University of Louisville basketball returns to Indianapolis this weekend, the birthing place of the school’s first national championship, the occasion sparking memories of a climactic visit to the Naptown in 1980. Quite a season, putting a new face on U of L basketball in so many ways:
- Card gear was scarce, almost impossible to find, even at the UofL book store. Everybody wore the same stuff because of this. Fans considered themselves lucky if they could find a T-shirt at Bacon’s or Ben Snyder’s department stores. Not much variety in Card wear at games; everybody wearing the same thing. The trip to the Final Four changed all that, with the downtown Stewart’s actually offering UofL shirts for the first time in its long history. The variety of gear to be found these days a wonder to longtime fans.
- The C-A-R-D-S cheer was originated by a young man named Rob Hickerson. Stepping out of anonymity in the upper reaches of the southeast corner of Freedom Hall, challenging people, getting them off their posteriors. Hickerson could not sit still, running up and down the aisles, jumping over rails, inventing a new sign language, finally getting fellow fans involved. The Hall would never be the same. Rob is still around, still waiting for some spontaneity, but still doing his thing, just not as often.
- Louisville fans started filling up Freedom Hall. Gone from a few seasons before were the huge dark areas of unfilled seats behind the baskets. Still one had a good choice of seats, as the observer did, often taking advantage of free press passes provided by George Rorrer, then sports information director. But the observer preferred being a fan, getting away from the know-it-alls at the press table. Plenty of seats to choose from at the time but they would become extremely scarce after the national championship.
- I remember driving around Louisville the day before the Final Four, looking for signs of support. About the only evidence of anything unusual was one on the marquee at a Kentucky Fried Chicken on Preston Street. Car flags hadn’t even been conceived yet, nor had UofL license plates. Bumper stickers prevailed, and there were far too many blue ones.
- Got better on the way to Indianapolis, with vehicles adorned in all sorts of ways. Mine? A felt Cardinal Bird taped to the car radio antenna.
- Things were about to change.
Got any memories of those days? Share them here.