As a life-long fanatic of Louisville basketball and football, I’m always looking for ways to quench my undying thirst for new information on anything and everything related to the Cardinals. Over the last few years, my number one destination for all things UofL has been Card Chronicle, a blog that is frequently updated with news, game coverage, and editorials, all with a clever, snarky attitude that I find irresistible. Admittedly, I probably check back with the site no less than twice a day, once on my lunch break, and the second before I go to bed, just to be sure I didn’t miss any crazy happenings.
Mike Rutherford, the man who is responsible for Card Chronicle, might be the busiest guy in local sports media. While not frequently updating his site, he hosts a daily sports show on 93.9 FM (3PM-6PM Monday-Friday) with Mike Ramsey aptly titled “Ramsey and Rutherford.” In addition to that, he stays active on Twitter (@CardChronicle) keeping Louisville fans posted with any breaking information. From one Louisville fan to another, I reached out to Mike for an interview to get a better grasp on what exactly makes this guy tick.
Never Nervous: First off, tell us about Card Chronicle. How did it start, and what was the initial motivation behind its inception?Mike Rutherford: It’s crazy to think about it, but the actual Card Chronicle site is going to turn 10-years-old this fall, which is, like, a thousand years old in internet years. You’re not supposed to ramble on one website for a decade. You’re supposed to start one, get really into it, and then get bored and close shop within three or four months. That said, I’m proud to be the aberration here.
The initial motivation for the site was painfully simple: I’d moved home from the University of Dayton to finish up school at Bellarmine, and I was bored. I fired up a a blogger account, created a website called “The Card Report,” and started posting nonsense on the internet (RIP to the capitalized “I” in internet, by the way) for the first time.
About five months later I got hit up by SB Nation to join their network as one of the first college blogs, and it was a no-brainer. The only caveat was I couldn’t have “The” in the title of the website name, so we came up with Card Chronicle as the site’s new title. Ten years later, here I am, answering questions for you and still posting penis jokes for online users to enjoy on a daily basis.
NN: Card Chronicle continues to post quality Louisville sports related content on a daily basis, which makes me think there has to be a quality crew of people behind the scenes. How many folks are involved with Card Chronicle?
MR: Guys like Mark Ennis, Keith Wynne and a host of others have done a great job helping out with the site and really getting it to grow in recent years, but the reality is, we don’t have anything that I think you could characterize as a “staff.” Not much has changed on that front since the site’s inception. I’d love to get to a point where I could actually pay one or two other people to be consistent contributors, but alas, we aren’t there yet.
NN: How did you get on board with radio host John Ramsey to create the “Ramsey & Rutherford” show?
MR: That was a process far too lengthy and boring to describe in detail here, but basically John hit me up in the fall of 2014 about joining him to co-host a Louisville sports show on a new station that was partnering with U of L. About eight months later, we were finally able to get the terms worked out and “Ramsey & Rutherford” began on 93.9 The Ville. John and a handful of other people were really vocal about getting me that gig, and I’ll be forever grateful to them for that.
NN: As being someone who writes about and discusses on air everything related to Louisville sports, how fucking tired of this Katina Powell situation are you? Aren’t you SO OVER discussing every nugget of new information that ultimately goes nowhere?
MR: This has definitely been the most difficult, and I think I can say worst, year of “professional” work that I’ve had to trudge through, and I hope that remains the case forever. Having to basically balance three full-time gigs while one of the biggest, grossest and most salacious stories in the history of this area is consistently unfolding has not been fun. You never know exactly what you’re signing up for when you put these hats on, but it’s not this.
It’s one thing for there to be nowhere to run, but for me, I’ve essentially had to deal with this in three different forums. First, there are the standard updates and developments that I have to talk about from a fan’s perspective on Card Chronicle. Then, I also work as SB Nation’s college basketball editor, so I have to cover the story from an objective viewpoint over there. And then there’s radio, where people are constantly asking questions or throwing new theories at you for three hours. It’s been a sustained overload pretty much every day since early October. Or at least it seems that way.
I feel very, very fortunate to be able to get paid to do what I do, so I’m definitely not trying to complain. That said, when you sign up to talk about U of L sports for a living, you don’t expect that to include topics like “If they were wearing bathing suits, can they be classified as ‘strippers?'” Or “what the fuck does this Katina Powell post on Facebook mean?” It’s not nearly as rewarding as “Louisville is going to the Final Four and Russ Smith is hilarious and awesome,” but I guess the good times have to stop at some point. You just hope that the “bad times” are a few more losses on the court and not sex scandals involving college kids and potentially underage girls being pimped by their mother.
I feel bad for my friends and family who know that I’m so sick of talking about all this, and still can’t help but lob the occasional “what do you think about ….” question. It’s not their fault, and sometimes it feels like I’m talking about all of this with everyone in the world but them.
It’s just been a batshit crazy six months and I hope I never have to go through anything like it again. I’ll leave it at that.
NN: Adding to that, what do you think the NCAA will ultimately decide to do with the University of Louisville’s basketball program?
MR: I really wish I had the answer to that. It would take a lot of tension out of the next few months and definitely deliver some added page views to my site.
Depending on the day, you hear 12 different things from 12 different people about what’s going to happen next. There are people who will try and convince you that “the worst is yet to come,” and others who think the days of sunny skies, rainbows and 30-point wins over Kentucky are just around the corner.
I would be more surprised than not if the NCAA didn’t ultimately hit Louisville with more sanctions, and I can live with anything short of another postseason ban for 2017 and/or the 2013 banner coming down. I’ll also add that I don’t think either of those two things are likely to happen.
NN: Considering the Louisville/Kentucky rivalry is as hot as it’s ever been, surely you get plenty of hate mail and pissed off folks that call in to the show. Are there any messages or calls that you’ve received in particular that you find especially amusing? I’ll hang up and listen.
MR: One of my favorite tidbits that’s only going to grow more glorious with age is that my first death threat from a Kentucky fan came over AIM. Some guy had to look up my AOL email address, guess that it was the same as my instant messenger name, and then sent me a message request in which he let me know that he was going to burn my house down. They don’t make death threats like that anymore. Twitter has made the BBN nutjobs soft.
Outside of that, the best tweet I’ve ever gotten from a Kentucky fan is still the one who told me to “hum these balls, Ruthdick.” It was three or four years ago and the guy deleted the tweet almost instantly, but thankfully I got a screenshot because it’s probably the greatest tweet of all-time. A bunch of my friends (as well as a bunch of people I don’t actually know) still call me Ruthdick, and I love it.
Although there’s a lengthy and contentious debate over whether the “u” in Ruthdick is a hard or soft u, the soul is still there with either pronunciation.
NN: Give me three of your essential pre-game songs that have to be played before any big UofL football or basketball game.
MR: Oh, man. I don’t have a really good answer here. The only thing I can think of is that we always used to blast the original “R U Ready” before big football games like seven or eight years ago. B Simm‘s verse in that song has definitely stood the test of time, both because he drops an immortal line — “ain’t a question if we goin’ to the bowl game, credit to Petr- I ain’t gotta say his whole name” — and because he seamlessly works then-kicker Art Carmody‘s name into the equation.
Outside of that, I don’t have a set playlist or anything for pregame. We do play Jesse McCartney’s “How Do You Sleep” every year during March Madness, but that’s a long and old story that I can’t tell here.
NN: Off and on for years now, UofL has utilized “Enter Sandman” as a hype song before kickoff. To me, that shit is so played out, and I’d like to see it replaced with something ridiculous that would never fly like Slayer – “Raining Blood” or Cannibal Corpse – “Hammer Smashed Face.” What song would you prefer, or are you content as it is?
MR: Yeah, this topic seems to come up pretty much every fall. A couple of times in recent years, U of L has even asked for a gauge from the fans on Card Chronicle as far as what they’d like to hear both during the introductions and before 3rd down plays on defense.
Every time the discussion gets brought up, I always just say “whatever the players want.” Getting the crowd hyped is important, but ultimately everything comes down to the dudes on the field. Whatever gets them in the right mindset is good by me.
NN: If you had to put together a starting five consisting of only UofL basketball players after the year 2000, who would you put at each position, and why?
MR: Since you’re unclear about the parameters here and whether or not this team is even competing against anyone, I’m going to be an asshole and pick the five guys who I think would comprise the most hilarious team.
- Russ Smith — Obviously
- Earl Clark — Equally obvious
- Simeon Naydenov — I have a tremendous picture of him posing with his senior day jersey in a beater tucked into jeans with an exposed chain
- Hajj Turner — One of my favorite U of L players of all-time even though he rarely saw the court. Knee problems kept him from realizing his high school hype, but he was always upbeat and extremely witty. He’s doing a great job as an assistant coach at George Washington right now.
- Joseph N’Sima – Inclusion here is based entirely on his free-throw shooting style
NN: Who would you consider to be your favorite UofL athlete of all time? Mine would probably be Francisco Garcia because he seemed to emulate Reggie Miller in so many ways. Reggie is my favorite basketball player of all time, in case you were wondering.
MR: It feels weird to say this because it seems like your favorite player is supposed to be someone from your youth or early 20s, but mine’s Russ Smith.
To me, he’s the person most at the center of best Louisville basketball period I’ve ever experienced. I also think both his style of play and his infectious personality played a much larger and much more important role than people believe when it comes to changing Rick Pitino for the better, and maybe even keeping him in coaching, period.
That effectively reckless mindset on the court coupled with an equally captivating and totally unfiltered persona off it helped gain Russ the adoration of Louisville and college basketball fans alike, but it also helped mask the most overlooked (or dismissed) aspect of himself: that he’s one of the more intelligent people to ever put on a Cardinal uniform.
For three years (we can keep his freshman season out of this), Russ made being a Cardinal basketball fan pretty much as fun and rewarding an experience as possible. That’s a pretty significant thing.
NN: Where would you consider to be the best place in town to watch a Louisville game?
MR: For me, it’s either in the building or at home with an approved group of family/friends. I can’t do games in public places. If I’m not at the game, I want to be able to hear the announcers and discuss what’s going on with people just as on edge as me. I’m also fucking insane, which is sometimes frowned upon at Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s an antediluvian establishment that should die a slow and painful death.
NN: Asking someone “what kind of music are you into” is such a fucking tired, loaded question. So I’ll just ask you this: What noise have you been listening to lately, and what do you like about it?
MR: I feel like I’m just now being able to get back into music a little bit with the madness of the college basketball season and all the time constraints that come with it in the rearview. This week, I’ve been deep into the new Kendrick Lamar. It’s a much more straightforward (I’m not sure if that’s the right word) album than Good Kid or To Pimp A Butterfly, but it’s equally brilliant. I’m so excited about where he’s headed.
I’m also on a Joanna Newsom kick, despite the undeniably “hate it or strangely tolerate it” voice. Did you know she’s married to Andy Samberg? Fucking crazy. The White Denim album is good for kitchen dancing, Life of Pablo is somewhere sandwiched in the middle of my Kanye hierarchy, and it’s always Iron & Wine time in my house.
NN: What was the last album you bought? Be honest, and give us a quick critique of the record.
No, I’m just being a dick. It was actually Dru Hill: The Dru World Order Project.
In all seriousness, I have no idea. I’ll listen to whole albums from start to finish online, but I rarely ever buy anything but individual songs.
Maybe Late Registration? Is that bad? I feel like that’s bad.
NN: Now tell us about the last show/concert you attended. Who was playing, what was the venue, and how’d you feel about the show afterward?
MR: Ryan Adams at The Palace. It was a special night and remarkably therapeutic given the state of my life at the time. Me getting all up in my feelings aside, it was also just a thousand times better overall than the last time he’d been in Louisville.
NN: How familiar are you with Louisville’s music scene? Are there any current bands/artists in Louisville that have been knockin’ your skirt up lately?
MR: Like my relationship with music overall, I’m not nearly as in touch with Louisville’s music scene as I used to be, just because I don’t have anywhere near the free time that I used to. I have to get this in, though: I still love VHS or Beta. Craig Pfunder is an awesome dude and a massive U of L fan.
A few months ago a friend turned me on to Jack Harlow. He’s a mixture of pure talent and adolescent experiences right now (eating at the Highlands Q-Doba probably isn’t going to resonate with the rest of the country), but in maybe two years he’s going to be the next name from Louisville to break through and blow up. If they let you bet on that sort of thing, I would lay legitimate money on it. He’s really, really good.
NN: Before you go, tell us about how much you loved Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. If your answer is anything other than “I LOVED IT,” you’re an asshole.
MR: Han’s down, the best death scene of 2015.
I’m an asshole.