I for one, live for rivalries. I can smell one from a mile away. I love the calendar revolving around one date circled with a big, hideous red pen. Although poisoning trees is a tad insane, I have always longed for a rivalry of that magnitude and being an Arkansas fan has under-delivered.
I do know a rivalry when I see one and Saturday afternoon even from the nosebleed section of Bud Walton Arena, I could smell one brewing.
Columbia, Mo., is only five hours from Fayetteville. That is three hours closer to Fayetteville than the second-closest Southeastern Conference school. Arkansas employs a basketball coach who was stolen away from the Tigers.
Missouri has a lot to prove in this conference in every sport, including basketball in which we expected a much more impressive debut season than we have seen from them. This has all the makings of a real rivalry.
Think about it, Missouri doesn’t have an SEC rival yet, and Arkansas never really did if you ask LSU fans. So this could work, right? Missouri is the new permanent Eastern division rival for the Hogs in football, replacing South Carolina, meaning Arkansas will play Missouri every year in football despite being in different divisions.
If this is in fact the beginning of a beautiful rivalry, it is off to a great start. The thrilling 78-76 Arkansas win Saturday was enough to get anyone’s blood pumping. But it also got me thinking: was it close because it was somehow already a rivalry in our minds? Or is it now a rivalry in our minds because it was close? That remains to be seen.
The atmosphere felt rivalry-like all day. There were a lot (a lot) of Missouri fans in town if you didn’t notice. They were loud and obnoxious and I hated them but I loved that they were there. Even though “good ole Bud Walton” is a myth in my mind, a story my parents tell that I hardly believe anymore, I think I saw a glimpse of it Saturday.
The Missouri fans were nice on Dickson though and they said they would definitely be back. I believe them, you know. They will be back, and Arkansas fans will be going up there too. It’s a five hour drive and the destination is a land where you are almost implored to obnoxiously love your university to the point of well, tree poisoning. Visiting fans is a huge part of rivalry and the fact that it will be accessible to Arkansas students and fans is huge.
I have my complaints about Missouri as an SEC school — for example, their students have some fashion issues that need to be addressed and I can only pray they get that taken care of by the time we play them in football.
But on the whole, this is going to be great for these two universities. The two schools have an inter-mingled history of recruiting battles (most recently, Dorial Green-Beckham) and coaching switches (Frank Broyles, Mike Anderson) that is the perfect foundation on which to build a rivalry.
I for one am very excited to start hating Missouri with a unique kind of hatred. Please join me; it should be fun.
Liz Beadle is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.