Friday, November 11, 2011

Bears in Briefs: or "Why I Can't keep My Mouth Shut Anymore."

This is the proof that I was there.

Fine. I have been awakened from my stress-induced blog-hibernation. I can't keep my big fat trap shut anymore. Last month I wrote up a blog out of frustration but I didn't post it. Upon re-reading it I decided that I was being petty and I was letting the distant past taint my typically fair and balanced view of collegiate swimming.

The blog I wrote was about my beloved alma mater, the Missouri State Bears, winning the Men's side of the Show-Me Showdown, an early season meet between every college swim team, at every level, in the state of Missouri. My Bears pulled off the upset and beat the nationally ranked Missouri Tigers. Hells yeah!

There is a great rivalry there with an awesome history. Well, maybe not so awesome... the Tigers never seem to want to admit when the Bears beat them. In 1992, MU tried to cheat at the SIU invite by putting their stud sprinter in too many events and our fearless leader Jack Steck went apeshit. He is called the Bobby Knight of swimming because of days like this you know. That was Brian Hoffer's first year on the job and even after that incident I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He backed down and we went home with the better score. Water under the bridge, right?

Then a few years later, when the new Mizzou pool was built and they hosted the first Show-Me Showdown, they were too embarrassed that their men got beat by the Bears-- so they decided to go against the meet info and score an exhibition event so that they could win a meet they had actually lost. That sent the Bears home with a bad taste in their mouth. Tiger blood tastes kind of sour I guess. Everyone there knew they won, but who do you report it to when the host team changes the rules?

Ya know, if my school had just built me a big, fancy multi-million dollar pool I might feel compelled to put a spin on the results of the maiden voyage... but I probably wouldn't tell an outright lie. That just sucks.

That's okay. We got beat by MU once during my four year career as a Bear. If we won all the time it wouldn't be much of a rivalry, right?

Anyway, this year MU and MSU are back to racing again after a few seasons of well needed cool-off time. They had been refusing to match-up in recent years. Coach Rhodenbaugh and Coach Steck finally decided to set bad blood aside and resume competition. Wonderful! I have heard great things about Roddy and have already seen Mizzou move into uncharted territory in his first season. I thought maybe the Tigers had grown up a little with new leadership. Apparently not, though, as when the Bears' men won the Show-Down in October 2011 the results were awfully hard to find on-line. As a matter of fact, when I finally found them they had no scores attached. AND... two newspapers in Columbia, Missouri reported that Mizzou won both the Men's and Women's divisions of the meet!

What?! The Bears and their group of nervous underclassmen bested Mizzou by over 60 points!? Since when is that second place?

Still, I wanted to give Roddy the benefit of the doubt. I mean, it really could have been a miscommunication. We all know campus and community papers like to report about the 20 IM and the 400 breach-stroke and other stupid careless crap all the time. One of the newspapers did make a correction to their online paper the next day after taking complaints. Maybe it was just a freshman reporter being an idiot and wasn't a reflection of the MU program. Maybe Coach Rod had nothing to do with it. I typed up that blog but never posted it. I held my tongue.

But alas... No. last night my blood boiled. You see, this week Coach Steck was thrilled to be hosting Mizzou once again at Hammons Student Center Pool. It had been a few years since they dualed. With a new coach and new team, he was excited that they were going to come down to the ghetto and be forced to wonder how a team with so little advantages can be so fast. The MSU pool is an out-dated bunker compared to the MU pool. Every detail is pathetic in contrast. Their budget is a mere fraction of that of the Tigers. There were many in our state political base who wanted to keep MSU down, forcing the school to continue as SW Missouri State forever, because Mizzou Alumni were offended that a school so much less impressive could share their status as a major state school. The name change finally happened, but MSU is still considered the underdog in nearly every rivalry they have ever had. They are scrappers. They are junkyard dogs. They always are in a position to have to prove themselves.

...and Coach Rodenbaugh's troops-- they showed up at this dual that they could have played off as insignificant, fully dressed for battle. They wore brand new LZR's right out of the box! Championship meet suits! The Bears took them on in briefs!

I ain't making this up. They essentially showed up at a
knife fight with a gun-- which is a nice compliment to my Bears, I guess.

The biggest reason I am pissed?... This was stacked up to be an awesome dual on the men's side: Their 400 free and 400 medley relays were both 3:22 and 3:03 on the season. These were two very evenly matched teams and this should have been a barn-burner of a meet. If I had paid for admission, I would have felt ripped-off. Every Mizzou male had his thighs covered with compression fabric. (Well, except for the divers of course.) Every MU man and woman but one, Dominique Bouchard, had a LZR on, and Bouchard just happened to get embarrassingly reeled in on the last 50 of the 200 fly by MSU's Roni Balzam on her way to setting the pool record with her 2:04.59. MSU set another meet record on the men's side when Vitaly Baryshok swam 1:38.22 in the 200 free, one of his three individual wins of the night in a brief.

Of course, in a meet with 18 pool records set between men and women, those were lost amongst the mess of an outrageously fast dual. An unnaturally fast in-season dual, I should say. Results are here.

Sorry if I seem overly bitter. I don't want to sound like a sore loser and I certainly don't want anyone to think my attitude has anything to do with the feelings of the MSU coaching staff. I just, well... as a loyal alum, I can't help but feel robbed. When people look at the score of this dual, and see it as an overwhelming win for the Tigers, I want them to know that the playing field was not level. So many times as a mid-major, the Bears have been accused of resting and shaving and suiting up when they pull off the win against a Goliath. I want to make sure that everyone sees this. MSU is a damn good team this year, and they are capable of hanging with even a top 25 ranked team like Mizzou. This meet was closer than the score indicates, and I only wish Mizzou had the nuggets to face their ever-underdog in-state rival with all things equal. Of course, then they would have to admit that this lowly mid-major is a respectable rival, and that just wouldn't be prudent for a big time program moving into the SEC, would it?

This was dirty pool and I ain't afraid to say it. Coach Rhodenbaugh, please!... The next time you face my Bears, treat them with the respect they have been earning for decades. This rivalry deserves that. My generation, and those before and after mine, deserve better. Jack deserved better treatment in his final season. I don't claim to understand your motivation for wearing your fancy pants last night, but I can't help feeling utterly let-down with the feeling that fair play was not honored.


  1. Coach Rhody, not Coach Roddy.

  2. Honestly Viking, I think it's already pretty embarrassing that Mizzou suited up for a dual with MSU. So I wouldn't worry about it too much.

  3. I'm with Chris. People who know, know. Giving the results a quick scan, the Bears made a nice showing.

    We did a similar thing vs. Drury in December '82 with a shave and just short of full taper. Emerged with a W and several DII qualifying times.

  4. Outrage for the Viking and my boy Aaron Henry! Go to a neutral pool, briefs and bare (bear) knuckles. Yes I am shouting!

  5. I agree with Chris, we always make fun of other teams who suit up for duel meets.

    On a side note, Matthew Wilson, a freshman for the Bears, swam for me the past few years. I talk to him frequently and have been keeping up with results. That team - freshman class especially - is doing awesome. Wilson is hitting times so far this season just tenths off his best, so they are doing something right over there.

    Keep your chin up Viking the Bears will get what they deserve in the end.

  6. I am never opposed to fast swimming, and I personally think it is great to see Mizzou suited up so early. It shows that they are scared, and not only scared but scared of a Missouri State team with so many youngsters. I think seeing them suited up and showing some pretty amazing times will hurt them in the future. We (as MO State alumni) know what we have at our program and what we are capable of doing at the right time! Let them suit up... let them win a fairly meaningless dual meet... let them take this win back and think really great of themselves right now... Because this can be their time to shine. Let them go back to their multi-million dollar facilities knowing that the took home the win. Missouri State will have its own time to shine as well, but we do it when it really counts. This team has some unbelievable talent and will be a force to handle not only this year at the championship meets, but even more so I am excited to see this young class progress through the next few years and hopefully add some other talent to their ranks.

    Go Bears

    -David (former MSU swimmer)

  7. 1) Not like it's bodysuits and actually makes a difference or anything.

    2) Who gives a crap about the Show-me-Showdown anyway? Especially when they make it even more ridiculous with 75s and 150s...

  8. 1) Sure they do. Name me a team who wears briefs at their big meet.
    2) Nobody... Which is why the Bears deserved a fair shake that much more.

  9. Anon, swim a 200 back short course right and try and tell me high compression jammers don't help.

  10. That's probably the wrong event to challenge me in considering I swam it every meet for my college career. 200 back's actually not too different, I'd say 200 IM was the biggest difference for me.

  11. Also I'd like to know why the "right" way to swim a 200 back is.

  12. I didn't really mean to challenge you, just prove a point. I swam the 200 back as well, though maybe not as a high a level as some. Senior year of HS was with briefs, freshman year the aquablade jammer came out, my sophomore year the original fastskin was the suit of choice.

    You swimming it in college, you know it is a leg driven stroke/race and if they aren't there, you are in trouble.

    As for how to swim it, I will refer to Aaron Piersol, he says it best. The 200 back should be swum in a way that if it was 1 yard longer, you won't be able to finish.

  13. Sounds about right, I had quite a few of those in my time. I wasn't exactly at the highest level either, but that doesn't make the race any easier. I only swam one meet in a bodysuit and absolutely hated it but it definitely had a big effect on racing. And I do have to grudgingly agree that having that little extra compression on the quads makes those last couple underwaters a little bit more bearable.

    However, judging by the times Mizzou put up compared to best time and such, those suits possibly just made up for being more broken down in a big grudge match.