ATHENS — I really need to check out the Gateway Arch. All these years of going to Missouri and I’ve still never visited the most famous monument in that state.
Located in St. Louis, Mo., the Gateway Arch is, of course, an enormous stainless steel structure that was built in the 1960s to symbolize the westward expansion of our country in the 19th century. It’s a fascinating architectural accomplishment, I’m told. Apparently you can ride up in an elevator and take some stairs to check out the view from the top of it. Not quite sure I’m up for that, though.
I’ll be in position to check out The Arch yet again on Friday when I follow the No. 2-ranked Georgia Bulldogs out to Columbia, Mo., where they’ll play the Missouri Tigers on Saturday. This will be my fourth trip to that fair city. I also visited in 2012, ’14 and ’16. Should be a great game and I’m looking forward to covering it.
That said, the fact that Georgia’s fans and reporters have to go through “The Gateway to the West” to attend an SEC game is part of the reason it is not one of my favorite trips. Not complaining, mind you. It just feels sort of foreign to me still, I guess you could say.
I got lit up pretty good on Twitter last week when it comes to this subject. We have nice little feature on DawgNation called “Cover 4” in which each of us who cover the Bulldogs for you answer a weekly survey question about the team. Last week’s was, “which Georgia opponent is getting overlooked?”
Keep in mind, this was just one of numerous questions we answered, and all before the season started. Mike Griffith went with Tennessee. Brandon Adams, Jeff Sentell and I all answered Missouri.
That in itself is not what brought on the Twitter-wrath of the Mizzou Nation. It was the rather flippant explanation I provided in the required one-sentence format. “It is a crappy trip to a crappy stadium that’s hard to get to, and they have a really good quarterback in Drew Lock who plays really well at home.”
Whew boy, Chip Towers doesn't exactly mince words when explaining why he thinks Missouri is being overlooked on Georgia's schedule. pic.twitter.com/yVCLCuyUtu
— Pete Scantlebury (@PeteScantlebury) September 12, 2018
Admittedly, “crappy” was probably a poor word choice. If I wanted to be delicate, I’d probably substitute “long” in the first instance and “small” or “quaint” in the second. But I was just trying to make a point.
The point was it’s a long way out there and that Memorial Stadium is not very big — or nice, for that matter. It normally seats 71,000, but that will be down to 61,000 Saturday because Missouri is in the midst of a $98 million expansion and improvement project.
Clearly the Tigers agree with my premise.
What got misconstrued was the notion that I don’t care for the city of Columbia, Mo. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I got to spend a few days out there before Georgia’s first game in 2012 and found it to be a great place. I tried to take in all the sights and traditions while I was there. So I ate at Shakespeare Pizza and Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. I went to the Historic District and checked out a show at the Blue Note. I had a KC Strip and a beer at the Flat Branch Pub I visited the six columns on campus in the area known as The Quadrangle.
Cool place. Nice town.
It’s just the game-day atmosphere that’s lacking. And it’s a hassle to get there. It’s a 12-hour drive from Athens or 10 hours from Atlanta and direct flights to Columbia are ridiculously expensive. So one has to fly to Kansas City or St. Louis and then drive two hours on I-70 to get there.
For whatever reason, I’ve always gone through St. Louis. But I know a lot of people who choose KC instead and like staying there. I’ve been there a couple of times, too. It has no Gateway Arch, though.
As for the football team, the Bulldogs will, of course, charter directly into Columbia Regional Airport. It’s no more of a hassle for them than it is anywhere they need to fly to. And I feel like Georgia got a break when the television executives decided to make it a noon kickoff. It’ll be 11 a.m. local time, so Mizzou students will still be wiping the sleep out of their eyes when it starts.
But the real reason I selected Missouri as the most overlooked opponent from a challenge perspective is quarterback Drew Lock. I saw him lead the Tigers to an average of 51 points a game during a a six-game winning streak after they lost to Georgia in Athens last year. And Lock happens to play very well in that quaint little stadium.
Not crappy, mind you, quaint.
In any case, I promise to put my best foot forward on my fourth trip to Columbia, Mo., a nice little town with a pretty good football team.