What began in 2002 with then Kansas Director of Athletics, Al Bohl, challenging Missouri’s Director of Athletics, Mike Alden, to an arm wrestling match at the Border War press conference in Kansas City came to a rather quiet ending with KU winning two of the three baseball games between the two rivals in Lawrence last week.
Bohl’s comedy act bombed at the press conference, and truthfully, the Border War, turned Showdown, did not play any better. The rivalry was long seated in the consciousness of the school’s fans and never needed a contrived points battle to fan the flames of hatred between the two. No one really cared that the point totals from all sports favored Missouri in all but two years. The ‘real war’ was settled on the football fields and the basketball courts.
Missouri will always be haunted by Kansas’ shocking comeback to win in Allen Fieldhouse in February in the final basketball meeting. No matter what game a Tiger fan might brag about can always be trumped by simply holding hands overhead in an ‘O’ to honor Thomas Robinson’s role in tying the game and then Tyshawn Taylor sticking the dagger deep into their soul in overtime.
The excitement over the football matchup of #1 Missouri and #2 Kansas in November of 2007 now seems almost forgotten. Perhaps neither school’s faithful truly believed either team deserved such lofty heights. Oklahoma then dominated the Tigers in the Big 12 Championship game. Shortly after, the Tigers lost another even bigger battle.
While Bohl never got the chance to arm wrestle for the sake of KU, his successor Lew Perkins did strong-arm Orange Bowl officials into taking Kansas over Missouri for the bigger BCS bowl bucks. Meanwhile, Missouri was left stewing over the slight that sent them to the lesser Cotton Bowl.
Personally, the Arrowhead game of 2008 was my favorite Border battle. In a snow storm, the magic of quarterback Todd Reesing helped him escape a frenzied rush and find Kerry Meier for the game-winning touchdown. The game played on natural turf in harsh conditions was a glorious football contest.
When Kansas still traveled to Faurot Field for football, a few games would start with a stadium filled with black and gold clad fans roaring for victory and end with dejected fans running early to the exits leaving the stadium a ghost town. This ending has that same empty feeling as Missouri runs off to the SEC simply to prove they can.