Colorado hopped over to the Pac-12. Utah did the same. Maryland, Nebraska, and Rutgers each joined the Big Ten. Texas A&M and Missouri moved to the SEC. Hand wringing and fist shaking ensued. And just for good measure, sports fans and media alike trotted out their old man yelling at clouds. We all seemed to get over it. Except in the instance of one of those conference changing teams.
I present to you, Missouri.
Texas A&M feels like an SEC school. Missouri..not so much…. https://t.co/Exv6kj3I2G
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) June 21, 2017
Barrett isn’t wrong. Texas A&M does feel like an SEC team while Missouri doesn’t feel like a team from the south. But what a team feels or doesn’t feel like is based on perception. Feelings are about perception. Feelings are not about reality.
Now, what I’m about to write has nothing to do with Barrett personally. What Barrett said is a sentiment that is and has been shared by many in the media as well as fans.
It’s true, you’re not going to go to a tailgate party in Columbia, MO and find truck loads of boiled peanuts. Thank goodness for that! But that doesn’t mean that Missouri should be considered to be the Siberia of the SEC. Did you know that Missouri’s borders touch three states with SEC teams? It’s true. The geography doesn’t lie.
So why do so many people gripe about Missouri in the SEC while remaining silent on all of those other conference jumping teams? That’s easy. Missouri has won a little bit in its new conference. And, unlike the Pac-12 and Big Ten, fans of the SEC can be territorial.
Before Missouri was officially a member of the SEC, the experts were dead-set against the Tigers from Missouri being members. But once it was official, those same people were all too eager to welcome Missouri to the conference. Why was that? Simple. The best conference in America was going to show the little team from the Big 12 how football was supposed to be played. Missouri was told to be prepared to be bullied for at least the next decade. The Tigers were considered to be pushovers on the field, and, OMG, the stands weren’t littered with Southern Belles in sundresses.
That was the feeling. That wasn’t the reality.
That first season of SEC play was a rough one for Missouri. The Tigers finished 5th in the SEC East as the team compiled a paltry 5-7 record. In the minds of the SEC traditionalists, everything was right in the world of college football. But that utopian SEC society didn’t last long.
In years two and three, Missouri won the SEC East. It was at that point that the feeling towards the Tigers changed. It was at that point that Missouri was truly treated differently from all of those other teams that changed conference affiliations. And that change in treatment had less to do with those other schools and more to do with southern hospitality.
When it came to the traditional SEC schools and the core fanbases of those schools, Missouri was greeted with all of the Southern pleasantries one would expect. How y’all doin’! Pull up a chair, grab a glass of sweet tea, and stay awhile. Nice to see ya’! Are you fixin’ to stay awhile?
Something happened though. Missouri failed to stay in its lane.
Missouri won the East in two of its first five seasons in the SEC. Remember what we were all told? Right. It would take at least a decade for the team from Siberia to learn to play SEC football. But that feeling wasn’t the reality of the situation.
That “how y’all doin'” mentality quickly changed to a mindset of “they took our jobs!” The jobs, in this case, were considered to be the rightful trips to Atlanta for Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Missouri may not feel like an SEC team but the Tigers are an SEC team. Get used to it.
E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
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