I’M TAKING A KNEE
That’s right, I’m squatting down and taking a knee, as controversial as that may be these days. I’m not ashamed to pronounce it. In fact, I may even lower my head in the process and slump my shoulders while I’m at it.
No, this undeniable burning desire of mine to go to one knee has absolutely NOTHING to do with the NFL or any type of political or social statement. I’m taking a knee because I am mentally and physically EXHAUSTED from being a University of Louisville Men’s Basketball fanatic.
Look, I know my place in the pecking order as it relates to the UofL sports pyramid. I’m not a big money booster or donor. And obviously, I’m not a current student athlete nor do I work for the university in any capacity. However, I represent a miniscule portion of the largest, most precious and treasured faction of individuals the UofL family has – the fan base itself. And as a fan of Louisville Basketball since I was a young boy spilling Lucky Charms on my parent’s living room carpet every day, I just want to steal a line from the band Pink Floyd in describing my current state…..
I am…..comfortably numb.
I woke up Tuesday morning and logged onto Twitter curious to see if there were any UofL related basketball recruiting updates. Tonight, I’m sitting at my laptop wondering if Rick Pitino will ever coach in a college basketball game again and lamenting the possibility of Tom Crean roaming the Yum! Center sidelines as UofL’s interim head coach this season. (looks in mirror, realizes this is not a bad dream).
It’s utterly amazing what can transpire in just, say, 24 or 48 hours isn’t it?
How on Earth did a historically prosperous and successful program that so many of us love and cherish arrive at this point? I don’t have the strength nor the energy to go back over the past 4 or 5 years and highlight all the little and big episodes that potentially contributed to the men’s basketball program’s recent apocalyptic collapse. All I know is this: September 27th, 2017 was a sad, dark day for anyone directly or indirectly associated with the Louisville program.
Perhaps the thing I struggle with the most concerning this whole “pay for play” fiasco at UofL is trying to understand the why behind what transpired. Oh, I get it that this sort of thing has gone on for years and that a lot if not the majority of major D1 programs are guilty. But, when I take a step back from the current Louisville Basketball program and examine it, I’m even more befuddled.
■ You (UofL) have a top 10 roster returning for the 2017-18 season
■ You have a state of the art arena
■ You have the most loyal college basketball fan base on Earth
■ You play in the best basketball conference in the country
■ You can (could) potentially cut down the nets at season’s end
■ You can get top tier talent without having to pay for it (or can you?)
And despite everything in UofL’s favor, the program instead opted to not only play with fire but allow it to get torched. Left behind is a pile of ashes, or in this instance a team full of student athletes who didn’t ask for this, who will have to answer to this and who without doubt, deserve better. Also left behind is a university working overtime to preserve its honor and reputation. Add to that list faculty members, staff, athletic department personnel and the fans themselves. What a disgrace.
PANTS ON FIRE
There are few things worse than being lied to, especially when the stakes are high. Until today, I was in the camp of individuals who STILL opted to believe the notion that former head coach Rick Pitino probably didn’t know about two of assistant coaches plotting to have Adidas funnel money to a potential recruit’s family to insure him coming to UofL. Boy, do I look like an asshole now.
Admittedly, I agreed 100% that Pitino should have been shown the door. Three major scandals in an approximate 8 year span is about, oh, three too many for this alumnus. But, I was gullible enough to believe that he even had no prior knowledge of the entire Katina Powell/strippers debacle. I did the same this time. Shame on me for putting my unwarranted faith and trust in a guy who blatantly lied to everyone who listened.
FAN BASE DIVIDED
Now, more than ever, is the time for UofL Basketball fans to unite and fuse together. One current outlier that could threaten that bond is the notion that former athletic director Tom Jurich should ultimately be retained. I’m only one person and my opinion means about as much as the lint you’ll remove from your dryer’s vent the next time you dry clothes. Regardless, my hot take is that Jurich should have been retained, or at least I strongly felt that way on Wednesday. I completely understand the rationale for anyone that disagrees, and I admit that as more facts emerge and as each hour passes I find myself gravitating to the camp of folks who pleaded for interim President Postel to “clean house.”
I used to long for Final Fours, for big wins over the likes of Kentucky, Duke & North Carolina. I used to dream about the Cards landing some of the nation’s top talent, most recently Romeo Langford. I used to anticipate every scrimmage, every game.
Now, I just want to wake up and not be humiliated to be a Louisville Basketball fan. It’s really that simple, and pathetic. And whatever that takes, I will fully support because the thought of one or two narcissistic individuals being bigger than the basketball program or even worse the university itself sickens me to no end. The contributions of both Pitino and Jurich are undeniable, especially the latter who took UofL’s sports programs to heights never seen before. But accomplishments don’t equal immunity.
Going forward, there will be more questions than answers, more uncertainty than assurance and almost certainly more angst than calm. My laurels will rest on what I already know to be true. Louisville Basketball was not created when Rick Pitino took the helm nor was it formed when Jurich flew in from Colorado. Louisville Basketball has far deeper roots many of which I am still too young to comprehend. It will rise again and flourish once more. Getting back to that point is what will be the hardest to endure and for that reason I will remain on one knee, for now.