What you do when nobody is watching is what matters.

My brother and his son spent part of this past week in Cincinnati. One of their stops, the University of Cincinnati campus, demonstrated what is good about college athletics.  While “investigating” the football stadium in a way that only a 4-year-old can, my nephew spied a big bus – an instant draw.  He noticed athletes, dressed in sweats with hoods up walking to the bus.

In hopes of finding an elusive college football player, he went to investigate. Much to his initial chagrin, he found the Cincinnati women’s basketball team. They were en route to South Bend and an eventual loss to the #7 Notre Dame program.   Jamelle Elliott, the coach of the Bearcats, is in the process of leading her team through an injury filled season that according to ESPN.com dressed 7 players for the Notre Dame game.

Given all of that, one would expect a wave or a nod to a cute kid. It’s been an exhausting season on the Cincinnati campus for the women’s basketball team. Instead, 3 players (and I wish I knew their names) stopped loading the busses, walked over and talked to my nephew about taking the bus to Notre Dame, and spent a few minutes with a kid who isn’t a Cincinnati fan and really was more interested in seeing a “real football player”.

Evan and Oscar

Evan said good-bye to his new friends “Have a safe trip! Have a good game!” and headed off to see the statue of Oscar Robinson.  A nice encounter with a group of athletes.  For Evan, it would only get better.

He spied a pitcher and a catcher practicing.  He asked my brother about the signs the catcher was going over and why they did that.  Fearlessly, Evan went over and announced he was going to play T-ball in the spring.  Again, many athletes would say something polite and carry on with their workout.

The two ball players asked him if he knew how to throw – and then provided him with an impromptu clinic on the right way to throw a baseball.  My brother said they spent a solid 15 minutes showing Evan how to throw and talking to him. Nobody was watching, simply 2 young men being nice to my nephew.  Brian Cleary, you have some class acts playing for you.

There is a lot wrong with college athletics but there is much more that is right. My brother will always be a Tennessee Vol. I’ll always pull of The Ohio State University.  But when Cincinnati plays? They’ve picked up a few fans; simply by going of their way to be nice to a little kid who was exploring their campus.

The University of Cincinnati president Gregory Williams should be proud.

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