Steve Springer is a lifelong University of Louisville fan and is officially "The Biggest Fan of the Big East." He graduated from Eastern High School, attended the University of Louisville, and finished his BS at Murray State University. He earned the honor of the conference's biggest fan in a contest sponsored by Volvo during the 2010-11 basketball season.
Expectations were getting a little inflated, what with all the recent comebacks and skin-of-the-teeth wins. No matter what Rick Pitino may say about hating to lose.
Louisville’s 62-59 loss at Georgetown providing a touch of reality, putting those frenetic basketball wins in perspective. UofL has been beating teams with better talent, outplaying them, not playing better than them, but somehow beating them.
Came close to doing it again Monday, against a team hitting 74% of its shots in the second half. Playing a top 15 team in its own house a second time in three days.
Even with Peyton Siva turning the ball over eight times and almost completely locked out of the lane for anything resembling one of those miraculous layups.
And when has Preston Knowles ever missed three straight shots on one possession? Â Especially with a game on the line. When was the last time UofL rebounded four straight times on the same possession?
Terrence Jennings, tired of being written off, grabbing seven rebounds while achieving a career-high 18 points. He may not have game, but he’s a gamer lately.
Pitino, however, takes losing personally and his players will feel the pain the rest of the week.
Watching a Big East basketball game is a great experience, whether in person or on TV. The sights and sounds of a collegiate game day in a huge arena can reward a fan with a lifetime of memories. But why limit oneself to only two senses. There can be more to it than that. Much more.
A diehard fan of Big East Basketball participates in the game day activities inside the arena, but doesn’t limit oneself to just watching one’s team fly up and down the floor, basking in the cheers, chants, whistles, and squeaking of hightops on the hardwood. There are three other senses that can indulge the fan into making the most out of the experience.
Tailgating is an excellent way to dive into the tastes and smells of college football.Â It’s not, however, ideal during basketball season, at least not traditionally.Â The majority of the Big East hoops season falls during the cold winter months, with many of the schools located in the bitterly cold Northeast. We can’t all have home games in sunny Tampa, Florida like the Bulls do. So the rest of us are forced to find good grub and spirits indoors. The following is an attempt to narrow the best post game and late-night dining establishments in Louisville into a top five as we slide behind the wheel of a Naughty Volvo S60:
Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe— There’s no other restaurant in the world that represents a team better than the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe represents the University of Louisville.Â The restaurant resides in the shadow of the nicest on-campus stadium in the country, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Stepping into the restaurant you are surrounded by reminders of Cardinal greatness, with your feet traversing the Walk of Fame, consisting of tiles that display the name, sport, years played, and induction year of the finest athletes in the school’s history. The entryway includes dozens of trophies, jerseys, balls, and all sorts of memorabilia. On one wall is a giant mural featuring the likenesses of Darrell Griffith, Wes Unseld, Pervis Ellison, Howard Schnellenberger, and of course, Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum, amongst many others. Quite the nostalgic feeling, having a two-time championship coach, Fiesta Bowl winning coach, and hardwood and pigskin giants along with the steaks, pizza, seafood, and everything else on an eclectic menu. A literal sensory overload of everything Cardinal.
Dennyâ€™s Restaurant — What collegiate midnight munchies marathon would be complete without the world famous Grand Slam Breakfast from the Dennyâ€™s on Eastern Parkway?Â After a game’s worth of seven dollar beers at the arena, partying your tail off celebrating a hard-earned Big East victory and yet more brew, you could be celebrating into the wee hours of the morning and quickly approaching the break of dawn. Denny’s would be the destination of choice, as long as all the other breakfast places aren’t open yet. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, French toast- easy on the wallet, but not the arteries.
Papa John’s — A dedicated UofL fan will always find a way to support his school, even when it’s satisfying late night hunger. What better way to accomplish that than patronizing one of UofL’s largest contributors? Papa John Schnatter of Louisville started his worldwide pizza chain in Louisville in the closet of his father’s business and it grew into the best pizza chain in the world. He drops major coinage on UofL whenever possible, contributing to many different athletic facilities/events, scholarships, and to top it off, he donated so much to the construction of the football stadium that he earned the naming rights, thus Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. He really represents the spirit of generosity and a true Cardinal fan always stops by Papa’s when craving a pizza.
Granville Inn — A unique local spot on our dining tour would be the Granville Inn on Third Street, just off the campus. The atmosphere on game day during the season is electric.Â The party is always rocking here after a victory and they have the best burger in town.Â It combines an historic look (1930’s) with the contemporary sounds of college bands and music, partying the night away after a big win over rival West Virginia, or a blowout of Cincinnati. Jessica, the day manager, has been a UofL fan her entire life, and her being revolves around keeping them full and happy, after wins and losses.
White Castle — Finally, at any time of night after a game, no matter how tired, wasted, hungover, almost broke you are, there’s always White Castle. The mini hamburgers are available 24 hours a day, which is great because some people’s hunger is available 24 hours a day, or especially after late night celebrations.Â The hamburgers aren’t too bad if you can fill up on a couple (not likely). But after about five or six, they all start to taste the same and really just serve the purpose of filling your gullet instead of pleasing your tastebuds.Â One caveat, however. They do have a drive thru, but the smell and the grease that permeates the bag, your clothes, everything, should not be allowed into the luxurious cabin of the Naughty S60. Put them in the trunk, on the roof, whatever you have to do to keep from soiling the leather.
We’ve covered four of the five senses, leaving only the sense of touch. What better way to cap off the full sensory experience than by feeling the quiet rumble of the 300 horsepower engine throw you back in your seat as you race to get that pizza back to your dorm room or wherever you call home before it gets cold, or as you hug the turns with the all wheel drive suspension to make sure you get those burgers out of the trunk before the smell of onions and fries drown out that new car smell. Combine the Naughty S60 and any (or all if you dare) of these dining experiences to make your late night driving and dining course really special.
Big name basketball school rolls into town, selling out the Dunkin Donuts Center for the first time this season. The alums wanting to see their old coach Rick Pitino, the basketball knowledgeable excited about the University of Louisville coming to town.
Providence having lost 17 conference games in a row. Louisville exceeding expectations, with the injuries mounting.
Providence needing some of that magic.
Adrenalin pumping stuff.
A break here, another there. Keep it close, take care of the ball, draw the home court fouls, hit a few threes, who knows?
The heady stuff of the past two games, the Miracle on Main and the blowout of St. John’s still dancing around in their heads of UofL players as tip off looms, no denying. The law of averages destined to even out for an injury-riddled, three-point-shooting team winning against difficult odds.
Breaks always seem to go the other way on the road.
Like St. John’s basketball hasn’t been a joke for most of the last decade.
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How does a college basketball team have 10 seniors in this day and age? Did St. John’s skip basketball for a year? There is only one junior listed on the roster. How did the school get around the five-three rule over two years that existed until three years ago.
Did they skip a season or what? A exhaustive search of the sophisticated and all-knowing New York media sites provided no insight.
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UofL’s Elisha Justice played 83 consecutive minutes without a turnover until committing one against Marquette. His last turnover before that was Dec. 1 against Florida International.
George Goode had seven points and a season high six rebounds against Marquette.
Over the last seven games, Chris Smith has made 57.9 percent of his field goal attempts (33 of 57) and 46.7 percent of his three-point shots (7 of 15). He leads the Big East Conference in three-point shooting, hitting 48 percent of his shots in 17 games.
By Steve Springer
Contestant, Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East Contest
Living three hours away from my favorite team is a burden many times. I don’t get to many games, much less have the luxury of season tickets.Â But there is a silver-lining, eternally optimistic way of looking at it, however. When I do get to go, it makes for an extra special time. And what’s the best part of a special time? The road trip.
An enjoyable road trip is never complete without a good vehicle, good weather, good company, and great tunes. Everybody has their own musical tastes and reasons for why they select the songs that they do on a road trip. My hypothetical road trip to my hometown to see the Louisville Cardinals play the University of Whoever is quite eclectic and quite unique. Included are various songs that are collectively special to the whole UofL fan base, and then there are a couple of ditties that are sentimental to me personally, evolved from years of support of my team. Below are the top five songs that I would jam out to cruising the Western Kentucky Parkway en route from Murray to The Ville for Big East Basketball:
(1)What road trip back to your hometown would be complete without the ultimate homecoming soundtrack Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home. The hair band ballad from the eighties is always a favorite when heading back to Louisville after a long hiatus. You know the tune, but just in case you haven’t heard it in a while:
(2) In 2009, UofL swept both the Big East regular season title and the Big East Conference Tournament title on the way to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. That was a magical couple of weeks, even though it didn’t end up in a Final Four run. One clever UofL fan compiled a highlight video of the season accompanied by the tune of Kevin Rudolf’s Let It Rock. That video compilation was special and very appropriate for that time. Whenever I hear the song, I think of the video, and it reminds me of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark dunking all over people that season and that March.
(3) Louisville’s first NCAA Championship came in March 1980. That was a special time for the school, the fans, and the city. I’m sure you’ve had songs that seem to cement themselves as a universal theme for a particular event. When the tragedy of 9/11 happened, a couple of songs came to mind, such as Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA or God Bless America played in the 7th Inning Stretch at Yankee Stadium.Â The song that fills in the blank for this era of UofL Basketball is Kenny Loggins’ This Is It. I get goosebumps thinking back to some of my earliest childhood memories when I hear this song and remember UofL winning it all for the first time:
(4)Another personal UofL song favorite is one that preceded the UofL-Kentucky game in 2003. That was the year that a freshman named Francisco Garcia kick-started his way to becoming one of the greatest players in team history, dropping daggers on the blue team. UofL won that game and I’ll never forget the Big Game look on Garcia’s face during the intro song, Emine’s Lose Yourself. Yes, its worn out now, but you still hear it all over the land in sporting venues before big games:
(5) Finally, not just a song makes this road trip complete. The ultimate road trip back to The Ville would have to be behind the wheel of Volvo’s new 300 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, Naughty S60. And what tune would be more appropriate in that car than Sexsie Volvo, with the greatest sound system ever designed and engineered for an automobile?
This Louisville fan just can’t wait to get behind the wheel of another Volvo S60, and on the road again.