May 2, 2012

There’s No Place like Home: Cincinnati Meets DC and Atlanta

The Bearcat “Bagstreet Boys”, who took
home the fall 2011 league trophy, pose with
other UC alums in the Atlanta cornhole
league. Left to right: Jose Barratt
(University of Florida), Ethan Dunkle,
Troy Easterday, Jeff Brawand
(Cornhole ATL Founder), Sarang Patel,
Stephen Young, Richard Bodner
and Matt Hoyng. 

For Jeff Brawand (Business ‘07) and Caroline Page (Allied Health Sciences ‘09), the savory tastes of home to counter their Cincinnati cravings were simple: kickball and cornhole. Just a few years after their first jobs landed them in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, respectively, Caroline and Jeff had remarkably similar ideas for how to reconnect with their alma mater despite the distance between them.

Alum Jeff Brawand founded the first
cornhole league in Atlanta, satisfying
his and many other native Cincinnatians’
craving for a familiar taste of home. 
Jeff, who missed the Bearcat tailgating scene in the Lindner College of Business parking lot, guessed he wasn’t the only alum in Atlanta with the same longing for a good game of cornhole. So he decided to resurrect the lost tradition among his fellow Cincinnati Atlantans. He worked alongside two fellow Bearcats to form the very first Atlanta cornhole league in the city, an idea that would catch on and spawn at least two other recreational leagues across Atlanta.

D.C. Bearcats represent Cincinnati
in the “D.C. Thunder Spring League”
at the National Mall. Front: Michal Hammond;
Back (left to right): Tim Lolli, Sean Huff,
Adam Thurn, Caroline Page, Todd Damren
“Even in the heart of SEC country, we definitely represent UC well down here in Atlanta. Plus, it’s really helped form a strong sense of community for Bearcats and Cincinnatians alike,” said Jeff of the league, which purposefully does not discriminate between UC alumni and non-alumni. Since it was formed in 2011, the league has grown from 80 to 120 active team members, serving as a subtle reminder to everyone of their Cincinnati roots. For others, it’s more of an introduction to one of Cincinnati’s favorite recreations.

Allegiances aside, Jeff still proudly points out that last winter’s “Bagstreet Boys” league champions were one of the Bearcat alumni teams. They’ve returned this season as the “Bagstreet’s Back” to defend their title. “It’s definitely nice to see the Bearcats coming out on top,” Jeff joked.

The founding group of D.C. Bearcats remains,
but the kickball team has picked up several
non-Bearcat team members along the way, too. 
The league has brought local UC alums out of the woodwork, too, including Jeff’s freshman next-door neighbor, with whom he surprisingly reconnected through the league. The league has even grown enough to take on charitable partnerships, most recently hosting two tournaments to help raise more than $17,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. See the league in action through Jeff’s interview with UrbanPeephole.

With similar intentions, Caroline and fellow Lindner College of Business alum Tim Lolli dreamed up a Bearcat kickball team to help make their get-togethers with local D.C. alums more consistent. While the team has picked up several non-Bearcats along the way (and even converted some of them into Bearcat fans), the founding group of alumni friends has remained constant and even led to new friendships.

The D.C. kickball team helped grow
their local Bearcat community
even more by making the Penn Quarter
Sports Tavern their official
Bearcat game watch spot.
“D.C. is a very fast-paced and busy part of the country,” Caroline said. “There’s not always a lot of time to just enjoy one another’s company. That’s something I really missed about the Midwest, and the kickball team has been a great way to strengthen old friendships and make new friends in a new city.”

Fortunately, the kickball team’s gatherings have expanded beyond the National Mall, where the team plays every spring Saturday beneath the Washington Monument. When the group discovered D.C.’s plethora of college-specific bars didn’t include one for UC, they quickly found a home base for Bearcat fans. Up through the basketball team’s victorious trip to the 2012 Sweet Sixteen, close to 40 D.C. alums gathered consistently at the Penn Quarter SportsTavern to cheer on the Bearcats.

For both Caroline and Jeff, what started as a recreational pastime has grown into a social circle. Even with years and miles now separating them from their days at UC, familiar faces and shared memories of “home” are just a kick or toss away.

Jeff’s advice for alums who think this sounds like something their local alumni community needs: “Don’t be afraid to just give it a shot. You can’t fail unless you try.

Email Caroline or Jeff to join their Bearcat rosters or let your Alumni Association help you get your own intramural team started in your city.

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