Especially the University of Louisville.
Louisville is the best college sports town in America. College sports are what we do. Itís what we know.
We donít have a NBA team or D-League team. We donít have a WNBA team. We donít have a NFL team. We donít have hockey or anything else. We have Louisville athletics.
When something hurts our athletic program, it hurts the city. Not just the people, but the businesses.
Listening to the radio the last few days, many callers are devastated regarding the latest allegations against Louisville Basketball. You can hear the grief in their voices. They are angry, disappointed, upset and sick. Iím right there with them.
It sounds crazy. How can someone obsess over a college basketball program?? How does someone grieve over a scandal regarding college basketball?? These people are crazy.
Yes, we are crazy.
Basketball season in Louisville is like Christmas and the team like Santa. It brings us happiness with big wins and sadness with tough losses.
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. The epicenter of college hoops. The home of the two time (now three time) National Champion, Louisville Cardinals. The legendary coach, Denny Crum, at the helm during my childhood.
I started attending Louisville basketball games before I was born. I was born into the fandom. My best childhood memories involve going to Louisville games with my parents. I loved cheering with the crowd and spelling C-A-R-D-S while walking down the ramp in Freedom Hall after a win.
I fell in love with Louisville athletics. Itís a relationship that Iím still fully committed to. You can say I have an obsession. But, trust me, youíd be hard pressed to find many people in Kentucky who are not obsessed with college hoops.
We all have ďour story.Ē You know, the one where you discover your love and passion for Louisville Basketball. That fateful day when you experienced the amazing feeling of winning and seeing how itís not just basketball. The memory that makes you smile and the reason, despite all the bad, youíve held on to your love for the Cardinals.
I asked the contributors for Cardinal Sports Zone to tell me their story.
Shawn: ďI remember being a toddler in a swing. My dad watching UofL basketball and screaming at something & scaring the crap out of me. As I grew, I loved watching guys like Felton Spencer, Labradford Smith, Dewayne Morton, and the list goes on. One of my fondest memories was the first game Francisco Garcia played after his brother was killed. One of the first games I went to ever. The emotion when he hugged Coach P was palpable. I was born, raised, and will die a hardcore fan. No matter what.Ē
Katie: ďI remember being a little kid and going to Freedom Hall with my dad to watch games and doing my best to stay awake. Still to this day, nothing screams cardinal basketball to me more than caramel popcorn. When we made it to the 2005 final four, we were on spring break. I remember being the only kid at the house who watched the basketball game and when we lost, I went into the bathroom and cried. Fast forward to the last game at Freedom Hall, it was my senior year of high school and I was still trying to make that college decision. Kyle Kuric went off and I remember looking around me, and seeing grown men crying tears of joy. Thatís when I knew I wanted to be a Louisville Cardinal. The 2013 National Championship Game was something Iíll never forget. Being on the floor when Trezl let out the beast inside, I thought the roof was going to explode. After we won, once again, there were very few dry eyes around us. It was something Iíll never forget, and Iíll treasure it forever. The love I felt that night, that is what UofL Basketball is to me.Ē†
Nunn: ďBasketball was always the sport I loved to play. Being vertically challenged, I knew I would never have the opportunity to play for Denny Crum. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be a fan, so I pledged my allegiance to the Cards. I remember in 1986, I was supposed to be in bed but I snuck out of bed and hid near the top of the steps just to watch the last few minutes of the NCAA championship game. I have been a fan through the good years and the bad years. These next few years might be hard to handle but I’m not going anywhere. You don’t just stop being part of a family because things aren’t fun and easy. I’m a Card fan for life.Ē
Nunn was there when basketball was invented. His words should hold a lot of weight
Higgy: ď I can remember watching Coach Crums last few years as coach… I remember screaming at the tv with my dad watching great players. I was in the Bahamas when Pitino was hired & we were jumping for joy!! Pitinoís second year we went to tip-off lunch & got to sit at the table with Pitino & Jurich.. as a 7 year old kid this was most amazing thing ever getting to eat lunch with a Coach that I looked up to. Then I went to red white scrimmage that year & it was awesome. I got to see Reece Gaines bring us back against Tennessee. I got experience the first final four run since the late 80ís. I went to the pitino show right before the elite eight game against WVU. I have a lot of great memories thanks to Pitino & I just donít want my childhood to be gone!!Ē
My story: ďCoach Pitino came into my life during a dark time. My daddy was sick with cancer. I was about 10 or 11 years old. I remember watching as Coach Pitino arrived in Louisville. It was broadcast on the news. You wouldíve thought the Queen was in Louisville the way it was featured. Fast forward to a few years later. Itís 2001. My dadís cancer has progressed beyond the point of treatment. Heís in the Hospice Pavillion at the hospital. Louisville is playing Tennessee. The nurses told my mom and I that my dad was whooping and hollering so loud. They loved it because it brought life to a seemingly depressing floor. Thatís when Reece Gains became my all time favorite Louisville player. His three pointers made my dad so happy. My dad made it out of the hospital that time, but his time was extremely limited. In December, I had my birthday party at Jillianís on Baxter. Coach Pitino used to have his weekly show there. I remember watching the show with my friends. Coach Pitino was nice enough to take time after the show to shake the hands of all my friends and take a photo with a bunch of kids. Itís something that Iíll hold with me forever. I came home from my party and told my dad, who was fading more every day. I didnít know at the time that I would only have two months left with him. You see, my daddy was one of the biggest Louisville fans on this planet. He and my mom followed Louisville in football and basketball. My best childhood memories include attending games with my parents. My love for the university grew as I grew. I graduated from the University of Louisville. My love for Louisville will never fade or falter. Iím here for the long haul, through thick and thin.Ē
You see, Louisville Basketball is more than JUST college athletics. This city lives, eats, sleeps, breathes Louisville basketball. Itís on our DNA.
Itís part of being just a kid from Louisville.