I have to come clean.
I was born with a Phoenix Suns jersey on me. There’s no question about that. I embraced the Phoenix Coyotes and dumped the Colorado Avalanche. I praised Jerry Colangelo for giving me the Arizona Diamondbacks instead of forcing me into a life of wearing Dodger Blue.
What about the Cardinals? I had maybe three pieces of Cardinals clothing growing up. Yes, one of my earliest memories as a kid is of my dad taking me to the Cardinals draft party. But when it came to favorite teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings ruled my world.
The Cardinals came close to making me a fan with their playoff run in 1998. They even had me rooting against my Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round. But the missteps of 1999 did them no favors.
Then came an important date in my personal sports history: Nov. 18, 2001.
On that day I attended my first NFL game.
I had been to plenty of sporting events up until then, but never made it to Sun Devil Stadium for a Cardinals game. The combination of my feeling indifferent about the team and the high cost of a NFL ticket didn’t have me begging my parents to take me to a game. Luckily, my dad received free tickets from his work for the game against the Detroit Lions.
I went to the game with low expectations, but I was surprised and forever changed by what I witnessed. Before the game started, I noticed how passionate the fans in attendance were. No, there weren’t many of them. But those who were there were loud and wanted so badly to see a Cardinals victory.
Then the game started and it looked like it would be the same old story. After three quarters, the Cardinals were down 31-21 to the winless Lions.
Then Jake “The Snake” Plummer did his fourth-quarter-comeback thing. Two touchdown passes later, one to David Boston and another to MarTay Jenkins, the Cardinals went up 35-21.
Fred Wakefield piled it on with an interception return for a touchdown and Bill Gramatica put the exclamation point on the rally with a 50-yard field goal. Final score: Arizona Cardinals 45, Detroit Lions 38.
From then on I was hooked. I made sure I watched every road game and listened to every home game.
When I could, I went back to roast on the metal bleachers of Sun Devil Stadium to watch my Arizona Cardinals.