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A 4-step guide for the 2017 Louisville football fan

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Because five would be too many.

NCAA Football: Louisville vs Purdue Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Growing up as a small, semi-sheltered child in rural Kentucky, there was nothing more fun and exhilarating than taking part in our family’s annual trek to King’s Island in southern Ohio. The reason I loved the trip so much wasn’t the silly games that you can never win, the funnel cakes or boring water rides that produce a day long battle with dry, chaffed skin. Instead, it was the main attraction(s), the roller coasters. But sadly as I entered my teenage and early adulthood years, I morphed into a poor college student and later an even more indigent post college graduate and began frequenting amusement parks all together less and less and thus slowly stopped riding roller coasters all together.

Well, over the past few years the love I once had for one of the few non personable things on this planet that could rock my world has been rekindled. The revival has come not in the form of The Beast or any other wooden or metal roller coaster. Instead, it’s a coaster of a different type with more ups and downs than a day on Wall Street. The coaster’s name is the University of Louisville Football program.

If you truly enjoy the highs and lows of life or just sports in general then look no further than the team that will play in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Saturday to open its 2017 ACC regular season slate. After opening the newly christened college football season with a win over a determined and well coached (I’m biased, but would still say as such) Purdue team this past Saturday, one would think that Card fans would be all smiles this past week.

WRONG.

Message boards, local talk radio shows and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter proved a couple of things recently: One, winning doesn’t cure all evils. Secondly, prosperity and success both create new expectations regardless of how reasonable they may or may not be.

Before it begins to appear as if I’m setting fire to a fan base that I’m a part of, I should be totally transparent and fully admit that I’m part of the problem – a problem that while fixable has slowly created a different atmosphere around Louisville Football. Is that atmosphere a bad thing? Not necessarily, when it’s channeled appropriately and folks are realistic.

As an alumnus, a season ticket holder and most importantly a loyal fan, it’s past time for me to do some serious self-reflecting. The reflection should come in four different stages……

STAGE ONE: Taking a step back and reconsidering who it is I’m cheering for

It’s been said before that “they’re just young men, some teenagers”, but how often do we actually take a statement like that and give it a second thought? In the past, I admit to being on the receiving end of such a statement only to ponder it for a few brief moments and then reverting right back to being critical again. Truth is, the players really ARE just young student athletes who want to do well for themselves and their school. Subsequently, as both a former athlete myself and now a father to two kids who both play sports it’s high time for me to be less disparaging and way more supportive.

STAGE TWO: Remembering the past while embracing the future

Maybe I’m in the minority, but merely seconds after the Cards fumbled in the red zone during the first quarter last Saturday, I admit that my arm chair quarterback persona erupted and the knee jerk reactions began flying loosely. I started questioning everything from the game plan to individual effort and making statements to my poor audience like “What in the hell did Petrino do all off season to cut down on these mistakes?” to the ever popular “It’s gonna be a long season.”

But in retrospect, why? What did Petrino actually have to do with the fumbles? He can’t tackle in the open field or deflect passes in the end zone. Maybe Nick Saban can, but not Bobby.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I was watching a 30+ point underdog Syracuse team walk into PJCS and beat the Cards. It wasn’t all that long ago that beating Southern Miss was considered the gold standard. It wasn’t all that long ago that beating UK really was the most important objective every season.

Perspective – get it – understand it – maintain it.

As we know but sometimes don’t always acknowledge, UofL has entered another stratosphere per se in the world of college football. It’s time for a lot of the fans, me included, to embrace that fact but not forget that at one time I had a picture of me and Steve Kragthorpe on my office desk. I won’t even go into the Ron Cooper poster in my Man Cave.

STAGE THREE: Consider the results & block the noise to the east

Aside from landing in the College Football Playoffs and winning a National Championship, the Cards have practically done everything a team can do to appease its fans and alumni. No, they have yet to win a conference title in the ACC but considering the small amount of time UofL has been a member I think it’s remarkable the splash they’ve made. I, along with others, need to consider what has been accomplished and while as a fan we’ll always want more, we should remember the results of the big wins (Florida/Fla State) as opposed to dwelling on the losses that made our blood boil.

And speaking of losses that make our blood boil, allow me to touch on that school just down I-64……..

I’m as guilty as anyone when I state that my attitude toward UofL Football really turned to sour grapes last November following the home loss to Kentucky – a team that was outmatched at nearly every position yet the Cards amazingly found ways to keep them around long enough to lose at the end (here I go again). The debacle at Houston really knocked me back, but losing to UK for the first time w/Petrino on the sidelines simply pissed me off.

I need to let that loss go. In spite of it, UofL still very much has a strong hold on the rivalry and if things play out the way they should (I recommend following recruiting) that death grip will continue. But obstructing the noise from their fan base is one of the best options for me and I would suggest others as well. Block the obnoxious Twitter accounts, scroll past the ridiculous and immature Facebook posts, and respond to the repugnant text messages with kindness. It will be difficult at first, but your mental health will thank you later. I speak from experience.

STAGE FOUR: Cherish #8

Lastly, let’s all enjoy the moment when it comes to Lamar Jackson. I give major kudos to Mike for an excellent article earlier in the week discussing how we should all cherish his talents NOW and not later. I couldn’t agree more. I never dreamed that I’d see someone from my alma mater hoisting the Heisman Trophy. In reality, it’s not out of the question by any means that he could do it again. Jackson’s talents are unique, special, raw and at times jaw dropping. I’m going to enjoy every minute of his play from here on out. No more “Stop carrying the ball like a loaf of bread” comments and a lot more “This kid is special and means so much to our success” statements.

So with every up and every down I have to concede that there’s a never dull moment with Louisville Football. And frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. As a fan base that’s been patient and loyal, my hope is we will all dwell more on the positives and while not completely ignoring the negatives, we’ll be level headed and fair.

Go Cards! Beat UNC!