Well, almost the entire game. I happened to miss the fight, which happened to be THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE GAME. How was I supposed to know? Xavier was up by 20, so I walked away to make mincemeat out of my mountain of folded clothes.
Like any black man who remains leery of how mainstream media handles situations involving young black men in an athletic forum, I write this reaction based solely on my in-game analysis and the subsequent game press conference. I didn’t want to read any Op-Ed pieces to jade my opinion.
That being said, I take umbrage with a few people:
1. The Refs: I just so happened to watch this game on Saturday (as I was folding clothes) and stuck with it despite Xavier being up by 10-15 throughout the second half. Cincinnati’s always had a reputation for attracting athletes, and I knew of Mick Cronin because of Lance Stephenson – NYC high-school hoops legend, former UC guard, and current member of the Indiana Pacers’ farm team. There are worse things to do while folding clothes (like watch “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” on FX).
Fights just don't break out...there has to be a trigger. And there was. These guys were chippy all game - and the refs let a TON of stuff go. If you're an NCAA referee officiating this game, you KNOW these schools hate each other. And on the off-chance that you didn't even know that, you KNOW the star guard from the visiting team (Cincy) slandered the NCAA Player of the Year candidate (Tu Holloway) from the home team (Xavier). By the way, the home team is nationally ranked (#8), so people at home WILL be watching.
You've GOT to be aware and call the game tight. Even if folks get mad and complain on SportsCenter afterwards.
2. The Coaches: Re-watch the fight footage again. Why did both teams have their starting players on the court? Remember: Xavier won by 23. We should have seen scrubs litter the court; guys who wanted to play in the rivalry game and maybe score a few cheap ones.
This is why Mick Cronin doesn’t get off the hook, even though he publicly skewered his players in the presser, to the delight of basketball purists everywhere. Cronin should have pulled his starters. Game’s over. Give your kids a chance to cool down and save face before the handshakes.
3. The Xavier SID - If you're the Sports Information Director at Xavier, you CANNOT let you star player speak in the Court of Public Opinion (the media) five minutes after he was involved in a fight. How do I know this? Tu Holloway was still wearing his uniform. He's 18-21 years old. He just got punched in the face and cursed at. You KNOW he's still going to be heated. Call off the presser, take the heat, and save the face of your school.
4. The Arena Officials: Every NYC high school principal knows this: When two schools with a checkered past meet up, you MUST have security guards present. (Heck, when two schools are competing in a heated matchup of ANY sort, you’d better have security present.)
Look at the fight again: The only people holding the players back from beating on each other were coaches. Mick Cronin is no taller than Jeff Van Gundy. He's not stopping a 6'10'' Yancy Gates from clobbering someone. You don’t need the security guards to DO anything initially…but you do need them to BE there as a deterrent to chaos.
UGH. Fortunately, this incident happened during the middle of an incredibly busy stretch in sports (NFL, Heisman, Sandusky, Fine, CP3 & Dwight Howard trades) so the media outlets are scattered about and can’t cover the fight with unabashed bias. Good.
By the way, I made ALL of these assessments w/o injecting RACE. I could have been describing 10 white guys fighting from some Division 3 school in Iowa. But don’t be fooled…race is present here (especially in the Mick Cronin presser) and it is REAL.One's thing certain here: You can't blame this one solely on the black guys.