A benevolent rivalry
Say something positive about Kansas University in Columbia, Mo., and you're likely to get met with a rage of vulgarity-laced anti-Jayhawks rhetoric.
Say the same about the Illinois Fighting Illini, and this time the reaction is likely to be quite pedestrian in comparison.
The corporate sponsors and the media have come to call this the Arch Rivalry game, but the fans of Missouri and Illinois maintain a spirit of competition different from those most heated differences of fanship that have come to symbolize collegiate athletics.
"Personally, I've been an Illinois fan since I was four-years-old," said a tailgating student who identified himself as A.J. "I grew up to hate Missouri, ... but I don't think a lot of people feel that way. I think it's a cool game because the states are close, and the schools are close."
The majority sentiment appeared as A.J. predicted throughout the several hours of tailgating that took place before the game in the parking lots and streets surrounding the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. There was little of the raucous screaming from one fan base at the other, and instead, the two groups appeared content with a peaceful coexistence.
A walk through the gauntlet of tailgate parties illuminated several mixed groups and plenty of interaction between separate parties of gold and orange.
"It's a fun game because you're around people who are opposite fans, but there's no arguments like Cards-Cubs," said a former Illinois student named Rob.
Echoing that sentiment, former Illinois graduate student and St. Louis resident Danny Dial said his favorite part of the game is hanging out with people from both schools.
Those in attendance for hours before the game seemed more thrilled about the return of college football than concerned with berating the other school in this game.
Columbia native Laura Marty said she enjoys the half-and-half mix of fans and that she happily interacts with "whomever is parked close to us."
To that end, fans from both sides indicated that they prefer having the game held here in St. Louis to alternating between Columbia and Champaign every year.
"There's no overwhelming fan contingent from one side or the other," Marty said.
Longtime Mizzou fan Daryl Lucas said he likes the chance to mingle as well, but he went a step further than most in his assessment.
"I like this better than the Kansas rivalry. Kansas typically isn't very good until last year. I like playing the better team. That makes it a bigger rivalry," he said.
That viewpoint depends on the eye of the beholder.
While Marty agreed that the game may be of higher quality because Illinois has improved greatly over the past year, she wasn't having any of the idea that the rivalry is bigger than that with the Jayhawks.
"Really? I don't think so," she said.
"I don't know about that," said Gary, a former Mizzou student from Kansas City. "It's not MU-KU, but it's OK."
Dial looks at the growing level of football competition between the two schools as a bonus.
"It's getting stronger," he said, "It's always been strong from the basketball, but this is a nice add-on."
It's the total experience that seems to do it for the Arch Rivalry game for Mizzou and Illinois fans alike.
There isn't the abhorrence that comes with the encounters with each school's long-time conference foes, but the competition is growing while the surrounding festivities remain friendly.
"It's nothing compared to Michigan or Ohio State," said Rob, "but it's more about (having) fun hanging out with people who are opposite fans."
Posted Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008, at 8:51 p.m.
No discounts from Arch Rivalry scaplers
The scalping market appears alive and well for the sold out Arch Rivalry game. Face value for the seats closest to the stadium's roof is $37.
Traversing the streets around the Edward Jones Dome has left me yet to see a single ticket going for less than twice that.
Discussions with several street vendors have yielded several offers around $80 with a few enterprising gentlemen trying to sell for triple-digits.
Everything on the stadium's lower level looks to be going for more than $100 and in some case more than double that.
As is often the case with ticket scalping, the old question of "How much is too much?" once again comes to the forefront. This is the season's opening game for both Missouri and Illinois, but it's a non-conference game and a neutral site affair.
There is no shortage of local establishments with televisions as well.
At what dollar figure does the value of being in the stadium no longer exceed the experience of watching the broadcast by enough to make the purchase worthwhile?
One middle-aged Tigers fan who declined to be named said he was in search of tickets but wouldn't be paying anything near the figures offered above.
At last check, he was hoping to get one of the upper tier seats for $50 and said he was willing to pay one-and-a-half times face value.
Here's hoping none of Saturday night's would-be spectators meet the fate that an acquaintance of mine in New York did three weeks back: He handed over his money and was given a ticket for a game that had already happened.
This one is yours, folks: How much is a ticket to the Arch Rivalry game worth to you?
Posted Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008, at 7:28 p.m.
Note: Steven Weinman is a journalism student at the University of Missouri at Columbia.