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Shady Aftermath: The Crosstown Brawl

*Disclaimer, I am an avid Bearcats fan, but will try my best to keep this article as unbiased as possible. Comments are encouraged.

The 2011 Crosstown Shootout was an embarrassment to the city of Cincinnati. People all over the Tri-State look forward to this game year round. This year, the game wasn’t even able to be finished, as nine seconds were left unplayed thanks to a vicious fight.

The two biggest names in the game, Yancy Gates (Cincy) and Tu Holloway (Xavier), were both at the heart of the brawl and were both suspended (Gates got six games, Tu got one game).

The Crosstown Shootout is a heated rivalry, it’s on the level of UNC-Duke and Louisville-Kentucky, it just doesn’t get as much publicity. The steam began to build when UC guard Sean Kilpatrick said that Tu Holloway wouldn’t even start on the Bearcats. Kilpatrick’s comment was ignorant and false, and Tu Holloway heard it loud and clear. Holloway came into the game pumped up, with his mouth running on full blast.

Trash talking, on both sides of the ball, was rampant throughout the game. The officials in the game were Crosstown Shootout rookies from the Atlantic 10, meaning that they have never refereed the rivalry before. In fact, an anonymous veteran NCAA official said that he had never even heard of the officials that were in charge of the game before. Both Mick Cronin, and Chris Mack were amazed at the lack of technical fouls called throughout the game. The refs needed to make their presence known in a game that is renowned for getting chippy, and they didn’t. This made the brawl that occurred more and more likely to happen.

However, that is no excuse for what happened. One could see a bad moon rising when XU’s Mark Lyons confronted the UC bench right before halftime. And as the Bearcats were getting badly beaten towards the end of the game, tempers were rising. XU guard Tu Holloway’s trash talk to the Cincinnati bench with around 9:30 left in the second half was the straw that broke the camels back. UC player Gu’Lawn Guyn had enough of Tu’s talk and got up in his face, right in front of UC’s bench. Then, Xavier freshman Dez Wells came over to have Tu’s back and pushed Guyn to the ground. The benches cleared, and a melee ensued.

The aspect of the fight that stood out the most was Yancy Gate’s sucker punch haymaker to Kenny Frease’s head. It looked bad, and it was bad. It was a vicious, uncalled-for punch. Many were calling for Gates to be kicked off the team, but today he received a 6 game suspension. Gates seemed genuinely sorry and embarrassed for his actions in today’s press conference, (can be found here http://www.gobearcats.com/) and was grateful for a chance to put a Cincinnati jersey on again, which he should be. The way Mick Cronin was talking right after the game made it seem like Gates would be kicked off the team, and many, including Dick Vitale, believe that Gates should be kicked off the team and that UC’s punishment is soft. UC big man Chiekh Mbodj, who stomped on Frease’ head while he was knocked down from Gates’ punch,  was also suspended 6 games.

The fight was terrible and embarrassing for both schools, especially Cincinnati, who deals with the “thug” stigma year after year. But, Xavier’s Player of the Year candidate Tu Holloway, who could have come out of the brawl looking clean, came out looking exactly like what many accuse UC players of being, a thug

Idiotically, Holloway ran his mouth at the post game press conference. In the presser, Holloway openly admitted to enticing UC to fight by claiming that he is “cut from a different cloth” and that “none of them guys on that team is like me, I let that whole staff and all of them players know that none of them is like me in this city.” 

Holloway also referred to his team as “a whole bunch of gangsters.” It was basically the dumbest thing he could have  done in the situation. Holloway tarnished XU’s reputation and many believe that he hurt his chances to win Player of the Year. Holloway even brought up XU’s motto, “Zip ’em up” (referring to zipping up a body bag) to the entire nation, which was ignorant and irresponsible.

Mark Lyons also talked about how “if somebody puts their hands in your face, or tries to do somethin’ to you, where we’re from you’re gonna do somethin’ about it, we’re not gonna sit there and let our face get beat in by someone like  Yancy Gates,” even though that’s exactly what happened to Kenny Frease. Chris Mack should have never let a fired up Holloway and Lyons talk to the media, that was a huge tactical error.

The rivalry extends beyond the court, former players and alums of both schools trash talk before and after the game. It’s an event that people look forward to. But, like the old saying goes, too much of a good thing can be bad. I’ve nearly lost friendships over the game. Former Cincinnati star Jason Maxiell tweeted, “Nati boys… Yea we Lost the game but won the Fight. You know how we do!!!!!,” which was a completely ignorant thing to say. Also former XU player David West tweeted, “Jail Cats….Classless,” referring to the Bearcats.

This brings up a larger point. The perception is that UC ‘s basketball team is full of thugs and that XU’s team is full of hardworking, classy guys. While  it can be argued that the perception is warranted, it really is just based off of a few UC players with legal troubles in the past, nowhere near the majority of Bearcats are thugs. 

This has always bothered me, because like most stereotypes, it is fueled by ignorance. Cincinnati does have mostly african american teams, and so does XU, but they tend to have more white players than UC does. Cincinnati recruits hard-nosed, inner city kids, and many XU fans immediately label them as thugs. XU fans also seem to believe that their team is full of a much higher class of player. When In reality, XU players started the fight. No one really knows either team’s player backgrounds and fans should keep their mouths shut when it comes to judging the players’ morals and characterisitics.

Well, thankfully for Bearcats fans, that “Holier Than Thou” attitude is no longer acceptable for Xavier fans to have, as Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons provided us with clear, documented evidence that XU is definitely guilty of having some so-called “thugs” on their roster as well.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has been calling for the Shootout to be put on hold for at least a year. I think that is an over reaction. This year’s game had the perfect storm for bad news. It had an idiotic pre-game claim by Kilpatrick, mid-game trash talk by both teams (especially Holloway), and an inadequate group of officials. There is no reason to end the rivalry or make any drastic changes. This was a poorly managed, embarrassing game, that will hopefully never happen again.

As weird as it sounds, I think this will make both teams stronger, especially the Bearcats. Maybe this is what it takes for Yancy to finally start playing with some intensity and live up to the hype. Xavier was already rolling before the game, and now they have fuel to add to their fire. I can’t think of many teams that are better than XU in the entire nation, and when they are feeling it, I believe that they can beat anyone.

The “Shady Aftermath,” of this whole situation is that now the entire country views this classic rivalry as a hot-headed battle between two classless schools, and it’s a shame. The Shootout doesn’t get the type of publicity that UNC vs. Duke gets, but it’s just as, if not more, intense. The entire nation is finally seeing the rivalry, in the worst possible way.

Yancy only received a six game suspension and many are angry. Many are drawing comparisons to Legarrette Blount’s hit on a Boise State player a few years ago. That comparison is irrelevant because Blount’s punch came during a calm handshake line, not an all out brawl. Yancy’s punch was still inexcusable, but I think the punishment is appropriate. Six games is about 1/5 of a season, that’s pretty important.

In conclusion, the 2011 Crosstown Shootout did the city of Cincinnati a disservice, and I think both teams have realized that. It was an unfortunate event that tarnished a good rivalry. There is a possibility of legal actions being pursued right now, and for the sake of the rivalry and the players, I hope that nothing comes out of that investigation. Because, if there are charges filed, then many will find that as a legitimate reason to end the rivalry for good.

It is true that if Yancy had punched Frease outside of the Cintas Center, he could very well be arrested. But, this was in the heat of the moment, in the middle of an intense rivalry game. It wasn’t outside of a gas station, or in an alley. Mark Lyons was swinging just as hard as Yancy was, he just failed to connect with anyone. I think that most people would be lying if they claimed that they would’ve reacted differently than most of the players did.

For the sake of the rivalry and Cincinnati as a whole, I hope that no charges are filed. We should all move on and remember that this is just a basketball game. Sometimes we lose perspective of that in today’s celebrity praising society, and I myself am guilty of that. The punishments have been dealt and the brawl is over, it’s time to get back to everyday life and let both teams finish the season accordingly.

2 Comments »

  1. The game was called with 9 SECONDS left not 9 MINUTES. Did the author even see the game he is writing about? Or just another outside commenting about something he saw on Sportscenter?

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