Friday, November 23, 2007

Anatomy of a rivalry

Border hostilities run deep



The Border War 2007

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Reader poll

Personnel-wise, who do you think creates the the biggest matchup problem for KU's defense?

  • QB Chase Daniel 35% 1656 votes
  • RB Tony Temple 1% 72 votes
  • TE Martin Rucker 9% 463 votes
  • TE Chase Coffman 6% 289 votes
  • Do-it-all Jeremy Maclin 44% 2045 votes
  • Someone else 2% 114 votes

4639 total votes.


That word printed below a picture of Lawrence burning on a Missouri-yellow T-shirt was enough to ignite the Jayhawk faithful.

Soon, drawings of John Brown superimposed over the state of Kansas popped up on the Internet. Kansas fans were making their own statement about a rivalry that dates back more than 150 years.

Yes, the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State actually is known as the Civil War. But Saturday night's Armageddon at Arrowhead - alternately known as the Border War or the Border Showdown - is rooted in the actual, shooting Civil War.

"The violence between Kansas and Missouri in history started with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854," said Virgil Dean, who works for the Kansas Historical Society. "Missourians had a real interest in making sure Kansas was a slave state - in promoting the expansion of slavery."

That didn't sit well with Kansans, including the aforementioned Brown. So Kansans and Missourians fought.

A lot.

"In the mid-19th century, there wasn't anything more controversial than slavery," Dean said.

For years, from 1854 until the end of the Civil War in 1865, the two sides committed atrocities of varying degrees. Neither side was perfect, though in the end, Kansas could say it was fighting against slavery and Missouri, well, wasn't.

History reaches forward

Sure, you might say, the Civil War ended 140 years ago. No one involved in modern-day sports really thinks about the history behind this rivalry.


Ask former KU football coach Don Fambrough about that. In his annual - suitable for adults only - pregame speech to the Jayhawks, he tells the story of William Quantrill and how the raider sacked Lawrence. He talks about how Quantrill, Jesse James and other Missouri "bushwhackers" were fighting for slavery.

And, he reminds KU players, Quantrill was an MU grad. Historically accurate? Nope. Motivational? You better believe it.

And that's not all.

All of last season, the KU football players wore red socks during just one game: against Missouri. Through the years, KU has often chosen to wear red socks for only the MU game.

"Several groups of (Civil War) Kansans had red leggings they wore," Dean said. "The red-leggers were a group of Kansas cavalry that were particularly hostile."

MU fans will tell you that those leggings didn't turn red until they were soaked in the blood of Missourians killed in cross-border raids. And keep in mind, Kansas and Missouri were technically on the same side - the Union - during the Civil War. Technically.

Modern warfare

Shortly after the Civil War ended, a state of detente broke out between Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers. Dean said commerce was a stabilizing factor. Towns in Missouri wanted the food produced in Kansas. Kansas farmers wanted a place to sell their goods.

Railroads, Dean said, linked Missouri's major cities with points west, often through Kansas.

The deadly raids of the war are over, but there are Missourians and Kansans stationed behind enemy lines on each others' college campuses.

Joshua Bickel is a 2006 graduate of KU who is attending graduate school at MU.

"It's hard. It's really, really hard," he said. "I'm from Kansas, and I really love my school and my state and where I come from. To have people tell it's a crappy place when they've never been there? That's really hard."

Bickel said his MU friends give him trouble all the time for his allegiance to the Jayhawks and the Sunflower State. Especially during the last week, as hype for the Border Showdown has grown to immense proportions.

Lauren Baranowski knows how Bickel feels. She's an MU graduate - "definitely a Tiger fan forever" - who's been forced to attend school at KU.

"Missouri doesn't have a grad program in audiology, and KU has a really good one," she explained. "Every time I see the bill, I'm reminded of my pain."

And Baranowski even has problems going home to her alma mater. Because of the KU Medical Center sticker on her car, some sharp-eyed Missouri fan recently wrote a message on her car: "Keep Jayhawkers out of Columbia."

Ouch. Rejected by her own.

Other instances

Through the years, marching band members from both KU and MU have reported attacks by opposing fans, leading to bands often not traveling to away games.

Former MU basketball coach Norm Stewart was legendary for refusing to stay in Kansas hotels or buy Kansas gas. He'd have his team stay in Kansas City, Mo., before playing either K-State or KU.

Fambrough's the same way. He refuses to spend a dime in Missouri if he can do so in Kansas.

So yes, this rivalry has a lot of modern disagreements, but every modern disagreement seems to be rooted in a historical battle that many fans are still fighting.


actorman 12 years, 2 months ago

"And keep in mind, Kansas and Missouri were technically on the same side - the Union - during the Civil War. Technically."

What in the name of all that is holy (i.e., the Jayhawk) is he talking about????????? Missouri was one of the confederate states!!!!!!

actorman 12 years, 2 months ago

It didn't post the full link, so I'll try it again, splitting it into two paragraphs: of_America#Table_of_CSA_States

sevenyearhawk 12 years, 2 months ago

I watched the documentary Bad Blood by Wide Awake Films, it was on PBS in KC last night ... I highly recommend it!

One of the things that stood out was that the "border ruffians" pushed and pushed the settlers of the Kansas territory. They were frightened, and easily gave in at first.

As the ruffians grew bolder, and more brazen, the settlers finally had enough and armed themselves and begun the defensive, which then morphed into an offensive!

I have an eerie feeling about our modern rivalry ... the Kansas crowd has been fairly quiet with a developing interest in football, but I think if something happens, say one of our star players getting knocked out, and the Missouri fans cheering ...

That might make many reserved Kansas fans snap, and then things will REALLY get ugly!

KU 12 years, 2 months ago

It's the Border War. It will never be anything less. To call it a "showdown" is to de-emphasize the bloodshed that Kansans experienced in the Cause For Freedom.

On a lighter note.....Did anybody see Lispin' Lou Holtz's pep talk for the KU players on ESPN last night? It was good. But I bet Don Fambrough could fire up the boys more effectively.

actorman 12 years, 2 months ago

I give up. Trust me, the info. is there.

troutsee 12 years, 2 months ago

Holtz did pretty will but Fam would have been better. Still, Holtz has been one of the few gurus in our corner for most of the year. We will win by at least 6.

nicka 12 years, 2 months ago

"I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missoura" - Grampa Simpson

KU 12 years, 2 months ago

I never knew the historical significance of the red socks before. I hope they were them Saturday night.

speedy 12 years, 2 months ago

people who live in missou. will not drive across kansas to vac. in colo. they will not cross that line to shop at a mall. i gladly shop everywhere andhave enjoyed vac. many years ago in missou. but being a decendat of 4 gg-parents who lived through the 1850,s i will not dishonor them by wishing well anything about mo. u. GO KU!!!

Kent Kossoy 12 years, 2 months ago

While you can say that both sides can be negative to the other, with the war and as fans, I lived in Columbia for 5 painful years and I cannot remember any Tiger fans that were nice about KU. They generally were hateful and rude when it came to Kansas. I always took great pleasure in the many coaching firings and bowl disruptions that KU caused to Mizzou. I live in Texas now and when people see that I went to Kansas, they ask about BBall and now football. When I tell them that I also attended MIZZOU, they say" you went to the Zoo??" Beat these bushwackers!!

Joe Ross 12 years, 2 months ago

Repost from another article:


I totally agree. I too am hopelessly addicted to Kansas sports; in fact, if I tried NOT to be a KU fan I would fail. It means too much. Setting aside, for the moment, the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, I ask myself why sports are so important to me...and to others, for that matter. It pervades our entire conciousness at times, and inspires hatred, love, anger, and exhaltation.

It has to be something so basic that the answer must lie in something we all have in common. Something biological or on the order of our primitive instincts. Perhaps we enjoy sports because they mirror the struggle between man and the elements, harking back to our fundamental struggles to survive in times prior to modern civilization. Back when "winning" meant a clan of our ancestors had successfully conquered nature and captured from it a meal in the form of an athletic deer or an imposing mammoth.

Losing, on the other hand, signified BEING conquered. Subjected. Hungry. Or worse yet, handed over to death by starvation or at the hoof or horn of an untamed beast. Yes, that's it. Sports typify something in our essence derived from primitive man.

In the modern world, we reenact this drama by substituting opponents. Consider Missouri now. There is not a more hated rival in Kansas than those with which we share a border on our easternmost boundary. In fact, I hate that we even share a border with them! Kansas represents that which is good, Missouri is our enemy. Superman/Lex Luthor. Rocky versus Drago. Jesus and Satan.

At the origin of this rivalry are the positions our states took on the question of slavery and the bloodshed that resulted in the middle of the 19th century. Missourians will say that though they had Quantrill we had Brown, and that both were guilty of commmitting atrocities. But our cause was just. Theirs was not. Simple as that.

Just as we hold on to our human attraction to sport, so too we hold on to this rivalry. It means something. On Saturday, let the rivalry turn to revelry because good triumphs over evil. We HAVE to win this game!

seattlehawk_78 12 years, 2 months ago

If you really don't want to spend any money in Missouri, make sure you buy all your food, gas and whatever before you cross the state line. Don't forget to use the public lavatories whenever possible while at the game. It will feel extra good taking a dump while you're on the other side.

speedy 12 years, 2 months ago

sports are my only outlet that lets reality beat make believe. tv and hollywood cannot beat the real thing. go KU

Alan Braun 12 years, 2 months ago

I live in Iowa now, but I suffered through 20 years of living in Jefferson City and the ENDLESS garbage from 'zoo fans about how awful KU was/is. I too enjoyed several times sitting in the stands at Faurot field or the Hearnes center watching our guys pound the last nail into some sucker MU coach's coffin. Warren Powers and Quin Snyder especially come to mind - Powers never did squat in sports afterwards, and it remains to be seen if Quinny will amount to anything in the NBA developmental league.

FWIW, the Nebraska and Iowa State people, but especially Nebraska, hate MU almost as much as we do. They too have suffered from the unsportsmanlike conduct that MU fans in general, but the Antlers particularly, seem to exude in abundance. Actually I think everyone in the old Big 8 has something to say about them. One of their fans called me today wanting to bet a pound of tiger poop on the game - I hope he gets to eat it!

actorman 12 years, 2 months ago

Well, I stand corrected. Amazingly enough, Missouri was "technically" (as he put it) a union state--in the sense that they had an "unelected pro-union government" in place in 1861. Of course they were also admitted to the confederacy on November 28, 1861. So you could argue that they were on both sides. Check out

chiefsfaninla 12 years, 2 months ago

The worst day in Lawrence is MUCH better than the best day in Columbia.

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