MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™ 2011: Awkwardness And Anonymous Sources

If tomorrow's Missouri-Kansas State game were the final, that would be a damn shame. But both fanbases would get over it pretty quickly.

Consider this your lengthy, and final, look at conference realignment, either for the weekend, or until something wild happens. And since I said this, expect something wild to happen this very afternoon.

I'll admit it: I occasionally enjoy the Big Bang Theory. Not for very long, mind you. But enough. It's for two characters, really: Raj and Penny. Raj because he is one of the most realistic characters on television: bitter, awkward, bitter about being awkward, sarcastic and earnest, all at once. He's given silly, throwaway one-liners a good portion of the time, which does not entertain me at all, but the faces he makes and his general body language remind me of, well, me in junior high (and probably more of high school than I am willing to admit). As for the Penny character ... well, I enjoy the Penny character because I knew Penny's in high school and college. She, too, isn't exactly given a lot to work with, but the character type is relatively familiar to me. The main characters, and the general premise, are caricatures of embarrassing caricatures, and they're the reason why I almost never watch an entire episode in one sitting, but now that it's on syndication, I find myself watching a segment here and there just because of Raj and Penny.

Admitting that I even somewhat enjoy this show is a big deal for one main reason: the show is, for all intents and purposes, what Spencer Hall and others have suggested: nerd blackface. It is what 'normal' people think smart people are supposed to be like. As a full-time nerd of sorts, I am not supposed to like this sort of show because it just reinforces stupid stereotypes. (Then again, I did know a guy in college who could have been the inspiration for Sheldon; I hated that guy. Maybe that is why I don't enjoy the show enough to watch a full episode.) In the seconds at a time in which I find myself enjoying the show, I enjoy it for my own reasons.

This odd example came into my head a couple of nights ago because of two things: 1) I was arguing with a friend of mine who despises the level to which business interests have taken over college sports, and 2) Big Bang Theory was on in the background at the time. He hates that Mizzou is, in his mind, overreacting to the irrational immediacy of what we've long called MIZZOUEXPANSIONAPALOOZA™, and he thinks a move to the SEC would severely damage a lot of the traditions we proclaim to love about college sports.

He is, in effect, not wrong. Money IS playing a larger and larger role in college sports, to the point that, as we have seen in the last couple of years, decisions are made based on it (and the anger sometimes associated with it) instead of long-term attachments and rivalries. We cast blame on others, and after Tuesday's Curators meeting, we have seen an uptick of blame cast at us. About 15 months ago, Nebraska decided to leave rivals they had played for 100 years because of a combination of the money offered by the Big Ten and the effect that money (and a bit of hubris from many different parties) has had on the Big 12. It feels weird not playing them this fall, but in the end, a) a large portion of us wanted to leave, too, and b) it only feels so weird. In the end, Mizzou is playing six home games and six road games, and even if one of them isn't against Nebraska, there are still a lot of interesting and entertaining games we both have watched and look forward to watching.

If Missouri does, in fact, leave for the SEC -- if Wednesday night's "anonymous" source doesn't sour the relationship (and I doubt it will), and if eventually Mike Slive gets enough votes from current SEC members (I assume he will) -- then it will be the same phenomenon. First of all, fans of Big 12 rivals -- schools which would do exactly what Missouri is doing now if they had been dealt a slightly more friendly geographic hand -- will rage against Missouri for turning its backs on tradition; if the Kansas rivalry ends, Mizzou will get blamed for that, even if Kansas would have also left if given the opportunity. That's just the way it is. The tradition we've come to know will disintegrate, and it will feel a bit off-putting...

...and then we'll look at the schedule. It will possibly include a trip to Baton Rouge, maybe a trip to Knoxville or Athens, maybe home games versus Arkansas and Alabama. We will mourn lost tradition, but we will be all sorts of anxious and excited about the opportunities facing us with the new slate. For the years to come, new traditions and new rivalries will form. Maybe Mizzou would succeed at the same level to which they have become accustomed in the Big 12, maybe the program would completely fall apart, and maybe Mizzou would become a damn national power. We don't really know. But we'll be excited to find out.

Meanwhile, Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, etc., would probably get to know some new rivals, too -- TCU, maybe Louisville, or West Virginia, or Cincinnati, or (uh) Tulane. Virtually immediately, they would take a look at their own schedules and forget that Missouri should be there. That's just the way it is. We are principled, and we love tradition, but we are also distracted by shiny objects, and we would fall in love with new traditions rather quickly.

(Our friend TB also made a good point in the same thread: this could indeed do some damage to the dynamic in Kansas City. I cannot address that because I don't live there, and because any impact is completely unknown. But I understand that this is an issue, too, and whatever the impact, it might not just naturally rebound over time.)

The point of the Big Bang reference up top is simple: yes, money is playing a larger and larger role in college sports, and yes, between business interests and off-the-field issues, we could allow it to sour us toward college football and college athletics in general. But you have to enjoy things for your own reasons, not what they represent for society as a whole. I could choose not to enjoy certain television shows or movies because it reflects poorly on me in an extremely roundabout way, or because the lead actor is a jackass, or because I hate one of the producers' political viewpoints. I could choose not to enjoy Major League Baseball because the owners are greedy bastards. I could choose not to love college football because of way money is disrupting traditions. I could choose not to enjoy certain bands because their record companies are corrupt. But there are reasons to dislike almost everything enjoyable in life. If you enjoy something, and if you can look yourself in the mirror for enjoying it, then let yourself enjoy it.

And if you don't really enjoy it, then don't force it. If leaving the Big 12 would decrease your love for Missouri, then it is within your rights to stop attending games or donating. Missouri is making the choices it is making because the higher-ups think it will be better for the university and the athletic department as a whole. But that doesn't mean everybody has to agree.

(Obviously there are limits to everything; you probably shouldn't choose to partake in certain hardcore pornography or more dangerous forms of entertainment and write it off as "I choose to partake because I enjoy it, and I'm not going to let society stand in my way." You could, mind you, but that doesn't mean you should.)

Despite some corruption and business issues, I still enjoy college athletics -- love college athletics, actually -- and while I can say without certainty that leaving hundred-year conference members like Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State would make me sad in a lot of ways, I'm not so principled that I could tell you I will enjoy Mizzou events a little less if we leave them and chart a new path. I enjoy Mizzou first, and that is not dictated by who Mizzou is playing. Lord, I hope the Kansas rivalry does not end, but if it does, I will continue attending Mizzou sporting events because I love them. And soon enough, I would grow to hate other schools a healthy amount. You probably will too.

A Tense Relationship

I encourage everybody to read the comment from BOTC's Panjandrum in yesterday's BTBS post. It does a better job of describing an awkward relationship than I have been able to yet.

I guess, from my perspective, we’ve all become friends (in the strange way the Internet sports die hards define the term), and you guys are telling us that your parents are looking at a job in Alabama, and you’re stoked to go. We, on the other hand, are not going anywhere, and even if we wanted to, we can’t. So, basically, every conversation from this point forward will start from a position of hurt feelings…if that makes sense. Knowing that, I don’t think it can be anything but personal…at least until things cool down a bit.

The only analogy I had been able to come up with to date is one of two good friends going for the same big promotion, and one of them looking like he might -- MIGHT -- get it. Even if there was no back-stabbing, there is still a resulting tension from the situation. If Mizzou leaves -- and it is obviously far from a foregone conclusion -- it will be tense for a little while. But as i said up top, it would only be that way for so long. Hopefully the pleasantries between our site and BOTC would resume at a later date, though obviously if Mizzou and KSU are in different conferences, then the opportunities for interaction would be more limited.

I do, however, have problems with a different kind of tension, of course. And that is anything that results from the assumption that Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State or Baylor wouldn't be doing exactly the same thing Missouri is doing right now if given the opportunity. You can rage against Missouri's higher-ups if you want, but Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were more than ready to throw themselves toward the Pac-16 if an offer came their way, and Kansas would be the same if the Pac-12 were still an option, or if the Big East were the one looking as if it might poach the Big 12 (and not the other way around).

Missouri has been dealt a nice hand at the moment, both because of geography and timing. Geography has been discussed, but Mizzou fans should also be counting their blessings, because ... what if this whole realignment thing had been happening in 2000 or 2001 instead of 2011? The thought of Mizzou leaving for the SEC would have been simply laughable. Realignment involves more than simple football proficiency, but you do still have to meet a minimum threshold in that regard, and a decade ago, Mizzou did not.

A Reminder

For certain members of other fanbases who are laughing at the moment because, LOL, MISSOURI IS ON THE VERGE OF BEING REJECTED BY THE SEC, HAHAHAHAHA, you might want to read these two articles:

  • New York Times: SEC Presidents to Discuss Texas A&M's Admission

    The official said there was a 30 to 40 percent chance that the presidents could vote against Texas A&M’s membership.

  • Post-Dispatch: SEC says it's happy with 12 teams for now

    The statement from Dr. Bernie Machen, Chair, Southeastern Conference Presidents and Chancellors:

    "The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment. We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M."

Were the circumstances different in mid-August than they are now? Of course. The SEC didn't want any part of breaking up the Big 12, and they didn't know who Team No. 14 might be, and these were two of the primary sticking points and reasons for the "30 to 40 percent chance" that A&M would be rejected. These factors are not relevant to the Mizzou-to-SEC issue.

That said, there was a very clear time in which A&M "didn't have the votes." And then they did. Evidently one of the sticking points is that Alabama and Tennessee do not want their Third Saturday In October rivalry to end, as it would if another team joined the SEC West and Auburn moved to the East (and became Alabama's new permanent rival). If that is a primary issue, then call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that can be alleviated.

There is still an extremely clear chance that the SEC decides not to pursue Missouri. Obviously. But yesterday's "don't have the votes" articles had little relevance to the big picture. It should be seen as just as big a deal that Missouri has support from a "majority" of SEC members. Think about the math for a minute. That means at least 7 of 12 members are okay with the move; if Alabama and Tennessee are holding up the process for Third Saturday reasons (for all we know, there could be plenty of other reasons, too, but that's all we know about at the time), then fixing that issue (seemingly by putting Mizzou in the SEC East) could bring them aboard. Mizzou needs nine 'yes' votes to bring them aboard. 7 + 2 = 9.

Anonymous Sources

Want to know the identity of the catty "anonymous source" who gossiped to the AP's Alan Scher Zagier a couple of days ago? If you want to connect a couple of dots, it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume it might be a member of Missouri's "campus athletics oversight committee"; Zagier also reported on a meeting of theirs a couple of weeks ago. Just throwing that out there.

A Sample Schedule

Want to imagine what a sample SEC schedule may look like, but you don't want to jinx the hell out of the proceedings by doing it yourself? Then a) you're like me, and b) you're in luck because Anchor Of Gold has done it for you. We'll get into this more (specifically, how it really doesn't look that much more difficult than the Big 12 slate Mizzou is facing this season; consider this one more reason why being in the SEC East wouldn't be an awful idea) when we're out of the Jinx Zone.

Also: no way in HELL are we opening up Kansas City to Arkansas.

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