ESPN Hyped the Wrong Larry…and Team

It’s possible that I have a chip on my shoulder.  Most Cincinnati sports fans do.  If you’ve lived over 20 years in the Midwest, you’ve had a front row view to media outlets focusing on large markets and teams to the exclusion of your teams helplessly trapped here.  In fly-over country.

Before I begin then, let me offer an up-front disclaimer:

I may have emotionally overreacted to the timing and tone of ESPN’s article discussed below.  Loyal reader, please take my thoughts with a grain of salt, knowing that years of Ohio Februarys may well have distorted my perspective to the point of seeing things that simply are not there.

With that said, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that in covering the SMU loss UC victory, ESPN published an article that missed the cosmic point that the Bearcats’ win demonstrated – this young, gritty Bearcats team is remarkably resilient.

At 12:45 AM last night, mere moments after UC pulled away and cruised to a victory to sweep the #23 ranked Mustangs on their home court, C.L. Brown uploaded his article.  The article, in my biased opinion, unreasonably described what SMU’s loss says about their ability to overcome.  Huh?

He states the following:

“The Mustangs have had a season full of distractions. Their current roster looks considerably different from the one ranked No. 22 in the preseason AP poll. And we just saw what the weight of a NCAA investigation did to Syracuse.”

He continues:

“Yet somehow SMU has plugged through a slow start on the court, player attrition and potential uncertainty.”

And last:

“But coach Larry Brown has somehow managed to keep the team focused.”

In response, I’ll make three embittered “observations.”  First, does it make sense to celebrate a team that has overcome self-imposed distractions?  I understand that it may be tough for the program to approach games with a laser-focus when the full weight of the NCAA is closing in.  But the allegations relate to whether SMU coaches improperly intervened to encourage Keith Frazier’s high school physics teacher to raise his grade.  And my guess is that the NCAA may uncover a few other improprieties before concluding its investigation.

Second, SMU has had a season of distractions?  Distractions?!  Would the loss of a team’s long-tenured head coach register as a distraction or storyline to describe the outcome of the Bearcats sweep of SMU?  Uncertainty?  There’s plenty of that to go around in Clifton, too.  The line-up has changed umpteen times.  Nobody on the team knows who is going to lead the scoring charge.  Last night it was Senior Jermaine Sanders.  Sunday it was Junior Octavius Ellis.  The Thursday before last it was Sophomore Troy Caupain.  Honestly, Interim Head Coach Larry Davis never knows which player to center the offense around.

Yet despite the loss of a head coach, the spotty point production, and cataclysmic conference road let-downs, Larry Davis had his players focused last night (at least he got them there after the halftime break).  Accordingly, I need to revise C.L.’s sentence above:

“But coach Larry Brown Davis has somehow managed to keep the team focused.”

Much better.

Third, I get it – Dallas is bigger than Cincinnati.  However, the Cincinnati storyline this year is far more compelling than any other team when it comes to overcoming adversity.  I get that C.L. Brown went to North Carolina (which is where Larry Brown played).  But I think C.L. tragically missed the point last night.

Loyal readers, don’t miss the point!  The Bearcats, even after the catastrophic loss of their coach, continue to win games.  The Bearcats, even with a young and inexperienced group of players, tackle adversity and halftime deficits to win in the clutch.  Lastly, the Bearcats, even on the heels of a devastating road loss to ECU, pulled it together and executed on a national stage, on ESPN no less.

Okay, I’m out of ammo.  Go Bearcats. Go Cincinnati. Go overcomers. Go fly-over country.

By Brian Fox