Where were you on December 29th, 2001?
I was fortunate enough to be in Rupp Arena with my sister. But, I didn’t see Rick walk out of the home team’s tunnel onto the court…I heard it. The second his Italian leather shoe met hardwood, the rage of the Big Blue Nation boiled over into emotional chaos. It’s a moment I won’t soon forget: men, women, children, and blue hairs alike, waving hands, throwing ice, shouting things not fit for public places. Finally, the boos turned into a hearty Tubby chant, and the game was on.
While the game itself did not match the pregame fervor (easy 82-62 victory for the Cats), the atmosphere in Rupp that day was one that is rarely matched. More than 24,000 people united to hate not only one rival, but one man who had done the unthinkable. The signs around the arena were priceless: “Cardinal Sin,” “Their Coach is Still a Crum,” and my favorite, “Joanne, we never liked you either.”
Even better than the moment he stepped on the court was the moment he started talking about it during the post-game press conference. Remember these gems?
– “Believe me I’ll be cheered in Freedom Hall. If I get booed in Freedom Hall then that’s when I’ll be in trouble. I’m the rival coach. They were good to me when I was here and that’s all I can ask from them. They’re not good to me now and they shouldn’t be.”
– “Some of the comments tonight, some people may deem cruel and ridiculous, but we laughed. We thought they were funny and hysterical. That’s what college basketball and entertainment are all about. You have to be able to laugh, you have to have some fun.”
– When asked why he entered through the home team’s tunnel rather than the visitor’s? “Because it was the shortest distance” to the Cardinal bench. Riiight. And Karen Sypher just accidentally sat in Rick’s lap that night at Porcini’s.
The reason I bring up these memories is not to dwell in the past. It is to explain why the Louisville game means more to me than any other game on the schedule. It’s why I grew up hating the Cards and Crum’s red blazer. It’s why I loved Rick when he was the coach at Kentucky. It’s why I loathed him when he took the job at Louisville. It’s why I pity him after the Karen Sypher ordeal. Finally, it’s why I probably shouldn’t watch the game in public on Friday.
So, let’s hear it, KSR nation…where were you on December 29th, 2001?