- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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Dear Kansas people who get paid big bucks to make smart decisions,
Pardon my passion, but I just finished watching a basketball game that defined instant classic.
One overtime wasn’t enough. I wanted 12. This was the cliché game, the one no one wanted to end.
Instead, Marcus Denmon’s too-late attempted buzzer-beater falls into the archives instead of the scorebook, the end of an era that doesn’t need to end.
I’m hoping maybe you watched it, too, and you’re sitting somewhere right now reconsidering your staunch refusal to continue your series against Missouri.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. You’re angry. You feel jilted. You’re the teenage girl with the pretty party dress, the mani-pedi, updo and the date who ditched you for the rich girl in town.
Why should you be the bigger university? Why should you fix the mess Missouri created by bolting to the SEC?
All legitimate questions.
I have another one: What do you gain by discontinuing this rivalry other than a hefty plate of spite?
You get to sit around a room, raise your brandy snifters and toast your ability to stick it to those deserters. And then what?
I’ll tell you what: A great rivalry dies, a rivalry that isn’t contrived by perceived slights, petty grievances or convenient geography.
It’s steeped in history -- real history.
And it’s about to be over because one school selfishly chased the money and the other stubbornly refused to budge. Now if that isn’t the essence of sportsmanship, well, gee, I don’t know what is.
No one wins here. Not either school's fans who grew up at the knee of their grandparents, inheriting their animosity like a cleft chin, widow’s peak or some other genetic trait.
Not the players, who will tell you they like nothing more than to play in pressure-cooker environments, who live for bragging rights games and the big stage.
And not the universities who, like it or not, are married in history by this epic rivalry.
Sure, each school will move on and survive. Kansas will remain in the Big 12 and maybe turn its ire down the road to Manhattan and Kansas State. Mizzou will join the SEC and cultivate some sort of rivalry there. Probably with Arkansas.
But it won’t be the same.
I saw it firsthand. Back when, the Penn State-Pitt football game was The Game in Pennsylvania. And then the Nittany Lions left for the Big Ten, pulling up stakes on the Panthers.
Michigan and Ohio State came along as good foils, but only because both were good, not because the hatred was reciprocal. The Buckeyes hate the Wolverines and vice versa.
Penn State? Eh. Missouri fans might learn to hate, say, Kentucky. But trust me, Kentucky fans won’t deign to hate you back.
So Kansas, I urge you to bury your anger and do the right thing. Play one game a year in Kansas City. Play it on campuses. Play it wherever.
There’s not a lot out there these days to convince people that college athletics is little more than the back-stabbing antithesis of collegiality. You can change that. You can be the bigger university.
Think about that.
You can be the bigger university.
Wouldn’t that be a helluva thing to laud over your most hated rival?