The days leading up to the start of any season in any sport are supposed to be a time of unbridled optimism. No matter how bad your team may have been last year, there is always the chance that this is our year—the year when we managed to get over the hump and claim a rightful spot as a good team.
I look back at my memories from last year as a Missouri Tigers fan, and while they are wonderful memories, there is still the little part of me that wonders if it was all a mirage.
Maybe it’s because in a dozen years affiliated with this institution, I’ve built my hopes up before only to watch them get squashed like a bug.
I remember that we were going to build on our success in the post-Corby Jones era…only to see the 1999 season (my senior year) go up in flames and a broken leg during Homecoming.
I remember when Gary Pinkel first arrived and ushered in a new era in Mizzou football…and the program remained stagnant.
I remember when Brad Smith arrived, and he was going to change our perception nationally…and he became victim of some curious coaching decisions and philosophies.
There was the embarrassing loss to Troy State (now Troy) University in 2004 in front of national television audience on ESPN.
There was the stretch from 2003-2006, when the North Division was down, that Mizzou finished 4-4 three times and 3-5 once.
I will admit, I was wondering why Gary Pinkel was still around.
Granted, I was doing a lot of this backseat athletic directing while over 1,000 miles from Columbia, Mo.
Why Gary Pinkel was still around was because he was in the process of building something. He was getting some home-state talent, particularly from the St. Louis area, to attend Mizzou instead of allowing them to flee to Nebraska or Colorado or Illinois.
Pinkel and his staff were also hitting Texas hard, importing some key defensive players and a little guy I like to call Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel.
Now that Texas talent and home-grown Missouri players are reaching their full potential under a coaching staff that was given the time to let their program take roots.
Am I still petrified about this coming season? A little bit. I want to continue to see the program evolve and develop and grow. I want to be able to order a Big XII conference champions T-shirt and wear it proudly.
However, I also consider myself a realist. And while I am not a native Missourian, I still have that “Show Me” attitude about myself when it comes to this program.
But if this year is anything like last year, they will remove all doubt from my mind.