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Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin is My New Favorite Coach

The ending of Saturday’s Xavier-Cincinnati game was marred by the type of thuggish buffoonery that, while not rare, never gets easier to see.  Much of the aftermath of the brawl, however, was equally disgusting – except for Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin.

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When I heard yesterday that a brawl had erupted at the end of the Xavier-Cincinnati game, I had the same reaction I always do; “Sweet!  I’ve got to see that!”  Then, like always, I ran to my computer, and like a kid on Christmas morning, eagerly tore it open, found the video and watched it again and again, dissecting every wild, erratic punch.  I examined it several times over wondering how it is that men with such athleticism can look so much like an eight year old girl when they throw a punch (Seriously, watch these kinds of fights.  Other than hockey, everyone sport seems to employ the “put your head down and flail your arms like a mad man punching style.” It’s absurd).  With every watch, however, I, like always, found myself sinking deeper and deeper into a world of anger and sadness.  With every watch, I realized how absurd and disgusting it was.

But can we really expect more?  Over the past few years the sports world has devolved into a culture of testosterone fueled thuggery that glorifies self-aggrandizing athletes who seem more concerned with their reputation than with their team.  It is, to me, the single most regrettable development in sports.  The concept of the ‘sportsman’ has vanished entirely, replaced by revolting displays of vanity and toughness that become more important than the actual on-field play.  Want to motivate today’s athlete?  Give them a great idea for a touchdown dance.  There really is little that angers me more than the fact that in today’s sports world athletes like DeSean Jackson are the norm, while athletes like Tim Tebow are the curious outliers that need to get with the times.

So imagine the anger that was coursing through my veins last night when, after watching the brawl, I heard Xavier players take to the mic defending themselves.  Xavier player Tu Holloway:

“That’s what you’re going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati.  We got disrespected a little bit before the game, guys calling us out. We’re a tougher team. We’re grown men over here. We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters 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.”

I’m not sure there’s a more perfect example of what I was taking about then that right there.  It’s not about the game.  It’s not about understanding what you did and showing contrition, it’s about toughness and being a gangster.  It’s about “zipping them up.”  It’s about equating manhood with violence and toughness rather than character and restraint.  It’s infuriating.  In lieu of commenting further and sending myself deeper into a state of blinding anger, however, I will instead move on to the one uplifting part of the story – Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin.  Coach Cronin took the podium last night with some fire in his belly, not because his team was disrespected, but because his team lost their minds.  In his post game press conference, Cronin said:

“If my players don’t act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati.  Right now, I just told my guys, ‘I will meet with my A.D. and my President, and I will decide who’s on the team going forward.’  That’s what the University of Cincinnati is about.  Period…I told them ‘I’ve never been this embarrased…I’m hoping President Williams doesn’t ask me to resign over that.’  I made everybody take their jersey off, and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the University stands for, and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, ’cause there a whole lot of kids out there who can’t pay for college.  They’re all sitting there with no jersey on. Some of them I physically took them off.”

Chris Trotman, Getty Images

Finally.  Someone with their head screwed on correctly.  Coach Cronin’s reaction was exactly what I was looking for – and the exact reaction that someone should have when his team sucker punches an opponent in the eye then stomps on him while he’s down.  That’s the only reaction you can have.  Personally, I hope that a bunch of those Cincinnati players don’t ever get their jersey back, they don’t deserve it.  These athletes have been given the opportunity to get a world class education at almost no cost.  The only price they have to pay?  Playing the game they love.  What an opportunity, one that thousands of students who can’t afford the education they dream of would kill for.  But instead of showing their gratitude, instead of trying to spend every day earning the privilege, they call each other out publicly and throw punches on the court.  Look, I know that I’m blowing this one incident out of proportion, and maybe I’m taking my anger for an entire culture out on this one episode, but Coach Cronin’s press conference was the only thing about Saturday that wasn’t appalling.  Dude gets it, he sees the bigger picture.  His team may have just become one of the two college basketball teams that I can’t root for, but Mick Cronin the man just gained a life-long supporter.

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