Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Following College Soccer into Missouri

Contributing Editor Graham Fox

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to follow William Jewell into the depth of Missouri. The timing worked out nicely. I didn’t have anything to do that Saturday, it wasn’t too cold yet, and I’d get to see my brother play in an away game.

My goal for the trip: Pack simple and spend nothing.

In accordance with that lofty goal I packed a small bag of supplies:
  • 1 lb bag of peanuts for consumption throughout the day
  • 2 peanut butter and honey sandwiches for dinner
  • 1 apple
  • 1 serving of dog food for Fritz.
  • An old plastic bottle full of water
  • Disc golf discs and bag

Fritz waiting to head out
Fritz, excited for disc golf and sleeping in the truck while I watch soccer.

At about half past noon I'm headed out of Kansas City bound for Marshall, Mo, a rural town of around 12,000 stationed about 80 miles into Missouri and 100 miles away from me. Marshall is set off the main track of I70, just about the time that the slow waving ground of Kansas and Missouri takes a break to roll into ever larger hills. I70 cuts through large hills, white rock exposed, and changing leaves brighten the heavily wooded hills on all sides.

Fritz, my Ford ranger, and I, made good time out of KC. The five lanes of Kansas City slowly dribbling down to two. The drive is easy; the only obstacle is dodging the hundreds of semis that are headed across the state towards St. Louis.

Ten miles off the main beltway of Interstate 70, Marshall is surrounded by fields that disappear to be replaced with new housing developments filled with upper middle class houses. The closer you drive to the center of Marshall, the more the houses turn to regular middle class family houses, and then on the far edge of town, neat trailer parks.
Marshall, MO
Welcome to Marshall Ya'll!

A mile into town I spotted Missouri Valley College and Greg Mitchell Field. It was homecoming, and the football game was in full swing. Tailgaters filled a small grass field to the south of the stands, and the stadium was filled with purple. The Missouri Valley Viking were kicking the crap out of the team they were playing.

I stopped and watched from beyond the fence as Missouri Valley scored a touchdown, and left when Fritz started to freak out when they let loose the cannons in celebration.

The Missouri Valley Campus

Indian Foothills Disc Golf
I had several hours to kill before the first soccer game kicked off, a dog to wear out, and disc golf to play.

I love disc golf. The equipment costs next to nothing and there are great free courses all over the place. So far I’m up to 17 different courses.

The Indian Foothills disc golf course is fun and challenging. Stationed on the outskirts of Marshall in Indian Foothills park, the course starts out like any other park courses. Open hills and grass with a few trees. By the time I got to Hole 5, I was already starting to sweat from climbing up and down hills in the October sun.

By the time I got to Hole eight, I wasn’t particularly impressed with the fairly routine course, but things quickly got interesting as the course moved downhill out of open park grass and into the forest, the course now followed old single track that required you to throw with precision. This is the type of disc golf I love!

Unique holes, trees all around, and brambles that will poke your eyes out if your grip slips and the disc goes crashing into the underbrush. The back nine features a variety of tight fairways and no fairway at all. At one point you are looking down a large hill and half to through a menacing fence of giant trees that try to knock your disc into nice sandy creek.
By the time you emerge from the forest by, throwing up a ravine and past the high schoolers smoking pot on a large rock, you are at the top of a hill that overlooks the train tracks and large graffitied skate park. Hole 17 lets you throw as hard as possible down a steep incline and your disc gobbles up space before turning out of view.

Fritz and I played two rounds with a short break for snacks in between rounds.

After the second round (mostly pars and one birdie, it sure helps to know where all the holes are) I ate my sandwiches in the park (Fritz ate dog food after he realized he wasn't getting any of my food), and then we headed back into town to watch the Women’s game.

William Jewell Women vs Missouri Valley Women
I parked across the street from the stadium, bought a 3 dollar entry fee, and tucked Fritz into his bed under an extra coat.

Gregg-Mitchell Field at Missouri Valley University
Yes I made this with my amazing Photoshop skills. Click to see it in all its awesome glory.

As the sky glowed a red-orange with a tinge of rain, I sat on the far side of the field in the away supporters section with about ten parents. The William Jewel women were up 1 – 0. The flow of the game was even, with no side gaining the upper hand till the whistle blew for half time. The minute the whistle blew for the second half, the Missouri Valley Women came out and dominated the game. William Jewell looked like they were about to conceded, until they smoothly converted the pressure into a counter attack that resulted in a goal.

From the point on, the fight went out of the home team William Jewell bossed the game. With five minutes to go, William Jewell picked up a foul forty yards out. Mallory Malone eyed the forwards lined up down field - and hit an amazing free kick that made the keeper take a step forward to punch. The ball swerved through the air and knuckled as the keeper leapt backward, fully extended, only to see the ball punched the back of the net. 3 – 0. William Jewell wins.

The William Jewel Women are 12-2-1 on the year with one game left. One key to their success this year is prolific true freshman forward Sarah Franklin. Franklin has had an amazing season, scoring 24 goals this and recording 6 assists. If WPS is still around after Franklin gets three more years of experience, she will be a top draft pick.

William Jewell Men vs Missouri Valley Men
“You are going to see one of the best offensive team we’ve played this season” one of the Jewell men told me while the women’s game was going on.

Once again, it was a clash of Kansas and Missouri verse a team with a few local boys, but also a lot of recruits from South America, specifically Brazil. This time, no one was chanting “USA, USA”

Missouri Valley warms up. Warning highly amateur video!

William Jewel, ranked 5th in the nation and with a perfect 13-0 record were in for a tough game against a team with physically larger men. From the start, the game was played at the fastest tempo and speed I’d ever seen in a NAIA game.

Through the entire first half they battled back and forth, each team gathering a few rare chances mixed with quick passing and hard fouls. William Jewell looked off. The normal killer passing and instincts in the final 3rd were missing, but it was all even up past half. I could feel that even though a goal was possible for either side, whoever scored first was going to take home the victory.

A short clip of the game, listen to the amusing and angry fans! At one point I had a fun confrontation with a drunk Missouri Valley fan who was loudly explaining to everyone how all Jewel fans were “Just like, really fucking gay and stupid.” After I flipped him off and had a few choice words, he walked away and told me “Shut up you look like Jesus.”

In the 70th minute, as drunken Missouri Valley fans sang and pounded a drum in light rain, William Jewell had a ball cleared off the line by a field player. Missouri Valley gathered the ball, sprung the counter, and scored one on one with the keeper.

As the final minutes ticked off the clock, and William Jewell only thought about going forward, Missouri Valley sprang the counter one final time and ended it. When the whistle blew, the Missouri Valley team exploded into cheers and giant hugs.

As Chris Cissell gave the end of the game talk to his wet, angry, and unfamiliar with the bitter taste of defeat team, the Missouri Valley Men celebrated together, jumping up and down, and loudly singing along with “In the Jungle” which was stuck on repeat.

Fritz was in exactly the same position I left him in. Apparently three hours of disc golf is pretty tiring.
Fritz Yawning

I drove back in the dark, past slaughtered deer strewn across the highway, to Kansas City: home.

Listen to this song, turn your bass way up, and bow down.

Until Next Time
Got a story or interview idea or suggestion? I’m always looking for good ones!
GrahamFox@gmail.com or http://twitter.com/Graham_Fox


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graham, keep it up, buddy. Really enjoyable reading. I like the cultural observations most...

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Joe the curmudgeon said...


8:10 PM  

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