There will be brackets circulating throughout the Learfield building this week as many of our folks break some state law or other by getting into the NCAA tournament guessing game jackpot mode. Some people no doubt will bet the magic of Mizzou continues all the way through the April 2nd national championship game in New Orleans and some will even guess that the game will be the final Missouri-Kansas matchup.
I remember Brewer Fieldhouse, where the Missouri Tigers played on a raised court and sometimes won close to half their games. I was there the day Missouri’s Charlie Henke and Kansas center Wayne Hightower got into a fight that caused benches to empty and part of the crowd to flock to the floor, one of the most dangerous moments I’ve ever experienced in a college gymnasium. (I stayed in the bleachers that day — wooden bleachers on the west side of the court. The young reporter-to-be adopted the position that my role was as an observer, not a participant.) Henke and teammate Joe Scott lived across the hall in my dormitory in those days when athletes lived in the same style as other students. Charlie, at 6-7, was the tallest person I had ever seen up close.
I remember the Hearnes Center where some seats were so high that seven-foot tall basketball players seemed to be only large ants.
So I’ve seen a lot of Missouri basketball teams but nothing like the Magnificent Seven of 2011-2012.
Some of the national sports pundits say this team has a chance to get to the Final Four, maybe play for the national championship.
My gosh, wouldn’t that be something? You look at the teams in the tournament and you see Duke and North Carolina and Syracuse and Michigan State and… and…
And some people who seem to know their stuff are saying Missouri can be their equal. Week after week the polls have said so. We’ve seen it but we’re probably not alone in having trouble grasping the reality of what we have seen.
These guys have done something this year that is so unexpected, so unusual, so — magical that it is sometimes hard to believe what we’re seeing. And this guy in the suit on the sidelines, Frank Haith, has molded a miracle.
Are the Tigers really this good? Those of us who remember the Snyder sessions when assists seemed to be on the endangered species list are amazed that game after game by the number of assists by this year’s squad. And our memories of Mike Anderson’s frenetic forty minutes, enjoyable thought they were, have been almost completely replaced by what this year’s team has done.
They’re 30-4 somehow. Perhaps it’s the baggage of the years that leaves fans like me surprised almost every time they play that they control the game so well and in the end win with the confidence they show.
And you know something else we appreciate? Listen to the post-game interviews with these guys. Kim English gets a lot of attention because he’s so well-spoken. But his teammates are no verbal slouches. We appreciate how well they express themselves. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised because the kind of game Coach Haith has them playing requires intelligence and on-court analytical thinking.
We have loved watching these fine young men and their new coach this year. The magic show will come to a close sometime in the next three weeks one way or another. Whether it ends with a trophy is secondary, really, to the pure joy of having watched these guys play The Game.
Magical moments are rare in sports. Those of us who remember Brewer Fieldhouse days know we have seen a team that will be cherished by Missouri fans for decades for their accomplishments and their character and because they represent the things our idealism tells us collegiate sports should be about–selflessness, dedication, character, and accomplishment.
We thank them for taking us on a magical journey.