This was the game I always circled on the schedule.
The Dallas Cowboys are coming to down, and they will bring
a legion of Silver and Blue clad fans with them.
My family had season tickets for the Cardinals throughout
my childhood, so let me preface this all by saying I saw a
lot of bad football. Like, real bad. Bad to the point
where some wouldn’t have even considered it “NFL” quality.
But one game every year was different.
“America’s Team” would roll into the desert, sometimes as
Super Bowl champions, always as our hated rival. There is
not a doubt in my mind their fans didn’t feel the same way
about the Cardinals, but whatever – I hated the Cowboys
and I figured they weren’t too fond of me, either.
They deserved the hate.
The Cowboys were good. The Cardinals were not. The Cowboys
were popular. The Cardinals were not. The Cowboys had a
roster chock full of future hall of famers. The Cardinals
had Aeneas Williams and Larry Centers. Jerry Jones would
walk around the building with Super Bowl rings. Bill
Bidwill had a bowtie. The Cowboys represented all that was
bad in the world, whereas the good guy Cardinals were
powerless to stop them.
Hell, the only time the Cardinals ever beat the Cowboys
was in the
movie Jerry Maguire, and unfortunately that
No, the Cowboys were our Grinch, even ruining Christmas in
1995 by beating the Cardinals 37-13. Sure, Larry Centers
leaping over a diving Larry Brown will go down in history
as one of the coolest plays ever, but the game was so bad
Buddy Ryan didn’t even stick around for the finish.
Still, it was always my favorite game of the year. There
are few things like a sold-out NFL stadium – regardless of
who the majority of fans are cheering for – and it was fun
feeling the “us against the world” mentality that came
with being a fan of Big Red at the time.
Then came the second game of the 1997 season.
The Cardinals finally broke through and beat their
nemesis as when a Kevin Butler field goal bounced
off the right upright and through in overtime, giving
Arizona a 25-22 win on national TV.
The atmosphere that night was electric, as many of us (13-
year-old me included) created signs in hopes of being
shown on TNT. Not sure if my The Cardinals
are Next to beat The
Cowpatties made the cut, but it was in the building.
Interestingly enough, by the time the night was over the
goalpost the ball bounced off of was not.
Jubilant fans (of which I was not one — thanks, Dad)
stormed the field, dug up and carried the goalpost out of
the building, taking it down Mill Avenue. The term “act
like you’ve been there before” didn’t apply because, quite
frankly, Arizona Cardinals fans had never been
That’s how much the game against Dallas meant. The
Cardinals could lose every other game that season (and for
the most part, they did), but beating the Cowboys made
everything better. We just didn’t know it would until it
actually happened, and the moment that kick bounced
through the uprights the tide started to turn.
That was the night the Cardinals – and their fans –
finally stood up to the big, bad bully, punching them in
the mouth and saying they would no longer be there for the
The next season featured a pair of regular season losses,
including one where the Cardinals rallied from a 28-0
deficit only to be denied when the refs failed to call
pass interference on a pass that would have tied the game.
No big deal, though, as we got our revenge a couple months
later when the Cards went to Texas Stadium and whipped the
Cowboys 20-7 in the Wild Card round. That game was as
sweet as it was magical, and it marked the beginning of
the end of Dallas’ reign of terror over the rest of the
Since then the Cardinals are 6-6 against Dallas, as the
move from the NFC East to the West has left meetings
between them few and far between.
Sure, there was the 9-6 Cards victory in Tempe back in
2002 that gave the Cardinals a 4-2 record and, to be
honest, set the game of football back at least a decade,
the 2008 game that Arizona won after taking a blocked punt
back for a touchdown and last year’s Christmas game that
featured the epic John Skelton vs. Stephen McGee
quarterback duel, but it’s just not the same.
No Cardinal fan should ever yearn for the days at Sun
Devil Stadium, as metal bleachers, bad food and small
concourses did nothing to make bad football and a stadium
full of Cowboys fans more tolerable, but Cardinals fans
were certainly a different breed back then.
Sunday’s game was announced as a sellout – the 60th
consecutive for the Cardinals since moving into the new
stadium – and chances are good fans wearing red will
outnumber those in blue, and that’s a good thing.