Monday, March 11, 2002

Our city's got game

        If cities got game balls, Cincinnati wouldn't. We have boycotts, we have battle lines. We have a cow, man. Here's our new slogan, straight from the Chamber of No Commerce: “Come to Cincinnati. It's a Riot!” Lately, the only person who actually wanted to visit us was O.J. Simpson.

        But here's something we got that you ain't got. At least not as good as we got it:

        We got game.

        Bill Cosby might not love us.

        But Bill Packer does.

        We are the epicenter of Hoop Nation.

        We don't need a sneaker commercial telling us about Bracketville. We are Bracketville, yo.

        Right here, right now, we are an embarrassment ... of riches.

        UC is a No. 1 seed and has been a March fixture for a decade. Xavier is a No. 7 seed and also a Madness staple. Both are conference champions. For pure joy, nothing around here in years topped the emotional release at Firstar Center on Saturday, when the Bearcats won the Conference USA title.

        Lately, we have done nothing better here than play quasi-amateur basketball. Say what you will about Bob Huggins. The man has busted his butt so his team can bust everybody else's. Now, again, in another March, Huggins and XU coach Thad Matta have put our way-down town on the map for a good reason.

        Man, did we need this. A No. 1 seed and a No. 7, in the same town, playing in what has become the best sporting event in the country. UC and XU are close enough to soft-shoe in the moonlight and cast dueling aspersions on basketball histories and graduation rates.

        We could beat our chests. If we did that sort of thing.

        “As unreliable as Cincinnati weather is, that's how reliable Cincinnati basketball has been,” Hamilton County commissioner Tom Neyer said Sunday.

        (Ordinarily, we wouldn't call on big-shot pols to offer boilerplate quotations. But Neyer went to UC and he's a huge Bearcats fan. Plus, he returned a phone call on a Sunday afternoon.)

        College basketball has supplanted the Reds as Cincinnati's shiniest reason to feel good about itself. UC and XU are consistently excellent. Neither uses obscene amounts of our money to build its playpens and neither (usually) has players who behave like dysfunctional 8-year-olds.

        “I travel a lot,” Neyer said. “All I heard was Marge and Mapplethorpe. Then it was the riot, to a lesser extent. Now, it's UC and to some extent, Xavier. It's great for us to have a common sense of community pride.”

        Basketball may only be a three-week Band-Aid on our still-open wounds. That's three more weeks than we've had in a long time. Whether Steve Logan deserves to be national player of the year isn't a polarizing issue around here. All of us will say yes, he does.

        Beginning Thursday at 12:15, the nation casts its lonely eyes to the real Bracketville. Right here, where we're lovin' life for a change.

        “The city has been great this year for us,” said UC forward Jamaal Davis.

        No better, though, than you have been for the city.

        Play on.

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UC gets No. 1 seed; XU 7th
- DAUGHERTY: Our city's got game
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Ohio St. confounded by seed, site
Ohio St. wins Big Ten tourney
UK warned: Don't look ahead
Goliaths don't scare Valparaiso
UK's road to title game
NCAA Men's Tournament preview
NCAA Men's Tournament schedule
NCAA Men's Tournament seedings
NCAA Women's Tournament preview
Men's NIT schedule
NIT takes half of Atlantic 10
NCAA Women's Tournament schedule
NKU women reach Elite Eight
Coming up this week
Division II women's basketball tournament
Hershey 2, Mighty Ducks 1
Wilmington women lose D-III regional

Bearcats low-key about high seed
UC sees Ohio State ahead
Most UC fans will get shut out
Terriers may be underdogs but they'll be dogged
UC's road to title game
UC women hope to make 'some noise'
Peahens are puzzle to Pirtle
UC wins C-USA tourney
Conference tourney just a warmup
Logan earns MVP honors
Xavier wants to do some damage
Hawaii has international lineup
XU's road to title game
Xavier wins Atlantic-10 tourney
Clark named fourth outfielder
Added years don't hurt Pineda
Blue Jays 4, Reds 3
Three girls teams eye state basketball titles
Five boys teams enter regionals
Ohio girls state tournament pairings
Ohio boys regional pairings
Ky. boys Sweet 16 schedule
Ky. girls regional pairings