Column: Fans need to support Tigers

Once every year, the Hearnes Center comes alive, filled to the rafters with crazed Missouri basketball fans. Once a year, the focus shifts from an underachieving basketball squad to the evil invaders from the west.

Missouri fans seem to be obsessed with the cast of the Kansas Jayhawks from, as the Antlers say, Raef "the waif" Lafrentz, to Ryan "traitors hang for treason" Robertson.

Once a year, the Hearnes Center is charged with a college basketball atmosphere.

It is truly unfortunate that die-hard Tiger fans are treated with only one big game a year when the screaming fans try to blow the roof off of the building.

All tickets are sold for the entire season, but for some reason Missouri "fans" only like to attend one game. Every box score lists the attendance as 13,300, but more realistic estimates lie in the 9,000-range.

Die-hard fans assume a winning team will fill more seats.

This year's team is 8-1 at home and has an all-time home winning percentage at the Hearnes Center in the .850-range. Duke, for example, has a home winning percentage near .810.

How much more success do people want?

It's bad enough that the Tigers haven't won a road game since 1996, but they seem to find a way to ward off visiting giants at home, often to quiet and unappreciative home crowds.

This season alone, the Tigers have knocked off three ranked teams at the Hearnes Center and are looking to draw more blood Saturday. The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming to town sporting a 15-3 record and a national ranking.

No one is sure which Missouri basketball team will show up, the team that lost to Kansas State by 55 points, or the team that knocked off No. 3 Kansas.

The least the fans can do is decide to make an appearance to help their cause.

The reality of the situation is that many fans only buy season passes for the Kansas game, the same way many people use their football passes as an excuse to use their hip flask.

They buy their tickets and try to unload them throughout the season, maybe making an appearance at one or two select games, heaven forbid attending a road contest.

Perhaps if more people took after their Kansas counterparts, who uncoincidentally have won 55 consecutive home games at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the Tigers would be able to achieve that level of success.

Instead, Missouri fans feel content to ignore the team during the year until that magic night when they can come in their black and gold face paint and scream obscenities at will, in front of a national television audience no less.

The beautiful lump of concrete known as the Hearnes Center can be one of the toughest places to play in the NCAA.

Now it's up to the alumni, students and fans to recognize it.

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