Looking Ahead to the Memories

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. – J.M. Barrie

The saddest thing about the best and worst days of our lives is that we’re rarely able to distinguish their significance before, during the time or immediately after they occur. Time is the only begetter of a solid understanding of past emotions, and that’s pretty inconvenient.

Sure, there are those days that we know ahead of time we’re going to remember in some capacity for the rest of our lives – wedding, birth of a child, senior prom, etc. – but those are merely a handful of bananas (gross) in the giant bag of Runts that is life.

The same holds true with subsidiaries of “real life” – like your life as a sports fan.

Win or lose, fine details aside, UofL fans all knew that they were going to remember events like the national championship game and the Sugar Bowl for the rest of their lives. Things like the Kevin Ware injury against Duke and the five-overtime game at Notre Dame, on the other hand, were impossible to foresee and equally impossible to fully understand while they were taking place.

We didn’t know that Kevin was going to be okay, that he was going to become the biggest news story in the country and the defining image of Louisville’s run to a national title. We didn’t know that the Notre Dame game was going to be the longest regular season game in the history of the Big East, and even after we did, we didn’t know that Rick Pitino’s postgame “win the last seven” speech was going to become another major piece of lore from a championship season.

Life rarely gives you the opportunity to brace yourself or open your arms for what’s about to be chucked in your direction, but every now and then, you’re given a heads up.

I think Louisville fans can all agree that regardless of what happens in the Cardinals’ ACC debut season, it’s going to be a ride filled with at least a handful of those sporting days that will stick with us forever, so long as our minds are doing a suitable job. That’s kind of cool to know ahead of time.

After a season in which its fans often got more worked up over what the rest of the country was saying than that week’s opponent, the Louisville football team is staring down a schedule loaded with the potential for lifelong memories.

Long gone are the days of praying for a Central Florida win over South Carolina so that you might have the chance to play at least one meaningful game. Instead, UofL now gets the opportunity to travel to one of the nation’s toughest places to play and take on Clemson, to host the defending national champion and likely preseason No. 1 in Florida State and to run onto the field inside Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Fighting Irish on their Senior Day.

Before the Houston game – a low point for UofL fan enthusiasm last season – one of my fans made the remark that he would have much preferred a 6-6 season filled with ups and downs to the 11-1 campaign that the Cardinals were on the brink of completing. It sounds absurd, but the statement was met with zero disapproval.

Much of the allure of college football is that if you play in a big-time conference, every weekend is sort of like a mini-bowl game. The losses hurt the same, but there’s usually a potential victory over a rival or a top-25 opponent just a week away to help dull the pain. That’s the type of “grab and don’t let go” excitement that Louisville has been missing for, well, pretty much always, but it’s the type that is now here to stay.

Mid-July thoughts about the basketball side of things should also elicit goosebumps. Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky will all come to the KFC Yum! Center to challenge UofL. Montrezl Harrell will man the paint inside the Dean Dome, against Indiana at Madison Square Garden and against the Syracuse team he had a coming-out party against in the 2013 Big East championship game. Rick Pitino’s team will then take the court in what will undoubtedly be the showcase event of the Championship Week 2015: the ACC Tournament.

This could all be really bad. It could be kind of oka. Or it could be the absolute ideal debut season for the Cards in their new home. Regardless, if you’re passionate enough about this stuff to be reading these words, this is probably going to be year filled with those days your brain has little trouble accessing a decade or two down the line. Again, that’s a pretty a cool thing to know in mid-July.