Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is the Miami Rivalry Finished?

In 2003 I was a college freshman at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Yes it pains me to admit it but i initially made a decision to go to college where there was a free golf course and a 70-30 girl to guy ratio instead of staying where I could continue to attend every Bearcat game. Needless to say I remedied this decision the next year. The week of the Battle for the Victory Bell I spoke to a local sports bar who assured me they would be carrying the game on their ESPN Gameplan package, but little did I know there was a strike brewing at Miami. I believe it was the Miami janitors who were striking...but do not hold me to that. However, the key point is that ESPN refused to cross the picket line. The game was not going to be televised. What was I to do?

At 5 PM I walked down the hall to a friend’s room and asked him the simple question, “What do you think about driving to Cincinnati with me tonight so I can catch the Bearcat vs. Redhawks game tomorrow?” He said he was in and we left within 20 minutes, arriving at my mom’s palatial Loveland estate around 230 AM (and was she ever surprised).

The point of that little foray into Bearcatmark history is that in 2003 I was willing to drive 8 hours spur of the moment so as to not miss the Battle for the Victory Bell. At that time the Bearcat vs. Miami game was the game I probably looked forward to most every season. Today it is just a blip on the radar. So I guess my question is this: Is the rivalry between the University of Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio effective over?

If I was to rank the Bearcat games that I really wanted to attend this season the Miami game would rank above Southeast Missouri State, but below everyone else. This would be fine if it was just my feelings, but I am fairly certain there are plenty of Bearcat fans who share that sentiment. The fact of the matter is these two schools are now on completely different levels. And while Miami is not always going to be as down as they are now and surely they will be successful again...maybe even enough to beat Cincinnati. However, even in those years they will not be playing the same game as the BCS Bearcats... we are simply in two different worlds.

I think Miami fans are even starting to understand it. A few of my Miami graduate friends put together a big group for the Miami vs. Kentucky game at PBS, but are doing their best to avoid the Cincinnati vs. Miami game. They are pretty sure it is going to be a massacre. Over on Redhawk message boards even their fans are acknowledging they are not on UC’s level these days.

Right now we are only a few years removed from when Miami was clearly the better team. The losses against Big Ben are still fresh in our minds. I still have fond memories of the triple overtime battle at Nippert and brutal memories of the kickoff return that beat UC up in Oxford, or the dropped punt when it looked like Gino was going to bring UC all the way back in 2003. What happens as we get further and further removed from this? Bearcat and Redhawk fans alike are already far less stoked for this game than they have been in my lifetime. When does complete apathy set in? It is not much of a rivalry when fans start viewing it as just another game.

Many Bearcat fans have asked should we continue to play the game... and given the circumstance surrounding it I understand the question. I am personally on the side of playing the game. I do not mind watching the Bearcats beat the tar out of the Redhawks once a year. I do not mind having a road game in close driving distance, in a place with a great tailgating lot, in a pretty fun college town. I say grab your pink shirts, pop your collars and get up there Bearcat fans.

As many have pointed out we do not have the money to pay 1A teams for guarantee games. If we are going to struggle for a seventh home game lets have a road game an hour away. For fans like me who drive to Rutgers and hope to fly to South Florida (apparently tickets out of Dayton to Tampa are 130 dollars right now Bearcat fans) a game at Miami is certainly one to take advantage of every other year. This game has still been played for over 100 years. It is still the first college football game played in Ohio and still one of the nations oldest rivalries. So lets smack them around at least for a while longer and take the lead in the series.

I have many fond memories from the Bearcat vs. Miami rivalry. I have a few excruciating ones. Despite that this game is at the bottom of the list when it comes to Bearcat games I want to attend or care about watching. We are a few years removed from when this game was the biggest of the year and already their is a ora of apathy surrounding it. It would be nice if Miami could become at least a good team again on a consistent basis, but even if they do the game has lost its significance. I hope we keep playing, I like the game, but as it appears to me the Miami/Cincinnati rivalry is effective over.

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