Walking down Paquin Street following Mizzou’s Saturday victory, I passed a young woman with a huge bump on the left side of her face, streams of crimson blood mixing with brown makeup.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” she said.
“Do you want me to call for help or something?” I said.
“No, no, it’s okay,” she said.
The woman quietly moved past me and walked toward Hitt Street. I didn’t know what to think as she left. Was I supposed to do something? What could I have done? And, how did she get hurt?
I wondered, too, about the other people who ran into her on the sidewalks near East Campus. I wondered if they stopped and asked if they could help her, or if they just moved along and thought about how messed up she looked.
Often, we look at football Saturdays around the country as thousands of screaming fans wearing the identical colors of their team. We forget about portable grills burning hands, tailgate footballs jamming fingers or people tripping on their faces. Tailgating is actually a somewhat dangerous activity, if you think about it. Of course, not as dangerous as playing football. But still.
When I was a kid, Mizzou had an alumni tailgate event in humid gym with no air conditioning before a September game. Most fans were nursing water bottles and hovering near open doors and windows. Truman the Tiger tried to excite some of the fans, running around the gym throwing plastic footballs to kids and posing for photos.
About a half hour later, I saw Truman walk to the side of the gym, fall backyards and lay motionless. Paramedics carried the mascot out on a gurney without his Tiger head. The 6-year-old me was suddenly confronted with the uncomfortable truth that Truman wasn’t real. Now, I wonder whether how he’s doing.
I’m not advocating that we do away with tailgates. I love the practice with all my heart and some of my fondest memories at this school have been created on the black pavement with family and friends. But as we approach next Saturday, I would like to advise us all to make sure our intended receiver knows to put a drink down and catch a football. Remember: Safety first.