Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Game reports from Tiger Fan

By Tiger Fan

I intended to do these reports after each game we attended this weekend, but my computer crashed… so I will combine them into one report. Game 1 was a 14-3 victory for the Mizzou baseball team over University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In Game 2, the Tigers beat the Panthers on the diamond again, 9-5 this time. Game 3 was a come-from-behind 64-63 victory for the men’s basketball over Nebraska

On the Field/Court

Game 1

-To be quite honest, I thought Tiger ace Max Scherzer – who is being widely touted as one of the best pitchers in the country – looked a little off on Friday night. He walked the first batter he faced, hit three batters and allowed several hits. Then I found out that he was pitching with the flu on Friday. That confirmed what I already thought: Scherzer is a beast. He struck out 9 through six innings and allowed just three runs…. WITH THE FLU. Yikes. Imagine what he could do to UW-M while healthy.

-I think Scherzer’s intensity is infectious. So far this season, the Tigers have also done their best hitting when Scherzer is on the mound. On the offensive side, John McKee started a great weekend with four RBI. Zane Taylor tripled in the second at-bat of the game to give the Tigers an early lead and extend his hitting streak to 10 games.

-The UW-M pitchers were a bit wild, hitting seven Tiger batters during the game. That’s part of the reason that the Tigers managed to pummel the Panthers despite recording fewer hits.

Game 2

-Nathan Culp looked surprisingly good for a guy who gave up 13 hits and 5 runs through 6 2/3 innings. Some of those hits were not his fault – Culp is ground-ball pitcher and there were several times when the fielders were just not in the right place. He did manage to strike out 4 and walk no one.

-Freshman David Cales did an excellent job in relief, pitching 2 hitless innings and striking out 3. What makes it even more impressive is that Cales started at third base Friday night.

-McKee continued to be hot with the bat, going 3-3 with two doubles and 4 RBI. Taylor also extended his hitting streak to 11.

Game 3

-This was a pretty standard Mizzou performance: they were sloppy with the ball, they didn’t box out, Horton continually dribbled the ball into the floor, they gave up a lead in the second half and fell behind by double digits… then Thomas Gardner went bonkers and led the Tigers to a comeback victory. None of this should surprise you.

-This might have been the most apathetic officiating performance I have ever seen. It’s like they knew this game didn’t matter. They weren’t calling much of anything – the most obvious missed call coming in the midst of the Mizzou comeback when Thomas Gardner leveled a stationary Nebraska player at midcourt and was not called for charging. Normally, I would favor this as a Mizzou fan, but it was so blatantly obvious that I just doubled over laughing.

Crazed Mizzou Fan Notes

Game 1

-With wind chills dipping into the 30s, an impressive crowd of more than 1,000 fans turned out for the Friday night game. It was nice to see a lot of students out and getting involved. Several folks had signs, there were a few tailgaters and some Antlers were even on hand.

-Zane Taylor’s intro music has the opportunity to start a great new Mizzou baseball tradition. Taylor comes out with an Irish jig playing, which gets the old folks stomping, the college kids dancing and the little kids going crazy. The Taylor Riverdance is pretty cool… and you can hear it on the radio during games now when Taylor comes to the plate.

Game 2

-The turnout wasn’t as good for Saturday’s game, but the crowd that was on hand did a nice job with signs, heckling and dancing the Taylor Riverdance. When Zane came to the plate late in the game, half the stadium was dancing – and the players seem to be getting a kick out of it. We showed up at noon for the 2:00 first pitch, but we were the only tailgaters.

-Mizzou’s head of gameday operations Tad Dunn did take away a sign from one group of fans that said “Rip some tits.” Other than the possibly inappropriate meaning, Rocky Mountain Tiger, Nethead and I could not figure out what this could possibly mean. Needless to say, it immediately became the phrase of the weekend.

Game 3

-The turnout was pathetic for Senior Day (around 9,000… generous), but I guess that’s what you get when your team is terrible. Zou Crew was only a third full – that’s why we managed to upgrade from Tiger John’s Family Land seats to a spot about 15 rows up in the student section.

-The Antlers were out in force and I appreciate that… but I have to say that I think the Antlers have gone downhill. It seems like the Antlers used to dress up for kU and otherwise, they would only wear bizarre apparel if it had something to do with the other team. Now, they are coming dressed in hunting outfits, volleyball uniforms and daisy dukes (with no shirts) for no apparent reason other than to make fools of themselves. I’m all for distracting the other team, but I prefer the old school approach of doing it with clever insults. Just my take… but I still prefer a full section of zany Antlers to a half-full section of apathetic Zou Crew folks. Speaking of which…

-Zou Crew has outlived its usefulness and needs to go. The student section needs to be first-come, first-serve for everyone. And lest someone accuse me of thinking that it has only gone downhill since I left, I said the same thing last year when I was in charge. Luckily, I get the impression that next year’s leadership will be recommending this sort of change to Alden and Co. (who will probably ignore them…).

-The loudest ovation of the day was when they brought out Brad Smith at halftime. That tells me two things: 1) Mizzou fans are going to love Brad for years to come… he is the stuff of legends and 2) Tiger fans have completely given up on the basketball program

Seen and heard in the stands:

Game 1

-In Mizzou’s second at-bat of the game, Zane Taylor tripled to right-center, mainly because the right fielder (McCoy) played the ball terrible, diving a good five feet short of the ball. Needless to say, the Fake McCoy became a target for fans throughout the rest of the game.

-With Mizzou at the plate and a runner at third, the UW-M pitcher had worked himself into a 2-1 count. The stadium was relatively quiet, so just as the pitcher released the ball, I let fly with a loud chicken squawk. The ball went flying over the catcher’s head to the backstop, allowing the runner at third to score.

-After hearing Zane Taylor’s intro music the first time, my friend AC and I decided a jig was in order. The next time he came to the plate, the Taylor Riverdance was born. Several players could be seen laughing hysterically in the dugout.

-Heckle of the night: A submarine reliever for the Panthers was greeted with the declaration that he was simply a glorified softball pitcher. Not the best line ever, but it was a slow night.

Game 2

-With all of Scherzer’s Flotilla on hand, things were bound to get more interesting. The rowing started in the pre-game warm-ups, but the tone was really set with the first batter: an infielder named Goetz (pronounced “gets”). The first insult was “Goetz nothing.” The second? “Goetz V.D.” And away we went…

-Most of the heckling for Saturday’s game name-based. With a roster of guys with names like Goetz, Brockel and Buchholz (pronounced “buck holes”), UW-M was ripe for the picking. Apparently, the few UW-M fans in attendance never made it past kindergarten and as such, they had never heard such vicious insults. This culminated with one obese fan in a satin jacket calling Rocky Mountain Tiger a “bum” and declaring that we were “rude” and “knew nothing about baseball.” He then proceeded to spit in the trash can, prompting RMT’s girlfriend Heather to give him a lecture on what rude really meant. Then Nathan Culp struck out the Panther at the plate to record the third out. With my limited knowledge of baseball, I wasn’t sure… but I think that was pretty good for our side.

-Also at Saturday’s game, the UW-M manager came out of the dugout to chastise one loyal MU fan for his heckling. To that fan I say: Job well done. If their players and their fans are more worried about the hecklers than the action on the field, mission accomplished.

-The crowd also had a lot of fun with Saturday’s umpire, who is either the voice of Tony the Tiger, or incredibly constipated. Rather than call a strike, the man offered up a combination growl/grunt for every good pitch. Tiger Fannette managed to parlay this into the best heckle of the day by going after the ump and UW-M on the same line: “Man, I think that umpire had too much of that cheese you guys make in Wisconsin.” That really got the Panther fans riled up… apparently a cheese insult crosses the line. Nice work.

Game 3

-We busted out the paper bags (pictured above) when the Tigers fell behind by 11 late in the game. They came back to win, but all that did was assure an 11th place finish in the Big XII. How does Mike Alden still have a job?

-How bad has it gotten? Tiger Fannette was actually upset after the game because we won. Nethead commented that the only reason we won is that we’re even bad at losing.

-The best heckle of the day was unfortunately directed at the other Mizzou fans in the arena as one of the Antlers welcomed us all to Ellis Library. Yes, it was that quiet.

Irritating/pleasant Athletic Department Decisions

Games 1 and 2

-None to speak of… and I file that under irritating. The Mizzou baseball team is a top 25 program and boasts one of the best players in the nation. Why not give them some publicity? Why not do some promotions? In recent years, baseball has been the most consistent program Mizzou has – and it’s also the only Mizzou program ever to win a national title. It’s the type of program that should have a storied history and a staunch following. But once again, the PR department has found an opportunity to miss.

Game 3

-While it was nice to see Brad get one last ovation, it points to the fact that our athletic department doesn’t have its priorities in the right place. Senior Day should be about – gasp – the seniors. Introducing them over the PA system before the game when the stadium is half-empty does not do justice to seniors who have given four years to the program. Meanwhile, they bring out Brad and Marcus King at halftime, show highlights on the JumboTron, etc. Surely they know that will overshadow the basketball seniors… but they do it anyway. Classy.

-The most upsetting thing I saw on Sunday is that we are losing fans. I actually watched four of them walk away. I’m not talking about fans who left early… I’m talking about the ones who never came in. While we were in line buying our tickets, a family of four came up to the window next to us and inquired about ticket prices. Told the cheapest tickets were $21, the dad sighed and ushered his kids toward the door. The fact is, most families can’t afford to drop 100 bucks just to watch a college basketball game. Now, I wouldn’t mind that price if the stadium was full every game. If people are willing to pay that price and you have enough lifelong fans to fill the arena, go for it. But there were at least 7,000 empty seats in Mizzou Arena on Sunday – most of them close to the court – but folks were walking away from the ticket window empty-handed because the prices are too high. Here is a chance to get kids coming to games at an early age and develop into lifelong fans, but Alden and his merry band of idiots are too busy lining their pockets to worry about something like that. What he fails to realize is that he is turning off the traditional Mizzou fan base, without whom the team is irrelevant. And last time I checked, getting $40 from a family of four and a couple lifelong fans is a lot more profitable than getting $0 for four empty seats.

Probably Being Heard Around the Water Cooler This Morning…

-What should be heard: “Max Scherzer is amazing, you have to go check him out next time the Tigers are in town” and “Yeah, I had a great time at the game Sunday with my kids. They loved getting to see the Tigers in person and it was a fun environment with the come-from-behind win.”

-What is being heard: “Do you know anything about the Mizzou baseball team? I hear they are pretty good, but they’re always on the back pages in the newspaper” and “Yeah, we wanted to go to the game on Sunday, but ticket prices are ridiculous. I hear we missed a pretty good game, but it’s okay. My kids just went home, put on their Saluki jerseys and watched Southern Illinois play its way into the NCAA tourney. Remember when Mizzou used to go to those?”

No comments: