Rivalry Renewed an important part of keeping the Border War alive
Scenes that, 10 years ago, would have made people on both sides of the Border War cringe, instead produced a whole lot of smiles on Saturday night at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Mo.
And before you cringe just reading that sentence, let's take a minute to consider exactly what went down.
Heading into the Rivalry Renewed MU/KU alumni charity basketball game, which KU won, 109-101, the expectations from yours truly were low. Not only was I certain that this game was not going to come close to touching the spirit of the old Border War days, I also was not expecting it to even be in the same ballpark as the KU-MU exhibition for hurricane relief last fall at Sprint Center.
And in terms of action on the court, it wasn’t.
Brandon Rush was sensational. Mario Chalmers brought his swagger and splash. And Travis Releford looked like the youngest, most in shape player on either side that he was.
But this game was not about who was in the best shape, who looked the toughest or who could defend the best and score most efficiently. This game was about memories.
Most were good. Some were bad. And I’d be lying to you if I said that players on both sides were not whining about the officials or complaining about that one call or play from all those years ago.
But there was no venom attached to either.
The momentary intensity was almost immediately broken by laughter. Even during the action. And, as much as these guys all wanted to win to give their respective fan bases a small, microscopic, free throw in the first five minutes dose of bragging rights, they all knew the reason for participating in the game in the first place was to get together for a good cause and have some fun doing it.
And there was a lot of fun to be had. Saturday night’s Rivalry Renewed game turned out to be a pretty impressive event. Former Tiger Kareem Rush, Rivalry Renewed point man Steve Gardner and the rest of the organizers and sponsors put a lot of time and effort into making it a first-class event. And it was. The venue was great. Things ran smoothly. The whole thing was as much about entertainment as it was basketball.
The players enjoyed themselves immensely and the fans — even those who entered as skeptics — walked away thinking the night was even better than they had imagined.
Don’t get me wrong, you’re always going to have the die-hards who refuse to budge. And there were a few of those in attendance at the game. They made themselves known by throwing their arms up at an official’s call or a play by their hated rivals. But, truth be told, this game would not have felt right without them.
Even though the game had a class reunion feel for the players, it still meant a lot to the people who paid attention to it, as well.
On Twitter and various message boards after the game, KU fans puffed out their proverbial chests and boasted about how order had been restored and KU proved, yet again, that it was the superior school.
Had the Tigers won, the victory, no doubt, would have done enough in the eyes of Mizzou fans to erase what happened at Allen Fieldhouse in 2012 or last fall at Sprint Center.
Who cares if either side was right? All that matters is that they do it again and grow it into something even better. Consider this: Former KU great Frank Mason III, who never got to play in the rivalry, showed up on Saturday night just to watch so he could experience it for himself on some level.
Now that the first one is out of the way, it’s not hard to envision more players wanting to become involved in the future and more fans filling the stands, as well.
Someday, Gardner said, they hope to sell out Silverstein Arena, which might force them to move to Sprint Center. Hey, why not dream big? After all, the bigger this thing gets, the closer it might bring us to that real Border War feel.
The KU-MU battles that we all once knew and loved may never return. But even if they do, having Mizzou in the SEC and KU in the Big 12 forever will make it hard to create anything like we used to know.
But this rivalry and its rich and unparalleled history is too important to just let it fade away. Games like Saturday night’s play a small part in keeping it alive, and that’s a good thing, hatred and all.