Photo Courtesy of Kenny Klein and GoCards.com
As I pulled into the parking lot in the shadow of the expanding Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium an hour and a half after the open practice started, I was taken aback. The parking lot was packed. As I exited my vehicle, I saw a stream of people leaving the practice fields near the Trager facility that I was about to make the short walk to. And as I strolled onto the part of the field designated for fans, I saw the makeshift bleachers still full of UofL fans eagerly viewing every single rep by the team.
I was astonished. So hungry are we Card fans for football, we showed up in good numbers for a glorified workout on a Monday. It made me realize how far we have come as a football fan base.
Make no mistake, UofL is, by and large, a basketball school first. However, football has begun to give basketball a run for its money. In fact, it is equaling basketball.
It wasn’t so long ago that the UofL fans may choose an early season basketball game against an overmatched opponent over a late season football game against, well, anyone. However, I think now, if given the choice, most would choose that late season football game over some random November basketball game.
30 years ago, fans supported football, but it was nowhere near the level they supported basketball. I highly doubt you would have had very many people show up to an open practice like Monday’s. I feel comfortable saying that the number of fans that would’ve shown up back then wouldn’t come close to what I saw at this open practice.
To see so many fans show up for this open practice amazed me. It wasn’t even at the level of a red-white basketball scrimmage. Yet, on a hot Monday, at 4 pm when most people are still at work, UofL fans packed a practice field for it.
Fans showed the coaches and players that the connection between themselves and the team is strong and special. It’s beautiful to see and to realize there is still room for growth as a fan base.
We the fans are as hungry for a football National Championship as Bobby Petrino, Lamar Jackson, Jaire Alexander or any of the other coaches or players. We stand in extreme heat and extreme cold to live and die on every down. Fans show up to an open practice where the team isn’t even wearing pads just to catch a glimpse of our guys. They wanted to see what they may be capable of when the ball is kicked off on September 2nd.
So, this is a shout out to the fan base. Monday showed me that UofL fans are continuing their slow, but steady evolution into big time college football fanatics. As the football team is becoming a juggernaut, the fans are becoming the heart of the juggernaut.
Thanks for reading. This is your puntasticly positive correspondent Shawn Barbour signing off.
P.S. no puns were used in the writing of this article.