For as long as I can remember, following and getting excited about a Louisville basketball season was more important to me than just about anything else in my life. Before the first tip off I’d routinely hype myself stupid reading the preseason magazines to get a handle on how the national pundits feel about the Cardinals’ chances on the year. As soon as the annual posters with the schedule and team photo were pressed and released, I’d feverishly rush to Thornton’s or Rally’s to pick mine up and proudly hang it somewhere in my house. I’d gloss over the schedule to figure out exactly where I’d be for the big games to be sure that I wasn’t working or involved in any other prior engagements. Even in down years with low expectations, I’ve always been excited about Cardinal basketball.
That changed this year. It occurred to me yesterday that I hadn’t bought any of the pre-season magazines, I haven’t picked up a poster, and there isn’t really one game that gets me particularly excited. I haven’t even taken a peek at the new Adidas Cardinal gear, which is something I’m always excited to pull out my wallet and spend my hard earned money on. In the past all of these activities seemed like instinct, acts that I couldn’t help myself from doing.
So this begs the question: why can’t I get excited about Louisville basketball? The answer is more layered than a jumbo onion.
- First, let’s get the obvious reasons for my diminishing Cardinal fandom out of the way: while it won’t happen soon, the looming hammer from the NCAA is coming down; make no mistake about that my friends. Considering the fact that the whole Brian Bowen/Adidas fiasco happened while the program was on probation, the death penalty is a very real possibility. I thought it was rough when the whole Katina Powell fiasco was hanging in the balance, but this could be much, much worse. Speaking of hooker-gate, I’m so damned fatigued by the mounting scandals and firings and board of trustee hearings and the endless stream of negative press that the team and school continue to receive.
- The fact that Rick Pitino is no longer the head coach remains a surprisingly tough pill to swallow. I’m not defending him or what he did — for the record I think he’s a manipulative liar that deserved to be fired. But let’s face it, he’s a Hall of Fame coach that has been the face of Louisville basketball for a decade and a half, and he had a hell of a run in his tenure. With him gone, the basketball team has lost its swagger, not to mention that there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around the program as we really don’t have a clue as to who will take complete control of this sinking ship. And what’s gonna happen to recruiting? Who the hell knows, but it certainly doesn’t look good.
- Is it too early for me to say that this current team just isn’t very good? I love him as much as anyone else, but 6 games in to this season interim head coach David Padgett seems to be way in over his head. Defensively these guys look completely lost and on the other side of the floor they take entirely way too many ill advised shots with little to no ball movement. Also, the early departure of Donovan Mitchell to the NBA is proving to be a bigger deal than people initially thought as he is flourishing with the Utah Jazz as our current roster is devoid of any consistent scoring threats outside of Deng Adel.
- The NBA has always been option #2 for satisfying my bottomless basketball appetite, but now with the unwavering shit storm that UofL has been wading through for the last 3 years I’ve found myself giving more time and attention to the pros. This is somewhat of a surprise, considering I don’t really have any sort of passionate devotion to any pro team in particular (although I do casually root for the Bulls and Pacers). Aside from the superior athleticism and overall game play, what continues to lure me away from the college game to the Association is the realization that nothing resembling the drama that festers from the mismanagement of the NCAA is seemingly ever present. There’s no “seedy underbelly” of scouts or runners in the NBA as each team theoretically puts their teams together the same way.
- I’m finding it incredibly difficult to cope with the inevitability that Louisville will indeed lose their 2013 championship banner. It crushes me inside every time I’m reminded of this as this as this is the only championship I’ve ever witnessed of any team I’ve ever rooted for. I’ve heard other Cardinal fans make wild suggestions like “keep the banner up anyway” or “I watched them win that game and they will always be champions.” Yeah, uhhh, I’m going to have to sort of disagree with you there. Regardless of who is to blame, Louisville got caught cheating with their pants down (literally) and are paying the price for it in full. If this were UK or Memphis or any other school for that matter, we’d be pointing the finger saying the same damn thing.
Look, I don’t like being so negative and I truly WANT to be excited about Louisville Basketball, but for the time being, participating as a fan of this program has become more of an emotional chore than a convenient escape. Going in to this season I knew the vibe would be different but I certainly didn’t foresee myself being so disconnected from what’s happening with the team. The Cards just lost two straight close games, but to be completely honest I’m not bothered even a little bit. There was a time when I’d be crushed for days after a heartbreaking loss, but these two didn’t phase me at all. I hate to say it but its clear that I’m losing my passion as a life long Louisville basketball fanatic, and after a bit of reflection it’s easy to see why.