Commentary: Missouri-Kansas rivalry intense enough without invoking Civil War memories

Friday, November 23, 2007 | 11:40 a.m. CST; updated 1:57 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Greg Bowers is the Missourian's Sports section editor.

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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Ken Mark November 23, 2007 | 1:08 p.m.

Greg, I am a KU alum and agree about the Civil War. I have also seen t-shirts on the Missouri side showing Lawrence burning in the raid and the caption Scoreboard 183-0. That is pretty disgusting considering that the 183 refers to people in Lawrence who were slaughtered in the raid. I also read in the KC Star on Sunday about a 64 year old judge in Platte City, Mo. who has the painting of the raid with the same 183-0 caption on his wall. The article says he does not just want to see KU beaten by Missouri, but Lawrence and KU destroyed. I hope I never have to appear before that judge. There are stupid people on both sides who take this thing way too far.

Ken Mark

(Report Comment)
alex gamble November 23, 2007 | 8:09 p.m.

Once again I encounter yet another Northerner spewing rhetoric that attempts to cloak Lincoln's aggression on the South as some noble effort to end slavery. The truth of the root causes of the War Between the States continues to be published only in "approved" U.S. History books.

I encourage you to pick up history books that are not written from a pro-Union point-of-view and you will find that this misinformation doesn't hold water!

Crushing States' Rights was the true reason behind Lincoln's effort to squash the South and that is exactly why we have too much power and waste in Washington D.C. now.

(Report Comment)
don werby November 23, 2007 | 10:37 p.m.

I am a 1956 graduate. During that time there was more focus on beating Oklahoma. As a matter of fact, I can remember being told Beat Oklahoma and no classes on Monday! Yet for 4 years I was in Columbia, we always had class on the monday following the OK MU game.

Thanks and go Tigers!!

Don Werby

(Report Comment)
David Karr November 24, 2007 | 8:54 a.m.

While it's disappointing to read the Mr Gamble's worldview has "once again" been inconvenienced by mainstream historiography concerning causes of the Civil War, I will say that it always bothers me to hear the old "state's rights" issue trotted out. Mr Gamble, governments usually do not go to war over abstractions; you have to push beyond "state's rights," and ask, "yes, but state's rights to do what??" And at turn-after-turn in state and federal conflicts during the decades prior to the civil war, retaining and expanding slavery looms very very large in that debate. So, state's rights? I'll accept that. State's rights to expand slavery, that is.

(Report Comment)
alex gamble November 24, 2007 | 9:24 p.m.

“Mainstream historiography”???

That’s a nice way to refer to the product of government-approved revisionist historians.

You can choose to believe that the Federal government was morally motivated to eliminate slavery but the evidence fails to support that fiction.

Since you believe the abolition of slavery was the true motivation of the Lincoln & Co. then perhaps you could provide an explanation to these mysteries:

Why wasn't the Emancipation Proclamation issued at the beginning of the war?

Why did the proclamation apply only to the southern states that had seceded from the Union?

Why didn't the proclamation end slavery immediately?


The objective observer of history accepts that the War of Northern Aggression was merely a power-grab by the Federal Government which was firmly controlled at that time by the Northern Elite.

I am never “inconvenienced” when I am permitted to share historical fact with those that believe propagandist fiction!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 25, 2007 | 7:26 a.m.

Who cares?

(Report Comment)
Dale Salyer November 25, 2007 | 9:24 a.m.

This rivalry began with the kansas-Nebraska act, before the civil war. The rivalry does'nt depend on athletics. If you live and work in the Kansas city area you are in it every day.

go mizzou, win the war again this year

(Report Comment)
Jefed Warnoodi November 25, 2007 | 10:13 a.m.

I guess the first amendment gives people the right to express, even in this day and age, their love for the worst in Missouri's past. But aside from being tasteless, the embrace of pro-Confederate cold-blooded murderers to support Mizzou's football team is historically misleading. While slavery was legal in Missouri, the state sent almost three times as many soldiers to the Union army as the Confederate army, although you'd never know it from the cartoon versions of history these moron fans and the media keep repeating. Heck, Missouri's own Tiger mascot was named after a group of guys that organized to defend Columbia against pro-Confederate guerillas led by Bill Anderson. Just because the real border war and the Civil War may have provided an emotional spark for the athletic conflict between the schools doesn't mean we have to stupidly embrace the worst of our history in the name of school spirit. I mean, what if Japanese fans came to a contest against an American team wearing t-shirts celebrating Pearl Harbor?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 25, 2007 | 4:19 p.m.

But consider the progress that's been made since 1865! Finally, near the end of the fourth decade of the Twentieth Century, black students were allowed to enroll at University of Missouri.(Name one other truly "Midwestern" public university that waited so long to end segregation.) Today there are black students at MU, and some of them aren't on the football or basketball teams.

The three greatest Missourians to date are arguably Mark Twain, George Washington Carver and Harry Truman. Carver was forced to go to Iowa in order to obtain a quality college education, because he was black. He received one.

(Report Comment)
bob painter April 27, 2008 | 8:01 a.m.

Why do we need to hire these out of state types that appear to know nothing of history or the culture here....Missouri has this need to hire out of staters....why.

Maybe someone should reseach what a jayhawker is and was?
It sad that this poor dead country can't even think, much less find out the truth.

While your looking see that blacks sold blacks into slavery, blacks owned slaves in the U.S., there were slaves in kansas and not just the ones stolen and resold there, specificaly in lawrance. The jayhawk is a hate symbol and arrogance accepted and protrayed by a bunch of fools.

(Report Comment)

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