Last October, I moved to Washington, D.C. after having lived in either Northeast Ohio or Louisville for my entire life. Lots of things are different here. I don't have a car, there's no Cane's or White Castle (truly a shame) and I've already gone on a real-life date with a girl I met on an iPhone app. Crazy stuff, really.
One part of home I figured would come with me for a week would be Louisville in the ACC Tournament. It was one of the first things I marked my calendar for when I moved out here, particularly after I attended last year's ACC Tournament in Greensboro and saw the Cards' run end way too soon. I thought about asking Mike about assuming the position of Card Chronicle D.C. Correspondent. Sobbing I'm not sobbing you're sobbing.
Anyway, my office is at Verizon Center, and over the past week or so I've seen posters and banners go up around the arena that still include a Cardinal along with the rest of the teams in the conference.
Obviously, Louisville won't be coming to D.C. this week.
While everyone has an opinion on the self-imposed ban and it's been debated from every angle multiple times, the fact that it's really going to happen hit me square on for the first time seeing those banners going up. For everyone in Louisville, I can only imagine what the atmosphere was like on Senior Night and think about how I would have felt if I was still in section 111 as a student. I assume that it was another one of those "wow, this is really it" moments.
Regardless of how we got here, this is why that feeling is a problem:
Since moving out of driving distance to Louisville, I've only been able to watch this year's team on TV and read along on Louisville blogs and Twitter. I've never seen Trey Lewis and Damion Lee play in person or around campus like I did Russ Smith or Gorgui Dieng during my time at Louisville. Moreover, they've only been in the program for a year. There's only so much of a connection that that kind of distance could really allow, right?
That'd be true in most cases, I think. But in the case of Lee and Lewis, they've been special in the sense that it doesn't take being in the Yum! Center or around the city of Louisville to know what kind of players, humans and ambassadors for the school they've become. In just one year at Louisville - a place they both chose for a single shot at a tournament run over what had to be other options - they've embraced the team, the city and the opportunity in front of them.
In an unfortunately twisted way, the character of the two seniors became even more apparent after the ban was announced. The way they've carried themselves after their last college hoops dreams came to an abrupt end has been remarkable. But nobody's surprised that they've handled it the way they have, which perhaps is the best commentary of all on who they are. They've been just about everything anyone in Louisville could have asked them to be on and off the floor from the moment they arrived on campus.
I know I'm not the only one here in D.C. who couldn't wait to see Lee and Lewis begin their final postseason pursuit here. At an alumni gathering for the win over Virginia Tech in Washington, everyone felt a connection with this team, even from a distance. And much of the conversation was around how nobody could wait to get to support them here in the ACC Tournament.
Now, from a selfish standpoint, we all hate that we can't watch Lee, Lewis and the rest of this phenomenal team reach for every last bit of their potential. The real shame that's been noted by most everyone, of course, is that the heart that the seniors poured into this team and this season won't be able to be seen all the way through.
So today I'll go to work and see fans from all over the ACC buzzing about March Madness and pouring into the Verizon Center to watch basketball. There's no doubt that it will still be a great tournament, and March will roll along with the same fervor and excitement around the country as it always has.
But Lee, Lewis and Louisville won't be there.
That will just feel wrong.