I admit it, I am an Arizona Cardinals fan.
I want them to win the Super Bowl which I will be watching clad in red and white. Many family and friends are on board for their own reasons just as other NFL fans are but for a simpler reason: They are viewed as the sentimental favorite to win since it is something they have never even got close to before.
A recent ESPN poll which was discussed at length on Tuesday's 1st and Ten with Mike Hill, showed that reporters and 60 percent of the ESPN SPORTSNATION are hoping the Cardinals win and they were simply at a loss to explain why. Skip Bayless seemed persuadable but his opponent, Trey-duce, ol' Jamal Anderson stood firm that his Steelers would not lose Super Bowl XLIII.
I however am not some simply Johnny-Come-Lately. I have been a Cards fan since 1997 and took much ribbing from middle school, high school, and college friends and classmates because of their constant losing and my steadfast support.
When I visited Arizona in 1999 and toured their old campus stadium, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, it was a Cards shirt I bought given the choice of any in the entire league from their gift shop.
It was also a Cards hat I bought with my Mountain Dew points (remember them?) back in 2004 and displayed a No. 40 on the hat in a homemade decal tribute shortly after All-Pro Pat Tillman died in 2004 in Iraq. I even had a Pat Tillman foundation wristband.
With that said, it is imperative that the Cardinals be victorious on the league's biggest stage. Should Pittsburgh win, it will be just another win for them in a long line of many but for Arizona it would mean so much more. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a storied, polar-opposite franchise from that the desert has called home for two decades. With their five Super Bowl wins they rank only behind the near equally impressive Dallas Cowboys.
Their long tenured coaches and well traveled fan base are a testament to their stability and perennial respectability that a franchise like Arizona could only dream about prior to this year, and more importantly hope to retain should they hoist Lombardi's ultimate trophy.
Should Arizona lose, they will join the likes of one-year wonders like the 1994 San Diego Chargers, 1998 Atlanta Falcons, 1999 Tennessee Titans, and 2006 Seattle Seahawks who happened to make a Super Bowl only to lose and disappear into the abyss of obscurity following their abberative run. Casual fans soon will not remember that Seattle actually made a Super Bowl nor will more informed fans outside the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area be able to automatically recall exactly what year the Cardinals made their lone Super Bowl appearance.
The only reason San Diego and Tennessee are remembered is because the Chargers got whipped 49-26 by the appropriately named team from San Francisco and the Tennessee because of Mike Jones (who?) highlight tackle of Kevin Dyson at the one yard line.
But it is precisely the fate of the Atlanta Falcons that I fear awaits the Arizona franchise should they fail to deliver on Sunday to the world. How many fans can name the year the Falcons made the Super Bowl without looking it up first? How many people can name five players on their roster? Who was the head coach?
If you can't answer two of three of these questions, then perhaps you need to consider joining the crowding Cardinal bandwagon.
You just know there are writers and fans out there chomping at the bit to write how their most recent title to their storied trophy case was "the easiest win of 'em all!" and how "the Cards didn't really deserve to be there" among other "Not in the Cards" puns. Cards fans can forever quelch eighty-nine years of obscurity on one warm night in Tampa.
Had it not been for the aforementioned Anderson's trendy "Dirty bird" end zone dance, we may never have remembered the Falcons even made a Super Bowl.
Quick, what was the final score?
If you can't rattle 34-19 instantly like any other fan of lore, then you may be starting to see we have a potential problem.
I don't want to forget the players who made this possible. Players like Adrian Wilson deserve to be household names but playing for a team that rarely makes a Monday Night appearance or forever linked to ineptitude that is hard to do. If you don't know who he or Travis LeBoy is, you should.
How funny would it be for a whole season if commentators like John Madden, Al Michaels, Jim Nantz, Mike Ditka, Chris Berman, and the rest of the NFL Live/Countdown gang have to reluctantly refer to the lowly Arizona Cardinals as the World Champions, as in...
Berman: "This week, on CBS the _____ welcome the Champs to town."
Tom Jackson: "Ooh, Boom you know that's gonna be a good one and the ____ better not take them too lightly. We saw in Tampa they are more than just a few flashy wide receivers."
There are so many intriguing story lines to apart from the Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm connection to Pittsburgh.
- Consider veteran Edgerrin James seeking his first ring after watching his former team the Indianapolis Colts win the exact year after he left town.
- Consider Anquan Boldin and his leadership less than six months after vowing he'd never re-sign with the team again and couldn't wait for free agency
- Think about every former Cardinals player who went to the desert for one reason or another whether it be to prolong a career like Emmitt Smith of which he took so much negative flak, or because no one else in the league wanted them so they had to delegate themselves a year of obscurity.
- Remember all the players drafted by the Cardinals who never got to see so much as the playoffs, especially those who had the guts to re-sign with the franchise, like Tillman and Aneas Williams (before he went to the Rams).
- Remember this is a franchise that free agents once avoided like the plague. On many occasions most recently, Antwaan Odom, Roosevelt Colvin etc. players intentionally visited the desert only to drive their price up somewhere else.
- Remember all the coaches who tried and failed. This one could be for them.
- Remember all the players who have ever donned a Cardinals jersey and took ribbing for it. This one could be and should be, for them.
Another thing I fear is frat boys and middle-aged drinking buddies debating someday:
"Remember that year, the Cardinals made the Super Bowl?"
"What are you talking about, buddy, (puts arm around) they never made the Super Bowl! We're talking about the Cardinals."
You know how the old cliché goes: If you ignore something long enough, it may just go away. This franchise and its true fans who've stuck it out all these years deserve better.
They deserve better than the fate reserved for the likes of the Atlanta Falcons. They deserve to be immortalized as only history and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy can do.
As long as they have savvy Kurt Warner and the receiving trio I will not count them out and neither should you.
If anything, you should be hoping they win.
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