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Return of Louisville football brings excitement, regardless of expectations

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Cardinal football is coming, and that’s always a good thing.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

I was there last season. I stood in the monsoon for the home opener against Indiana State (until the second or third delay) and I watched us struggle to beat Western Kentucky the next week. Little did we know that that win on September 15 would be the last one of the season. I watched us pass the ball and give up the game against Florida State at the very end. I watched Georgia Tech run the ball a million times and score 66 points. I was there. I saw it all happen. So why in the world am I excited right now? Simple: It’s football season.

Our team went 2-10 last year, but I keep seeing everyone on social media get so pumped that their season tickets have arrived in the mail. Enjoy that, by the way, since next year it will all be paperless. But just that moment of going to your mailbox and seeing that large envelope from UofL, opening it up, and seeing those beautiful tickets that you will be using this fall. Do we get more excited about that than necessary? Maybe. But it’s one of those many “football is back!” moments, which we know there are several of those until football actually is back. What does that all mean? Why is that an exciting time? Because it instantly has you thinking of gamedays.

You start to envision your tailgate spot. It could mean you will have a reunion, of sorts, with your “football group”. Those people that you go to games with but may not see too much outside of that. It could be the few times of the year that you get to tailgate with a certain group of friends or family. You have a TV set up at your tailgate to watch other games while you socialize and have good food. Or maybe you have parking spots next to complete strangers that have turned into “friends” during football season and it’s good to see them again. All of that still happens regardless of how last season went or how this season is going to go.

As the game gets closer, you either go to Card March or stay in your tailgate spot if you are too far away. No judgement here either way. You do whatever you please. Either way, you are having a good time on a Saturday afternoon. You walk into the stadium, grab some food and a beverage, and either head right to your seat or stroll around the concourse for a bit, seeing familiar faces everywhere because Louisville is the smallest big city there is. And even the ones that you don’t recognize, you feel like you are amongst family and friends. You smell the food from the concessions, you hear either the band playing or Sean Moth making announcements. It’s always nice to hear that familiar voice as you are walking around Cardinal Stadium.

As far as the actual game on the field, the expectations are low from a national standpoint. The team is expected to win maybe 3 or 4 games. I will tell you next week how I will be judging this season as far as that goes. You know what is fun right now, though? Louisville is 0-0 with a full season ahead. These times come and go so fast.

Not to stray off topic here as I wrap this up, but I can’t help but think of my friend’s dad here, Doug Vaughn aka “Gator”. I spent much of my high school life at his house on the weekends and he became like another dad to me. He was definitely one of those cool dads and he loved his Louisville football. His basement is a UofL shrine and he even painted his outhouse at Rough River with the Louisville Cardinals theme.

His favorite players were Stefan LeFors, Michael Bush, and Harry Douglas. Gator passed away suddenly last winter. The last time I saw him was at a tailgate during the 2017 season. I saw him at nearly every tailgate that season because I was in the Green Lot, which was a rare place for me. It was always the highlight of my tailgate day to see him and to talk about the team and how we were going to do that day. As is with anything in life, there was no sign that that was going to be my last encounter with him. I wish I had known, but we never do. My point is, these gameday experiences are about so much more than just the game on the field. It’s about the whole day, about the people you are with, and the memories that you make. Last season’s record and this season’s expectations mean nothing right now.

It’s football season. Enjoy it to the fullest. Go Cards!