Arizona Cardinals fans' faith is finally rewarded
Published: August 22, 2011 @ 8:59am
In this photo taken Aug. 11, 2011, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) smiles in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif. The Cardinals and Fitzgerald have agreed to an eight-year deal that could pay the star receiver as much as $120 million, making it one of the richest deals in the NFL. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
'Cause I gotta have faith. 'Cause I gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith.
Those aren't just the lyrics to an annoyingly catchy George Michael song -- or for my younger readers an equally annoying Limp Bizkit remake -- those words were the mantra of Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals fans for the better part of two decades.
See, growing up a Cards fan wasn't exactly glamorous. It entailed sitting on the metal bleachers of a college stadium in the scorching heat at the beginning of the season and lamenting the fact that your team finished with four or five wins and missed the playoffs yet again at the end of it. It meant never having a superstar to support and instead buying the jersey of guys with the names like Hearst, Jax, Wolfley, Jones, Wadsworth, Krieg, Moore and Plummer. They, and by proxy you, were the punchline of the Valley sports scene and not the George Carlin kind of punchline -- although they did make you mutter the seven words you can't say on television on Sundays -- but the Dane Cook kind. The kind that makes you cringe rather than laugh.
It wasn't exactly a great existence constantly being made fun of by the insufferable Cowboys and Giants fans that called the Valley their adopted home, but as a fan you kept the faith because the Cardinals were ‘your' team.
We all longed for a winning franchise to call the Valley home, we never exactly got our wish. Sure, there was 1998 but that was fleeting glory. A mere blip on the radar of losing. Despite falling short of expectations, we kept believing all while hearing from the Bidwill family that if they got a new stadium they'd be capable of putting a winner on the field.
On November 7, 2000 Cardinals fans took the ultimate leap of faith. They put their tax dollars where their foam fingers were and voted to pass Prop 302 and build the Cardinals the stadium they desired. Eight years went by before they'd see dividends in the form of a winning season and a home playoff game, but they still bought into the team.
While 2008 and 2009 were magical, they were based more on the luck of a quarterback in his late 30s recapturing some of his previous glory than anything else. It was enjoyable but a 5-11 record last season brought fans back down to earth. It still didn't shake us though.
It took 23 years, but over the last three weeks, Cardinals fans faith in the team has finally been rewarded. By doing whatever it took to land a quarterback of the future and signing Larry Fitzgerald to a contract that is worth more per year than the gross domestic product of most countries, Michael Bidwill gave the fans what they've always wanted, a bright future.
Whether the moves work out or not isn't what is important right now. The key is the fact that this isn't Michael Bidwill's father's Cardinals anymore. This is a team willing to spend. A franchise willing to do whatever it takes to keep the face of the franchise and their first true superstar in the fold. An ownership group willing to make moves with winning, rather than the bottom line, as the main objective. It's finally en vogue to be a Cardinals fan in the Valley. For those of us who have been there since the Sun Devil Stadium days though, it's nice to finally have something more than faith. It's great to have a franchise who wants to give us 120 million reasons to believe in them.