed by the hard truths of sport. The fact that, 99 percent of the time, our teams’ seasons will end in a loss does not break us, but makes us stronger. It’s the waiting and hoping for that one day when everything will go as planned that keeps us coming back.
I’ve always thought this final Revue of the season might remind me of a sports movie. But I’m also a realist — no one is making a movie about the 10-2, No. 9-ranked Missouri Tigers. Will we remember it forever? Certainly. Will the Tigers get a lot of praise for it over the next few months? Deservedly! But, apart from Cody Schrader’s remarkable story, there’s nothing altogether Hollywood about a New Year’s Six bowl game... even if it is extremely fun now.
But then I thought of it! The rare sports movie that delivers on quality and reality!
I only just saw The Natural for the first time a few years ago, and it’s never really left my head since. I’m a baseball romantic, and The Natural hits all the right buttons for me... including the ones that tell the truth of how the main character’s career would have turned out. In the Disney version of The Natural, Roy Hobbs recovers from his attack to become the world’s greatest ballplayer. In the real film version — notably sunnier than the novel it’s based on, I should note — Hobbs turns out to be... pretty good. But as a result of his attack, he doesn’t get the chance to really leave a mark on the game he loves. He does well for himself, but ultimately flames out.
That’s what I think of when I try to compare this year’s Mizzou Tigers with a sports movie. We’re automatically behind the eight ball considering no championships will be won, and we’re even further behind considering Mizzou has two losses to their name. Two? We might as well be a footnote in someone else’s movie!
But then I remember how The Natural isn’t about the legacy or the all-time greatness of the player. It’s about the idea of sports. The hope that, maybe someday, our favorite athlete or team will get a chance to have that special moment. And when it doesn’t turn out the way we want, we take the bad with the good and wait until the next opportunity arises. In the meantime, you appreciate the special stuff. Like walk-ons turned All Americans or Robert Redford jogging through a shower of neon rain.
★★★★★ for the win and the season, which I’ll look back on fondly even if it didn’t hit the heights we dreamed of, and ★★★★☆ for The Natural, which still has perhaps the best sports movie climax of all time
We always tread a thin line when it comes to the subjective watchability of sporting contests. Is a blowout more watchable than a nail-biter? Maybe, but in what way? Does the opponent factor into your enjoyment of a win? It’s a complex equation that requires a lot of thought and care to parse.
However, I can definitively say based on years of experience that
beating neutralizing obliterating liquidating Arkansas is always fun. It was fun in 2008. It was fun in 2018. It’s still fun in 2023. Beating Arkansas by a little is good. Beating them into a bloody mess is better.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say this year’s victory over the Razorbacks might’ve been my favorite ever between the two schools! Sure, watching Tony Temple run roughshod over the Hogs at the Cotton Bowl was cathartic, but it felt like a confirmation of what we already knew. Winning the Cotton Bowl didn’t make up for the BCS Bowl snub; it just made things feel slightly better at the time.
This year’s 48-14 win felt like the last round of drinks during an especially fun night out. The bartender signals for last call, and you go out with a few shots and one more cocktail or beer. It’s the capper to a great night that leaves you buzzing on the way home, offering you that final opportunity to make some memories before the barkeep closes up shop.
Mizzou went to Fayetteville and firmly socked a reel Arkansas squad in the grill. They went out celebrating the totality of the 2023 season while making one final memory. How you define watchability may be subjective, but I think everyone can agree where Friday stands.
For definitively kicking Arkansas’s ass, Mizzou gets 5/5 Swole Schrader Dogs. Not sure how that’s related to this game, but it seemed funny at the time.
Disrespectful Play Index
Sometimes disrespect doesn’t have to be showing up your opponent with flash and style. Are those things nice? Sure? Do they make things funnier? Usually!
But Eli Drinkwitz’s recent words have been telling when it comes to Mizzou’s demeanor on the field: Stand on business. Mizzou doesn’t get as riled up as you may think given how good they’ve been this season. They handle what they need to handle, then they smoke cigars in the locker room.
That’s how a lot of this game played out: Mizzou trodding Arkansas underfoot, Arkansas talking trash when they did anything remotely well, and Mizzou continuing to stomp their faces into the turf moments after. And ultimately, I think that’s just as much a sign of disrespect as elaborate celebrations. Want to show a team you don’t view them as an equal? Disregard them entirely. Obliterate and evacuate.
Arkansas fans like to say that Mizzou views the Battle Line game as its Super Bowl. You wouldn’t know it based on how the Tigers approached the Razorbacks this year. There was a sort of indifference with which Mizzou carried themselves, as if they couldn’t be bothered to dignify the Hogs’ taunts with a response?
It’s that spirit of casual indifference that defined this week’s Disrespectful Play.
As a reminder, here are the critera on which we’ll judge.
Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the play? (0-20)
Category 2: How hard did the defense try? (0-20)
Category 3: How much did his teammates help? (0-5)
Category 4: What did the player do immediately afterward? (0-20)
Category 5: How did everyone not involved react? (0-15)
Category 6: Is there a backstory/context to consider? (0-20)
And here’s the play in question.
- Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the play?
I’ve always thought, and maybe this is anecdotal evidence based on Missouri’s historic “just okay-ness”, that one of the hardest places to move the ball is inside the five-yard line. After all, when is the field smaller, and when is the defense trying hardest to stop you? So there’s an extra degree of difficulty we have to factor in.
I’d also like to propose, however, that Arkansas’s defense is simply not good. I know the numbers say it’s not that simple. But I’m calling it like I see it. The hogs were up for slaughter on Black Friday. This little fake sweep to Luther Burden thing has been a staple of Mizzou’s red zone play book all season. As soon as he started running over, I thought, “Ah, Cook is taking this one then.” It worked like clockwork. I’ll give the Tigers points for pulling it off again. But let’s be real here: If I can see it coming, so should the defense. 16/20
- Category 2: How hard did the defense try?
One of my favorite parts of writing this column week-in-and-week-out is getting to analyze the body language of defenders who get bamboozled in the open field by fakes and options. What a delight it is to look a still image and immediately pick out the guy saying, “ah, shit,” to himself. Here we have two such examples.
And Exhibit B:
Lovely. At least they tried! 16/20
- Category 3: How much did his teammates help?
All Brady on this one, folks. Let him... 5/5
- Category 4: What did the player do immediately afterward?
Brady Cook is a man of simple gestures. A (poorly-executed) whisking motion here, a flex there. So it makes the most sense that he’d whip out another universal indicator to speak to the lovely people of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Would have been a devastating blow to the Arkansas fans if there’d been any there! 18/20
- Category 5: How did everyone not involved react?
Kudos to the cameraman here, who captures not one, but two secondary Mizzou celebrations after Cook waltzes into the end zone untouched. First, big CamRon Johnson moseys into the picture to deliver a command of his own.
Then Theo Wease Jr. makes his presence known by running into the field of play and doing the “Let him cook” celebration. I pray to god he’s making a big batch of cookies or something, because that’s a massive diameter he’s whisking up there.
Bonus points to the referee looking like a real goober. 15/15
- Category 6: Is there a backstory/context to consider?
“[The Battle Line Rivalry] means a lot to us... We enjoy that people don’t think it’s a rivalry, because we believe it is a rivalry.”
Well said, Mr. Drinkwitz. 20/20
Brady Cook’s touchdown run was 90 percent disrespectful to all 12 Arkansas fans who showed up for this game.
Superlatives and Awards
Best Prospective NIL Deal
Did Triston Newson just put in the best “back up filling the place of a starter” performance of the season? The decade? The century? I’m
too lazy to do the research not sure you can quantify that, so let’s go ahead and say, “yes.”
I think we need to get him an NIL deal with a chiropractor in the Columbia area. It’s easy to envision: “Need someone to have your back? Triston Newson recommends Truman and Son’s Chiropractic!”
The Himothy Award for Most “Him” Performance
Cody Schrader don’t got that dog in him... That dog got Cody Schrader in him!
Best Meme Award
Two of our winners this week aren’t memes, but they’re moments that I’m glad people caught on the broadcast and dig at Arkansas online in the aftermath.
Of course Mark Kim caught my favorite moment of the game, when Luther Burden III gave it to the Hog faithful on the sideline.
Arkansas’ players (and, I assume, fans) were lambasting Burden with taunts all day. Why? I’m not sure. But Burden kept his cool on the field and let the play (and this moment) do the talking.
The other moment I’m glad someone caught? Not actually from this game! It comes from the Georgia game, when one brave Tiger got himself into the sea of red and let his freak flag fly.
Lol. Lmao, even. Guy is living his best, and I do mean his best, life.
I wasn’t as impressed by the meme offerings this week, but I have to admit that this one got me. The clumsiness of it is peak late-Twitter, and Mr. Arnold found a perfect picture of Brady Cook to superimpose.