Ever since the news broke last winter that Missouri and Texas A&M would be joining the SEC, and that Georgia would travel to Columbia, Mo., to help initiate yet another streak of Tigers into the conference, I have been determined to be a part of the welcoming party. I was, too, and have a few thoughts about the experience, and a few suggestions for the good people who support Mizzou athletics -- especially football.
To be brutally honest, they have a long way to go before they are ready to play Grown Man football, between the knolls, in Columbia, Mo. We're talking light years, here. Yes, I said between the knolls. On either side of their playing field they have a pair of grassy knolls leading up to the front row of stands. I was eyewitness to the fact, however, that Jarvis Jones did his damage not from either of those knolls nor from a sixth-story window. He was front and center, right there on the playing field.
But back to the advice. First and foremost, of course, is you don't look at next week's opponent and compare them to the Big Pretend -- or any other lower echelon conference. Especially when you have exactly zero officially sanctioned SEC wins on your resume. Sheldon Richardson, the Missouri defender who thought Georgia played "old man" football, looked like he had been beaten by someone carrying a bag of hammers at the end of Saturday night's contest.
Secondly, the Missouri fans have got to create an identity. Most of the folks I encountered were the nicest group of fans I have been around since all the Hawaiian people were wishing us a "good game Tuesday" at the Colt Brennan beat-down in the Sugar Bowl after the '07 season. They were way too nice. Not very SEC-ish at all. They have to develop a little snarkiness if they are going to survive. I'm betting they will have a bit of a chip on their shoulder when they arrive in the Classic City next autumn and will be full-fledged fanatics by the time we make a return engagement to their side of the Mississippi.
While the Mizzou people were giving their fans a crash course in SEC culture this summer, they should have included a few fashion tips for the coeds. T-shirts and jean shorts may be OK in Gainesville, Fla., but not in mid-America. Buy a dress, for goodness sakes. And learn a new cheer while you are at it. The public address guy shouted M-I-Z all night and the stadium would reply Z-O-U and that was it. I'm talking all night -- and they had nothing else. The fan base was about as one-dimensional as their offense. And lose the Missouri Waltz. It went out with Lawrence Welk.
While they are at it, somebody needs to tell their ushers that they don't stand in the aisle taunting SEC fans throughout the game. Especially lintheads who were brought up to take offense at just about anything opponents might say to them directly. That's like mixing gasoline and gunpowder. It's eventually going to explode. It did, too -- right about the time our defense was covering Malcolm Mitchell's back after he tried to field a bouncing punt and muffed it.
They may let the usher back in the stadium in two or three weeks.
Leaving the stadium, I saw the strangest thing I have ever seen in my life, and I have been to hundreds of college football games, three world-class rodeos and the Southeastern Fair. As my entourage and I were leaving the stadium, so was their team. I mean individually, still in uniform, through the same gate we were using. They looked like a junior varsity high school football team walking home from a Thursday afternoon scrimmage. We walked almost all the way back to our car with No. 36 as he carried his helmet dejectedly in his hands. That is just weird -- not to mention dangerous.
I am pretty sure some of the people who told us they were so happy to be a part of the great Southeastern Conference are rethinking things now. I am sure they are thinking, "So this is how it's going to be? Every week?" I guarantee you that two-thirds of them went online last night to find out when the Tigers play Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
All in all, me and mine had a great time visiting the Show-Me State last weekend. I hope we made the citizenry of the state happy. They wanted to be shown, and they were. I am just happy we could make their entrance into the SEC a memorable occasion.
I have nothing against the state of Missouri, understand. After all, it is the home of Harry Truman, who remains one of my very favorite presidents of all time. I have to say this, however. Once you've ridden to the top of that great big arch, seen the Cardinals play baseball and eaten one of those overpriced steaksat a fancy restaurant and heard M-I-Z-Z-O-U once, you've 'bout done Missouri.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.