Thursday, March 04, 2010

Earliest Freedom Hall Memories...

When looking back at the thrill and excitement that I've been a part of while attending UofL games at Freedom Hall, I can point to my two of my earliest memories as to why I'm such a fanatic today.

In 1994, my Dad took Ben and me to one of the last home games of the year. I don't really remember who we were playing (Tulane maybe?), but I remember being super excited because it was on a school night and we got to stay up late. Anyway, we got to the game early and Dad took us down to the court to see if we could snatch some autographs. It was literally hours before the game and there were only about 5 other fans in the stands. Ben and I walked down by the court with our eyes wide open and smiles on our faces. I can remember the security guard starting to come over to tell us to step back, since we were practically on the court, but he soon saw the excitement on our faces and just let us go.

So there we were, 11 year old Ben and 8 year old me, standing under the basket as our heroes warmed up. I will never ever forget how small I felt. I mean, they were giants! Soon, Ben got up the nerve to ask for an autograph, "Clifford! Hey, Clifford! Could we get an autograph?" We watched as All-American Clifford Rozier shot free-throws and didn't respond. Ben tried again this time a bit louder. Finally, the same security guard said, "Hey Cliff, you've got some fans over here!" Cliff smiled and said, "Huh, I thought I heard somebody calling my name." To this day I remember feeling so nervous and excited as big Cliff walked over and scribbled his name on a piece of paper. After we got one autograph, the flood gates opened. We got the whole team! Dwayne Morton, Greg Minor, Dejuan Wheat, Alvin Sims! It was awesome!

I have no idea how that game turned out, and it didn't even matter! I went to school the next day and showed off my prized autographs and it was the coolest. Sadly, I think someone at school stole some of Ben's autographs or something...it was lame, but kids are kids. Nevertheless, I'll always remember how excited I was to talk to the Cards, see them up close and get their autographs.

My next memory is from January 30, 1997. This time I cared about the game, a lot. This was about the age when I started to understand basketball and I really cared about winning. The Cards had the late Thursday night ESPN game (9 o'clock) and they were hosting the #8 Cincinnati Bearcats and their All-American Danny Fortson. It was for first place in the conference and I wanted to win badly. My mom came up with some tickets to the game and I got to go with her.

When we got to Freedom Hall there was a buzz in the crowd that I had never felt before. With each and every basket the Cards scored the place got louder and louder. I remember Dejuan Wheat hitting a big 2nd half three and thinking, "This is so loud, is it going to hurt my hearing?" Then we got a steal and a bucket and the place got even louder! It was like the building was shaking! Mom and I high fived and I will always remember being more excited and pumped up then I had ever been before.

As the game went on that feeling grew and grew. The Cards won that game 81-70 and I will always remember walking down the ramps and people just chanting "C-A-R-D-S! CARDS!" over and over again. Strangers were high fiving and hugging in the parking lot, cars were honking their horns. It was the craziest feeling that I had ever experienced...and it changed my life forever.

Without those two early Freedom Hall memories I wouldn't be who I am today. I know that sounds crazy, but they laid the foundation for the thing, with the exception of family and friends, that I love most in the world....Cardinal Basketball!

One last Freedom Hall goodbye post tomorrow! Have a good one!

Song of the Day: Ryan Adams - To Be Young

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