Over the weekend news broke that the Arizona Cardinals and All-World wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald came to terms on a new contract. And boy did they ever. This contract will have $50 million guaranteed and makes Fitzy the highest paid non-quarterback in the league. I guess the days of calling the Cards cheap are long gone.
When news of this deal broke in Phoenix, you could hear a collective sigh of relief from fans across the valley. They were now allowed to slowly back away from the cliff they were teetering on the edge of.
The idea of Fitz heading into the last year of his deal and wanting to play for a contender was reminiscent of another transcendent athlete who was also the face of the franchise he played for before eventually leaving. Thinking of Fitzy pulling a LeBron made fans sick to their stomachs. This is now the first thing fans think of when their star enters the final year of his contract. This is thanks to the now infamous “Decision” LeBron made that has changed the sports landscape forever.
Unlike LeBron and in true Fitzgerald style, he handled the situation with grace and style all while making the best move for all parties involved.
To call Fitz the anti-LeBron may seem like a stretch at first, but it hardly is. Although Phoenix is not Fitz’s hometown, it might as well be. He has not just become the unquestioned face of the franchise, but of the city as a whole. This guy may be just as liked as LeBron was during his time in Cleveland. He is not just a stud on the field, but he also exemplifies everything you would want in a public figure off of the field.
As soon as the Cardinals answered their question at quarterback and traded for Kolb, no one wasted any time in bringing up the subject of what Fitz was going to do with his contract situation. The team addressed this issue just as fast and came out publicly to say they are willing to make a deal as soon as possible, thus shifting the pressure on Fitz to make it happen.
Fitzgerald represents the Cardinals in a way that few players around the league can. If the franchise had failed to resign this man, all the good will they had gained in the last few years would go down the drain. It would all be for naught. That revered Super Bowl trip in 2009 would be quickly forgotten.
Not only did the Cardinals realize this, but so did Fitz. That is where the LeBron comparisons come into play. Fitz saw the decision that LeBron made on his way out of town and decided to take the opposite road. He realized that nowhere else that he could go would he be loved the way he is in Arizona. There was no point in ruining it and stabbing the city in the back to go play with his homies in Minnesota. Tough it out and bring success to the people who love you. It's called big picture thinking, Fitz does that.
He meant more there than he would anywhere else. He could run for mayor if he wanted, and I bet he’d win in a landslide. I honestly think that. You cannot go to a sports bar or an elementary school without seeing at least one No. 11 jersey. Where LeBron grew up right up the road from Cleveland in Akron, Fitz is Phoenix’s adopted son. Losing him would have garnered a similar reaction.
Fitz wants to win, but he also understands the importance of legacy. By staying in Arizona he has a chance to do both. The franchise has a solid foundation with a great coaching staff, new QB and state of the art stadium. That was enough for Larry to realize where he belonged and not go chasing his destiny.
Unlike LeBron, Fitz understands how important he is to other people, and that is why he cemented his legacy and made himself a Cardinal for life. But the $120 million didn't hurt.