Fast forward to October 11. Cardinals fans file into UoP Stadium for a game with the Houston Texans. Not subdued...but without the boisterous, frantic swagger they have had for the past four games played here. Everything looks the same, but it feels different.
You enter the seating area and stop, look around, look up and scan the upper deck, look hard along the Club level, and through the lower sections just below you. You’re about to turn your gaze to the field when you catch it out of the corner of your eye. “No way!" you say to no one in particular.
There, you see a little symbol. Its only about six inches in diameter, but now that you’ve seen it, it sticks out sore thumb...a gravy stain on a white dress shirt...a giant, steaming tur...well, you get the idea.
It seems someone in the "Credibility Control Division" of the NFL league office called Bill Bidwill during the Cardinals Bye week, and they had a chat. The league, it seems, has taken a lot of flack over the Cardinals since last January.
Apparently, the fans (especially in New York), and even sponsors, are calling into question whether or not the Cardinals are worthy of forever carrying the label "NFC Champion," based on what amounts to three amazing weeks of fantastic football.
These calls started last January 18, but kind of quieted down when the Big Red actually made the Super Bowl interesting and took a lead in the fourth quarter. But they started again after the second striaght holding call on third down killed a drive in the third quarter against the Colts tonight.
And the phone has been ringing off the hook.
(Insert fuzzy image change from stands, to the office of William V. Bidwill)
"Now Bill, your family has been in professional football longer than anyone. Over 100 years, in fact. And a charter member of the NFL in 1920, we feel like that kind of loyalty should be rewarded," the voice on the other end was heard to say.
"Yes, I agree!" Bidwill said. “Is it going to be cash? I love cash!”
"BUT...” the voice interrupted. “The fact is, while you’ve been in the league as long or longer than anyone, you have less success than nearly everyone, too! Fewer division titles than many teams have championships.
"I mean, the NFC title game you won last year was your first in over 60 years! That's THREE generations, Bill! And that's not even an actual Championship game anymore!” he continued. “You guys were,..ARE the face of lousy football in the league!”
"Naming rights? Can I rent space on the field to Budweiser? Maybe the end-zones?” Bidwill interjected.
"Bill, this 0-2 start at home is hurting our credibility around the league. It’s not only THAT youre losing, but HOW you’re losing. It’s...well, it’s Cardinals football, Bill!"
"Okay, maybe a Tempur-Pedic mattress and a bigger chair in my suite! No? How ‘bout a..." the voice cuts in again “We’ve been friends a long time, Bill, and you know how it works. As you know, marketing is what we do here in the National Football League. And you’re making it impossible to market you guys.”
The voice starts to raise. “I mean, for crying out loud Bill! Can’t they block anyone?"
"Okay...OKAY! So, what is this reward talk all about?” Bidwill asks. “I'm starting to think its NOT about my financial cut on a ‘Bill Bidwill Lifetime Achievement Bobble-head’, handed out at every stadium on my birthday."
"We gave you the NFC Championship banner, Bill! League approved, big gaudy display, lots of props on NFL Network, Rich Eisen talking you up, the works....” the voice was cut off.
"I Know!" Bidwill screamed “You‘re going to start selling Bowtie BBQ ribs at ALL stadiums?”
"...I even got Chris Collisnworth to be relatively nice to you guys, for Chrissakes!”
There was an awkward moment of dead silence.
"Bill It’s been suggested that we bring that banner down. At least until you win a home game.”
"But I want you to know that I fought for you Bill. It wasn’t easy, and I had to pull a lot of strings. But I went to the mat, fought tooth and nail for you" the voice said.
"Hell, I had to give Al Davis an IPhone with a Los Angeles phone number, Bill! Do you have any idea what thats going to cost the league in 24/7 roaming charges from Oakland?”
(Insert fuzzy image change from Bidwill’s office, back to the stadium)
"NO FREAKIN WAY! They CAN’T do this to us!” you hear yourself scream as your eyes look up, transfixed on the “2008 NFC Champions” banner. Your eyes stop dead. Locked. And there it is.
The voice tails off as you realize you’re being shaken awake. “It was all a horrible dream!” You realize as you lay on a pillow soaked in sweat, that you dozed off after that second 3rd quarter drive/comback killing holding penalty.
You sit up quickly, and take a deep breath. You look around your room. You see the TV on, but the game is long over.
You start to look at the days events in your mind. “Lets see,...The 49ers lost, the Seahawks lost, the Rams (of course) lost...” You remember that you’re in the NFC West. You know you’re only one game back of 1st place in what’s still a below average division.
And you smile. An useasy smile, but a smile.
You send out a Twitter-tweet: “Larry is pissed off, the line couldn’t block the sun if it meant protecting a two-inch lizard with a little life-saving shade, Warner is old..has a bad hip...and more stingers than a hive full of yellowjackets, DRC thinks he’s better than he actually is, and you still have a chance at repeating as division Champs.”
"GO BIG RED!” you say to no one in particular.
NOTE: Check out my Cardinals-Colts Report Card on NFL.com BlogBlitz http://blogblitz.nfl.com/arizona-cardinals