MUHAMMAD ALI stood on the field of the Sugar Bowl before the beginning of the game wearing a red jersey with the number FIVE on it. Not long afterwards Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville's great QB and number FIVE, quickly sprang up from a ferocious hit with a fiery determined look in his eyes and continued to take apart the Gator defense leading his team to an overwhelming victory.
A little more than a week ago Louisville basketball's number FIVE Kevin Ware sustained a horrible injury in the regional finals against Duke. Unlike Teddy Bridgewater Kevin couldn't physically get up but his spirit made sure his teammates did. Immediately coming to his aid was teammate Luke Hancock using his hand (FIVE digits) to pat Ware's chest in a heart to heart passionate fashion. Therein evolves the love between teammates on this special Louisville team. We all know what happened next as Kevin responded to Luke's prayers and summoned his teammates by his side to urge them to concentrate on the game while assuring them the he was okay. The ensuing victory over Duke was extraordinary giving proof of a team's ability to bond together in light of sudden and horrific circumstances.
What followed in the next week was an outpouring of love from the nation to both Kevin and Louisville. Kevin Ware stood tall among his teammates giving them inspiration to continue their winning ways. These ways were especially obvious in Louisville's next game, game number FIVE in the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Kevin Ware's on court presence was a special sight. He seemed a bit subdued but given the pain killing drugs, the pre-Final Four activities and all the emotions it was a given. He and his team were still focused on their goal of winning it all. FIVE players took the floor with a bench eager to contribute. The guards that Kevin Ware has all season long subbed for are number 3 Peyton Siva and number 2 Russ Smith. Add their number together and you get FIVE. Add Ware's number FIVE and you get ten. Tim Henderson who was summoned to replace Kevin's on court physical presence by subbing for Siva and Smith added his own Five in the form of number fifteen.
The game started with Russ Smith uncharacteristically missing his first four free throws making one wonder about the emotional constitution of the players. But this was Louisville. There are a tough persistent bunch who love and play as a team. They all knew what they had to do for Kevin and themselves. Leading the pack on this evening was Luke Hancock. Luke with FIVE fingers patting Kevin's chest six days ago stepped up to fill the void left by his teammates. That is what any bench player or starter does. Wayne Blackshear struggled with his game and only saw nine minutes on the floor but that was fine because Luke needed thirty-one minutes to do what he needed to do. He drove to the hoop, hit threes and dished the ball. He played defense and rebounded. Russ only made FIVE free throws but that proved to be enough along including his twenty-one point total. Henderson hit two threes and that was enough to turn the momentum when Louisville was down twelve in the second half. Gorgui like Wayne didn't score but his rebounds and presence were enough. Siva drove and dished and scored, SVT rebounded, Trez scored inside. The FIVE on the floor at any given time did what they had to do. And what about Chane Behanan? He stepped up his game and was a force. Give Wichita St. credit, they played a hell of a game but the CARDS (FIVE letters) were playing with heart and determination. At the two minute mark Luke in bounded the ball to Siva and immediately ran the floor to take a spot at the three point line. Siva found him with a long pass and Luke drained a three to give Louisville it's biggest lead of the game, FIVE points.
One of the announcers responded to a picture of Kevin with his head down and face hidden by his jersey stating that Kevin couldn't take the sight of Luke shooting the free throws with eight point eight seconds left in the game. He was mistaken. Kevin appeared to me to be in prayer, a prayer of thanks for being a part of this team, this victory, this time. Chane went to Kevin at the beginning of the game before taking the floor and was the first one to him after the end of the game. These players, all of them, inspire each other.
Sometime during the game a horse race was taking place. It was a Pitino horse named Goldencents. Goldencents was number FIVE but that's not FIVE like in a nickle, oh no. That's FIVE cents like golden and that is what Louisville is. That's what this Louisville basketball season is like. The CARDS presently are thirty-four and FIVE. After tonight they will be thirty-FIVE and FIVE. Dare I think that? You bet. This team imbues faith and confidence. They are bonded with love. Hall of Fame Coach Rick Pitino knows how special these guys are and so do we. So when you are giving high FIVES during the game remember where that practice first originated and what those Louisvillians did back then. These are doing it now. GO CARDS!!!