Each year the wife and I take a road trip to one away game. This year we decided to go to Missouri. We have friends in Columbia, MO that we hosted last year, and they wanted to return the favor. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Columbia before for work, but have never attended a game there, so I was pretty stoked about the trip. By now you’ve read plenty of game reviews and recaps (and my Wrap Up is still coming… ) so I thought you might want a closer look at the newest member of the SEC East.
We started by flying into Kansas City and driving a couple of hours to CoMo (they really call it that). I’ve always loved KC, and it was a good excuse to have lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s with my friend Dee. After polishing off some ribs and brisket we made the largely uneventful drive to Columbia.
Much like our Columbia, CoMo sits nearly smack-dab in the center of the state. It’s a good bit smaller that Columbia, SC as their metropolitan population is around 175,000 compared to Columbia’s 750,000. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in terms of being a quintessential college town. Downtown is compact and extremely vibrant, with a great mix of offices, stores, restaurants, and bars. Imagine if you could somehow take 5 points and the Vista and slam them together and you have a good idea of what downtown is like. The university bookends one end of downtown, creating a very pedestrian-friendly transition from campus to town. In fact it’s often difficult to tell where campus ends and downtown begins. Although USC also bookends downtown Columbia, the government center and large avenues like Assembly keep it from having that college-town pedestrian feel that CoMo has.
Here are some apartments that are right on the edge of campus, note the Gamecock flag flying proudly before the game.
The food is terrific and the bars are all nice and casual. We had wings at CJs (amazing), a great lunch at Flat Branch, and weird-ass Ice Cream at Sparky’s. Now, Sparky’s is something special. It’s an ice cream joint that routinely comes up with off the wall flavors (like Wasabi or Cicada), will make an alcoholic version of your old favorites (like a Guinness float) and the walls are covered by bad artwork. Mind-blowingly bad. Do yourself a favor and watch this video of owner Scott Southwick’s explanation of his gallery of bad art. You’ll get to see a gallery of his paintings and get a good feel for how quirky CoMo is.
UM is about the same size as USC, with a slightly higher enrollment unless you count USC’s medical and law schools. The campus is mostly pretty, with an interesting mix of architecture. There’s a “white” and “red” campus, a largely artificial separation based on the color of the bricks used in the buildings.
Here’s the Student Union. The first time I saw this I wanted to tear down Russell House and start over. It’s pretty much brand new, and feels more like a mall food court than a student union. The campus bookstore features an IT store, and has the textbook’s on their own level so the main level can be devoted to tons of Mizzou merchandise. In the photos you’ll see a large inflatable tiger. They had put two rubber chickens on it as a welcome for us.
This is the old student union. It still functions as a union, and has a bell tower that chimes the hour across campus.
These columns are on the closest thing that Missouri has to a Horseshoe. An old building stood here once, but it burned down. They kept the columns and they’ve become a symbol of the university. You see them everywhere, like the sleeves of the band, for example. On the other end of downtown there is another set of columns from a building that burned as well. You can actually see each set of columns from the other. Apparently CoMo is good at preserving history but really bad at fire safety.
Behind the columns is Jesse Hall. I think it’s an administration building, not sure. All I know is it’s stunning. I couldn’t get a great shot of it because of the sun, but found this one online.
Overall a very nice campus.
I’m not sure if our visit was a typical gameday, since our game was Homecoming. Holy crap Missouri LOVES homecoming. More than one person told me that they invented it, so who knows? The campus was packed all weekend, and they had events like the Campus Decs (Greek houses all decorated the houses around a city theme) and parade (yes, they had a parade). All the stores in downtown were decorated, store windows were painted with beat the Gamecock themes, and the entire town seemed up for the game.
Since the stadium is on-campus, tailgating happens anywhere and everywhere. I only saw one large tailgating lot and one RV lot; the rest of their tailgating is done in front of buildings, on front lawns, or out in the road. We tailgated in front of the telecommunications building. Although our tailgating consisted of parking, walking through the campus, popping downtown for a quick lunch, and then having a couple of drinks before walking into the stadium.
Here’s a couple of shots of random tailgating:
OK, lets just get this out of the way; Mizzou’s stadium is small. It’s nice, but it’s small. My wife described it as “cute” if that helps. During the game they announced a sellout crowd of 67,000 or so. However, they are in the process of adding an upper deck and more luxury suites to the end we sat at, so expect that to change next year.
Approaching the stadium you go through a pedestrian tunnel to get to the main concourse. At any other SEC school this would be a worrisome gauntlet of death for opposing fans. Missouri fans asked me if I was having a good time.
Once you get in you’re dumped into a large plaza anchored by the video board. The board is bigger than it looks but they put ads on both sides of the screen, cropping the actual visual area. I’m really glad we don’t do that.
The stadium itself is a classic horseshoe shape, and once it’s expanded out it will be a nice addition to the SEC. The seats are actually wide enough for your ass, which is nice, but there are no backs on the benches, which leads to a lot of knees in the back. The concession stands are some of the nicest I’ve seen, and actually made me even angrier at the state of Williams-Brice. Why can’t we have decent concessions? Oddly enough a dude checked my ticket on the way up to my seats, even though we had the high corner seats. OK dude. The stadium is small enough so that all the sightlines are decent, although we had a weird angle.
It’s also not incredibly loud. I remember throughout the game thinking that it wasn’t that loud, and afterwards my friend Scott remarked that he thought that was the loudest he had ever heard it. The fans got after it in the 3rd and in overtime but for the most part noise wasn’t really a factor.
One endzone is simply a hill, with a white “M” made of rocks. People sit on these.
Hands-down the nicest fans I’ve ever encountered on the road. I walked around for two days with Gamecock gear on and didn’t have a single person trash talk me or attempt smack. To a person they were just glad to see me. On gameday I ran into another Gamecock fan who did the “U.S.C…goooo Cocks” and GAME COCKS cheer with me. The closest thing to smack anyone said to us was a cute girl that walked by and said, “you guys sound retarded” as she passed. We grinned at each other and kept going.
Their fans are incredibly stoked to be in the SEC, are extremely passionate about their team, and are unfailingly welcoming. After awhile you just get the impression that they really, really want to be liked. I think it’s a result of them being treated like crap in the Big 12 for so long, and a team history that has fallen just short of greatness too often. In fact, from a misery standpoint, Mizzou and USC fans are damn near identical. We have a LOT in common with Mizzou.
Most everyone stayed all the way through the game. There were a couple that left early in the 3rd, but the stadium was still packed at the end.
After this trip, I have to say that Mizzou is now my second favorite team in the East. If we can’t make Atlanta, I hope they do. If you ever get a chance to go there for a game, do it. You’ll have a blast. Despite what this sign suggests, they’re welcoming people with a ton of school spirit.
Here’s a pic of me and my wife cheering on our Gamecocks. You see that hat? My buddy Scott gave me that hat, and he joked that Mizzou had never lost when he wore it to the game.
I took the hat off at the end of the 3rd quarter.