Rivalry much better when neither side owns the other

Sooner player Gabe Ikard said Monday, "Personally, I prefer them to be good and us to be good." Facebook photo.

By Clay Horning,  The Norman Transcript

First, Gabe Ikard took to the microphone. The head coach had been delayed returning from a recruiting trip, so it was a new drill.

Then, it was Mike Stoops’ turn. Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator didn’t exactly make any news, though he was willing to say that confidence in the Sooner defense this year is “like night and day” compared to last. Nice when a coach accepts the obvious.

Then came Brennan Clay, who, along with Ikard, is one of the best talkers on the team.

Then came Bob Stoops.

First question: is Bedlam a zero-sum game, a case of anything good for the Pokes being bad for the Sooners, what about that?

“I don’t look at the other team,” Stoops said, like his words were shot out of a cannon, so charged you’d think it was a reporter with a history of being on his bad side who asked the question.

With that, the Sooner coach tried to arrest all the fun out of Bedlam week. Alas, he can’t pull it off.

It is the best kind of game.

It is the game this series is promising to bring us more and more of through the years, and it is the game college football fans in Oklahoma should never complain about. Indeed, a couple of Sooners don’t seem to mind at all.

“Personally,” Ikard said, “I prefer them to be good and us to be good.”

That is, he likes a rivalry in which there’s a lot on the line and that’s a rivalry that demands two strong, conceivably equal combatants.

“It’s great for the state,” Ikard said. “It’s great for college football.”

Easy for him to say.

Ikard, the Sooner center, grew up in Oklahoma City, with friends on both sides of the rivalry. He can see it through a statewide eye.

But he wasn’t the only one. Clay took the same path.

“I’m glad that they’re good … It’s going to be a great game,” said the OU running back, who’ll enter Bedlam needing 157 yards to become a 1,000-yard rusher.

To many old Sooner ears, it is blasphemy. Coming out of the mouths of two of the most redeeming and thoughtful Sooners must only make it worse.

Of course, the other thing about that? The players are right.

If it really is a zero-sum game then change the game. Find new recruiting trails, scheme better, coach better, something. Just don’t begrudge the golden age of a rivalry that always had a cool name, yet for a century struggled to be cool.

For years and years and years, it was the Red River Rivalry that defined the Sooner season. Bedlam was forever in second place and a distant second at that. Now, if it hasn’t reached the same heights and stakes Mack Brown and Stoops were coaching over 10 years ago, it has at least eclipsed the heights and stakes they’ve been coaching over here lately.

It is something to embrace.

Just look at the last three seasons. OU wins 47-41. The Pokes blow out the Sooners 44-10. OU wins 51-48 in overtime.

The Sooners take two of three, but suffer embarrassment in between. It doesn’t get much more even than that.

And really, as much as the Sooner Nation loathes Texas, isn’t it better that series resemble the old Bedlam Series — this year not-withstanding — and keep the most important game within the borders of our state.

Stoops didn’t say much.

He said he’d rather have OU’s history, but OSU’s moment, playing for a championship in a season his cannot. Even that’s a bit of a step forward.

Once upon a time Stoops seemed to wish bad things upon all of his rivals. Maybe he’s developed a soft spot for Bedlam.

Everybody should.

Look at it this way.

There’s no championship available, likely no BCS berth, but win Saturday and few will care until the bowl game comes around.

If the Pokes were terrible, it wouldn’t be the same. But they’re not. Go win and reap the reward.

Even with no hardware attached, this game carries a big one. It’s what Bedlam’sbecome.

Enjoy it.

Clay HorningFollow me @clayhorningcfhorning@normantranscript.com

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Copyright Associated Press 2013

The Gayly - December 3, 2013