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Loran Smith: Missouri’s fans a welcoming bunch

COLUMBIA, Mo. —

Early Sunday morning, it was the same in this college town as it is everywhere — massive cleanup of the campus from Saturday’s big game and moving on to the next opponent.

Likely there were plenty of hangovers, another of the staples of college and alumni life on game day. (Missourians do like to party.) Losing the game only exacerbates down feelings. The post mortems on the playing of the game, however, lamented Mizzou mistakes, but without acrimony. As it is everywhere, losing is unpleasant but there was a different twist in this community of 110,438 where you don’t hate your opponent. Instead, you extend a warm welcome pre-game and best wishes afterwards for the remainder of the season. Fans could learn a lot from the Missouri way, one with an underpinning of class.

The hospitality and courtesy of the Missouri fans was generous and without a speck of rancor. They welcomed Georgia fans with a warm and spirited bent that I haven’t witnessed in a long time. Everywhere there was an outpouring of the finest of hospitality. “Thank you for coming,” Mizzou fans were saying upon arrival. It continued after the game when Georgia overcame a sluggish start and took command of the game which resulted in a 42-20 victory.

“Thanks for coming!” How ’bout that! At a delightful cocktail party at the Country Club of Missouri on Friday night, hosted by Athens native Joan Foster Menser, there were Mizzou advocates and officials in abundance including the University Chancellor Brady Deaton. “We are really pleased to be joining the SEC,” the chancellor said. “Our faculty and our students have the greatest respect for Georgia,” added Joan Gabel, dean of the Missouri business school, a Georgia graduate.

If you go back a century or so (Missouri was admitted to the union in 1821), there were a lot of Southerners who settled in the “Show Me” state. I’m not sure if it is legitimate to lay Southern-style hospitality to those roots, but the rest of the Southeastern Conference should take note of the treatment Georgia received last weekend.

As a couple of Missouri personalities were eager to point out, warm hospitality for opposing teams does have its limits. When the Tigers traditionally played Kansas in a series known as the Border War, there was plenty of ire extended to the Jayhawks. That series, however, comes to a close with Missouri entering the SEC. It seems that most fans, who would prefer to find a way to maintain the rivalry with Kansas, nonetheless, take a que sera attitude that the trade-off — loss of a heated rivalry for joining the SEC — is well worth it.

Missouri is a proud member of the league and went all out to show Georgia and league officials, like SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and his staff, that they appreciate being affiliated with the storied SEC. There were no insults or taunts. No trash talking, just good, old-fashioned hospitality and tailgating exuberance.

There were no boos when the Georgia team took the field. You walk through the stands wearing red, and the predominantly yellow-clad Mizzou fans give way and greet you with a smile and words. “Welcome to Missouri, so nice to have you with us.”

Perhaps this Missouri hospitality will become infectious. Maybe it can spread to other campuses and have all SEC schools doing what Missouri graciously does when it hosts an opponent. Cheer aggressively and often for your team, but extend warm hospitality to the visitors, fight it out on the field, but underscore civility before and after the game. This seems to be the Missouri mantra.

Had Missouri won the game, the view here is that the coaches and the fans would not have taken a haughty stance. We could use more Missouri-style hospitality in the SEC. In fact, throughout college football.

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RT @chris_starrs: UGA’s Christian Payne saw his first playing time last week against Arkansas. http://t.co/eFBPVIEFWV

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