By Matt Lesser, ‘10, Contributor
For nearly a week, the heart and soul of Bearcat Nation migrated south to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the 76th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl, one of the five marquee bowl games in the country and the second-oldest bowl game in the nation. The Bearcats were coming off their best season in history, 12-0, and were powered by the winningest seniors in school history at 41-12, a remarkable accomplishment considering where the program was four years ago. I was in New Orleans as one of the faithful, having driven to the Big Easy with my father a few days prior to the game.
The French Quarter and Central Business District were packed with Cincinnati fans. Simply with a quick scan of the surrounding area, one would never know that there were two different teams playing in the game. It was a sea of red and black for as far as the eye could see. And it wasn’t just students and alumni, but rather rabid fans. My dad once told me that Cincinnati is the smallest big city in the world, and no time is that more true than when you’re abroad. I met up with a few classmates, namely J.R. Strubbe, ’10, New Orleans local and heir to the local Bananas Foster dessert throne, Will Duncan, ’11, and Ben Valido, ’12. I saw Megan Bonini ’10, and alums Daniel Allen, ’08, and Louis Moore, ’08. Truly everyone in the world was there. I even got to party on Bourbon Street on New Years with Strubbe and my long-time friend Arthur Kurtzman, a 2009 Walnut Hills graduate whom I’d randomly run into while patrolling the streets of New Orleans. It seemed as if everyone in town had ties to the Queen City. Even Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer is a 1986 graduate of the University of Cincinnati, and was a member of the team the only other time UC took on Florida!
The game, although not as great as we all would have hoped (UC lost 51-24), was still an amazing spectacle. 65,207 animated fans packed the Louisiana Superdome for the game, with at least 30,000 wearing Cincinnati red and black. The crowd was on its feet for nearly the entire game. But even within the stadium, there were more sights to be seen. Cincinnati Reds broadcasters Marty Brenneman and Thom Brenneman, a CCDS parent, were in attendance, positioned on the 50 yard-line in the lower bowl. I carried on conversations with the mother of junior defensive back Dominique Battle and the father of sophomore defensive back J.K. Schaffer, as well as the wife of UC defensive backs coach and former Colerain High School head coach Kerry Combs. Again, Cincinnati is a pretty small place.
Although the final product on the field might not have been quite what we all had hoped for, the 2009 Cincinnati Bearcats and their success-hungry Cincinnati fanbase deserve a standing ovation.
Photo of Matt Lesser courtesy of Cincinnati Enquirer.