Before I begin this column, my first here at MSF, I’d like to thank Jerod Morris and the Midwest Sports Fans family for welcoming me with open arms.
I always cherish new opportunities in my life, and this venture certainly excites me. MSF looks like the type of enterprise that could really help my journalistic talents flourish. Jerod, one day when I reach Bob Costas-esque prominence, I’ll make sure to include you in one of my many acceptance/induction speeches. Until then, you’ll have to settle for my cunning and my swag, both of which are present in my tweets. Cheers!
The city of Cincinnati has suffered its fair share of atrocities over the years.
There was The Great Flood of 1937 — which turned streets into Venetian canals, sans the gondola romance. In 1999 a mammoth tornado left many homeless. In 2010 lightning rained down from the heavens and set fire to Solid Rock Church’s Touchdown Jesus. These are just three examples of catastrophes the Queen City has endured and recovered from.
The streets were drained, houses were built, and a new statue was set to be erected. Very tragic incidences were eventually met with plans of recuperation.
The 2011 Crosstown Shootout Brawl is certainly not in the same category as any natural disaster. They are obviously two completely separate occurrences, and the events of natural disasters are clearly more surreal and terrifying than a fight at a basketball game. Times of despair like the Great Flood or a tornado will always take precedent over a sporting event.
But to the city of Cincinnati the possible cancellation of the Shootout would, unlike any weather wonder, leave a void in the hearts of many Cincinnatians that could never be filled.
History and Necessity of the Crosstown Shootout
Fortunately, it sounds like the Shootout will continue its annual appearance. Despite the brawl, UC’s president Greg Williams told The Cincinnati Enquirer that, “Every indication is that we are going to play next year.”
To the outside world, the fight might be an obvious reason to cancel the Shootout. To Cincinnatians, the brawl is just another chapter in the Shootout’s legacy. It is more than just game.
The city of Cincinnati hasn’t had an NBA team since 1972, but they’ve managed. The basketball teams of Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati are two of college basketball’s most-storied programs. When they meet, there’s not a nook nor cranny in Cincinnati that won’t have Crosstown Shootout hype.
I should know.
As a Cincinnatian myself, I know the Shootout is more than just a game. I was a ball boy at the 2004 game. The memory of Nick Williams’ errant turnover (which led to Xavier’s upset of Cincinnati) still sticks out in my head. The Cintas Center’s intensity peaked and the crowd went wild.
It was a titanic struggle, something the Queen City has come to expect from the game that has so much history:
- The Shootout was first played in the 1927-1928 season, and ever since 1946 the Shootout has become a fixture on the schedule of both teams.
- Six different venues have hosted the matchup: UC’s Armory Fieldhouse and Fifth Third Arena, XU’s Schmidt Field House and Cintas Center, and the sometimes neutral, sometimes home/away Cincinnati Gardens, U.S. Bank Arena.
- The two schools are a mere two or three miles away from each other, and the ten-minute bus ride between the campuses makes the Crosstown Shootout the closest major rivalry in the country.
- The Bearcats lead the Musketeers in the series with 48 wins to Xavier’s 31, but Xavier has won 11 of the past 16 battles.
Those are just a few facts about the game that you may know. And given some of the fans’ reactions to the 2011 brawl, many think that this is the first fight between the rivals in Shootout history.
To those people, I question your fanhood and your knowledge of what a rivalry — filled with hatred and fake respect — entails.
In 1967, a Xavier player thew a crutch from a fan in the stands and heaved it towards a Bearcat. Altercations also broke out in 1985 and 1988. Former UC coach Bob Huggins continued the animosity in 1994 when he notoriously refused the conventional postgame handshake with then-Xavier coach Pete Gillen.
There is no shortage of bad blood — or drawn blood for that matter — in the Shootout.
Each year Xavier and Cincinnati agree upon a game with this knowledge. Referees are (usually) aware of the scenario and do their best to defuse any potential skirmishes. Ushers and security are heightened to make sure no malice is had in the stands.
Even after this most recent brawl, Xavier’s athletic director Mike Bobinski told The Cincinnati Enquirer “…we would like to see the game continue for the good of both institutions, college basketball, the city, all of the above. We all agree we’ve got work to do to put a different feel and flavor to the thing, but it’s worth doing so. Those conversations are yet to come.”
Bobinski continued, saying “We like having it on our respective campuses,” he said. “We have to create a more positive environment around it. We’ve got plenty of examples around the country. We ought to be able in Cincinnati to find a way to make it a really good thing.”
The game next year is scheduled at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena, located in Clifton, a part of Cincinnati known for its amount of crime. Some have said that the tension the Shootout brings coupled with UC’s perception for being “thugs” means that the game venue needs to be changed.
But the “thug” card has been played many times over the rivalry’s history. Given their Jesuit affiliation, Xavier’s Christian background has enhanced the “good vs. evil” aspect of the rivalry. This, and especially this, is a farce.
There is nothing “good” about Tu Holloway telling reporters that XU’s team is full of gangsters.
Oh, it’s OK though, because he meant it in a good way. Please…
Holloway also yelled to the crowd that XU put UC in a body bag. Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like something a good Christian, or anyone of any faith, should be preaching.
There is no reason that anyone should think that only Xavier’s players were in danger at any time during the fight. Bearcat bigman Yancy Gates delivered the most notable blow of the fight, but Xavier’s Mark Lyons, Dez Wells, and Holloway instigated and participated in the skirmish.
It doesn’t matter how. They aided in this dark time of the rivalry. Both programs are equally as fault, no matter what preconceived notions there were of each team. The screams and cheers of the fans in the Cintas Center were caused by both teams.
This past December 10th I heard those same sounds I had heard seven years ago as a ball boy. Xavier’s 76-53 onslaught of the Bearcats included momentum shifts, big buckets, exchanged curse words, and mean looks. Nothing out of the ordinary.
With 9.4 seconds left, all hell broke loose. A sellout crowd of 10,250 people witnessed what could have been the end of something that was, for so long, a symbol of tradition for the city of Cincinnati.
The Crosstown Shootout Should Continue
The 2012 matchup would mark the 80th anniversary of Xavier and Cincinnati playing each other. For that to happen, there needs to be an absolute increase in the security present. Their protocol must be strong. Referees must nip any-and-all possible confrontations in the bud. This is a lot to ask for.
But I know Cincinnatians. The Crosstown Shootout is a part of any Cincinnatian’s identity. They simply want this rivalry to continue. I want this rivalry to continue.
We need it to continue.