Thursday, November 29, 2007

Enough with the "Civil War"

Each year at this time, I rail against the use of “The Civil War” as the name for the rivalry between the University of Oregon and Oregon State.

The over-the-top appellation was invented by sportswriters back in the ‘20s, a mere 60 years after this nation suffered through a real Civil War.

I won’t go into my litany of reasons for dumping “the Civil War,” except to say that the play on words is stale, obtuse (It hinges on the word “civil.” Get it?) and decidedly unfunny.

Civil Wars, including our own, are blood-drenched, soul-wrenching tragedies. (see Mathew Brady's photograph)

Back in 2001, I actually thought I had some traction on the issue when I wrote the presidents of the two universities following 9/11. You may recall that in that wrenching time of reflection we were allegedly experiencing an “end of irony.”

In the spirit of ending the irony of a mere college rivalry escalating to "war," both presidents responded with moderate interest in my proposal. Nothing came of it. The country was too busy preparing to foment a real civil war in Iraq.

Now, through my Portland Community College teaching and other activities, I have contacts among students at the University of Oregon. I am urging one of them, Daniel Ronan (Wilson High School, ’07), to form “Students, Teachers and Alumni for Ending ‘The Civil War.’” Daniel was one of the organizers of this spring’s Wilson senior prank, the planting of marigolds in the shape of a peace symbol on the school grounds.

He stuck his toe in the war with a recent letter to the editor to UO’s Daily Emerald.

More than getting rid of the name Civil War, I hope this group, if it ever gets off the ground, can come up with a clever alternative name for the rivalry.

I’ve thought of a few over the years. “The Clear Cut,” “The Wet One,” and “Venue in the Valley.”

Don’t like those?

It’s your turn ….

P.S. The Oregonian sports page was in sync with its war metaphor today when it ran a story about injured Duck and Beaver players. The headline read: “The Wounded.” The story tells us that the “wounds” are all part of “a battle of attrition.”

Hey, it’s time for a journalistic armistice.

Peace already.

(To the right: Real Civil War wounded. Photo by Mathew Brady)

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