Bring the Shootout Home

I want to see this guy throwing X's to the UC student section before it's all over. - Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Enough is enough, it's time to restore this series to what it needs to be.

There are plenty of weird things on Twitter in the average day, but far and away the most disturbing one I've read in a while was the news that there were plenty - plenty - of good seats still available for the Shootout on Saturday. More than one source reported it, of course, but it was most adequately summed up by the popes.

Woof indeed. We've gone through the two years of the neutral site arrangement, and it sucks. Letting one little fight mar any part of that season was a likely unnecessary evil. Letting it move the rivalry out of its natural habitat has been nothing short of ridiculous. If you've played basketball with post-pubescent men, you've seen opponents and occasionally teammates) throwing hands. It's not hard to find other examples of basketball fights involving NCAA teams (I'll get you started with this and this and this and this); they're footnotes to history. They're not incidents worth derailing one of the best rivalries in college basketball, not even for a moment.

The home-and-home format of the Shootout is integral to what it is. The players know and generally don't hate each other. They're young men with the same interests living in the same city; their paths cross during the year. They play summer ball with and against each other. I'm okay with that.

Where the rubber meets the road is the fans. The Shootout is about wading onto the other school's campus and waging battle with 8,000 angry college kids in your ear. It's about jumping into a cauldron of hate and coming out the other side flicking V's at the vanquished. It's about telling the other guys that they're number one in the country and number two in the city. Twice. It's about being cut from a different cloth, being gangastas (not thugs, but tough guys on the court), and going out there and zipping 'em up.

The place should be packed to the rafters with a partisan crowd. You shouldn't be stumping for ticket sales the week of the game. It's time for this charade to end.

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