United we stand, divided we cheer
When I was growing up, the rival sports teams were mainly teams from other states and countries. There were very few people who lived in a state that was your rival because rivalry was based on geography instead of alma mater. Colleges in my home country don't compete with each other in sports like they do here.
Because of that, it's unlikely you would run into a rival fan in your everyday activity. Obviously that's a far cry from what we have here.
Between Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, there is enough venom to inflict endless verbal abuse among these fans.
It's no secret my wife and I attended the University of Missouri. Although we have lived in Kansas for more than a decade, it's still hard to embrace that ugly bird -- I mean the Jayhawk. It's been said time can change many things, but I don't think a rivalry as deep as mine eases with time.
Although we still support our unfortunate Tigers, we have never been belligerent or obnoxious toward KU fans. One of the main reasons is because all three of our children are diehard Jayhawk fans -- even my 6-year-old, who doesn't really follow sports. She knows the Jayhawks cheer and to "boo" and "jeer" the Tigers, no matter what team they play against. My kids don't just cheer for the Jayhawks, they detest the Tigers like any true KU fan. I'm still stunned as to how they developed such a passion for the teams.
My wife and I have threatened our kids that we are going to send them to MU for college so it would be best if they started supporting their "future" college team. That has yet to prove effective. Somewhere along the way, we have failed as parents.
The recent MU/KU football game served as another opportunity for trash talking in my house. Even before game day, I had been "provoking" my kids. As usual, all three of them banded together and didn't take any of my umm ... you know.
I had planned to take my son to the game and have a good time bantering with him and the rest of the KU fans. I was able to get a press pass for this game and was very excited to watch the game with my son from the press box. Unfortunately, as I talked to a reporter friend of mine, he told me there was no cheering or showing support of any kind in the press box. There was no way my son was going to keep quiet and not cheer or jeer.
In the best interest of sportsmanship, I decided I was going to check out the press box for a half and then go down to the field to be with my son and the other rowdy fans.
The view from the press box is like what you see on a high-definition TV. The encompassing view of the stadium, with all its splendor was simply exquisite. Unfortunately, it felt like watching television with the mute button on. People whispered to one another. I saw several familiar media personalities, all busy with their note taking. Every time a big play was made, you could hear a muffled roar inside the press box. That was not the way to watch a rival game.
After the half, I made my way down to the stands, and instantly, I could feel the atmosphere more electric. The cheers and jeers were more vivid. As soon as I got to the seats with my son, I was greeted by his sheepish smile. His friend, however, was less inconspicuous. Before I could sit, he was already pointing out the score.
By then I had donned my MU shirt that I kept under wraps when I was in the press box. I was a true fan, not ashamed even in the face of "disaster."
The other KU fans around me were trying their best not to hurl any kind of insults at me. They were classy enough to sarcastically pay compliments to my team. When the game ended with MU losing, and as we made our way out, I heard empathy from fellow MU fans leaving the stadium. My son and his friends were cheering and having a good time and I knew I still had to face my other kids at home for more abuse.
It's been hard for MU fans lately, having to endure a bad spell in sports. Fortunately for me, my wife -- my confidant, my support, my true love and my fellow Tiger fan -- will always stand and cheer with me, even against my own kids.