Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Undoubtedly, football fans around the country remain in stunned silence after the Arizona Cardinals upset the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 32 to 25 in last Sunday’s National Football Conference title game. Cardinals guard Reggie Wells used the perfect word to describe it: “Surreal.” Have you ever seen overgrown men cry? Well, at least three of the Cardinals’ players broke down in tears after the game, and another one had a lump in his throat the size of a bird.

I know of one columnist back East who must still be disbelieving. John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News had written this prior to Sunday’s game:

The Eagles can’t lose, because the fabric of reality will not allow the Arizona Cardinals to rip such a huge hole in it by advancing to Super Bowl XLIII. It’s simply not the Cardinals’ time. Theirs will come at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 – that’s the year some ancient prophecies say the universe will collapse on itself and the Earth will be sucked into a giant black hole.

Guess what, Mr. Smallwood: The trains not only run on time, but sometimes they arrive early!

But I shouldn’t really give the journalist the business because he’s essentially correct. I mean, this whole nonsense about the Cardinals going to the Super Bowl is beyond belief. The truth is that the word “underdog” doesn’t even come close. It was 1947 the last time the Cardinals stood at the top of the heap. The Chicago Cubs are the only professional sports team to have spent a longer time out of The Winner’s Circle, however, I believe they have tasted more post-season play than the Cardinals have during that stretch. But regardless, Cubs and Cardinals: those two Cs are the dogs of the baseball and football worlds, respectively.

I’m not sure if any non-Arizona football fan can fully appreciate the creativity the Cardinals team has shown over the years when it comes to losing, but living here in Airheadzona since 1992, I’ve gotten more than a “bird’s-eye view” of it. I’ve never seen a sports team display greater aptitude for ineptitude.

“1,001 Ways To Lose A Football Game”: We’re the Arizona Cardinals, and we wrote the book! If they were playing, not a musical game show, but a football game show, the Cardinals could boldly predict, “We can lose that game in one play!” Or how about: One hundred people were polled and asked to name a loser. What do you think is up there? “Uhm… the Arizona Cardinals?” Good answer!-Good Answer! Do I see ‘Arizona Cardinals’? *DING!* 78% of the people polled said ‘Arizona Cardinals.’ Now gimme a kiss.

But now the Arizona Cardinals - who went 9-7 in football’s weakest division and beat only two teams with winning records on the year - are Super Bowl-bound, and many of us here in Phoenix are still expecting Allen Funt to appear and announce, “You’re on Candid Camera!”

Even the local press finds this hard to believe. One sports writer for our local paper, The Arizona Republic (“The Airheadzona Repugnant” to me and The Great L.C.), said in the Monday, January 19th edition, that the real reason the Cardinals closed the roof on their ‘convertible’ stadium for the NFC championship game last Sunday was to keep out the flying pigs.

Although the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead against the (equally disbelieving) Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, those fans “in the know” knew not to relax. Ben Lane of Whitley Bay, England, a Cardinal fan since he was 8 or 9 years old, and attending his first game in the United States, knew enough Cardinals’ history to keep his seatbelt on. “There’s always a part of you waiting for something to go wrong because it’s the Cards,” our English friend told a reporter. Well, true to the script, things did unravel in the second half, but quarterback Kurt Warner, with some help from his friends and a lot of red birds mighty determined not to add a chapter to their “1,001 Ways To Lose” book, righted their flight and soared to victory. [And then the alarm clock went off? Hmmm. Well, I’ll be damned… no alarm clock. It was just the gun signaling the end of the game. No alarm clock?]

Did anyone else notice the Life (unconsciously) Imitating Art situation that occurred after the contest? This was my favorite post-game moment; I even started laughing out loud:

In my Blog Bit below, I called Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb “Apollo McNabb” and I borrowed a quote from America’s favorite sports underdog movie, the first in that long, long, long series of Rocky movies, “Rocky” from 1976. The movie ends, of course, with the “ham and egger” Rocky Balboa going the distance in a heavyweight bout in Philadelphia against the super-champion Apollo Creed. After the fight, Rocky is calling out for his girlfriend (“Adrian! Adrian!”) and she’s calling out for him (“Rocky! Rocky!”), and when they come together to embrace in the middle of the boxing ring, the frame freezes. Classic.

It was former Steeler Hall-Of-Fame quarterback and current Fox studio sports analyst Terry Bradshaw who interviewed a couple of the Cardinals’ players on the field after the game. At one point, he sought an interview with Cardinals’ safety Adrian Wilson, who had a monster of a game on defense, recording two sacks, seven solo tackles and forcing a fumble. But Wilson couldn’t be found in the crowd of jubilant Cardinals. Bradshaw started calling out: Adrian! Where’s Adrian? Anyone know where Adrian is? Hey, Adrian!

Now granted, Terry Bradshaw isn’t Sylvester Stallone and Adrian Wilson is a far cry from Talia Shire, and granted the famous film fight took place IN Philadelphia, while this gridiron fight took place AGAINST Philadelphia, but even so, was that an odd twist and yet an appropriate ending to this Underdog Becomes Top Dog story… or what? I'm tellin' ya, there is some strange stuffs happening here. And, yes, Reggie Wells, "surreal" is the word for all of it.

Yo! Stay tuned! Next up for your viewing pleasure is Super Bowl XLIII, or ROCKY 43, whichever comes first.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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