KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You'd read a Good Morning! welcome here, but we both know that'd be a lie, so maybe it's best to cut the Midwestern manners and call this what it is:
The worst day in Kansas City sports since...when, exactly?
The Lin Elliott playoff game?
Ewing Kauffman's death?
The A's, Kings or Scouts leaving?
Today feels worse than all of it, as this Big 12 death march started by Colorado -- Colorado?!? -- promises to drive a stick into the heart of a college sports world that Kansas City has so much invested in.
We've dealt with sports disappointment before, but not like this. The Royals always have hope in the minor leagues. The Chiefs always have next year and the NFL's revenue sharing in their favor. Kansas City didn't have the ties to those lost pro teams that it has to its beloved colleges.
If today is when the Big 12 really ends, this is something bigger, something scarier, something more permanent. It's quite possible that Kansas City's college sports scene will never fully recover, will never be as competitive or meaningful again.
Barring a miracle save to keep Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri in a financially competitive conference, June 11, 2010, could be remembered as our darkest sports hour.
Up until now, college sports are what we've done best. No city has been host to more Final Fours. We're regulars with postseason basketball and big-time football. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson came by for induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Missouri gave us Kellen Winslow and Norm Stewart and Saturday afternoons at the Hearnes Center. Kansas is the birthplace of Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith, and where Wilt Chamberlain first captured the nation's attention. These roots are deep. Basketball's triangle offense began at K-State, and the game's inventor is buried 40 miles from downtown Kansas City.
Our other passions come and go. We'll fill the Truman Sports Complex for winners, but the sorry Chiefs had blackouts last year and the sorrier Royals have been toward the bottom of the league in attendance for years.
College sports have always been our thing, one of our easiest conversation starters, and we've had some glorious times in recent years.
Bill Snyder oversaw the greatest turnaround in college football history, bringing Kansas State within a fumble of the national championship game. Frank Martin has K-State's basketball program among the nation's elite.
Norm Stewart and Mizzou fans made the Hearnes Center on a Saturday afternoon one of the nation's toughest places to win. The Kansas-Missouri rivalry goes back to the Civil War and is at least as good as anything Dick Vitale screams about.
Kansas basketball won the national title two years ago, and is enjoying a run as successful as any in its rich history. The football team won the Orange Bowl, too, even if Missouri deserved it more after winning that historic game at Arrowhead Stadium.
Now we're left with something closer to bupkis, and the hope that bupkis doesn't turn into "Mountain West."
If this is the end, the Big 12 gave us good times.
Just 14 years in and we've seen 36 national championship teams in all sports, four Heisman Trophy Winners and national stars like Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Adrian Peterson, Chase Daniel, Michael Bishop and Michael Beasley.
We've had front-row seats for Oklahoma's rise back to dominance and Texas' first football title since integration. We had an annual argument as at least the nation's top football conference behind the SEC, and this last season a solid case as the best basketball league.
Colorado is out ahead of Texas' posse in a dash for the Pac-10. Nebraska is expected to leave for the Big Ten as early as this morning. Missouri hopes to follow. The only schools working to keep the Big 12 together are the ones without options.
There is depressing symbolism in schools needing to drift from Kansas City to maintain power in the new college sports world, because we remember when Kansas City was the heart of that college sports world.
Just this week, the Big 12 awarded Kansas City the conference basketball tournament through 2014. Most of those events probably won't happen now, not here or anywhere. Aside from an NCAA Tournament regional every four years, the Sprint Center's marquee sporting events could be exhibition NBA and NHL games.
Kansas City would lose an annual $14 million economic impact from the conference hoops tournament -- by far the Power and Light District's best week -- but what stings even more is becoming less meaningful in a college sports world that we helped build and are so deeply invested in emotionally.
Can we get Garth Brooks back?
Maybe this hurts so much because it plays on all of Kansas City's inherent insecurities. It's business to other places, but personal to us.
This is our inferiority complex with St. Louis, our bitterness toward Texas and our consistent flyover state cries about being overlooked and disrespected, all wrapped tightly around a middle finger we can't help but take personally.
Our three local schools are scrambling. Mizzou is powerless now, waiting for a call from the Big Ten that may or may not come -- and the Tigers are in the best situation.
Kansas and especially Kansas State are much worse off. There is talk of Kansas getting a golden ticket to the Pac-10, or joining K-State in the Big East, but for now those are long shots on the good end, with Mountain West obscurity on the bad end.
KU fans deal with the slap of reality that their precious basketball program means squat, and K-Staters hope their small market share and green athletic director somehow aren't as irrelevant as it now appears. Conference USA never looked so good.
Even in the best scenario, the Big 12 dissolving means diminished local rivalries, higher travel costs and a giant inconvenience in following our teams. At worst, it means our favorite schools find themselves on the wrong side of the fault line.
Goodbye, ABC prime time; hello, Comcast late night.
Goodbye, BCS; hello, Armed Forces Bowl.
We have far too much experience with letdowns on our local sports scene.
The Chiefs have won 10 games in three years. The Royals are on their way to a 16th losing season in 17 years, and even Zack Greinke is struggling now.
K-State and Mizzou suffered through some embarrassing scandals, or at least they felt embarrassing until everything that's happened at KU recently. Kansas State's football program has sputtered. KU's title-favorite basketball team lost to Northern Iowa. Mizzou football and basketball have mostly teased.
For a list of reasons mostly out of our control, Kansas City's chance of landing an NBA or NHL team for the Sprint Center have never been lower. Oklahoma City, with two-thirds of our population, has one of the NBA's most exciting teams.
Is it really possible that Kansas City's brightest sports news is the Wizards opening a new stadium in Wyandotte County?
Right or wrong, sports are a huge part of a city's identity, and getting punched in the gut is now as familiar as humidity, potholes and bad public schools.
If this is the day our college sports scene is forever diminished, how could it not be our darkest sports hour?
Kansas City's college sports scene just closed its most successful decade in history.
Kansas State won a conference championship in football and rose to national prominence in basketball. Kansas won a national championship in basketball and (temporarily, at least) rose to national prominence in football. Missouri stabilized its basketball program and won consecutive North division titles in football.
We built the Sprint Center, opened the College Basketball Experience, began a premier preseason basketball tournament and enjoyed a steady stream of top college football games at Arrowhead.
And our best decade of college sports led directly into what could be our worst.
Like a filet from Plaza III yesterday, and something closer to those disgusting ribs from Burger King today. If Kansas City's sports scene was a person, it would need counseling.
Hope is not completely lost. There is still room for creative thinking that could salvage our college sports scene and collective self-esteem, to keep this from being the worst day in Kansas City sports history.
But with the way everything's been going, how many of us can really believe in that?