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The Championship Checklist: A Guide To Fandom After Winning A National Title


It's been exactly one month and one day since the Louisville basketball team cut down the nets in Atlanta, and an entire generation of Cardinal fans (including myself) have spent four weeks making the wonderful first-time adjustment to life post-championship. We've laughed, we've cried, we've bought a lot of ish and we've re-watched the title game an average of 57.6 times per person.

There's been a lot of trial and error for us as a collective entity, both from those who have experienced a title before and from those who are new to this. While this is still an evolving process, and will be until next season tips off, I think I've become well-versed enough in the intricacies of being a national champion to establish at least a few rules that should help guide all of us through the summer and early fall months.

1. You must spend at least $100 on national championship memorabilia before next season

Variant factors like age and overall financial stability make it difficult to peg an exact number here, but I feel like three figures is a safe minimum. Keep in mind that "memorabilia" isn't limited to clothing items. We're talking books, magazines, cups, blankets, posters and whatever else you can imagine and sell.

This type of thing doesn't happen all that often, but the byproducts tend to linger for just about ever. I wore a tattered 1986 championship shirt that featured the Cardinal bird eating a Blue Devil as a (horrifying) nightshirt for far too long before I made the connection between the image on the shirt and the fact that Louisville had won a national title in my lifetime. I was 19. I wasn't, but that thing made a solid dent into the '90s and I'm pretty sure it's still lying around my parents' house somewhere.

Justify it by cutting back in some other area or areas, but go ahead and buy some of this stuff. As unlikely as it may seem at the moment, there's no guarantee that it won't be another 27 years or so before we get this opportunity again.

2. Come to terms with the fact that we are entering a two season grace period

In-game complaints are going to happen from the first exhibition game next fall right up until the moment U of L's 2013-14 season comes to a close, and that's fine. But the gigantic complaints, the "Pitino isn't doing enough for a program of this caliber" or "our recruiting isn't as elite as it should be"; that s--t goes on the shelf until at least 2015-16.

The last three decades have shown Louisville fans just how difficult it is to win a national championship. Diminishing the accomplishment by not fully celebrating it or by acting like it signifies a period where the Cardinals should now be immune from any type of loss isn't fair.

Next year's team is going to start the season ranked somewhere in the top three, but there's always a possibility that someone will get hurt, or that the team will struggle to find a chemistry or that the new players just won't be as good as we think they will be. If that happens, adopting a 100 (or 95) percent negative attitude that fails to take into any account what we all just witnessed a month ago is ridiculous. This is a big deal, and big deals linger.

3. Championship gear must be worn in a social setting at least once a week

For students, this is like demanding at least one nap a week. For folks with jobs and/or a family, the task is slightly tougher. You don't have to sport a championship hat or tank top (Do they make those? They should make those) to your Tuesday morning meeting or anything, but when you're picking up dinner or running to the store later that night, go ahead and throw on that championship tee. Your team won the top prize in the sport. People need to be reminded.

4. Remember that Louisville won the national championship and smile at a random moment during each day

This could take place while you're in the shower, making breakfast, making love, going for a run or harshly disciplining your children/pets; just make sure it happens. For me, it usually takes place while I'm driving. I'm blasting Demi Lovato or I'm raging because someone just cut me off, and boom: "oh sh-t, Louisville won the national championship." And I'm smiling.

5. If provoked and the situation presents itself, refer to UK 2012 national championship gear as "vintage" or "throwback"

Don't just go throwing this around because you can. You're better than that. But if you're at the track or a Bats game and someone in 3 XL New Orleans Final Four shirt starts yapping about six 18-year-olds they've never actually seen play basketball, feel free to let them know that their gear is out of date.

6. Songs that remind you of the championship run are now cool and socially acceptable

Crum's Revenge used Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" in one of his fantastic postseason recap videos. Guess what? I now enjoy Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat."

It doesn't have to be a song that was used in a highlight video or that was on TV during a game, just anything that reminds you of the past season or the postseason run in particular. "Can't Hold Us" by Macklemore, any Pitbull song, that "Somebody Left the Gate Open" song from that commercial; it's all gold now if it reminds you of Luke Hancock crushing souls from beyond the arc. Blast it all summer.

7. If you find yourself taking a shot at any point this summer, say a player's name during that three second post-shot period where you're trying to look cool

A quick "Gorgui" or "Hendo" is a solid substitute for "WOO" or "oh my God." Just get it out, forcefully put your shot glass/cup on a table, and pretend like you don't feel like throwing up.

8. "Tales of the 2012-13 Louisville Cardinals" are now musts during periods alone with children who are too young to have their own memories

They don't even have to be your children. If they're younger than four, they need to be enlightened. They'll thank you in 20 years for your knowledge, insight and uncanny ability to turn "Don't Stop the Party" into a lullaby.

9. There is no cap on familial trash talking if they root for another team

They're contractually obligated to keep loving you, so use them as an outlet for all that pent up pride and joy. Is it going to ruin their 4th of July or, should the situation call for it, their birthday? Yeah, it might, but no significant historical event is going to be totally free from collateral damage. Plus, they kind of deserve it. Being related to you proves that they at least had the option of supporting Louisville and willingly chose not to. Severe transgressions result in at least mild repercussions at some point. Get annoying. They're family.

10. If you need to talk yourself into anything (preferably legal, but at the very least, borderline moral), 'Louisville won the national championship in basketball' can and will serve as adequate justification

I've eaten more expensive meals than I probably should on my budget over the past month, but Louisville won the national championship in basketball. I gambled way too much money on Oaks and Derby day, but Louisville won the national championship in basketball. People are expecting me to wear pants at the wedding I'm going to this weekend, but Louisville won the national championship in basketball.

The world is ours for the summer. Don't forget that.