JOPLIN, Mo. —
I had just gotten in line to mail a Christmas package when Bob Oldt, a postmaster and sports fan, called out to me, “How good are they, Ben?” I rebounded quickly and said, “They are good; they are very good!”
Dear reader, the truth is these Missouri Southern Lions are roaring. Hey, there are still seats available, and I know this team will not disappoint you. There are at least three things making these recent wins happen:
1. There are three very fine coaches teaching these players how to play this game and also one attendant who gives careful aid and water to the players along with Robby.
2. On the bench, we have nearly two more teams waiting and hoping to play. They actually watch and cheer the players on the floor who are rebounding, shooting, defending and/or racing to the basket at the time. The bench is paying attention to the game and to the players on the floor. They are preparing and ready to play.
3. This year Southern’s offense moves as fast as its defense. It’s a plan, and they practice it.
These Lions remind us of an earlier team when Edin Santiago and company were stealing the ball and sprinting to their basket to score.
This year, the talent and team play are getting more polished each time we watch a game. Another factor for winning is also obvious: Simply stated, they are good. They are very good.
Many fans are, may I say, in awe of this team.
We just look at each other and say, “How do they do that?” It’s like the Sundance Kid looking at the posse and then at Butch Cassidy and asking, “Who are those guys?”
Well, here we take an interest. We just open our programs and find out all we can about these players, like where are they from, what are they studying and what year are they in at Southern.
If there were another factor that I’d like you to notice and enjoy, it would be the head coach Robert Corn.
This quiet man, father and friend, speaks so very softly and ever so carefully to the referees, and he always appears calm and kind to the refs.
And under his breath, without ever standing up against them, he might actually risk a spoken question.
Right? — No! Come on reader, please laugh here. Coach Corn is the real deal.
If he takes off his coat, his face will redden, and he will protect his players and the game and gain very-up-close attention from the referees. We are talking close here! (Careful, Coach, the technical foul, you know.)
Corn has already given our city a fine team this year.
It’s also for many surrounding towns who receive a truly wonderful period of successful and heartwarming service in Southern’s teams, and we are grateful for his admirable tenure here.
Let’s remember the multiple ways he and his sons and wife have moved out of their comfort zones and the gymnasiums to serve our community. He has sponsored numerous gatherings to provide tasty food and unity and friendship.
I personally found him available either on the telephone or a visit to his office.
Back then (1983), as a rather new teacher at Southern, I needed to tell my own sports stories, and he listened.
We discussed other stories about the athletes who are in our own classrooms.
His door was open — always open — and the interest he took in so many of us new teachers was both sincere and very helpful. We felt connected and then we wanted to cheer for Southern.
So hey, Joplin, in the coach’s own words, “Our fans keep us alive, our fans feed us, so to speak.”
Corn would also say our fans are hungry. Yes, we are. We are excited, and we are Southern. We enjoy athletics and we truly like sports and these basketball games and, if possible, we want to win them all. With Corn, our story here just gets better and better.
Ben Peterson lives in Joplin and is a retired Missouri Southern State University professor.