March 15, 2009

They're Back

At seventeen minutes after midnight, it became official: Missouri basketball was back.

You can take it literally-the Tigers' bus pulled in after the drive from Columbia Regional Airport to Mizzou Arena at 12:17 a.m. on what was by then Sunday morning. But what really symbolized the fact that Tiger basketball was back is what awaited the players as they stepped off of that bus.

A throng of a guesstimated 500 people stood outside in a Columbia night that got colder and colder. Flashbulbs popped, tournament talk buzzed through the crowd, one set of parents wrapped their baby a little tighter in a black and gold blanket, a hot air balloon (yes, for real) inflated in the parking lot. Yep, at 12:17, hundreds of fans lined up in the night to welcome back the Big 12 Tournament Champions.

His voice audibly worn, Mike Anderson took the microphone on a stage assembled outside the entrance to Mizzou Arena and hollered to the crowd "M-I-Z!" The "Z-O-U" that greeted him spoke volumes.

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