Missourian photographer Jakob Berr's pictures of Sunday's Missouri-Kansas men's basketball game included a perplexing shot.
The image, included in this post, shows Jayhawks fans at the game holding a reproduction of a mural painted on a wall of the Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka, Kan. The original mural depicts abolitionist John Brown holding a rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other. In the fans' reproduction, the Bible has been replaced by an NCAA trophy.
Some say not to take things too seriously, but others call likening athletics to wartime a bit odd. The issue seems to be a recurring one, perhaps making it worth a look back to another big Missouri-Kansas competition. Missourian sports editor Greg Bowers wrote on the rivalry before the MU-KU football game in 2007:
Missouri-Kansas rivalry intense enough without invoking Civil War memories
By GREG BOWERS
Originally posted Friday, November 23, 2007 | 11:40 a.m. CST
I don’t get it.
I’ll be honest. I’m not understanding some parts of this Kansas-Missouri rivalry.
But let’s start with the part that I do get.
I moved to Missouri three years ago and, almost immediately, heard about the Kansas-Missouri rivalry. I heard that legendary basketball coach Norm Stewart used to joke that he’d never spend a dime in Kansas. I heard that, over in Lawrence, they wore their “Muck Fizzou” T-shirts.
As an East Coast kid who grew up hating the New York Yankees, I understood instantly.
Sports rivalries. Sports hate.
Hating the Yankees, for years, drove my appreciation of baseball. I get it.
To have a good guy, you need a bad guy. It’s a plot line that has driven pro wrestling for years. My son, who was a boy at the time, understood it when Hulk Hogan turned from good guy to bad guy and then back to good guy.
It was like a play. Not real, but a lot of fun.
My 8-year-old son, throwing himself off the top of the sofa because we didn’t have any turnbuckles around the house, got it. I got it.
But now here’s what I don’t get.
The Civil War?
As a relatively new Missouri resident, it didn’t take much reading to figure out that Missouri was on the wrong side of the slavery issue.
But that question was solved a long time ago, wasn’t it?
Slavery was bad. And here’s another notion: It wasn’t funny either.
William Quantrill burned Lawrence almost 150 years ago. But I’m pretty sure it didn’t have anything to do with football.
Which should be what this rivalry is about this weekend.
So why is Quantrill being debated on Internet chat boards in advance of a football game?
As I write this, there’s a guy walking around the newsroom with a T-shirt that says “Kansas. Keeping America safe from Missouri since 1854.” It has a picture of John Brown on it.
I’m sure the folks who printed the T-shirt thought it was clever.
I don’t see the connection.
I understand sports hate. I even enjoy it. Remember my relationship with the Yankees?
But sports hate is different than real hate. And sports is different from war.
A few years ago the universities of Missouri and Kansas changed the name of these Missouri-Kansas sporting events from “The Border War” to “The Border Showdown.”
It was an important change. This is a football game.
There’s a war going on, and this isn’t it. Or, more to the point, the Civil War did go on, but this isn’t it.
Which brings us to Saturday night.
It’s the biggest football game of the season this far, maybe the biggest game in the Kansas-Missouri rivalry.
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun.
But let’s understand the distinction here.
Go ahead, hate the Jayhawks. Just hate them the right way.
Greg Bowers is sports editor of the Columbia Missourian.