Old rivalries die hard. Old rivalries are so ingrained into the fabric of some teams’ psyches that even if two teams no longer play each other, the rivalry continues. Old, dormant rivalries die hard.
From the perspective of the Missouri fan, Kansas is being petty for no longer playing the Tigers. More specifically, Bill Self is being petty for objecting to continue the rivalry on the court.
Kansas and Self contend that Missouri ended the rivalry when it accepted the invitation to join the SEC. Missouri left Kansas behind and Self has no intention of letting the programs cuddle. But Self’s Jayhawks continue to be cozy with other former Big 12 members, Nebraska and Colorado.
Kansas fans object to playing Missouri again based on the scorned lover mentality along with the “what’s in it for me” mentality. I mean, seriously, if you’re Kansas, what is in it for you? Missouri just finished up its worse three year period in the history of the program. Why should Kansas feel obligated to schedule another patsy on it schedule?
Now, from the perspective of Missouri, leaving the Big 12 was never anything personal against Kansas. It was just business as they say. The Big 12 was on shaky ground and Missouri jumped at the opportunity to be in a stable conference. Just as Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M did.
But none of this killed the rivalry. Far from it. All of this has only enflamed the rivalry.
As Missouri once again sat home in March, the program and fans were the recipients of some overwhelming superb news. Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 rated recruit in the class of 2017, de-committed from Washington and pledged to play for Cuonzo Martin and the Tigers. Porter Jr. is going home.
[Merenbloom: What Mizzou Assistant Coach Michael Porter Sr. Is All About – Family Values and Humility]
With heads held high and chests puffed out, Missouri fans took to social media to rub Kansas’ nose in it. Look, I get it. Missouri fans haven’t had much to cheer about the last three years and the absence of elite level talent had a lot to do with the misfortune of Kim Anderson’s three year record. Tiger fans have a right to be giddy, to be proud, and to feel like kings and queens of the basketball world. But Tiger Nation needs to slow its roll and put Porter Jr. in perspective before throwing his commitment in the faces of Kansas fans. Kansas gets a lot of players that are similar to Porter Jr. I mean, A LOT of players that are elite.
As Tiger fans were lighting their morning-after cigarettes and basking in the afterglow of signing Porter Jr., Kansas was playing Oregon in the Elite 8. In what amounted to a home game for Kansas, Oregon strolled into the Sprint Center and smacked Kansas in the mouth for 40 minutes. There was no group of fans happier to see this than the Missouri fans sitting at home. I’ll admit it. I was one of those Tiger fans feeling pretty good as I sat on the couch next to my Jayhawk rooting wife. Yea, yea, yea. Dogs and cats living together and all that.
I adore my Tigers. And because of that, I could never root for Kansas. But here’s the thing. As I get older and as I blog from my basement, I have gained perspective. It’s not quite unbiased perspective, but it’s perspective none-the-less.
As Dana Altman and Oregon ride into the Final Four, Missouri fans can’t help but point and laugh at Self. He choked again they all say. Self’s record in the Elite 8 at Kansas is 2-5. He can’t win when it matters most Tiger fans say.
Now for perspective.
Self has been to two Final Fours with Kansas. Self has won a championship with Kansas. What Missouri fan wouldn’t be ecstatic if all of that was on the resume of Missouri basketball?
Old school Missouri fans hold Norm Stewart in god like status. Stewart won 634 games as the coach of his alma mater. But guess what? Stewart never reached the national championship game. Stewart never reached the Final Four. And Stewart, in his 32 years as the Missouri coach, reached the Elite 8 once.
So if you’re a Missouri fan who is claiming that Self under achieves and is a choke artist just spare me. I don’t want to hear it from you. Because, as Missouri fans, you should all know better. A coach isn’t completely defined in March. At least not Stewart.
But after saying all of that, I’ll say this; I get it.
I get it because Missouri versus Kansas is still a rivalry. And it may be one of, if not the best, rivalries in all of college basketball. I mean the teams no longer play each other and the fans are still as passionate as ever with each other.
As for Missouri, Kansas, and Self? You’ll all play each other again. Missouri will find its way back to the tournament and when it does, the tournament committee will place the teams in the same bracket. The tournament is a made for television event and Missouri playing Kansas will be must-see TV. And when this happens, it will be wonderful. The level of loathing and hate will make everything right again in the world of college basketball.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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