Gimino: Cardinals, fans take leap of faithby Anthony Gimino on Jan. 31, 2009, under Sports
But even nonfans of football can jump right into Sunday’s fun
Placed your order for a couple hundred wings? Pizza place on speed dial?
Refrigerator and coolers stocked? Did you buy your No. 13 Kurt Warner jersey?
There’s still time to primp before Sunday’s national holiday, which is extra special this year because the Arizona Cardinals – the forever woebegone Arizona Cardinals – are playing in the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
You don’t have to be a Cardinals fan – or even a football fan – to enjoy the spectacle. You just have to be able to enjoy a good party.
As if you need them, here are 10 reasons to watch:
1. History in the making
The improbability of a Cardinals victory – the team was a 45-to-1 shot before the season to win the Super Bowl – could make this the greatest moment in the state’s sporting history.
The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks rank as the current No. 1. They knocked off the three-time defending champion New York Yankees in a seven-game series, beating indomitable closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth of the final game.
Can the Cardinals beat that drama? Maybe not, but any kind of win might do to qualify for the top moment. Sorry, baseball. Football is our grandest national stage.
2. Talking animals
We’re apparently a simple people. Just give us some Super Bowl ads with talking horses or talking dogs and we’re content. And monkeys. We sure do love commercials with madcap monkeys doing crazy things. Good times.
Yep, just make us laugh – and spare us a talking baby that spits up – and you’ve got yourself a decent Super Bowl ad. Hey, that’s $3 million well spent.
Whatever it takes to get the economy moving again.
3. Trick plays
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff pulled off a perfect flea-flicker against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game, and he’s done this sort of thing before.
He was the offensive coordinator of the Steelers three seasons ago when he called for a trick play that changed the game in a 21-10 Super Bowl victory over Seattle. Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El, on an end around, threw to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown.
You won’t want to blink and miss the trick plays. Which creates quite a dilemma. If you can’t go to the bathroom during the commercials – or the game – when can you?
4. Troy Polamalu
If you’re watching the game with people who aren’t hard-core fans, you’re likely to get this question about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ superstar safety: Doesn’t the other team pull on his hair a lot?
Well, that would be like tugging on Superman’s cape.
Polamalu’s frizzy locks cascade out of the back of his helmet, a signature look that inspired a Pittsburgh fan to create a “Beware the Hair” T-shirt, complete with dark hair attached to the back of the collar.
Whatever it takes to get the economy moving again.
This is the only way to guarantee your interest in every single play, including the outcome of the coin toss.
Which player will score the first touchdown? Who will have the most yards on his first reception? Will Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have more or less than 17 1/2 completions?
It goes on and on.
Which quarterback will announcer John Madden mention first by full name?
Which company will have the highest-rated commercial as determined by USA TODAY’s Ad Meter?
And my favorite:
Which player will be tackled first by his hair: Polamalu or Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald?
Speaking of which . . .
6. Larry Fitzgerald
He’s the best player in football. He just is. He’s been unstoppable in the playoffs. And his dad is a longtime sportswriter in Minnesota, in what has been a much-covered story during Super Bowl hype week. Larry the Dad will be attending his 30th Super Bowl.
I’d say Junior made a pretty wise decision to not follow in his father’s footsteps.
7. A local tie
The Cardinals’ defensive coordinator is Clancy Pendergast, a 1990 University of Arizona graduate who is going to be a head coach someday.
The Steelers defense gets all the raves, but the Cardinals have been hot in the playoffs, forcing 12 turnovers and coming up with seven sacks in three games. Pendergast is 60 minutes away from official genius status.
8. The halftime show
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band takes the stage, continuing the recent “Aging Rockers” halftime theme: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Aerosmith is so due.
Here’s something else to bet on: Does the Boss close his 12-minute set with “Glory Days” or “Born to Run”?
Anyway, Springsteen turned down several requests over the decades to be the halftime entertainment. He accepted this time to help support a new CD and world tour.
Anything to get the economy moving again.
9. Brenda Warner
The wife of Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has been in the spotlight nearly as long as her husband. Back when Warner was leading the St. Louis Rams to the 2000 Super Bowl title, she was the crazy woman in the stands with the spiky hair and the big mouth.
Her image, her tone, her hair . . . they’ve all softened over the years.
But expect to see many NBC cutaways to her in the stands, and get ready for a big Warner-Warner embrace if Arizona wins.
10. Gotta see who wins
It’s a classic matchup. The Steelers’ stellar defense against the Cardinals’ wide-open offense. Defense wins championships, right? Somehow, that time-worn phrase seems a bit hollow this time around.
The Cardinals can spread the field with a great and deep group of receivers, and if Warner is hot early, Arizona can really put the squeeze on the Steelers, who aren’t naturally equipped to be a big comeback team.
The hunch, though, is that the turnover battle won’t go the Cardinals’ way this time. Without that, the game reverts back to its natural form, and
Pittsburgh is simply better.
Steelers 28, Cardinals 24.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: email@example.com