Friendship flourishes at MU games

Tuesday, January 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The cup holders are nice. There are more bathrooms and wider aisles. And the seats are a lot more comfortable. But the company, now the company is second to none.

At least that’s the case for season ticket holders Margaret Kasmann and Marilyn Roche. The pair, actually a trio counting Margaret’s husband John, have been enjoying Missouri basketball games together the past two years at Mizzou Arena.

Monday they enjoyed a 73-44 win at the expense of Louisiana-Monroe.

It wasn’t the closest game they’ve seen, nor the highest-profile opponent, but there they were occupying the same three seats in section 117 they always claim. Kasmann has been attending games since the Hearnes Center opened in 1971, making Roche’s attendance over the past five years relatively minute. It wasn’t until the new facility opened last season that the two’s friendship and fan-ship came full-circle.

“At Hearnes we didn’t (sit together),” Roche said, before Kasmann chimed in, “It wasn’t till over here that we could get seats together.”

“I was waiting for this place to open so I could do that,” Roche said.

Not to say it’s the first time they’ve enjoyed a game together. The two share a hometown and a maiden name — Rohlfing, though they aren’t related — as well as a passion for Missouri basketball.

“We’ve known each other since kindergarten, we’re both from Hermann, Missouri, and we met again up here,” Kasmann said.

“We just really like basketball,” Roche said picking up where her friend left off, “plus when we were in high school they didn’t have a football team, but they had a really good basketball team. We went to state a lot. So we kind of grew up going to basketball games together.”

Following high school, life intervened and the two lost contact. Margaret married John Kasmann and continued cheering basketball here. Marilyn, meanwhile, married Bill Roche.

Thirteen years ago the two were re-united by chance. Marilyn Roche worked with the Kasmann’s neighbor, and after hearing tales of one another, the two deduced whom each other was. The rekindling led to ski trips, near-weekly dinners together and other friendly endeavors.

Bill Roche isn’t much of a basketball fan, though, Marilyn says. So Marilyn Roche eventually joined in the Kasmanns’ love of the Tigers and the three now go to the games together.

The Event Staff’s Candy Lindsey has grown fond of the two ladies.

“Those two are at every game always smiling, bright and cheery,” Lindsey said. “We get a lot of fathers and sons, and groups like that, but those are my only two women that come together and they cheer every game.”

Still, Roche is looking less than cheery when Jimmy McKinney misses an early layup, wearing a grimace as her hands rise with the tension of the moment. Kevin Young knocks his put-back and Roche’s hands fall with it, then clap as the familiar smile returns.

The two friends sit together behind John, giving him ample room to stretch his legs, as he points out, and giving the pair ample time to take in the game and talk. Mostly about basketball, of course.

“We sit here and chat the whole time,” Roche jokes. “We give them all sorts of great ideas on how they’re supposed to play.”

One previous suggestion they made between themselves was for the team to shoot 1,000 free throws a day in practice. They said that the team has improved enough there to make them happy, but they had another tip on Monday.

“Tonight if they could hang onto the ball…” Roche said trailing off. “They seem to be having trouble with that.”

Sure enough, Missouri finished with 22 turnovers, the only obvious blemish on a big win.

With the dismantling of the Indians, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State come to town Saturday. You can bet Roche and Kasmann will be there.

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