The University of Missouri’s initiation into the elite society of Southeastern Conference football was illuminated by plenty of golden moments.
The far-flung parking garages and lots of the sprawling Mizzou campus had morphed into thriving tent villages, blanketed by black, gold and the occasional red canopies that were perfumed by smoldering charcoal and hardwood. Tiger and Bulldog faithful arrayed themselves shoulder to shoulder, RV to RV, exchanging fellowship, food and fermented beverages.
Every hearty and sincere “welcome to Mizzou” greeting was returned with an equally hearty and sincere “welcome to the SEC.” Southern hospitality, it seems, travels quite well.
As SEC Commissioner Mike Slive received a hero’s welcome from the stadium packed with loud, boisterous Tiger students and fans, I made a panoramic survey of the stands. Georgia red was certainly present, but it was neatly sequestered within the corner and small pockets of the upper decks specifically reserved for visiting fans. Many longtime Mizzou supporters remember decades of our own bleachers covered in enemy colors.
But Mizzou was ready for its close-up, and that picture was decidedly gold in hue.
To wrap up an otherwise perfect day of Mizzou football, superstar linebacker, Jarvis Jones, and the rest of the Dawgs’ defense blew open what had been a tight, highly entertaining three quarters of football en route to a 41-20 Georgia victory. As the final minute ticked off the game clock, our Southern visitors broke into a lusty cheer of “Old Man Football” – a razz directed at the aforementioned Missouri player who chose to critique the Bulldogs’ style of play before actually experiencing it for himself. It could have been worse.
We headed back to the parking lot dejected by the final score, yet buoyed by the satisfaction that we had otherwise put on an excellent, well-received show for our new brothers and sisters from the South. We fired up the grills and started tailgating again. After all, this is the SEC.
Yale L. Hollander is a University of Missouri alum and a guest writer for SouthernLeague Magazine.