This UofL basketball season has been, well, disappointing. It was a letdown before practice even started. We lost a coach, an Athletic Director, and our sanity. Our team of great young men were forced to endure more mega media attention and questions about scandals they had no part in. People pelted them with cheap insults and petty taunts.
This team has talent yet it seems they can’t find a way to mesh it together to work properly and consistently. I think it’s a byproduct of scandal fatigue for the team. We fans have it and it’s obvious the players do. Nearly all of the Cards issues are mental. It’s as if they think too much and are slow to react on the floor. So many mental lapses led to the only consistency being inconsistency.
I can’t really blame them. They are busy trying to get their degrees while learning from a head coach with no experience and a group of assistant coaches who got to the university a week into practice.
It’s easy to attack the players. It’s easy to call some selfish, some soft, some dumb. It’s easy because misery loves company.
I choose to take an empathetic approach to our team. I try to put myself in the player’s shoes and imagine how crappy it must be to lose your coach, a father figure for many of them, a couple of days before the season starts. I imagine taking questions about scandals they were not party to like a criminal interrogation; how draining mentally it must be to be asked about losing a coach and about how they are dealing with more scandal while trying to focus on learning new coaches and making the grades in class.
Then I imagine them hearing the preposterous things these foolish fans in other fan bases say to them on the road. I imagine them reading the borderline hateful tweets and Facebook posts from our own fans. Think about the toll it takes. Imagine the toll it would take on you.
I’m sure some of you will say, “it wouldn’t bother me. I’m mentally stronger than these guys.” For a few of you, this may be true, but for the majority of you, you’re just lying to yourselves.
Listen, I have been critical of the team. The mental lapses, the lack of rebounding, the turnovers, the hero ball on offense, etc. Yet, deep down I still love this team and its coach. I really don’t believe they are out there purposely screwing up. I believe they are trying.
The circumstances were just too much to overcome in such a short time. Not to mention, you have a coach thrust into an unbelievable situation; a guy who has never been a head coach before; a guy that is learning literally everything about being the leader of a prestigious program on the fly. He stepped up, in my opinion, for the kids. I think he knew he wasn’t ready, but I think he sees the players as family.
That family wanted him to take over for the fallen patriarch and he chose to do it for them. Besides, the guy we probably would’ve gotten if not Padgett would’ve been Tom Crean. So, thank God for Padgett.
This season was trying for everyone. The fans having to deal with trolls from other fan bases coming out from under every rock to spew their poisonous words. The school dealing with declining profit from basketball due to donors leaving and fan apathy. The head coach dealing with being an unexpected leader. The players dealing with the same trolls as fans and worse, trolls within their own fan base and in the national media.
It has been a difficult year. There’s a good chance UofL ends up in the NIT. Here’s what you, as a fan, have to ask yourself if that indeed becomes reality…are you going to support the guys? I remember the year of the ban and the theme of that team was, “I got your back.” Our fan base embraced it. We showed up to the last few games of the regular season that year in full force with full-throated support.
I’ll never forget being there for senior night and after the game chanting loud and proud, “I got your back” in response to Damion Lee’s question, “Who’s got my back?”
Now my question in this disappointing season is…”Do we truly have the player’s backs or was that just an empty chant?” I would like to believe that, despite the frustrating play and the maddening mental collapses, that the chant that night was truth; we have the player’s backs no matter what. I can’t speak for all of you. It’s up to you to decide for yourself. I made the decision last night that if UofL ends up in the NIT, I’ll do everything I can to be there. If I can’t make it, I’ll watch. If I can’t watch, I’ll keep up with it somehow.
When I chanted, “I got your back” a few year’s ago, I meant it. For better or worse, this is our team, they are our players, and that is our coach.
I just imagine if my nephew was on this team, I’d back him win or lose because I love him. I love this team, I love those players, and I’ll back them when they need it most. Yeah, they may let me down. I may get angry and frustrated and wonder why they make a dumb turnover or give up drives like crazy. At the end of the day, though, they are still my guys and always will be. Hopefully, you feel the same or will begin to after reading this.