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A ticket for the upcoming Young/Simeon game at Chicago State. | Photo courtesy of Lansing Sport Shop
The design was approved by the schools and the tickets were printed months ago, but there is no getting around the fact that it looks bad.
Simeon and Morgan Park played last Wednesday at Chicago State. There was a fight in the post-game handshake line and a major disturbance outside the arena that resulted in a 17-year-old boy being shot and killed.
Simeon plays Young this Saturday, the game is also at Chicago State. Tickets on sale at both schools have an ill-timed slogan printed on them.
On top of the ticket it reads: “#1 Whitney Young vs #2 Simeon Are You Ready To Rumble”
“The intent was never anything about fighting,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “It was a metaphor about heavyweight boxing. Everywhere you go they talk about are you ready to rumble.”
Simeon and Young have been playing each other in boys basketball on an annual basis for over two decades. Young principal Dr. Joyce Kenner says there has never been a violent incident on the court or in the stands during the game.
Basketball fans across the city concur with Kenner. The game is regularly played in front of massive crowds. Last year’s game nearly sold out the UIC Pavilion, despite a game date just a couple days before Christmas.
Many area basketball fans consider the annual matchup to be an excellent chance to show friends and families the best of high-level Public League basketball, without a high-level risk of anything violent happening.
Even so, in light of last week’s events at Chicago State Kenner made sure to do everything possible to ensure Saturday’s game goes off peacefully.
“I was in meetings all week long with everyone you can imagine to make sure Saturday is safe,” Kenner said. “The city doesn’t need any more negatives around athletics.”
Simeon and Young are about as friendly as rivals can possibly get. Slaughter and Simeon coach Robert Smith have been good friends for years and started the Chicago Elite Classic together.
Simeon’s Jabari Parker and Young’s Jahlil Okafor, the two players featured on the ticket, have a brotherly relationship. Forget trash talking, it’s impossible to get one to even slightly criticize the other. It’s obvious that Okafor looks up to Parker in every way.
“Our schools are partners,” Slaughter said. “The only problem we have is between the lines from 8 to 9:30. That’s it.”
Kenner doesn’t believe last Saturday’s fatal shooting at Chicago State had anything to do with basketball.
“The two groups Saturday knew each other, and it had nothing to do with basketball,” Kenner said. “It was gang-related whether people want to admit it or not.”
Kenner is on-board with new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s plan to clean up CPS athletics.
“Some things have gotten out of control,” Kenner said. “I love what Dr. Bennett is doing. I think with the support of her and our athletic board we can finally get something done.”
Saturday’s game will be telecast live on ESPNU. It’s a chance for Chicago basketball to showcase what it should be known for: two nationally ranked teams with future lottery picks. It’s also a chance to show the rest of the city that the two top basketball programs can play each other in a tough, competitive game and shake hands peacefully afterward. Simeon and Young and all the parents and fans associated with both schools have pulled it off for the past 23 years. Let’s all hope they can do it again Saturday.