Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"The Civil War" — unworthy of Oregon

Each year in the week before the UO/OSU "Civil War,” I rail against this over-the-top name for a simple football rivalry.

I argue that the universities' stature is lessened because of their rivalry’s appellation.

Today’s Oregonian sports page gave me a “peg” for this year’s lament.

The headline reads, “It’s not civil nor is it war.”

Well, duh, if it’s not civil and not a war, in the name of mere accuracy, LET'S CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE!

The Oregonian's writer, Ryan White, tells those of us who are agitated (outraged?) by this abominable name, to lighten up. It’s only a metaphor. He might have added that “Beavers” aren’t really beavers, and “Ducks” aren’t really ducks.

Problem is, thanks to “The Civil War” and the name's inhumanity, I’m not so sure.

To Ryan, I recommend George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s little book, “Metaphors We Live By.” Metaphors (and words, for that matter) shape how we think about our world. When we say “I fell in love,” we do in a way surrender ourselves to the helplessness of falling.

Metaphors reinforce and even guide how we behave, write Lakoff and Johnson.

“The Civil War,” as a name for a mere intercollegiate rivalry, also cheapens the word “War.” It also dishonors the 500,000 American lives lost in the real American Civil War.

Worse it suggests an ignorance and lack of respect for that event by the faculty, administration, students and alumni of Oregon’s two major universities.

After 9/11, I actually wrote the presidents of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University to urge them to drop the name once and for all because of anguish about real war, violence and terror. To my surprise, the president of OSU wrote to say that the administration had taken the name change under consideration. Nothing became of it.

White’s story in today’s Oregonian refers to an enlightened past sports editor who banished the term from the sports page. Writes White, “The Civil War, he told reporters, was between the North and the South and took place between 1861 and 1865.”


White doesn’t tell us the name of the editor, but it should be inscribed on the tombstone of Oregon's "Civil War.” Metaphorically speaking, of course.

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Anonymous Adam said...

Oh, come on. This is the first time I've heard anyone complain about the name on this rivalry. No one is dishonoring anyone. It's not about words or metaphors, it's about intent. I can guarantee that not a single person in the state of Oregon uses the name of this rivalry with the intent of dishonoring 500,000 people that died 150 years ago. Everyone understands the seriousness and historical importance of the real Civil War. And another thing is there is no way to change the name of the rivalry, because the name is used by every Duck and Beaver fan in offices, houses, on the street, at schools, in the Autzen and Reser Stadium parking lots, and all over the internet. A letter to the President of a university isn't going to change that. Sorry to say, but you wasted your time typing that.

12:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quit being a little girl about it. thats the name, its unique, its catchy and it makes sense.
oh its not a war? no s#%&?
and... its not the actual civil war from the 1800's? WOW NOTHING GETS BY YOU, i bet you're real fun to have around on gameday!

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Life. Get one. And if you're going to get all sanctimonious, get the dates right. The American Civil War started in 1861, not 1851.

5:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey man, let it go. This type of thinking is why this country is so uptight in the first place. A name is just a name and nothing more. Nobody believes that there are similarities between an actual war and a football game played between two inter state rivals. This country has become far too sensitive. Sorry, but while I understand how some people could be offended, this is a case where the minority should be overlooked because the majority of people love the name as is. There are plenty of war veterans that are alumni of both schools that most likely are not offended by using the name of a war over 150 years ago. Thanks and feel free to respond.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Civil War (football game) pits "brother against brother," just as the actual war waged during the 19th century.
I find it odd that in this world full of dire, real problems you would take offense to this moniker. There are those out there with no food, no healthcare, loss of liberty and living in the midst of real war. Perhaps you should take your outrage and point it in a worthwhile direction rather than taking such offense at a football game, which brings joy to such a large number of people.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow you are overreacting! People often refer to football games as a "battle", and the two schools are 45 minutes apart. This rivalry divides a state, hence the "civil" part. As for dishonoring our Vet's.... Please, thats absurd. So if I use the word "war" in any context other than the literal I am being disrespectfull? why don't you focus your obvious talents on something more meeningfull and let every one else enjoy the fun of arguing with there neighbors about as you called it a "simple football rivalry". I find that disrespectfull by the way.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a huge waste of time

11:53 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

So far, I have eight fan-atical comments and counting.

To answer them, I've posted "a comparison test."

Vis. "Try this metaphor on for size." See where it leads you.

1:24 PM  

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