And now? These days? Mayor Karl Dean listens to Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton disparage our fine river — and nothing? According to the Commercial Appeal:
[Memphis Mayor Wharton] said when Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was in town recently, the two stood on the roof of The Madison hotel overlooking the Mississippi River and Dean started asking about Memphis's success in drawing Great American Steamboat to town.
"I said, 'Look, don't even try it. You can't get a steamboat on that little stream you call a river,'" Wharton said. "We've got the Mississippi."
A little stream?!
Okay, fine, we can't just run around challenging people to duels anymore (and let's be honest, liking to have duels with people is Jackson's second-worst character trait and one that would be even more poorly tolerated among politicians today). Even so, Mayor Dean, this aggression cannot stand!
There are only two feasible ways to deal with this. One, the Nashville Visitors and Convention Bureau floods Mayor Wharton's office with brochures for the General Jackson (the paddling one, not the dueling one). This would be amusing, but not really that great.
But the other — Challenge Mayor Wharton to a steamboat race! Let's pick a half-way point between here and Memphis by river, pick a starting date, and send the two boats toward each other as fast as they can. First boat to the halfway point wins.
Wanda Rushing, a University of Memphis sociology professor, is right that there's no point in the two cities hating on each other.
"I kind of see it like basketball — sometimes it's good to have a rivalry if the rival makes the team better because it makes them want to improve and surpass them," she said. "But if it gets into negativity, that's not helpful."
So let's make it a great rivalry, with contests of will and feats of strength. We can start with the riverboat race and later arm-wrestle them or challenge them to a pie eating contest or something. I don't know. All I'm saying is that the best rivalries require both sides to talk a little smack. And while we might be the darling of the New York Times in all other ways, Mayor Wharton is schooling us in the smack-talking department (probably because of Memphis's proud professional wrestling history).
Mayor Dean needs to step up here and defend the honor of our river and our city.