Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs The greatest basketball game I ever attended was the Jan. 31, 2008, showdown between Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, a late-night battle fueled by high rankings and the fire only a prime-time ESPN broadcast can provide.
My alma mater, K-State, won that night behind 25 points from he-was-great-in-college Michael Beasley, snapping a home losing streak in the intrastate series — officially titled, without my consent, the Sunflower Showdown. KU had won 24 consecutive times in Manhattan before that night.
I was there, and there aren’t words to describe how sweet it was.
There’s a three-way tie for the greatest K-State football game I ever attended, between a streak-snapping win against Nebraska in 1998, a magical late-touchdown game against the Huskers in 2000, and a conference title-winning game against No. 1 Oklahoma in 2003.
I’m now ready to admit that moments like those will be a thing of the past.
The Big 12 survived its second brush with death in as many years last week when the Southeastern Conference voted (at least for now) not to admit Texas A&M, which was chomping at the bit to give big brother Texas the ultimate middle finger by exploding the Longhorns’ conference.
But the conference and its teams can’t dodge bullets forever. The Big 12 is doomed.
Last summer’s conference crisis was trumped only by this summer’s implosion of two of college football’s most legendary programs, Ohio State and Miami.
It’s a trend that already destroyed Colorado and Nebraska, though they surely don’t realize it. Never fear, though. The rest of the sport is desperate to mirror the train-wreck decisions that led those schools from the Big 12.
There have been great K-State wins beyond the ones I listed above, some arguably greater, wins that secured bigger prizes and meant more on the national stage.
It was years of misery and failure at the hands of rivals that made those games mentioned above so incredibly sweet. Had the downs of those rivalries not been so depressing, the highs wouldn’t have felt so incredible.
I’ve been a passionate fan of college sports for each of my 29 years, and it’s been the rivalries that have made my experiences so great. Only one team each year wins the national championship, and there’s a pretty good chance, year-in, year-out, it’s not yours. Those years, you make yourself content with the passion of rivalries. Conference realignment has and will destroy that passion.
Maybe in 75 years, the Colorado-California football game will mean what the Nebraska-Colorado game did in 2010, but you’ll be dead.
Never fear, though, because the sport itself will have died long before.