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This is supposed to be a column that defines the Missouri-Kansas rivalry. Good luck with that.
The best way to find out about this thing might be to head down to the Old Market this weekend and keep your eyes and ears open. The Jayhawks and Tigers are bringing their 100-year war to our burg, and you should ask them nicely not to burn down our city.
That should give you a hint.
We could turn Dodge Street into State Line Road for the weekend, and put each school on one side of the street. Let them cross at their own risk. While Nebraska fans drive through.
Here's another thought. MU and KU waged two classic battles this year, each winning on its home court. Both sides wanted a rubber match but didn't get one. Earlier this year, North Carolina and Michigan State played a game on an aircraft carrier in San Diego. Let's put Mizzou and the Beakers on a giant barge in the Missouri River and let them go at it. Loser has to swim to shore. If both teams don't try to drown each other first.
Of course, I could tell you a few stories. You thought the KU-MU scrum at Allen Fieldhouse a few weeks ago was intense? Nah. That was a tea party. It's not a Tiger-Jayhawk shindig until punches are thrown or typewriters are injured.
My first KU-MU experience came in 1974, at Allen. I can't tell you who won (likely KU, a Final Four team that year). But I still remember the image of Tom Kivisto and Jim Kennedy throwing haymakers at each other and then dragging their fight into the tunnel and out to the concourse.
A few years later, at the Big Eight Holiday tournament championship game between KU and MU at Kemper Arena, it was so intense most of the crowd stood throughout the scrum. Tiger forward Kim Anderson went for a loose ball at midcourt.
He high-jumped the scorer's table and kicked over three typewriters while sports writers headed for cover. In the next day's Kansas City Star, columnist Dick Mackey's lead graph was "@#%$?K#!!!."
That phrase says it all about Missouri and Kansas.
So did former Kansas football coach Pepper Rodgers. Long ago, after Missouri coach Dan Devine punched in a late touchdown in a Tiger blowout win, Rodgers headed for the locker room without shaking hands. When Devine waved to him, Rodgers gave him half of the peace sign.
Nobody could quite put the relationship into words like legendary Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart. One year in the mid 1980s, after Missouri beat Oklahoma to help Kansas' stature atop the Big Eight, Stewart cracked, "It's like helping the devil."
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Rivalries are about different things. Pride. Jealousy. Territory. Trophies. Mizzou and KU found its roots in the Civil War. Stewart sometimes gave the impression he saw himself as a modern-day William Quantrill, the confederate guerilla from Missouri who raided Lawrence, Kan., in 1863. Sometimes, before Missouri would go to play at Allen Fieldhouse, Stewart would gather his team and tell them the story of Quantrill's bloody raid on Lawrence, more than 100 years earlier.
I can still hear the passion in the voice of Phil Gottschalk, the late wire editor at the Columbia Tribune and a Civil War historian (and father of former World-Herald publisher John Gottschalk). One year on the way to cover a Missouri football game at KU, I stopped by the Tribune to pick up a couple of writers. Phil Gottschalk cornered us and said, before we left, he needed to tell us some Civil War stories about the Tigers and Jayhawkers.
Mizzou people took this stuff pretty serious. Kansas? I always wondered.
During my 10 years covering the Big Eight at the Kansas City Star, I spent as much time in Lawrence as Columbia. And I always got the impression that the rivalry wasn't as big to the KU types. Maybe they were too button-down to admit it. And maybe they had the upper hand. KU had Allen Fieldhouse and Final Four banners. Missouri did not. I always felt like that gave MU extra motivation.
But lately, Kansas has shown it cares a lot about the rivalry. In doing so, the Jayhawks have provided the essence of what this rivalry is all about.
In case you didn't hear the "S-E-C" chants at the Sprint Center last Saturday, Missouri is leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. Some Tigers have put it in the face of their crimson and blue friends. We're outta here. You have to stay in the Big 12.
But hey, we'd love to keep playing you.
Kansas' response: when Faurot Field freezes over.
It's a crying shame, and, on one level, makes no sense. Here is Kansas, which prides itself on being about tradition and history, saying it's willing to cut the ties to a rivalry over a century old, just because MU is leaving the conference.
Shouldn't a rivalry this old, this storied, this good, live forever no matter what league the combatants live in? Isn't this what sports are all about?
Are the Jayhawks that jealous that Missouri is getting out of the Big 12? I think so, though Bill Self and Co. won't admit it.
Most likely, though, what Kansas is doing is offering a window into the soul of this rivalry.
Would Ohio State and Michigan stop playing if one joined another league? Army and Navy? Auburn and Alabama? Oklahoma and Texas used to take time from different league races to brawl once a year.
But sometimes rivalries are more important than tradition, bigger than the history they create.
Kansas-Missouri is an old-gold standard rivalry, and that's the reason it should keep going.
It's also the reason it has to end.
Take care this weekend, Omaha. Watch out for those half peace signs.
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