The Missouri-Kansas basketball rivalry — Border Showdown in your programs, Border War in our hearts — needs to re-start permanently.
That rivalry died in 2012, when Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC and Kansas decided not to continue the series in either basketball or football. Make no mistake, there is one person behind this border wall. It’s the same person who deserves all the credit in the world for a cold re-opening of the series on Sunday.
Bill Self, the ball is in your court.
The reasons for the exhibition Sunday were altruistic, of course. The Showdown for Relief was conceived by Self in order to raise funds for hurricane relief, after storms ravaged Houston, Puerto Rico and the Gulf Coast over the last few months. It was a great idea — but, of course, in true rivalry fashion, word of the game leaked from the Missouri side of State Line Rd., stealing Self’s thunder.
Much to his chagrin.
So, yeah, not a great way to thaw icy relations between the two programs. Regardless, if Self wants to continue to be a humanitarian coach, why not continue the series in that fashion? One scheduled basketball game between Missouri and Kansas each year, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, all proceeds going to charity.
Hate for a good cause.
All the finger pointing and posturing when Missouri left the SEC falls on deaf ears now. No matter what fans of both schools say, this basketball rivalry matters to them. That showed even before Sunday, when tickets for the game sold out in minutes, and then the ones that reached the secondary market went for two or three or four times face value. Ah, but this is only an exhibition game.
It would be great if the reason for interest in this game — the sell-out crowd, the pay-per-view sales — was because of charity. But it isn’t. It’s because the majority of both fanbases want this rivalry started again. There’s a vocal and powerful minority, mainly on the Kansas side, that still has hurt feelings about how things ended. But that silent majority spoke with their wallets and eyeballs and presence on Sunday.
The players spoke, too. Missouri players were more vocal before the game about how much it meant to the program, but Kansas players spoke with their play. This was no ordinary exhibition. It was even obvious after the game in post-game press conference, when Bill Self admitted that he “had butterflies” before the game.
But despite that, Self seemed shocked that the earliest questions volleyed his way concerned the rivalry.
“We’re going to do what’s best for us,” Self said, adding it won’t be about Missouri or Missouri fans. “If it’s best for us to play ’em, we’ll play ’em.”
“Of course you want to play the game,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Of course we’d love to play.
“But both sides have to agree on it.”
Self said he’s just a representative of the University of Kansas, a spokesperson, and he’s relaying the company line. But that’s bogus. If Bill Self wants to play the University of Missouri, then the Jayhawks will play the University of Missouri.
There’s no doubt that what Self said about some Kansas fans being mad about this exhibition game — before the charitable backbone was announced — is true. There are certainly Missouri fans that feel the exact same way. But look at the Sprint Center on a Sunday afternoon in October. Restarting the rivalry isn’t charity for Missouri. It wouldn’t be some chivalrous gesture from Self, overlooking his program’s needs to help a rival get exposure or excitement.
A Sprint Center, sold-out and split evenly between two rival fanbases, is the only thing anyone needs to point to when they explain why Bill Self should re-start the series. Do it for charity if it helps you sleep easier, Bill.
But it’s time for the Border War to begin again.