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On Xavier, Alabama, and cheering for the good guys

In a world gone increasingly mad, it’s nice to flip on the tv and cheer for a program untainted by mess

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier
A dude who seems unlikely to be involved in a shooting
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There has been one major story in college basketball this week. It hasn’t been the 16 seeds released Sunday, it hasn’t been Houston cementing their long rise back to being elite, it hasn’t even been Kentucky climbing back off the bubble with a series of good wins. No, the main talking point of college basketball this week has been a homicide. (To hear us discuss it in detail, listen below.)

You likely know by now that Alabama star Brandon Miller was involved in the shooting of 23 year old mother Jamea Harris. Harris had rebuffed the advances of Miller’s teammate Darius Miles, who asked Miller to bring him his gun. Miller, upon receiving that 1am text, did just that. Miles passed the gun to the man who pulled the trigger and, with Miller’s vehicle blocking the victim’s escape route and parked so close that it took two rounds, the shooter killed a young woman for the unforgivable sin of not wanting to dance with him.

Our thoughts on guns and gun violence are clear, as is, if you follow us on Twitter, our stance on Alabama’s spineless, basketball first response to this. This isn’t about that, though, it’s about the contrast.

Xavier hasn’t been immune to scandal. There was the time when someone dared say that Xavier’s players were “tough guys on the court.” This led to enough Victorian Era fainting couch and pearl clutching action that you would have thought the Musketeers actually took the court carrying swords. ESPN wasn’t in a contract with Xavier like they are Alabama, so they dedicated more time to an on court scrap than they did last night to Brandon Miller providing someone a murder weapon. Someone said “thugs?” Ignore context. Burn the program down.

More recently more scandal has engulfed the Musketeers when they re-hired Sean Miller. Miller committed the egregious violation of believing what his friend told him. Never mind that the NCAA, always on the lookout for the smallest of slights, found nothing wrong with what Miller did. Never mind that the actual, this isn’t a joke in an article about college basketball, FBI investigated and found no wrongdoing on Miller’s part, this was a scandal worth mentioning! Dick Vitale railed against the hiring. Sean Miller? Coaching again? It’s back to the fainting couches for us!

Those two tongue in cheek examples aren’t to say Xavier hasn’t had some issues. Dedrick Finn once kidnapped a puppy. Myles Davis broke his girlfriend’s cell phone, was suspended, and subsequently left the team, JP did JP stuff, and Trevon Blueitt may or may not have had a run in with America’s least dangerous controlled substance. You will note that none of those things ended up with someone dead or the school bending over backwards to assure us there was nothing to see here.

The older I get and the older my kids get, the more I crave a place where there is some entertainment at least somewhat untainted by the outside world. Increasingly, sports is the only choice.

This Xavier team is a fine example of that. The team’s most vital player is a seven footer who, when extremely riled, will flex one arm. He did do something unusual this offseason, but it was get married, so that seems like safe ground to tread. Adam Kunkel is covered in tattoos that probably make an older generation squirm, but he also supports a clothing line encouraging us all to “Make Heaven Crowded.” Colby Jones is as self-effacing and soft-spoken a burgeoning star as you will ever come across. Perhaps the only morally dubious thing about this team is Bradley Colbert’s hair.

And X’s players don’t have to be good people and they certainly don’t have to live inside some moral stricture that I would place on them. I didn’t mind when Tu Holloway screamed at the opposing bench, I don’t mind that Souley Boum doesn’t. There is something about this program and the young men that represent it, though, that makes me think they won’t soon be involved in downplaying a murder.

I’m a Cleveland Browns fan as well. This coming season will be a constant battle between wanting my team to win and not wanting to in any way support the pervert playing quarterback, the coach that campaigned for him, or the owners who spent record money on him. I wish normal old Baker Mayfield was back. When I turn on Xavier, though, there are no moral quandaries to sift through, no reality to be suspended, no whataboutism to be engaged in. For a couple hours there remains one place to just be involved in the outcome of the game, content in the knowledge you’re cheering for decent people.

Maybe we all shouldn’t take that quite so much for granted.