Once upon a time the college sporting scene was stable. There were plenty of conferences who were more or less equal with each other in varying sports. Everyone knew which college was in which conference and things were right with the world. Then there came a small hiccup in the conferences that no one foresaw the effect it would in the future.
The Southwestern Conference which included mostly Texas schools and Arkansas collapsed. It was losing money at a rapid pace and so the members of the conference decided to disband. The various schools joined other conferences. The Big Eight became the Big Twelve as it absorbed the majority of the Southwestern Conference. Arkansas went to the Southeastern Conference allowing it to grow and strengthen itself a bit. After that for several years things seemed to settle back down and the Big Twelve became just as natural as it was when it was the Big Eight or the Big Six. Once again things were alright in the college sporting world.
Then a few years back, schools began to jump conferences on a whim. Nebraska left the Big Twelve to join the Big Ten and Colorado saw a better future in the PAC Ten then they had in the Big Twelve. Suddenly rumors were running rampant on many other schools leaving the conferences they were in to join other conferences. Missouri was caught up in this as it was speculated that they would join Nebraska in joining the Big Ten. It didn't happen though and it seemed like the Big Twelve was stable once again and that Missouri would stay there forever and continue the strong rivalry with Kansas.
It was about this time when I was making one of my visits to see my sister and her kids and grand children in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. One night I was talking to my nephew Hayden about football. Oh he was going on and on about how great Alabama was and how they could and would beat Missouri in football anytime, anywhere. He was so confident he offered a bet to me. His bet was that if Alabama ever played Missouri, which ever one of us lost would have to wear the other's colors for a full year Meaning if Alabama won, I would wear Tide gear for a year but if Missouri won, he would have to wear Mizzou gear for a year.
I thought this over and decided to take him up on his little bet. After all, my reasoning went, the chances of Mizzou and Bama meeting on the football field were extremely remote and if they did ever play, surely it would be in a bowl game when the two teams were more or less evenly matched. The bet was made and forgotten. Well it was forgotten in my mind, but Hayden never forgot.
As the years went by Alabama began going through one of their power cycles in football. They were always ranked in the top five it seemed. Missouri wasn't doing too bad either. They were consistently in the top fifteen and once were ranked number one for awhile. Still the chances of the two teams meeting seemed a little far fetched.
Then disaster happened. The Southeastern Conference decided to expand. They offered a spot in their conference to the Big Twelve's Texas A and M which the Aggies jumped on immediately. Then came something I wasn't prepared for or expecting. The SEC came calling on the doorstep of Missouri. What this meant was that if Mizzou joined the SEC, they would be in the same conference as Alabama, increasing the chances of a game between the two.
When Mizzou did join the SEC I was relieved that they were put in the opposite division of Alabama. This meant they would only play Bama once every five or six years, which would buy me time for Mizzou to improve in football and for Bama to slip a little. All was not lost.
During the time negotiations were going on for Mizzou to join the SEC, Alabama won a National Championship and made a run at another one. I had to pray that it would be awhile before Missouri found Alabama on their schedule. Last year Missouri was moved over to the SEC and the football schedules were released. My heart sank as I looked at the schedule and saw that on my birthday of the year 2012, Alabama would be coming to Columbia to play Mizzou. To make matters worse, Alabama won their second National Championship in three years as last season closed out.
I began telling Hayden that we never specified FOOTBALL as the event in which Mizzou would meet Bama. We hadn't specified any event at all. Missouri was ranked in the top five in Gymnastics, baseball and softball as last year started to wind down. I began hoping that Mizzou would meet Bama in one of these sports where they had a fighting chance. It didn't happen. As a matter of fact, Bama won the Softball National Championship without having to face Mizzou. They won the Gymnastics Championship. They did have a meet with Mizzou and Mizzou lost but I then reasoned that the Gymnastics loss did not count because a ball wasn't used in the sport. I set my sights on a probable softball meeting between the two schools, but Mizzou got knocked out of the tournament early as Bama went on to win it all. The next time that Mizzou would meet Alabama would be on the football field in Columbia on October 13, 2012.
I have talked to Hayden and his little brother Conner since then and they are ready. As I was talking trash to Hayden on Skype one night about the bet, Conner was leaning over the back of the chair pointing his finger at me and yelling, "You're going DOWN Uncle Bill ... you are GOING DOWN!"
Well, the devil has come to collect his dues this weekend. Alabama is undefeated and ranked number one in the country as they come to Missouri to play. Missouri has played, and lost, three SEC football games already. Alabama comes in off of a week off and well rested. MIssouri enters the game after a disappointing loss to Vanderbilt. Mizzou;s offensive line is in tatters from injuries and will be forced to use freshman on the line. Not only that, but Mizzou's great Quarterback, James Franklin, is injured and will not play leaving Missouri with a freshman to guide the team against the number one ranked defending National Champions.
It doesn't bother me to wear Alabama attire. I do a lot of the time anyway between my hats and t-shirts. I try to keep finding these little things that makes Hayden winning the bet a good thing for the kid. I can handle the loss. I have already accepted the fact that it is going to be a disaster on Saturday. I am ready to pay the devil off for making a foolish bet several years ago on the future with my nephew. It will be good for his confidence to beat his Uncle Bill. It will be a good, fun day for both Hayden and Conner. They will sit in front of their television in Northport, just outside of Tuscaloosa, and have a fun time watching Bama beat up on a helpless Mizzou team. They will have some laughs thinking about poor Uncle Bill sitting up in Kansas City watching Bama reign supreme over the Tigers of Missouri.
I can deal with it. I don't think it will bother me at all. The fact that Missouri is starting their affiliation with the SEC with four consecutive losses will not effect my emotions at all. At least one time a day for the next year I will proudly put on a Bama cap for a few seconds to fulfill my payment of the bet.
The lesson learned? We never know what the future holds. Because we never know what will be happening years down the road, it is probably best not to make a bet on the future with a ten year old from Alabama. I can promise that it will never happen again.
Happy Birthday Uncle Bill ... and welcome to the SEC.