I was not always a Louisville fan. I was raised in a Big Blue house, my dad being a UK graduate. Growing up, I was always a UK Basketball fan. Football was just kind of there. The most college football I ever watched growing up was the Rose Bowl Parade (that’s right, the parade, not the game). My formative years of sports fandom were the last several Rick Pitino years. That all started to change as soon as I started applying for college. I applied to several schools. I was looking at UofL, UK, and Miami (Fl.). I wanted to stay in state and the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to go where my dad went. When I received my scholarship from UofL, it became a no-brainer.
I enrolled at Louisville and have never regretted the decision. My freshman year I didn’t really pay attention to sports. I started in the Fall of 1997. Ron Cooper was leading the football team to a 1-10 season. Tom Jurich was a fresh hire from Colorado State. Denny Crum was leading the basketball team to a 12-20 record a year after making the Elite 8. Our other sports programs were just kind of there (the baseball team was playing at Derby City Field).
My sophomore year would be better. I started noticing the football team with new head coach John L. Smith. The basketball team was winning games again. Papa John’s still had that new stadium smell. I was forgetting that I had ever rooted for UK.
My love affair with UofL sports really began at the start of my junior year in 1999. I joined the Red C Spirit Club and bought my season tickets to football and basketball. At the drawing for a chance to purchase tickets to the Louisville @ Kentucky game in Lexington, I was the first name drawn. Looking back, that was the watershed moment. I had never attended a college sporting game in my life. My first experience with tailgating, football, cheering was all with a great group of people from the Red C drinking and cheering on a lawn in Lexington, marching into Commonwealth Stadium to watch the Cardinals blast Kentucky 56-28. I fell in love watching our football team go 7-6 and our basketball team go 19-12 (with a blow-out loss to UK that year). It didn’t matter, I was hooked.
My senior year was even better. Football did better, going 9-3 (even though this would be the 3rd year in a row making a bowl game with UofL going 0-3 in those games), basketball did worse, going 12-19. Denny Crum would be fired at the end of the year and Tom Jurich solidified himself as a college sports god by hiring Rick Pitino. It didn’t matter to me that our teams weren’t at the top. They were MY TEAMS. These were the teams that I loved. These were the teams I wanted to cheer for. These were the fans that I wanted to be around. They all loved the games. They love the school. They love the Cards.
After graduating, I still followed my beloved teams. I watched John L. Smith take a new job in the middle of a bowl game. I watched Bobby Petrino take the cards to a BCS bowl win. After Bobby P. also left like a thief in the night, I endured the Kragthorpe years. I never stopped cheering. I never stopped watching. I watched Rick Pitino take UofL to the Final Four. I watched as the next year they went to the NIT. I went to every NIT game that year and watched UofL play with heart and fortitude to make the NIT Final Four. I watched Pitino almost throw his career away over 15 seconds of whatever at Porcini’s. I watched our baseball, women’s basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, swimming and diving, rowing, track and field, and field hockey teams ALL have success. I watched as Floyd Street went from parking lots to playing fields. I watched the last game Freedom Hall. I went back to UofL for graduate school and got to be a student again. I watched the Cards go from C-USA to the Big East to the American to the ACC. I watched and cried over a Sugar Bowl win and a National Championship. It is coincidence that I started school at UofL the same year that Tom Jurich did. It is not coincidence that in less than 2 years from that day, I was a fan, a Cardinal.
I love being a Louisville fan. I love cheering for an athletic program that hasn’t always received the respect we all think it deserves. I love cheering and watching, win or lose. I love debating with my friends over the line ups. I love debating with them on the play calling. I love the traditions we have. I love the traditions that are being started. I love singing "My Old Kentucky Home" at the end of every game. I love going to Papa John’s and screaming for another "Cards First Down!" I love going to the YUM! Center and watching Trezl trying to flush the backboard into the lowest depths of the Ohio River. I love Jim Patterson Stadium. I love walking on campus past the Thinker. I love everything about my University. This is my fandom, this is my sports love. I am a Cardinal now. I am a Cardinal for life.