COLUMBIA – "Hey, what's a Sooner?"
The Nevitts had heard that line way too many times for it to catch them off guard when a merrily drunk MU student called it out from the balcony of the apartment on Ninth Street that students call the J-Slums.
The four fired back their retorts, one on top of the other, topped off with Danny Nevitt's – "And you know what? I've never seen one (expletive) tiger in the whole state of Missouri, not one!"
Well played, his fellow Oklahoma fans declared. Nevitt, 48, a towering man in a gray OU shirt, received handshakes all around.
He'd seen much worse heckling over the years, Nevitt said. After all, he and his son, Alex, 20, have only missed five Oklahoma games since 1999.
With Columbia awash in gold, Oklahoma fans stood out like sore thumbs Saturday. They were the redshirts, the identifiable enemy and an easy target for MU fans' gibes.
But Oklahoma fans wandering downtown on Saturday said the heckling here wasn't nearly as bad as it's been in other places. Nevitt's daughter Allison, 23, said she's had glass bottles thrown at her when Oklahoma played Louisiana State University. OU graduate Joe Aleman, 37, wearing a red shirt while munching Shakespeare's pizza, said no one's tried to fight him here, and that he thought the campus was nice.
Aleman had driven in from Overland Park, Kan., for the game, along with his brother and sister-in-law, Oni and Brandi, from Minnesota, and old friend John Kelsey, from Norman, Okla. He said they picked this game for a family gathering because "we thought it would be a fairly easy game for Oklahoma to win."
"Though it looks like it's going to be a lot tougher now," added Kelsey, in reference to the Tigers' 30-9 win at Texas A&M on Saturday.
Aleman's group consisted entirely of OU graduates, but not all the red-hatted fans on Saturday were alums. Lloyd Redder, an Oklahoma fan from Holland, Mich., said he attended the University of Michigan, but has always been an Oklahoma fan for reasons "too complicated to explain."
His fellow Michigander in the OU cap would certainly draw more ire from die-hard Tigers if only they knew: His friend admitted he was a MU grad who had switched allegiance.
As the game approached, gold and red all streamed southward toward the stadium. The superior side would soon be determined, but for now, they had equal right to hold their heads high.
A van-full of Missouri fans drove by, blaring the Missouri fight song at full force. Redder gave it an emphatic thumbs-down.