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It's time to forget the 'Fifth Down Game'

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

For 25 years, five months and 22 days I lived in Denver . I moved to Columbia, in 2003. Someday I will split my loyalty, but not today.

Denver is only 30 miles from Boulder, and Columbia and Boulder have a lot in common. Well, some things in common. Columbia is the home to the rest of Stan Kroenke's family. Yes, the same guy who owns the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche and the building they play in. The other half of that family is the Lauries. You know, the Wal-Mart people, and Coloradans love to fight Wal-Mart.  

Columbia, like Boulder, is a liberal bastion in the middle of conservative country, but not as "nuts." Maybe.

And Columbia and Boulder are home to great schools, the University of Missouri and the University of Colorado.  

Like Boulder, the citizens and students of Columbia are excited and proud about their university and football team. Columbians wear MU black and gold almost every day. They devote radio and television shows exclusively to the Tigers. They honor their football players unlike any place else I have ever seen. OK, they are "nuts." I must keep a low profile during Missouri-Colorado games. Ah, the life of a Buffalo fan in the heart of Tiger country.

I was asked to relocate to Columbia to work for one of its many insurance companies. The interview was going well until I was introduced to the president of the company. The entire reception area was a shrine to Missouri Tiger football. Signed football posters, signed footballs, signed football cleats, signed football underwear, the works. I was impressed but not overly concerned. I should have seen it coming.

Then lunch, at a small restaurant serving warm beer and cold burgers. Just above the booth we occupied was a full page newspaper article about "The Fifth Down." Now for those who have forgotten, the year was 1990. This game was of major importance to both teams. Colorado won because of an error by the referees, who gave Colorado a fifth down. Missouri missed the blunder.

My host made sure I knew how upset he was. It was the basis of the rest of the luncheon. Today, I still hear about the Fifth Down. I am, after all, a devoted Colorado fan.

So here is the deal. It is now 18 years after the fact. Colorado and Missouri share the same "enemies," Nebraska, Iowa State and K-State.  As of Wednesday, Missouri is ranked No. 16 by The Associated Press, and Colorado, well, is not on the list. To me, however, the Missouri-Colorado game is always a game of revenge for the Tigers.

I am not saying that the Missourians are slow, but ...  the two universities share school colors and most Missourians miss that my shirt has "Colorado Buffaloes" blazoned across the front. Last time I went to a Colorado-Missouri basketball game, it took the Tiger fans almost a whole quarter to figure out I was rooting for CU. But once they figured it out they asked first, "Why did you leave Denver?" and then "What about that fifth down?"

Get over it. Missouri and Colorado have new coaches, new referees and new electronics to help keep track of the downs. The students who attended that game in 1990 have kids going to college today. Most of the current students don't know about this game of Oct. 6, 1990. Why should they?  

Vince Lombardi understood that if you spend your life looking behind you, you will never see the opportunities that are in front of you. Learn from your mistakes and go forward. We tend to hang on to the silliest things.  

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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