COMMENTARY: Photo example of perplexing issue

Sunday, March 1, 2009 | 11:46 p.m. CST; updated 12:02 p.m. CST, Monday, March 2, 2009
Jayhawks fans at Sunday's Missouri-Kansas men's basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan. display an altered reproduction of "Tragic Prelude" a mural by artist John Steuart Curry. The original did not include the trophy the reproduction shows abolitionist John Brown holding in his right hand.

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 In the fans' reproduction, the Bible has been replaced by an NCAA trophy.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


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.

Good fun.

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.

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Charles Dudley Jr March 2, 2009 | 3:43 a.m.

All of these spots these days remind me of the movie "300"

(Report Comment)
J Thurston March 2, 2009 | 12:45 p.m.

Boo hoo, Greg.

I suggest you check out the Border War DVD documentary. (

Also, for the sake of being objective (some journalists find this important), why not mention Mizzou's "Scoreboard" tees from 2007 that depict Quantrill burning Lawrence?

The Kansas/Missouri rivalry deserves the "Border War" distinction, as it's the only rivalry to have been born from actual warfare.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Barnes March 2, 2009 | 2:35 p.m.

What is sadder still is the recent vandalism of a KOMU vehicle covering the game by Kansas fans. I heard Jayhawk stickers were placed all over the vehicle. It is a sign of the times that we are more interested in putting other teams down and not focused on bringing our own team up.

(Report Comment)
Rob Weir March 2, 2009 | 3:46 p.m.

@J Thurston: This piece is labeled as "commentary." It's not an objective news story. Is there a simpler/more user-friendly way for us to communicate that?

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
J Thurston March 2, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.

No, that's apparent enough. However, it would seem the author's point is that Kansas and Missouri should refrain from using the violence of the 1850s and 60s to further fuel the fire. While I disagree, to point out that only one side is being inappropriate for doing so is simply inaccurate--commentary or not.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 3, 2009 | 8:05 a.m.

Does anyone affiliated with MU or the "Missourian" know the history of University of Missouri? For at least fifty (50) years a reciprocity tuition agreement existed between the Lawrence, Kansas and Rolla, Missouri campuses whereby students from one state could attend the other's campus without paying out of state tuition - provided they took specified majors. I know one Kansas resident who benefited from that program, and there were many others.

MU was never part of that agreement, and the joke, popular in both Lawrence and Rolla, was that it was because MU had nothing to offer.

To us this Border War business is a huge joke and ought to be treated as such. We have no intention of waging war on our friends.

(Report Comment)
Ed Weissenbach March 3, 2009 | 6:26 p.m.

Not being a native Missourian it is understandable that you are perplexed by the level of vitriol between the two states. As a native of western Missouri where I grew up with ancestors of people who were burned out of their homes, displaced from their land, had their property looted and in some cases were killed, by kansans, the hatred is still very real. Part of the reason that this hatred is perpetuated is the fact that the university of kansas has chosen to glorify the terrorists and looters that called themselves jayhawks or jayhawkers by using it to identify their sports teams. The fact that three years ago they chose to wear red leggings, the identifying feature of the cowardly terrorists, in a football game vs the Tigers, shows their insensitivity to the historical significance to many Missourians. The University of Missouri is, by contrast, identified as the Tigers which commemorates a group of local militia organized to protect Columbia from, not only Federal, but also confederate guerilla forces. Had Missouri chosen a mascot commensurate with the jayhawks they would have called themselves Quantrill's Raiders or Bushwhakers which were arguably equally distasteful groups from the Missouri perspective. kansas university has chosen to continue to perpetuate the memory of these hostilities by the use of their nickname disguised as a cartoon bird and therefore are, in large part, responsible for continuing to wave a red cape in the face of the good people of Missouri.

(Report Comment)
Keith Piontek March 4, 2009 | 8:42 a.m.

To understand the ongoing emphasis on the historical basis of the MU-KU rivalry, one must have more than a superficial understanding of the history. One must dig a bit beyond slavery and the Lawrence Raid to understand the true nature of the Border War, and to discover the enormity of the crimes against Missouri civilians committed by unprincipled men that operated under cover of the noble causes of Union and abolition. In the opening year of the Civil War, Kansans in Union arms (or in independent militias claiming affiliation with the Union) swept over large swaths of western Missouri in a campaign of theft, arson, and murder. The Missouri towns of Osceola, Morristown, Papinsville, Butler, Dayton, and Columbus were destroyed. Thousands of Missouri families were burned out of their homes; hundreds perished. This campaign plunged the Missouri-Kansas border into some of the most brutal (and meaningless) fighting of the entire war, and led directly to Quantrill’s retaliatory raid on Lawrence. This mode of warfare against the Missouri civilian population was called jayhawking, and the perpetrators were called jayhawkers. Within a generation of the end of the Civil War, with many of the Missourians that had lost friends and family during the jayhawking raids still alive, the University of Kansas chose to name their athletic team the Jayhawkers (only much later was it shortened to Jayhawks). In choosing that name, KU essentially guaranteed the historical basis of the rivalry would never be forgotten. And for as long as the KU team continues to be called the Jayhawks, tension in the fan base over the historical basis of the rivalry will almost certainly live on. Some KU fans will continue to embrace the myth of the jayhawkers as noble freedom fighters, while many MU fans will never forget the truth of the jayhawkers’ crimes against Missouri civilians. Mr. Bowers, is it really so hard to understand?

(Report Comment)
KUChiefsFavreFan March 6, 2009 | 2:40 p.m.

How is Kansas naming their mascot after Jayhawkers any different than Missouri naming theirs after Tigers. Tigers were a militant group as well, you claim they protected Columbia. Well, Jayhawkers felt they were protecting Eastern Kansas from Missouri aggression. The term Jayhawk predates any hostilities of Bleeding Kansas. The term was applied to settlers moving into Kansas in the 1830s, militant groups simply adopted the name.

I am not going to defend all of the actions of the Jayhawkers before and during the Civil War. Missourians esentially started the whole conflict by rigging elections in Kansas to support pro-slavery measures. Kansas responded to oppressive Missourians through violence, and Missourians also acted violently. It was War, what do you expect.

All I know is, the Jayhawkers were justified because there has never been a more cause more just to fight for. I'm proud that my state bucked the trend and stood firmly against slavery, can you Missourians say the same? Nope.

(Report Comment)
mike crozb March 6, 2009 | 5:46 p.m.

All this hate by mu fans makes me laugh. The civil War started it all, yes, but we are LONG past that. Still, all this hate from mu to KU is funny because mu has no in state rival so all mu hate goes to KU. At KU on the otherhand, we only give mu half of our hate, because we have KSU as an in state rival to give the other half of our hate. So, don't flatter yourselves by thinking KU hates mu as much as mu hates KU.

Rock Chalk Championhawk

(Report Comment)
Rebecca Delaney March 6, 2009 | 8:04 p.m.

Mike crozb's right about MU taking the rivalry much more seriously. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time surveying the KU scene, but this IS coming from a girl born to two KU parents.


[Ducks for cover.]

(Report Comment)
KUChiefsFavreFan March 7, 2009 | 12:34 a.m.

I strongly disagree with you mike crozb. I don't consider K-State a rival at all. KSU is not worthy of being a rival of ours. MU is only worthy because of historic reasons, and because they manage to upset us every now and then.

There's no question which school is better or which school has better athletics. The only reason MU is a worthy rival of KU is because they play the underdog role so well. Yes, of course MU takes the rivalry much more seriously. A good season for MU is beating KU. Meanwhile a good season for KU is winning championships.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 7, 2009 | 7:18 a.m.

Soon we will be observing the 150 anniversaries of the various battles of the Civil War, or, if you prefer, the War Between The States. Most Americans have long since moved on. Why wouldn't they?

In a previous post, above, I noted a long period of cooperation between the two universities, one which actually had benefit to students from Kansas and Missouri. That situation dealt with education. You remember education, don't you? Isn't that preferable to this infantile and phony border war?

(Report Comment)
mike crozb March 7, 2009 | 2:29 p.m.

When I was at KU, KSU was a very big rivalry, I guess I'm showing my age. It used to be huge, but not so much lately, but they are an instate rival something mu doesn't have which is my point, mu fans take it more seriously. Since I live in Mid MO I went to the game in Columbia,as seats are always available, unlike at KU and leaving the arena after KU GAVE the game to mu (27 turnovers is giving the game away) I heard many mu fans saying that beating KU was better than winning the Championship, so you are right about that. I felt like asking them how would you know, mu has never won a championship... I also find it funny we're discussing this here at mu's site. I assume you got here like I did, from the link at our KU site?? I do take it as a compliment from mu fans that beating us makes mu's season, while it takes a final four every few years to make ours.

Rock Chalk !!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
mike crozb March 7, 2009 | 2:34 p.m.

I forgot to mention, before someone corrects my grammer and puts down the education at KU, when I put mu in lower case and KU in upper case, it's on purpose !!!

(Report Comment)
Matt Y March 7, 2009 | 3:54 p.m.


(Report Comment)
Keith Piontek March 10, 2009 | 9:13 p.m.

KUChiefsFavreFan's post is a bit interesting where he states he is not going to defend the actions of the jayhawkers but then says they were justified. Hmmm. Additionally, don't confuse his statement about "the term being applied to Kansas settlers in the 1830's" with a fact. I am not aware of a single credible source backing up this statement. In fact, where there ANY settlers moving into Kansas Territory in the 1830s excepting displaced Native Americans and the relatively small number of ancillary traders, missionaires, and soldiers? Kansas Territory was not opened for settlement by whites until 1854.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken March 10, 2009 | 9:34 p.m.

Mike Crozb, too funny. You had a lot more grammar and spelling errors than just lower casing "MU."

(Report Comment)

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