"I have a place for everything and everything better by God be in that place," he says. "I want a jersey hanging on that hook, rib pads on that one. I want those shoes clean and pointing this way and I want the helmets waxed so I can see my ugly face in them. I don't expect God cares much which shelf the sweatband sits on, but I do, and that's where she is going to be. What makes a football program is doing things just the right way, and how you know what is right is by listening to what the man above you says is right. If Mr. Dave Hart says today is Easter, then Mr. John Daggett is going to start laying eggs. That's how it should be all down the line. Those boys don't have to worry about a thing today with those Sooners if they do things right like they have been told and shown."
The Mizzou team arrives from Jefferson City about 11:30 and gets taped, padded and dressed very quietly, with only an occasional outburst of laughter or loud talk. In an hour the Tigers are back on the bus for the short ride to the stadium. They skirt the festive parking lots, drawing cheers and good-luck wishes, pass through the gate guarded by Bob Smith and disembark under the end-zone stands. From there they go onto the field and commmence a series of synchronized loosening-up drills. Only then, as if it were part of the routine, do they begin to talk it up, yell and slap rumps.
At about the same time Marching Mizzou, with all its auxiliaries and outriders, baton twirlers, pompon girls, Golden Girls and folks in Tiger costumes, swings into the stadium. "Chills shoot up your spine," says trumpeter Gene Morrow of this moment. "You don't care about the test you flunked the day before. The only thing you're thinking about is the football game. Being in Marching Mizzou is great therapy and escape."
After 10 minutes or so of warmup the Tigers leave the field and retire to a drab concrete locker room (which before the advent of the new football facility was the locker room) under the stands at the southeast corner of the stadium. Powers says later that he can't recall exactly what he told his troops in the last few private moments together: "Something like: whatever it's going to take, you have to reach down inside yourselves and find it. We need all you have today."
Ray says he remembers the coach saying, "Last year the Oklahoma offense ran through our defense like they was at a track meet. We haven't beat them in 10 years and I want this one real bad. Really bad. You boys have just got to go out there and make some things happen."
Outside, Hap Whitney, an assistant athletic director, is watching the big stadium clock, one of the many devices for which he is responsible. "I always think just about now that everything is inevitable," he says, "just like the sun coming up. When that clock says one, they're going to be playing football, and what we have or haven't done to get ready is water over the dam."
Which is how it is. Yelling, and leaping, the Mizzou Tigers make their formal charge onto Faurot Field. Marching Mizzou cuts loose and 75,000 people rise to their feet, most of them chanting "Miss-our-a! Miss-our-a! Miss-our-a!"
"You hear it but you don't hear it because you're so high," says Ray. "That's when I began to yell. I started running up and down, hitting the defense, saying we could hold them."
It has been said that this sort of thing is. silly and trivial, if not worse. Seven-million-dollar athletic budgets. Blue-chip recruits and blue-ribbon steers. Golden Girls and gold-plated faucets. Prayers and spirit. Years of preparation. Two thousand people working. Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent so that 22 young men can push each other violently around a field that has been reclaimed from skunks and raccoons.
However, as a matter of long-established fact, we are a big-game species inclined toward chauvinism and romanticism, irrational loyalties and hero-seeking. We are social and gregarious-creatures stirred strangely by waves of sound and swirls of color, by the presence, passions and flesh of others. We are forever seeking moments of shared, emotion and never seem to find enough of them, but we are greatly elated and transported when, for whatever trivial or silly reasons, we do occasionally connect with each other. The young men are on the field because we are in the stands and on our feet—not vice versa.