There are three things I was positive I would never see in my lifetime: Computers that fit in one’s pocket, telephones that play videos and any other conference voluntarily taking in Missouri. Yet as I watched the news reports on my husband’s iPhone, I realized I was holding all that once seemed impossible in the palm of my hand.
I had always envisioned the oldest college rivalry west of the Mississippi ending with surrounding states surgically extracting Missouri from the map, filling in the space with a giant, manmade sea with sparkling blue water and beachside beverage service.
Any other kind of exit had never crossed my mind. Especially Missouri working its way into the hearts (and pocketbooks) of the Southeastern Conference, which I’m assuming it has by now realized has nothing to do with Florida timeshares and everything to do with more wins for everyone from Alabama to Vanderbilt.
But with this smorgasbord about to hit the SEC comes a parting of ways for Kansas and Missouri.
For over a century, Missouri has been the Capulet to our Montague, the Hatfield to our McCoy, the Quantrill to our Brown. Ending this kind of relationship over money is like selling a family heirloom to pay the cable bill. That antique moose antler chandelier from your great-great-grandma might not be pretty, but it has significance that is lost in the hands of anyone outside the family.
That’s right, Mr. Alden. Without the Kansas rivalry, your school is just like that ugly light fixture waiting out its days in a pawnshop, for Arkansas is no more interested in a “Border Showdown” than Canada is. And Kentucky, like everyone else, could not recall the name of your current basketball coach as of press time and, like everyone else, doesn’t care enough to Google it.
But, my dear Missouri, we, your sparring partner since that time you tried to get us to become a slave state, gave you purpose, as evidenced by your tendency to cheer against us more often than for yourselves. You might be curmudgeons, but you were OUR curmudgeons. And nobody will ever loathe you like we did.
On that note, so long to the century-long banter about our Final Fours and your renamed arenas; farewell to 100 years of friendly wagers, even when they resulted in our family photo of ’07, head-to-toe in Mizzou gear, after a KU loss at Arrowhead. Goodbye neighbors, and good luck in your new home somewhere between the Crimson Tide and Kentucky blue.
And to the innocent children reading this? Do us old-timers a favor and, as you pass down stories from your youth to your grandkids, be sure to tell them about the glory days when fan rivalry meant more than television revenue. When a fictional bird could twist a tiger’s tail, undaunted by an angry crowd chanting, “Rock Chalk, Chickenhawk!” with all of their inferiority-complex-stricken might. When “Sit down, Norm!” rattled the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse each winter.
That one, century-long shining moment, soon forever frozen in time.