An open letter from a Mizzou fan

Dear Mizzou fans,

Clearly, we are all being tested this week in ways most of us would never have fathomed. This time it’s more difficult to understand because we are not brooding or wallowing in self pity following another unthinkable loss an on athletic field. This time, no one illegally kicked a ball into the air and no team was given a 5th down to defeat us.

I’ll be honest, politics are just not my thing. I’ve never watched a moment of a presidential debate and the fact that I actually utilize my right to vote probably does more harm than good. Right or wrong, I pretty much stick to sports. I can use my own eyes to formulate opinions and I take comfort in knowing that success is largely earned through hard work, determination and the ability to overcome obstacles.

Despite never having attended a single class on campus at the University of Missouri, I can say with great volition that almost every memorable day of my life has taken place in Columbia, Missouri. 

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The first time my dad took me to a Missouri football game was in September of 1995 against Bowling Green. I was 11 years old and already hopelessly obsessed with sports. Sure, our football team was a disaster, and there were 35,000 people at the game tops, but I’ll never forget the feeling of watching my first major college football game with the sun shining off the band members uniforms and the gutsy play of players like running back Brock Olivo. We lost that game 17-10, a result which was not uncommon in those days and I recall making the long walk back to our car which was parked haphazardly along the highway about a half mile away. The truth is, regardless of the outcome that day, I knew I’d be back.

1958567_965227421475_8928146534292377404_nFor the last 20 years, I’ve spent an abnormally large portion of my time, money and effort on University of Missouri athletics. I’ve been to hundreds of football and basketball games and I still get chills every time the starting lineups are announced at Mizzou Arena or when the football team emerges from the smoke in the south endzone on a perfect October Saturday at Faurot Field. I’ve been known to call my dad yelling obscenities after a tough loss, or sticking around the stadium for hours or even rushing the field in jubilation after a big victory.I still look forward to post-games at Shakespears Pizza or casual strolls around Francis Quad before kickoff.

Today, I find myself confused as to all of the ins and outs of what has gone on at the University that I love so much. I’ve never thought of Columbia, Missouri as a place where racism was an issue, and here we are bearing witness to hunger strikes, football player strikes, hoaxes, university employees resigning, and general discontent among alumni, fans and supporters of Missouri. When it comes down to it, I believe that the University of Missouri stands for much more than some of the negative things that are being addressed in the media.

I’ve talked to several Mizzou fans that are willing to jump ship and turn their back on the University in general following the events. Should football players be allowed to affect social change at in institution? Did head coach Gary Pinkel do the right thing by backing his players that wanted to help end Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike? These are questions that I remain to seek answers to while trying to allow myself to see the situation from as many sides as possible. I may not agree with everything the media is trying to force feed me, but I’m adamant that it is of the utmost importance for supporters of the University and state of Missouri attempt to stick to together for the common good. I’ve decided that I will not let a few uneducated fools yelling racial slurs or lawful protests change the opinion about a place that I love.

Sooner than later, the dust will settle on this issue and we will have to go back to cheering, booing, cussing, fist-pumping and grumbling about the football teams’ offense or the small crowds at Mizzou basketball non-conference games.  I will, undoubtedly, have more great days in Columbia, Missouri, a place that means as much to me as the very city I actually live in. Personally speaking, this is a storm worth weathering.

 

Avatar of Clint Switzer
Full-time sports fan, part-time contributor to society. GASN Sports co-founder, podcast host, filmmaker and writer.

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