By the time this piece is published the big game would have been completed. Either the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers would have earned the Vince Lombardi Trophy and I am sure the game will be one for the history books.
Of course, this game would have held a lot more personal significance if my team would have actually made it to the end. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen since my beloved Arizona Cardinals were embarrassed by the Panthers two weeks ago in the NFC Championship Game.
Sports are generally a pursuit that ends in defeat. Each year, 32 professional football teams make it a goal, whether implicit or explicit, is to win the championship. Thirty one of those teams end up in disappointment.
Clearly that disappointment was in the Arizona Cardinals locker room after they were summarily dispatched by the Carolina Panthers. And while the season didn’t end up having the team owner raised a trophy, this season would hardly be seen as a dismal failure.
I have followed the Cardinals ever since the team moved to their present home in Arizona from St. Louis. There is no logical reason I started to follow the team. They moved to a new home and I felt sorry for them. My 10 year old logic told me that if they were going to a new and unfamiliar place, they probably needed all the friends they could get. From that point forward, the Cardinals became my team.
I remember my Monday morning as a kid would be filled with going downstairs and ripping through the paper to see how the Cardinals did the following day. The news more often than not brought a Cardinals loss; surely disappointing, but eventually became expected. It was one those rare instances that the redbirds did win that I had an extra skip in my step.
But things changed about ten years ago; the voters of Arizona approved a measure to build the Cardinals a new stadium. The new stadium came and good things started to happen.
Their second year in the new stadium brought them their first non-losing season. In 2007, they were winning division champions and actually went to Super Bowl XLIII.
And of course, while this season was ended with the loss in the playoffs, I still can’t help but think all the wonderful things this campaign brought. The team won a franchise record 13 games in the regular season. They broke franchise records for offensive efficiency. In a pleasant surprise, the team was on television more this year in recent history, which allowed me to actually watch the games, rather than just to listen to them on the radio.
Perhaps the best part of this season came from the fact that I was able to go to Glendale and actually watch the team in person. Thanks to a fortuitous free airline ticket and a very generous wife, I was able to watch the Cardinals take on the Rams back in October. Of course, being my luck, the game was one of their two home losses of the year.
The weekend could not have been better. Having an opportunity to actually wear a Cardinals jersey to a football game and not be ridiculed was a different feeling. Seeing new people to whom I have some shared affinity was a special experience as well. I was fortunate enough to make new friends and actually meet some former players. Truly an amazing experience.
Of course, it would have been nice to have this team play yesterday and actually win the Super Bowl, but it just wasn’t in the offering for this year. And of course, with the core of this team getting older and a large number of free agents, it is going to be more and more difficult to see if this team can actually make it to the pinnacle next year.
But regardless if the Cardinals make it to the big game, next year is still going to be a fun year to watch unfold. Those lazy Sunday afternoons will still be filled with listening or watching the game following that team I have followed each year since I was a little kid.
William (Bill) Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]