There are a couple of definitions I'd like to share.
Fan: An ardent devotee; an enthusiast
Success: The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted
Why do I share these definitions? Because I've tried to personally put my devotion to our Cardinals in perspective. First, I'm enthusiastic about UofL. I'm an alumnus, a city dweller, and an overall sports fan. Cheering for the Cards, for me, is like cheering for the USA in the Olympics. It just makes sense to me as a Louisville resident. I appreciate rivalry in sports as long as it's good-natured. I love the UL/UK rivalry. Frankly, what bugs me is the fact that there are UK fans living in Louisville that wish the worst on the Cards. But, that's a different topic altogether.
Secondly, one of my ways of getting past the Morehead St. loss AND the Big East disappointment in the postseason is by considering what level of "success" I expected before the season. By all accounts, I believe the Cards were successful this season, at least by my expectations. Here is why:
1. Nowhere near the preseason 25 rankings. Finished ranked 14th.
2. Projected 8th in the Big East. Finished 3rd regular season and runner up in the conference tourney.
3. Projected as "bubble" team preseason based on ranking in and out of conference. Entered NCAA as 4 seed.
4. I personally projected 11 Big East wins and 23 regular season wins overall. Achieved 12 conference and 23 overall wins.
So, based on these factual resutls, I personally believe the Cards achieved what was desired, planned, or attempted for the 2010-2011 season.
On to the greater interest in the success of the program during the past decade. A final four, 2 elite eights, and some earlier round exits coupled with a couple of NIT appearances. Despite a couple of down years, we're consistently a top 25 fixture. Remember, there are around 350 division 1 programs. This means we're consistently better than 90+% of all other programs. Perspective alert: How many fans of those "other" 90% are writing commentary like this weeks after their program's last game? We have a very good "brand" to be devoted to and enthusiastic about.
Some want to question Coach Pitino. Is he the best coach? Probably not. Is he the best coach we can get? Probably not. Is he performing to expectations? Probably not. However, is he OUR coach and is he delivering a product consistently better than 90% of all other programs? Yes. He's also consistently delivering top 15 recruiting classes with some nearing the top 5.
Beyond basketball, there are a lot of things to be proud of as a UL fan. Tom Jurich deserves as much credit as anyone. Aside from a 3 year Kragthorpe glitch (unexpected), TJ has developed contenders in such sports as women's basketball, baseball, soccer, track & field....just to name a few. To be honest, I comment frequently to my friends that it's just SILLY that we even have conversations about some of those sports nowadays (really? soccer?). The football program is being rebuilt, but remember we do have a BCS bowl victory in the last 5 years.
Here's my bottom line: We have a great athletics program to get behind. We have fantastic facilities, players, and coaches. More specifically related to basketball, we have a future HOF coach and just experienced what many consider one of their favorite teams ever. On top of that, the future is bright...in every sport.
Keep your heads up Card fans. We're fighting depression over an early NCAA tourney exit when most of the world is worrying about their next meal, an earthquake, or being safe around their own government.
And, don't let UK fans get to you. Turn the other cheek. Many of them are quietly worried about when this final four will be vacated.