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“Civil War” Ends in Oregon — Tell the Supreme Court

July 3rd, 2020 by dk

Oregon never meant for its Civil War sport rivalries to be taken seriously. The games, yes, but the name, no. Only Oregonians can keep a straight face when pondering whether Ducks or Beavers are more fearsome. Before roads were reliable, college-bound students tended to stay close to home.

Corvallis or Eugene? Parents might have though there was barely a spit of difference between them, until the games began. Then it was like the war that tore families apart, rent by competing loyalties.

It’ll be fun dreaming up new names for the series, especially because the “Civil War” moniker was popularized in the 1930s by Portland newspaper columnist L. H. Gregory. (He’s also credited with “Tall Firs” and “Webfoots.”)

But this column is not about good sports. It’s about sore losers.

With all due respect to Gregory, after our real Civil War was fought, we should have left it at that. Instead, we re-litigate the conflict as if it’s recreation for some, which it literally is. The best reason for dropping the name is to break that bad habit.

The habit does seem to be breaking, like a fever that left us delirious for a century and a half. Mississippi will change its flag. NASCAR emblems are adapting. Pigeons see fewer Confederate war heroes from above. We might even rename our own county, ending another glorification of a Confederate leader. The rebels did lose, after all.

News of the union’s victory didn’t reach parts of Texas until Juneteenth, long after the war ended. In a similar way, news of the South’s defeat has been slow to arrive in certain areas. Or it did arrive, only to be forgotten, again and again. This has produced a Sore Loser Syndrome that keeps us from moving forward together as a nation.

Losers can stay Americans, but they should be forced to admit they lost. That’s what must be required for a civil society. We cannot endlessly re-litigate our past battles and expect to move forward together.

Our bad habit of re-litigating reaches the highest corners of our nation. Let me take you now to the United States Supreme Court, where nine justices should have unanimously rejected a literal re-litigation, but they didn’t.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas law was unconstitutional because it would have closed virtually ever abortion clinic in the state, under the guise of protecting the health of the mother. It was narrowly decided 5-4, but it was decided.

Sore Loser Syndrome took hold when neighboring Louisiana wrote a law that was almost identical to the Texas law and they rushed it to the Supreme Court, hoping for a different decision on the exact same issue.

Fortunately, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four so-called liberal justices to make sure Louisiana received the same outcome as Texas, even though he had voted in favor of the Texas law in 2016. 

Unlike an intrastate sports rivalry, Supreme Court battles shouldn’t be repeated over and over, just for the fun of it. Let winners be gracious and losers be not sore.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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