One brother is a master pianist and music professor at Creighton University. The other is president of the University of Cincinnati.
They both have something at stake when the Creighton Bluejays square off against the Cincinnati Bearcats Friday during the first round of the NCAA national basketball tournament.
If Creighton wins, Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono promises to wear Bluejays gear for a day. If Cincinnati wins, his older brother, Momoro Ono, must don a Bearcats jersey.
“I am looking forward to buying my brother Bluejay attire,” Momoro Ono said Monday.
Santa is the more knowledgeable about sports, said Momoro, who describes himself as “a classical piano nerd” and Santa as “well-rounded.”
But one doesn't work for long at Creighton without becoming a basketball fan, Momoro said. He's looking forward to watching the game on TV Friday.
“Luckily, when I got hired five years ago (at Creighton), they forgot to ask me that question, how much I knew about basketball,” he said. “Now I root for the basketball team. It's part of being the Creighton family.”
He said Friday's Creighton-Cincinnati match-up is the first since Santa Ono became Cincinnati president last year.
Santa Ono has appeared to have succumbed to basketball fever. He tweeted Monday that “my brother teaches at Creighton. #Family feud at March Madness.” He also describes himself as a “huge Bearcat fan.”
In January, Santa shaved his head, fulfilling a pledge made if the Bearcats won 10 in a row.
He's even tried to drag their parents into it. Santa told Cincinnati TV station WCPO that he'd persuaded his father, Takashi Ono, who recently retired as distinguished math professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, to root for Cincinnati.
“He did say he would be more pumped if UC had a sumo wrestling team,” Santa Ono told the TV station.
“That sounds like my dad,” said Momoro Ono.
Santa also reported that his mother, Sachiko Ono, “is taking the Fifth because she doesn't understand basketball.”
“That sounds like my mom,” Momoro said.
The Onos immigrated from Japan to Vancouver, when Momoro, 53 and their oldest son, was a small boy. Momoro was born in Japan; Santa, 50, was born in Vancouver. A third brother was born in Philadelphia – making the brothers each native citizens of a different country.
The three Ono brothers were raised in Baltimore, in the same school district as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. (Momoro said he's always been a fan of the Olympics.)
Momoro said he and Santa haven't yet worked out when the loser will have to pay up on the bet by wearing the rival team's gear. Momoro said the details aren't urgent, because he doesn't expect to lose. (Creighton is a seventh seed, while Cincinnati is a 10th seed.)
He's just glad the bet doesn't involve head-shaving.
“I would shave my head for Creighton,” Momoro said. “But I'm very relieved I won't have to.”