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11-6-11, A Dark Day In Kansas City Sports History

Sunday was a bad day all around for avid fans of Kansas City area sports, culminating in the announcement by University of Missouri officials that the Tigers are definitely departing for the Southeastern Conference.

Missouri Tigers celebrating a football victory
Missouri Tigers celebrating a football victory

Sunday was about as bad and sad as the news can get in Kansas City sports. If you're one for doom and gloom, we hit the trifecta this past weekend.

Our beloved Chiefs got the day started off right with a return-to-reality game against the winless Miami Dolphins. Coming off an emotional 23-20 overtime win at home over AFC division-rival San Diego on Monday night, Kansas City couldn't have looked any flatter and lifeless than they did yesterday against the Dolphins. If the game would have been played in South Florida, it could have been even worse. Miami put together a compete ball game in throttling the Chiefs every which way imaginable, 31-3.

The Chiefs actually got on the scoreboard first with a 43-yard field goal off the foot of Ryan Succop with just under eight minutes gone in the opening quarter, but those would be the only points Kansas City was able to produce all day.

Disregarding the scoreboard and looking at the game statistics, you would never know the game was as lopsided as it was. The offensive game stats were relatively comparable, and the Chiefs even had a nine-minute advantage in time of possession. The Miami offensive unit was much more efficient and productive than Kansas City's, however, and the Chiefs couldn't get the big stops when they needed them. Matt Cassel spent most of the afternoon scrambling for his life, and the Dolphins sacked the Kansas City quarterback five times.

Overall, a very disappointing performance. But even then, San Diego and Oakland both lost as well, so the Chiefs remain tied with the Chargers and Raiders for the AFC division lead at 4-4 on the season with the Denver Broncos, just a game back of the division leaders, coming to Arrowhead on Sunday.

A little bit later in the day, Sporting Kansas City, the metro area's professional soccer franchise, was at home at beautiful, new Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., to take on Eastern Conference-rival Houston in the conference championship and the right to go on to the MLS Cup finals two weeks from now in Carson, California. Just one more win, in Kansas City, where Sporting Kansas City was 9-2-6 on the season, and KC's pro soccer team would be playing for its second MLS championship. The stage was all set for Sporting, which last lost a game a month and a half ago.

The Sporting KC match with Houston started at 4:30 in the afternoon, and it was already starting to get dark because of the switchover to Standard Time, which only added to the agony of the day.

Scoring is the key to winning in soccer or any other team or individual sport, and Sporting failed to do so in losing a 2-0 heartbreaker to the Houston Dynamo, ending an improbable season that saw our local soccer heroes start out the year with nine consecutive road games while Livestrong Sporting Park was being completed. Prior to its home opener on June 9, Sporting had a 1-6-3 record, the worst start of any MLS team.

So to be one game away from competing for the MLS Cup represented a miraculous turn of events, and Kansas City soccer fans were primed and ready for it. Everyone felt that the winds were truly blowing Sporting Kansas City's way. Only, the team's miracle run came to crushing end early Sunday evening, leaving Kansas City's youthful soccer team (the average age of the team is in the mid-20s) to fight another day, but not this season.

Perhaps the worst news of the day, however, although not unexpected, came at the end of the eventful day, topping off a giant Day of Reckoning for Kansas City sports fans. That's when University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton made it official: Missouri would be withdrawing its membership from the conference it helped found 105 years ago and becoming the 14th member of the Southeastern Conference for the 2012 sports season.

There was a cheerful celebration of the news in Columbia, Mo., as Deaton handed SEC commissioner Mike Slive a Mizzou football helmet declaring the Tigers new conference affiliation while mounds of paper confetti came raining down from overhead. Reaction to the announcement was - again, not surprisingly - mixed, ranging from out-and-out denial to complete and unopposed acceptance. Several of the  many comments expressed by fans on The Kansas City Star's Sports Daily's "Voices" hotline were:

"Good move, Mizzou. I want to get off the Titanic if I had a chance."

"Mizzou, I've loved you for 50 years, but I simply refuse to follow a trail of greed to the side of evil."

"Really won't be much of a change for Missouri; they'll get clobbered by UK instead of KU in basketball."

It seems that the farther east you go away from Kansas City the reaction to Missouri's SEC decision is more favorable and supportive. It is noteworthy that just a couple of months ago, Missouri's Deaton was chairman of the Big 12 Board of Directors, whose primary mission over the last year or so has been to keep the Big 12 together following the loss of Texas A&M this fall and Nebraska and Colorado a year earlier. In view of pending developments, however, Deaton resigned his post as Big 12 board chairman in early October. Now we know why.

With Missouri's departure, the structure of the Big 12 for the immediate future remains level at 10 members because of the recent additions of TCU and West Virginia, effectively replacing Texas A&M and MU. There is still some question, though, as to how soon West Virginia will be able to officially leave the Big East Conference. There is a provision in the Big East by laws that a school wait 27 months after submitting a formal notification of its intent to withdraw from the conference. That, of course, is being challenged, but until the issue is resolved it will not be known if West Virginia will be part of the Big 12 in time for the 2012 fall season.

Missouri says it would like to continue its longtime rivalry with bordering-state rival Kansas in all athletic competition, but the reaction of University of Kansas officials sound considerably less supportive of that notion. Kansas said in a statement released by the university on Sunday that it wishes Missouri all the best and is sorry that it won't be able to continue its longtime athletic rivalry with its eastern neighbor as members of the same conference. That message doesn't imply never, but it certainly makes it apparent that Kansas isn't as interested in continuing the KU-MU rivalry as Missouri does in its peace offering.

We can expect much more bickering and bantering about Missouri's controversial action in the days to come. Kansas City Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger described it this way: "The Border War (between Missouri and Kansas) is now the  Border Cold War, insults tossed across the state line from message boards and barstools."

One final comment, for now, on this continuing story surrounding Big 12 realignment and the state of Missouri dropping out of the Big 12 ranks. The axe has now fallen. There is not anything anybody can do now about Missouri's new chosen status. Times change, like it or not, and the best thing any of us can do now is adjust to the situation and move on. There is no upside or future in continuing to point fingers or beating a dead horse. And it appears that the Big 12 - sans Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and now Missouri - has.

Believe me, that's a good thing.

For more information:

Big 12 official website

More sports coverage, commentary on the Missouri Tigers

More SB Nation sports coverage on the Kansas Jayhawks