I spent the past week re-learning a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, if the past is prologue, I will have to re-learn that lesson again next year as the knowledge so dearly paid for will dissipate over time. October 26th was Homecoming at Missouri University, the 103rd homecoming to be exact, and I partook vigorously. NO, not that! It was not an over indulgence in adult beverages that caused my distress, but rather participation in Marching Mizzou Alumni Band. Now you would think that a short 3 hour practice to perform a 15 minute show would not require 7 days of recovery, however it seems that recovery time becomes extended with the passage of time. Especially when that passage is being measured in decades!
I was a student at the MU and a member of Marching Mizzou when Warren Powers was the head football coach. My contemporaries included Elsberry High School graduates Lisa Howard, a senior when I was a freshman; and Linda Mayes who was a freshman in my senior year. We counted it a good year if Missouri was 6 and 3 at this point in the season. After graduation I attended the Homecoming Game fairly regularly I think I missed two years in my first dozen years as an Alumnus. Of course family commitments, work obligations and other issues compelled subsequent absences but by my calculations I have attended 20 games in the last 30 years. I thought that was an acceptable level of attendance until I found out that another contemporary has a 30 year uninterrupted streak. His dedication is more impressive when you realize that for five years he was working in Georgia and incurring a significant travel burden to attend the game.
I don’t remember football games so much as halftime shows, I remember the shows. The enthusiasm of the crowd for a job well done is palpable. Just check out Youtube where you can find a show by Ohio State centered on Hollywood Blockbusters. Give it a view, it is quite impressive and the crowd is very appreciative. When I was an undergrad we opened one show with “the graduation review scene” from the movie STRIPES starring Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. That particular show was performed during the ARMY game.
I do have vivid memories of the 1981 game between Missouri and Nebraska in Columbia. It was a cold day, but it was not damp, for damp implies some residual element of dry clothing. No, it had rained all day and even though the band had new raincoats to go with our uniforms; and yes we were wearing them, we were still soaked to the skin.
Faurot Field was a natural grass field in that time. In the course of 30 minutes of grinding action in the first half, neither team came close to the goal line, but the span between the respective 35 yard lines looked like a herd of goats had been feeding there, for a month. The field was a complete disaster at halftime and we were instructed by the athletic department that we could not march our show because they were concerned about the damage that we might inflict upon the field. Yes, 22 guys weighing between 200 and 300 pounds each with size 11 to 13 feet wearing shoes with 9 or 10 cleats 1/2” diameter and 3/4” deep have been churning up the field for 30 minutes of vigorous action, but we wouldn’t want to subject the delicate grass to any additional strain!
Upon reflection over the last 32 years I have come to realize that the Athletic Department did the band a great kindness that afternoon. Without the yard lines a marching band can become quite lost. And frankly I could envision several twisted ankles attempting to march in that muck. After half-time both teams returned to the field and commenced the battle again, with similar results, until 30 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Then Nebraska, after a whole afternoon of relying upon a running game, let loose a pass. The receiver caught the ball and slogged 70 yards to the goal line. The point after attempt was good and Missouri lost. By seven points.
Anybody who was at that game remembers being cold and wet. In 2007 the scene was repeated. A full day of rain continued into the evening when the Tigers played a Thursday Night game on October 4th against the Cornhuskers. This time, Mizzou had a turf field, mud was not a contender and the Tigers were victorious with a final score of 41 to 6. If you talk to anybody who attended the 2007 match-up their memories are quite fond and the weather while unpleasant, is not the center of the scene. Victory it seems is a great ameliorant.
This has been a great fall for sports in Missouri. Mizzou is now 8 and 1 on the year, and in the cold light of day they could have been 9 and 0. The Kansas City Chiefs are 9 and 0. It is probably too early to think of a Super Bowl appearance, but we can always dream. Granted we weren’t happy with the first game of the World Series, nor the 4th, 5th or 6th, but face it, the Cardinals had a pretty good run. And there is a bit of symmetry in the knowledge that Boston began the baseball season with a tragedy that certainly shocked the confidence of Beantown to its core. What? Don’t tell me you have forgotten about the Boston Marathon Bombing already. Yes, believe it or not that assault occurred after just nine games into the 2013 season.
John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach once quipped “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” Boston had some ups and downs throughout the season, and while we would have preferred a different outcome, you have to admit that they earned their championship.
John Armstrong is a Vice President with Peoples Bank & Trust Company in Elsberry.