It’s been an emotional month for us. We got into ACC, Won Big East, Accepted Sugar Bowl bid, kept Charlie Strong, beat Kentucky, won the Sugar Bowl. But I got an e-mail that will re-charge my empty batteries. I get e-mail from time to time thanking me for a Preview/Review or a video, or a position piece. Soldiers overseas, people in hosptials, or just folks reacting to whatever it is we did that day. It’s great to get that kind of e-mail. It brightens my day and keeps things in perspective that PEOPLE are reading/watching. Also come Week 8/9 it’s the guy who prints out my stuff for his dad to read in a nursing home that keeps me going.
Well late last night I received an e-mail from someone I’ve interacted on Twitter with quite regularly. He had a special Sugar Bowl experience that MOST Cardinal fans can not relate to. I wrote previously that this was more than a game for me, and I knew that was probably also the same for others. Well anyway, here is in my opinion a MUST read for ANY Cardinal Fan:
A few weeks ago I made a decision that I knew would change my life, but to what degree this decision would have on me was unforeseen. A simple decision to follow the University of Louisville Cardinals to the Sugar Bowl would seem like a no brainer for many of the cardinal faithful. A chance to party on Bourbon Street, a chance to celebrate a great season, a chance to show our coach that we can indeed travel in masses, and finally a chance to witness history should we win. Sure, for many, this was a once in a lifetime experience. Many of our fans as well as the University will be changed forever, but for me it was much much more. Let me explain.
In August 2005 I was on a team of approximately 40+ members deployed to hurricane Katrina known as the Jefferson County Water Rescue Team. The team is made up of members from various Fire Departments in Jefferson County with specialized training in water rescues. I was on the 2nd wave of members that responded to New Orleans after the initial members arrived in New Orleans and realized the magnitude of the destruction. In total we spent 10 days in New Orleans, traveling back and forth each morning and evening to Baton Rouge after working 15+ hours with limited food, water, or medical supplies to sustain our rescue efforts. Yet we fought through deplorable conditions and received credit for rescuing more than 2,500 people left in Katrina’s wake. Weeks after we returned from New Orleans, the city of Louisville, members of the US Congress as well as the US Senate all issued citations and awards of merit for the work we did. Much appreciated recognition of course, but I can say this with sincere honesty that no citation or award ever made me more proud of serving in New Orleans, or changed me in the way that the Cardinal football team and our fans did this past week.
You see, my one and only experience in New Orleans was that of Katrina. The sight of dead bodies floating in streets, some trapped and left behind in houses. The sound of gas fires burning and gun shots in the distance. The smell of death and sewage all around. The feel of cold murky contaminated water against the skin knowing just a small amount ingested or in a cut could make one ill for weeks or worse. The helpless feeling of leaving so many people behind refusing to be rescued, wanting to stay to protect what little they had left, knowing in my mind that many would not live long after we left. These were the memories that were etched in my mind for more than 7 years post Katrina. In total, my career has spanned 20 years. I have seen death, Ive seen loss of property and I have witnessed sadness, but nothing in those 20 years comes close to the disparity I felt and witnessed during Katrina.
I knew before I left Louisville Monday evening that this was my opportunity to erase those memories. A chance to revisit New Orleans and experience the city for what it truly is, a historic and vibrant city. The University of Louisville Football team gave me that opportunity. Not only did they give me that opportunity, they far exceeded any expectation I had of changing my perspective on New Orleans. What they ended up giving me was peace of mind and freedom from the memories which had haunted me for all those years. They made my second experience in New Orleans a life changing event. I will no longer look back and see New Orleans as a cold dark place. I see it as the place where I had the time of my life. Filled with pride, enthusiasm, excitement, passion and possibility. I am now filled with memories such as the of sound random C A R D S cheers on Bourbon street the night before the game. The smell of breakfast and my first bloody mary shared with so many other fans that were complete strangers, but in some weird way, felt more like family to me. The sight of hundreds of those very same fans cheering as the team left the hotel for the game. And finally, the feeling of shear electricity when T. Floyd had his pick 6 which led to the feeling of the most amazing tear my eyes have ever created. Not a tear created by sadness, but of happiness and freedom. It was at that moment that I realized I will suffer no more from those memories of 2005. Because win or lose I was having the time of my life. For me, going there was enough to clear my mind, but those moments changed me. The win and recognition to the fans by Coach Strong was mere icing on a cake to an otherwise perfect and joyous experience.
I have a new found love for a great city, both New Orleans and Louisville, and I have a new found passion for my Louisville Cardinals. I owe a debt of gratitude to the city of New Orleans, the thousands of Cardinal faithful that shared this with me including my girlfriend Amanda (which by the way is a UK fan that cheered as if she were a Cardinal fan from birth), Coach Strong that inspired me to make the trip just by staying loyal to UofL, Tom Jurich for the legacy that he is building at the university and to football team for the unbelievable, unforgettable and unmatched performance they displayed on Wednesday night in defeating Florida. Words can not truly express how good this feels. How a simple trip to show support for a local college team could make one person feel so good about their career, their city, themselves and completely erase the tragedy that plagued them.
I truly wish I could say thank you to each and every person involved, but I know it’s an impossible feat. However, whether they will ever know me or know my reasons, I promise I will be a more loyal and supportive fan. The first step has already been made by submitting my request this afternoon to the ticket office. I will be a season ticket holder next year and I will make sure my butt is in those seats come Senior Day!
I wanted to say thank you for allowing me to share this with you. I felt a true need to do this and I wanted someone that can relate to my passion as a firefighter, much like the passion you have for UofL Athletics. Ive come to the conclusion, once I starting following you on Twitter through Ryan Hammel @hammel11, that you work almost tirelessly to support the University. I just want to thank you for your work! You too have inspired me to be a better fan!
I do not ask for anything in return, only that you continue the great work as a reporter, and that the University continues its rise to the top of college athletics. I would however like to give you the permission to share this. I hope Coach Strong and the team catches wind of my experience and the appreciation I have for them, but in many ways I think they already know that they have done something special, for all of us!
Jason Robinson of Louisville
Capt. Jason Robinson
Quint 2252, 2nd Platoon
HQ/Station 2: ###########