Ah, the Super Bowl. A joyous festival of athletic competition in which two teams square off and, in the most American of fashions, one team wins and the other loses.
The winning team receives parades, champagne, rings, happiness, wealth, love, puppies, and immortality. And alas, the loser is doomed to a life of mediocrity and frustration.
You see, I believe in several sports curses. These curses include, but are not limited to: the Curse of Buffalo Sports Teams, the Curse of Quarterbacks Named Kyle Boller, and above all, the Super Bowl Loser Curse.
But the 2009 Arizona Cardinals are doing everything they can to ensure the latter won't plague them.
But before we get to the Cards, I'm sure you're asking, "Is the Super Bowl Loser Curse actually true?"
To that I say, "Look at the bullet list!"
- In 1998, the Falcons went 14-2 and lost to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. The next two years, they were 5-11 and 4-12. They didn't win their division again until 2004 with a completely different cast of players.
- In 2000, the Giants were 12-4 and winners of the NFC East. After losing to the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, they were 7-9 and missed the playoffs. They did not win another playoff game until their Super Bowl run in 2007.
- In Super Bowl XXXVI, the 12-4 Rams lost to the Patriots. The following season they went 7-9 and failed to make the playoffs.
- The 2002 Raiders were 11-5 and had the most explosive offense in the league when they lost to the Bucs in Super Bowl XXXVII. They have not had a winning season since and have essentially become the Knicks of the NFL.
- One year after their improbable run to the Super Bowl and narrow loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, the 2004 Carolina Panthers went 7-9. No playoffs for you, Carolina.
- The 2004 Philadelphia Eagles set a franchise record with a 13-3 record and went to Super Bowl XXXIX, where they lost to the Patriots. The 2005 Eagles had a major falling out with stars Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens and the team missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
- The Chicago Bears went from first in the NFC North in 2006 to last in the NFC North in 2007. What happened in between? A loss to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
- Even the New England Patriots, who were the NFL's indestructible juggernaut, went 11-5 in 2008 and missed the playoffs after being upset by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Losing Tom Brady for the year in the first game of the season. Smells like a curse to me.
So, between 1998 and 2007, all but two (1999 Titans and 2005 Seahawks) teams who lost the Super Bowl failed to qualify for the playoffs the following season. I understand that there's parity in the NFL and all that jazz, but how can a team that is one game away from being the Super Bowl champion become mediocre the very next season?
Maybe teams put all their energy into the Super Bowl run and, after losing a chance to win it all, they are mentally and physically drained to maintain that level next season.
Perhaps team management thinks they lost because the current personnel aren't good enough and they try to rebuild the roster.
Maybe teams like the 2000 Giants and 2003 Panthers, which were surprise Super Bowl teams, can't surprise anybody the following season because opposing teams know what they're getting.
Everything I just wrote means absolutely nothing to the Arizona Cardinals. Apparently, they didn't receive the memo about Super Bowl losers because they are picking up right where they left off last season.
This season, Arizona repeated as the NFC West champs, had a 10-6 season (its first 10-win season since 1976, and first back-to-back winning season since 1984), and have shown no lag from its heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh last February.
If the Cardinals did suffer the Super Bowl loser slump, it wouldn't have been a huge shock to anybody. After all, they have a 38-year-old quarterback with a rich history of injuries at the helm and several other lineup changes.
However, Kurt Warner has been as good as ever and many players have stepped up and taken a big role for the team this season.
With veteran running back Edgerrin James gone, the Cardinals drafted Beanie Wells out of Ohio State in the first round of the 2009 draft, and he has been a great rusher in the backfield along with Tim Hightower.
Linebacker Clark Haggans didn't start a game for Arizona last season, but started 14 games in 2009, accumulating five sacks and a career-high 74 tackles (second most on the team this season).
In addition to the Super Bowl Loser Curse, the idea of a sophomore slump must also be foreign to the Cardinals. Last year's first-round pick Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has established himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
Second-round pick Calais Campbell became a starter this season and did not disappoint as he led the team with seven sacks.
Additionally, fifth-round pick Tim Hightower increased his rushing yards from 399 yards to 598 yards and his yards per carry from 2.8 to 4.2.
This season, Arizona lost all four preseason games and its season opener to division-rival San Francisco, which came out hot early this season and looked like it would take away the division.
But the Cards remained resilient and locked up the NFC West again. Resilience is key, but Arizona isn't a team looking to avoid what appeared to be an inevitable falling. It is a damn good football team.