This fall I’ve had the pleasure to travel around a little and attend several college basketball games as a media member, but as I walked by the loading docks and into the back of the Cintas Center on Sunday night, I felt it as soon as I got inside. I’ve attended Xavier basketball games on a media credential in the past, but this time, the buzz, the sounds, the aura…
This was different.
I had expected a different experience, because this was my first Crosstown Shootout. But this was beyond expectation. I made a quick detour through the media room and, without being asked, one of the very helpful Xavier Sports Info workers showed me to my seat. I was positioned just around the corner from the Cincinnati bench, a short bounce pass away from UC head coach Mick Cronin, himself. If you’re familiar with the Cintas Center setup, you’ve probably already realized — I was right in front of the Xavier student section.
Total. Freaking. Mayhem.
Now, that period-after-every-word emphasis thing you see above is an overused tool by everyone ranging from amateur tweeters (myself included) to professional sportswriters (myself not included), and it’s losing a little luster. I use it here because…well, if I had to use it once in my life to get a point across, this is when I would choose to use it. As I said, I’ve been to a number of games in this part of the country this season. The only way I can think to describe this particular student section on this night is…”beautifully ridiculous.” I turned around, saw their painted faces and myriad noise-producing implements, heard the unbelievable roar that flowed from them, and I honestly thought I’d see Mel Gibson as William Wallace riding around in front of them on a horse. They were both exhilarating and horrifying. And I mean that in the best way possible. I didn’t grow up in Cincinnati, I didn’t go to either one of these schools, and I brought no allegiance with me for either program to this game. I was there as an observer. But they numbered in the hundreds and sounded like thousands. They were already putting in a legendary performance — and the game hadn’t even tipped off.