I recently spent a significant amount of time number crunching (in front of some kids at a daycare where they have those soft blocks shaped like numbers; I'm told it was all very traumatizing) and finally figured out the reason behind the Louisville football team's collapse in 2007: we are all part of a super secret, and super important scientific study being performed by the United States government.
It's one of only two possibilities, and the other one's far too normal to take seriously.
You see, never before in the history of college football had one program risen so quickly from relative obscurity to national prominence. The speed with which U of L made the climb from Conference USA cellar dweller to being three wins away from a spot in the national title game left it with an ambiguous status in the sport's hierarchy, and made its fan base the perfect candidates for a groundbreaking psychological experiment.
The scientists - who all wear white trench coats, have hard-to-spell last names and carry around bubbling beakers 24 hours a day - and psychologists wanted to see what the offseason state of the fan base would be like if the threat of everything falling apart even faster than it was built became significant.
The conclusion: super weird.
I mean haven't the last three months just been amazingly bizarre? We've had some people talking about how great Kragthorpe is, some people talking about how awful Kragthorpe is, some people talking about how awful Petrino is, a lot of people talking about the exploits of a player who averaged eight points on the hardwood last year, and next to nobody talking about the actual outlook of the 2008 Louisville Cardinals football team.
The truth is, we have been faced with an almost unprecedented situation in college football. We're all staring significantly lowered expectations in the face for the for the first time in a decade, as well as the fear that the program could be in a state of serious decline for the first time in even longer than that, and none of us have really known how to react. We've seen fear, anger, nervousness, acceptance, denial and apathy. We haven't seen much excitement.
It's time to get excited, people.
This evening's opening practice marks the beginning of the 2008 Louisville football season. It's a season that could be bad, it's a season that could be good, but it's a season that all of us should be excited about at the moment.
Let's look at 11 reasons why you should be giddy over the year that will be.
1. It's football...damnit
Say what you will about the BCS, the coaches poll or your offensive coordinator's questionable play-calling, the game itself is fantastic.
Christmas is the only thing that can hold a candle to March in my eyes, but it's impossible for me to deny that the 12-hour buzz on Saturdays in late October or November is a step above anything college basketball can counter with in January or February. The fact that our favorite team gets to be involved, in any way, with all that is something to be excited about.
2. Eight home games
Do you know what you're going to do if Louisville is 10-0 on Nov. 22? You're going to hang out with people whose company you enjoy, you're going to eat food and drink beverages that you find agreeable, and then you're going to go watch the football team you love play a game.
Do you know what you're going to do if Louisville is 0-10 on Nov. 22? You're going to hang out with people whose company you enjoy, you're going to eat food and drink beverages that you find agreeable, and then you're going to go watch the football team you love play a game.
The dates and times of the home contests this season are far more tailgate-friendly than they have been in years past, and, for god's sake, there are eight of them. North Texas would sacrifice Joe Greene for eight home games.
3. The Battle for the Governor's Cup
This is the first year I can recall where nobody knows, or at least thinks they have a decent handle on what's going to happen in the U of L/UK game. Each side comes in with enough question marks to make nearly any prediction unscoffable (word).
And there's every bit as much on the line this year as there has been in the past, if not more. If both teams end up having seasons as dismal as some are predicting, then Aug. 31 will automatically become the default bowl game for both the winner and the loser.
There's also the small matter of one of the head coaches being on a seat hotter than Linda Harrison in '68.
While I certainly prefer the comfort of being a double-digit favorite, you can't say that going into a season-opener this big without any idea of what to expect isn't exciting.
4. Hunter Cantwell
After making a name for himself as a freshman, the former walk-on could have made the move to another major program and found himself a three-year starting gig, but he chose to stay loyal to U of L because they were the only program that gave him a shot coming out of high school. To quote Norman Dale: "that kind of of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect."
Perhaps more than any other player to wear the red, white and black, Cantwell has earned his moment in the sun, and I'm very eager to see how he handles it.
5. The Kansas State/Ryder Cup weekend
While it's unlikely to come anywhere near the epic West Virginia/Breeders' Cup weekend of 2006, watching the second best non-conference game on Louisville's schedule and then the world's second best group of golfers do battle at Valhalla is definitely an event to look forward to.
Invite the out-of-town friends. Tell them to bring bedazzled USA sweaters. Tell them if they don't they can't stay with you.
6. Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson
There's no questioning the massive amount of potential that each of these two young backs possess, but their performance this year will go a long way in determining just how good they'll actually be at the University of Louisville.
7. Jeff Brohm and Ron English
As far as fan excitement is concerned, it's like LeBron James and Dwight Howard replacing Tim Duncan and Steve Novak in a slam dunk competition.
8. Upset opportunities against West Virginia and South Florida
Playing spoiler doesn't have quite the same allure as it did six or seven years ago, but knocking off at least one of the only two Big East schools that own winning records over the Cards since the move to the league would be pretty sweet. If the Mountaineers take care of business for the first three months of the season, then that Nov. 22 tilt could be especially juicy. Both games are at PJCS, by the way.
9. Wearing jerseys and other team apparel you fancy is fun
Hope Zach Stoudt (the new No. 18) appreciates the support.
10. Two words: train whistle
It's something that's ours, and I love it.
11. Because there's always the potential for an amazing season
U of L isn't 6-6 anymore, it's 0-0. Seasons never play out in exactly the same manner you anticipated beforehand, and sometimes they don't play out in anywhere near the same manner you anticipated beforehand (see: Louisville football, 2007).
At the moment, there are 12 games to be played, arch-rivals to be dealt with, high-fives to be shared, good and bad moments to be processed, and a conference race to unfold.
This is Louisville football. This is something that we love regardless of the state of the program, something we love regardless of how we feel about the head coach or the way the season before played out.
Let's get excited.