How could anyone have predicted this?
The Arizona Cardinals...in the Super Bowl!?
All the predictions were against this team. Dead in the desert since 1988.
A weak division always produces a weak champion, right? No way will the NFC West champion win a playoff game.
The fans in Glendale on January 3 went to University of Phoenix Stadium because they didn't think they'd get to see another Cardinal game until September.
Michael Turner and the Falcons were supposed to run the Cardinal defense into submission.
So much for that.
Experts rationalized this result. A fluke game can happen any time, especially in favor of a home team. Reason enough to give them no credit heading to Charlotte against a team they had already lost to in the regular season.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Identity and Theft, had the fate of their team given away by Jake Delhomme. Six turnovers forced. 20 point win for Arizona.
Again, the experts couldn't take the Cardinals seriously. Arizona was hardly even a state the last time the franchise played in a championship game of any kind. Only one season of the past 20 had been a winning one. No way could they beat "destiny's darlings" or "the team no one wants to play."
After all, the Eagles had become road warriors in Minneapolis and New Jersey. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb had something to prove to everyone who doubted them over the course of their season. They were men on a mission, and no one could stop them...right?
For 20 minutes in the second half Sunday, they did look unstoppable.
But in the other ten minutes of that half, the Arizona Cardinals molted the inept feathers of the last two decades. Facing fourth and inches near midfield, the longest-standing punch line in professional football refused to be laughed at any more.
They picked up that first down en route to the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion, capping a drive that took 7:52 off of the clock in the final quarter.
After the formality of three minutes of game time, the Cardinals donned their championship gear. Baseball caps and t-shirts that charities had probably already paid for had to be taken off of planes headed for third-world countries so that the team could wear them for the trophy acceptance ceremony.
The apparel bearing the majestic profile of a green eagle is now headed to the savannah of sub-Saharan Africa to be added to wardrobes that include shirts that read "19-0."
It's a strange world here in 2009. In two days, an African-American will be president of the United States. In two weeks, the Arizona Cardinals will play for a Lombardi Trophy. I'll leave it to the reader to decide which is more unexpected.