On May 22, 2011, tragedy struck in southern Missouri. A multiple-vortex tornado (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds intense) hit Joplin, Missouri, creating a devastating amount of damage. Experts tout is as one of the deadliest tornados in American history, and likely the most expensive the state has ever seen. Joplin officials estimate it will take $3 billion to rebuild the city, and the insurance payout is expected to be $2.2 billion. As the flagship university of the state, the University of Missouri has taken an active role in the recovery of Joplin. Whether it has been donations from boosters, athletic fundraisers, or apparel funds going to the tornado relief funds, Missouri has found a number of ways to help the struggling town. Perhaps the most interesting way, though, is the scheduled exhibition game called One State, One Spirit between Missouri’s basketball team and Missouri Southern, the primary university located in Joplin. The Tigers are scheduled to battle MSSU next Sunday afternoon, October 30, at 5:47 PM CDT (a moment of silence will be observed at 5:41 PM, the exact moment of touchdown). This is unique for many reasons. Normally, powerful D-I programs like Frank Haith’s Tiger squad do not travel to play at a Divison II school’s campus. Additionally, ESPNU has picked up the game, the first time Missouri Southern has ever appeared on an ESPN network. All proceeds from the exhibition will go to the tornado relief funds.
What intrigues me, however, is the lack of focus on the actual game. Sure, it’s an exhibition, and sure, Missouri will probably earn an easy win, but that doesn’t stop the pundits from on-court predictions and projections. Even in an exhibition game, fans discuss which players will break out, who will look rusty, and any former AAU or high school teammates that make for intriguing match-ups. In an exhibition season opener where Missouri has more questions than answers, the focus during this basketball game will be on everything but basketball. And that’s exactly how it should be. When a national tragedy with massive local implications like the Joplin tornado occurs, it’s great to see a sporting event serve the purpose of a recreational distraction and a relief aid fundraiser rather than a serious competition. Both teams could shoot 12% next weekend and commit a combined 50 turnovers and this will still be a fantastic game because of what is underlying the game, not the game itself.
RTC will be courtside for this game next Sunday, and we hope you’ll join us for it.