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Why the Crosstown Classic Must Continue

It might not be the preeminent college basketball event in Cincinnati anymore, but the annual rivalry game between the Bearcats and the Musketeers cannot stop.

Jamie Sabau

The worst part about December so far this year? With apologies to Nelson Mandela's family, it's obviously scraping ice off a windshield. Good thing I own a garage, though, so checkmate, Mother Nature.

Cancelling the Crosstown Shootout - err Classic - would be the second most devastating thing to happen to Cincinnati in December, though. And the rest of this article will articulately explain why the sentence I just typed isn't ludicrous.

So how do I frame this? Well, good arguments typically begin by pointing out their weaknesses and then countering with evidence as to why those flaws aren't legit. Here are the top three reasons I've heard for cancelling the Shootout. Or Classic. Or whatever it's called in the oh-so-politically-correct-2013:

  1. Location/timing of the game is bad and leads to terrible attendance.
  2. Neither team NEEDS or DESERVES the game.
  3. The Shootout has lost it's luster.

So maybe I crammed more than 3 concepts into that list. I'll tackle them all, though...

Location/Timing: December is without-a-doubt the best month to play this game. Recent history tells us the Shootout is a chance to get a resume-building win early in the season: the Musketeers have been in the NCAA tournament 7 of the last 8 seasons, and the Bearcats have made the big dance the last 3 years in a row. So tell me, when was the last time you heard either fan base complaining about playing too many NCAA tournament teams early in the year?

Speaking of location: you want the game moved back to campus? Too bad. I'm sure there are just as many positive stories as horror stories, but it shouldn't move back to campus. Ever. Why alternate locations when there's an arena less than 10 miles away from each campus? An arena that holds more fans than either of the opposing team's facilities. An arena smack-dab in the heart of the recent downtown entertainment resurgence. I understand US Bank isn't the Taj Mahal, but it's not like water's draining into little trash cans all over the court. Plus, is there a more fair way to decide which team is better than by playing at a neutral site?

Sure, the game didn't sell out last year - and it's not trending towards a sell out this year - but I'm here to tell you the game doesn't HAVE to sell out. Have you seen what's happened to attendance for the biggest and baddest basketball program in the country? It's declined each of the past 4 years. Say what?!?!? National championships, #1 recruiting classes, and yet UK's not selling out their games? That's because attendance is OH-VER-RATE-ED (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap).

"[So-and-so] doesn't DESERVE the game." Based on the schedules of both squads over the past few years, theyboth need an easy-to-schedule out-of-conference game against a quality opponent. They don't have to beg for a certain early-season tournament or coordinate with the likes of ESPN in order to get a game planned against an NCAA tournament team. The Crosstown Shootout automatically schedules itself each and every year.

Look, have I been bothered by how consistently chippy XU plays during the Shootout? Uh, duh. I get tired of seeing that extra push or the constant yapping during each game, but they're still fighting for respect, so I get it. They've had a much better decade of recent basketball, and they still couldn't get as many fans as UC for last year's neutral site game. They'll always be little brother, and that constant fight for attention and respect is why the Muskies deserve the opportunity to play this game.

And, yes, extremely bad behavior led to an absolutely inexcusable fight 2 years ago. But guess what? The folks involved in that fight, for the most part, are long gone. The swift and immediate reaction around the city helped dampen the animosity-soaked flames of the Crosstown Shootout, and I'm positive a fight won't break out again. Heck, things went off without a hitch last year, so what's all this talk about not deserving the game? The city of Cincinnati deserves the game. Which leads me to my next point...

The game has lost its luster. Has it really? Last year, 14,000+ showed up for the Crosstown Classic. That made it the highest attended game in Cincinnati for either school last year, and, consequently, made it the highest attended game in Cincinnati for either school for the last few years. So because more Cincinnatians attended last year's Classic than ever before, the game has lost it's luster?

Sure, you don't hear chatter throughout the airwaves of local talk radio, but both schools have been consistently playing this game since the 1940s - of course there are going to be cycles where the game isn't as meaningful as past contests. Plus, the Cincinnati Bengals are relevant and making a playoff push in December; that's what's filling up local sports talk right now.

To recap:

  1. Attendance is a red herring. It was great last year, and it'll be fine again this year.
  2. This city loves college basketball (as evidenced by a record # of fans at last year's game).
  3. Both squads need quality out of conference opponents, and the Shootout schedules itself each year.

My take: The game only seems less exciting because the Bearcats haven't been an annual top 10 squad in a long time. Once one of the schools are consistently and annually ranked, the Shootout will all-of-a-sudden regain the talk of casual fans around the city. In the meantime, we'll continue to see record attendance in a time when attendance isn't the end-all, be-all. You know what I mean?

So, I'm curious - what other reasons have you heard for not playing the Crosstown Shootout?