Column: Stripping down and seeking fans

Mizzou Athletics hosts a spirit week to create athletic department camaraderie.

If you attended Missouri volleyball’s game Oct. 10, you know that the men’s swim team has no problem making fools of ourselves.

For those who were not there to see it, we made the volleyball game against Auburn a “strip game,” where we put on 25 different articles of clothing and took off one each time Mizzou scored a point. When they scored the game-winning twenty-fifth, we were wearing only Speedos.

It was a little bit embarrassing and a lot of fun, especially because we were on the floor, where everyone in the Hearnes Center, including the Auburn players, could easily see and hear us. We even had about 10 people come up to us after the game and ask to take pictures with us.

That kind of attention is nice, but that is not why we strip at volleyball games and attend soccer games where we may heckle the other team a little bit. We are trying to show support for the rest of the athletic department.

As student athletes, we fully appreciate how hard each sports team works. We also understand how much playing in front of a large, engaged crowd of your peers can energize athletes. Plus, if we go make fools of ourselves at a soccer match or volleyball game, we know those athletes will return the favor and come cheer for us at home swim meets.

The Mizzou Athletics Department has helped to foster an environment of athletic department-wide camaraderie through events that bring student-athletes from different teams together. That is the goal of spirit week, which happened this past week.

Spirit week pitted eight teams — seven formed by combining members of two different sports and the eighth comprised of the athletic department staff — against one another for three nights of fun competitions. The first night was ultimate Frisbee, the second was Gatorade pong and the third was dodgeball. The idea was that, at the end of the competitions, a winning team would be declared based on success in the three competitions and who had the most members participate.

I don’t know if the athletic department ever declared a winner, but if there was one, it sadly was not the pairing of men’s swimming and diving and softball. The competitions did, however, allow us to meet other student-athletes and form friendships while doing what we do best: competing. Now that we had a chance to get to know several softball players, once softball season rolls around, the swimmers will be in the stands for a few games, obnoxiously cheering them on.

The other swimmers and I can be found at other sporting events besides just volleyball and soccer. Many of us go to every football game and just about every basketball game, as well as the occasional baseball game, but do not feel the need to be quite as rowdy at those events because those teams have a far larger audience than most. We are sympathetic to the other non-revenue sports because we know what it is like to perform in front of a crowd of 20. Part of our mission is to raise support for the swim team.

Unfortunately for us, swim meets seem to be the most boring athletic competition ever formed for the casual viewer. A few athletes make an appearance at meets to show support, but rarely do they actually know what is going on. Many others don’t attend altogether. I cannot entirely blame them. I sometimes struggle to stay interested watching people swim back and forth across a pool for four hours, and I am on the team. Still, I know I speak for all the swimmers when I say that the presence of other students at meets is very exciting for us, and if you come to one of our dual meets it might prove surprisingly entertaining.

So look for us at the next home soccer game and future volleyball games as we support our fellow athletes in hopes that they will brave a swim meet to return the favor. We won’t be hard to spot.

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