From my first entry into the premier palace of basketball, I was hooked on the atmosphere, the majesty, the thrill and excitement that is Louisville basketball. I was fortunate enough to grow up with a father that had almost constant access to UofL tickets. I jumped at every opportunity to go to a game, and even when I wasn't given the opportunity to go with my parents, I lobbied friends to go with them, with mixed results.
As a 30-year old Louis-villian, I remember watching the "original" twin towers Never Nervous Pervis and Felton Spencer hold court in the paint. I remember walking into the atmosphere of a game pitting the 3rd ranked CARDS vs the 17th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in January of 1989, only to watch in amazement as Pervis was carried off the court, I remember agony... repeated with Ella Smiles against Millhouse's Marquette Golden Feebles.
I still have a few drawings I made on 8.5 X 11" sheets of paper of my Cardinal Heroes solving the world's ills with a well placed jumper, or a stuff on a nuclear bomb back to Russia by Felton. I remember the box haircut making it's way through the hall, and wondering if I could do it with my own blond, straight hair.
I see the bald guy in the end-zone racing back and forth to the music, trying to get the jump at the end of each musical phrase timed correctly. I remember him looking like Terry Meiners, and wondering if that was a good thing.
I can remember running laps around the upper bowl during close games, when a timeout was called at a tense moment, just to give myself something to do other than exploding on the folks around me. Each time this happened I seemed to bring a new friend or a new kid around me in the stands along. Finally we ran around and cheered C-A-R-D-S with the kids around me my eighth grade year. It must have been a sigh to see… it was a conquering army in my mind, willing the Hall to get our boys over the hump, yet again.
I remember when the cheerleaders erred on a cheer, and accidently put Purdue on the Board that was supposed to read someone else. So every time they hauled out the GO-CARDS-BEAT-(insert name here) signs the crowd would gleefully yell PUR-DUE at the top of their lungs to the consternation of the cheerleaders. This went on for years, until they finally scrapped the final sign, and the cheerleaders just raised their hands. This cheer has gone the way of a student band, and the band uniforms bought by Budweiser because the band played the Bud Anthem during the first and second half of every game.
I am a fairly ritualistic person. I show up early to games, so I can grab my pork chop sandwich or pulled pork barbecue sandwich from the Pork Producers downstairs, I go upstairs, I find my seat, I stand for the entire introductions until we score after the tip. I wait until the second media timeout to get my first beer. I get my caramel corn or Ehrler's ice cream at the first time out of the second half when the concourses have cleared. I do this so “I” won’t be the cause of a loss… or because it is just more comfortable that way.
I will miss the resonance of John Tong's voice, Sedat's handstands, and the banners hanging for our cheerleaders in Freedom Hall (it was there!) I will miss many things about the old girl, she was faithful, and grand. I want to go ahead and warn her that I am taking "my" seat number home with me. With all the blood, sweat, tears, joy, grief and pain I have given her, it is the least she can give me to remember her.