As I grew up, my parents were proud season ticket holders to Mizzou Football at the University of Missouri in Columbia. This tradition lasted almost 30 years until they were priced out of the market due to the rising cost of parking and season tickets in 2013.
Many of these seasons, such as those under head coach Al Onofrio with a win-loss record of 38-45, were for die-hard fans only. My parents were part of that group. They were in the stands during the lean years.
My mother will be the first to admit that she would often exit the game during half-time to visit some retail establishments in the Columbia area.
About once a year, Mom could not attend a home game due to prior commitments or weather concerns. That is where Dad looked for a substitute to sit next to him on the cypress boards at the stadium. I was his number-one choice.
One game, I remember the weather was particularly nasty. Dad and I sat bundled up with ponchos over our coats to keep dry. It rained constantly during the game. We only stood for short periods to keep our seats from getting wet. These tickets were on the 20-yard line on the southwest end of the field. I don’t remember if the Tigers won that game, but I enjoyed being with Dad.
Sitting in the shotgun position of Dad’s car during the ride to Columbia, I remember the traffic being backed up on Highway 50 in Jefferson City as football fans waited to cross the Missouri River on the only bridge.
Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field — where the Tigers play — has changed drastically over the last 50 years, but one constant is the big “M” on the stadium’s north end.
This tradition goes back to 1927 when the freshman class at UMC formed the 90 by-95-foot symbol out of whitewashed rocks.
In the fall of 1978, I followed in my father’s footsteps and enrolled at UMC. Whether you stayed in the dorms or joined a fraternity, attending home football games was practically a requirement. One I enjoyed.
During my four years at Mizzou, we had a tailgating ritual. About three hours before the game, I joined my parents, and other fans, including Norm and Rose Stuckenschnieder and Mike and Barb Sell — who published the Monroe City News — at a parking lot a half mile southwest of the stadium, close to the MU research reactor.
Folding chairs came out, a barbecue grill was unloaded, and adult beverages were served. An hour before game time, we packed up and hiked to the stadium. After the game, we returned to the cars to dissect the Tiger’s dismal performance or celebrate their win. We were often the last to pack up and head for home.
At one tailgate, we sat on an orange vinyl couch mom and dad brought up for my dorm room. After the game, that couch became my bed in the dorm. It traveled with me to an apartment during my junior and senior years, then on to Hannibal after college.
Until 2019, football fans attending Tiger games could not legally consume alcoholic beverages. That didn’t stop liquor from being smuggled into the stadium. My preferred intoxicant was a half pint of Jack Daniels tucked inside my right cowboy boot.
They never searched there.
Last Saturday, I added another memory of the Zou when Connie and I traveled the familiar 90 miles to Columbia with our son and daughter-in-law, Jacob and Jess, to witness the Tigers crush the Tennessee Volunteers 36 to 7 in front of 63,621 fans. Mom and Dad enjoyed the game from the comfort of their La-Z-Boy recliners.
After the Tigers lost to UT 62-24 in 2021 and 66-24 in 2022, revenge is sweet.
As we entered the stadium and sat down midway up on the west side at the 30-yard line, all the memories of previous Tiger football games returned — the stunning last-second victories and deflating defeats, games in the snow and rain.
They were all great memories that started with me sitting shotgun beside Dad.
If you have not already done it, you can start your memories of the Zou. It’s not too late. The last home game for the 2023 season is Saturday against another team from the SEC East Division, the Florida Gators. It’s a blackout game.