Marissa Cantor strained to look over the trainers as Drew Lock moved toward an enclosed tent on the Tiger sideline.
“Can you see?” she asked David Akin, a friend two rows up. “It would be right in his lumbar area. Like a tramp stamp.”
Akin craned his neck. “His jersey is tucked in,” he said. “I can’t tell.”
“That’s what they did to Maty, too” Cantor sighed. “I had no idea until someone told me they saw him at that diner in Edmonton with gravy all over his beard.”
“Wait!” Akin yelled as Lock pulled up his jersey and moved behind the partition. “I think I see red!”
Cantor’s chest sank. She exhaled slowly, her eyes wet in the Missouri autumn air. Truman the Tiger walked by and offered a fist to pound, but Cantor didn’t see it. Her mind was already on Canada.
“It’s like human trafficking,” she said. “But with poutine.”
Tennessee football coach Butch Jones recently told the media Missouri quarterback Drew Lock would be playing a lot of time on Sundays. It was a carefully worded compliment meant both to praise the intense QB from Lee’s Summit and remind people that Lock is very good and likely to embarrass Jones’ team in six or seven different ways this weekend.
Marissa Cantor heard it differently.
“You know who else plays on Sundays?” she asked from her seat at the Broadway Diner. “The Eskimos. The Blue Bombers. The Red Blacks. The Roughriders. That’s who.”
Cantor’s plate of the Diner’s famous Stretch (with extra chili) grew cold. She’d barely eaten a bite.
“These guys come to Columbia. We get them hooked on these Stretches,” she said. “It’s a (expletive) gateway drug. Hashbrowns, chili, cheese. Sounds very American until you learn what poutine really is. I don’t think Maty ever had a chance.”
Several patrons walked by offering commiserations and condolences. They have seen Cantor in The Diner two or three times a week over the past six years as she investigated what she called “nothing short of a crime against humanity.”
“Everyone puts this on the guys, like they made a professional decision to live in Canada. Nobody makes that decision without something being very wrong in their head or heart,” she said. “Nobody.”
“He was always going to be an Eskimo.”
“I think it was probably Kendial,” Cantor said. “I might not have noticed if it hadn’t been for him. What kid from Texas wants to live in Edmonton?”
She was talking about Kendial Lawrence, the running back from Texas’ Rockwall-Heath High School who signed with Missouri prior to the 2009 season. While showing great promise on Faurot Field, Lawrence ultimately went undrafted by the NFL.
“Somebody told me they saw him in the locker room during Pro day,” Cantor said. “They swore they saw a maple leaf flag tattooed on his lower back. Signing with the Cowboys was a red herring. Kendial was always going to be an Eskimo.”
Cantor said after that, she started paying attention (“These sheeple at Mizzou are just blind sometimes,” she said through a mouthful of hashbrowns.) L’Damian Washington, Henry Josey, James Franklin, Tony Criswell, Michael Sam, and Maty Mauk all followed Kendial up the Poutine Highway, as Cantor calls it, to the Canadian Football League.
“It makes me so sad to think about Drew,” she said. “He’s the boy next door. He’s straight up Missouri. In two years he’ll be saying ‘eh’ and over-apologizing for everything.”
Akin joined her at the table. He’d just spent an hour at the Speaker’s Circle handing out fliers and encouraging Mizzou fans to join their upstart organization MIZ-POU(tine).
“How did it go?” Cantor said, seemingly already knowing the answer.
Akin just shook his head.
“They all said the same thing: ‘What about Warner?'”
“Kurt Warner can go to hell.”
Cantor and Akin were just babies when Northern Iowa QB Kurt Warner went undrafted in 1994. They only knew the story from their parents: College star fails to make it to the NFL, spends years freezing in Canada, and then goes on to be a Hall of Fame NFL star.
“Kurt Warner calls himself a Christian,” Cantor said. “Kurt Warner can go to hell. Straight to hell.”
“He’s the Manchurian Quarterback,” Akin said.
Cantor and Akin contend that the Warner Conspiracy and its subsequent fallout ruined a generation of football players and created the Poutine Highway. Mizzou, they say, is the epicenter of the operation.
“Everybody has always been just gaga over (Gary) Pinkel. You think he was innocent? Give me a break,” Akin said. “I give the man credit for creating good teams, but he was just as complicit in this as anybody.”
“And now they have Odom in here,” Cantor sighed. “It’s like they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore. I mean, who lets Odom continue to coach if they don’t actually want their guys going to Canada?”
Lost Cause U
It’s Homecoming Saturday and Drew Lock is having himself a day. Within a few weeks, he will have strung together three consecutive wins, including one against the struggling Florida Gators. On this day, Cantor and Akin will eventually be arrested for hopping the wall and trying to pull Drew Lock’s jersey up from his pants.
For now, though, they’re sitting glumly on the bleachers and thinking about what might have been.
“He had offers from Ohio State and Ole Miss,” Akin sighed.
“Don’t forget Texas,” Cantor said.
Akin said, “Yep. And he came here because he thought he was staying home. Little did he know, he was about to hitch a ride up the Poutine Highway. First stop: Lost Cause U.”
The Mizzou Band strikes up “Every True Son” for the third time that day.
Each time, Cantor swears she hears “O Canada.”