If you know that reference, you are a Louisville Cardinal basketball fan of some longevity.
If not, it denotes you’re a relative newcomer. (Which doesn’t mean you are not as fiercely loyal as some of us old farts, just that you haven’t been at it as long.)
It hearkens back to the halcyon days of U of L hoops. The incident I reference came about sometime in the late 70s or early 80s. When the seats of Freedom Hall up close and far away were filled with true Cardinal fans, not corporate guests. When there were no commercials, no peanut tosses, no fans lingering in hallway bars, no Joey, and the cheerleaders actually led a cheer now and then and the old school crowd would participate.
One of which cheers had a cheerleader standing at each of the four sides of the court with signs that read, Go, Cards, Beat, then the name of the opponent. Louisville had played the Boilermakers the home game before, but at the next game the name Purdue again appeared. From such gaffes delight ensues.
And so started a charming tradition that lasted for years. No matter whom the Cards played, the cheer would always be Go! Cards! Beat! Purdue!. Always with gusto. Often drawing a confused look from the opposing players or their fans.
Oh what a time, such a time it was.
* * * * *
The Cards and the Boilermakers tussled a lot in those days. Eight times in the 70s and 80s, of which Purdue won five. Truth is the Big Ten foe has a clear advantage in the series which began in 1945. Eleven wins versus just five for Louisville.
The Black and Gold has won the last three tilts, including the last one played in Freedom Hall, 87-69 in 1997. And the last one played at all, 67-59 in 2007 in the Wooden Tradition in Indy.
U of L is a questionable six point favorite, in tonight’s encounter, which is sure to be fiercely contested. It’s the type of early season battle that Cardinal fans came to savor back in the day, but are few and far between these days. A boffo match up against a big time foe.
Real college basketball.
A tip of the hat to the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge.
* * * * *
Now for the really personal.
My very first Louisville game was an 89-85 win over the Boilermakers at the Jefferson County Armory, later Louisville Gardens.
December 8, 1952.
I was seven. I’d like to say I remember a whole lot, but truthfully don’t.
What I do recall are the bright lights, the smoke that filled the gym from cigarettes, how the play would stop now and again and one of the players would stand at a line and get to shoot a shot or two without being defended.
And, most of all, how I fell in love with U of L basketball.
And have never been able to get enough in the six decades since. I’ve missed less than fifty home games since.
In those early years before the move to Freedom Hall in ’57, my parents didn’t have tickets. My father’s company, Cavalier Cravat, was owned by big U of L fans, and often we’d get tickets.
On a day of a game, I’d never know if my parents would be getting seats. And, if they did, if I’d get to go with them. (This was years before any or all the games were on the tube.) So, I’d pray all afternoon after school that indeed I’d get to go. It was my obsession.
I have a memory that my father once promised he and mom would never go to a game without me. Then one evening they did. My poor babysitter could not console me. I stood in the shower (not running) and cried until exhaustion. At Freedom Hall, we had our own tickets.
Because of that early angst, and my obsession, I’ve always been an early arriver. Making sure I’ll be in the gym way before tipoff.
Which I shall be this evening for U of L Cardinal basketball, the one constant great enduring unconditional unequivocal love of my whole life.
— Seedy K