Crumbling traditions reflect on us

The lines will snake out of the big box stores in the middle of suburban strip malls before some families have sat down for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday. People bundled up and waiting to purchase a Leapfrog Leapster2 for $24.99 or a Barbie Glamour Jet for $39.99, depending on if they have a boy or a girl and how old the kid is. Others will line up in hopes of landing a Sharp 42" 1080p or Xbox 360 or a deal of any kind for themselves.

There will be 30 more shopping days left until Christmas when this all goes down. But somehow Americans will justify slicing a couple of hours of family time in favor of charging a bunch of stuff to their credit cards.

We tell ourselves Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart, Target, et al, are to blame for this. Greed and love of money have destroyed yet another American tradition. This is what we tell ourselves because it is easier than the truth. But the lines outside the stores are not filled with CEOs, liberal politicians or any of the other groups we love to blame. Nor do they lie.

This is who we have become as a society. We can not help ourselves. When the decision is money or tradition, money wins every time.

This is not a judgment. But this Black Friday creep has undeniable sports implications. The biggest is how our frenzied pursuit of stuff reveals the hypocrisy of our anger about conference realignment in college sports. We bemoan the death of tradition. We weep for rivalry games like Texas-Texas A&M and Mizzou-Kansas that will likely end after this weekend of games. But the truth is we would do the same thing, if given the choice. We have done the same thing.

We are eschewing time spent with family to save $20 on a jet for Barbie. And we want to be mad at Texas A&M or Missouri for bolting for the Southeastern Conference and huge pay days? Go sell crazy elsewhere.

If you want to read a takedown of the BCS or conference commissioners for ruining college football, this is not your column.

That is narrative. Here is reality. College sports is mirroring us. That we do not like what we see should tell us something else.

I spent a lot of time telling myself college sports did not care about anything except money. What I have realized is this does not make them worthy of scorn or really all that different from anybody else.

Of course Texas A&M and Missouri forsook 100-plus years of history each with Texas and Kansas respectively for the SEC. What did we expect?

My initial reaction was sadness. My dad graduated from Mizzou, and that rivalry with Kansas was as much a part of my childhood as catching lightning bugs and swim meets. They have been playing this game forever, just like Texas where the University of Texas and Texas A&M first played football in 1894. Both rivalries have played nearly every year since. Now this year is likely the last for a long time for both.

There is plenty of finger-pointing about who exactly is more to blame for this. Did Texas or A&M do more to destroy The Big 12? How could Missouri bail on Kansas? Is Nebraska to blame for starting this exodus? Blame has been laid upon all of the above and the BCS, the SEC, Dan Beebe, BevoTV, the NCAA.

In another time, maybe, we might have been able to argue how awful this death of tradition is. It is really hard to do so from a line outside of Kohl’s on Thanksgiving.

We have surrendered the moral high ground on tradition. We have completely bailed on so many traditions that we claim mattered. We hang Christmas decorations immediately after Halloween. The Christmas music cranks up before Thanksgiving. At the risk of being accused of being an escapee from Glenn Beck’s green room again, we whine about commercializing Christmas, then pack the day full of meaningless sporting events. We no longer sit down to dinner as families. And now we cannot even take a single day to be thankful.

Thanksgiving has become a half day, blended with the crazy shopping people. It is exactly the same creep that has led to a college football world where Texas and Texas A&M will not play, where Missouri and Kansas no longer play, where Oklahoma and Nebraska no longer play. It started out with the death of the Southwest Conference, the move away from regional conferences, the move toward superconferences. Now Boise could be heading to the Big East, West Virginia is in the Big 12, Missouri is in the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten has 12 and the Big 12 has 10. There is no tradition left.

People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is "Change has happened. Deal with it." My favorite rivalry in all of sports is ending. It was the best kind of rivalry, steeped in history and mutual hatred and geography and, in less than a week, it’ll be history. And someone, probably a lot of someones, will use this as proof of how greedy and adrift college sports have grown. I know because that is the kind of thing I am always saying. But the truth is it is just a sign of the times.

It is hard to drum up any moral outrage over these traditional games ending. We kill tradition all the time. We will do it Thursday, and for what? Twenty percent off? A flat screen?

Oh, I forgot. Barbie needs a jet.