The sequel rarely lives up to the lofty standard set by its predecessor for a number of reasons, two of which stand out more than any others.
1) Expectations are too high
A sequel presupposes the existence of an original that was great or, at the very least, above average. If something isn't worthy of a subsequent demand for more, then no more is created.
This being the case, the unenviable task of the sequel is to try and surpass the benchmark set by an original already deemed superior to the vast majority of its peers. If then blew the reader's mind, now has to drive the reader to the brink of madness. If then made the viewer laugh, now has force the viewer into convulsions. If then won a national championship, now has to win a national championship while simultaneously curing world hunger...or something sport-analogous.
When someone thinks the bar is too high for them to clear by ordinary means, they'll try strange, unusual and often unnecessary things to try and overcompensate. This is the most obvious reason why sequels fail, but it's far from the only one.
2) The sequel fails to distinguish itself enough from the original
People like to categorize things. It's not enough for a movie trilogy, a series of books, a sports franchise or - in the rarest of instances as far as this example is concerned - a television show to exist as one long, ongoing narrative. We have to break things down into films, editions, seasons and, well, seasons.
In this created world, it's impossible for the sequel and the original to exist simply as peers or cohorts assisting one another to achieve a shared goal. Instead, the original takes on a parental role. While the sequel will naturally strive for a higher, or equal, level of success, both its journey and its conclusion have to be unique from that of its creator.
No one wants to read more about Holden Caufield if he isn't doing anything more interesting than he was during his Catcher in the Rye days, and maybe that's why he doesn't want to talk much about the present day at the end of the book.
So what the hell does any of this have to do with anything?
In earnest, the 2013-14 Louisville athletic season will begin on Sunday when the Cardinal football team takes on Ohio inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. It's a season that U of L fans have already taken to calling, with equal degrees of hope and expectance, "The Year of the Cardinal Part II" (or some variation).
The original in this case was not just the greatest season in Louisville sports history, but arguably the greatest season for any program in the history of college athletics. Basically, this is Coppola staring down The Godfather Part II...which, I'm aware, was both a sequel and a prequel, but you'e just going to have to overlook the latter quel for this to work...or maybe I'm going to say that Teddy Bridgewater will find a way to retroactively win Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy at some point over the course of the next four months. You'll have to read on.
The formula for a successful sequel is so thorough that it's made such an entity one of the rarest breeds of entertainment. But at least such a formula exists.
With the opening scene of what we all hope becomes the Year of the Cardinal's superior sequel just five days away, here's the blueprint Louisville will have to follow in order for that dream to come to fruition.
The Major Protagonists Are Back, And They're Bigger Bad Asses Than Ever
Pitino? Check. Strong? Check. Jurich? Check.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a trio more well-versed in the fine art of bad assery than this one, but topping what each was able to do in 2012-13 will be a bear. Still, that all the original actors are locked in and up to the task of putting on an even better show satisfies the initial checkpoint.
Supporting Characters Seamlessly Adapt To Larger Roles
You may have thought that guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Russ Smith warranted mention under the previous heading, but each faces a new, bigger challenge heading into what will likely be the last season at Louisville for both.
Regardless of how it ultimately plays out, Bridgewater's flirtation, failure or triumph with the Heisman Trophy will be one of the biggest storylines of the season. He'll also receive considerable attention from Louisville fans after he takes off the U of L jersey for the last time and begins preparation for the NFL Draft, where he could potentially be selected as the No. 1 overall pick. This is Return of the Jedi Skywalker; the training wheels are long gone and the world is waiting to watch an established star turn into an undeniable superstar.
For Russ Smith, the challenge is only slightly different. He's the most recognizable returning face from the first Louisville basketball team to win a national title in almost three decades. He was also the leading scorer on that squad, and has a chance to become the first Cardinal since Clifford Rozier to earn first team All-American honors.
With the basketball plot facing more character attrition (love you, Peyton; love you, Gorgui) than its football counterpart, Russ faces the additional conflict of making the transition to "Captain Russ," while also maintaining enough of the quirkiness that made him such a fan favorite in the first place. Russ' desire to beat the odds and prove that he can be a capable guard at the next level is also a compelling Man vs. Outside Force storyline that will garner considerable attention.
Naming the rest of the players with the potential to also play this part would take another 5,000 words, so we're not going to do that. Just know that there are guys we expect to see step up who will (Trez, Dyer, Copeland, Parker, etc.), there are guys who will go from virtually unheard of to fan-favorites, and there are newcomers (Chris Jones, James Quick...any other freshman) who will make a tremendous impact in their first year as Cardinals.
The Subplots Have To Be More Compelling Or More Entertaining
If 2012-13 had been as simple (for lack of a better term) as a national championship in basketball and a Sugar Bowl championship in football, there would have been no "Year of the Cardinal." It was the incredible run to the title game by the women's basketball team, the journey to the College World Series by the baseball team, the national success of the men's soccer, volleyball and softball teams that made such a grandiose title feel appropriate.
Now it's time for an across-the-board encore.
If this is going to be a successful sequel, the secondary sports have to step up in an even larger fashion. Maybe Jeff Walz and the Cards take it a step further and cut down the nets, maybe Ken Lolla takes the Cards back to the College Cup, maybe the softball team finally breaks through in the postseason, maybe one of the few sports not on their respective national radar has a miracle season.
Regardless of whether the movie-goer is conscious of it, the scenes they're not talking about when walking out of the theater played just as much of a role in their positive viewing experience as the ones they are.
You Need A Superior Villain Or Conflict
For basketball, the most probable storyline is pretty easy to spot. Kentucky has to step up.
In Louisville's most memorable hoops season in 27 years, their arch-rival pretty much played the same role as the douchey Harvard grad student in Good Will Hunting ("do you like apples?"). Yes, they were still the most memorable villain, but their appearance was reduced to a short scene during the first 1/3 of the movie (season), and ultimately they had no real effect on the overall success of the main character(s).
As much as we'd all like to believe that UK will be off the national radar again come next March, the fact of the matter is that this scenario appears extremely unlikely. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It feels like the latest chapter in college basketball's best rivalry is headed towards a climax this season. That's high drama.
In football, the schedule itself and the inevitable national criticism/battle for respect that will be spawned by it are the most obvious choices to play the roles of the Five Families. It's not the sexiest option, but as Louisville fans found out last January, the potential reward that comes as the result of a final moment of ultimate retribution is quite large.
The Sequel's Conclusion Has To Be At Least Equal To That Of Its Predecessor
It's the simplest necessity in theory, but it's also the most difficult to achieve.
When everything is said and done and you've laid out all of the previous elements we've talked about, the sum total of the sequel has to be at least equivalent to that of the original in order for it to be viewed as a success. Is that fair? Probably not, but great achievements give birth to even greater expectations.
Anything is possible in this moment of complete uncertainty, and that's what makes it so great.
Think back to this day a year ago. Everyone knew that Louisville had the potential to field great teams in football and men's basketball, but none of us could have known that Teddy Bridgewater would surpass even the loftiest of expectations set for his sophomore season, that the Cards would pull off the biggest upset in the history of the BCS, that Luke Hancock would become the first non-starter to be named the Most Outstanding Player of a Final Four, that Kevin Ware would morph from someone that even Louisville fans didn't know all that much about into a national sweetheart in the blink of an eye.
Now think about everything we don't know right now.
I don't know if Louisville can run the table in football and put themselves in a position to at least be in the national title discussion. I don't know if the Cards can gel as a team, go to their third straight Final Four and become the first repeat national champions since '07. I don't know if a secondary sport can come out of nowhere to wholly capture the attention and the hearts of Cardinal fans. All I know is that in large part because of what happened last season, all of these things are more possible now than they've ever been before.
Bring on the encore.