Monday, November 26, 2007

Dressed for battle

When the state of Oregon joined the Union in 1859, the United States were becoming disunited and on the nation was rapidly heading toward civil war, the conflict forever known as the Civil War.

Oregon signed on as a Union anti-slavery state and opposed to freed slaves moving in too, for that matter. You can decide for yourself how far the state's residents have evolved on that point for yourself. Given the sentiments of the time, it may not be surprising to know that there was also an active pro-secession movement in the state at the time, and one of the most high profile demonstrations of that occurred in Eugene, that bastion of liberalism and Birkenstock.

In "modern" Oregon, the Civil War has a different connotation. This is Civil War Week, the week when one of the oldest college football rivalries in the nation will play out for the 111th time as the University of Oregon and Oregon State University battle it out on the gridiron for state bragging rights for another season. Why the game is known as the Civil War, I have no clue. Other than one school is "north" and the other one is "south" on Oregon's Highway 99. It's not exactly the Mason-Dixon Line though.

I'm a proud alumnus of the "North" school, Oregon State. A few weeks ago, when the University of Oregon Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the nation with Heisman trophy-candidate Dennis Dixon running the high-powered offense, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Ducks would kick Beaver ass.

Then Dixon got hurt and all dreams Oregon playing in a national title game collapsed to the turf with him, as did the Ducks' high-powered offense.

So, now, even though the Ducks are still favored in the game, the Beavers are looking like they could break the string of the home team winning every Civil War since 1997. It's by no means a lock, but optimism runs high in Beaver Nation.

So, in honor of the occasion, I am feeling the need for some OSU apparel, of which I have a virtually none, except hats. So, I made a long overdue trip to the Beaver Fan Shop at Keizer Station today after work. I picked up a few T-shirts to show my team pride, and a couple of items commemorating the OSU baseball teams' back-to-back national championships (which were on sale).

I came home beaming with Beaver pride, and envy for all the cool gear I liked but couldn't afford. But I find myself bothered by the ongoing reference to the states premier college football game as the Civil War game. The game has a long, proud (sometimes dubious) history. But the Civil War, in reference to the 1860s conflict, is not something we need to associate our college traditions with. Yes, Oregon is largely divided by those who align themselves primarily with Beaver Nation or the Duck Blind. We mostly live in harmony, save for one weekend a year. The Civil War was deadly divisive and wounds still run deep. Oregon played but a small part in that bloody conflict. Many communities in the East and South have histories tied to the Civil War, but Oregon was not on the frontlines of that battle.

And let's face it, Oregon is still a largely Caucasian state with plenty of unresolved issues connected to race and ethnicity. Must we keep fighting and losing the war of racial justice? How did the game come to be known as the Civil War Game? There are plenty of people out there calling for schools to stop using Native American names as school mascots, why aren't some of those people lined up to oppose the use of a war of separation and slavery to commemorate a college sports contest?

It's time to find a new name for Oregon's intrastate football rivalry. For the 112th game, it needs a new moniker. Washington has the Apple Cup, Stanford and Cal have the Big Game, Arizona and Arizona State have the Duel in the Desert. We need a new name.

I'm sort of partial to the Beaver State Bowl.


pril said...

hmm. Coos Bay's two high schools (marshfield and North Bend) had a Civil War game every year. Even my high school in CA had a Civil War with it's own arch enemy. Isn't the Civil War known more factually as The War Between The States? It actually has an "official" name, and Civil War is not it.

Anonymous said...

At least we no longer have to call it the "toilet bowl" like it was when we were in school!

Remember the 0-0 tie in 1983? I was at that game (my older brother was at U of O at the time). Man, it sucked!


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