Posted: 10:24 a.m. Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Michael Atchison
It was a fantasy grafted onto a tragedy. Forget how and why we got there, just acknowledge the sadness that accompanies the death of a pure and perfect hatred.
Missouri vs. Kansas in basketball. A series that accounted for so many of the moments on this list, from a bleacher-clearing brawl to the giant granite heads of Coward, Tate, Gardner and Taylor. Over. Done. Dead.
But just before it died, it rallied, conjuring echoes that resounded through Rothwell Gymnasium, Brewer Fieldhouse and the Hearnes Center for a full century, as if to say "if you want to know what a rivalry is, this is it."
The last time the game was played in Columbia, we got the game we deserved.
And we shared it with the country. ESPN rolled into town for Gameday and then transmitted the full fury of the game to the nation.
Two top-ten teams, Frank Haith's mismatched parts versus Bill Self's blackened hearts, playing for a chance to plant an eternal flag. Winner owns the floor. Forever.
Self's team spent first thirty-seven minutes painting a giant Jayhawk on the court. Then Marcus Denmon wiped it away in three quick strokes.
The senior from Kansas City scored twenty-nine points that night, though you need not remember the first twenty. With 2:05 to play, the Tigers trailed by eight. Then Denmon made a shot, got fouled, and made the free throw. With 1:33 to play, the Tigers trailed by five. Then Denmon drilled a three-pointer. With fifty-six seconds to play, the Tigers trailed by two. Then Denmon sank a dagger, a three-point shot that gave Missouri the lead for good in the game and forever in Columbia.
As a long-forgotten poet once wrote, "when the hour was turning late/And the game was on the line/The Tigers needed more than eight/So he simply gave them nine."