Many of us will never forget this week, a week when we threw away the shackles of our past and looked forward to a future where the possibilities seem limitless.
No, not our new President. This is much bigger.
The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.
Who thought we'd live long enough to see that sentence in type?
A while ago, I wrote a item on how the Bills don't seem to matter much nationally. Compared to the Cardinals, the Bills have been the brightest of lights, one that leaves everything and everyone else in shadows.
The Cardinals have had a less-than-distinguished history. They started out in Chicago, second-class citizens to the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals won a championship game in 1947. It was their first since the team was formed in 1920, and it took them a mere 51 years to win another playoff game.
The Cardinals had one winning season in the entire 1950's, going a glittering 7-5 in 1956. Here's how bad things were: they played a regular season game against the New York Giants in Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium in 1958. And Bills' fans think it's tough to see the home team play 100 miles away in Toronto.
The Cardinals moved to St. Louis in 1960. Here's how bad things were, part two: The Cardinals just weren't the most popular sports franchise in St. Louis. They weren't even the most popular franchise named "Cardinals" in St. Louis. The baseball team got their first. In 28 years, the Cardinals won 10 or more games all of three times, in three straight years no less (1974-76). Head coach Don Coryell, the man most responsible for that run, went 7-7 in 1977, then came to work and discovered all the locks at the office had been changed. He figured out he had been fired.
The Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988, and were greeted with yawns. They sometimes played in a half-empty stadium at Arizona State that had more fans for the opponents than for the home team. The Cardinals often played like they were anxious to get out of the sun into air conditioning; they still haven't won 10 games in a regular season in Arizona.
The Cardinals' most famous all-time player might be Dan Dierdorf, mostly because of his announcing career. Larry Wilson and Roger Wehrli are in the Hall of Fame too, but they are defensive backs. Few people buy throwback jerseys of defensive backs. They had some all-time greats pass through in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, but memories of them are fading for most.
Few thought the Cardinals were ready for prime time in February this year. Yes, they played in an awful division. But their best-known player is Kurt Warner, he of two Super Bowl appearances with the Rams and a wife that used to call up talk shows to defend her husband. Their most photographed player is the backup quarterback, as Matt Leinart never seems to be seen on the Internet without being in a hot tub.
The Cardinals obviously have some talent now, particularly at wide receiver, and it's impressive to win three straight playoff games (were they underdogs in all three?) under any circumstances. Still, the words don't roll of the tongue. The C-C-C-Cardinals are in the S-S-S-Super Bowl. Isn't there anything we can count on?
Oh, right. The Detroit Lions.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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