You'll never be able to convince me that there has been a better Louisville football squad than the '04 one that went 11-1 and beat an undefeated Boise State team in the Liberty Bowl (handing the Broncos their first loss in the postseason is, we've found out since then, a rather tall task).
However, when the topic is favorite teams, my conversation begins and ends with the 2006 Orange Bowl champions.
This was the team that officially took Louisville football from a fall distraction to the biggest show in town and made every Saturday (or Thursday) feel like an NCAA Tournament game. This was a team that had more hype than any other in program history, that was ranked third in the country with three weeks left in the season (how much does that blow your mind right now?) and that ultimately played in and won the first BCS bowl game in Cardinal football history.
The team electrified and captured the city of Louisville in a way many thought could never happen, and achieved a status that Charlie Strong and company are now simply attempting to regain.
The city of Louisville has committed adultery.
Surely you noticed and simply looked the other way, but while the wormy apple of marriage still survives, the denial must cease.
The infidelity can be traced directly to the persistent advances of a fiery young flame that plays it's games on a surface that isn't bouncy and with a ball that isn't round.
'Tis the same temptress that caught our eye for the first time a decade and a half ago.
It was something new, it was bold, and it felt like the very thing we'd been missing all our lives. The innocent, early courting days seemed to have gone so well, and yet she rarely called over the next several years. And then even when she did the conversations seemed a bit forced, certainly nothing was said to make us entertain thoughts of leaving a comfortable relationship founded on decades of trust.
She clawed back into our lives near the turn of the century, only this time it appeared she'd reinvented herself. She was edgier, sexier and her once starry eyes now held the undeniable hungry glare of desire. With the new look came new problems, she was unreliable and overly outrageous. Certainly nothing worthy of commitment.
And then she almost had us for good two years ago. She'd shown us she could change, that she was ready to devote everything she had to making us happy. But it was a minor slip up, just for a brief second, that was enough to keep us from falling head over heels.
And now we've finally bitten. The total package is here, the flash of the Doctors of Dunk, the speed and the spirit of Secretariat, and the fight and resiliency of Muhammad Ali. We've taken our hearts and we've moved them from midcourt to the 50-yard-line.
The team took that momentum and ran with it, reeling off eight straight victories - including the "end-game" blackout victory over West Virginia - before the dream died in Piscataway at the hands of an ill-advised haircut.
Still, the team won the Big East and earned a New Year's trip to Miami, a fitting reward for the elite band of U of L fans who had suffered through decades of many mediocre Cardinal teams (and many more less-than-mediocre Cardinal teams) with the hope that at some point a season like this would come along.
It was a hell of a ride, and if we'd known what was in store for us next we probably would have enjoyed it a little bit more.