“Hoop Dreams”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: March 12th, 2020 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Sports | No Comments »

These are troubled times, kids, so before I start, let me add my voice to those who advise to take all precautions, and to follow the advice of medical pros who know what they’re talking about.

I know a lot of folks, like me, will be hunkering in the ol’ hacienda more than usual.

And, for those of us who love college basketball, we won’t be able to watch any as we’d normally be doing this time of year, because it’s all been called off, justifiably, in the name of national health and safety.

So, I recommend to my followers, as I’ve done before, the absolute best film ever made about basketball.

The filmmakers of “Hoop Dreams” followed a couple Chicago prep phenoms over almost 8 years, edited down hundreds of hours of footage and fashioned this incisive and intimate portrait of their lives and fortunes.

It’s available at Amazon Prime and maybe elsewhere.

For more on the film, listen to my podcast below:

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CM’s Rants, Raves & Reviews: Richard Nixon & The Bud Puppy

Posted: February 2nd, 2015 | Filed under: Culture, Sports, TV | No Comments »

historyThere are times, when I’m not really sure how to title these publications as podcasts of my Saturday morning FPK 91.9 rants, raves and reviews. Which I do normally the Monday after the Saturday morn before, when they are propagated live on a witting audience.

(Actually after throwing down that little alteration in the paragraph above, I may have discovered it. If that phrase is in the title, which it is not currently as I write this before posting, you’ll know I’ve changed my mind.)

Anyhow, this one’s an especially perceptive bit of buffoonery, covering matters as far and deep as political scandal, saccharine TV ads, workforce displacement . . . oh the entirety of topics fails me now, so abundant were they in number.

Which means, it is my not entirely self serving advice to listen up, for as enjoyable a couple of minutes as you’re likely to experience the day you’re here to hear.

Just click below:

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A Sea Change in Sports Culture???

Posted: October 13th, 2014 | Filed under: Culture, Sports | No Comments »

historyYes, I know you expect nothing but tomfoolery from me, when I take to the mic with James on Saturday mornings on FPK 91.9.

But, ya know, every once in awhile, I feel compelled to talk about something serious, and to provide some legitimate perspective to an issue of the day.

So, it was this time around, when I weighed in on the effect of the Ray Rice situation as had on how sports entities now deal with domestic abuse situations, which used to be swept under the rug.

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Cultural Rant: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Posted: March 11th, 2014 | Filed under: Culture, Sports | No Comments »

bballGiven that I have a website specifically dedicated to my endearment to the world of sports, I rarely spend time on Saturday mornings with James, broaching a subject within that realm.

Then again, this isn’t just anytime of the annum on the sports calendar.

In my town, which is the basketball watchingest town in all the land — a verifiable claim — it’s time for the Big Dance. AKA to points hither and yon as the NCAA basketball tournament. Which is preceded by a week of regional conference conclaves, known as Championship Week.

So last Saturday’s Culture Maven Rant extolled the virtues of this glorious time of year for all us hoopaholics.

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Louisville Card File: Houston (Boffo Music Video Included)

Posted: November 17th, 2013 | Filed under: Sports | No Comments »

cardfootballWhat strikes me most about U of L’s steady as she goes 20-13 victory over Houston is how practical it was.

On the season, Louisville’s ratio of rushing attempts to passing attempts has been just about even. 343 ground assaults vs. 321 air attacks. Last night, when it became obvious that the Cougars’ defensive schemes had Teddy B in too much peril when looking down field for an air lift, Sean Watson obviously decided to keep it on the ground more.

Forty one rushing attempts vs. only 29 passes.

The strategy obviously worked. Louisville won, and, bottom line, that’s why they play the game.

It was also effective in more subtle ways. Louisville had possession of the ball for 37:49 vs 22:11 for the visitors from Texas. If not impossible, a football team is less likely to score when it doesn’t have the ball than when it does. Read the rest of this entry »

Cardinals’ Championship, Sense of Fulfilllment, Rule of Threes

Posted: April 21st, 2013 | Filed under: Ruminations, Sports | 9 Comments »

Omne trium perfectum.

If we are lucky as we slip into our dotage, if more synapses stay connected than not, we’ll remember salient moments, significant snippets of dialog from yesteryear.

A cunning retort. A pithy aside. Legit advice that resonates.

A life changing admonition. A homily to guide. A comforting whisper, such as the one that really should begin this piece, But first, as if to illustrate, a moment of insight into celebrity.

Jerry Lee Lewis sometime in the early to mid 70s played a Monday night gig at a dinner theater in, I believe, Simpsonville. Maybe Shelbyville. As best I knew at the time, he was still in exile for marrying his 13 year old cousin Myra at the apotheosis of his rock & roll ascendency. Truth is he had fashioned somewhat of a career, singing what was then called Country & Western. All I was looking forward to as I drove out to the show was “Great Balls of Fire.” (He called Pee Wee King out of the audience and sang “Tennessee Waltz” with him. Which was pretty sweet.)

The current run of “Camelot” at the beef and boards joint was taking the night off, but the set, still in place, hadn’t been struck for the concert.

Jerry Lee took the stage in fighting trim, chest puffed, like a banty rooster. He was wearing a suit. Wearing on his head, a prop crown from the musical. Hmm, Jerry Lee as King Arthur . . . it’s an interesting contemplation for another time.

He took a few steps across the proscenium, when someone in a crowd ready to party shouted out, “The Killer is back.” Read the rest of this entry »

Te’o Armstrong Syndrome: The Amends Process

Posted: January 18th, 2013 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities, Sports | 2 Comments »

Personal insecurity and a will to win in overdrive make strange bedfellows.

It is a combination of personality traits fraught with peril.

Consider Lance Armstrong. Consider Manti Te’o.

Which I shall, but first some perspective.

I was a roly-poly kid, fat, truth be told. Always a little slower on the ball field than my pals. Not as deft at picking up grounders, or putting the ball in the hoop. Relegated to the line in touch football.

Our gang dubbed ourselves the “Bonnycastle Bearcats.” Even though the only opponent we ever played was Jimmy Bevers’ Gang.

Sitting around one afternoon in the corner of the park which was our home field, I told the group my uncle was going to get us uniforms. My standing escalated immediately.

Truth. There was no uncle. There were no uniforms. Out of the blue, based on a desire to be well-liked, some need to feel worthy, I made it up. Consequences never entered my mind.

Weeks passed. The others started wondering, “Where are our uniforms?” Read the rest of this entry »

A Contemplation of Acolytic Fandom

Posted: December 29th, 2010 | Filed under: Sports | No Comments »

For most hoopaholics around here, when their teams meet, the blur begins at tip-off.

For the victor’s rooters, it doesn’t end until the triumphant euphoria ebbs somewhat and they can relax, switch on the replay to see the details in a state of calm. The defeated eventually shake it off — more or less — deal with their grief, and move on to what normal people call real life. They could not care less about the stats. The big plays, even those that were valiant but not enough, couldn’t mean less.

I’m speaking here of the true believers, the acolytes. The gal in Cherokee Triangle pulling her No. 31 Unseld throwback off the shelf, making sure it’s laundered and ironed for the game. The plumber in Somerset who spent hours at a paint store making sure he was buying the exact shade of Big Blue for his man cave. The fellow in PRP who has been flying Cardinal flags for a month on his red F-150. The grandmother in Maysville who places good luck candles — blue, of course — in front of her cherished photo on the mantle, the one of Baron Adolph Rupp in his brown suit with Dan Issel.

For these fans of the Cats and Cards, this annual rite of winter, these 40 minutes — or more — are most often just a blizzard of imagery and sound. Surging strobe flashes of red and blue, punctuated by cheers, moans and squeaking hardwood.

Welcome to Hooparama!

Welcome to Louisville vs. Kentucky.

This is our cherished aggravation, the epicenter of the commonwealth’s year.

It is pure emotion. The details are for later. Who scored what, who grabbed the key rebound, who let the ball slip from his grasp at crunch time? Those contemplations come only in the aftermath.

When it’s game on, there is total nail-biting, hand-wringing, hallucinogenic infarction-inducing immersion in the flow with only vague awareness of XXs and 00s, shooting percentages and defensive switches.

It’s we score. Yes!

They score. Oh no!

Rare is the Cardinal fan who at the buzzer could recite any details of what they call the Samaki Walker Game on New Year’s Day ’95, when the pivotman’s triple double led U of L to an improbable 88-86 win. (Walker tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocked shots.) Few Cardinal supporters paid attention then or later to the players on the forgettable 12-20 team that won in Lexington in ’97. (The leading scorers on that, the worst team of the Crum era, were Nate Johnson, Alex Sanders, Marques Maybin, Tony Williams and Cameron Murray.)

Only some Wildcat boosters kept a scoresheet of Rex Chapman’s exact numbers in his epic performance in an 85-51 decimation of Freedom Hall in December of 1986. (He was 10/20 from the field, including 5/8 from beyond the arc, with 4 assists and 2 steals. It just seemed during that Big Blue blitzkrieg that he scored all 85.)

This annual basketball brouhaha between the Wildcats and Cardinals is the donnybrook that gives meaning to the commonwealth’s moniker, “Dark and bloody ground.”

You are either or Red, or you are Blue.

There are but a very few Kentuckians who switch allegiances.

The stories of change they tell are disparate. Perhaps it was circumstance. A Louisvillian, feeling the Wildcat spirit after matriculating at UK. A Cat fan in youth who, through coincidence, befriends some Cardinal luminaries. Yet their stories are similar in one regard: Once the metamorphosis is complete, their loyalty 
is inveterate.

And, yes, there are some odd few, those quirky souls who say they truly cheer for both teams, that all they want to see is a good game.

Don’t believe them.

Perhaps those “dispassionate” observers can watch the action with some acuity. For the rest of us, it’s all a haze when the game clock is ticking.

But beforehand, for the last few weeks and the next couple days, until the noon New Year’s Eve tip, it is all about assessment. (Except, of course, on the message boards, which continue to be safe harbor for the most inane, often vile regurgitation of smack.)

Coming into this season’s renewal of the rivalry, there are more questions than answers. Making it arguably the most intriguing, difficult to decipher match-up of this decade in which UK holds a 6-4 edge in victories.

There have surely been some close encounters in recent tussles, especially here in Louisville. The Cats won by a deuce in 2001. And again in 2004, when Patrick Sparks knocked down those controversial free throws at the tilt’s end. In 2009, Louisville had the game in hand, did its best to give it away, then snatched it back when Edgar Sosa nailed a winning trey.

Who, if anybody, is ready to imprint his name in the lore of the series like Sparks and Sosa?

Can Rakeem Buckles check Terrence Jones? Will Coach Rick Pitino actually give him the opportunity?

Does neophyte Gorgui Dieng have enough savoir fair to perform capably in the unique intensity of this game? Does it matter against Eloy Vargas and Josh Harrellson?

Who has the wherewithal to seize an advantage at point, Brandon Knight or Peyton Siva?

Who from beyond the arc will knock down the long ones in this first meeting of the rivals at the Yum! Center, Doron Lamb or Mike Marra?

Which of the supporting actors brings an award-quality performance to the big stage, Kyle Kuric, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller or Chris Smith?

Will Cats fans get their wish: Jon Hood as surprise hero?

Is Preston Knowles ready to impose his will in a battle of this magnitude?

Which of these poor free throw shooting squads will tally important charity tosses?

Will UK’s tougher schedule early in the season aid its cause?

Which of the coaches, John Calipari or Rick Pitino, the bitterest of rivals, bests the other in strategy and in-game adjustments?

Under the Big Top, amid the numbing tumult and emotional delirium, these are the questions that will be answered Friday afternoon.
For the most ardent of diehards, the game itself will speed past as if chimera. The Yum! will be a carnival; the arena, a neon pastiche of primary reds and blues (too much of the latter, frankly, for the home folks).

Put the ball through the hoop and win a prize for the lady!

One joyous side leaves with a stuffed panda; the other, disconsolate, with empty pockets.

Only later, during endless retellings, win or lose, will the details come clear.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Strong

Posted: September 7th, 2010 | Filed under: Features, Sports | 1 Comment »

If springtime is the season of rejuvenation and frolic; fall heralds recommitment and refocus, a time that takes the measure of man.

Labor Day, summer’s traditional end, marks the kickoff of what has evolved as America’s favorite pastime.

How and why the nation turned its wandering eyes from the bucolic pastures of baseball to the thunder of headgears and the grandeur of script Ohio that define football is a semester’s course unto itself. Suffice it to say the changeover occurred sometime after Joe Willie wrenched the pigskin planet off its axis in Super Bowl III, but way before ESPN greenlighted Brett Favre’s life into a daily soap opera.

Football is now the deal.

And this autumn, in this city, in this commonwealth, there are cultural considerations that make the season just over the horizon the most fascinating ever. Perhaps even a portent of significant social change.

The state’s three major football schools have new coaches. By odds-defying coincidence, the triad of new leaders are men of color.

Willie Taggert at Western Kentucky and Joker Phillips at UK are alums who now lead the charges of their alma maters. Their stories are worthy.

But nothing like that of Charlie Strong, tapped to lead Louisville’s Cardinals out of the football wasteland, where it has been deposited by a coaching fraud who turned a national contender with talent and Heisman-quality leadership into an also ran.

How Strong traveled the circuitous, impediment-laden byways from the rural burg of Batesville, Arkansas to the University of Louisville is not epic in the Homerian sense. But it is poetic nonetheless, a fable of fortitude and forbearance, how what is good and right can eventually prevail despite pitfalls.

When Charlie Strong was born and raised a half century ago in Batesville, Arkansas, hard on the edge of the Ozarks in “Deliverance” country, it was a town of 5,000. It is less than twice that now. Yet it’s still produced its share of favorite sports sons. Like NASCAR’s Mark Martin, a contemporary of Louisville’s coach. Former major leaguer Rick Monday was born there. So too, Ryan Mallett, now the quarterback for former U of L coach Bobby Petrino at Arkansas.

As it turns out, football wasn’t Strong’s favorite endeavor as a kid.

“I loved baseball. Centerfield. But when I was old enough I had to work in the summers. At my uncle’s service station. So I switched to a winter sport.”

It is that work ethic — taking care of basic business first — that has guided Strong along his career arc.

Quarterback Adam Froman explained to SI.com’s Andy Staples that it’s not difficult to follow when you see Strong jogging before sun up and lifting. “He’ll get in there in the weight room, and just put 315 [pounds] on the bar and start repping it out.”

Defensive tackle Gregg Scruggs: “He works hard. He makes us work hard.”

Charlie Strong’s resumé proves it makes a difference.

Perhaps the most impressive of stats is this. According to Strong’s bio at the University of Florida website, in 64 of 92 games when he was defensive coordinator, the Gators tallied points off turnovers. In 70% of the games, Strong’s defense scored. Stunning.

Which acumen is why he’s coached in 21 bowl games, including 14 played in January. Then there are those two national titles while directing the Florida defense. In 2009’s title battle, the Gators held the highest scoring offense in college football history to 14 points, a mere fifty points under Oklahoma’s per game average.

Charlie Strong’s leadership capabilities have been on display for years.

While preparing for that BCS title match against the Sooners, Florida mentor Urban Meyer told the press, “Do I think Charlie Strong would be a great head coach? No question about it. Do I think he’s deserving? No question about it.”

A decade ago, while coaching at South Carolina, Lou Holtz told the Columbia (S.C.) State: “Charlie Strong should be a head coach. He’s anxious to be, and he and I have talked about how you get a head coach’s job. I know we’re going to lose him eventually.”

Years before that, while at Notre Dame, Holtz recognized Strong’s potential and became a mentor, giving the then position coach a binder and advising him to fill it with ideas how to lead his own team. Then to take it on interviews to prove he was ready.

The problem, well documented and oft discussed, is that those interviews rarely came. When they did, many — nay, most — were a sham.

Charlie Strong is black. Strike one.

Victoria Strong, Charlie’s wife, is white. Strike two. Strike three.

Sad to say, but true.

Strong has spoken frankly of an interview he had with a school he knew already had secretly hired another coach, but needed to feign diversity.

But Strong carried on, never whining. Yet never afraid to publicly discuss the reality of discrimination. He told the Orlando Sentinel in 2009, he’d heard too many times to gloss over them the murmurings why, despite his credentials, he was being passed over.

Of one particular position at a southern school he didn’t get, he said, “Everybody always said I didn’t get that job because my wife is white.”

To the credit of Tom Jurich, who hired Strong without needing to see that binder, it wasn’t a hindrance at all. Nor has it been for this community which the coach says “has embraced us (he and family) and taken us in.”

The reactions of fans have been almost unanimously positive.

“He’s everything you want in a head coach,” says one local businessman, who purchased one of the new boxes at Papa John’s but asked not to be named. “His football IQ is off the chart. He’s the real deal. He’s going to be very successful.”

Long time fan and alum, Dr. George Nichols: “We will be a success within three years. I’ve heard Strong speak twice. Very impressive.”

Truth. Charlie Strong is already a success.

In the classroom. He has not one but two Masters degrees.

On the field. He has been lauded as the country’s best defensive coordinator.

Naturally, he expects and has asked a lot of the Cardinals. “He works us hard every single day,” says defensive end Malcolm Mitchell. Yet there is respect. “I love this coach,” adds Mitchell.

But this stalwart man’s moment has arrived. At half past three on the first Saturday of September, with hip hop blaring from the PA and cheerleaders tumbling and fans screaming, head coach Charlie Strong will at last stride onto his own turf.

“I enjoy being captain of the ship. But it means there’s a job to do.”

Thus head coach Charlie Strong will savor the moment but be focused. Knowing he will have traveled the longest route through the most detours to the stadium, he will be ready.

LEO is 20: U of L Sports Then & Now

Posted: May 26th, 2010 | Filed under: Community, Sports | No Comments »

When LEO hit newsstands in the summer of 1990, college sports was not mired in the profit über alles ethos it is today.

ESPN was but a decade old and had not yet cornered the market in collegiate football, basketball and baseball. Nor in minor sports, which with the advent of ESPNU, are now in the stranglehold of the beast from Bristol.

The rah rah sis boom bah, win one for the ol’ alma mater attitude had died years before with the Gipper and Rudy Vallee. The once-legit concept of “student-athlete” — at least in major sports — had become delusion.

Not every school that eked out wins over East Nevada Tech and South Dakota A&P found a spot in a bowl game named for some upstart Silicon Valley venture. Schools that didn’t make it into the NCAA basketball tournament accepted without squawking that an 18-14 record was not post season-worthy.

The difference between University of Louisville sports then and now is just as great in some respects. Just the same as it ever was in others.

At the time, there was no women’s lacrosse at U of L, a sport that now has it’s own dedicated stadium. Nor women’s softball, which now has its own bucolic diamond. Nor women’s golf. Nor women’s rowing.

What is now a state-of-the-art athletic complex that has hosted national and conference championships was then a gravel parking lot near I-65.

Cardinal baseball — which also has its own new ballyard — was an afterthought. With a College World Series appearance now on its résumé, U of L baseball is becoming a national power.

The summer of 1990 marked the halfway point of Howard Schnellenberger’s regime as coach of Cardinal football. Hired before the 1985 schedule, the first five seasons for the former national title coach at Miami were up and down as he attempted to reinvent U of L football. Playing in ramshackle Fairgrounds Stadium, his squads suffered through three desultory seasons before going 8-3 in 1988 but without a bowl appearance. They fell to 6-5 the following year.

The Cardinals reached unprecedented heights the fall after LEO was born, tying their opener to San Jose State, losing at Southern Miss, but winning 10, including an improbable and resounding 34-7, New Year’s Day victory over Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl.

During Schnellenberger’s tenure, Louisville remained staunchly independent at a time when conference affiliation was becoming increasingly imperative. In fact, the coach cited U of L’s nascent affiliation with Conference USA as one of the reasons he jumped ship before the Cards collided with the national title he promised. As well as before completion of Papa John’s Stadium, for which he was the prime mover.

Louisville football has been a roller coaster ride ever since.

Louisville basketball also reached a cusp in 1990.

The ’89-’90 season ended 27-9 but with a disheartening loss to Ball State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the type of opponent to which Hall of Famer Denny Crum’s teams rarely lost. U of L was the team of the ’80s in college basketball. National championships were won in ’80 and ’86, with two other Final Four appearances.

It all changed during the ’90-’91 season. The Cards went 14-16, the school’s first losing campaign in a half century. Only one time after that did a Crum-coached Cardinal team make it as far as the Elite Eight. Crum resigned during a contentious scenario with Athletic Director Tom Jurich after a horrendous 12-19 record in 2000-2001.

Louisville ended its Final Four drought in 2005 under Coach Rick Pitino. Last season, the school’s final stint in Freedom Hall, ended with a resounding defeat to California in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

U of L football, hoping for yet another refurbishment, will open next season with a new coach, Charlie Strong, in an expanded stadium.

U of L basketball will open next season in a new downtown arena against national runner-up Butler. Most longtime season ticket holders are feeling left behind by the athletic department’s money-over-loyalty policy that is governing the current seat selection process for the new facility.

The stench of upcoming major conference realignment is in the air. The demise of the Big East may be a reality sooner than later.

The University of Louisville, not an obvious fit in the SEC, Big 10, ACC or Big 12, might be an odd school out.

For all the successes and expansion of the last score of years, Cardinal athletics remain in a state of flux today, just as they were in 1990.

A Fan’s Farewell To Freedom Hall

Posted: March 9th, 2010 | Filed under: Culture, Features, Sports | 3 Comments »

freedom hallPhil Rollins has been immersed in the University of Louisville hoops tradition for half a century. His playing days predate Freedom Hall.

As a senior in 1956, he starred on Louisville’s team that ruled Madison Square Garden and has been a fixture at Freedom Hall since 1963 after his pro career ended.

He’s red and black to the core. His business card includes a photo of him in his Cardinal uniform and reads “1956 NIT Champs.”

“What I remember is that a lot of people thought Freedom Hall was going to be a white elephant. It’ll never be what they want.

“I was in the service, but made it back for the first game in Freedom Hall. The place was packed. Charlie (Tyra) broke his record. Tommy Hawkins played a great game for Notre Dame.”

U of L contested its first tilt in Freedom Hall on Dec. 21, 1956. By that time, two other games had already been held there: Ed Diddle’s Western Kentucky State College Hilltoppers (later to become WKU) bested San Francisco, 61-57, several days earlier in the official inaugural. Bellarmine played an “exhibition” versus a squad from Fort Knox.

The Cardinals whipped Notre Dame, 85-75, before 13,756 fans in their first bout at the Hall. It was in that game that Tyra, cover boy on the first-ever Street & Smith College Basketball Yearbook, tallied 40, including a perfect 18 for 18 underhanded free throws. Sophomore guard Harold Andrews scored a dozen in his first start. Bill Darragh scored 17.

Darragh, a season ticket holder to this day, remembers that game as well as the Cards’ other two wins at the fairgrounds that season. U of L moved permanently from the Jefferson County Armory (Louisville Gardens) the following season.
“Freedom Hall was big, new and shiny. We liked the Armory, but the locker room was like a furnace room. It was dirty and dingy. Playing at Freedom Hall was exciting…

“In the Christmas tournament we beat St. Louis. It was payback. They’d beaten us earlier in the season. Against Dayton, I missed a shot that would have won in regulation. But it made a good friend happy. He’d bet on us. We won and we were able to cover the spot in overtime.”

It was an auspicious start to what’s been an amazing run in the Hall, given the school’s 680-plus wins against fewer than 150 losses there. This Saturday, that long, successful run will come to a close when the Cards play their final game in Freedom Hall. Next season, the team will move into a new downtown arena, leaving behind a place they’ve called home for more than five decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Cardinal Fans Smitten with Charlie Strong

Posted: December 16th, 2009 | Filed under: Culture, Personalities, Ruminations, Sports | No Comments »

strongA calendar hangs on the wall by the four repair bays at Cecil’s Chevron downtown. Notated prominently — in thick black marker — are the dates and starting times of U of L games. Other matters are in regular ink.

Johnny Cecil is a Cardinal fan.

He has season tickets. He goes to away games when possible. He’s paid tuition for his kids to attend the university.

He is invested.

The morning after Charlie Strong’s introduction as Louisville’s new football coach, Cecil was smiling once again.

“I tried to watch the press conference on my computer here,” he said. “Then I listened on the radio. I watched on TV last night.”

Asked his initial impression, Cecil didn’t mince words.

“It’s a home run.

“I like that he’s seasoned,” he continued. “I like that his recruiting strength is in Florida and areas in the South where Louisville needs to be recruiting. I never understood how we’d get kids from out West to come here.”

Then there’s the topic mentioned in nearly every conversation about Strong’s introduction as U of L’s new football coach, the 10 seconds of immediate Cardinal lore known as The Moment.

At the press conference, Strong was speechless and fought back tears when acknowledging his fears that a head coaching position he’s long craved might never have come.

He was surely remembering the jobs he interviewed for but didn’t get despite his résumé. Like Minnesota, where he was interviewed under the guise of being a candidate for a job already filled.

Strong allowed his emotions to take charge. It was a stunning, deeply human moment.

Johnny Cecil was touched: “I could feel it.”

Football, the most popular sport in America, is also the manliest. Fans want their teams aggressive. They want their teams to play mean, to hit hard, to strike fast. They want their coaches strong and assertive.

How ironic then that the instant that has galvanized a fractured Cardinal football fan base was a tender interlude punctuated by tears of joy. Many have mentioned how Strong displayed more emotion in those dozen silent seconds than his mechanical predecessor did in three years.

The consensus from every corner is that Tom Jurich made a great choice. “Maybe a perfect fit,” says Wildcat, his online name notwithstanding, a major U of L pigskin supporter.

But, as Cecil acknowledged, “A new coach is always a crapshoot.”

Strong has never been a head coach. (Not that such a line on one’s résumé assures success, as Cardinal fans well know. Exhibit A: Ron Cooper. Exhibit B: Steve Kragthorpe.)

But Strong has had stellar mentors. Steve Spurrier, Lou Holtz and Urban Meyer all coached national champions. Seth Hancock has been an icon in the thoroughbred industry for decades.

The fellow knows how to coach ’em up on defense. In one BCS title match-up, Strong’s Gator defenders held Ohio State to 82 yards, bashing the favored Buckeyes 41-14. In last year’s title game, Charlie’s charges held Oklahoma, the most prolific offense ever in college football, to 14 points. This season, Florida was top five in four different defensive categories.

Yes, the statistics are there.

He’s coached umpteen All-Americans, even more high NFL draft picks, national defensive players of the year, big-time award winners, etc., etc.

The leadership and defensive coaching talent are there.

Strong knows the big time. Along with Florida, he’s coached at Notre Dame, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Roaming sidelines around the New Year has become an annual ritual.

Experience is there.

Yet fame and fortune are fickle. Favorable outcomes are never a foregone conclusion. Strong has been left a woefully bare cupboard. The current U of L squad may be earnest, but it is thin in numbers and lacking sufficient championship talent.

In this Internet age, when the next latest and greatest is but a mouse click away, fans want microwave-fast gratification — yesterday. Adulation such as Strong is now experiencing can be fleeting. Loyalties change as quickly as some pseudonymous blowhard can make up a rumor in a chat room.

Alum and longtime fan Fred Smart observes, “We need organization and inspiration. We need to get the fans unified. And we need players.”

The fans seem united for now, and hopefully beyond next season’s inevitable setbacks.

Organization, staff selection and recruiting are among the many variables to be revealed between now and spring practice. (Early returns are positive. Strong nabbed a four-star quarterback within 24 hours of his hire.)

Former coach Howard Schnellenberger trumpeted a collision course with a national championship. Ron Cooper dazzled when he arrived in town clutching a list of 50 ambitious endeavors he wished to accomplish. John L. Smith charmed with his smirk, swagger and bowl-worthy squads. Bobby Petrino just won, baby.

Steve Kragthorpe, like a vampire, sucked the lifeblood out of the program.

If Charlie Strong repairs Louisville football as well as Johnny Cecil repairs cars, Cardinal fans are in for a grand tour.