I remember being at a bar watching a very early-season Xavier game with a some friends of mine who are UC fans three years ago. The game was a blowout, and the opponent inconsequential, but on the court getting limited minutes was a freshman named JP Macura. He didn't do anything necessarily memorable, but I remember one guy in our group commenting that he as a UC fan was going spend the next four years loathing JP Macura.
Around the same time, I attended an XU game at the Cintas Center. It was an early-season blowout against a no-name opponent, and I remember next to nothing about the game except the good-natured teasing me about being a lost UC fan at a Xavier game. That teasing turned into a conversation about Mick Cronin and why these particular XU fans hated him.
Yesterday, JP and Mick collided, sending fans of each team into the kind of frothing at the mouth that's almost exclusive to the Crosstown Shootout. I don't clutch my pearls when I hear that opposing sides say really mean, nasty things to each other during, and sometimes before and after intense college basketball games. One of the reasons why I love sitting where I do during UC broadcasts is hearing the things players, coaches, and even referees call each other. None of it is shocking.
That doesn't mean that no one was in the wrong here. I believe that coaches should be held to a higher standard than players. When Xavier lost a game a few years ago at Hinkle Fieldhouse in part because the clock operator had no idea what he was doing, and Musketeer players did damage to their locker room, I wasn't as critical of XU's program as some because I was more interested in how the adults - Chris Mack and his coaches - handled the situation than the players.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout brawl, I was more critical of the coaches and the game officials than I was of any of the combatants, because as the adults involved, they could've done more to prevent was ultimately happened.
And yesterday, while neither party involved comes off as looking, you know, good, Mick v. JP reflects more poorly on the coach than the player. The adult involved should be above getting into it with a college player. A coach who asks his players to not let their emotions get the best of them should set an example.
I say that who likes, and roots for, Mick Cronin immensely.
But let's be honest, this is the Shootout climate we want, involving the two people we want at the epicenter of it. Macura, as good of a player as he is, has actually done little in his four games against Cincinnati to warrant the ire of UC's fan base, scoring 29 points total in his four Shootouts, and taking a backseat this season to a number of XU heroes.
And face it, many XU fans are going to dislike UC's coach no matter what.
The point is that as fans, we want villains. We want drama. And many of us want the behavior of the particulars involved to reflect the way we as fans treat each other when we go back and forth about the game. Ever look at Twitter during the Crosstown Shootout, or any other UC/XU matter? It makes JP vs. Mick seem like a peace negotiation.
We want the bad blood. We need the drama. We want Mick v. Chris to be Huggs v. Pete. We want the annual UC/Xavier game to be about more than the UC/Xavier game. UC fans (and I know I'm painting with a very broad brush) have wanted a reason to dislike JP Macura since they became aware of him. XU fans have wanted a reason to hammer Mick for years. Fans of both are always in search of sniping ammo. All of us have wanted something to take this already great rivalry up a few notches.
Yesterday, one team's fans got a win. All of us got what we wanted.