The Observer steps aside briefly to allow the favorite son to pass along a few flashbacks of growing up in the family of a couple of University of Louisville diehards.

By Steve Springer

After sitting through one of the more hand-wringing encounters that I have witnessed as a University of Louisville fan, I knew that another of my great sports fantasies had come true. After a thrilling victory over No. 13 Notre Dame, I realized that the next UofL game I would attend would be against the No. 1 team in the land, the Pitt Panthers on the upcoming Saturday.

The chance to beat No. 1 does not come along very often. Combine this rare opportunity with the fact that one does not always get to attend such a spectacle with the engineer of one’s love. The win over top-ranked Pittsburgh will rank right up there with the best of many big moments as a Card fan. The Observer instilled a deep passion for Cardinal Nation in my soul and fueled it with ticket after ticket to big games.

Steve, Koby, Rick Pitino and the Observer
Steve, Koby, Rick Pitino and the Observer

I have attended Cardinal basketball and football games since before I could walk. The memories run together in a collage of college athletics. The clearest early memories that stand out are sitting so high in the Superdome to watch the Cards battle Patrick Ewing in the 1982 Final Four. The setting was so huge to my 6-year-old eyes that I preferred to watch the action on the big screen scoreboard instead of the tiny little players running around so far below. My first and only experience with the Big Easy and my beginning infatuation with shrimp and seafood tagged along for good measure.

Visions of hugging red-clad people I had never met when I was nine in Reunion Arena shortly after Jeff Hall intercepted a Duke pass at the end of the 1986 National Championship in Dallas stand out, as well.

A few days before my parents had upgraded their hero-status in my eyes as I secretly intercepted a phone call from the Observer’s wife and my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Osterman. Mom was campaigning for permission to allow me to accompany them to Dallas for championship weekend and I would have to miss a couple of days of school. Mrs. Osterman obliged; I guess the real life experience I was to receive would be worth way more than multiplication tables and spelling words.


All four Liberty Bowls were witnessed because the Observer came up with tickets and hotel rooms. Jeff Brohm throwing TD’s , Sam Madison playing both ways, Mike Bush gracefully dancing through the Bronco secondary, frozen concrete bleachers in an ancient stadium come to mind and will never dissipate, thanks to him.

Heck, my son, mysign mother, and I even got on ESPN for a split second holding up a sign incorporating the ESPN logo into it which read “WE LOVE OUR CARDS PETRINO OR NOT!” during a pre-game interview with Bobby Petrino about his flirtations with other coaching jobs.

The Gator Bowl that should have belonged to the Cards was attended in Jacksonville. Memories of Hunter Cantwell taking shots across the brow and Marcus Vick stomping on Elvis Dumervill’s knee stand out. Remembering thinking that had Golden Boy Brian Brohm been at the helm, the Hokies would not have left there with a victory. Gator tail became a favorite delicacy on this trip, as well.

One of the most magical times to be a Cardinal Football fan was during the 2006 season. Two of the hardest tickets to attain in PJCS history was for the Miami game and the West Virginia Blackout game. The observer shelled out big bucks for my attendance in those games. Memories of that beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon against the Canes and that cold, dark Thursday night encounter against the Eers hold special places in my heart. Rushing the field with my blacked-out ten year old will never fade from glory. The Observer’s grandson even got to skip school the next day; I had to drive back to Murray State University but I didn’t need any gas, my emotional fumes were more than enough to get me there.padgett

The Observer has come up with three weeks of Rick Pitino Basketball Camp for his grandson and one Rick Pitino Father/Son camp for his grandson and junior. One cannot get any closer to the program and the players than this experience provides. His generosity paved the way for his grandson to “defeat” Edgar Sosa in a quick game of one-on-one, first one to five wins. The observer also made it possible for David Padgett to play impossible free throw defense on his grandson and us to win the 4-on-4 Father/Son Championship.

During the nineties, my childhood icon Denny Crum’s tenure as the head coach was winding to a close, as was his grip as one of the premier coaches in the game. Louisville basketball had started to lose its perch at the top of the hoops nest. The magic of February basketball was no more. I was in town for the funeral of my high school basketball coach, who was also the father of a very close friend of mine. Emotions were high seeing my buddy and teammate grieve for his dad who was also like a father. The fourth-ranked Syracuse Orangemen were in town as well, that weekend. Everyone had doubts about one of Denny’s woeful teams pulling the upset that weekend. When they actually did it was extra special for me, attending the game with my father and life coach.

franciscoThe fond memories of that weekend, at least the ones from the sports realm, I had hoped to duplicate last weekend. T-Will, E5, Preston, Samardo, TJ, Sosa, and company were willing accomplices. Unless you count that horrific start, which actually just added to the excitement and the ultimate savoring of a fabulous comeback victory in the end.

The big win over Pitt was yet another fantastic memory that will always remind this blogger about the observer and his never ending pursuit to be the best father he can be and the best Cardinal fan in the land. A special memory in what is becoming more and more of a special season. I am hoping the observer didn’t trash the Triple A maps he used to deliver the family to Niagara Falls one summer. You may be asking, “what in the world does that have to do with these memories and this special season?” That summer vacation went through Detroit.

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By Steve Springer

Steve Springer is a lifelong University of Louisville fan and was Volvo's "Biggest Fan of the Big East" in 2011. He's a sportswriter for the Murray Ledger & Times, in addition to teaching physical education. He graduated from Eastern High School, earned a Master's degree from the University of Louisville and his BS degree at Murray State University. His Twitter handle is @racercard.

4 thoughts on “Getting Personal: Pop Pulls Out Another One”
  1. A very sentimental and heartwarming look at “Mr. Card Game” himself and growing up Cardinal. Cherish the days that you can spend with your Dad, Steve…because there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my dearly departed father and wish he could wrap his arms around me again and call me his little “knucklehead”.

  2. Great article and I really understand. My parents used to take me to UofL basketball games when I was a young child. And the only birthday present I ever received that I can specifically remember was on my 9th birthday — season tickets to UofL basketball. To show how times have changed it was cheaper then to take me to the games than pay a sitter. My father taught me how to keep score the first time they took me to keep me busy. To this day I keep stats while watching because it helps me see trends in the game. (it’s sort of funny when the people behind me and in front of me ask what’s our 3 percentage, how many turnovers does so and so have). It is a wonderful thing to share activities like this with family

  3. I am Sonja’s oldest daughter, and I can attest to the drive and devotion of Cardinal parents. My sister and I were afforded many opportunities while growing up to take part in many Cardinal activities and games. I still have a photo of me, mom, Rachel and LaBradford Smith at an autograph session. He remains my favorite Cardinal of all time. Even though we chose to attend different universities than UofL, our loyalties to the program have remained strong. I’ve even converted my husband, who was WKU thru and thru. I’ll always remember the Fiesta Bowl and years later, watching my little sister Rachel walking hand in hand with Coach Howard Schnellenberger and my dad across the practice field to receive medical attention because she scraped a knee while playing with me while we were at a Cardinal practice. I remember Alan Campos putting my sister on his shoulders and being her “horse” while she tapped him on the helmet and told him to go slower or faster. I’m thankful and proud of the way my parents included us in Cardinal sports. I’m also very proud of my mom’s insights and devotion to the women’s basketball team. She always claims she could have been a better parent to us, but I’m pretty happy about the way things turned out, and I’m proud to have her as a role model like you are, Steve. I can only try to acheive her successes with us with my own children. She’ll always be my hero and mentor, in addition to my mom. I also am proud to be my father’s daughter. He was never overbearing, but was always there for me. He accepted my husband as one of the family and considers him a friend as well as a son-in-law. He treated us as adults when we were growing up, and was never too busy to answer questions or spend time with us. Thank you for sharing your insights about your dad, Steve. We’re both pretty lucky.

  4. Wow, some pretty heartwarming stuff here. Thanks Angela for sharing your memories. Makes the Observer feel pretty humble.

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