Can't say for sure when I became a Louisville fan. But it was sometime before I was nine years old. I know that because I was nine years old in 1986 and I distinctly remember jumping up-and-down on my mom and dad's ugly orange couch screaming as Milt "ice" Wagner hit two free throws to put them ahead of Duke University for good. My family never seemed to have a lot of money, but I can remember as clear as day my mother taking me to JC Pennies the next day to buy a championship shirt.
Look, I have a lot of hobbies and interests but come March there's only one thing that can keep my interest for more than five minutes. Come March I hit the pause button on all the nerdy things that I'm into. I am a Louisville fan. Don't get me wrong, I rarely miss a game during the regular season but come March there is only one thing on my mind.
I've seen it all, the highs and lows. DeJuan Wheat, LaBradford Smith, Clifford Rozier, Reece Gaines. I mean, when you're a Louisville fan you know what it's like to be blackend and bruised. You also know what it's like to be at the top of the world. Darrell, Pervis, Peyton.
Growing up in this city is kind of a weird thing. I mean what are we? Are we are northern city? Southern city? Are we a Midwestern city? How do you say the name of the city? Lewisville? Lewyville? Louaville? Are we a big small town or a small big city?
When I think about the rivalry with Kentucky, I know it's about more than basketball. Louisville fans are more likely to be from a big city. More Likely to be a minority. More likely to vote Democrat. More likely to actually have went to a class at the University they root for. I me how soulless do you have to be to root for a school a hundred miles away from where you grew up and never actually attend a class at said University? I give a pass to every UK grad. I even give of a pass to every person who grew up in small-town Kentucky, but those kids that grew up in Louisville and chose to root for the school down the road, I don’t have much respect for you. Most of the Kentucky fans I grew up with were fans because their fathers were fans, and their fathers were fans because they were racist. "Adolf did it the right way."
I remember being in middle school and having a kid tell me Kentucky recruits black players and Louisville recruits n@@&rs. I remember the shock in the little girls eyes when I was in high school, asking me if I actually was a UofL fan… and I remember how she refused to talk to me for the rest of the school year. I've heard all the pencil thin beard and Swisher cigar jokes. But let me say this, I am so proud to be a Cards fan. Sometimes I meet someone who grew up in Louisville who is a Dallas Cowboys fan, or a Yankees fan, and I think to myself what gives you the nerve? Your Not a real fan. A Real fan knows what it's like to lose. A Real fan will go to bat for a team with a losing record. A real fan knows what it's like to root for a two star kid for four years. A real fan watches a zero star recruit grow into a man. The real fan will take the losing of a rivalry Game like a man. We've been here before, we will be here again. Push comes to shove there is no way I could root for school down the road. Sure they win more than they should, but at the end of the day they are still Kentucky fans.
Tonight marks the end of an amazing run. Not to say we will not be here next year, but if we do it will be with an entirely new group of characters. As a fan I'm looking forward to Wayne's senior year, and to watch Rosier turn into the All-American I know he will be. I want to know what it's like to have two 7 footers check into the game at once. I want to see if Mango can become the player we all know he can be.
Being a Louisville fan is about more than one year or one postseason or one game. We are Lifers. The future of Louisville basketball is bright. And I'm so glad I'm along for the ride.