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Gimino: Cards’ bandwagon filling fast

Fans embrace playoff run; Tucson’s ‘KidStallyn’ giddy at Super Bowl shot

Arizona Cardinals fan Dustin Holmes of Tucson cheers during a Cardinals home game. Holmes, a software engineer, says he hasn't missed a Cardinals game since he became a season-ticket holder in 2000.

Arizona Cardinals fan Dustin Holmes of Tucson cheers during a Cardinals home game. Holmes, a software engineer, says he hasn't missed a Cardinals game since he became a season-ticket holder in 2000.

We are fans of the Broncos, fans of the Steelers. Fans of the Cowboys.

Fans of whoever the Cowboys are playing.

Fans of the ‘Fins, fans of the ‘Skins, fans of the Colts, fans of the Bolts.

Fans of the Patriots, for all that winning. Fans of the Raiders, for all that sinning.

Even as we bask in the winter sun, we hold true to those teams from our forsaken cold-weather past. Packer Backers. Bear Huggers. Some of us might like the Vikes.

As for the Arizona Cardinals . . . eh.

Just don’t sell that to Dustin Holmes.

If there is such a thing as an Arizona Cardinals Super Fan in Tucson, it is Holmes. He’s a 37-year-old Honeywell software engineer weekdays who turns into his highly charged alter ego, KidStallyn, on weekends.

And this is the mother of all Arizona Cardinals weekends.

The Cardinals, who had one playoff victory in the past 61 years before this season, are playing host to the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The winner goes to the Super Bowl.

“You know,” Holmes said, “I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.”

Two decades of having an NFL team in our extended backyard hasn’t been much of a present. It takes more than geography to earn most of our allegiances.

It takes winning, or star players, or a brand-new stadium, or ownership that at least shows it had a teeny, tiny little clue about acquiring talent and running an organization.

Holmes was a fan, even before the Cardinals had all that. Just because.

Born and raised in Colorado – naturally a Denver Broncos fan – he did a stint in the military, moved around a little and settled in Tucson in 1999.

“It all started with that first season,” said Holmes, whose decked-out, game-day image has appeared in The Arizona Republic, on the Associated Press wire and in the Charlotte Observer, among other places.

“I wanted to go to that Monday night football game they played against San Francisco. It was a last-minute thing, and it was sold out.

“So when the season ended, I called up and ordered season tickets. I was most shocked I could get second-row seats in the south end zone.”

Let’s clarify that. Let’s be sure to refer to that as the “rowdy” south end zone.

“I just kind of started out as a mild-mannered football fan,” Holmes said. “This whole persona started when people started telling me I looked like Kid Rock. At the time, I didn’t really know who that was – but I do now.”

Holmes’ resemblance to the hard rocker, with long hair and a goatee, gave birth to KidStallyn. Then came the top hat.

“It was more of a dare thing,” Holmes said.

“Someone said, ‘You should wear a pimp hat to the game to look like Kid Rock.’ It started out as a big red foam hat, signed by all the cheerleaders. It was really cheesy at first. Now, it’s a velvet hat with some leopard skin on it.”

Yeah. Not cheesy at all.

Holmes is a prolific poster on Cardinals message boards. He has participated in official team events, such as sharing the stage when Arizona unveiled new jerseys a few years ago. He listens to Phoenix sports talk radio in the morning via the Internet to catch the latest team news.

“My wife kind of thinks I’m crazy,” Holmes said. “Well, yeah, she definitely thinks I’m crazy.”

But give him credit for being a fan when it was hard to be a fan. This is the Cardinals’ first winning season since he started helping drive the bandwagon. He hasn’t had a lot of local shoulders to cry on.

When the Cardinals are on the road, he just watches the game from home, because there hasn’t been a great organized meeting place for fans.

Working with the Cardinals last week to publicize the event, he put together an unofficial viewing party at the World Sports Grille, 2290 W. Ina Road, for Arizona’s game against Carolina.

“And it was packed,” Holmes said.

“It was great. There were Cardinals jerseys everywhere. It was awesome. It was as if the town had arrived.”

Mike Fontes, the manager of Just Sports at the Foothills Mall, happily agreed.

“Usually at this time of year, all of our Cardinals stuff is half off,” he said. “Now, it’s full price and we’re ordering more.”

This Cardinals fever might soon pass, but for Holmes, it figures to be a lifelong passion.

On Sunday morning, he will put on his Larry Fitzgerald jersey, get his 9-year-old twin boys in the car, pick up his father in Phoenix and head over to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale for tailgating.

It will be boys day out, just like it is for any Cardinals home game.

But this isn’t any home game.

This is for a spot in the Super Bowl.

“Hopefully, we can keep this ride going for a couple more weeks,” Holmes said.

That would be fun for everybody.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: agimino@tucsoncitizen.com



• NFC – Philadelphia (11-6-1) at Arizona (11-7), 1 p.m., Fox

• AFC – Baltimore (13-5) at Pittsburgh (13-4), 4:30 p.m., CBS

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