Like many in the throng, the thirtysomething brother was wearing a Cardinal throwback.
Unlike most, his was old school.
”Wes Unseld. Nice, he was the best,” I said. “We were in school at the same time.”
He was just one of the thousands of Red & Black loyalists who were out in force Friday night for the type of event that’s become de rigueur in college hoops.
The lights, cameras, action & loud loud music razzmatazz spectacular to herald the beginning of hoops. Fans were twenty rows deep and crowded on balconies around a Dunking Cardinal festooned half court under roof at Fourth Street Live. A red carpet half a block long awaited the entrance of the stars.
(Let’s hear it for the triumphant return of the Dunking Card, the greatest logo in U of L sports legacy.)
So, there was the 502 shooting contest between AD Vince Tyra and 2013 National Champion Cardinal MOP Luke Hancock. Need I advise who prevailed? Though, truth be told, Luuuuuuuuuke was not exactly in four-treys-in-a-row-to-fell-the-Wolverines mode. I’m advised that Hancock warmed up for his part of the gig with a few brewskis at one of the emporia surrounding the court.
Then there was the inexplicable attendance of the Harlem Globetrotters. At least three of them, probably from the D team. Neither Goose Tatum or Meadowlark Lemon was going to the line with a ball rubberbanded to his hand. Though one of the trio did his Marques Haynes dribblation. You know -- if you’ve seen the 50’s flick about the team’s origin -- how Haynes has to dribble past a Globetrotter in a hallway before founder Abe Saperstein will hire him for the team.
Finally, after more than enough diversionary shenanigans, the Cardinal teams were introduced. First Jeff Walz’s women’s team, featuring lots of unfamiliar faces. Most of that squad danced their way onto the court. Best in Show: Jazz Jones.
Then came the men, with Coach Chris Mack getting in touch with his inner Fonzie in a black leather jacket. With a Dunking Cardinal on it, thank you very much.
Plus, there were kids pulled out of the crowd to shoot some hoops. t-shirt tosses, 3 point contests and dunk contests. Along with celebs Denny, Grif, Angel and Spida.
The gathered tribe ate it all up.
Like the dude in the Unseld 31, I’m old school.
Frankly, I loved the old days, when U of L was one of the schools that avoided Midnight Madness. October 15 would come and you knew that the Cards were starting practice. Way back, you’d finally get to see the Cards, getting a look at the newcomers at a Frosh vs. Varsity game Thanksgiving weekend, and the season would start on the first Saturday in December.
That’s all changed through the years, what with the commencement of the season and lots of tourneys and showcase doubleheaders, tipping off in early November. Just about all schools have some sort of dog and pony show to fire up the faithful.
So, I’m not going to turn all cranky ol’ curmudgeon, and declare how much better it was in the old days. I loooooooooooove that the college hoops season is now six weeks longer than in yesteryear.
Louisville Live was sweet. An expression of fealty.
The surest sign yet that the best sports season of the year is drawing night.
-- Seedy K