- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Because it will make people angry. Really, really angry.
I know this because it happened, and because reporter Rob Roberts, special to the Kansas City Star, was there to tell us about it. Here’s the deal: On April 2, administrators at Trailbridge Elementary School in Lee’s Summit, Mo. -- a medium-sized suburb on the outskirts of Kansas City -- decided to enjoy some typical locally themed festivities. The Kansas Jayhawks were playing the Kentucky Wildcats for the national title, so the administrators “briefly” played KU’s fight song “in support of the Midwest school competing in the national college basketball championship.” Sounds pretty standard, right?
Wrong. Oh, so wrong. The amazing, silly outrage from Missouri fans soon flowed forth -- from a former state representative to parents at elementary school. Seriously, this is brilliant:
“As a parent of two and a taxpaying resident of the Lee’s Summit R–7 School District, I am shocked and disappointed that there was an apparent attempt to indoctrinate Lee’s Summit school children to be KU fans at Trailridge Elementary this week,” said Brian Yates, a former state representative and graduate of the University of Missouri. “Playing the KU fight song or any college fight song over the intercom in a publicly funded elementary school is unacceptable.”
“Indoctrinate.” He actually used the word “indoctrinate!” How great is that? When people get this heated over what is said or not said in public schools, it almost always has to do with religion. But not here. Not in the Border War's DMZ.
No, this is religion, as Trailridge principal Matt Miller learned when he reached out to students and families over the incident. Again from the Star:
A.J. Quigley, another Missouri taxpayer, sent Trailridge Principal Matt Miller an April 2 email decrying the “awful decision to play the fight song today at school.” “I suggest you move to Kansas and get support from those taxpayers,” Quigley wrote as news of the controversy began spreading on MU fan websites.
Miller, who will become the district’s director of student services after the current school year, told Quigley, “We always strive to be sensitive to all diverse viewpoints in our community and appreciate you taking the time to share your position on this matter. It was never our intent to cause an offense.”
Quigley fired back that the response was unacceptable. “You should admit your mistake. … You are paid by the state of Missouri.” Quigley then took his fight to the board of education, telling members April 3 that he was expecting a public apology.
Is it utterly ridiculous to get this mad about the playing of a rival team’s fight song in a public school? Yes. Of course it is. I feel for Miller. He attended Missouri-Kansas City and has no dog in this fight, for one, but more than that, he was clearly trying to provide a relevant and festive atmosphere for his middle-school-aged students, many of who might well be Kansas Jayhawks fans. Nothing more. To start busting out the outrage language, to start making accusations of "indoctrination," to start demanding public apologies from school boards … I mean, really, guys? That’s the example you want to set for your kids? That if something slightly bothers you, all you have to do is throw a fit? Life lessons, kids. Soak 'em up.
But I also feel for those Missouri fans. Think about this season. It was one of the best in Tigers history. The rivalry with Kansas reached a thrilling all-time high as the teams duked it out for Big 12 superiority. Added to that, Missouri’s decision to leave the Big 12 for the SEC put a century-old rivalry at risk, and the finger-pointing and anger came as much off the court as on it. Kansas won the final battle in the rivalry, 87–86 in overtime, a win that sealed the Jayhawks’ eighth-straight Big 12 regular season title. Missouri got the conference tournament title, but it didn't have a shot for rubber-match revenge (Kansas lost to Baylor in the semis). And then, just a few weeks after No. 2-seeded Missouri loses in the first round to Norfolk State, No. 2-seeded Kansas makes it all the way to the national title game?
It doesn’t exactly excuse the over-the-top outrage, of course. But think about it: If you’re a Missouri fan, of any three words in the world, the last three you want to hear on April 2 are “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk.” The anger might be misguided and over the top. But the anger itself makes sense.