By Paul Sykes
Wear the gear and people will comment. We recently went on a “mini-vacation” to Nashville and Gatlinburg…a chance to relax, get away from it all and enjoy the splendor of the Great Smokies. I packed several Cardinal hats and shirts and proudly wore the colors as we toured.
More than ever, total strangers were coming up to me out of the blue to discuss University of Louisville sports. I heard several positive comments about Lady Cards hoops, the baseball team and the prospects of Earl Clark and T-Will in the NBA draft. An Atlanta resident informed me she was so happy that Angel McCoughtry was playing for the Atlanta Dream.
One young man, wearing a questionable pink University of Kentucky baseball cap, assured me that UK would sweep football and basketball this year. I laughed good-naturedly and commented that he looked good in pink, which drew the laughter of his sidekicks and produced a scowl and verbal obscenity from him as he slinked off.
A young lady later that evening, sporting a John Calipari T-shirt, smugly informed me “those Cardinals weren’t no damn good.” I chuckled and offered her a couple of dollars to take off the Calipari shirt and let me use it to clean off the table where we were sitting.
We were in an English pub on the outskirts of Gatlinburg, sampling some very tasty porters and stouts, when the proprietor of the pub walked over to our table, grinning broadly and informed me he was a transplanted Cardinal and bought our next round. Discussion turned eventually to the prospects of the football team. “Joe” isn’t a candidate to start the Gatlinburg Steve Kragthorpe fan club, believe me. If you read this, Joe, remember Sonja’s motto: Love the players, love the game.
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Minutes later, the news flashed about Michael Jackson. For the rest of the night, the sudden death of the “King of Pop” was the buzz of the city.Â The band playing in the bar even played a nicely done four or five-song tribute to the icon. Say what you will about the headline grabbing Mr. Jackson, “Rock With You” and “She’s Out of My Life” are two songs that will always bring back the memories of the beginnings of my life long love affair with the cagey lady who shyly agreed to go out on a date with me over 3o years ago.
The album “Off The Wall” was released in 1979 and several months later,Â UofL won its first National Championship in basketball. It’s the only Jackson recording I’ve ever bought. I’ve even owned it in eight-track, cassette and CD.Â Good times.