“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” These words, famously spoken by one of the greatest leaders the free world has ever seen, can be applied to a wide variety of situations. As I am writing this article for a Cincinnati sports website, I will use them in the context of the preeminent yearly basketball game not played in the spring. Call it the Classic if you must, but to me this game will always be the Shootout.
Sadly, with last years violence, the Crosstown Shootout as we know it died in a blaze of the wrong kind of national attention. While I could write an entire series of articles, or maybe even a book, on the topic of how ESPN is destroying our love of casual sports, last year’s coverage (and the comments made during this year’s game) certainly would highlight my point. After listening to the commentators on ESPN2 discuss the fight four, five, six times, I finally turned off the sound and enjoyed the easy listening of Miles Davis’ ’ Kind of Blue while I watched the second half of the game. I just couldn’t take it anymore. ESPN, you are destroying us as people!
Now, before I get too far off on my hatred of the other ‘Sports News Guys’, let me get back to my original point. Growing up, some of my favorite moments were those evenings when my Dad would point to me and inform me it was my turn to accompany him to that night’s UC game. We would yell from the bleachers as Steve Logan, Kenny Satterfield, Dermarr Johnson or Jason Maxiell would throw it down to thunderous applause. When Kenyon Martin broke his leg it was announced over the loud speaker in the middle of class and I joined many of my fellow middle schoolers in shedding a tear. As I sit here writing this I am wearing my Danny Fortson number twenty-five jersey that I pulled on after getting out of bed this morning, continuing in my celebration for last night’s classic victory.
Because, you see, that is why I am a fan. I am a fan for the fun of loving enough to go to games and wearing the jersey, but unlike my feelings towards Steelers fans I would not fight anybody over UC. The differences are obvious and together they make the fandom experience unlike that of a major league sport.
For one, the players are not paid. When Sean Kilpatrick misses a layup nobody calls for his head. When Cashmere Wright watches as his man dances around him like Anna Pavlova on the opening night of Swan Lake, no one calls for his butt to be glued to the bench because, after all, these are college kids we are watching.
When I was a wee lad of twelve, or however old I was in sixth grade, I got run over while trying to field a ground ball at second base and I took off after the guy like a bat out of hell. When the dust cleared the game was called as the entirety of both teams, bench players included, were on the field fighting. Not only that, but the stands got into it. At the time I thought this was the coolest thing ever as most little kids would, but looking back, the involvement of the fans is depressing. They had no say in that game so why shed blood?
That story pretty much sums up my feelings on last years fight. The players fighting? Fine. As a former organized athlete (and current rec player) myself, I get it. In the heat of the moment the most important thing to you is what happens on that field or that turf or that court. Those men, those women, those warriors fighting besides you are your brothers and sisters in battle and an attack on one is an attack on you all. So, while I don’t condone it, I get it when players fight.
But the stands? That’s another matter. The local news interviewed students at each university before yesterdays’ games and feelings were mixed. One student (a UC student I believe) remarked that he was ready if another fight broke out. Why, and for what? Other than pride by association, what do you have invested in this game? The same argument can be made for any sport I suppose, but as I said earlier, I understand it for professional sports. I can’t rationalize it, but I get it. For college sports? Not so much.
The enjoyment is still there of course. My phone beeps with updates from UC and Ohio State the same way it does for the Reds and the Bengals. If I’m in the middle of dinner with my girlfriend when I know one of those schools is playing and my pocket buzzes, the urge to check my phone is just as strong as after a Celtics have tipped. The only difference is I usually am successful in fighting that urge for College Sports. But that’s where it ends. I am not ashamed to admit it; some of my closets friends are Xavier fans.
Yes, I said it. In fact, Brian Hepp, a fellow I’ve known since I was six years old, still counts himself as a die hard Xavier fan even after his move to California more than three years ago. I asked him to tell me about his feelings for UC fans and he had something interesting to say. “UC and Xavier fans can get along much more than fans of other rivalries because we bond over the Bengals and the Reds. The shared suffering of those bad years for both franchises brought us closer. After suffering alongside one another for so long it is hard to hate.”
In that short quote Brian illustrated my entire point. When two people form a bond over the real thing, the grit of the NFL or the suspense of the MLB, why would you let College Sports come between you? The simple answer is you shouldn’t. When a professional player makes a mistake it is easy to get upset. He or she is getting paid after all. If you made a mistake at work that cost your firm the big contract, you would hear about it, probably for a while. So why shouldn’t those players be held accountable?
The same cannot be said for College Sports. These players are not doing this for the money, far from it. They are doing it for the love of the game, or if they go to UK, for the guaranteed shot at playing in front of scouts from every NBA team. If you or I walk into a McDonalds tomorrow and start flipping burgers just because we love doing it, we deserve to be applauded, mistakes included, at least to a certain extent, maybe… Ok bad example but you see my point, right?
If not, my point is this. For the same reason it hurts to hear guys like Steve Nash or Grant Hill booed, it is disappointing and hard to understand when people fight or argue about College Sports. So forget the fight. Can’t we just love the Bearcats/ Musketeers yearly ‘Classic’ for the love of a great game?
Now, if Cincinnati had an NBA team, that would be another story… which you can read about in my next article coming this weekend!
Have questions, comments or story ideas for J.? Email him at [email protected]!