My name's Mike. I'm a pretty big fan.
I know you all have taken a decent amount of ribbing about last week's loss to Florida International from opposing fans, friends back home, and maybe even some of your own "fans." I'm sure you've also heard some not-so-flattering things about this weekend's rivalry game with Kentucky. I'm sure you've heard some people saying that you guys don't stand much of a chance against the Wildcats, or that the game itself is something of a joke because neither team has played very well to this point.
My advice on how to address all this talk is fairly straightforward (cover your eyes, women and children): Fuck it. All of it.
My reasoning behind this stance is equally straightforward: For your team, you personally, and the program you play for, I'm not sure Saturday's game could be more important.
Do you know that I was still in college the last time Louisville beat Kentucky in football? I've been out of college for a while now.
What's life after college like? It's pretty much just like life in college except now random parts of your body consistently ache for no apparent reason, it takes you somewhere around three days to recover from consuming more than five drinks, and being popular only means that 95% of the money you've saved is spent on all your friends' wedding festivities.
Cherish these days. Also, stop being nice to anyone.
Anyway, the year was 2006, and a little basic math (simplify and divide) shows that this means none of you have ever played on a Louisville football team that has beaten Kentucky (had to add "football" for Chi-Daddy). None of you have ever touched the Governor's Cup. None of you have ever walked off the field without having to see the Wildcats celebrating with their fans. And none of you have ever been able to return to campus on game day evening to be treated like a conquering hero.
Of course it wasn't always this way. Were you aware that from 2003-2006, Louisville trailed Kentucky for a grand total of zero seconds? That's right, there was not one second where the Cardinals trailed the Wildcats. The series was a joke and U of L was the unquestioned King of the Commonwealth.
Another tidbit: Since this series was renewed in 1994, neither side has beaten the other in five consecutive seasons. One way or another, you're going to be a part of history Saturday night. Obviously, what your story ends up being being falls entirely on you.
For the seniors, I don't think I have to remind you how big this is. Everyone keeps talking about how bright the future of Louisville football is, but that means less to you than anyone else involved with the program. You want to be known as the group that started something big, not the one that "laid the foundation" for future success. Breaking this streak of losing to Kentucky and starting a new one for your program to build upon is one of the biggest ways you can achieve this goal. When the clock hits zero inside Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night, there will be no more "next time."
For the underclassmen, this your chance to be the era that brought state domination back to Cardinal football. You've already heard enough about losing four straight to your arch-rival this week, can you imagine an entire summer of people talking about how Kentucky has beaten you for half a decade? You can't own your conference if you don't own your own state, and the road to the lofty goals laid out in front of you begins with taking back the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Now I know at least a few of you have probably heard that this game is "more for the fans" than it is for the respective teams, and there's definitely some truth to that. The fact of the matter is that we've been here for you up until now, and we're going to be here for you regardless of what takes place on Saturday...but a win would be really, really nice for all of the people cheering you on. You should definitely want to do it for your teammates and coaches more than anyone else, but I do think it's important to be aware of how much this means to the people who support you.
You see, it's been a while now since Louisville has beaten Kentucky in either football or men's basketball, and it hasn't been easy to deal with. You guys are pretty big and scary, so I'm not sure you can really empathize here. Any ribbing you get from a rival fan is going to stay safely behind the "he's going to kick my ass if I go there" line. Most of us don't have that luxury. Being told by (presumably) grown men through email that I should either 1) commit suicide or 2) perform oral sex on them because the Cards fell to the Cats is not an experience I particularly relish. It takes a toll, you know?
But make no mistake about it, more than anything else, this is about you guys, your team, your teammates, your coaches and your program. It's about achieving the goals you laid out before the season and opening the door for some future ones. It's about ending an embarrassing streak and starting one all of us can be proud of. It's about getting back to the postseason. It's about a memory and an achievement that you haven't been able to make or accomplish yet. And more than anything else, it's about pride; pride in yourself, the uniform you wear, and the city you represent.