December 8, 1952.
My first U of L Cardinals basketball game.
Jefferson County Armory.
Louisville 89, Purdue 85.
My parents said they were taking me to a basketball game.
How could I have known it would be the beginning of a lifetime love affair?
The singular lifelong love of my existence.
Of course there have been others. Only the Joanly, my ex-. Our rescue beagle, Abbey, the Sad Eyed Lady of the Highlands. New Orleans JazzFest.
But none for my whole long time here on earth.
I was 7 years old. You can do the math.
As I have often written, I fell immediately for the lights, action, “Let’s Go U of L”, excitement of what immediately became my favorite sport.
My favorite thing.
The wonderment: Like why did the action stop, and a guy get to stand by himself and shoot at the basket while the others watched.
At the time, my dad was office manager for Cavalier Cravat, a mens neckwear manufacturer on Floyd Street near the Belknap Campus. The owners were big supporters of the Cardinals, and had a season box mid-court close to the action.
Often they let my dad use the tickets.
Game days were sacred. And scary.
I never knew whether he’d get them. I would worry all afternoon after school, would he get tickets, would I get to go to the game?
I have a recollection, that realizing my obsession, my folks once promised they’d never go to a game without me. Then one night they did. I spent most of the evening standing in the shower stall crying, while my baby sitter tried to calm me down.
When Louisville moved to Freedom Hall in the mid 60s, my parents got their own season tickets. And I’d come along. Convenient Food Marts had a thing where for one buck a kid under 13 got in every game.
I’d sit in the top row of the relatively empty arena with my friend Koz. His parents had seats next to mine.
In high school, I’d be there with The Professor.
In college and beyond, I’d negotiate my way past Gate Master Harry Bockman, and sit with a gang in the student section. Eventually getting season tickets, the first also in the top row of the then more full Freedom Hall.
OK enough of the trivial details. (On this anniversary they have come roaring back as my fingers hit the keys.)
The point: I’m a lifer.
Let me pause here for a moment. Acknowledge that I’ve written all this before many times over. Ad nauseum some might offer.
But, given the current state of Cardinal hoops, I felt it important to pledge my troth once again. To share I continue to be there for the Cardinals, as I have through thick and thin, sickness and health, whether richer or poorer.
As hard as it is to do. Despite a wavering moment last weekend.
Walking into the Yum! this season has become painful.
My heart aches.
Longs for any positive sign to give reason to smile.
But, like the Dude, I abide.
Give thanks on this day to Arthur and Sara Kaplan for the great gift they game me that first night.
Knowing it’s too late to stop now.
— c d kaplan