While I recognize that my opinion is amongst a tiny minority, I have to say that I unequivocally despise sports rivalries. I have the distinct pleasure of holding a degree from the University of Missouri and another from the University of Kansas, two schools which anyone around here will quickly tell you are locked in a "bitter rivalry" that has lasted more than a century. Writers like Joe Posnanski, as they discuss the annual basketball game or football game where the two teams clash, love to dredge up pre-Civil War interstate politics, and talk about Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, or John Brown.
Here's the first problem: when Mizzou and Kansas play a sport against each other, people bring that Civil War stuff up like its relevant. But when jobs are poached by one state from the other, like when AMC moved its headquarters from Kansas City, Missouri to Overland Park, Kansas last year, no one said "John Brown's Holy War takes interesting twist." And Missouri's liquor laws, which are less strict than Kansas, is never accused of "raiding Kansas liquor sales like Quantrill raided Lawrence." In fact, most of the world realizes that the Civil War was over 150 years ago, and that basketball wasn't even invented until the Civil War was a generation old. All year long, people in Kansas and Missouri freely drive around Kansas City - a two-state-spanning metropolitan area - and blithely cross the state line at hundreds of points, not once noticing that they've "entered/left a slave state."
And yet, in 2005 my parents were attending the MU-KU football game in Lawrence (in Mizzou clothing) and 18-year-olds shouted at them "go back to Missouri, slavers!" as though it isn't patently absurd (and embarassing) that someone who's great-grandfather wasn't even alive yet when the Civil War ended is yelling that.
The truth is that sports needs hype. By creating a "rivalry" you generate greater fan interest. Greater fan interest equals greater fan investment (i.e. dollars). And there's the heart of the matter: people keep a rivalry alive because its a good revenue source. And so the specters of racism and human slavery are kept alive to make money.
Here's the second problem: you can't argue against these sports rivalries and be taken seriously. I can already imagine the arguments people will hedge against me: "What's wrong with being a fan of something? Don't you have a favorite band?" or "You're just bitter because you are a Mizzou fan and KU wins most of the basketball games and look how many more amazing things Kansas basketball has done than Mizzou basketball."
Nothing makes me less excited about humanity than watching people gloat about a basketball game they took no part in that was played by students at two colleges they never attended. I am not saying its wrong to be a fan of the sports team of a school you haven't attended. What I am saying is that feeling like you, a person that was neither on that team nor attended that school, should have "bragging rights" towards fans of the other school is beyond ridiculous.
While I will miss the MU vs. KU games (they are always exciting and both teams typically show up with their best effort - making the contest intense and memorable) I will not miss the "rivalry" or the "hype" that surrounds the "Border War."
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