The End of an Era

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a huge sports guy. Growing up, I did the required P.E. classes, participated in a few individual sports outside of school (think karate and badminton) but other than that, never took too big an interest in the activities that seemed to capture the attention of so many.

Once I graduated high school, I packed my two suitcases and crossed the Atlantic to land at the University of Missouri, home of the Mizzou Tigers.

Like most, I was drawn to the academic beauty of a college campus, savored the many late nights staying up talking with friends and basked in my new-found independence.  In my mind, this was going to end just like it does in the movies with four years of learning stored in my head and a diploma under my belt.

What I didn’t account for was athletics. With the growing love for a school you’re proud of, comes the growing dislike for anything and anyone who would say something negative about your Alma Mater. Needless to say, kU/kansas and anything related to the blue and red bird would spawn immediate reactions, most of which involved playful taunting and bashing. With this unexpected passion, I dawned my black and gold to cheer on the Tigers at sporting events I never thought I would one day be able to sit through such as football, basketball and baseball – the American trifecta of sports. My voice turned raspy after every game and my stash of ticket stubs grew with each season. I was hooked on hating the kansas Jayhawks.

Two of my favorite sports memories, one old and another recent, involve Mizzou’s biggest rival. The first is the 2007 Mizzou vs. kU football game. The Tigers were ranked #3 and the Jayhawks were coming in at #2. ESPN College Gameday was present to psych up the fans and give their take on the historic Border Showdown that was settled by our win and the first #1 ranking for the Tigers since 1960. My fingers were cold, my spirit high and my faith renewed as everyone left the stadium to newspaper boys selling copies of the local write-up that showcased a bold #1 next to the picture of QB Chase Daniel. Words could not describe how proud we were.

My second greatest sports moment took place on Saturday. Undoubtedly you’re probably aware of our decision to leave the Big 12 for the acclaimed SEC Conference, which launched unbridled criticism from our enemies across the state line. Their decision was final: they wouldn’t play us again, thus ending a 121-year-old rivalry, the second longest in the nation. This meant the most recent basketball game was going to be the one of the last chances to witness a Border Showdown. Through my good friend Carrie, I was able to snag a ticket and stood for most of the game, 20 rows up from the court.

To say the least, the atmosphere was electric. We were convinced that there was no way we were going to walk away losers. Through countless fight songs and moments of watching the game through my fingers, we rode the highs and lows of a basketball showdown. Trust me, there was a moment when the entire arena was silent for fear of distracting the Tigers that were trailing behind our opponent. A couple well-timed shots and a few minutes later, we had won. Fans streamed from the building skipping, chanting M-I-Zs and throwing high fives, elated that we closed this chapter by coming out on top.

What this long-winded essay is meant to say is that without kansas, I wouldn’t be the Mizzou fan I am today. I wouldn’t be as passionate about watch parties every Saturday and I wouldn’t engage in back-and-forth banter with anyone walking around in kansas sports gear. So while I’m sad and resentful at the enemy we all love to hate for deciding to not move forward together in coming years, I can’t help but say thank you for entertaining so many Mizzou alumni and students for so long. You bring us together and make us stronger and give us memories to recount for our children and grandchildren in years to come.

But don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change our move to the SEC for anything and you should rest assured that at the end of the day, Mizzou will move on and be all the better for it. With that, I bid you farewell kansas and hope that we do meet again someday so that our mutual hatred can be reunited on the football field. We’ll remind the country what a true rivalry is meant to be. M-I-Z!

What’s your favorite sports memory? Do you have any distinct memories associated with rivalries?

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