OK, enough is enough. It is time we stop worrying about all of the meaningless stresses and controversies that pester our daily lives. Enough about Brian Williams and Kanye West. Let’s take a break from the fear of Isis, as well as Obama’s controversy-du-jour — say the (accurate) parallel he identified between the “Islamic state’s war” and the Crusades.
It is February … almost March. It is basketball season in Kentucky. And Cardinal fans seem distracted. C’mon, Cards fans, it’s time to get with the program.
OK, that is my locker room speech. In all honesty, college basketball is not in the top 10 most important things in my life. Personally, winning or losing does not change my life one bit. I love to win, but losing does not ruin my day. Only once has winning felt like it contributed to my life — the 2013 National Championship in Atlanta.
However, that was about more than winning a game. That was about the culmination of decades of watching and cheering for my team; going to games with my family and friends; spending time and money to watch them play a game I can only dream of playing. Most of all, it was about a special evening that was shared with my mom and dad in the Georgia Dome.
This was a special time. When I see the highlight of Montrezl’s superhuman alley-oop dunk from Peyton, or Luke Hancock’s barrage of 3s to bring us back, or in 10, 20, 30 years when the players come back for an anniversary, I will always feel that sense of why it was so special, for me, for the community and for Cards nation. It was love that we share for something special.
Yet I am convinced that is the main reason why we, Cards fans, are letting this team down. We are not doing our part. We were once the greatest fans in the world, but we have fallen out of the top 25.
Growing up, our schedule was filled with teams like UNC Charlotte, Tulane, Depaul and Southern Miss. When we got to Conference USA, it was awesome to get to play Cincinnati and Memphis twice a year, but we still knew we were a better program than the company we kept. Finally, we made it to the big leagues in the Big East, the greatest basketball conference ever assembled, only to have it pulled out from beneath our feet. Now, we host the likes of Duke and North Carolina. We still get our rivals from the old East, Syracuse and Notre Dame. It is the basketball we have dreamed about for 20 years.
So what is wrong with us? Why can’t we embrace this team like those who have come before them. We have loved teams that didn’t make it out of the first round. We have revered players who would not have had a chance to play alongside the talent on this year’s team. So why don’t we show them the same love and support? Coming out of halftime against Duke and North Carolina, on consecutive Saturday home games, the Yum! Center looked like a midweek, open-mic comedy club. I grant that we were getting beat badly in both instances, but this was what we waited for — Duke and North Carolina on our floor, the floor that Denny built!
I am convinced that if we had not beaten Michigan in the National Championship game, and we were still in pursuit of our first National Title since 1986, first under Rick Pitino, and first of a new Cards generation, that we would be as engaged and motivated as ever. After our “one shining moment,” the national acceptance that we are a top-tier program is all the respect we needed.
Plus, this is the first year without the key players from that team. The only remaining players who saw the floor in the title game are Wayne and Montrezl, and to give proper respect, Wayne had a great 19 minutes, scoring 8 points, and Montrezl, while only scoring once, made it the most legendary dunk in NCAA finals history. But we lost our heroes Peyton and Gorgui. Then last year we said goodbye to Russ and Luke.
Well, it is not too late to jump on board Cards nation. The U of L 2015 team is great. In the program’s history, this team is a contender. They are national contenders. Sure, we need to find our x-factor — our Peyton, Luke or Russ. But Montrezl might be the best player in the country. Terry Rozier is one of the best guards in the country. We have size, speed and one of the best defenses in the nation. Let’s support these guys like we would the Cards of the past.