I was in a 50mph speed limited country road stuck behind a green tractor crawling at 18 miles per hour. I kept glancing at my phone for tweets from Georgia Linebacker Jarvis Jones. It was 3:58pm and still nothing. Georgia’s walk through was scheduled for 4:30pm at Faurot Field on Friday and I assumed their plane would be landing any second. Still about a mile and a half away from the Columbia Regional airport, I stood stuck behind this tractor.
I glanced at my phone one last time before passing the tractor. Jones is one of the most avid tweeters on Georgia’s team, the type of twitter user that tweets about classwork, who he started following, what he’s watching on TV, etc. So I figured he’d be one of the first to tweet about landing in Columbia. I was on a mission to the airport, to beat him to the tweet, to catch a glimpse -and maybe a couple of pictures- of Georgia’s first ever landing in Columbia. UGA and Mizzou had never met in Columbia before. The teams have only met once, in the 1960 Orange Bowl in Miami.
I pulled up to Columbia-Regional at 4:06, just in time to catch the football team and staff deplane from three large Delta planes parked at the far end of the airport. Everyone was dressed in shirts and ties, scurrying and hurrying to get three big black buses loaded in time to get the team to its scheduled walk through at Memorial Stadium. I snapped a picture of the scene, watched coach Mark Richt climb into the brand new University of Missouri Police car as his players filed onto the buses. That was my cue to leave, I wanted to get to Faurot Field before the team so that I could get video of Georgia arriving to Memorial Stadium for the very first time. I hopped into the KOMU Prius and started down airport road toward Columbia.
I guess with the rush of excitement from trying to beat Georgia’s football team to the airport, I failed to notice the dark grey Mid-Missouri sky. Big mean clouds started swirling in front of me and for a split second I thought I was in a scene of the movie Twister. Terrified by what was happening in the sky, I started talking to myself in the Prius, telling myself that it can’t end like this! My life can’t end with me and this KOMU car getting swallowed up in a tornado after trying to stalk a football team. I snapped out of it, reminded myself that everything would be okay. With no cars behind or in front of me, I stopped in the middle of airport road and took a picture of the sky that would welcome Georgia’s football team to Missouri.
Rain pouring, I kept checking my rearview mirror for the three big black buses sandwiched by police cars on high way 63. It honestly looked like the President was in town with the security that surrounded the team buses, the single file line of the police cars heading in the direction of Mizzou’s campus. The blue and red lights of the cop cars flashing from far behind me assured me that I would beat the team to the stadium, my mission would soon be complete.
I got to Memorial Stadium with time to spare. I rolled down the west side hill that leads into the bottom of the stadium, eager to find a parking spot that was far enough to be out of the way for the three buses but still close enough so that the camera and I wouldn’t get sopping wet. At the bottom of the hill, two very angry members of the Missouri event staff-both wearing ponchos- gave me dirty looks as I pulled up. The female staff member told me to keep on driving, that I couldn’t stop and that I wasn’t allowed to be there. She motioned me to get out.
Frustrated, annoyed, I very slowly drove through the back of the stadium, to the exit on the opposite side from where I came. As I drove through the back I saw a bunch of cars, equipment trucks, and a big white trailer which I assumed was for the game’s broadcast. I climbed up the other hill and drove around until I settled into a parking spot that would allow me to at least watch the president-like entrance of the Georgia football team to Memorial Stadium. The police cars and buses filed into the parking lot and down the hill to the entrance of the field. I checked Jones’ twitter one last time before I ended my stalking for the day. His most recent tweet read: “On Mizzou’s campus kickin the fu fu.”… Whatever that means.