LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Thank you John Brown, Bloody Bill Quantrill, Norm Stewart, Phog Allen -- and God.
If Saturday was the last Missouri-Kansas game, then it will be everlasting. YouTube, cell phone and video all will preserve the images. But there will also be memories. Good, old-fashioned remembrances that will be handed down from generation to generation. Synapses that will fire one on death beds one last time for some of the 16,300 who witnessed a classic -- and a shame.
In the 105th year of the rivalry, Missouri and Kansas played with the urgency that this was their last regular-season conference game against each other -- which was fitting. If this is truly it for the Border War, the hoarse, sweat-drenched fanatics who jammed Allen Fieldhouse will go to their graves knowing these teams never played this hard against each other.
"It's a shame that it's going to end," Kansas' Bill Self said, "but it’s definitely going to end. Playing them once a year with nothing on the line doesn't carry the same value as playing twice a year with a championship on the line."
That was the central theme Saturday with Missouri leaving for the SEC after this season. No matter what happens, it's just not going to be the same anymore. Post SEC announcement, the Kansas stance has been: "Missouri is the one leaving the conference, why should we do them any favors by playing them in the future?" Missouri's general retort: "Why are you throwing away all this tradition?"
Nothing is scheduled and may not be for a while -- if ever.
So it terms of a walk-off to the rivalry, it was David Freese in Game 6. It was Kanye dropping rhymes, then dropping the mic and walking offstage. It was a kick in the jewels to tradition.
In the 267th meeting between these two eternal rivals, KU-MU played one that could have lasted from here to eternity. In the end, it was elongated by one overtime and won by one point. Kansas, 87-86.
Missouri could have been a contendah, stealing the last Big 12 title they would ever play for and keeping it forever. Instead, Kansas clinched at least a share of the conference title for the eighth straight year. For the Tigers, SEC-ond place never felt so bad.
“That was as good as it gets,” Self said. “Plus, recruits were here so I was hamming it up too.”
Self saluted the crowd in is own walk-off [the court]. They did their part raising the decibel level somewhere between 747 takeoff and Who concert. Jayhawkers couldn’t have stood for Missouri winning its final game in Lawrence. One woman sprinted down an aisle in the final seconds with a sign stating: "Missouri Forfeits A Century-Old Tradition. Kansas Wins."
For now. Yes, the series is over but with an asterisk. We should all root for a rubber match in next month's Big 12 tournament. That would probably be in the championship game. Talk about walk offs.
They're both good enough that a fourth meeting in the NCAA tournament is not out of the question.
"I wouldn’t have a problem playing them again," Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor. "Sign me up."
But the series is definitely over in Lawrence which already begs the question: How long will all this be remembered? Just recall how the rivalry started, amid the bloodshed of the Civil War.
There was a fan dressed up as John Brown, the revolutionary abolitionist. NCAA national championship trophy in one hand, 2008 Orange Bowl trophy in the other. Noted pro-slave terrorist Quantrill and his raiders -- thankfully not portrayed on Saturday -- burned Lawrence to the ground 160 years ago. Of the four persons listed in the lede of this blog -- both real and basketball Border War participants -- only one is still alive.
And good, old Norm, bless is heart, just turned 77.
So roll over Phog Allen, tell Bill Self the news.
It wasn't just the best game of the college basketball season, it was arguably the best of those 105 years. Missouri was up 19 in the second half. The last time Missouri led at Kansas by 19 was the Paleozic Era, or at least 1999. That was the last the Tigers won here.
Kansas made less than half its free throws in the first half which had to delight the Missouri fan at the top of Section 15. Each time a Jayhawk would go to the line he'd scream "S-E-C." Kansas fans were beside themselves. Amid the silence providing their beloved Jayhawks with the needed concentration, they couldn't respond.
It was the perfect strategy until Kansas made everything, scoring 55 in the second half and overtime.
Kansas' Thomas Robinson ran into foul trouble, then played himself back into the national player of the year conversation with 28 points and 12 rebounds. If T-Rob does nothing else the rest of his career, they will commission paintings of his swat of Phil Pressey’s driving layup as time expired in regulation.
The ball landed somewhere east of here in DeSoto, Kan. OK, that was hyperbole. The painting, though, was actually the real deal. There was an artist in a corner of the old gym going Leroy Neiman on a canvas as the game went on.
"Playing Missouri, unfortunately, does mean something," Self admitted. "It means something to me. I was at Illinois and coached against Missouri when I was there. I hated nothing more than losing to Missouri."
That hate may never be felt on the court again. Kansas will continue to be a national power. Missouri basketball will fit nicely into the SEC. But now it’s over, at least in Lawrence. We'll just have to remember Saturday being the best.
"I read an article … it said pretty much how I feel. It's not the same," Self said. "Missouri has got to market their future. We're their past.
"[But] for it to end like this is pretty cool."