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Here's To The Beginning Of Another Beautiful Journey

Joe Murphy

I think it was two days after the game when the self-loathing really kicked in.

You are a grown man. The fact that you've allowed something so silly to make you feel this way is just sad. You've got to stop doing this.

Of course this was far from the first time that I'd been forced to entertain these thoughts, and my guess is it won't be the last.

Somewhere around 48 hours earlier, Kentucky had ended Louisville's season in excruciatingly crushing fashion. That awful haze of depression that typically reserves itself for real world troubles like heartbreak and lost loved ones had still yet to be lifted. The fact that my friends and family had all relayed their similar symptoms was doing nothing to help. Misery's inherent affinity for company can only extend so far.

Time doesn't heal all wounds, but it does afford us the opportunity to understand why we got gashed in the first place.

The Kentucky loss affected me more than a basketball game should ever affect any person because I allowed it to ... and I'm glad. Until I see a sufficient reason to change, I will continue to leave myself open to the possibility of something I have zero control over making me feel like a 14-year-old whose first shot at love just got shoved back into their chest.

The life of the person who gives half of themselves to something and then believes they've achieved a total victory at the end is always less fulfilling. There's always a greater reward for the kid who shows up to the mandatory practice, for the little girl who raises hell when she senses that her older brother is trying to let her win, for the teenage boy who makes the grand play of affection for the girl who makes him feel the most.

I'm not saying that swinging big is the only way to be rewarded -- sometimes choking up with 2 strikes is what gives your team the best chance to win -- I'm just saying that giving yourself wholly and honestly to something is the lone path to a result that is your own personal perfect.

I love Louisville basketball more than I love most things. I don't know why, I don't know when it started or how it has persisted for so long, but I can tell you that I don't question it anymore.

When the final buzzer sounded inside the Georgia Dome on April 8, 2013, it felt like the compensation for years of feelings that were never fully requited, the ultimate reward for all those hours spent watching games on the couch with my dad, or with my friends at their houses, or inside Freedom Hall or the Yum Center. It was my perfect moment, and I'd gladly suffer through 1,000 soul-crushing Sweet 16 losses to get back there again.

The beautiful journey and the quest for that place begins anew in a matter of hours.

There will be highs that make us forget all of our real world troubles, and lows that amplify them. Eventually, there will be an end. As with any other season, the likelihood that this end will leave us dejected for at least a short while is far greater than the likelihood that it will be perfect.

Still, we not only accept this seemingly lopsided deal, we embrace it. Before the wheels of 2014-15 officially begin to spin, I think it's important to remind ourselves why.

Because it's in our blood

Have you ever thought about what the winter would be like without basketball? How different things would be if we couldn't text our friends or talk with our co-workers about how Wayne Blackshear played the night before or the way Mangok Mathiang is progressing?

In late January, hearing Jay Bilas call a Louisville/Syracuse game on a weeknight is your reward for shoveling ice off your front windshield at 7 a.m. instead of curling up next to the space heater until noon. The first hint of warmer weather in late February doesn't prompt images of blossoming flowers or the end of the winter semester, it gets us giddy over the thought of conference tournaments and Selection Sunday.

I don't think any of us could possibly explain how we got to this place. At some point, it just became ... what we do. The "in our blood" rationale is always going to be the simplest and therefore best one we have.

Because it's humbled us

Whether the late '80s through the early 2000s was a letdown period for you or the genesis of your fandom, Louisville basketball has made you more appreciative. We're not especially far removed from a time when the Final Four was an unworkable daydream for a hoard of Cardinal fans approaching their 20s, because they'd never experienced one.

Still, we've all been here the whole time.

Those moments in Atlanta a year and-a-half ago were all earned. As a result of having to go the long road, I think Louisville fans have, by and large, reached a point where they are elated when the Cards win big games and disappointed when they lose them. I find this combination far more preferable than its counterpart of relief and anger.

Because of the shared experience

My favorite thing about Card Chronicle is how it's brought together so many people who have so many comparable feelings regarding something they care a great deal about. So many of us have the same memories and thoughts about former players, opponents, games, and all the other Cardinal minutiae that we once believed only us and those we were close to held dear.

None of this would be nearly as much fun if we didn't have others who were equally insane to share it with. Having those people who we desperately need to hug, text, call, tweet or email after a big win is what allows the euphoria of victory to linger long after the players have walked off the floor.

Between now and (hopefully) April 6, we're all going to lose ourselves a little bit, but we'll be lost together. I think that's wonderful.

Because Louisville basketball is a constant

We are all prone to convincing ourselves that we're working towards this imaginary period where everything's going to calm down, everything's going to be settled, and everything's going to (finally) stay the same. For 99.9 percent of the world, this time is never going to come. Some changes we can't foresee, others we can, but we don't respect their gravity. We are all constantly losing people we love, pets we love, things we love, and periods of time we love.

In this regard, Louisville basketball never lets us down.

Good season or bad, the Cards are going to take the court for the first time in November, and they're going to keep playing until sometime close to the beginning of spring. That alone might not be enough to get us through whatever may be ailing us at a particular point in time, but it's always going to help.

Because this is one of things that makes us the happiest

The personalities of the kids, the in-season memes, the unlikely triumphs, the unexpected rivalries, the highlight videos, the morning after conversations, the bracket projections and the debates over how this is ultimately going to play out; it's all just a great deal of fun.

In our relatively brief existence as a species, there has never been a person whose death bed has been made less comfortable by all the time they devoted to that one thing that made them so happy. There has never existed a person who, when facing their final moments, has wished they'd committed less of themselves to something they cared deeply about.

The next five months are going to be wonderful. I can't wait to spend them with you guys.