The Border War comes to a close

Other rivalries may get more publicity, but those who have lived and breathed the one between Kansas and Missouri know no series fosters more passion and rancor in its fans than the Border War. Saturday, the rivalry comes to a close - at least for now - and it deserves a more fitting conclusion than it's likely to receive.

If you're reading this, you're probably a lot like me.

Momentous sporting events help mark the passage of time in your life. If the event was big enough, it crystallizes for you. You remember every minute detail of the day it occurred – where you were, what you were wearing, who you were with.

The 2008 Border War was one of those moments for me.

I don't get to attend many football games with both my brother and my dad, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday the entire family was in town. My uncle, a fellow Kansas alum and Jayhawks die-hard – had a handful of tickets to the game, so we all planned to head out to Arrowhead Stadium.

With the snowfall coming harder and 1:50 on the clock, Missouri running back Derrick Washington burst in from six yards out, capping a 73-play scoring drive and giving the Tigers a 37-33 lead.

The pro-Kansas section within which we were seated was understandably crestfallen. Some even began to shake the hands of those around them, gathering loose belongings and heading for the exits.

Most, however, looked at the clock with thoughtful expressions.

Almost two minutes left? With Todd Reesing, Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe? That's an awful lot of time. Crazier things have happened, right?

"Lot of time left," my brother said to me, a broad smile on his face. "For this offense, two minutes is an eternity."

My dad and uncle nodded their heads in agreement. I did as well, but I didn't allow myself more than just the tiniest sliver of hope. It still seemed like such a longshot.

Every Kansas fan knows what happens next. If Todd Reesing hadn't solidified his reputation as the Harry Houdini of the gridiron, he did on the ensuing drive. He ducked and wove around defenders, finding open receivers for critical first downs and just enough yardage to keep the drive alive, as the seconds continued to tick off the clock.

We actually didn't see Meier catch the now-legendary touchdown pass on fourth down. Seated in Arrowhead's lower bowl, we saw Reesing evade pressure, step up in the pocket and loft the ball toward the endzone – and every arm in the stadium raised in anticipation, obscuring our view of the field.

Unable to see through the crowd, I put my head down and closed my eyes. The crowd reaction two seconds later told me all I needed to know, and the minutes that followed still rank as my favorite live sporting experience of all time.

My brother wrapped me in a bear hug as I did the same to my dad. My uncle was giving high-fives to anyone glancing his way. A few minutes later when the win became official and the fans filed out of the stadium en masse, the lower-level concourse filled with chants of "Kerry Meier," and the Rock Chalk Chant seemed to shake the walls.

It might sound overly dramatic to say so, but it was a magical moment. Pure magic. The very best of what college sports has to offer, and a finish worthy of the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

That rivalry is coming to an end tomorrow. At least for the foreseeable future, the 2011 iteration of the Border War between Kansas and Missouri will be the last in the series, as the Tigers prepare to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

Some members of the Missouri media would have you believe the blame for the rivalry's demise rests exclusively on the shoulders of the Kansas administration. It's not true, of course. Missouri did what they deemed best for themselves by making the decision to switch conferences. The Jayhawks now have to do the same, and for a variety of reasons – mostly competitive or financial in nature – continuing the series with the Tigers doesn't make much sense.

It's a shame the series has to go out this way – with bad blood and finger-pointing – yet oddly fitting. The national media may choose to place the spotlight on rivalries such as Michigan vs. Ohio State, Alabama vs. Auburn or Duke vs. North Carolina (on the basketball side of things). But those who have lived and breathed the Border War know no other series possesses as much history or as much outright hatred as the one between Kansas and Missouri.

Tomorrow's contest won't have the drama of years past. If initial attendance projections are accurate, it's unlikely Arrowhead Stadium will be even half full. Missouri is little more than an average team and Kansas is reeling, having dropped nine straight games. Head Coach Turner Gill's future is in Lawrence, Kan. is in question, and it doesn't seem as if either side is able to muster much interest.

The series deserves a better send-off than it's likely to receive, but that's life in the uncertain landscape of college football today.

The Border War is just one more unfortunate casualty. Top Stories