A Sports Lament

Note: If you don’t like sports, you should probably not spend your time reading this post.

As the rest of the world focuses its sports attention on the World Cup (sorry, I just can’t get into it… blame my inexplicably anti-soccer American upbringing), a Midwestern-born-and-bred sports fan like me is lamenting what appears to be the swift and complete dissolution of the once mighty Big 12 conference. For someone like me, who grew up in the heart of Big 12 country and at various times rooted for teams like Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas, it’s sad to see everything changing. It’s sad to see old rivalries like Colorado-Nebraska thrown to the wind in the span of 2 days (with Colorado going west to join the Pac-10 and Nebraska joining the Big-10). It’s sad to see money/TV-deals/power-play motivations taking precedence over the formerly innocent/tradition-steeped ethos of loyalty-rivalry-fight song collegiate athletics.

Most of all, it’s sad to see a powerhouse school like Kansas–with one of the best basketball programs in the nation–get left behind and (possibly) forced to join a demoralizing mid-major, non-BCS conference. But basketball sadly matters little in the high-stakes corporate landscape of contemporary college sports. It’s all about football.

All of this feels a little bit like going back to the small Oklahoma town where I was born and wondering why so many of my old favorite restaurants had been boarded up or bulldozed to make room for a new Walgreen’s or Applebees. It’s like that feeling of coming home after many years away, expecting everything to be the same but finding it drastically changed and unknown.

The (usually sad) reality is that things change. I don’t know why it continues to surprise us that alliances/conferences/traditions don’t last forever.

But as inescapable as change is, so too is that deep, nostalgia-drenched longing for the way things were. Back in the days when people like Tiger Woods were heroes and baseball had a purity to it. Back when the summer meant community festivals like Rooster Days or Old Shawnee Days, cul-de-sac barbecues, and summer reading programs at the local library. Oh, the good ole days. We always look back on the joys of the past with rose-colored glasses, bestowing old memories with perhaps undue sublimity.

But skewed visions of the past notwithstanding, I think it’s good and right to lament the endings of things. The dissolution of the Big 12 was inevitable. All things fall apart sooner or later. I guess it just caught many of us by surprise that–in the span of a week–it all unraveled so quickly and unexpectedly. But so it goes in life. Impermanence is a constant.

6 responses to “A Sports Lament

  1. I am, by no means, a big sports fan. I enjoy watching the occasional game, and I like the spectacle of the bowl games, but that’s about it. However, I’ve lived in Nebraska my whole life, and here, college football is basically part of your DNA whether you like it or not — you just can’t avoid it. Therefore, I am a little sad at the thought of Nebraska’s classic rivalries — Kansas, Colorado — disappearing. I’m sure good will come out of the transition to the Big 10, but you never like seeing traditions like Nebraska vs. Kansas fade away.

  2. I’m a rabid KU basketball fan by upbringing, and K-State is my alma mater, so I cheer for my Wildcats, too. I have a lot of friends who attended Nebraska, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the Huskers. All that to say, I’m a big fan of the Big 12. And after moving out here to Colorado Springs, I’ve become an even bigger fan of the Big 12 — primarily because this place is being colonized by Southerners who are entirely too proud of the SEC. … Yes, we know the SEC is the top football conference. But enough already. … Sorry, I digress.

    All that to say, this week has been rough for me. The Big 12, as cute as it may sound, is part of my identity. Back in junior high, I once did a Big 8-themed art project (the name of the conference before those Texas school joined the conference). I’ve had the same feeling this week, although to an even greater degree, as I did when I heard Paul Harvey had died: The feeling that comes from realizing a part of your childhood is simply no longer, that things will never be the same.

    Most of all, I hate that, as you noted, the conference is being destroyed by the love of money. What of tradition? I’m irked that a few people — the people-in-charge at Texas, the commissioner of the Big 10, etc — can, at their whim, unravel years of tradition. And all for money. I hate it.

    Anyway, there’s my lament for the week.

    Thanks, Brett, for putting words to my angst. :)

    • Great thoughts Matthew. I’m so glad it looks like the Big 12 is staying in tact (at least as 10 teams). Texas came through!

  3. Perhaps all this is a reason to get into the World Cup? No TV timeouts!

  4. This whole thing has left a sour taste in my mouth.  You’ve articulated well some of my thoughts on the topic. I’ve always had Big 12 pride in post season games, so although they were rivals, all of the teams have a place in my heart. Let alone the tradition. I feel similar to Matthew. Growing up Big 12, I feel like someone took away that beloved teddy bear that I got for Christmas when I was two. I feel like KU is that kid that gets picked last on the playground. It’s going to take a while for me to have the same enthusiasm for college sports. I feel like the Big 12 blindsided me with a breakup, and I’m not ready to move on yet. So here i sit, sad and nostalgic.

  5. College sports lost it’s “innocence” a LONG time ago. The Big 12 is only 14 years old, and the only reason it came into existence was so the Big 8 could add some more big name schools and $$$.

    What I’d really like to see is the athletes get a piece of the loads of cash the universities make off of them. This might also take away the temptation for illegal under the table deals and NCAA violations (see USC a few days ago)

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