WARRIORS AND GANGSTAS
by Andy Weddington
Monday, 12 December 2011
"Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can't tell if he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way." Jim Courier
The United States Military Academy (West Point)--Army--was founded in 1802.
The University of Cincinnati was founded in 1819.
Xavier University, a Jesuit, Catholic school, was founded in 1831.
The United States Naval Academy (Annapolis)--Navy--was founded in 1845.
The game of football was invented in 1876.
The game of basketball was invented in 1891.
Last Saturday afternoon Army and Navy met on the gridiron marking the 112th meeting (first in 1890 and annually since 1930) between the two military academies. Navy won 27 - 21--their 10th consecutive victory over Army.
After the game, in longstanding tradition, the teams merged and crossed the field paying homage to each student body and singing respective fight songs. Sportsmanship. Though opponents for 60 minutes of competition, they left the field a collective of comrades, of warriors, many of whom spring coming will be commissioned second lieutenants and ensigns, move on to training, and most likely end up in a combat zone sooner rather than later.
Post-game comments by Army and Navy players (and coaches) were what you'd expect from young men being shaped into leaders--they addressed a tough, hard-fought game. Army players, especially seniors, were not bashful citing frustrations having never beaten Navy. Understandable. Younger players noted they were looking forward to next year. No doubt everyone is.
Last Saturday afternoon Xavier University (Musketeers) hosted the University of Cincinnati (Bearcats) for their 79th meeting, between the cross-town rivals, on the basketball court. Xavier won 76 - 53. But, there were no winners.
Less than 10 seconds before the end of the game a Xavier player taunted Cincinnati players and coaches (in front of their bench) because, supposedly before the game, he'd been "disrespected." That player's childish behavior sparked an ugly brawl--the Xavier bench surged toward the Cincinnati bench. Shoving, name-calling, punching, kicking and so on and so forth resulted in at least one player blind-sided, bloodied, and decked before coaching staffs and officials were able to separate the players.
There was no post-game handshake nor camaraderie celebrating their longstanding rivalry. No sportsmanship. The teams left the court through the same tunnel to return to respective locker rooms but did so one at a time.
During a post-game interview the Xavier player who sparked the brawl said, "...That's what you're gonna see between Xavier and Cincinnati. We got disrespected a little bit before the game. Guys calling us out. We're a tougher team. We got grown men over here. We got a whole bunch of gangstas in the locker room, not thugs but tough guys on the court. And we went out there and zipped them up at the end of the game. That's our motto, 'Zip them up'..."
Note the second bullet, of eight (as listed on the website), outlining the Xavier University Mission Statement, "Xavier is a Catholic institution in the Jesuit tradition, an urban university firmly rooted in the principles and conviction of the Judeo-Christian tradition and in the best ideals of American heritage."
Also during post-game interviews, the University of Cincinnati head coach strongly and emotionally expressed embarrassment and outrage by his team's behavior. He apologized. He promised consequences. He said he'd stripped his players of their jerseys, forcibly removing some, and said they'd have to earn them back.
After extensive reviews of tapes, Sunday evening the respective schools made public announcements about suspensions.
Xavier suspended four players--two for four games; one for two games; and one (the player who sparked the brawl and made the inane post game comments) for one game.
Cincinnati suspended four players--three for six games and one for one game.
The schools noted the suspensions were merely a part of disciplinary actions.
Of course the obvious question is how this brawl ever came to be?
The intense rivalry between the schools is not a secret--the coaches knew. And the coaches knew there had been pre-game jawing from players. So what did the coaches do, what did they say to their teams before taking the court and during the game--especially toward the end, to preclude the melee?
Leadership. Where was it?
Army and Navy are looking forward to their 113th meeting.
There's talk Xavier and Cincinnati may not have an 80th.
How interesting in one arena America witnessed a spirited contest between warriors--true warriors. And in the other arena America witnessed something or other involving self-described gangstas but not thugs--masquerading as college students and athletes.
There's so much to address regarding opportunity, education, scholarship, athletics, citizenship, training, leadership, sportsmanship, and the list goes on but in the end Saturday afternoon was a stark contrast in the best and worst of college athletics. That is, the way it should be and the way it should never be.
Why did Xavier not forfeit the game?