Today’s “Border Showdown” between the Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks at Arrowhead Stadium marked the 119th matchup between the two programs – the second longest rivalry in all of college football. I was fortunate to attend today’s installment as well as the 116th episode when #3 Missouri withstood a late push from #2 Kansas to win a game dripping with national title implications. My how things have changed since the “Armageddon at Arrowhead” game electrified over 80,000 fans.
On November 24, 2007, my father and I drove two hours to the Kansas state capitol of Topeka to eagerly pay $200 a piece for what we believed to be the last remaining tickets available to the biggest game Kansas City had witnessed in decades. This was my first and only visit with the College GameDay crew, and to this day, was the best sports atmosphere I have ever been a part of (and I’ve been to World Cup matches, playoff games, and even the Orange Bowl in Miami later that year).
Today, my father and I took a back road into Arrowhead and made it through the parking line in 16 seconds (only because the attendant had to make change). We walked up to the gate twenty minutes before kickoff and purchased a pair of half-price tickets on the sideline in the 15th row. We then took in a 35-7 rout with an announced crowd of just over 55,000 (70% capacity).
The transitioning at Kansas and the economic recession certainly contributed to the freefall this game is experiencing, but the people of Kansas City should do their best to fill the stands again next year. The game has become an economic boon for both of the schools and the city itself. The history behind this tradition is one of the few in college sports worthy of our attention. While the name may have changed from the Border War to Border Showdown for political correctness, the roots of Kansas and Missouri are traced all the way back to the Civil War. This is a special rivalry that, with continued support, has a chance to elevate the sports culture (and subsequent economic impact) of the region.