Written by Hillsboro Free Press Tuesday, 30 November 2010 16:51
It hard for me to imagine a world in which the three or four times the University of Kansas plays the University of Missouri in football and basketball each year is not a huge occurrence.
Maybe that’s because this Jayhawk was nurtured by Tigers.
My late father and former Tiger mother (who converted to KU-ism) are what you could call border jumpers. Spending the first 20-plus years of their respective lives in either Nodaway County, Mo., or Columbia, Tom and Barbara Giffin moved to Eureka, Kan., in the early 1970s.
Having recently graduated with a master’s degree from Mizzou, Tom had obtained employment with the Kansas Department of Fish and Game (now Wildlife and Parks) and was the Fall River area fisheries biologist.
The young couple assimilated to the Kansas way of life (somewhat) and began to meet new people, but these people were different than they were used to. Instead of yelling Mizzou-RAH and donning antlers on game day, they engaged in waving the wheat and “the most annoying chant they had ever heard.”
Tom, having grown up a Missouri fan, knew what this “nonsense was all about” and was able to maintain his Tigerness.
Barbara, however, had never been exposed to the traditions of KU and was still young in her Mizzou fandom. Her father, Lloyd, was a Tiger fan, but was more interested in the activities of the local Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats.
She considered herself a Missouri fan because she had been to several Tiger football and basketball games with Tom during his college years, but was slowly being corrupted by her Jayhawk-loving health-care co-workers at the Greenwood County Hospital.
Thinking back now, I could see the conversion before my eyes as a youngster and think my older brother and I were also a cause.
My parents divorced when I was in the seventh grade and my mother headed for mecca (Lawrence) after a couple years. She wanted to be close to her sisters in Kansas City and was looking for more opportunities than a small community offered, but didn’t want to live in a metropolitan area.
She began working at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and quickly became a Jayhawk. Barbara said she became a KU fan because “it was the thing to do in Lawrence.”
Now she is a season-ticket holder for the Kansas women’s basketball team and does not miss a men’s contest on television. She is a little down on the football team, but after Saturday, I think we are all a little worried.
For my father, Norm Stewart was the man and Missouri basketball was a must. If he couldn’t get the game on satellite, he would drive from Eureka to Topeka to watch the games at his college roommate’s house.
I was a KU fan, but in love with the game of basketball and would frequently go with him.
I enjoyed the best of both worlds, watching not only the exploits of Danny Manning, Milt Newton, Adonis Jordan, Richard Scott, Kevin Pritchard, Mark Randall, Alonzo Jamison, “Downtown” Terry Brown, Steve Woodberry, Jacque Vaughn, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Jerod Haase and Billy Thomas, but also Derek Chievous, Doug Smith, Jevon Crudup, Anthony Peeler, Melvin Bookout and Travis Ford.
I never did like Jason Sutherland.
I even went to Missouri’s basketball camp one year and KU’s the next. I learned more at the KU camp. While at the Missouri camp, I did get to meet Stewart. He didn’t hold against it me that the I was from Kansas.
My dad was a firm believer in rooting for the Big Eight no matter what, so he would root for KU against anyone but Mizzou. But during the Border War, it was no holds barred. We would insult each other, argue over calls, laugh at each other and bet chores on the games.
Usually I would be enjoying victory while Tom scrubbed the dishes, but there were a few times I was up to my elbows in Palmolive.
When I was in junior high (1992), Dad surprised me with tickets to Missouri at Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas was highly ranked and featured a young Roy Williams. Kansas was playing for the Big Eight title.
Missouri had a future NBA veteran in Anthony Peeler.
Peeler exploded for 43 points in the contest but the team play of Kansas was too much as the Jayhawks won the contest, 98-89. The game was listed as the No. 14 memorable moment in fieldhouse history by the Lawrence Journal World on Nov, 21, 2007.
Before and during the game, my father was the victim of discrimination. When he parked, he was charged extra because of his Missouri sweatshirt. When he went to sit down, he was crowded to the aisle while I was let in. He watched the game on a TV in the concourse.
Throughout the rest of his life, my father and I continued to butt heads on border-war game days, but the old man eventually converted as well.
A victim of pancreatic cancer at age 57, one of the dying Tiger’s last wishes was to give his body to cancer research at the University of Kansas.