Columbia, Missouri and I have had a tumultuous love affair over the past 17 years.
When DCB and I checked into Baker-Park dormitory in the late summer of 2000, it was up to that point the greatest time of my life. Mizzou football was the also-ran of the Big 12, Eric Crouch was busting off 96-yard TD scrambles for Nebraska at Faurot field, Downtown wasn’t “The District," ah, simpler times. Since then, I’ve loved COMO, hated it, and fell in love with it again. But, in all these 17 years, my favorite experience with the city was being a tutor at Cedar Ridge Elementary.
From 2000-2004 I had an absolute blast tutoring kindergarten and first grade. I helped countless kids learn how to write, count, and spell. I would help them learn to spell their names, and then, of course, the name Maravich. What does any of this self-reflective nonsense have to do with Mizzou football? The kindergartners I tutored are now all older than every player on the 2017 Mizzou roster.
Yes, I’m old. But, the kids currently wearing the gold and black, are just that. They’re kids. I saw Drew Lock without his helmet on, and if you told me his 12th birthday was next week, I would think to myself, “That sounds about right.” Drew Lock was born in 1996. That’s four full years after the Dream Team won Gold in Barcelona over Drazen and the Croatians. When I checked into the freshman dorms, this guy wasn’t even four yet. That’s the overwhelming perspective I have on this team and its quarterback.
So, when I hear radio and TV folks taking Lock to task over passer rating and TD-INT ratios, I think, “I mean, the kid can’t even legally crack an Ice Cold Natty after the game to wind down with his dudes, ya know.” I get it, Lock hasn’t been great against other kids in the SEC. I can go down a long and winding spiral about why he should be in the Big 12 at Mizzou, but that’s for another day. His overall numbers are good, and when Mizzou plays a tomato can he lights it up, and it is pretty damn fun to watch. Should he be better, probably, but who am I to say? When I was his age all I was trying to do was dominate rec league hoops and get Sarah Beckmeyer to help me pass Spanish for the third straight semester.
So, I can criticize the kid for bad picks, and I can go after him for poor in conference performances, but to what end? All he does is wake up every morning, work his tail off, go to class, and prep for Saturday. Then on Saturday he gets knocked around, blamed for losses, and makes the school money, the coaching staff money, the stadium money, the TV networks money, and gets himself a sweet meal stipend.
The kid is good, he isn’t great, and no Mizzou QB ever has been. Corby Jones was good, Farmer could sling it, Chase was a Heisman finalist, Gabbert is still bouncing around the NFL, but none were transcendent. Let Drew the Kid do his thing, and when you run him out of town you can start in on the next 20-year-old that you pin your Saturdays on. Until then, I’ll try to enjoy a bunch of kids playing a game while representing my old college to the rest of the sports nation. A Bully for Old Mizzou, I guess.