It won’t be long now. Cubs pitchers and catchers report in a little over two weeks! Before that, something very strange will happen — the Arizona Cardinals will play in the Super Bowl. It still doesn’t seem quite real. A franchise originally from Chicago with a long history of futility playing for the Lombardi Trophy– What’s next? The Cubs in a World Series?
Cardinals high flyer Larry Fitzgerald
Back in the early days of the then “Phoenix” Cardinals I was at a restaurant one table over from Cards owner Bill Bidwell Sr., a bespectacled round man (he has since lost some weight) with a ruddy complexion, grey beard and trademark bow-tie. I watched in amazement as Bidwell devoured his meal with the ravenous abandon of a starving grizzly bear. If only he’d had the same appetite for a winning football team. Bill B was born into the football life, eventually taking over ownership of the Cardinals after his father passed away. I got the feeling he never had a passion for football. Bidwell’s reputation for being a penny pincher was overstated but still resulted in annual player hold outs and coaching staffs that usually lasted no more than 3 years.
As an Arizona resident, I never embraced the Cardinals when they moved to the desert. After all, I was a “Black and Blue” division fan before the Cards got here. Let’s face it; an itinerant football team of habitual losers does not exactly make one leap on to the bandwagon. I truly felt the Cards would always struggle to win with Bill Sr. at the helm. Picking the football pools at work was kind of a part-time income for me and my steadfast philosophy was, NEVER, EVER, pick the Cardinals. It proved to be very effective.
The 1947 NFL Champion Chicago Cardinals
Bill B eventually gave more and more control of the team to his son Michael and things seemed to change. Not all at once, but the public relations and professionalism of the club improved. When the Cards hired Ken Wisenhunt from the Steelers, I felt the team had made a great choice for head coach and just maybe the team was truly making a commitment to winning. Of course, like most football fans, I never saw this Cards playoff run coming, and I’m not sure if it will last for one more game. I’m no fan of the Steelers but I do like the way they play football–hard nosed and swarming defense with a tough guy mentality.
So we have the high flying Arizona offense vs the swarming Pittsburgh defense. The odds makers have made the Steelers about a touchdown favorite. Will the Cardinals be able to break the 61 year, second longest title drought for a major American sports franchise? Well…I’m going to cheer for the Cardinals on Sunday (hey it’s football, not baseball). However, if I was forced to make a wager, I might have to revisit my old football pool motto. NEVER, EVER…