Tuesday, December 16, 1997
A new team of winners

The Cincinnati Enquirer

At first, I thought maybe I'd do a play-by-play of the competition. Pretend it was a basketball game, like the one it mimicked. But who am I kidding? This was nothing like a sporting event.

For one thing, the crowd was on folding chairs in a medium-sized room. No bleachers. No cheerleaders. No hype. No recruiting or scholarships or coaching from the sidelines. No sales tax.

And, it might be noted, no elbows.

Just a little sweat, the nervous kind. And one very rah-rah alum. About 75 people, friends and family of the team members, showed up last Friday for the first Xavier University - University of Cincinnati Crosstown Shoutout. Shout, as in speech. Oratory.

Lou Ginocchio, the very rah-rah 1970 Xavier University grad, says he organized the event and got his company - brokers A.G. Edwards - to cough up the prize money because he thinks it's important to have an opinion and be able to express it. Especially on a college campus.

And he also thought it might be nice to get schools to rally around an event that involved students who weren't bouncing or throwing or kicking a ball.

This will take some work.

The first Shootout

Even the very first basketball game between XU and UC drew a pretty good crowd. On March 7, 1928, the Xavier Musketeers beat the UC Bearcats 29-25. Tickets cost $1.50 and sales were brisk. Xavier's new $350,000 Schmidt Fieldhouse was packed. The two schools didn't play again until 1945.

But now it is huge. Big. Hot. Front page.

Xavier won the game Saturday in what my jock friends tell me was a rout: 88-68. The Shoutout victory was not so clear. Marc Schifalacqua, an XU freshman from Milwaukee, took first prize. But second and third went to two UC students, Carrie Linder and Katherine Berning. So you might say there was plenty of honor to go around.

Six students competed for the 1997 Charles M. Barrett Award for Outstanding Public Speaking. Here was their topic: ''What should be the role of intercollegiate athletics on college and university campuses?''

In a suspiciously mom-like moment, a woman in the audience pointed to one of the contestants and said, ''Isn't she terrific?'' Then added, ''They all are. Both teams.''

That they are, Mom.

No elbows, no choking

First of all, most of us would rather watch our hair fall out than stand up in front of a crowd of any size and give a speech. So, right away they get points for that. Plus they took a hard look at sports on their respective campuses, interviewing student athletes and surfing the Internet for graduation rates.

Their speeches were beautifully written, carefully researched, eloquently delivered. They applauded the leadership and lessons that sports can teach. They noted the importance to a school's financial health. And they demanded that the first order of business be education for everybody - even athletes.

But not especially athletes.

While the country debates whether a basketball player was too harshly punished for choking his coach and threatening to kill him, six really bright kids put on their good clothes and put their minds to work. Their parents and friends - and some faculty - came to watch and cheer. No ticket needed.

Marc took first place and $700. Katherine and Carrie together won a total of $800.

So, technically, I'm still not sure exactly which school has bragging rights to this first Crosstown Shoutout. But everywhere you looked, you could see winners.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.