Football is now the soul of America, the representation of its character.
Football. Endemic to our consciousness, encased with a filigree of pageantry, argumentative, brutish, the recreational predilection of a combat-prone nation not long past puberty inclined to settle matters by force. The sport’s bruising skirmishes commencing face to face, inches apart, Gettysburg on the gridiron.
We herald the warriors, extol the virtues of their courage. With valor comes victory. Flags wave. Trumpets sound. Drums beat. Hail, hail alma mater.
So has it evolved that autumn Saturdays have become the featured stage, full with trappings and traditions. Regardless of any other communal intent, when the stakes of the game are raised, we are swept up by the allure, swallowed in its maw.
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So it has come to pass as many thought it inevitably would that football, if only for this one shining moment, has become our burg’s conscience.
On this the third Saturday of College Football 2016, the eyes of the denizens of the pigskin universe are trained on our town. More famous for speedy spindly-legged thoroughbreds, more inclined to imbibe in mint juleps and beaten biscuits than brats and beer, our hoops addicted populace, stamped now with the imprimatur of significance, has turned over under sideways down for University of Louisville football.
Lee Corso, the first visionary who set the stage 47 seasons gone, shall be here and provide anointment.
Let it be said. Let it be done.
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Coming a decade and a half after Corso first provided a hint of the possibilities, Howard Schnellenberger invoked providence. He proclaimed there to be a Collison Course to prominence.
It was never to be a straight shot, a Don “Big Daddy” Garlits Monster Jam, fuel-injected oil-spewing funny cars blasting down a quarter mile black top to a quick finish.
Given where Louisville Cardinal football was a half century ago, literally on the brink of extinction, the pathway was always destined to be a circuitous route to the upper echelon, a serpentine course of twists, dips, spin outs, blown gaskets, hope and heartbreak.
Dead ahead this weekend for the redlining Cardinals is another chicane, a narrowing turn, fraught with peril yet navigable.
So yes it has come to this.
The World Wide Leader has stamped its seal of approval on University of Louisville football. The sacrament, former Cardinal coach, former Seminole player Lee Corso presiding, shall be bestowed this Saturday.
“Game Day,” America’s modern day three ring Barnum & Bailey, has come to town.
On an autumn Saturday when traditional powers of the sport collide — Alabama vs. Ole Miss, Michigan State vs. Notre Dame, Ohio State (8 national championships, 7 Heisman winners) vs. Oklahoma (7 national titles, 5 Heismans) — the center of the pigskin universe will not be the familiar, Norman or South Bend or Oxford.
Derbytown. Muhammed Ali’s town. Pee Wee Reese’s town. The home of national basketball champions. Now, the epicenter of college pigskin.
The variable of time ever a factor, the clock stops for a pause High Noon Saturday at Papa J’s.
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Thus there is conjecture.
Cardinal pigskin’s biggest home game ever?
U of L’s biggest football game anywhere ever?
Yes. Probably. Maybe. Perhaps.
What Louisville football fans should aspire to is that this for now and ever after becomes routine. That stands full of fans in their seats before kickoff on Big Game Saturdays morphs to the norm. That we are routinely on Paul Finebaum’s lips, that stature at the top of the ladder will be secure, that we won’t have to wonder is this or that the biggest game in the program’s history.
That when Lamar Jackson moves on the NFL like Teddy B before him, the nation will be extolling the virtues of Jawon Pass, wondering how Louisville, where the fabled John Unitas once played, truly became QB U.?
Yes this is big. The town is in a tizzy. As the Cardinals downshift to careen around the next severe corner in their quest for a crown, fans are pumped to the max, blood pressure rising.
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Despite the long and winding road U of L football has taken to this Saturday’s game, it in a way seems rushed.
Of course expectations were high before the season. For the team. For Lamar Jackson. But few of even the most optimistic fans expected the Cards to become the nation’s IT team by Week III. Or for LJ to hurdle his way into the Heisman conversation so soon, to be the Flavor of the Month.
But here it is.
Hopefully for victory, for future memories of the Saturday with the whole world watching that U of L football cleared the last corner and headed down the stretch for the collision The Schnell claimed was destiny.
— Seedy K