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Yancy Gates; The Punch Heard Round The World and The Dark Side of Sports

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I have had several hours to marinate on the aftermath of the crazy and disgraceful brawl that ended the Crosstown Shootout. For the most part I have avoided the aftermath and the swelling controversy. Other than the just concluded Heisman Trophy Ceremony, which went some way to restoring my faith in sport as an article of positive change in peoples lives, I have not turned on ESPN since it happened. aside from the first 45 or so minutes after the punch I haven't mainlined twitter and I have been absent from the frothing sea of insanity that is the message boards today. So chances are I am relatively ill informed about everything. I should probably apologize off the top for that.

One qualifying statement off the top. As much as I would like to say that the blame for this lies squarely at the feet of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dezmine Wells I can't. They started the melee, and their actions throughout the game had the effect of slowly bringing the pot to a boil. They have as much a share in my disgust as anyone else, and all have special little niches carved out in the 8th circle of my sporting hell. Still that's not why I am angry.

I must confess that today is the most disappointed that I have ever been as a Bearcat fan. Ever. And it's not even close. UC has experienced its fair share of sporting disappointment. But most of those things have been the outcome of actual games, and thus are easier to forget about and move on from. I can handle a bad break in the course of the game. All sports are riling, writhing fiercely emotional things that are decided, more often than not, on a few fluky bounces of a ball. The inherent randomness of it all is what draws me to games. But its also what makes it (relatively) easy to move on from at the conclusion.

I was already disappointed in the game. I was going to be. It's 23 point loss, on the road, against a fierce rival in a game that UC had to have. Yeah it's disappointing to lose that game, in that manner especially. But to see the game degenerate into absolute mayhem was utterly disheartening.

I follow a alot of UC people on twitter. Hard core died in the wool Bearcat fans. And the reaction was, to put it mildly, unbecoming. A constant refrain was that Xavier started the fight, UC finished it. The fact that the line was repeated so voraciously and with so much conviction was utterly disheartening. Winning the fight at the end of a game is not the same as winning the game. So few people were willing to make that connection.

I could give a shit who started the fight, or who ended it. The fact that it even came to this is forever a stain upon the reputation of everyone involved in the incident. Chris Mack did a terrible job keeping his players in line in the last 5 minutes of the game. Mick Cronin could have done more. In my mind the officials who worked this game should never be allowed to work again this season and share as much or more culpability as anyone else. Cincinnati - Xavier games are fragile, fragile affairs. Not in the style of play but the emotion of the rivalry, the environment and the way the game has always been conducted means that the contest rests, perpetually, on a tipping point of sorts. In a contest like this the only job of the refs is to prevent this kind of shit from happening. Mike Roberts, Jeffrey Anderson and Tony Crisp failed, miserably to do the most basic task of a ref, to keep the proverbial peace. They should never work another game again this year. Anyone watching the game, and anyone at the game could sense that all the trash talk, all the bullshit was building to something. The only people who couldn't see it coming were the refs, and they could do very little to stop something that they themselves couldn't see coming.

Much blame has been leveled in the direction of Yancy Gates, and not without reason. I get that he was coming to the aide of a teammate. I get that he was frustrated with the way the game turned out. I know what's like to be a part of a team, part of a brotherhood. I know what it is like to lose a game to a hated rival, to people who's very existence makes me radiate with uncontrolled anger. The circumstances which led to Yancy Gates punching of Kenny Frease are understandable, even somewhat relateable. But circumstances, not matter how profound, can never excuse the actions of a person. Ever. Certain things are always wrong, in sport, in life, in society.

Yancy acted out of anger, frustration, confusion and whatever else you can think of. But no combinations of emotions should ever lead to the outcome today. Yancy should never wear a Bearcats uniform again after what he did today. The same can be said of Octavius Ellis and Chikh Mbodj who both acted disgracefully in the circumstances. Mick Cronin has said that he plans to sit down with President Williams, and probably Whit Babcock as well, to review the film and decide who gets to stay on the team. I would have no problem at all seeing indefinite suspensions for everyone involved. I could give a shit if that means UC loses the every game for the rest of the year.

Sport is a supposed to affect positive changes in peoples lives. It its best the power of sport can be trans formative to the individual. It can bring pride to communities and unite people of disparate socio economic backgrounds, races, creeds and belief systems. Thats why half of all Disney movies are sports movies (don't fact check that). But there is always a darker, more vicious and cynical side to sport that is always there. Always lurking just beneath the surface. We don't often see it, but when we do its never pretty. I am used to seeing that malicious side from afar. Rarely does it surface with teams that I follow and root for. Today it reared its ugly head on a team that I live and die for. And let me tell you this fucking sucks.