Wednesday, October 6, 2004
Apparently, three is greater than 150.
This new math is brought to you by the athletic departments of Kansas University and the University of Missouri, which jointly announced Monday that the athletic competition between the two schools no longer will be called "The Border War."
Instead, this decades-old clash will be known as "The Border Showdown," thanks to happenings from three years ago.
"We feel that in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing events around the world, it is inappropriate to use the term 'war' to describe intercollegiate athletics events," KU athletics director Lew Perkins said. "We need to be more sensitive to the men and women who defend our country for real."
Besides the ridiculous fact that it took nearly a third of a decade to make this name change - which no one even asked for - the political correctness of this action is mind-boggling.
Sure, athletes such as Kellen Winslow referring to themselves as soldiers and stating that they're out to kill their opponents is hyperbole of the worst kind. These types of statements also are offensive to the men and women who have defended their country and the family members of those who have died doing so.
Missouri AD Mike Alden noted this, stating that the KU-Missouri rivalry is important to many people, "but it certainly pales in comparison with what is taking place overseas."
Alden is correct, but he's forgetting something very important - "The Border War" goes back more than three years. More like 150 years.
As it appears both athletic departments have forgotten, Kansas and Missouri were fighting the Civil War nearly five years before the rest of the country.
Under the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Kansas's citizens were to be allowed to decide whether the territory should enter the Union as a pro-slavery state or a free state.
With people from both sides flooding into the territory to establish voting rights and try to turn Kansas into the state of their choice, the territory overflowed with battles over the next decade -- hence the nickname "Bleeding Kansas." Many of these fights were between Kansas and Missouri residents.
While Free Staters certainly were responsible for their share of these attacks, the most famous battle is probably Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence that happened Aug. 21, 1863.
According to most accounts, around 140 people were killed, 30 people seriously wounded, and 80 widows and 250 orphans left in the raid. About 75 businesses and 100 houses were destroyed, causing $2 million in property damage.
Whether current citizens of either state directly are related to survivors of this raid or any of the other numerous battles during the 1850s and 1860s, many of these residents (and many students of each university) know that the animosity between Kansas and Missouri is rooted in blood on the plains, not sweat on the court.
That blood may be nearly a century and a half old, but does that make it any less important than that which is being shed in Iraq or was lost in the Sept. 11 attacks?
Yes, the importance of the two schools' athletic competitions in the Midwest pales in comparison to the battles being fought by soldiers in the Middle East. That doesn't mean the universities have to be so over the top with their political correctness, though.
If "The Border War" was too insensitive given the events of the past three years, maybe "The Border Showdown" still is too callous for people who know about The Civil War. Maybe "The Border Showdown" should be changed again, this time to the more literal "The Bi-State Territorial-Line Dispute" or "The Amicable Two-Party Dispute Over Athletic Prowess."
In fact, maybe "The Civil War" should be changed to "The Civil Showdown" now? Or maybe "The Friendly Disagreement between Those Who Wanted Lower Tariffs and Unpaid African-American Workers and Those Who Didn't" would be even better.
What if this trend carried over to numerous Lawrence businesses, not just Kansas athletics? You could have a beer out front of "The Mostly Rectangular Area Directly West of Missouri" Brewery? Or, if you live north of 15th Street, your teenager could attend "The 34th Territory Admitted to the Union" High School?
Changing the name to "The Border Showdown" is revisionist history that chooses to be insensitive to the people who fought and died to keep Kansas a free state. Apparently it's better to be nice to the soldiers of the past three years than those who died fighting for freedom and equality long before anyone in either the KU or MU athletic department was alive.