School Loyalty or State Pride?
Kansas is an exciting state for a college sports fan during the fall, winter and spring seasons. Sports can bring people together, transcend cultures and boundaries, and bring pride to a state. The only problem, however, is that out of the three Division one schools in our state, each dominates a different sport, which creates a dilemma. Should Kansans cheer for Wildcat football, Jayhawk basketball and Shocker baseball when each team is facing non-Kansas competition? Or, should they hope the other team fails miserably?
Personally, I would have to go with the first train of thought. Although I might not be an expert on Kansas, I have an admiration for the state beyond that of many natives I have met in the Sunflower State.
Curiosity and interest in state history inspired me to travel to Abilene, La Cygne and Westmoreland among other places. Heck, I even studied our great state enough to get an "A" in my Kansas History course this past semester.
In the last chapter of my Kansas history textbook was a blurb about sports and its influence on the state of Kansas. I am a University of Kansas student and sports fan who would never root against my future alma mater. But I don't think it should ruffle any feathers when I choose to root for Kansas State against Oklahoma or Wichita State against Drake. Three strong sports programs bring positive attention to a state that is wrongly stereotyped as Dorothy and Toto's homeland. (Sorry, Wonderful World of Oz Theme Park developers).
Not only are these three programs successful, but they also have likeable characteristics.They are all closer to powerhouses than they are to doormats.
Bill Snyder is the consummate football coach who has turned one of the nation's worst programs into a top-10 contender each year. I find it inspirational to root for an underdog who has some hope to knock off big names in college football. However, you won't find me wearing any purple when the Wildcats play KU. Kansas basketball has one of the best traditions in the nation, and if you don't get Jayhawk fever after one trip to Allen Field House, you might want to check your pulse. Roy Williams is a class act, and his decision to remain in Lawrence last summer was a boost for the entire state.
I don't know as much about the Wichita State baseball program as I do about the two success stories in Lawrence and Manhattan.The Shockers might have dropped off a little with its youthful roster the past couple of seasons, but coach Gene Stephenson has produced a solid program in a sport usually dominated by the warm- weather schools of Florida, Louisiana and Texas. During a weeknight baseball contest between the Jayhawks and Shockers in Lawrence last April the WSU faithful filled half of KU's Hoglund Ballpark. With the exception of the Shockers in 1993 and the Jayhawks back in 1988, all three teams have yet to overcome the proverbial hump in recent years. That makes it exciting that these programs are right in your back yard and they are just a jump shot, touchdown pass or knuckleball away from another national title.
Recently, I spent my vacation in the heart of Wildcat territory, Pottawatomie and Riley counties, and I was surprised to find a large amount of Jaycats, people who like to see both of the Sunflower State's Big 12 entries succeed. However, I also met a Kansas State student who pondered transferring to Kansas University for an academic reason. Just for thinking about it, four of her uncles drove to the Little Apple from three different states to talk her out of it. Rivalries run deep in the Sunflower State.
When Kansas played Kansas State in the 1988 round of the NCAA tournament basketball in Pontiac, Mich., of all places, it was cool to be a Jaycat in the games leading up to the Motor City sunflower showdown. Fans cheered for both teams to get there and then rooted like heck when they faced each other.
Rivalries will continue, and they are a healthy part of sports. But I like to compare it to a family thing: You might get in a fight with your brother, but when the bully down the street picks a fight with him, with whom are you going to side? That is my theory of why we should be proud of all Kansas sports teams. You might think that I'm crazy for cheering for a hated rival when they face out of state opponents and you might be right. Regardless, I have two words for Kansas sports fans beat Mizzou.