For almost a decade and 1,300 commentaries you expect a consistency to my point-of-view on issues of the day. Be those issues of actual relevance …. or about sports! So it may bumfuzzle you that I strongly approve of overt passion on the matter of sports rivalries. Last weekend culminated 2008’s season-ending rivalries matches across America’s gridirons. It’s a good thing with the inevitable caveat. …. In my research I toured the main street of Lawrence KS in the midst of an apparent serial killer convention.
To all of you who sent out St Bernards and MIL (Missing Internet Legend) reports …. we spent “whatever Thanksgiving is called these days” with Missus’ clan in Kansas City. KC is a thrivin’ happenin’ kinda place but our particular temporary lodging had “network issues” so on-line access was sporadic. I decided to test my ability to go cold turkey on being on-line for a few days. There is no patch for it but I’m sure there are support groups and no doubt a new government bail-out coming for Internet-addiction.
Kansas City is one of those second-tier metro areas that many can go a lifetime without visiting and die not regretting never having done so …. how I feel about owning a boat or having sex with a domesticated farm animal. Neither are on my bucket list. Having lived in and, in hindsight enjoyed, Kansas City I always enjoy my return visits. My last three visits have all been in late November so barren prairie landscapes are the norm. This time I decided to take a day trip over to Lawrence Kansas. Partly to get away from Missus’ clan 24/7 but mainly because I felt compelled to do so. Lawrence is 25 miles West from the southern suburbs of KC metro.
My last trip to Lawrence was November 1969 with Dan Devine. Dan played Pepper Rogers and whupped the Jayhawks 60 something to 10 or so. It had changed in the ensuing 40 years but not all that much. My plan was simply to drive around willy-nilly and see what I could see. Yes I saw Allen Fieldhouse and The Pioneer Cemetary where Phogg and Dr Naismith are interred. I sat on the very bench where ORW sat with Drs Allen and Naismith’s ghosts to discuss his first “go-no go” decision. “No go” won that time as you may recall. I decided to “go”.
Other than in my “core beliefs & principles” I am amazingly tolerant of others’ opinions on what they like/don’t like. If one had a significant rite of passage in Lawrence I can imagine a passionate bonding similar to the notorious Franklin Street umbilical that so many never seem to sever. My several hours wandering about failed to generate any such appreciation. Sure, it was “Black Friday” and many Lawrencians were wherever KU people go for Thanksgiving …. Wichita or Topeka I suppose. Brrrrrr.
Lawrence’s main drag looks like the movie set for Last Picture Show or a Twilight Zone episode from the 50s. The local historical preservationists seem to have won the battle of progress versus retro. It was a gray, chilly day with some form of wintry percipitation spitting. I parked my Avis midway down the four blocks of Downtown Lawrence and commenced to meandering aimlessly. I swear I heard the Twilight Zone theme in the chilly wind. Everything was monochromatic …. five PMS shades of gray. Especially the people. I sensed I had passed thru some time warp into a newsreel of a 1930s post-depression Grapes of Wrath commercial. I started seeing Norman Bates and Jeffrey Dahlmer lookalikes. Remember Motel Hell with Rory Calhoun? I hustled back to the Avis and headed back to KC. No offense to CV McGrath and Jared Hasse but I know why Tony Bennett never sings “I Left My Heart In Lawrence Kansas“.
That night we attended a fancy soiree at Gary & Sherry Forsee’s Ward Parkway manse. Ward Parkway is KC’s Avenue of The Stars just south of “The Plaza”. “The Plaza” is KC’s Rodeo Drive or Worth Avenue. Gary is “the Erskine” of the Univ of Missouri system. As with EB, yours truly is likewise Prez Gary’s Jiminy Cricket keeping him from getting the big head. Gary surprised us with ducats “on the 50” for the next day MU v KU “Border War” @ Arrowhead. Carl Edwards’ folks were there as were assorted glitterati from KC and Mizzou. I met a real live “Provost” who admitted he has no idea what a Provost does either. He asked me if I knew NCSU’s Larry Nielson. I said “not as well as Mary Easley does“. He asked me to explain so I did; successfully kiboshing Larry’s academic career.
Exuding Southern charm and an element of out-of-towner mystery we finagled an invite to a Saturday pre-game brunch at a near-by OH MY GAWD Mansion. Kid had tagged along reluctantly but got “in to it” as the Cinderella aspect of the whole thing began to unfold.
The Arrowhead – Royals Stadium Complex is THE BEST complex of its kind on Earth. At the intersection of two Interstates, the ingress egress is as simple as any such can be. After 40 years, Royals Stadium is undergoing massive facade upfitting. Dreams of a Tampa Ray small market revival dance in their heads. Arrowhead may be as fine a venue for football viewing as is possible. Unfortunately the temp was hovering around the freezing mark and that aforementioned wintery precip was precipting. As you know, the Jayhawks pulled out a last minute victory over Chase’s Tigers. Missus was disconsolate. I, having been in Kenan a week earlier, was living proof that there IS Life After Losing To A Hated Rival.
Missouri – Kansas Rivalry is actually rooted in solid historical facts. In the 1850-60s the two states were bitterly divided over states rights / slavery issues especially along their mutual border. A bunch of “Jayhawkers” came over and pillaged Osceola MO in the late 1850s prompting the legendary William C. Quantrill to retaliate by literally burning Lawrence to the ground. Unlike kidnapping a mascot or spray painting a tunnel ….. “burning their freakin’ town to the ground” tends to REALLY create indelible dislike between rivals. The “piss’em off factor” of municipal conflagration cannot be beat.
KU and MU are the primary academic institutions in their states so athletic competition over the past 120 years has been the outlet of choice for mutual aggression. They take it pretty seriously. Unlike UNC v NCSU where the primary difference seems to be sexual preferences (Homosexuality vs Beastiality), the Kansas – Missouri folks simply hate each other A LOT. Not much obscene bloviating as much as simply “don’t like’em at all”. The Mizzou Chancellor got quite bug-eyed on the subject at that Friday night soiree. I did not see him post-game.
Unlike Butch’s “just another game …. like McNeese State“, Mizzou’s Gary Pinkel and KU’s Mark Mangino seem to have embraced the passion of their constituents on the subject. “Rivalries” are, in my opinion, the Heart & Soul of college sports. They add an extra dimension to spectatoring …. ramping up the consequences a notch or two. As with any passion …. taken to an extreme it loses any pleasure or benefit. In a confined area like “The Triangle” it can be a tad over-powering in the moment but manageable by most. The sad wretched lives of a few become more so and the sad wretched lives of their mirror images become artifically inflated with the annual results is of no matter to the rest of us.
It appears UNC will be headed to nearby BoA for bowling while TOB’s boys await administrative shuffling. Regardless of who plays who where in the next 3-4 weeks, that game in Kenan two weeks ago will linger on the tastebuds of those affected for the long winter ahead ….. sweet for the Pack ….. sour for the Heels. Such is the price of “a Rivalry”.
Lane (and the lovely Layla) Kiffin to Tennessee seems a risky gamble for the Vols. If young Lane surrounds himself with veteran college coaches including dad Monte he will greatly increase his success factor. Hopefully Monte will NOT recommend Lane ride a horse thru the UT campus.
Up in South Bend, the Domers are kidding themselves that Charlie’s OJT to be a Big Time College FB CEO will ever get ahead of the curve. His hiring was a massive mistake. His continual employment accentuates the original mistake. There is more to succeeding in a cauldron like ND than flashing signals to Tom Brady from a Foxboro sideline.
Down at Clemson, the Debo Gamble will be another one to watch. Can young Debo manage the nuts and bolts of day-to-day executive management beyond the X & Os? Odds are that’s a “No” but we shall see.
Mack & Colt lost out to the Sooners as expected. I saw zero defense from Mizzou to slow down the Sooners from a BCS date with destiny. Oh …. yes, it IS Colt’s girlfriend that looks amazingly like Tony Romo’s girl and sits next to Colt’s Daddy at UT games.
Down at Toomer’s Corner, Tommy Tubberville declined the blindfold and cigarette and is walking off into the South Alabama sunset. He is the first SEC coach not named Sylvester or Philip to be axed this year.
On matters related to Plaxico ….. Rikers Island can always use depth at wide receiver …. which may take on a whole new meaning for “Plax” really soon.
Even without my on-site presence, Butch’s Boyz AND The Bell returned triumphant from The Wally. Whewww, another close one! I hear The Wally restrooms continue to explain why its called “Wade” Stadium. Using the “Whichever one we can beat” Rule, I guess Duke is “our main rival” for another year.
“Quantrill’s Raiders” included two brothers
who gained their own infamy …. who were there?
Great Holiday book recommend …. Night of Thunder by Stephen Hunter. Available at B&N, Amazon et al. You’ll understand when you read it.
If you haven’t gotten hooked on The Mentalist …. you should. Tuesday nights.