William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo & Juliet that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If you have forgotten, or only pretended to read the play when you were a freshman in high school, the play’s titular characters are a boy and a girl who fall in love. The problem is their families hate each other and always have; thus, the romance is doomed. In the line in question, Juliet is trying to convince her over-eager lover that their last names do not matter, what matters is what they feel for each other.
Two college basketball teams with their own feud are hoping the young Juliet is off the mark; that a feud by any other name will be less intense.
Yesterday, officials from the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University gave their too-heated rivalry a makeover; a sanitized, friendlier renewal of what was previously called as the “Crosstown Shootout.” UC head coach Mick Cronin and his counterpart, Xavier’s Chris Mack, were on hand with their respective athletic directors as it was announced that the game will be known as the “Crosstown Classic” for at least the next two years.
The inaugural “Crosstown Classic” will tip-off December 19 at U.S. Bank Arena, a neutral site. The idea behind this move is two-fold: (1) to quell the animosity of one school coming to another’s home floor, and (2) U.S. Bank is bigger than either UC’s 5/3 Arena or Xavier’s Cintas Center.
Conceivably, the schools can sell more tickets and make more money. To add more harmony to the hardwood, a portion of the game’s gate will go to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a civil rights museum in downtown Cincinnati that has hit some financial hard times.
The change of venue and name are also obvious, yet understandable, PR moves by the schools. In the wake of last year’s brawl at the end of last year’s “Crosstown Shootout,” and Tu Holloway’s foolish “zip ‘em up” comments in the press conference that followed, one can understand why the powers that be at both schools would want to re-name their rivalry so it does not connote violence.
There’s only one problem with that: changing the game’s name does not diminish the intensity of the people playing it. Proximity makes these schools natural rivals. Make no mistake; this is the city of Cincinnati’s version of Duke and UNC. In the Queen City, you are either a Bearcat fan or a Musketeer fan; there is no room for neutrality. They can call the game “Hands Across the ‘Nati” if they want, but the rivalry is bitter and will stay that way.
There is no erasing what happened between Holloway, the newly-departed Mark Lyons, Yancey Gates and others during the final seconds of last year’s “Crosstown Shootout.” It was ugly, and it was shameful for all parties involved. But no change of venue, new name, or donation to charity will make it go away.
Not to send a mixed signal, but last year’s brawl was also an anomaly, a stain on what has been a passionate, competitive and peaceful series. The players were punished and the schools were embarrassed. But it’s over. Isn’t changing the name and venue just calling attention to an incident both schools would wish to forget?
Like Shakespeare’s Capulets and Montagues, Cincinnati and Xavier will always be rivals. Enmity by any other name is just as strong.