Springing Into a New Season

Photo by Adam Creech

Photo by Adam Creech

From a sports perspective, spring is always something of an odd time of the year.

There’s the Kentucky Derby, sure, but that’s always more about the pageantry of the day and the weeks leading up to it than it is the event itself. Plus, how much time can you really spend breaking down a two-minute race featuring 20 horses? Too much is the only correct answer.

For sports fans in this area, spring is something of a transformative period. After seven straight months of living and dying with Louisville football and basketball, culminating with being enveloped by the complete madness of March, it’s time to take a breath. Preferably outside. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the sun.

In addition to being a period of change, spring also serves as a jumping-off point for so much. In the sports world, it’s a time for us to both pay attention to the things we hadn’t previously had time for and start dreaming about all that could occur when the madness starts back up again in the fall.

Spring gives us our first glimpse of the Louisville football team, which has held a handful of open practices for the public and will play its annual spring game on Saturday, April 15. These are chances to start the process of both getting excited for what should be a memorable season and shaking the lingering pain that still exists from the way the 2016 campaign ended.

Spring ball is also the first chance for us to watch the first Heisman Trophy winner ever to wear a uniform with “Louisville” across his chest. It still feels strange to think about that. While the Cardinals figure to be a top 20 team that could once again be in the thick of the College Football Playoff conversation come late October, Lamar Jackson’s quest to become just the second player ever to win the Heisman more than once is a secondary storyline that will have the entire country’s attention from day one of the season. It’s easy to make the case that there have never been more eyes on UofL football than there will be in 2017. That’s pretty exciting.

If you haven’t been paying attention, April and May will also afford you the opportunity to realize that the Louisville baseball team is absolutely rolling. Dan McDonnell has a group that currently sits at No. 2 in the country and figures to once again bring regional and super regional play to Jim Patterson Stadium this summer. Toss in the fact that the ACC Tournament in May is going to be played at Louisville Slugger Field, and we’re all going to have plenty of opportunities to see one of the nation’s best college baseball teams in action before they (hopefully) head to Omaha for the College World Series.

The sport that’s the furthest away from Cardinal fans right now is the one that just wrapped up. Despite a disappointingly short run in the 2017 NCAA tournament, Rick Pitino’s next Louisville team is already finding itself ranked somewhere in the top five of many a “way too early top 25” for 2017-18. How good can the Cards be? Much of that hinges on the decision of First Team All-ACC performer Donovan Mitchell, but at least one outlet, NBC Sports, has UofL as the No. 1 team in the country for next season. If Mitchell does choose to return, then Louisville will bring back seven of its top eight scorers from a team that was good enough to earn a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance. That’s certainly cause for excitement.

Finally, the months ahead should finally bring some closure to the NCAA investigation that has been dominating the thoughts of so many Louisville fans for a year and a half now. Regardless of what the final result is, UofL fans seem eager to start dealing with the aftermath and stop dealing with the uncertainty of it all. The black cloud that has been hanging over all of us, even in good times, since the fall of 2015 will finally be lifted.

All of this is cause to relish in the thought that spring is here. Enjoy the sunshine. VT