20 hours, 1,468 miles – one weekend I’ll never forget.
As a Georgia undergrad, it seemed Missouri was ready to bring all it had when it opened it’s inaugural Southeastern Conference football schedule this past Saturday. All the hype, buildup, and even the historical aspect – I knew I had to make my way to the confines of Memorial Stadium.
So journey, I did. I made the trek halfway across the great United States with four other Georgians, most of whom were members of the UGA student newspaper; all of us were excited for the road trip and big game.
We arrived at our hotel early Saturday morning at 1:00 AM CDT. It had been 12 excruciating hours in the car, driving through heavy rain that bordered on hail. The flooding was the worst I’ve endured in my southern driving experience. I had no idea water was capable of pelting a vehicle from every direction possible.
After surviving the rough driving conditions and getting some much needed shut eye, we headed to Columbia for Saturday’s festivities.
Once in Columbia, we found a FREE place to park our car in a downtown parking deck. Even though it was a bit of a walk to the stadium, I had no problem trying to be as fiscally responsible as I could this weekend. Plus the mild, 70 degree September day meant I didn’t break out in a sweat as I would in Athens walking to a game.
We arrived at the heart of the tailgate festivities about four hours before kickoff. The atmosphere was what you’d expect in an SEC town — plenty of tailgating with great food, corn hole, and all the other essentials. We got to try some of the famous Missouri barbecue you hear so much about; we were not at all disappointed. It was the best brisket I’ve had in my 20+ years.
There were fans of both teams enjoying pre-game festivities. And as usual, we found fans who did not even have a ticket inside Memorial Stadium; a check-plus to Mizzou faithful for making tailgating worth the trip itself. Maybe we can look past the geographical fact that Missouri is neither in the south nor the east parts of the country after all.
After tailgating, we found the Dawg Walk and watched the team arrive. It looked ready to take care of the business at hand.
Entering the stadium to the BOOM of the Tiger’s ROTC cannon, I quickly found my seat and hunkered down for what I was expecting to be a nail biter. The game had so much significance. Georgia was ranked No. 7 nationally, but was missing four key starters on defense. Missouri wanted to prove it belonged.
During the game, the atmosphere was as advertised – raucous, loud, and booming. I learned about the chants, waves and fun crowd-tastic things Tigers fans do during their games. Needless to say, I was impressed, even in a pro-Georgia section of the stadium, as the gold and yellow traded many M-I-Z, Z-O-U chants all night.
After Tigers’ touchdowns, the Cannon’s firing seemed to shake the walls as it reverberated throughout. I did get used to it, but only because it stuck with me after the first few times it went off during the pre-game.
The only issue/problem I had with the Mizzou atmosphere was the booing of opposing team’s injured players. Regardless of the timing of the injury or stoppage, it’s not cool to boo an 18-23 year-old on the field. I understand players sometimes fake injuries to halt their opponent’s rhythm, but remember Tigers fans, it’s still a game. I don’t believe it was all of Missouri fans, but the booing could be heard even way up top where I was.
When Georgia finally pulled away, it was a great feeling. The trip felt even more worth it. A victory is what the road warriors hope and pray for. It makes the return trip must shorter. Below is a video I filmed from the Georgia section that shows what the stadium looked like right after the Dawgs victory.
Georgia may have won the game, but it was a victory for Columbia too as fans were cheerful, welcoming and glad to have us Georgians for the weekend – something you don’t always get in other SEC towns.
It was a spectacular journey – one that I’ll tell my children and grandchildren about one day when I’m on the verge of senility. From Athens, Georgia to Columbia, Missouri, the SEC’s new and old traditions will build and grow to immense heights. I hope Tigers fans decide to make the journey to Athens next year. We’d love to have y’all.
Kudos to you Mizzou. Welcome to the SEC; we’re glad you’re here.