Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

February 13, 2014

Rivalries belong to the fans

When suits make decisions based on money and ego, we lose.

“Who do you hate?”

If you’ve encountered me and I’ve talked to you about having a sports background from some place I don’t know much about, and we talk long enough, I’m likely to ask you that question.

It’s a sports question, not a social or political question. It means this: Who do you burn to beat? Who do you want to play every year, and think about every day?

Monday night I had a rare college basketball night at home, so I watched Kansas at Kansas State. I love those Big 12 grudge wars. In front of a rowdy crowd that was just short of frenzied, K-State led the entire second half until Kansas finally caught up and forced overtime. The game featured stretches of crisp, smart offensive basketball, and also intense effort. Couple that with a crowd that cares and that’s all I really want.

I’d penned an email to a friend telling him all my joys of watching a big Big 12 night, and how they’re among the most special games out there because Kansas and Kansas State hate each other, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State hate each other, and everybody hates Texas. Those five teams and the rivalries within that fistful of teams elevates a big Big 12 night over almost any other. The ACC, Pac-12 and Big Ten have great teams, great rivalries and great games, but not quite the same style of crowd, the same flavor as those game nights in the western side of the Midwest.

Maybe it’s all in my imagination, but the combination of the way they play (smart AND intense, a key coupling) and the hunger from their fans makes watching those games consistently rewarding.

Point being I’d hate to lose it. Conference chaos threatened to tear the Big 12 up, and as long as conference presidents, athletic directors and college presidents are Machiavellian and short-sighted, the Big 12 will continue to be under threat.

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