First published in the Platte County Landmark from February 8, 2017
In a way, this year marks the end of an innocence. Somewhere, in the back of your head, you knew things were bad, but you simply had no idea they were this bad. And then you watch it for yourself unravel on your television set night after night.
Never before has there been such a leadership deficit. You see friends and foes alike almost take pity because they know the depths that things have sunk.
The despair. The yelling. The apathy.
I am, of course, talking about the athletics programs at the University of Missouri.
It didn’t happen overnight, certainly. It was just two years ago that I took my family to Orlando to watch the Tiger football team compete in (and win) the Citrus Bowl. And it wasn’t even that long ago that the glory years going toe to toe with the Kansas Chickenhawks at Allen Fieldhouse and at Mizzou Arena to capacity crowds.
Now, the basketball program is having to resort to accounting tricks – counting the number of paid season ticket holders rather than actual butts through the turnstiles – in order to hide how bad it’s gotten.
But when the cameras cut away to commercial you see it. The blazing color of gold that once adorned the t-shirts and hoodies of parents, alums, and students is not the color of empty seats that far outnumber the filled ones.
And the losing. Before this week’s win against Arkansas, Mizzou had not won a game since December 6 including the team’s largest loss of the year – a 39 point loss at Florida. Kim Anderson, the basketball head coach, is a dead man walking. Missouri had to dive into the ranks of Division II to get Anderson, once a hero to the university – but where could it possibly find someone wanting to take over a program so barren of talent and motivation?
The football team also looks to be circling the drain. Although there was late life last year thanks to Kansas City native Drew Lock, the team finally came down to earth in the SEC East and played poorly through the season. Some deck chairs were shuffled, but the ship is still taking on water. This is, in essence, still the same Gary Pinkel team that threatened a work stoppage or boycott due to racial instability on campus just two years ago and the Show-Me State also has a long memory.
Some of my greatest memories at Missouri were of the tough competitions, the victories, and the crushing losses that I got to witness (Yes, I was at the fifth down game.) But most Saturdays, I couldn’t even tell you who Missouri is playing. It’s not like you dislike the team, it’s simply that you don’t think of them at all. And that’s even worse.
So yes, Missouri needs to build their (defensive) wall. They need to be making less fake news and more headlines. Missouri needs to be made great again.