I grew up a Bearcat. Looking at old Christmas footage, there are countless videos of me opening up gifts of Cincinnati gear, and no matter where I went, I would always wear the C-paw logo proudly. When I had to make a decision about where I was going to college after high school, choosing to stay home in Cincinnati was a no-brainer.
As a lifelong UC football fan, I couldn’t have picked a better time to go to the school I have always loved. Two years ago, unfortunately, I couldn’t experience any of the magic of game days I grew up on. This, coincided with the hype surrounding Fickell’s 2021 football team, created an unreal buzz around the city like I had never seen before.
I didn’t know what to expect around Clifton during a normal football season, but during the week leading up to the home opener, there was something special in the air. Everyone I talked to couldn’t stop bringing up their excitement for the Miami game, and even my professors were making corny jokes about the team to start their classes.
I had one of my good high school buddies come down from Oxford for the game, so we decided to go out to Short Vine with all of my college friends the night before the home opener. We got to Martino’s and everyone in the bar was wearing their Cincinnati gear. As crazy as it sounds, I had never seen something like that.
Growing up in Cincinnati meant I was the only person I knew who wasn’t an Ohio State football fan. For some reason, everyone gravitated towards the “big brother” program, so I was the only one who cared about Bearcat football. When I walked into that bar, however, it was like a complete 180. Even though it was still a Clifton bar 500 feet from campus, the support and love for the team already left me in awe, and I could tell their was something special in the air.
On game day, at 8 am sharp, I woke up and immediately started blasting music out of my Bose speaker. I live in my fraternity house with 27 other guys, so I had to make sure everyone was on the same page as I was when I ran through the house blasting “Back in Black”, waking up everyone who had not already started to get ready. By 9, everyone in the house was out on our balcony, and by 10, our parking lot was filled with alumni tailgating, grilling out burgers and mixing drinks.
I had never seen anything like it. By noon, our entire parking lot was filled with people in black and red UC gear and it took me 10 minutes to go from one side of the lot to the other. Since it was the Battle for the Victory Bell, we welcomed in a ton of Redhawk fans to our tailgate, which made it even more shoulder-to-shoulder like. My parents were there too, and all of their friends wanted to come down to join them before the game even if they had zero affiliation with Cincinnati. The Bearcats were finally the cool kids on the block, and everyone wanted to hang with them.
The game ended up being a blowout for the Bearcats, which solidified the hype surrounding the team that had been floated around during the off-season. While it was only my first game attended as a college student, it was a memorable one because, for once, UC had reached out to the people of Cincinnati and the city embraced the Bearcats. The Bearcats had finally transformed into the pretty girl at the ball. If you weren’t a diehard fan you wouldn’t have noticed, but for me, it was something special.
This year, I’ll be detailing my experiences as a UC student on campus and I’ll be writing about being a Bearcat during this historical period. Like I mentioned earlier, I have been a diehard Bearcat since birth, so the opportunity to write about my school during this time is an experience I’ve dreamed about, and I can’t wait to share this journey with you all.
Welcome to Jackson Howe! He will be making great contributions to our coverage of the Cincinnati Bearcats all season! -CT