(KMOV) -- There is a saying I once heard that has never seemed truer than at this moment. "The only thing people love more than a hero is to watch them fall." I still cannot understand the reason behind it, but I have seen it happen over and over. The people once cheering a hero's name become their slanderer. Without fail, it happened in Columbia Saturday night.
In three years Chase Daniel has gone from man to legend. From Brad Smith's back-up to Mizzou Messiah. He has been our Heisman hero and made every fan believe, for the first time in decades, that Missouri football not only can win, but should win. Chase Daniel has carried our hopes on his "too-small-for-college-football" frame for 3 years. And his reward? Abandonment.
This season alone, he has played on a level that is nearly inconceivable. He has thrown for over 2,000 yards. He has 16 TD passes. Boasting a 76% completion percentage, he's thrown 4 picks and been sacked 3 times. There was a point during this season where he actually had more touchdowns than incomplete passes. Then Oklahoma State happened. Three picks and a stunner of a loss at home and suddenly our immortal looked like a 22-year-old college kid. He had faltered. Worse yet, he faltered on the grandest stage. In front of his following and a national audience, he failed.
In what was shaping up to be a miraculous comeback drive, Daniel was marching the Tigers down the field in Heisman winner fashion. You give any Missouri fan a scenario of, "you have two minutes, you need a touchdown to win, and you have the whole field to go," and you'll get 100% "we win" response rate. But that's not what happened. The last pass to Maclin was picked and the pedestal under Chase Daniel collapsed, leaving him to face what was slipping away. A national championship, Heisman trophy, the Big 12 North? What he did, in the face of this defeat, was stand up and jog of the field. He didn't linger or pout. He didn't throw anything or fall to his knees. He got up, looked straight ahead, and jogged off the field. Chase Daniel took his failure like a man and moved on. Which is more than I can say for our fans.
Throughout the game, the fans in Columbia had plenty to say. They complained about the defense- which held a 52 point offense to 28, and kept the Tigers close all game. They yelled at Tommy Saunders, who despite his drops had three huge receptions late and was the only receiver with courage to cross the middle. They demanded Jeff Wolfert "learn how to kick," despite him breaking the all-time scoring record and never missing a kick in a conference game all last season. Maclin, unable to return a kick past the 50 for the first time in recent memory was "awful," and "wasting our time." But worst of all was the betrayal of Chase Daniel by the Missouri "faithful."
All Saturday night there was talk of how he was terrible, how he couldn't handle the pressure. I actually heard "Chase sucks" over a dozen times. There was mockery in spades, including plenty of sarcastic thank yous to him for "blowing the season." Why you ungrateful, petty cowards. This is the guy who took you from the bowls of Big 12 mediocrity and made you a title contender, and you sell him down the river because he faltered once? This is the 22-year-old kid who tearfully put the blame on himself for the entire loss. Your hero gave you someone to blame- and you loved it. It's only Tuesday and the doubts are flying around about this weekend's game. "It's too much pressure for him, he's done." "He couldn't even handle OK State, Texas is going to kill us." That's right, enjoy it while you can. Because if the Tigers beat Texas, you'll have to don those Chase For Heisman shirts once again, and how foolish will you look then?
Daniel faces the biggest game in his career- bigger even than last year's matchup with Oklahoma. Riding on this game is Missouri's hope at a national title, his Heisman standing, our chances at the Big 12 North, and the respect of the nation. Never mind the fact that ESPN has decided that his return to Texas is the story of the week, with interviews, comparisons, and ESPN.com pieces about his high school. Chase Daniel is under the biggest microscope he's ever seen this Saturday, and I for one expect him to show us why he was our hero. I hope he plays his heart out and gives every fan- even those who don't deserve it- a reason to believe again. But if he doesn't, all that means is he's human. So cheer him on, stand up for him, believe in him. If you just can't do that after he "let you down," then sell back that number 10 jersey you bought after the Cotton Bowl, and do us all a favor and stay home on game day. There's already enough people cheering for the other team, and they aren't wearing black and gold.
Note: J.J. Bailey is a journalism student at the University of Missouri.