Thousands of Missourians from all corners of the state will converge on Columbia this coming weekend for Mizzou’s football opener against a school many of them know little or nothing about — Murray State — not to be confused with Alabama. The highways will be filled with millions of dollars of SUVs with MU stickers, Tiger tails flying and Black and Gold clad Missourians eagerly awaiting the 2013 kickoff to a season with the usual hopes of seeing a winning team. Reality can set in within weeks.

It’s a fall ritual in every state. It’s a multibillion dollar enterprise in the country and still is considered a sport in which amateurs knock heads. Every season we read opinions that the players should be paid, at least for endorsements, since their talent exhibitions bring the colleges and universities stadiums-full of money.

We remember the days when football was not so money-tainted, a time when the men wore sport coats and ties to the games, even shined their shoes, and when the ladies managed to be comfortable in high-heel shoes, appearing in colorful, dressy and smart attire. Yes, flasks provided extra yelling energy and were common and there were parking lots that were free of any donations to the Tiger Scholarship Fund. Tailgating was in its infancy and hardly the extravagant undertaking it is today. There were few private tents with barbecue equipment and none with televisions sets. The dress reflects today’s casual culture — wear as little as possible, expose as much as possible and have a drink in hand. People-watching in the lots, or around them, can provide more interest, or entertainment, than some games.

This is the era when some “fans” never leave the parking lot. It’s more fun there than in the stadium. The action can be more inviting in the lot. If you want to know the score, it’s available on the hand gadget that even allows one to call and receive calls, has a nifty screen, not quite as big as the TV set inside the tent, but good enough since that’s the secondary interest of the day, or night.

Speaking of nights, when money for television didn’t rule starting times, it was a 1 p.m. starting time, which allowed most fans in the state to return home before midnight, or beyond. One of the most annoying aspects of college football today is that for most games the school doesn’t know ahead of time when the games will start. It all depends on what the television money dictates. For some games, the starting time may not be known more than a week in advance. Again, it’s the fan who loses out to big money paid by the TV networks.

If you are disgusted with today’s college football culture at the stadium, the Tigers’ opening game is available on your home TV sets at $39.95 under the pay-per-view programming. That’s a steep price to pay for Mizzou vs. Murray State, but it’s a savings considering the cost of a game ticket, tailgating and gasoline prices, plus getting home in the a.m., and having that hit-by-a-truck feeling all day Sunday. It’s true, being there, does afford the people-watching value, which can be priceless.

In the lot where we park, there is a large motorhome (the only one in the lot) that is the centerpiece of partying. It has all the accessories, and then some. Being a newshound (and jealous also), we made an inquiry since we figured the owner must travel some distance and pay quite a sum to park in the prime spot in the lot. Turns out this Mizzou fan is a local, from Columbia, a successful businessman who appreciates value. He was such a nice guy, we didn’t ask what he pays to play (park). And, he even offered us a drink and food, and everybody knows an offer like that will capture the attention and make friends of most media guys and gals — at least at a football game.

What to expect from this Mizzou team? Don’t know, even after reading several thousand printed lines from the writers-on-the-scene, including from grandson Jack who is covering the team for the Maneater, the student print offering. We do believe that Coach Gary Pinkel is going to be in a pickle if the team doesn’t do well. Since he earns (we mean makes) more than the governor or president of the university, he should be held accountable. After all, there’s more interest in what the Tigers do than what our legislators do in Jefferson City. Hey, that’s America today. It’s just not the culture of Missourians.

Do we have our priorities mixed up? Yep!