Biggest Fan

Editor’s Note: During the 2010-11 college basketball season, Volvo sponsored the Biggest Fan of the Big East Contest, the Big East then the premier hoops conference in the nation. The company engaged fans from 16 conference cities in a five-month competition, utilizing social media, including team blog sites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and fan polls. Steve Springer represented Card Game and was named the national winner in March, winning a Volvo S60, a trip to Madison Square Garden for the the Big East championship game, and a $10,000 contribution to the University of Louisville. This page includes news stories and many of Steve’s competitive entries:

Louisville celebrates Biggest Fan of the Big East

Patti Swope joins Steve Springer in flashing the “L” sign during the presentation ceremonies at Volvo of Louisville in a gathering of University of Louisville supporters and friends.

May 20, 2011 — New York had its celebration at center court of Madison Square Garden in March. Tuesday was Louisville’s turn.

Steve Springer, theBiggest Fan of the Big East, was in town again Tuesday, traveling the 225 miles from Murray in his Volvo S60 to a celebration in his honor at Volvo of Louisville.

Patti Swope was there, as were her cousin Dick Swope, CEO of the Sam Swope Auto Group, University of Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz, and Ann Coffey of the U of L Advancement Office. There to honor Steve, a fierce competitor who beat out contestants from 15 other Big East cities in the Volvo-sponsored contest that ran from October through March.

Dick Swope, chief executive officer of the Swope Auto Group, prepares to present the ceremonial keys to Springer.

Accepting the check from the Volvo Corporation were Ann Coffey, of the U of L Advancement Office and Jeff Walz, U of L women’s basketball coach. Steve Springer and Dick Swope make the presentation.

And of course the observer, Charlie Springer, wanted to be among those celebrating a once in a lifetime event involving his son.

All Cards fans here, no doubt about it. The Swopes assuring themselves of the observer’s continued business, his having purchased his last six vehicles from those folks.

The winner soaks it all in, preparing to drive off in his Volvo S60, still thankful for all the support from University of Louisville fans during the contest.


Big East winner claims grand prize

Steve Springer, winner of Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East Contest, does a high five with the observer, celebrating his brand new 2012 Volvo S60 after signing the papers at Volvo of Louisville Saturday afternoon. Steve was declared the winner in March after a six-month contest, competing with bloggers from 15 other Big East cities. He gave credit to all the University of Louisville fans who voted for him in the fan poll, followed him on Twitter and Facebook, and made comments to his posts on Card Game.
The Biggest Fan of the Big East accepts congratulations from his dad, the Observer (aka Charlie Springer), after allowing the old man to take a drive in the dream car. Perhaps the best news of all, beside the wonder of riding in such a vehicle, is that it comes with a five-year warranty that covers any and every possible repair from the motor to the windshield wipers, except for tires.

Thanks again, U of L fans, from Steve and the Observer. It would have never been possible without your tremendous support. What a country. What a fan base.

Card Game’s Steve Springer Biggest Fan of the Big East







New York, NY – March 8, 2011 – The BIG EAST Conference and Volvo Cars of North America today announced that Steve Springer has won the title of Biggest Fan of the BIG EAST, after a season-long competition sponsored by Volvo as part of its partnership with the college basketball conference. The judges from Volvo, the BIG EAST and IMG College cited his engaging blog posts, compelling videos, which included an appearance on his local CBS affiliate, and sharing across his social networks as key reasons for his win. Steve also won the season long, public Volvo Fan Poll hosted on

Steve, who wrote blog posts for, will receive an all-expenses paid trip to New York for the Big East Championship tournament, which starts today. Volvo will also donate $10,000 to Steve’s alma mater as part of the prize package.

This unique Big East basketball sponsorship engaged alumni who are “social media influencers” from each of The BIG EAST’s 16 member institutions. A selected representative from each university attended BIG EAST Basketball Media Day in New York City on October 20th to officially launch the promotional campaign for his/her school. Following the event, each school representative was challenged to write bi-monthly posts and to gain votes on the fan poll on a custom micro-site,, throughout the upcoming basketball season. Each of the 16 alums were awarded a weekend back at their alma maters, where they drove the all-new Volvo S60 around campus throughout their stay. Officials of The BIG EAST and IMG College monitored each representative’s postings over the four-month period, and selected Steve Springer.

To date, there are nearly 100MM estimated impressions related to this campaign, based on the combined coverage from the social media influencers as well as press and bloggers.

The partnership between Volvo and The BIG EAST is managed by IMG College, a division of IMG Worldwide, the exclusive multimedia rights holder for the conference. Volvo media agencies of record MPG and Media Contacts, social media agency Cake Group, and Volvo’s digital agency of record Euro 4D, all part of Havas Media ( <>), are handling traditional, digital and social media responsibilities for the campaign.

”It has been an amazing promotion. Our hats off to all the influencers, whose amazing contributions surpassed our wildest dreams for the competition. They made this a very difficult choice. We’re very proud of them for the work they put in and their support of their schools, Volvo and the Big East,” said Rick Bryant, Vice President, Northeast Region, Volvo Cars of North America.

At Madison Square Garden in March, Volvo’s presence will include exposure with tower banners outside the building, courtside signage, LED ribbon board and center-hung scoreboard promotions within the “world’s most famous arena.” Volvo will also be a featured sponsor of the national radio broadcasts of The 2011 BIG EAST Championship on the BIG EAST IMG College radio network.

Contest Entries

Oct. 19, 2010

Big East basketball, media & the Big Apple

Basketball around the corner. Coaches convening.

As a competitor in the Biggest Fan of the Big East contest, Steve Springer has accepted an invitation and is en route to New York to participate in the Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. The Big East basketball coaches will meet, greet, eat and discuss the outlook for the upcoming season.

He will be keeping an eye on Rick Pitino, of course, sharing our impressions of the Louisville coach’s interactions with other coaches, players and the national media, making posts and taking photos — as well as sending tweets on his Twitter account and making Facebook posts.

Steve is competing against contestants from 15 other Big East markets, working with the Cake Group, a British-owned and operated company in Manhattan. The company will unveil a new web site soon, sponsored by Volvo USA and the naughty Volvo S60.

Oct. 20, 2010

Big East summit at the Mecca

MSG, Mecca of world basketball

Once again Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of college basketball, was where to be Wednesday. Card Game was there to observe some of the goings-on.

Outside, a dusty, cluttered mess of construction barriers and rusty scaffolding, the usual throngs of New Yorkers. Inside, the hectic scene of hustling, bustling legendary and rising coaches, crazily coordinating SID’s, and stoic AD’s for the 2010 version of the Big East’s Media Day for men’s basketball.

Shoulder to shoulder with coaching giants Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, and Bobby Huggins. Eye to eye with up and comers Jay Wright and Jamie Dixon. Giving the nod to Kevin Willard and Mick Cronin in the early stages of their careers.

To quote Obiwan Kinobi of Star Wars, “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” But since John Calipari doesn’t coach in the Big East, we have to reword to make it appropriate for today. “You will never find a busier hive of mentors and expertise.”

Though the hustle and bustle of coaches, players, sports personalities, cameramen, reporters, and SID’s made the scene very busy, everyone was at ease with each other, making for a great event. Â There were a couple of anomalies, however.

The Godfather in a light brown suit with a pink shirt? Huggy Bear in black pinstripes with a double-breasted vest? What is this, Bizarro World? Gene Keady? What the heck is he doing here? Steve Lavin? This isn’t a halftime broadcast.

A lot of things have transpired since the end of last season: Willard, a Pitino protege, taking over at Seton Hall. Lavin leaving the broadcast booth for the St. John’s sideline, and Keady back in the game as Lavin’s assistant. Calhoun and UConn coming under fire.

Finally, Card Game was treated lavishly by the good folks at Volvo and Cake Group New York, using the Big East as a chance to market their new sporty sedan, the naughty S60, boasting 300 turbocharged horsepower in a car comparable in size to an Accord or Camry. Hotel room in the heart of the city, just across the street from The Garden, and a few scant blocks from Times Square and the Empire State Building. Thanks guys.

Check back for additional insights from BE Media Day.

Oct. 20, 2010

UofL scraps from Big East media feast

To appease your appetite while waiting for the hoops season, a few morsels and scraps from Rick Pitino on Louisville basketball and other topics (in a disturbingly random order):

  • Really hopes that Villanova picks up football, and is glad to be in the Big East because football drives the bus in all the rest of the major conferences.
  • We have heard almost every year that he’s going to have the Cards running a fast tempo, then come conference play, a big helping of 2-3 zone, with some press sprinkled here and there. He is more adamant than usual because he’s trying to give this team an identity and he doesn’t have much of a choice, anyway. Says its going to take depth and courage.
  • He kept using the term, the whole is greater than the sum. Says this team needs a gimmick, like his Providence Final Four team did, and the fast pressing tempo will be it.
  • The coaches have installed a hypothetical 20 second shot clock for the team, and they have 3-4 seconds to get the ball over the mid-court line.
  • Still on good terms with Terry Meiners, even after the rumored falling out between the radio jock and the UofL AD’s office. “Terry’s one of my very best friends.”
  • Confirmed that he is not doing a TV show this year; feels they’re worn out and didn’t like how the variety show ended up turning out.
  • Mike Marra hasn’t had a good Italian meal since leaving Rhode Island.
  • Leaving Freedom Hall is like what it would be to Leave Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.
  • Thinks Cincinnati is picked too low (12th in the Big East coaches poll).
  • Kevin Willard will get it done at Seton Hall because he is a tireless worker and “cut from the same cloth as Billy Donovan.”
  • Kyle Kuric and Mike Marra are the “Billy Ray Cyrus of Louisville Basketball.”
  • LeBron James leaving Cleveland is what set the table for Samardo Samuels to get a roster spot on the Cavs.
  • The KFC Yum Center is the “finest basketball arena ever built” and takes elements from Staples, Conseco, etc. The atrium is probably his favorite part because it is so overwhelmingly spectacular.


  • No word yet on the Gorgui Dieng appeal. The NCAA is doing what they do best, dragging UofL along and aging Kenny Klein.
  • Peyton Siva excited and ready to go, looking forward to being the Cardinal floor general this season, discounts media pessimism.
  • Preston Knowles says that he has hit the weights hard this summer and wants to leave on a good note, with a Big East Championship.
  • Plug: Sure could have used a naughty Volvo S60 getting to downtown Manhattan.

 Oct. 27, 2010

UofL blogger needs votes

If you’ve been with us here at Card Game, you probably already know that we covered Big East Media Day, courtesy of Volvo S60. Now Volvo is sponsoring a contest dubbed “The Biggest Fan of the Big East.”

I was among the “digital influencers” from 16 Big East cities who went to NYC and Madison Square Garden for the preliminary festivities. We will be treated to the use of a Volvo S60 for a weekend and a regular season home game (would you believe the UK game?), and possibly more games at season’s end. We are to cover some Louisville games via the blogosphere, using Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.

Support our efforts to provide unique coverage of the University of Louisville athletics and by going to MyBigEastVolvo and voting for Steve Springer, the Card Game and Louisville rep.

Thanks in advance for your vote. Villanova and St. John’s have jumped out to the lead but it’s still way early.

— Steve Springer

Dec. 3, 2010

Update: Biggest Fan of the Big East contest

By Steve Springer

Through a mind-blowing, surprising and pleasing whim of fate, I was selected in October to be the University of Louisville’s contestant in Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East promotion. The company whisked me off to New York, a driver picking me up at dad’s (the observer’s) house, off to the airport, staying overnight at The New Yorker and on to Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden. A whirlwind trip, but first class in every respect.

A dream come true. My lifelong passion of being a UofL fan and obsession with Big East basketball making it happen. So how’s the contest going?

Well, thanks to all the Louisville fans who have voted for me, I’m currently in the lead in the Big East fan poll with 41% of the total vote in the contest that includes reps from 16 Big East cities. Thanks for getting involved, and I hope you will continue to support a fellow UofL fan.

The fan poll, however, is only one part of the contest, which runs through mid-March. The stakes are huge. In addition to $10,000 donation to the winner’s alma mater and a trip for two to New York for the Big East Finals, the winner of the overall contest will win a brand new naughty Volvo S60.

Over the next four months, Volvo will issue six challenges to contestants to publish blogs (mine will be on Card Game) around the Volvo S60 Biggest Fan promotion. The first one is related to  the contest providing my wife Casey and I with a Volvo S60 for the New Year’s weekend and tickets to the University of Louisville-Kentucky basketball game. I will blog about the experience here, as well as make entries on Facebook and do tweets on Twitter. A dream-filled weekend, a wacky, wild, wonderful way to wrap the old year and tip off a new one.

A major part of the challenge is how UofL fans respond to my communications. Please comment and comment often about our favorite team on Card Game, on Facebook (my account is Steve Springer) and on Twitter (@racercard). The judges will be paying close attention to the amount of interaction. So I need lots of friends and followers on those accounts, if you will.

Finally, I can’t tell you how humbled I am to be representing the University of Louisville fan base in this contest. It is an awesome responsibility and I appreciate all of your support. Thanks fellow fans, thanks Volvo, and Go Cards.

Dec. 14, 2010

Biggest Big East fan goes to New York

While we’re waiting for more Big East basketball, specifically Louisville vs. Drexel, check out this video of my trip to New York for Big East Media Day in October, courtesy of Volvo, starting with the flight, along the streets of Manhattan, the New Yorker Hotel and finally the media staging area within Madison Square Garden.  And don’t forget to vote.

Dec. 27, 2010

Huge week for Biggest Fan of the Big East competitor

Going to be a big week, primarily because the University of Louisville basketball team takes on arch-rival Kentucky on New Year’s Eve. There’s something extra this year for the observer, with junior participating in Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East contest.

U of L fan Steve Springer and his wife, Casey, will be driving a naughty Volvo S60 around this weekend. The company also is putting the family up, including three kids, at the Brown Hotel and is providing their mom and dad with free tickets to the game.

Watch for some special reports from Steve on Card Game this week, and don’t forget to vote for him at the Volvo fan site.

*   *   *

Louisville picked to finish sixth in the Big East in a poll of analysts over at The East Coast Bias, behind Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Georgetown and UConn. If you have an insatiable appetite for Big East basketball, you might want to check out the site, which includes reports and opinions from the 16 Big East markets, including U of L and the observer.

Dec. 6, 2010

A memorable welcome to the Big East

By Steve Springer

One of my unforgettable college basketball experiences transpired during the NCAA Tournament in Nashville in 2005. This was final year of membership in Conference USA, and the University of Louisville was eagerly anticipating its initiation into the Big East.

The Cards were to play the Georgia Tech in a second round match up that day.  Card fans started to fill up the arena, which was expected, considering how well we travel and the close proximity to Louisville (2.5 hours away). The second half of the Villanova/Florida game was underway and it was a tight one as Planet Red descended upon the arena. A small contingent of Nova fans were cheering on their team with the Let’s go NO-VA chant. Anything short of intimidating to their opponents, I’m sure.

We were anxious for our team’s game to get going so we started firing each other up with the C-A-R-D-S cheer, which had to be impressive to the Gator fans and Villanova fans due to the sheer number of UofL supporters.  Maybe even a little rude, considering we weren’t even on the hardwood yet. That didn’t matter, and was kind of a message that, hey, we’re here and ready to be a factor.

The VU/UF contest was coming down to the wire. Nova fans were still rooting on their cats when their future Big East brethren decided to pick up the slack. Almost at once, thousands of UofL fans started in with the LET’S go NO-VA. After a few rounds, the Villanova fan section cheered to us as if for a collective Thank you!  Nova went on to skin the Gators and we Card fans like to think we had something to do with that.

Fast forward to the UofL/GT game, which ended up being a rout with the Cards winning big. But that didn’t stop Villanova fans from returning the favor. At some point during the game, they broke out with the C-A-R-D-S chant, which was responded to with a collective cheer from the Cardinal faithful. One of those feel-good moments in college sports fandom. And for good measure, near the end of the second game, both sets of fans were harmoniously chanting BIG EAST!  (stomp, stomp) BIG EAST! (stomp, stomp)

Not often does a group of fans cheer for another school. But that’s the brotherhood of teams that is the Big East. Everybody cheers for each other out-of-conference, adamantly even. A victory against the SEC, ACC, whoever, is as good as a victory for your own team.

When we play each other, however …

Dec. 27, 2010

Naughty Volvo S60 Alma Mater Weekend Pre-flight

  • UofL vs the blue team game tickets — check.
  • Hotel reservation for two night stay at the Brown Hotel — check.
  • Two hundred dollars spending money — check.
  • Fifty dollars gas money — check.
  • Flip camera provided by Cake NYC — check.
Please fasten Card gear and put all trays in an upright position. The biggest rivalry game of the year is about to take off  and you will be a virtual passenger in a brand new naughty Volvo S60 participating in Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East alma mater weekend experience through the sights and sounds of myself and my beautiful wife. All of the above items, as well as a weekend in one of the 300HP all-wheel drive S60’s, were generously provided by Volvo and Cake NYC in order to help me document our experience coming back to town to take in a game, scratch that, THE game of the year. Over the next  couple of days I will be sharing pregame festivites, in-game sights, and (hopefully) the thrills of a victory with the Card Game readers.

T-minus 70:00:00!

Dec. 30, 2010

Twas the night before Naughty …

Dec. 30, 2010

Cards’ fan picks up his Naughty date

Walking in the clouds, picking up the Naughty Volvo S60 at the dealership over on Bunsen Parkway.

A car that exceeds the imagination, all ours for three days.

Blackest of blacks, heated leather seats, more options than one could imagine, all described in a preflight briefing system. More than a car this baby, a transportation system from the future.

And somewhere between all the driving, tickets to the biggest rivalry in all of college basketball — Louisville vs. Kentucky.

Don’t wake up the Biggest Fan of the Big East.

Dec. 31, 2012
Louisville vs. Kentucky, Noon, Everywhere

The Biggest Fan of the Big East has arrived at the KFC Yum! Center via the Naughty Volvo S60.

Jan. 2, 2011

Audio Update: Biggest Fan of the Big East

By Steve Springer

My involvement in Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East contest continues unabated, requiring continuing high levels of commitment and creativity.

I really appreciate the support of some of our fellow bloggers, like the irrepressible Shannon Ruffra at Cardinal Dominance who conducted an in-depth interview of me a couple of days ago.

Audio link to the interview.

Thanks, too, to Card Chronicle, Cardinal Laws and Cardinal Couple who have all been supportive, as well as U of L fans on the local Rivals and Scout sites.

You can vote for me, your Louisville fan representative at the Volvo fan site.


Jan. 3, 2011

The Ville’s King Kuric gives back

Click to enlarge

By Steve Springer

One of the quality attributes of a student-athlete is not only what the athlete does on the court or field but what he does going above and beyond athletics.  Studying and trying to earn a degree is paramount, but also notoriety provided to these athletes through the exposure by the media extends their reach and endearment further into the community, especially through means of charitable actions and contributions.  Now for the typical college student athlete, financial contributions are generally hard to come by, so appearances and elbow grease are sometimes just as meaningful, if not more, especially to little kids.  Because of his of the court actions, University of Louisville Men’s Basketball forward Kyle Kuric is the Cardinals’ representative for the Volvo Off the Court Excellence Award.

Kyle Kuric as Homecoming King

The Cardinal junior is no stranger to the latter kind of contributions.  Somehow, the Evansville, Indiana native finds a way to balance a business management major, an entrepreneurship minor, and an infamous Rick Pitino practice/conditioning regimen.  Not only that, Kyle has found a way to squeeze in time to serve a community in which he is not a native, eagerly and generously donating his time and whatever energy he can possibly have left.  Of the many organizations/activities that Kyle participates in, the one that fits the philanthropic category the best would be his dedication to the kids of the local community.

Kyle coaches youth basketball at a local church.  Not your typical 10- or 12-year-old kids, though.  He chose to coach the little guys, 5-year-olds!  I know from lots of personal experience how hard it is to try to teach something as complex and intricate as basketball to a group of riled up kindergarteners.  You have to have more patience than actual basketball expertise. And most people grab their clipboards because they have a child on the team and feel obliged to help.  Not this Cardinal.  He has no kids but there he is week in and week out on Sundays working with those kids as if they were his own.  He really loves to give back “any time that I can.”

Kyle also shows great initiative beyond this, though.  His desire to excel on the basketball court is paralleled by his thirst for helping the local youth.  His newest endeavor is with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kentuckiana program.  This program is locally based and is all about expanding the horizons through the power of one-to-one friendships. Kyle is very excited about the future of this program and his involvement.

His humanitarian affections are not just limited to the Louisville community, however.  His munificence can even be contained within this hemisphere.  Over the summer, he and his sister, Katie (a fellow Cardinal athlete on the women’s soccer team) vacationed to Egypt.  They knew some people there and he engaged in a basketball clinic.  During off days, he visited a children’s cancer hospital in Cairo and handed out new sports equipment, hats, and t-shirts to sick little ones there.  They were fascinated by this towering American basketball player and his generous spirit.

Kyle and his soccer-playing sister Katie, in Egypt. (Click to enlarge)

Back on campus, King Kyle is a very busy guy.  He is engaged in numerous activities on campus with people his own age.  The nickname was earned after being named Homecoming King this past fall.  This has been quite the story around campus and even back with Coach Pitino.  During UofL Basketball Media Day, The Godfather could be heard quipping “Make way for The King! and Last chance for an interview with The King! When Hall of Famer Rick Pitino addresses you as “The King,” you know you’ve made it big time.

A few other activities:

  • Honored as the Outstanding Sophmore Student award UofL’s 2010 Award Ceremony in May for academic excellence and community service
  • Participates in the Leadership Academy for Student Government leaders
  • Serves as a member of the Student Government Association
  • Actively involved in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee
  • Sits as the student representative for the UofL Athletic Association Board of Directors
  • Serves as a math tutor for elementary kids

Somehow during his crazy schedule this amazing student athlete finds a way to escape the hectic machine that is life for a UofL basketball player and give back to his community, children, peers, and even his elders.  The term “above and beyond” gets thrown around a lot when describing efforts of altruistic people like Kyle.  This phrase could have been invented specifically for him.  Not only does he sky and two-hand slam above the defense on the court, he elevates above the multitudinous responsibilities that accompany the life of a Big East basketball player.

That’s why I selected Kyle Kuric, a natural candidate for the Volvo Off The Court Excellence Award.

Jan. 7, 2011

My Naughty Volvo alma mater weekend

My Naughty Volvo Alma Mater Weekend was as spectacularly naughty as anticipated. For starters, it doesn’t get any better than driving a luxury automobile. Well, maybe driving that car around my hometown for a weekend. Okay, scratch that. Driving a squeaky clean, jet black, 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive, naughty Volvo S60 around Louisville, the best city in the world, accompanied by my beautiful better half, staying two nights in the nicest hotel in the city, the world famous Brown Hotel, and going to the best steakhouse this side of Churchill Downs. All courtesy of Volvo.

Oh wait. Did I mention that they included two tickets to one of the fiercest rivalries in college basketball? And that those were two seats that would have probably brought at least $500 to $1000 dollars in the brand new KFC YUM! Center, home of my lifelong favorite Big East team, the Louisville Cardinals? Oh yeah baby!

Volvo generously offered to provide transportation from our home to Louisville but because we were bringing a one year old and an eight year old with her wheelchair, we graciously declined for the convenience of our minivan.

We did, however, accept their offer to accommodate for the special needs of our sick daughter by providing us an extra room at The Brown so that my in-laws could watch the kids and keep her in close proximity to us for the weekend. So we packed up the family-mobile to trade it in (temporarily) for a wicked chariot and set off, jamming all the way getting in a naughty kind of mindset.

After arriving in The Ville and getting settled, I was drooling all over myself entertaining the idea of sinking into the leather seats of the naughty S60. I just couldn’t resist the urge to sneak over to the Volvo dealership where I would be picking up the S60 the next day and get a peek.

It was a cold and rainy night. Little did I know that was an omen foreshadowing the naughtiness that was about to occur:

All was well the next day. I successfully evaded the long arm of the law and got to pick up the S60 and it was ever the super scintillating sensation that I thought it would be. After a meet and greet with the administration there, they relinquished the keys and the sports car to me and my naughty partner in crime and we were off.

We hit the town and took in as many sites and places as we could, hugging the turns with a voracious suspension and throw-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration that made me feel as if I were driving the perfect machine.  Power.  Handling. Asthetic pleasantries. Technological advances that are almost too good to be true in an automobile. The naughty S60 has it all.

We hit some of the most famous landmarks in Louisville.  You know, all the transition scenes that ESPN shows when covering a Louisville Big East basketball contest. Churchill Downs, of course. My wife got chased off of climbing the Barbaro statue. Fourth Street Live-parking in front of the entrance and blocking the street so that we could snap a pic. The Giant Louisville Slugger-watching my wife try to get a good angle of me, the S60, and the giant bat by lying on the freezing concrete in her little black miniskirt.

After a night on the town, the best way to end the night was to hit the bar at the hotel before crashing.  While there, I got to meet a former Volvo exec and a producer from Fox Sports that was in town and make a valuable connection for future digital influencing endeavors. Â Then back to the room for a kid free night of fun.

Game day! And darn CBS. They scheduled the game for a noon tipoff. Don’t they have any compassion for a guy that parties with his beautiful wife the night before the game? That left little to no time for any tailgating experiences but we made the best of it socializing and giving Volvo some plugs. Snapped some pics with some flamboyant fans. Really enjoyed the interview with this guy who had obviously started the pregame festivities pretty early:

We distributed free Volvo bottles and even hooked up with the CBS affiliate for a quick interview before the game. And you know I plugged the S60 and UofL Card Game.

The actual game experience was bittersweet.  The seats were awesome. The atmosphere was hyped. The whole experience seemed to go by so fast it wasn’t even fair. The outcome ended up in a loss — a bad one that put a damper on things.

Until I got back behind the wheel of the S60 again, that is. Usually, the ride home after an L sucks bad. You’ve got that sinking feeling like your dog ran away or somebody keyed your car. I have to admit, though, that once I slipped back into the naughty-mobile, the game’s outcome became less prevalent on my psyche.  I was back in my chariot, with my Cleopatra at my side and ready to beat some blue-clad folks in their pick-ups from light to light.

The whole Naughty Alma Mater weekend experience was an incredibly memorable treat that will last a lifetime. Â And the whole premise of everything revolved around one of the most fascinating, thrilling, and sleek machines I have ever laid my hands on. At one point, I looked over and told my wife that I was going to stop by one of the automotive enthusiast stores in the area and get a pair of driving gloves.  That would have been about the only thing that was missing.  The car made me want to drive and drive and drive and the return drive to the dealership the last day was another one of those bittersweet moments.  Having to part ways with the naughty S60 was painful. Driving it gave me those butterflies that you only experience every now and then, like you had when you were a kid when you went to sleep on Christmas Eve. I can’t wait to experience it again…


Jan. 27, 2011

My UofL basketball road trip top five play list

By Steve Springer
Contestant, Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East Contest

Living three hours away from my favorite team is a burden many times.  I don’t get to many games, much less have the luxury of season tickets.  But there is a silver-lining, eternally optimistic way of looking at it, however.  When I do get to go, it makes for an extra special time.  And what’s the best part of a special time?  The road trip.

An enjoyable road trip is never complete without a good vehicle, good weather, good company, and great tunes.  Everybody has their own musical tastes and reasons for why they select the songs that they do on a road trip.  My hypothetical road trip to my hometown to see the Louisville Cardinals play the University of Whoever is quite eclectic and quite unique.  Included are various songs that are collectively special to the whole UofL fan base, and then there are a couple of ditties that are sentimental to me personally, evolved from years of support of my team.  Below are the top five songs that I would jam out to cruising the Western Kentucky Parkway en route from Murray to The Ville for Big East Basketball:

(1)What road trip back to your hometown would be complete without the ultimate homecoming soundtrack Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home.  The hair band ballad from the eighties is always a favorite when heading back to Louisville after a long hiatus.  You know the tune, but just in case you haven’t heard it in a while:

(2) In 2009, UofL swept both the Big East regular season title and the Big East Conference Tournament title on the way to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.  That was a magical couple of weeks, even though it didn’t end up in a Final Four run.  One clever UofL fan compiled a highlight video of the season accompanied by the tune of Kevin Rudolf’s Let It Rock.  That video compilation was special and very appropriate for that time. Whenever I hear the song, I think of the video, and it reminds me of Terrence Williams and Earl Clark dunking all over people that season and that March.

(3) Louisville’s first NCAA Championship came in March 1980.  That was a special time for the school, the fans, and the city.  I’m sure you’ve had songs that seem to cement themselves as a universal theme for a particular event.  When the tragedy of 9/11 happened, a couple of songs came to mind, such as Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA or God Bless America played in the 7th Inning Stretch at Yankee Stadium.  The song that fills in the blank for this era of UofL Basketball is Kenny Loggins’ This Is It. I get goosebumps thinking back to some of my earliest childhood memories when I hear this song and remember UofL winning it all for the first time:

(4)Another personal UofL song favorite is one that preceded the UofL-Kentucky game in 2003.  That was the year that a freshman named Francisco Garcia kick-started his way to becoming one of the greatest players in team history, dropping daggers on the blue team.  UofL won that game and I’ll never forget the Big Game look on Garcia’s face during the intro song, Emine’s Lose Yourself.  Yes,  its worn out now, but you still hear it all over the land in sporting venues before big games:

(5) Finally, not just a song makes this road trip complete.  The ultimate road trip back to The Ville would have to be behind the wheel of Volvo’s new 300 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, Naughty S60.  And what tune would be more appropriate in that car than Sexsie Volvo, with the greatest sound system ever designed and engineered for an automobile?

This Louisville fan just can’t wait to get behind the wheel of another Volvo S60, and on the road again.

Jan. 27, 2011

One fan’s late night driving course

By Steve Springer

Watching a Big East basketball game is a great experience, whether in person or on TV. The sights and sounds of a collegiate game day in a huge arena can reward a fan with a lifetime of memories. But why limit oneself to only two senses. There can be more to it than that. Much more.

A diehard fan of Big East Basketball participates in the game day activities inside the arena, but doesn’t limit oneself to just watching one’s team fly up and down the floor, basking in the cheers, chants, whistles, and squeaking of hightops on the hardwood.  There are three other senses that can indulge the fan into making the most out of the experience.

Tailgating is an excellent way to dive into the tastes and smells of college football.  It’s not, however, ideal during basketball season, at least not traditionally.  The majority of the Big East hoops season falls during the cold winter months, with many of the schools located in the bitterly cold Northeast.  We can’t all have home games in sunny Tampa, Florida like the Bulls do.  So the rest of us are forced to find good grub and spirits indoors.  The following is an attempt to narrow the best post game and late-night dining establishments in Louisville into a top five as we slide behind the wheel of a Naughty Volvo S60:

  • Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe– There’s no other restaurant in the world that represents a team better than the Cardinal Hall of Fame Cafe represents the University of Louisville.  The restaurant resides in the shadow of the nicest on-campus stadium in the country, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  Stepping into the restaurant you are surrounded by reminders of Cardinal greatness, with your feet traversing the Walk of Fame, consisting of tiles that display the name, sport, years played, and induction year of the finest athletes in the school’s history.  The entryway includes dozens of trophies, jerseys, balls, and all sorts of memorabilia. On one wall is a giant mural featuring the likenesses of Darrell Griffith, Wes Unseld, Pervis Ellison, Howard Schnellenberger, and of course, Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum, amongst many others.  Quite the nostalgic feeling, having a two-time championship coach, Fiesta Bowl winning coach, and hardwood and pigskin giants along with the steaks, pizza, seafood, and everything else on an eclectic menu.  A literal sensory overload of everything Cardinal.
  • Denny’s Restaurant — What collegiate midnight munchies marathon would be complete without the world famous Grand Slam Breakfast from the Denny’s on Eastern Parkway?  After a game’s worth of seven dollar beers at the arena, partying your tail off celebrating a hard-earned Big East victory and yet more brew, you could be celebrating into the wee hours of the morning and quickly approaching the break of dawn. Denny’s would be the destination of choice, as long as all the other breakfast places aren’t open yet.  Pancakes, bacon, eggs, French toast- easy on the wallet, but not the arteries.
  • Papa John’s — A dedicated UofL fan will always find a way to support his school, even when it’s satisfying late night hunger.  What better way to accomplish that than patronizing one of UofL’s largest contributors?  Papa John Schnatter of Louisville started his worldwide pizza chain in Louisville in the closet of his father’s business and it grew into the best pizza chain in the world.  He drops major coinage on UofL whenever possible, contributing to many different athletic facilities/events, scholarships, and to top it off, he donated so much to the construction of the football stadium that he earned the naming rights, thus Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  He really represents the spirit of generosity and a true Cardinal fan always stops by Papa’s when craving a pizza.
The Granville Inn keeps attracting U of L partisans long after graduation.
  • Granville Inn — A unique local spot on our dining tour would be the Granville Inn on Third Street, just off the campus.  The atmosphere on game day during the season is electric. The party is always rocking here after a victory and they have the best burger in town.  It combines an historic look (1930’s) with the contemporary sounds of college bands and music, partying the night away after a big win over rival West Virginia, or a blowout of Cincinnati.  Jessica, the day manager, has been a UofL fan her entire life, and her being revolves around keeping them full and happy, after wins and losses.
  • White Castle — Finally, at any time of night after a game, no matter how tired, wasted, hungover, almost broke you are, there’s always White Castle.  The mini hamburgers are available 24 hours a day, which is great because some people’s hunger is available 24 hours a day, or especially after late night celebrations.  The hamburgers aren’t too bad if you can fill up on a couple (not likely).  But after about five or six, they all start to taste the same and really just serve the purpose of filling your gullet instead of pleasing your taste buds. One caveat, however.  They do have a drive thru, but the smell and the grease that permeates the bag, your clothes, everything, should not be allowed into the luxurious cabin of the Naughty S60.  Put them in the trunk, on the roof, whatever you have to do to keep from soiling the leather.

We’ve covered four of the five senses, leaving only the sense of touch.  What better way to cap off the full sensory experience than by feeling the quiet rumble of the 300 horsepower engine throw you back in your seat as you race to get that pizza back to your dorm room or wherever you call home before it gets cold, or as you hug the turns with the all wheel drive suspension to make sure you get those burgers out of the trunk before the smell of onions and fries drown out that new car smell.  Combine the Naughty S60 and any (or all if you dare) of these dining experiences to make your late night driving and dining course really special.

Feb. 26, 2011

‘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 I 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.

March 11, 2011

Biggest Fan & Family off to New York

Steve Springer (top left), winner of Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East contest, and family members pause for a moment at Louisville’s Regional International Airport en route to New York City for the Big East Championship basketball tournament. With him (from left) are Mackenzie Phelps, Randy Phelps, baby Dominic Springer and his wife Casey. They will be staying at The New Yorker hotel, just across the street from Madison Square Garden. They will be on hand when the University of Louisville basketball team takes on Notre Dame in the semifinal game Friday.

Steve Springer awaiting security check.

March 12, 2011

Steve gets the keys tonight

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Steve Springer, winner of Volvo’s Biggest Fan of the Big East, will accept the symbolic keys to his brand new Volvo S60 during a halftime presentation at center court during the Big East championship basketball game between the University of Louisville and UConn tonight. It has been a whirlwind trip for him, his wife and three children in the world’s busiest city so not much blogging time. It you subscribe to Twitter, you can catch him @racercard. Volvo has promised a highlight video for use on Card Game next week.

March 13, 2011

Biggest Fan gets the Volvo S60

Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest culminated with me and my family getting to cash in our prize by venturing to New York City to witness the Big East Tournament finals and semifinals. With wife and kids in tow, we made it in town in time to catch the Cards come from behind and exact revenge on Notre Dame in the semis and then watch a great game which had the Cards falling to UConn in the BET championship.

As part of the grand prize, I participated in the halftime ceremonies and presented a check from Volvo in the amount of $10,000 to the University of Louisville’s scholarship fund. It was one of those giant cardboard checks that one always dreams of getting their hands on. I held up the left side and at the other end of the check was Volvo Cars North America CEO Doug Speck. Mr. Speck ended up being the only male on the planet I’m not related to that was on the receiving end of a big o’ kiss as I planted one on his cheek when they announced that I also won a brand new naughty Volvo S60.  Below is my interview with the Big East Network reporter:

Big East Video On-Demand interview with Steve Springer, “Biggest Fan of the Big East”

It was a great privilege to be able to share the experience with my wife, Casey, and the kids. Not only did we see some great Cardinal/Big East basketball in the most famous basketball venue in the world, along with all the extras like the car, going out on the court, hanging in the tunnel, etc., we took in a few sights and sounds in New York City, as well. We stayed two nights in the beautiful New Yorker Hotel, ate some local cuisine, rode the subway for the first time, and toured Ground Zero and paid our respects at the memorial.

We would have had time for a couple of other places if not for us pulling a silly tourist mistake, getting on the A-train going in the wrong direction and riding something like 200 blocks the wrong way and having to go all the way back and then some. Then getting off at the wrong stop and walking for blocks and blocks to finally get there. Oh well, the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty will have to wait until next time.

Many thanks to the people of Volvo US and Cake NYC for their hospitality and for putting up with our crew for the weekend. They sure know how to treat people right and made this basketball season extra special for our family.

Also, we have much appreciation for the too-many-to-name people that helped me throughout the course of the contest. And even if I tried to name everybody, I would inevitably leave someone off because there were probably lots of people that voted, retweeted, etc. that I don’t even know about. You know who you are and your time and efforts are much appreciated. This post is dedicated to all of you.

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