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The End of an Era

Tonight, around 10 PM CST, the final whistle will blow, and most likely, the final game between Kansas State and Nebraska will be played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.  I have no false pretense or assumption that either side will be eager to renew this series, and to be honest, as a fan, I have no desire to see them schedule anything in the future.

I've never made it a secret that I despise Nebraska: the university, it's fans, and it's sports programs.  In terms of "hatred", they come somewhere between KU (the root of all evil) and the movie Steel Magnolias, which my wife has watched approximately 384 times, give or take a few viewings.

I'm aware that this probably isn't the "classy" or "nice" thing to say.  I'm also aware that I'm probably inviting a plethora of Nebraska fans to our site, again, to defend the honor of their football program (which really doesn't need defending).  However, I'm only saying these things because I feel that I have to be open and honest about my true feelings.  While I truly and vehemently loathe the Cornhuskers, a part of me will feel a tinge of nostalgia and sadness that this rivalry, as recent as it may be, is coming to an end.

In the grand scheme of things, the Kansas State/Nebraska "rivalry" is anything but.  For the better part of a century, Nebraska beat Kansas State like a red-headed stepchild, and it wasn't until 1998 that Kansas State ended a twenty-nine year losing streak and asserted themselves as an equal to the mighty Huskers.  For the next eight years, the remaining in Bill Snyder's first tenure as the Wildcat's head coach, KSU went 5-3 vs. Nebraska, only losing in Lincoln and holding serve at home.  It wasn't until Snyder retired, and Ron Prince hired, that the rivalry began to die, smoldering like burnt embers at the base of a short, but once blazing fire.

However, today, that changes, if but for one more night.  Another sold out crowd will greet Nebraska in Manhattan, and ESPN will be there, in primetime, with high definition cameras to chronicle the last round in the 95th meeting in the series.  There's so much fan interest that the Kansas State Athletic Department has opened up GA ticket sales for seats on the grassy knoll just to the North of the student section.  And, in a funny twist, they're only allowing folks to purchase them at the Kansas State ticket office to prevent Nebraska fans from purchasing them.  Excitement is at a fever pitch, and it's hard to remember a game in recent memory that's generated this much excitement in Manhattan.

Did I mention that both teams are currently undefeated?

And, ultimately, that's what I'm going to miss.  I won't miss Nebraska.  I'll miss being excited for the Nebraska game.  For one night, I'll be reminded of the feeling that I had in 2000, when as a freshman, I sat in the student section and saw Jonathan Beasley connect with Quincy Morgan on a slip screen to tie the game at twenty-eight all before the extra point sealed the deal for a Wildcat Victory.  I'll miss watching Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles run all over Nebraska for two consecutive years.  I'll miss Michael Bishop's near superhuman ability make the Blackshirts look like Kansas State's practice squad.  But, most of all, I'll miss watching the "greatest" fans in college football stream out of Memorial Stadium before the game even ended as KSU beat the Huskers 38-9, sealing the fate of Frank Solich and sending Nebraska head-first into the Bill Callahan era.

As most of you who read the blog regularly know, I recently had a son.  Almost six months old, "The Boy" has taken a great deal of our time around my home, and my trips to Manhattan have been few and far between.  Actually, they've been non-existent.  This year, I promised my beautiful, yet tired wife that I'd only attend one game, and without hesitation, I circled this one.  There was no way that I'd miss the last game against Nebraska, the hated rival of my college years, and come Hell or high water I'd be there.  So, tonight, I'll be there, one more time, to hope for moments like those listed above.  I'm going to hope that the ten point underdogs find a way to stop the vaunted Husker rushing attack and have the final word in this series, and I hope to someday tell my son, as Nebraska wastes away as the Big Ten's consolation prize for not landing Notre Dame, that once upon a time, I saw Kansas State beat Nebraska as the snow fell at KSU Stadium, and I saw Kansas State win the last game the two schools ever played.

Here's to the last time.  Win or lose, enjoy the moment, savor the hatred, and when it's over, shut the door and lock it behind them.