COLUMBIA — Before attending a game with Marcheita Anderson, she gives her terms of agreement.
“If you hear something ugly come out of my mouth, just ignore it,” she said.
The wife of Missouri men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson admits she is not a luxury box type of fan. But, in Missouri’s game against Presbyterian on Dec. 11, Marcheita Anderson strayed from her usual seat close to the court, and brought her energy to the President’s Suite.
Tucked between the first and second levels of seating at Mizzou Arena is a different basketball viewing experience. Gone is the concrete of the main concourse, replaced by a swanky hallway with a carpeted floor. Paintings of former Missouri basketball greats Steve Stipanovich and John Sundvold watch from their black frames on the wall as the hallway wraps its way around the arena.
The hall provides access to the arena’s suites. Of all the places to watch a Missouri basketball game, the President’s Suite could be considered the best seat in the house. It sits directly at half court, high enough to give a view of the entire floor, and offers complimentary drinks and as much free food as you can fit on your plate. The plush surroundings, however, aren't everyone's favorite.
“I don’t like sitting up here,” Marcheita Anderson said.
She rarely sits in a suite, preferring to be closer to the action. But, she is participating in a fundraiser for the Columbia Boys and Girls Club. Donating the cost of a ticket to the organization gave fans a chance to see a game from the suite, as well as see Marcheita Anderson in action.
By the time the national anthem started, she had secured a spot on the first row of seats in the box. The seat was used sparingly — Marcheita Anderson prefers to stand.
“Get up, Tigers!” she yells after the team's introductions.
Startled, a young girl three rows below looks over her shoulder to see where the scream came from. Fans in the suite aren’t usually that loud.
Not until Kim English hits a 3-pointer for Missouri’s first score of the game does Marcheita Anderson sit down. People below turn around and look often, but as time goes on, they cease. After five minutes, the shouts from the suite aren’t surprising anyone anymore.
Squeezing in questions with Marcheita Anderson is as challenging as breaking a full-court press. Timing is everything, and the conversation must come during her few moments of downtime. When she’s not clapping along with every chant and song, she’s talking basketball loud enough for everyone to hear.
“You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to go up with authority!” she says after Missouri loses the battle for a rebound.
“Stay in that zone. We’re gonna get you,” she warns Presbyterian when Missouri begins hitting perimeter shots.
“Who left him? Someone missed an assignment, Coach A!” she calls out to her husband when a defensive breakdown allows a Presbyterian player an easy layup.
Her presence is hard to ignore, even for the players during the game. Justin Safford, Missouri’s only senior, said things were a little quieter on the court during the Presbyterian game. He has been hearing the woman he calls Miss Marcheita for a long time.
“I’ve noticed it for four years. That’s just Miss Marcheita,” Safford said.
“She’s just like Coach Anderson. She’s just as passionate about basketball as he is. You can always hear her, and she’ll let you know when you’re doing something wrong or when you’re doing something right.”
Mike Anderson said he didn’t realize his wife spent the game in the suite instead of her normal spot.
“I’m so zoned in, I guess. I’m conversating with the officials a lot,” Anderson said.
Talking with the referees during a game is a hobby the couple shares.
“I usually only get ugly with the refs,” Marcheita Anderson said.
One referee was too old after calling a foul on Missouri, just moments after she thanked him for calling a foul on the opposite team.
While keeping close tabs on the adequacy of the referees, Marcheita Anderson is also aware of occurrences off the court.
Just minutes into the game, she spotted Ricardo Ratliffe’s mother making her way to a seat on the other side of the arena. Kismyt Ratliffe was attending her first game of the season. At halftime, Marcheita Anderson escaped the suite to speak with her.
“I love it when moms come to games,” Marcheita Anderson said.
The thrill of watching a child play is a feeling she knows well. Her daughter, Yvonne Anderson, is currently a starting guard for the Texas women’s basketball team. The junior is averaging 11 points per game for the Longhorns. Occasionally, Texas women’s games conflict with those of the Missouri men’s team. Marcheita Anderson has found a solution.
“I will watch her on my laptop sometimes here,” she said.
On nights when her husband and daughter both have games, the mother brings her computer. She checks scores and watches streaming video of her daughter's games, just another element added to the whirlwind of activity Marcheita Anderson goes through on game day. When Missouri is on the road, she joins the team, boarding buses and planes to accompany the Tigers to games and tournaments.
Minutes into the second half of the Presbyterian game, Missouri had solidified its lead. Marcheita Anderson has settled into her chair and propped her feet up on the edge of the rail in front of her. She only looks like she is relaxing.
“That’s only 22 points. You can never relax,” she said.
And while the game is mostly decided, it isn’t close to being over. She will watch it again at home alongside her husband that night after they get home. It’s what she does after every home game. The only exception is when the Tigers lose.
“If we lose I’m not gonna watch it because I’m already gonna dream about it,” she said.
With Missouri’s 70-55 win over Presbyterian, Marcheita Anderson was spared any bad dreams, and for Missouri’s 81-62 defeat of Oral Roberts on Thursday, she was no longer in the President’s Suite. She had returned to her spot in the 15th seat of the fourth row from the court. There were no buffets or wet bars, just basketball — just the way she likes it.