COLUMBIA — At the start of Missouri home volleyball games, before the roster for the team is announced, a long line of children wraps around Missouri’s side of the court to give the players high-fives as their names are announced. At the beginning of that line is Deacon Grimes.
Wearing a Golden Tigers shirt that almost reaches his knees, Grimes, 8, can’t contain his excitement. He hops up and down and has his arm stretched straight, ready to high-five well before the players reach him.
“I try to go last so I can be in front,” Grimes said during Missouri’s game against Kansas State, explaining his tactic for being first in line to give high-fives.
Missouri swept Kansas State Saturday, 25-12, 25-17, 25-21.
Grimes and his grandmother, Judith Bodani, both enjoy attending home Missouri volleyball games and supporting the Tigers, especially senior outside hitter Julianna Klein. As a Golden Tiger, Bodani had the opportunity to choose a player to support, and she chose Klein.
Bodani has been a member of Missouri volleyball’s senior citizen fan group, the Golden Tigers, for three years. And she’s been bringing her grandson with her to games ever since she joined the group.
“Grandchildren are life’s reward for getting older,” Bodani said, smiling lovingly at her grandson.
At the beginning and end of every set, Bodani and her grandson faithfully rise from their seats and cheer on the Tigers. Bodani even has a special cheer for when her voice goes out. She rolls her tongue across the roof of her mouth and emits a high-pitched sound.
The pair attended the Kansas game on Wednesday, and her grandson did some cheering of his own.
“I was coughing so hard because I was screaming so loud,” he said. “I felt better the next day, mainly because I took three cough drops.”
Bodani is impressed with her grandson’s knowledge of the game and how much he’s learned from attending games. He was able to explain one of the more complex rules of the game, discussing how a block is not counted as one of the team’s three hits.
For two years, Bodani has written letters to encourage Klein throughout the season.
“I don’t think she gets her notes until after the game,” Bodani said. “But that’s OK.”
Bodani and Klein have formed a special bond, and Klein has even introduced Bodani to her parents.
“I really got to know her the last couple of years,” Klein said of Bodani. “It’s been really cool to get to know each other and be a part of something more than just being a player.”
When Bodani was vacationing in Florida, she made a special effort to make sure Klein still got her letters of encouragement.
“It’s easy to hand a letter to somebody when you’re right in front of them,” Klein said. “But to take the time to sit down, write the letter, put the stamp on it and then go put it in the mailbox, that’s always meaningful getting something like that.”
Since Klein is a senior, Bodani and her grandson are trying to decide what player they will support after Klein graduates. Her grandson said they might choose a player who doesn’t get a lot of playing time because they probably need their support.
For him, the sound clip of Ozzy Osborne laughing at the beginning of “Crazy Train” is one of his favorite parts of attending volleyball games.
“And yes, I like this,” he said, standing up and moving his hands back and forth to the sound of Missouri Waltz.
When asked about how he feels about his grandmother, Deacon said, “Well, what my grandpa used to say is, ‘She’s not off one wall, she’s off all four.’”
Then, laughing, he said, “And sweet.”