The Century Mark for University of Louisville basketball this weekend.

Nice chronology in the Courier-Journal sports section Friday morning. However, somebody at the CJ missed out on a a golden opportunity. A special section would have attracted many advertisers and subscribers wanting souvenir copies, enriching Gannett’s coffers.

Were U of L to somehow have a happy ending this season, the anniversary would be a great excuse for another book. William F. Reed, no doubt, would exploit still another opportunity, dusting off his typewriter one more time.

The real awakening for the observer Friday, however, was that he had experienced more than half of all U of L’s basketball games since the program was spawned. Focused like a laser on each one. Listening on the radio, watching on TV, or attending in person. Between 1,550 and 1,600 games over 56 years.

A younger observer hooks up with Denny Crum after a second national championship.

Charlie Tyra, Phil Rollins, Westley Unseld, Butch Beard, Junior Bridgeman, Allen Murphy, Philip Bond, Darrell Griffith, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Pervis Ellison, Billy Thompson, Terrence Williams, dozens of other faces. An NIT championship, two NCAA championships. numerous conference championships, cliffhanger wins, heartbreaking losses. The coaching styles of Peck Hickman, John Dromo, Denny Crum, and Rick Pitino.

Going from the Armory to Freedom Hall to the KFC Yum! Center, from the Ohio Valley Conference, to the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Conference, to Conference USA, and finally to the Big East, with the possibility of the Big 12. Quite a trip.

He remembers a younger observer getting misty-eyed as time runs out on the Louisville-Iowa semifinal game at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis in 1980, exhilarating in the realization that U of L would be in the championship game against UCLA. The bus ride back to Naptown the following Monday, waiting in line for a pay phone after the game to call home to share the joy of a national championship.

The observer was working at the Chamber of Commerce at the time, and the officers wanted to do something for the team. Since he was the staunch fan on staff, they looked to him for ideas. He would suggest a good stereo system for the locker room might be appropriate. They liked the idea, the stereo system was acquired, and he was the one to present it to the team, complete with tape recording of “This Is It.” Denny Crum would tell the wide-eyed fan that if he ever needed anything to let him know.

He would go to Dallas in 1986 with his wife (a UK grad and former UK fan) and 10-year-old son (who would later become the Biggest Fan of the Big East), making the trip without any tickets in hand. Picking them up at the front door of the arena for $20 each for the first game, then acquiring tickets for the championship game from LSU fans in an arena restroom after their loss to U of L in the semifinal. The seats weren’t together, but the family would be together, at least in the same place, for an historic game.

After watching the Cards claim a second championship, the family would begin the trek home the same night, losing a pair of binoculars off the top of the car, and looking for a gas station in Arkansas to replace a failing tire in the wee hours of the morning. It was Easter weekend, and Junior would throw up into his Easter basket as they crossed a bridge into Memphis.

Tons of memories we savor from all those years and games, U of L basketball (and football) being such an integral part of the observer’s being.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

5 thoughts on “Big birthday for Louisville basketball”
  1. Great article, Charlie. Was fun watching the women’s game with you yesterday and thanks for the pictures. Maybe Steve threw up in the Easter basket as a way to express his feelings about the quality of the contents…j/k

    Keep observin’, keep truckin’ and carrying around that 80 lb. camera….

  2. I sure enjoy your memories. I can’t remember yesterday. Keep writing these great articles.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Great to hear from you. Those numbers didn’t include baseball, women’s basketball or soccer games by the way. Won’t be too long now before football arrives and it’s going to be fun next season.

  3. Oh Observer, would you claim your greatest achievement in those years, however, would be converting the UK grad and fan you married to a Cards fan??? Go Cards!

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