I am from Columbia, Mo. My father is a graduate of the University of Missouri and a retired professor, having taught his entire career at MU. My mother is a devoted Mizzou fan. For nearly 20 years she and a friend spent countless hours painting the signs that hung between Sections C and D for every home basketball game in the Hearnes Center. As boys, my brother and I went to every home football game and basketball game with our parents. I loved Ricky Frazier, Sundvold, Stipo and, of course, Coach Stewart, whose summer camp I attended six years in a row. Then, I went off to college — in Lawrence, Kan.
I am a graduate of Kansas University, having obtained both my undergraduate and law degrees there. My brother is also a KU grad. I still maintain we may be the only siblings to have been raised in Columbia, earned degrees from KU, and attended summer school at Mizzou. I also played junior varsity basketball at KU. I wasn’t that good, but I still count it as one of my greatest achievements. To this day, the thought of practicing and playing in Allen Fieldhouse still gives me goosebumps.
Where I was raised, there was no “cheering for the conference” if it involved Kansas. When I was about 13 or 14, I told my mother that I thought Darnell Valentine was cool. Shockingly, I was not allowed to attend the next two home games. Not one, but two (Waymon Tisdale would have been one game). My mother, a pious and quiet person, has only cursed twice in my presence in over 45 years. Both times involved carefully selected adjectives preceding my favorite mascot, as in “those –––– Jayhawks.” Every year my mother calendars the complete basketball schedule of both the Tigers and Jayhawks. She watches each and every KU game specifically to root against them. She turns the game off when we are up 20, accusing us of never playing anyone. While I remain a fan of Mizzou when they’re not playing Kansas, the feeling from my parents is by no means mutual.
Every call home and family gathering involves discussion of the rivalry. Our family has traveled together to Lawrence for games. We go to Columbia for games. My sons (all KU fans) have lived in person what a KU-MU basketball game at Mizzou Arena is like. Frankly, they were scared, and I don’t blame them.
Our entire family had the absolute thrill of a lifetime at Arrowhead several years ago when College Game Day was there, and both teams were ranked in the top five in the country. Anyone who was there will NEVER forget that day. Honestly, regardless of the year, those football games and the atmosphere surrounding them sum up the depth and bitterness, as well as the beauty, of the rivalry. Sitting in that stadium, with the seats split 50-50 between blue and black, brings on that awesome mixture of feelings, which include pride, disgust, honor, anxiety (and dare I add “hatred”) all wrapped up in a single event.
OK. So what’s the point? The point is this. I am no one. I am not a chancellor. I am not on the Board of Curators. I am not an athletic director. I am not a big-time donor, a talk show host, celebrity, coach or player. So, I guess I don’t matter. But I will tell you what I am.
I am a person who attended the schools. I am the guy that buys the tickets. I am the guy that buys the sweatshirt, the hat and the jacket. I schedule my weeks around the games, and my years around MU-KU clashes. I talk to my neighbors, my coworkers, my wife, my kids and everyone else about KU-MU. I mean, really, is there anything better than banter between MU and KU friends? I have lived the rivalry for over 40 years. It is a part of my fabric, my soul and my life. Did you hear that? It’s a part of my life.
I guess this is about money. Nothing could be more sad. To the fans of Missouri and Kansas, it’s never been about money. Charge me double for my ticket to the MU-KU game. Charge me triple for my popcorn and a drink. Make my sweatshirt $20 more and my hat $10, but please don’t rip out part of my soul. I know I don’t matter, but I also know I’m not alone. I just wish the few would have asked the many.