by Paul Sykes

I saw fear in Sonja’s eyes. It was real and scary. Captivating but embarrassing.

Rupp Arena was on overload Saturday afternoon. I can’t remember a louder, more frenetic indoor venue for the Louisville-Kentucky basketball game. It was almost as if, in those first four minutes of the game, someone had gone deep into my worst fears scenario and brought them to life.

Louisville was the tundra, Kentucky was the furnace. All around Sonja and I, two dots of red in a bucket of blue paint, the roar swelled, magnified. I felt like it was all personally directed at me. Mad and embarrassed, frustrated and incredulous. Where were my Cardinals?

“It’s a 40-minute game.” Wise counsel from my UK host next to me at the 10-minute mark and UK up by 12. And, give the Cards credit. They took advantage of UK turnovers. They began to find the basket. Down by seven at half seemed doable.

Give credit to the Louisville team that fought back to take a lead. They will not see another venue as emotionally charged and out of control. Nor will they face an opponent as physically talented, full of venom or as deep.

Give credit to John Wall for sparking the 8-0 in the second half to put UK up to stay. I knew it was over after that UK run. I was fiercely proud of that Louisville rally but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for you. We walked back to the car, ignoring the comments, the Cat mania and the even the sarcastic comments of the few in the lobby of the hotel.

Louisville did not roll over, never surrendering, actually managing to shut up the full house for a glorious moment or two. These Cardinals will be just fine. They’ve had their “Custer” moment, and they’ll find the rest of the road trips this year comparable to vacations in Cancun after Rupp.

The potential nightmares that may haunt me of those first 10 minutes may never materialize. But, the visions of blue hysteria all around me will never go away. Thank God it’s over. I survived it, lived to tell about it and won’t forget it.

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By Paul Sykes

Paul Sykes owns Paul Sykes Advertising and does contract work for other advertising and publishing firms. The proud husband of Sonja, he has a fascination with bears, bars and Cardinal sports. He's also the moderator of

8 thoughts on “Louisville Fan Survives Rupp Hell”
  1. Congrats on surviving! I wouldn’t have made it, I don’t think. Was there any of the vulgarity in the crowd we were all worried about? (anti-pitino).

    1. You were worried about vulgarity in the CROWD?? What about Pitino’s vulgarity?? No concerns there?

        1. LOL Charlie! That venture isn’t for everyone. I considered Kevlar and a riot shield but it probably would have hindered my view of the game.

          All things said, I did it (2nd time) but if the rivalry continues to intensify at the alraming, unsavory rate it headed…I very may well pass on an invitation two years from now.

  2. Good report, Paul. I was genuinely concerned about your well-being. Rupp can be a dangerous place for Louisville fans. Apparently you had good seats. I was there for the renewal of the series, stuck up in the corner with 500 other U of L fans. Those foot-high steps in the rafters are treacherous enough without having to navigate through the UK zealots.

  3. The seats weren’t bad. second level but only six rows up…behind the UofL bench below. The UK fans were classic in their taunts and jeers. The rotund lady behind us had one phrase mastered. UofL Su–s.

    Fortunately, there were no physical encounters in our section. Plenty of celebration by the UK fans, though. Even got a few handshakes and pats on the back after the game. Many more slanderous and derogatory comments, though. Expected that. It was Rupp, after all.

    We were in Rupp very early. Watched as UK officals scurried around collecting anti-Pitino posters and signs. Saw someoned escorted out a few sections over from us, dressed in blue, midway thru the second half.

    The beauty of the Rupp silence when Louisville briefly regained the lead was golden. I so wanted to scream out something like:
    “How about those Cards?”

    I refrained. Plenty of people behind me and who knows what they were packing. We’ll get them next year…after Wall and Patterson head to the NBA and Cousins and Bledsoe enter the penal system.

  4. “We’ll get them next year…after Wall and Patterson head to the NBA and Cousins and Bledsoe enter the penal system.”

    None of those events would be surprising.

  5. Glad you and Sonja survived the trip. Paul. We had a pretty rowdy and large crowd here at the bar for the game. Slight majority of blue over red viewers but mostly well mannered and enthusiastic. No real problems until way after the game when a couple of UK fans objected to being “cut off” from any further alcoholic beverage purchases. Suggestions that coffee be consumed and a cab called (both of which would have been “on the house”) were ignored and a sign out in front of the bar was knocked down, along with a tirade of profanity directed at one of my bouncers as they left. Fortunately, he didn’t overreact and the incident was soon forgotten. Almost as bad as the Georgia fans I get in here (LOL).

    Tough loss for the Cards. Get ’em next year and both Calipari and Pitino need to take steps to keep their guys calm in the early stages of this one next time.

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