One year ago, the Arizona Cardinals
had just dispatched the reigning division champion Seattle Seahawks
up in the great northwest, sending the 12th (13th, etc..) man home in shock and sorrow. The Cardinals
, of course, haven’t had much success there. That they just beat the Seahawks in Seattle, putting them at 7-3, felt fantastic!
I mean, you long time fans know that as the leaves changed colors (or in Ariziona's case, the snowbirds started filling our freeways)...and the faint waft of Thanksgiving came around, the Cards' season’s life would end up much like that of that 17 lb. gobbler with the little chef hats on their "ankles."
Done, and hoping next year’s crop fared better than the fate of the current one. Rare was the season in December that presented anything to look forward to but the draft order.
However, the 2008 version of our gridiron hero's came through. They gave us hope that "This year would be different." And it was. I mean, a week before Thanksgiving and our Cardinals at 7-3 and atop the division? Eeek-gad!
But you couldn’t be a long suffering fan of the Big Red and feel 100 percent confident, even at 7-3.
Excited? Sure! But confident? Well...let's just say this team has folded like a tortilla after getting our collective hopes up more often than an annual top 10 draft pick was waiting for a call from Cardinals brass once April rolled around.
Unfortunately, that glee didn’t end up making it into December. A road loss to the then unbeaten New York football Giants
wasn’t unexpected. But following it up with being flushed down the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving night to the Eagles
made me more nauseated than my ex-wife’s creamy-green-bean-and-crunchy-onion-disaster-in-a-dish thingy.
It wasn’t that they lost. But how they lost.
Even a home game against the Rams
...a game that could/would clinch the teams first division title (all together now) since little Michael Bidwill was his ripping his diaper off and whipping it against the wall...errrrr, since 1975...couldn’t keep the excitement of the faithful at full tilt.
There were more than a few empty seats in UoP Stadium that fine December day that they slaughtered the Rams and hoisted that division title. Ask the scalpers, who were almost giving tickets away from their little pen northeast of the stadium.
After a dismal performance at home against the Favre-less Vikings
(Brett already destroyed the Cards with 6 TD passes earlier in the year as a NY Jet), they laid a big fat chocolate bunny-egg in New England
, making it four losses in five games.
Ooops, wrong holiday. Sorry
Anyway, they were called "The worst team ever to make the playoffs” to a national TV audience by soon-to-be-crow-eating NBC mouthpiece Chris Collinsworth. The worst part being, of course, that as much as it sucked to hear our team described in such a manner, it was looking pretty true!
Somehow, they won their next four games, however, and ended up in Tampa on Feb. 1, and the rest is Cardinals history/lore, etc...
But this years 7-3 IS different! It feels different. It’s an excitement that I didn’t feel at 7-3 last year, even moments after that rousing 34-10 win over the Rams that secured the division title the first week of December. Thrilled, yes...but not exactly confident.
This year, I actually DO feel confident! For several reasons, this years 7-3 feels a whole lot better than last years 7-3. It’s a confident feeling that, as an Arizona Cardinals fan, I've never felt before.
In fact, the only time I’ve felt this confident in “my team” at Thanksgiving time was living in Chicago
24 years ago, before the Cards even arrived here, and the Bears were Super Bowl Shuffling their way to a Championship.
Last year as the playoffs approached, I was seeking the team that would be the easiest to beat. With the way things shook out, I was happy to see the Atlanta Falcons
coming to town. I mean, sure they had a great year. But they were still the Falcons, and at that time, a team with only a slightly better history than the Cardinals.
I mean, they weren’t the Giants, Eagles and/or others that generally spend January playing instead of watching football.
This year, I want them to play the Vikings! I want to see how we stack up against the suddenly mighty Saints
! I am confident enough in this years team to be looking forward to anyone we play as the the playoffs approach!
It’s truly exciting to consider the prospects of where we can end up. It’s super exciting to look forward to a showdown with the Vikings on Dec. 6, with a potential playoff bye dangling in the balance of the outcome! That's right! You heard (read) me! A potential playoff bye in the balance!
For the first time in my 23+ years in Arizona, and my 21 years as a season-ticket-holding Cardinals fan, that I am truly confident that we can beat, really truly beat, any team we play!
Rise up, Red Sea! I have the feeling this can...even will be the most fun and exciting December for the faithful since the vagabond Big Red first pitched their tent in the Valley! GBR!