Here we are again- Missouri week. While this would normally be the last game of the regular season, the question of whether to call this a rivalry or just another game remains.
Whatever the case, there has been one thing that has somewhat bothered me about the Razorback fanbase regarding this gamefor years. Here it goes.
We look down on Missouri.
We really shouldn’t.
And yet, we still have a strange attitude when it comes toMissouri.
Ever since they joined the SEC, there has been an undercurrent of dismissiveness to our neighbors to the north. Maybe I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that they are perceived to be more of an afterthought who need to be “put in their place” as a side that should be hanging around near the bottom of their division. Even after making the SEC Championship in back-to-back years after first joining the conference, people were saying that they’ll be exposed. Surely, it was a fluke. Oh, and that Drinkwitz guy? That fake Sunday school teacher with the smug self-satisfaction needs to have the smile on his face wiped off. He’s just a punk. (Even though at one point many secretly wanted the native Arkansan to come home before ending up with Sam Pittman.)
While it could be said that Missouri has regressed to the mean over the last few years, the fact is that since they have joined the conference, they have been much more successful than Arkansas over this span, and it is not even close. The last two games against the Tigers have been completely one-sided while the other games have been frustrating performances to end the season for the Hogs.
Hot take: Arkansas fans having to try so hard to convince themselves that Missouri isn’t a rival at this point means that they are. *ducks*— JC Hoops (@JCHoopsPod) December 2, 2020
This thought seems to tap into the part of the collective subconscious of the Razorback fanbase that we might not yet be willing to admit.
I think there a few reasons for our attitude towards them.
Geographically, they feel like a marginal SEC team in the sense that Columbia is more of an outpost on the edge of the SEC wilderness rather than a traditional college town in the South.
Second, we tend to look down on the new kids on the block even though prior to their arrival, we were the newcomers to the league who were (and are still) trying to make a name for ourselves. Who are they to just waltz into the SEC and expect to win? I remember that just a few years ago, people had doubts about Texas A&M’s ability to compete in the SEC until we realized that they were actually really serious about winning in football and had the war chest to back it up. Now, we are trying to catch up to them.
Then, of course, there’s the Battle Line or as some more accurately call it- the “Borderline” Rivalry that some feel that Missouri has been pushing on us.
Sure, it feels forced. Battle Line- that’s a historical misnomer. A name like that alludes to the Civil War, and although a couple of battles took place near the border, we never explicitly fought against Missouri back then. (Meanwhile, the Kansas-Missouri game could be called a true battle line rivalry.) Also, how aboutthat trophy? It’s just a knockoff of “The Boot.”
However, keep in mind that Arkansas’ own David Bazzel was the designer who, as might know know, also came up with the original “Boot.” If anybody has traditionally tried to start something, it is our side.
But LSU was our true rival, right?
While the LSU-Arkansas game will always have a special place in the heart for a generation of Hog fans, it was essentially a rivalry of convenience that the SEC created for television on the day after Thanksgiving. It undoubtedly had its moments, but it was always a bigger deal for Razorback fans who wanted to take down a team that always seemed to be ranked ahead of them. I wonder what LSU fans might have been thinking when “The Boot” was first revealed.
Meanwhile, for LSU, as soon as Arkansas was replaced on the schedule for their last game, the Hogs fell to fourth or fifth on their list of rivals behind teams like Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M.
Arkansas fans would like to put themselves in the same privileged position in regard to Missouri, but who else can we really call our rivals right now? Also, where do they fit incompared to our rivalries with other teams in the past?
The old rivalry with Texas made sense, even though like LSU, it might have been a little more one-sided than we would like to admit. Still, there was a bit of a David vs Goliath narrative that drove it for several decades. After joining the SEC, we had a thing with Tennessee for a while during the late 90s because they were THE team at the time. Then the first Miracle on Markham kicked off the LSU rivalry. Currently, I’d argue that our only rivalry is with Ole Miss as they are the state most likeours for better or worse. It also doesn’t hurt that probably the most famous play in Razorback history took place against them.
So where does this leave Missouri?
First, I think it’s time to admit that they aren’t going anywhere. They have proven that they belong, and they will almost certainly finish third in the SEC East this season behind only Florida and Georgia. In the end, the fact is we are both mid-tier SEC teams who likely will be competing for the right to go to a slightly better bowl game than the other one at the end of most years.
Rivalries take time, and I’m sure that given it, we’ll have our share of moments that will be memorable for another generation of Razorback fans. Until then, let’s respect the opponent and go out there and take care of business as Sam Pittman and the boys are preparing to do.
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