Time for Tiger fans to show their stripes

Time for Tiger fans to show their stripes

Credit: Getty Images

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 16: The mascot and cheerleaders for the Missouri Tigers perform in the first half against the Norfolk State Spartans during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 16, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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by JJ Bailey, Missouri Basketball App

KMOV.com

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 16 at 7:41 PM

(Missouri Basketball App) -- Ninety-nine out of 100 times, Missouri wins that game. It's no consolation now, but it's a fact. Missouri played to their season averages in almost every category, and still lost. Norfolk State out-kicked their coverage in nearly every category, and they came out on top. That's the tournament. What hurts most is that this becomes the most entertaining storyline for the entire country. While every office water cooler chat analyzes the impact of this game on their bracket, we sit quietly and stew.

But the truth is, if it were KU, we would revel in it. The tournament is an exercise of elation and heartbreak. We live or die with each game, and we expect glory for our team, whether it's a 15 seed or a two seed. Above all else, you want your team to play with honor, and go down with dignity. If nothing else will console you, Missouri didn't choke this game away- they got beat. They played as well as they have always played, but Norfolk St. simply played better. Were they that good of a team overall? No. But they were today, and that's all that matters. Mizzou didn't get caught off guard and seize up like Syracuse. They played the way they always play, and just didn't have enough to get it done. It ruins March, it hurts like a sonofa*****, but mostly, it teaches us that the tournament is the greatest equalizer in all of sports.

But as my phone rings off the hook and my inbox fills up, all I can think is how proud I am of this group of players. Sure, that will be trotted out as a consolation prize in the coming weeks, but that feeling SHOULD be universal. These kids came in with the expectation of failure, and led Mizzou to a Big XII tourney championship. They gave us a 30 win season. They gave us hope and pride. They broke records and lifted a new coach to the level of respect he could only dream of.

More importantly, this team is made up of young men. We might lay our hopes and dreams upon them, we may look to them to save us from our pain and suffering, but in the end- they're just a group of 20-year-olds trying their best. We can't look to them to solve our problems, no matter how bad we want them to. They are athletes, and they, to this point, have dedicated their lives to making magic happen for thousands of strangers. If they fail us in this instance, we are still in their debt a million times over.

No matter how much you may feel like this loss wronged you personally, I challenge you to be on the bus home from Omaha. Those guys feel this pain more than you ever could. Sure, you may have laid your emotional stability on the line, sure you may have even lost money, but in the end- it's far easier for you to swallow than them. This is their last chance at greatness. This was their last chance to make their names written in ink. Instead they return home with the expectation of disappointment, anger, and even hatred.

Don't fall prey to that reaction. They took a nothing team, a nobody coach, and a lost season and turned it into a year for the ages. They had a shot at the Big XII regular season title, they took a trophy home, they played an highly touted KU team to the end both times, and they earned a number two seed in the big dance. They deserve respect. If we shared in their success, we share in their defeat. I have called all year for Mizzou fans everywhere to join the fight. Now I'm calling for them to join in the defeat.

These young men deserve to see us standing there when they get off the bus. They deserve the same pride upon their return as was there when the departed. These are the same guys we learned to love. They're the same guys who lost relatives, admitted their faults and loved us without question. If they were our family when they won, they are our family now more than ever.

So cry, scream, break something if you have to. But in the end, remember that it was only a moment in time. While it may have hurt you, remember that that moment will last a lot longer for the guys on the court. So smile, at least it was news that your team got beat. In the meantime, for the love of all things good… GO DETROIT!!!

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