This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
I grew up in Columbus, OH, home of The Ohio State University, and started attending Mizzou in the mid 90's when to say that their football program was sub-par would be an understatement.
So during my first football game as a freshman in Columbia, I was appalled at the fact that 90% of the student body left at halftime (impressed, mind you, at the amount of empty whiskey and rum bottles they left behind). That sour taste never did quite leave my mouth, even later on in my collegiate career as Mizzou football was actually winning and going to bowl games.
I mean for the first 18 years of my life I was accustomed to being with 100,000 of my closest friends during home football games, and at OSU nobody dared to leave until the band finished playing Carmen Ohio at the conclusion of each game.
I did attend all those football games my freshman year, and actually didn't miss a football game the entire time I was in Columbia, but something was missing for me... Having suffered through an inaugural 3-8 football season, halftime mass exits and my fair share of empty whiskey bottles I knew I needed more.
Enter Norm Stewart. At the time Norm had been coaching Mizzou for more than 25 years. He was an institution at that institution. A bigger than life being who was two years removed from a perfect 14-0 Big 8 conference record. Norm was unequivocally the face of Mizzou.
That 1995-96 team wasn't spectacular by any stretch, going 18-15 on the season and 6-8 in conference. The most memorable players on that squad to outsiders were probably the Haley twins, who were a collective 14 feet tall and 210 pounds. No, that team wasn't the greatest, but to me it felt like I had finally found "my team."
Growing up I had to be a football fan, and a football fan I was. During my formative years, Ohio State also had some great basketball teams, teams which I watched night in and night out, but their roundballers never clicked with my fandom, I had a gap there waiting to be filled (much love to Jimmy Jackson, Perry Carter, Treg Lee, Jay Burson and the whole bunch of early 90's basketball Bucks).
Mizzou, on the other hand, had something about them that filled that gap. Maybe it was that I was in the student section of the old Hearnes Center listening to the Antlers crack jokes at the other team's expenses. Maybe it was that I could more easily identify players on the hoops team around campus, than helmet wearing gridironers. Maybe it was that my attention span could only last long enough to sit through a 2 hour hoops game and not a mediocre 3 hour football game. Or maybe it was that I was feeling more at home in Columbia just as the basketball season started and I passed my newfound love for the University onto its basketball ambassadors.
Whatever the reason, I was hooked.
And here I sit, some 15 years later, still emotionally tied to happenings of 18 to 22 year old Mizzou students. Moods altering between clanks off the back iron and swishes through the nets.
During my tenure at Mizzou I didn't see much in terms of national championships or Final Fours or even NCAA tournament appearances, but that didn't matter. I saw them ousted twice in the first round of the NCAA tournament during my final two years on campus... but other than that it wasn't a time when Mizzou basketball was at the level I tell myself it is at now.
Sure I sat courtside as Corey Tate found a ball rolling towards him in double OT and hoisted it up as time expired to beat number 1 ranked, undefeated, Kansas. And to that point Mizzou was 4-1 at home in my 5 seasons in CoMO against their rivals to the West (3-2 in the Braggin' Rights game vs Illinois). But it wasn't necessarily their play on the court that triggered my love. It was the fact that this was MY team. A team I could root for and a team that, as bad as they sometimes were on the road, would always come back home to the Hearnes and dazzle me to no end.
So that sums up how I became a Mizzou basketball Tiger uber fan. How did you become the fan of your team that you are today?
In order to engage college sports fans, EA Sports is asking SB Nation bloggers a series of questions to coincide with the launch of their NCAA Football 11.