CRAWFORD | U of L celebration complaints are missing the point - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | U of L celebration complaints are missing the point

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You can't please everybody. That's one lesson of the University of Louisville men's and women's NCAA Tournament runs.

You can win it all. You can't please them all. What, you might ask, in all of this avalanche of positive publicity could there be to criticize? A drumbeat started to hold a parade for the teams, and the mayor's office offered one, but U of L balked. It held a free celebration at the KFC Yum! Center, had both teams appear at this weekend's Spring Football Game, where fans could pose for pictures with the championship trophy, and the teams will be Grand Marshals of the Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade. Still, some are grumbling -- less from fans than those in the punditry -- that U of L didn't ride along on the mayor's float, and no parade happened.

For those keeping score . . .

You can win a championship. You can become "America's Team" for a couple of weeks in the process. You can have every news network camped out in satellite trucks on the U of L campus for the inspiring story of Kevin Ware's response to a gruesome injury.

You can have people around the world, literally, looking at Louisville and admiring what they see of it. The first question for Rick Pitino after his team advanced into the title game came from a news outlet in Germany. And I'm not talking about Berlin, Ky.

School children from around the country wrote letters to Ware. In a Columbus, Ohio, classroom, they wrote his Number 5 on their hands.

You can have them light up the Empire State Building red in your honor.

You can have Ware do Letterman's Top Ten List.

You can sweep the Final Four academic awards, with Wayne Blackshear and Jude Schimmel honored as the players at their respective events with the highest cumulative grade-point averages. You can have the last Academic All-American standing in the men's tournament, point guard Peyton Siva.

You can have The New York Times run major profiles of both coach Rick Pitino and women's basketball's Schimmel sisters (a full page).

You can put the name "Louisville" onto three Sports Illustrated covers.

Three years ago I hopped into a cab in Denver and told the driver I was from Louisville. "I've never been there," he said, "But I see it all the time on the 'First 48.'"

Now, Louisville is last name standing in the Field of 68.

You can flip the script.

I was watching CNN Friday night when this double-arm-amputee comes on with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's the first to receive these bionic hands that are controlled by an iPhone app. In mid demonstration on the set, he shows one of the custom settings he's made for his hands -- and throws up an "L."

You can do all of this. But you pass up one parade, and all of a sudden you're somehow not doing enough for the city. You get a newspaper editorial saying you "shortchanged" your fans. After a national championship?

It's not Russdiculous, it's ridiculous.

You can't buy what happened over the past several weeks for the U of L teams and the city of Louisville. You can't buy the goodwill, the positive message, the double exposure of men and women being in the title game in the same week with compelling and positive messages to sell.

There is no price. When the inevitable next round of "failing" arena discussion comes around, you'll not likely hear about the value of any of that.  But there is a value to it. Maybe there's a way for city leaders to capitalize on that momentum and generate something positive for the greater city. You know, beyond a parade. I don't know.

We all know some of the forces at play here. Not all of them, but some of them. Some at U of L have bristled over being characterized as "the problem" where arena shortfalls are concerned. They are disappointed that the mayor is exploring an NBA option that would make U of L the secondary tenant in a building that their name was used to build. They don't like having their civic worth called into question by NBA proponents.

Even if many of the same people want to throw them a parade now.

Look, I don't think U of L handled this the best way. The celebration was badly timed. Many who went to New Orleans to see the women's team couldn't make it back. They were left out, as were many who aren't U of L season-ticketholders. The championship celebration program was lacking, in my view. Fans had to chant the name "Russ" just to get the guy who led them to the championship a few moments with the microphone.

Players and coaches should've been introduced with less sizzle and more substance. We know their heights and hometowns. Recount their contributions. There were logistical concerns with doing something Saturday at the spring game. Coaches were out of town. It's tough to plan things on short notice.

I could go on. U of L's people have not reached UK's heights in stagecraft. So what? It's not their style. For them, the championship is the production. It's about the accomplishment, not about the after-party.

And frankly, that's all right. When U of L won the Sugar Bowl, I thought the school should've done more to celebrate it.

But you can't please everybody. U of L isn't above criticism. But for this? That's literally raining on the parade -- even if it is a non-existent one.

How something is celebrated should not diminish the appreciation of it. And these petty complaints about parades or however else the thing was celebrated are just that -- rather insignificant against the backdrop of that which they purport to celebrate.

The memorable moment occurred on that court in Atlanta. U of L's players were cheered by more than 20,000 in a celebration at their home arena (as UK's were last season, with little critique or complaint). They were cheered by 30,000 more in their football stadium. They will be cheered by thousands in the Pegasus Parade.

Parades are fine, but to suggest that U of L hasn't done enough is to forget the reason for the proposed parade in the first place.

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