As I sat down to watch the Alabama/LSU game on Saturday night, I was excited because it would allow me to watch two of the best teams in the Southeastern Conference. This year I didn’t have anyone in particular to cheer for, maybe Alabama since they faced Missouri, but for the most part I was indifferent. All I wanted was a good game. When CBS played a recap last year’s highlights they flashed the date of November 5, 2011 on the screen. This got me thinking about where I was last year during this game.
Last year I was waiting at KOMU for the Missouri Football team to return from Baylor. The Tigers had lost to Robert Griffin III and the Bears so doing my job was going to be less than ideal, but still had to be done. The team and our highlights wouldn’t be getting back for awhile so we sat down to watch the end of the Alabama/LSU game. I remember wondering if Missouri could soon be joining the Southeastern Conference and if they could potentially face one of these two teams the next year if they did join (little did I know). LSU pulled up the upset and we finally were able to edit.
Editing took until about 5 am and our call time for the show was 7 am…so much for sleeping. I remember trying to nap at the station but that didn’t work so much. The show was a success, as much as it could be with a loss. My fellow producer Travis Worsowicz, my director Jason Bowman and I went to Cracker Barrel for our weekly breakfast visit. Our sports anchor/reporter Eric Blumberg decided to join us that week. As our breakfast was finishing up, everything changed all from a tweet.
I’m not exactly sure who I saw the tweet from or what the exact time was, but all I remember saying to everyone is there was a good chance we were going to have to keep working. We confirmed the information was true, paid for our meals and all parted our ways to prepare for what we all knew it was going to be a historic and crazy day.
Executive Producer Randy Reeves and his wife Jen, who at the time was our Interactive News Director, were about six hours away when the news broke. I had been discussing with Randy how to prepare for when/if this day came for about three weeks. I remember calling him, telling him what was happening and we started planning. He and Jen were loading themselves and their kids up and would be back at the station as soon as possible. I remember him telling me to start working on planning a rundown for our breaking news coverage and that I’d be fine. This was one of the first times that I actually felt nervous and not exactly sure how I was going to create the show I was getting ready to produce. For the most part, I knew how to handle a sportscast or a newscast but this was going to be unlike anything I had ever handled before. For those who don’t know my story, at the time I had been producing for about a year and was just a sophomore in college.
I arrived back at the station and immediately started getting the story and information to the website. With the help of the web editor on duty, Jessica Smith, we were able to publish a story and start working on gathering information for the show. We gathered highlights from games, made a list of the teams in the Southeastern Conference (we kept forgetting Vanderbilt – whoops…kinda of ironic now), and started figuring out how many reporters we were going to need.
It was all hands on deck. Our news director Stacey Woelfel sent out an email asking for reporters to come in and help. Students from both news and sports showed up to lend a helping hand. We sent one to St. Louis and one to Kansas City. We sent others to various spots in Columbia to get reaction from the community. We even kept a couple in-house to monitor reactions on social media platforms (primarily Facebook and Twitter). KOMU Sports Director Chris Gervino and news anchor Jim Riek would be staying in the studio to help provide insight and host the breaking news coverage while Eric Blumberg would be going live from the press conference.
The clock was ticking and my heart was beating. My nerves were increasing as the press conference got closer and my rundown grew longer. Finally, Randy and Jen arrived and my nerves calmed (well…a little at least). That’s when we had a meeting in the middle of the newsroom to prep everyone with how this break-in was going to happen (well or at least how we were going to try to have it happen). As you can see the picture to the left, I look a little worried (courtesy: Jen Lee Reeves for her picture. This is one of my favorite photos because it captursa the raw emotion of what was going on.)
Our live trucks were in place, our reporters were on site and the show was less than an hour away. I will never forget the moment our director Jason Bowman walked in and realized that instead of having to code and plan for just a few pieces of a “show” that he actually had a full two-hour show rundown to code for. I know he will never forget this moment either. The look on his face (which unfortunately we were not able to capture…probably because Jen wasn’t around at the time because we know she would have got it) was priceless.
The two hours flew by, our coverage was a huge success and it all went off without a hitch. This was the moment that I truly realized how much I loved my job, how much I enjoyed the adrenaline rush that I had just felt from producing the break-in and how historic that moment was. I realized that the University of Missouri I grew up with was now forever changed. This had been a storyline we had been following for months and finally, we had a definite answer. I also realized that I was going to be blessed with the opportunity to experience the historic transition first-hand the following year. November 6, 2011 is a date that I will remember where I was for the rest of my life.
One year later, I sit writing this from the comfort of my couch with the Alabama/LSU game on again. Missouri’s first season in the SEC is almost over and just like everyone said, it wasn’t going to be easy and it hasn’t been. I am very blessed with the job I have. I get to cover the team I grew up watching and loving. A team I know is going to make a name for itself, more so than it already has. I am still very thankful for the fact Mizzou is now in the best conference in the nation. Even though they have only won one conference game so far this season, there are still a lot of positives in my mind. Mizzou has been introduced to the great traditions of the SEC, they’ve been welcomed (for the most part) with the sweet and famous southern hospitality and they are gaining national attention (even though it’s not always positive).
Yes, the SEC has a very high bar set: their tailgators wear dresses, bow-ties and shorts instead of jeans and sweatshirts, their stadiums are huge, their fans are loud and proud and they’ve got strong defenses and offenses. It takes time. We all knew it would even if we hoped and prayed it wouldn’t. Missouri will soon be able to compete with the SEC at a higher level but it is going to take time. You can agree with me or disagree but you need to think about where the program was, how far its come and how far it still has to go. I never went to Mizzou football games when I was little. Why? Because the Tigers were awful. Yes, Missouri still has its flaws but they’ve been able to win. Growing up, it was a miracle if they got at least one win.
It’s hard to believe that a year later, I’m watching the same teams play each other and it seems like not much has changed (at least with these two), but more than I could have ever imagined has in fact changed. It makes me wonder just how much things could change to this time next year.