A Sports Lament

Note: If you don't like sports, you should probably not spend your time reading this post. As the rest of the world focuses its sports attention on the World Cup (sorry, I just can't get into it... blame my inexplicably anti-soccer American upbringing), a Midwestern-born-and-bred sports fan like me is lamenting what appears to be the swift and complete dissolution of the once mighty Big 12 conference. For someone like me, who grew up in the heart of Big 12 country and at various times rooted for teams like Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas, it's sad to see everything changing. It's sad to see old rivalries like Colorado-Nebraska thrown to the wind in the span of 2 days (with Colorado going west to join the Pac-10 and Nebraska joining the Big-10). It's sad to see money/TV-deals/power-play motivations taking precedence over the formerly innocent/tradition-steeped ethos of loyalty-rivalry-fight song collegiate athletics.

Most of all, it's sad to see a powerhouse school like Kansas—with one of the best basketball programs in the nation—get left behind and (possibly) forced to join a demoralizing mid-major, non-BCS conference. But basketball sadly matters little in the high-stakes corporate landscape of contemporary college sports. It's all about football.

All of this feels a little bit like going back to the small Oklahoma town where I was born and wondering why so many of my old favorite restaurants had been boarded up or bulldozed to make room for a new Walgreen's or Applebees. It's like that feeling of coming home after many years away, expecting everything to be the same but finding it drastically changed and unknown.

The (usually sad) reality is that things change. I don't know why it continues to surprise us that alliances/conferences/traditions don't last forever.

But as inescapable as change is, so too is that deep, nostalgia-drenched longing for the way things were. Back in the days when people like Tiger Woods were heroes and baseball had a purity to it. Back when the summer meant community festivals like Rooster Days or Old Shawnee Days, cul-de-sac barbecues, and summer reading programs at the local library. Oh, the good ole days. We always look back on the joys of the past with rose-colored glasses, bestowing old memories with perhaps undue sublimity.

But skewed visions of the past notwithstanding, I think it's good and right to lament the endings of things. The dissolution of the Big 12 was inevitable. All things fall apart sooner or later. I guess it just caught many of us by surprise that—in the span of a week—it all unraveled so quickly and unexpectedly. But so it goes in life. Impermanence is a constant.