Dream Game At The Sykes

By Sonja Sykes

I’ve slowly come to the realization that I am the only Cardinal fan over 45 that wasn’t in Knoxville Coliseum back in 1983. Maybe I can get some props for my attendance in 1980 at Market Square Arena to see the Cards win it all. I was eight months pregnant at the time, had to pee the entire second half and almost marched down several rows with full intent to cuff a loudmouth UCLA fan whose mama would have been very upset about the language he was using.

We were there in Nashville in 1982, to see the ‘almost’ dream game between the University of Louisville and Middle Tennessee.  Way before cell phones, I-PODS and laptops…I stood in line at halftime to call my mom and see how my two year old Angela was feeling, talked to her and got a incoherent lecture from a drunk Cardinal fan behind me in line that pay phones were for people who had pressing business and not to coo over the phone to their daughter.  If I’d had a gun, I would have shot him. Instead, I looked him squarely in the eyes and told him to place a certain part of his anatomy in a very unnatural and probably uncomfortable part of his body. Even Paul was shocked.

‘I still believe to this day
that it was that
evening/early morning
that was the conception date
of my youngest daughter …’

When it was determined that the Cards would, in fact, actually meet the Cats in Knoxville in 1983…we went to work to obtain tickets. That search ended a day later when Paul informed me he had to work a half day that day, no way to get out of it and he encouraged me to make the trip anyway. I declined. Back then, I was less inclined to enter into away and neutral venues without the big guy riding shotgun.  We accepted an invitation to attend a “Dream Game” party and kids were welcome, too.

I made a dish to take to the party that morning, don’t remember what I concocted…but I used to make a pretty tasty lima bean casserole back then. Paul’s buddy Bob phoned from his apartment, from the party waiting for us to arrive. Angela and I were waiting impatiently on the couch when the big guy got home. Practically changed his clothes for him and shooed him out to the car.  He revealed to me on the drive over that he’d stopped briefly after work to have a pregame drink with a few co-workers. If looks were daggers, he’d been terminated on the spot.

The party was warming up when we arrived. It seemed Cardinal fans were gravitating to the basement TV, and the Cat clan had dibs on the living room console. Fair enough, we had the keg. They had the food. Paul’s buddy Bob..who had hair back then and resembled a young Jimmy Buffett, was already more than tipsy and planted a kiss on me that would have had us legally engaged in some areas.  He then proceeded to sit in my lap and bemoan the fact he couldn’t find the “right” woman.

Paul was nowhere to be found (He told me later he had been upstairs antagonizing the Big Blue faithful and sampling without consent a Big Blue backer’s bourbon from the kitchen.) We watched the pregame hoopla, and Bob fell asleep on my shoulder, drooling just like my daughter. Somewhere the photos probably still exist of a dozing Bob wearing a UK cap and hastily scrawled sign across his chest reading: “GO WILDCATS!! DENNY IS A BUM.”

Finally, tip off. Most of you know how the game went, Master’s lucky basket and the incredible Cardinal overtime domination. We shouted, groaned, exchanged cheers with the folks upstairs and Bob and Paul danced around the room as if they were on the court themselves. My daughter Angela played contentedly with a couple of Big Blue kids in one of the bedrooms…unaware of the war that raged outside that door.

When the Cards went up by six, Bob and Paul exchanged flying ‘high fives’ that sent both of them sprawling back to the seats of their pants on the carpeted basement floor. If only You Tube had been around back then. Our hosts, with mixed school loyalties, cracked bottles of champagne for us right after the final buzzer. She beamed happily and he forced a rueful grin.

After the contest, the Cards fans celebrated with giddy glee and we eventually extended good sportsmanship condolences to the UK fans that were still there. The afternoon eventually drifted into a calm, laid back evening…a happy ride home and I still believe to this day that it was that evening/early morning that was the conception date of my youngest daughter Rachel.

And, I’m pretty sure Bob wasn’t there.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

His final high school game was a memorable one for Jerry Smith. It would be the last time he would play for his coach and dad, Jerry Smith, Sr., at Wauwatosa East High, notching 46 points that night, just one point shy of the school’s single-game scoring record.jerry.jpeg

Smith scored 31 points in the first half of his final game, eventually raising his total to 46 with a three-pointer. That’s when it happened, the injury, fracturing a bone in his right foot. That would be the final prep game for Smith, a two-time Wisconsin All-State guard. No more games for Jerry, no chance of a state championship for Wauwatosa East.

Should come as no surprise to Card fans that Smith was injured while playing defense. Smith is relentless on that side of the ball, challenging his man’s every dribble, pass, and shot, making his role in a 2-3 zone resemble man-to-man coverage. Watch him play D against Georgetown. He’s all business, a great role model and pure inspiration for reserve Preston Knowles.

David Padgett, getting most of his shots around the basket, has a higher shooting percentage. But Jerry Smith is the Cards’ best shooter, hitting 47 percent of his field goal attempts and 39 percent from the three-point line. He is also hitting 77 percent of his free throw shots. No anxiety for fans or coaches when Jerry takes a shot, he rarely takes a bad one. If he’s open, the opposition is in trouble.

Smith does all he does so effortlessly, so smoothly that he often goes unnoticed. Just contributes in every way imaginable.

South Florida Mirage

Louisville fans can be forgiven if they relax against South Florida. The Bulls have been down so long it’s hard to remember if they were ever a serious basketball threat. USF is trudging along with 10-9 won-lost record and is mired in a five-game losing streak.

But Cardinal fanatics should know better by now. This team can’t let up against anyone, not at home, not on the road. This South Florida team was very much in the game at Seton Hall last Thursday before finally succumbing by 10 points. Highlights include a win over Florida State 68-67 at Tallahassee and a 23-point spanking of Rutgers at Tampa.

The Bulls are backed into a corner, trying to salvage their season. They view the U of L game as an opportunity to salvage their manhood, ala Seton Hall. USF has a balanced scoring attack, with four players averaging double figures. They are led by 6-foot-9 Kentrell Gransberry with 16.9 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Their rowdy fans have always hated anything U of L, often taunting coaches and players on the bench. This is not a team to be overlooked or pitied.

* * *

Anyone else needing a college football fix? News from the Schnellenger Complex is that the Spring Scrimmage has been set for April 19th. By the way, football signing day is February 6th.

View From The Valley

U of L looked like a team to be reckoned with in the Marquette win. Persistence on defense. Patience on offense. Brimming with confidence, surely headed back to the top 25.

The Cards didn’t play that badly in the loss to Seton Hall, at least not until the final four minutes. From that point on, they suddenly couldn’t pass, shoot or play defense. Ran out of gas, lost their poise, rolled over and died.

Seton Hall, meanwhile, was playing the game of its life, buoyed by the prospect of beating what their coach described as a “legendary program.” The Pirate fans were pumped, on the verge of hysteria, at the prospect of pulling off the big upset. The players and fans were feeding off on each other. Hazell who? Just throw the ball up from anywhere, that’s who. Crazy stuff.

It’s a game U of L players and fans won’t soon forget. A letdown was inevitable after Marquette, even though it didn’t become obvious until the fatal four minute mark. May be fortunate that such a loss comes early in conference competition. Need to get a chip on the shoulder, and keep it there. Can’t take anything for granted when every game against the Cards means so much to every opponent.