‘Biggest Fan of the Big East’ Experience

A once in a lifetime experience only comes along, well, not very often.  Such was the situation I found myself in over the past five months.  Thanks to the generosity and philanthropy of Volvo US, I was one of 16 people that got to participate in The Biggest Fan of the Big East contest.  The newly redesigned Naughty S60 was the theme of the crusade and provided me one of the most wonderful sports-related memories, as well as a lifetime memory that transcends basketball, sports, and material things.

Everything began with an e-mail in September with an offer to participate in the program.  They were contacting sports bloggers from the various Big East schools looking for participants.  All they needed was some personal info about my social networking venues, Facebook, twitter, Youtube, etc.  After a little skepticism on my part, I followed through on that request. Next was an offer from them to fly me round trip to the Mecca of college basketball, New York City, to attend Big East Media Day, the preliminary festivity to kick off the men’s basketball season.  Thrown in was an accommodation at the beautiful New Yorker Hotel, practically right across the street from Madison Square Garden.  A day observing the coaches, players, and media in MSG topped the day off.  I got to take my first trip to The Big Apple and see some sights, including the Empire State Building and Times Square.  The city was electric because the ALCS was in town.

The next part of the experience was entitled “My Alma Mater Weekend.”  Each digital influencer received two tickets to one regular season game at their respective schools.  We’re not talking about going to watch the Cards play the Southern New Mexico Sisters of the Poor, though.  They hooked me up with a trip to see arguably the biggest rivalry in college basketball, the Cards versus the Cats.

But, wait.  There’s more.

Volvo put my wife and me up in The Brown Hotel – the most extravagant, historic, luxurious hotel in Louisville and chipped in some spending money to boot.  We wined and dined at Ruth Chris Steakhouse on their dime and treated ourselves to the best steak around.  We toured the city and I got to see people and places dear to me the night before the game.

Still more.

As I mentioned earlier, the contest was premised around their redesigned S60.  We dropped by Volvo of Louisville and picked up a brand new, sleek, all-wheel-drive,  300 horsepower chariot for the weekend.  It is absolutely the finest automobile I have ever had the privilege to drive.  And we toured my city in style.

There have been all sorts of goodies arriving in the mailbox and on the front porch throughout the season so far, as well.  Shirts, hats, pins, even a super-deluxe road safety kit assembled by the folks at Volvo, which is appropriate because they are known worldwide for their exemplary record on safety when it comes to automobiles.

I’ve gotten to write about some interesting topics over the course of the season and have had an engaging experience keeping up with the other bloggers and our competition.  The twitter feeds and other blogs have been a blast to keep up with and really have immersed me even more deeply in the college basketball experience, which I never would have thought was possible.  My wife has even become a bigger basketball fan.  She would follow the Cards with me, but now she tries to keep up with the rest of the conference and the unfolding during the season.  Wonderful sports-related memories all season long.

Trips, prizes, spending monies.  Still not enough for you?

Just when you think I’m wrapping up, there’s still more generosity up their sleeve.  Volvo will be donating $10,000 to the school of the winning blogger.  That’s good for a scholarship for some deserving soul or two out there somewhere.  The top blogger gets a trip to the Big East Tournament in March, as well.  And to top everything off, the winning digital influencer will be the recipient of a brand new Naughty S60.  Pretty sweet, eh?

If you’re still with me and not rushing out to your local Volvo dealer to see how to be a contestant in the future, you still haven’t heard the most personal and touching part of the story.

Last April, my family of six was struck with a tragedy almost overnight that has been our primary focus for almost the last year.  My daughter, Mackenzie, was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, a debilitating, crippling spinal cord infection that left her paralyzed from the chest down.  She went from a bouncy, bubbly, very independent, energetic 8-year-old little girl to a disheartened, frustrated dependent in a wheelchair.  She has been our focus for the last ten months.  My wife has had to provide round-the-clock care for her since they got home from rehab in May, mixed in with a couple of other trips to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital because of relapses.  With my wife as the primary caretaker for her, I have relegated myself to supporting her/them as best I can.  I work all day and my wife travels back and forth to Mackenzie’s school almost hourly for necessary care during the school day.  All of this has put a strain on our finances because my wife has had to postpone her final semester of college and is not able to start her passion, teaching English, as of yet.  I hadn’t been able to treat myself since Mackenzie got sick and my wife strong-armed me into jumping into this contest and insisted that I got to New York in October.  I almost didn’t go, due to feeling guilty for being so far away.

What touched me the most during this experience were not the bright lights of New York City (although still very impressive), the round trip flights, Madison Square Garden, big rivalry games, the luxury sports car, the extravagant accommodations, or even the little plastic gift cards used for per diems. The consideration for my family volunteered by the good folks at Volvo has been the Godsend.  When they offered to send a driver to pick us up for the UL-UK game, I had to explain that we would probably be more comfortable driving up in my own van, due to all the logistics that are involved in traveling with a special needs child and a one year old.  Volvo countered that with an offer for an extra room at the hotel (remember, the nicest hotel in the city-not cheap) so that we could leave the kids in the hands of trusted family members while we experienced my Alma Mater Weekend in the Naughty S60 (it’s got great trunk space, just not enough for our entourage :)).  We could fully enjoy the lavish weekend without having to worry the whole time about the kids.  My daughter loved staying in the hotel, and it was great to see her smiling and enjoying the taste of luxury and seeing loved ones dear to her that she hadn’t seen in a while.

This whole contest has gotten to be a sort of escape for me, and even my family, at times.  That has been the best and most memorable to me.  If I win the car or not, a lifetime of memories, enjoyments, and smiles have been realized throughout the whole experience and because of the generosity of Volvo, I never look at another Volvo again and not get all warm and fuzzy inside.  “Thank you” is nowhere near sufficient.

Author: Steve Springer

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.

62 thoughts on “‘Biggest Fan of the Big East’ Experience”

  1. What an amazing and inspiring story, Steve. Great pictures, too, by the way.

    Here’s hoping you win the car. There is nobody in this contest that deserves it more.

  2. Steve, your articles have been great! Really enjoyed the way you tied in music, cars and good times with the Cards, too. Best of luck in the final days of the contest. And thanks to Volvo, too–pretty neat way to talk up a cool car.

  3. Becky and I (Barbara’s cousin) wish you the best. You guys need a break and the car would be great. Good luck.

  4. Steve, I cannot think of anyone else that deserves this experience and car more! You have always been a true Louisville fan and what you and Cas have been through with your family, you all are truly full of strength and character, and that is what Volvo should have representing them!

  5. Steve! Are praying for all of you. You’ve worked so hard and can’t think of a bigger Cards fan. Good luck! (Barbara’s cousin)

  6. Great article Steve, made feel like I was experiencing it all with you! My thoughts and prayers are with you as this contest comes to an end.

  7. There is only one “biggest fan” and that is Steeeeeeeeeve Springer!!! I mean you gotta get in LINE to hold a candle to him!!! You GO, man!!!

  8. Good luck, Steve! I have enjoyed following your blog. You definitely deserve to win. You are the biggest fan!!!

  9. Great article Steve! Only you and Koby could get a true Cats fan like me to root for the Cards:) I hope you win — you deserve it!

  10. If, Steve is half the fan of the University of Louisville, as I am…he’s the most deserving person to be honored with this title!! Since, I’m not in the running…he has my permission to run away with the opportuinty to win this contest!!! Steve, I will be honored to have you accept my car as a prize!! I’ll write it off on my taxes!! Just kidding, Feds!!! I’m voting for STEVE, the man with the plan!!!! Go Cards and Steve…win that car!!!!! Good Luck!!

  11. Thanks everybody for the support! Like I said, I would love to win, but it feels like I already have because of all the wonderful things so far and the support from Card fans, family, friends, etc!! It’s gonna take me a lifetime to pay everybody back with rides in the S60!:)

  12. When is that Little Sisters of the Poor game again? I”l take a trip to New Mexico if you don’t went to go.

    1. lol, Jim. Not listed on the schedule this year. I can’t remember what year we played them. All I can remember is their coach’s name. What was it… Billy G or something like that? Kind of hazy…

  13. Great writing Stevie. Good luck with your quest to become the Volvo winner. BTW, it’s really ok to admit to the world, your really have a secret love for the, KENTUCKY WILDCATS……!

  14. I wish you all the luck in the world to win this contest. Another great article. Never knew anything about basketball until you joined the family. Now I know there is only one team the U of L Cards and we want them to win! Even more so, we want you to win, You have the passion for your team and the heart for your family! STEVE SPRINGER YOU ARE THE BIGGEST FAN OF THE BIGEAST

  15. Rock on, Steve and if you win…we’ll loan you our staff chimps at CARDINAL COUPLE for a day for garage cleaning for the new ride. (On second thought…maybe this isn’t that great of an idea…)

    Anyway, go kick a$$ and get some…


  16. Steve I can picture you riding proudly to the next UofL game. Top of the world— Family, Sports Fan, “TOP OF THE WORLD WHEELS” IN YOUR vOLVO. Wow!
    You have hung in there strong during the last year, you have always been a dedicated UofL fan. I know because I have known you forever! But not only do you show your dedication for your team—-you show dedication to your family. Casey is an excellent caring Mother (and caregiver to beautiful little Mackenzie), your family consists of your son Koby, who has excelled in all his studies and made his family proud.
    Randy who is quite the scholar, everytime I saw him he was reading another book, soaking up knowledge Move over leaders here he comes! Little dancing Mackenzie that has been sidelined by this terrible sudden disease I predict her determination will one day make the world dance. And lastly little Dominic who may grow into a bigger UofL fan than his Father if that is possible. I know without doubt he will have excellent guidance.
    This dedication to your family and team makes a combination that would do Volvo proud as their representative. If your not the winner of the nAUGHTY vOLVO, THEN IT IS THEIR LOSS! NOBODY cOULD BE MORE DEDICATED

  17. Sherry,
    Thank you for your kind words. I agree about Steve’s dedication to his family, Card fandom, and beyond. Dominic already knows when he hears GO CARDS he yells (in touch down form) TOUCHDOWN! A born fan!

  18. to my husband, QUIT DELETING MY COMMENTS!

    You are correct. Even if we don’t have that gorgeous ride parked in our garage. We still had a great diversion over the past year. I am defintiley more of a sports fan than I have ever been in my ____ years. Wait, isn’t that a sign of the biggest fan…recruiting other fans. You have done that this year. You have even had rival fans rooting for you to win.

    Thanks for letting me be a part of this.

    VOLVO Thanks for helping a rocky year be better!

    1. Volvo definitely has put a positive spin on things for us lately. Sorry about the delete. Never have more eloquent words disappeared from cyberspace.

  19. Great final blog. I so hope you guys win this – you so deserve it. I’m glad you have been able to have fun & enjoy it. You guys are a wonderful christian family that I’m glad I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. Routing for you… Best of Luck!

  20. Steve, like the others have said, this is definitely all you man, I wish you the best of luck, you all were kind enough one semester to take me home, and it meant a lot. So thank you for everything you all have done, I really hope you all win this!

  21. Steve I know you come from good “Cardinal Stock” and you are certainly one the biggest fans I have ever met. Sherry and I wish you all the best and luck in the contest. Volvo and the Big East could not find a better representative than you…

    Joe F.

  22. Well you are on the last days of your challenge. You are the “BIGGEST FAN”. I am glad that Volvo has given you such an experience to enjoy. Wish you the best of luck!!

  23. steve, you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers. my brother on his 43rd birthday (01/09/11) also got tm and he was paralyzed from waist down. we were going out for dinner that night to celebrate his birthday and he was hit by tm and was paralyzed within 30 minutes. he is currently back home now but going through rehab and we hope he will be able to learn how to walk and adapt all over. we are relying on faith that he will walk again. i will be praying for gods healing hands , to heal your daughter and my brother so they will be able to carry on a normal life.

    1. We definitely know what he’s going through Darrell. I am so sorry to hear about him. Our prayers will definitely be with him and your family, too!

  24. Wow, what an exciting and deserved contest you have been able to enjoy the past couple of months…still haven’t converted me over from the Big Blue…but I still wish you well here in the last bit of competition!!!

  25. Great article Steve! You and Casey have put all of yourselves into your family and the care of Kenzie. I know God will bless you tremendously. Thank you for your dedication to your family.

  26. Steve –
    Great read! Checking the vote count, everone needs to get all their family/friends/associates to vote daily for Steve all this, the last, week. We can’t let some St. John’s dude beat him out!

    Go Cards and Go Steve!

  27. Something really weird is going on in the Biggest fan of the Big East balloting. I have watched this every day (often multiple times a day) for weeks now. As you know the race is between our Steve and the St. John’s guy. Strangely, the votes seem to come in huge bunches for only one guy at a time. For example, this morning Steve was behind by about 4,000 votes. Ten hours later he is ahead by almost 10,000 votes. Although this swing is enormous, there have been similar (albeit smaller) swings like this for days now. Doesn’t seem logical to me.

    1. Some fans are obviously getting involved in many different ways. All the contestants can do now is wait and see. The voting, of course, is one facet of the competition. Keep your fingers crossed for Steve, and thanks for your support … and keep sending those good UofL posts, CC.

      1. Will do and thanks Charlie for all the insight you provide the Cardinal faithful. It’s greatly appreciated.

  28. March 4, 2011
    Great article Steve. Good luck to you and your family. Hope you win the trip back to NYC.

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