Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Friday, January 20, 2006

TR: Crosstown Shootout (XU vs. UC) - 1/19/06

Trip Report: The 73rd Edition of the Cincinnati Skyline Crosstown Shootout Xavier University vs. Univeristy of Cincinnati January 19, 2006 - 9PM

"Welcome to Xavier Nation!"

If there is one basketball game in Cincinnati to watch, its the Crosstown Game. Cincinnati is in the rare situation of having two major universities that both have well respected basketball teams. The two schools are 3.3 miles apart and one year somebody set the wheels in motion that the two schools would play a crosstown college basketball game. Its a grand rivalry and also a very hot ticket. Usually unless you are a season ticket holder for whatever shcool is hosting the game that year, a student, or were well connected you could forget about going to the Crosstown Shootout unless you were prepared to deal with ticket scalpers.

I had last attended the Shootout when I was a junior at Xavier University (as if the flag above didn't clue you in, this is not going to be unbiased pseudo-journalism) back in 1994. I had written off ever getting to attend another Crosstown game as being a nice dream. I am not a full Xavier ticket season ticket holder, but a friend of mine who is a season ticket holder told me about a promotion they were offering for $72 you could purhase the "Big Game Pack" basically a miniature season pass with only a few selected games. My jaw dropped when I learned that Univeristy of Cincinnati was included in the package, and I was on the phone to the XU ticket office as soon as I could get to a phone. A few minutes and $72 later I had a few game tickets and the Crosstown Shootout ticket. I was on cloud nine and January 19 could not come fast enough.

It was to be an interesting season, thats for sure, what with the shamefull dismissal of Coach Bob Huggins from the University of Cincinnati, and the sports writers had written off the Crosstown game as a Xavier blowout, a great mismatch., and with some loss of relevance without Coach Huggins. There was a Crosstown series before Huggins and there will be one after.

Some say we can even attribute the national attention given to our little intra city basketball rivalry to Coach Huggins after he was so upset he refused to follow game formalities by shaking Coach Gillen's hand at the end of a game. As such the game was shown nation wide in the United States of America by ESPN, which also meant the game was to have a 9pm tip instead of the more traditional 7 or 7:30 tip. Ignoring the fact the game was sponsored by Skiline Chili, I voted my taste buds by dining at Gold Star Chili on my way to the game.

It was such that I arrived at the Cintas Center on Xavier University's campus at 7:45pm, clad in my BLUE jeans, my BLUE "Xavier" t-shirt, and my BLUE Xavier jacket. I noted a higher than usual police presence at the front entrance and soon entered the building and the ticket checkers palm device emitted the postive "Be-De-Beep"and it was through the turnstile and onto the concourse. Immediately after entering the Cintas Center a person in blue body paint handed me the "Stadium Give Away" item, it seemed so many people in the door received a Crosstown Shootout logoed tote bag. Cool, I wasn't expecting a give away item tonight. The staff selling programs were in full face paint, and $4 later I had a souvenir game program. I don't usually bother with game programs, media guide yes, but as a rule I don't bother with the game program, except when its a once in 12 years event like getting to go the Shootout.

My next stop was the Spirit Store. I went to the gift shop on a mission. Although I owned three different Xavier flags, I decided I needed another. One of my flags is of the old 1980's/1990s logo, and that one has been hanging in my office since November. Another one is the Xavier Nation flag pictured above, which near as I can tell is only sold at the Cintas Center. It looked a lot cooler in the store, and although I flew it outside my house last basketball season, this season I decided it looked a bit on the tacky side, and besides if it is the least bit tangled up you can't tell its a Xavier flag. That flag will soon be hanging in my billiard room, should make a good distractor when I place it one one far wall so my UC fan reletives have to look at it while taking their break shots. The third is off the current X logo, but it has been well flown the last few seasons and is looking a bit past its prime. So I stopped by to get the 2'x3' navy blue flag with the newest logo. I am a bit bummed that upon getting it home and out of its package I realized its only printed on one side. But that flag will be going up outside the house soon.

While in the Spirit Store I was some blue wigs, you know the one you usually see a lot of in the student section. Well, I was overcome by the spirit of the moment, and yes one of those wigs wound up in my basket. Luckily I used my Alumni All Card for 10% off, and after spending a fair amount of money, I left the Spirit Store, then went and fitted the blue wig to my head. At least my plastic bag from thegift shop can hold the tote bag, program, and flag.

I took a walk around the entire concourse, and looked at the new Xavier Hall of Fame positioned at the far west end of the concourse. Then I got a bottle of beer and went to find my seat. Taped to the seats were coupons for free Skyline cheese coneys.

The pre-game entertainment for a long time was watching the University of Cincinnati take one last pre game practice. This game is not like any other game of the season. I don't know if its a special allowance for the crosstown game, but both schools cheerleaders were there, both schools mascots were there, and before the tradtional presentation of the Xavier Flags, the UC cheerleaders came onto the court waving the giant UC flags.

Some time later it was almost time for the game to start, and although I saw the Blue Blob, I did not see Dartagnan, the Xavier Musketeer. Hmmm, the Bearcat is here. We had the national anthem performed to the acapella voices of a choral group, then the introduction of the UC players. Right before the introduction of the Xavier players, after the video montage, Dartagnan was seen rapelling down to the court from the ceiling. Now thats what I call an entance. But going above and beyond should be expected tonight. Don't let anyone fool you, this is NOT a normal game. This is THE game of the season.

The players introduced, the game starts, and its UC up to a quick lead. The game was everything you expect out of a rivalry game: constant lead changes, coming back from behind, close scoring. You know the sports writer imagery "Fighting Tooth and Nail", "Its all out warfare" "Every point matters" That was tonight. But the intensity level was not just on Ultra High on the court, it was also ratcheted up quite high in the stands. I'd say the crowd was at least 10 times more enthusiastic, not to mention as loud as usual. Admittedly the first half did not look good for the Xavier faithful when we were down by 7 at halftime.

I was really expecting more out of the halftime entertainment, but it ammounted to three lucky contestants who got to try to win a 2 year lease on a new car. They used to do the Halftime Halfcourt challenge for a million dollars, but I guess that went away after somebody actually won it a few years ago. Thats not to say the Halfcourt Challenge was made an easier, it is quite the formidable hurculean feat. Basically the contestant has 24 seconds t make all four of the following shots: a layup from right under the basket entitles them to advance to the free throw, making the free throw entitles them to try for the three point shot, and making the trey allows the contestant to play for the grand prize by making the half court shot. Let me be clear, this wasn't 24 seconds per shot, this was 24 seconds to complete the entire challenge, all four phases. That's 6 seconds per shot. Whats more, miss the basket, and you have to go get the ball, it isn't returned to you. That eats more time off the clock.

Well Contestant #2 SUCESSFULLY finished the challenge and won the car lease. Maybe those half court shots aren't as hard as they were originally though to be... I think the shot clock had actually expired but the ball was in the air headed towards the basket, so the shot still counted.

Well a trip to the beer booth later, and back for the second half. Things were really on in battle mode in the second half. This is were the lead kept changing hands and no team never got way ahead. While UC was adept at making the three point shots in the first half, that ability seemed to vanish in the second half, which is good since Xavier only managed to nail the trey once all night. More often than not the scoreboard seemed to stand at a tie. Towards the end of the second half it seemed like Xavier was going to pull ahead and put the game away. But again this is not any other game, and UC played through till literally the last second when Jihad Muhammad made a buzzer beater 3 point shot to send the game into overtime at 64 ALL. In my section of the stands people had already started to prematurely celebrate and I was afriad of the jinx, well it jined and here we are at overtime.

Another quick intermission and its time for the 5 minute overtime period. The last 2 minutes of regulation and the overtime period are not recommended for those with heart conditions. For one with all the time outs and inbounding and fouls, I don't think I have seen time move that slow in a basketball game in a while, then the fear that we were going to throw it awa at the last minute had everybody on the edge of their seats.

Overtime was much the same story as the last 2 minutes of the second half and almost ended the same way. Both teams seemed to have forgotten how to make free throws, and it came down to 73-71 Xavier, with 3.9 seconds on the clock. 2 timeouts later we all could finally celebreate when UC's second attemt at a buzzer beater shot missed its mark, ending the game.

XAIVER WINS - 73-71 in Overtime - GO MUSKIES!!!!!!!!

All that's left is the singing of the alma matter. I hung around a bit after the game taking in the post game celebrations which eventually made their way from the seating bowl, to the concourse, and finally out into the driveway. I did exit the game late enough that the kind folks with Coca Cola were giving out free Black Cherry Vanlla Diet Coke by the carton when I got out front. So hety, a free carton of soft drinks is a free carton of soft drinks.

So now here I am ready to go home, blue wig my voice all raw and hoarse, which was rubbed by more fans for good luck, a nice big "W" in the recordbook, and a big old smile on my face.

I'll be back for Sunday night's game, yes blue wig and all.


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