"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best-" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
That's right, I just led off with The House on Pooh Corner. I've used the Vonnegut quote twice now and social media has ridden just about every other quote I know off the top of my head shoulders deep into the ground, so yeah...you get Pooh.
In 11 days, the Louisville football team will host arch-rival Kentucky in the opening game of its 2012 season. You know this because we've been counting down the days since what feels like early April.
Now season-openers are always exciting, and season-openers against UK are next-level exciting, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that there's something different about this game and this day. The countdown to kickoff this summer has been more than just a prologue to a big contest or a highly anticipated season, it's been a still march towards step one of what has the potential to be a remarkably special period of time for all of us.
Last Saturday, we found out that Louisville will enter a football season nationally ranked for the first time in five years. The Cardinals are also the preseason pick to win the Big East and play in a BCS bowl game for the first time since Jan. 2, 2007. A favorable schedule and a budding superstar at quarterback have more than a handful of prognosticators placing double-digit wins next to U of L's name.
This is exciting.
Returning several key cogs from a Final Four squad, the Cardinal basketball team figures to begin the 2012-13 season ranked first, second or third in both of the two major national polls. Anything lower would be borderline shocking. Given the apparent strength of the team and a national landscape which doesn't appear overly daunting, the notion that this is Louisville's best shot at winning a national title since the Cards last achieved the feat in 1986 is difficult to disagree with.
This is also exciting.
With the accuracy of the previous four paragraphs taken into account, the fact remains that it is significantly more likely that the Cardinal football team won't win the Big East and the basketball team will fall short of the national title than it is that both those teams will achieve those stated goals.
But it's possible. It's more possible right now that it has been in any August prior to this one.
Isn't that cool to think about?
This will be the sixth season of Louisville athletics that Card Chronicle has been around to oversee, and there's no doubt that this is easily the most anticipated of that sextet. And right now it's all lying in front of us. Anything is possible in this moment, and as tempting as it is to daydream about tailgating on Sept. 2 or spending New Year's in Miami, this moment demands some appreciation.
When U of L locked up its Orange Bowl berth in 2006, I was about 90% sure that I wouldn't be going to the game. My rationale was twofold: 1) I was in college and low on funds; 2) There was no doubt in my mind that I would have multiple opportunities to see the Cards play in BCS games over the next five years.
I made the last-second decision to go to the game and the result was four of the best days I can remember. And still, there's no question that the experience would have been even better, or at least more appreciated, if I'd had any idea of what was about to happen to the program. I don't think we'd even finished our walk from the stadium to the car before I brought up the 2007 season and our chances of playing for a national championship. I regret that.
Things we wouldn't dream of predicting right now are going to take place between the first week of Sept. and the first week of April. What were your thoughts on Russ Smith this time last year?
Maybe someone important gets hurt. Maybe someone the average fan has never heard of ends up leading the team in touchdowns. And maybe - the most innocent among you should shield your eyes at this point - neither Cardinal team will end up being anywhere near as good as they currently appear to be on paper.
But we don't have to entertain that final thought if we don't want to. And that's the beauty of now.
Turning the coin over, what if our wildest dreams do come to fruition? Like many of you, I've never had the privilege of seeing U of L claim its spot at the top of the college basketball world (I was one in 1986). A championship now, after all we've been through as a fan base, and with this group of guys that we've all grown so fond of, would be about as sweet as it can get. Future accolades and accomplishments would be celebrated appropriately, but the brand of joy wouldn't be the same. Not necessarily worse, but unquestionably different.
As for the gridiron, much of the excitement we feel right now is essentially a gift for sticking with the Louisville football program through a time when, quite frankly, it wasn't very fun to be a Louisville football fan. A trip to the BCS would be the ultimate reward for that loyalty, but it would also eliminate the possibility of this brand of excitement returning anytime soon. Beef O'Brady's Bowl bids aren't going to be celebrated by Cardinal fans anymore. And then, of course, there are those darkest of thoughts: Charlie Strong leaving for greener pastures, conference realignment decimating the program, and so on and so forth. Again, we're well within our rights to have Teddy Bridewater's 7th touchdown pass against USC push those thoughts out of our brains at this moment.
The slightest thought of a mid-autumn afternoon has always been enough to completely kill my best coffee buzz of late May or early June. It was the case when I was a school-hating 5th grader, and it's the case as an adult who could go a full work day without wearing pants if he wanted to. Yet when the air turns crisp for the first time on those late August mornings, remarkably, I'm always ready for it. It always feels right.
Once toe meets leather on Sept. 2, things are going to start happening pretty quickly. There will be tremendous performances and disappointing performances. Some players will overachieve and others will underachieve. Evenings will be spent screaming during games and afternoons will be spent on the computer chuckling about memes we never saw coming. If we're lucky, there will be cause for massive celebrations on more than one occasion.
Regardless of the particulars, these next seven months are going to give us memories equipped with the highest form of staying power.
Let it all happen, enjoy every step. Even the unnamable non-step that is right now.