We live in a day and age where we can't agree on anything. Politics. Culture. Life. Doesn't matter. I could use the internet to make the case that puppies are cute and instantly be shouted down. Emphatically.
We're as divided as ever, and there's maybe nothing that divides us more than sports. And perhaps no sports divides as many people as college basketball, especially in this area, where there are so many viable D1 teams.
Put UC and Xavier fans in the same room, and perhaps the only thing they'll agree on is that a basketball is round. Maybe. Add to the mix a few UK fans, a handful of Ohio State and Dayton supporters, and even some Louisville people, and you have more disagreements than a post-election Thanksgiving table.
Except that I've found something that's brought us together.
Northern Kentucky University basketball.
The Norse are authoring the tri-state's best college basketball feel-good story. They're a win over Milwaukee in tonight's Horizon League Tournament Championship Game from reaching the NCAA Tournament in the school's first year of eligibility. Five years after making the school's athletic department made the leap from Division II to Division I, and a season after winning just nine games during their first season of Horizon League participation, John Brannen's team has won 23 games, crept into the top 90 of the RPI, and with a win tonight, they'll have guaranteed having their name pop up on the screen this Sunday.
And everyone here is rooting for them.
OK, so maybe the entire area won't be glued to tonight's match against a Milwaukee team that, despite an ugly record, has beaten the Norse once and nearly beaten them a second time. And some folks are probably just becoming familiar with the fact that NKU could send a team to the same postseason tournament that could house UC, XU, and UK. But surely, no one is actively rooting against them, right?
Sports fans seemingly enjoy rooting against more than they get a kick out of rooting for. I've had both UC and XU fans tell me that they get more perverse joy out of watching the other team lose than they get satisfaction for their team winning. (Seems like a miserable way to live, but ok.) I know a UK fan who's wondered out loud why he'd even befriend someone who didn't bleed blue. I have people who fill my Twitter timeline with pettiness if I tweet something remotely nice about a program that's not their favorite.
But NKU is, for the time being, immune.
I mean, how could you hate NKU? Its basketball team is the upstart program playing in the backyard of programs with D1 pedigrees, existing within the same borders as the sport's biggest behemoth, and right now at least, they're the area's biggest underdog, the kind of they're-getting-their-shot-at-the-big-time team that makes both college basketball and the month of March the things they are. They're no threat to anyone locally, there's no long-standing bad blood between the Norse and anyone else in the area, no one here plays them on a regular basis (although it'd be cool if they did), and for UC's displaced basketball team next season, Northern Kentucky University will be a gracious, accommodating host.
It feels like if there's one thing fans of all the other programs can agree on is that'd it be cool for the Norse - whose leading score and head coach are both native to the area, and who are playing in the shadow of some outstanding D2 Norse teams from the 90s - to take advantage of their rare turn in the spotlight by winning a conference tournament, and punching their ticket to a dance that to NKU faithful, once seemed like a pipe dream.
This will be fun tonight. A team from this area having almost universal support from this area. No one sniping, sniveling, or outwardly rooting against the Norse, and no one belittling the accomplishment if it's realized. It will be a refreshing exception rather than the rule, but for a night at least, we're all be on the same team.