I grew up on the outskirts of Kansas City, MO, about five miles from the Kansas/Missouri border; less than that as the crow flies, or if you'd wanted to swim across the (huge and log-swollen) Kansas River.
It seems, perhaps, to an outlander, a strange point of pride, to claim oneself a "Missourian" over a "Kansan," particularly when we share a major city, split nearly halfway down the middle. And, lets face it: to anyone else in the country, this is Flyover Land, our big hair and un-Yoga'd, barbecue-fed keisters indistinguishable from those of twenty other states.
But, to a Missourian and a Kansan, you are One. Or. The. Other. Period. And if you are The Other, this could, very well, be a problem.
Again, to an outsider, this would perhaps be linked to the great sports rivalry between our two major state universities, the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas (MU and KU, respectively. No, I don't know why it's not U of M and U of K. It just isn't.) They wouldn't be wrong; this is a very huge and storied rivalry, and the oldest west of the Mississippi. They've been keeping stats on MU vs. KU for over a hundred years now...and we can't even agree on THOSE.
But, the history behind this conflict is actually much deeper than similar rivalries, such as UT vs. Oklahoma, or UT vs. Texas A&M. Those, to my eyes, mostly appear to stem from long exposure to each other's teams in the same conferences, and yes, proximity of two major universities that are packed to the gills with drunk-ass testosterone-fueled college students.
No, the MU/KU divide, like the Missouri/Kansas divide, was birthed in the good old days of slavery, and those heady pre-Civil War days of border raids, murder of innocents, and burning of villages to the ground. (I'm going to apologize in advance to my History Major Friends - and you know who you are - for putting forth what is a total simplification of the facts. The lateness of the hour, and the limits of my patience, forbid me from telling the whole story. But I'll try to sum it up as best I can. If I get anything very very wrong, tell me, and I'll amend it.)
Kansas was admitted to the union under a clause in which the residents were to elect whether they were going to allow slavery or not. It was assumed that Kansas would become a slave state, but an enormous amount of violence erupted as a result. (This became known in the popular parlance as "Bleeding Kansas.") It seems that many Kansans - who will forever hold the moral high ground, and I'll swear to that - were pro-Union abolitionists ("Jayhawkers," in the common parlance,) particularly over in Lawrence, the neighboring village to Kansas. Fiery old John Brown was a Kansan, and the gun he was raising over his head in most of his iconography was mostly aimed towards the immediate east.
My state, I'm sad to say, was a slave state, and while not secessionists per se, we were clearly horribly, morally, in the wrong. Due to the passions and the horrifying conflict of the years leading up to the Civil War, skirmishes erupted on both sides of the borders, stemming from both sides. In many ways, these skirmishes - portrayed in the very good Ang Lee movie Ride With the Devil, if you are so interested - were the kindling to the beginning of the Civil War.
During the Civil War, the Union army conducted a few atrocities, including imprisoning (and executing) women and children who were accused of aiding and abetting the guerillas. The land of these women was also seized and given to pro-Union sympathizers. The Union attacked Osceola, MO, and nine men were given a quickie "trial" and executed in short order.
As a response to these events, a man named William Quantrill led a guerilla raid into Lawrence, in which he and his men burned the town of Lawrence to the ground, and systematically executed all of the males in the town, including young boys. When the day was over, 187 were dead, and nearly every building burned.
Needless to say, the repercussions on my state, when the Union came in to put the smackdown on these folks, were severe. The Union essentially evicted EVERYONE in four counties on the Missouri side of the border from their land - including my mother's ancestors, as a side note - and burned everything to the ground. Quantrill died, and the guerillas petered out after the end of the Civil War, leaving only a few disgruntled folks on the Missouri side whose mamas had lost their land; notably, Frank and Jesse James, two of my other, erm, famous hometown boys.
(Whew. You still with me? Good. If you're bored with this, scroll down. There's a hot picture of Sting on my last post.)
So, fast-forward to the present day. I am a fourth-generation Missouri Tiger. Plenty of my high school friends went to KU, and that was typical, as it was actually closer to my house than MU was. However, in my family, going to KU would have been, shall we say, FROWNED UPON. (Unless I was going to be a doctor, and in that case, it would have been grudgingly approved, as long as I swore never, ever to root for their sports teams.)
The MU-KU game is legendary, in our schools...but, at least in football, honestly, it rarely, if ever, means anything to anyone else but us. Quite frankly, our football teams have historically, well, SUCKED. We are usually lucky to make it into some lame-assed bowl - my favorite being the "Insight.com Bowl" one year - which is why, typically, we have MORE fun during the MU-KU game than any silliness that goes on in the post-season.
UNTIL. THIS. YEAR.
Missouri is number THREE. KU is number TWO. IN THE NATION.
And THE NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE NATION - LSU, my mother-in-law's beloved alma mater - JUST LOST.
The winner of this game - it's tomorrow night - goes to the Big 12 Championship, and, if they win that one...they go to the National Fucking Championship Game.
This is it, it's for all the marbles. This will NEVER happen again. The winner of this game will have bragging rights for thirty years. And the loser will hang their head in shame.
Oh, my God. I am just about to burst out of my freaking skin in anticipation.
And, now, you know the vicious backstory. I hope you watch the game, and enjoy it, if you're into that sort of thing. Really, I wouldn't blame you for choosing John Brown's side over Quantrill's, but I promise you, the pro-vs-anti-slavery issue isn't a thing anymore. (If anything, you can think of Kansas's new infamy, and root against them as the "Anti-Evolutionist State.")
On a related note, here's some of the (admittedly tacky on our part) t-shirts that have been spotted on the MU-KU fans of late:
...on the back of which reads "Missouri 187; Kansas 0."
...on the back of which reads "Suck it, Slaver!"
Now, do you see? DO YOU SEE?