Citizen Staff Writer
This is why we watch sports. Because we want to believe in the world of possibility. Like the Arizona Cardinals going to the Super Bowl.
The 9-7 regular-season Arizona Cardinals.
The Arizona Cardinals who, before this season, had one winning record since moving to the state in 1988.
The Arizona Cardinals who had one playoff victory since 1947.
The Arizona Cardinals who haven’t won an NFL championship since that year, when the franchise was in Chicago.
The Arizona Cardinals who were – we can use the past tense now – just one of six franchises never to have played in the Super Bowl.
“I’ve been saying this all night,” safety Adrian Wilson said in a news conference after a 32-25 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. “The Arizona Cardinals changed their stripes.”
You just never know.
The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series? The Los Angeles Clippers wearing NBA championship rings? Phil Mickelson beating Tiger Woods in an 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open?
The University of Arizona football team in the Rose Bowl?
That’s why we watch. Just to see. We hope. We pray. We root for the underdog, sometimes just to reassure the underdog in all of us.
Even if you haven’t been a Cardinals fans before this magical playoff run, it had to warm your heart to see the red and white confetti shot into the air after Arizona’s victory over the Eagles in Glendale.
Didn’t see that one coming a few weeks ago, did you?
“Somebody needs to catch me,” tight end Leonard Pope told The Arizona Republic amid the celebration. “I think I’m about to faint.”
You will read and hear in the next two weeks before Arizona plays the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII – OK, still kind of weird to say that – that the Cardinals are the most unlikely Super Bowl team since the 1979 Rams.
I would say they are the most unlikely. At least those Rams, who were 9-7 in 1979, had spent several seasons bumping around the postseason and knocking on the Super Bowl door.
These Cardinals lost four of five games down the stretch of the regular season, giving no hint of what was about to happen. They clearly didn’t get the memo that winning the NFC West and just getting to the playoffs was good enough.
“We had our struggles this year, and I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect coming into the playoffs,” quarterback Kurt Warner said.
“But I saw a bunch of guys band together and believe in one another and really do something nobody expected us to do.”
The Cardinals still being the Cardinals, they almost blew their big opportunity Sunday. The Eagles erased an 18-point halftime deficit and went up 25-24 early in the fourth quarter.
Then came a history-making 14-play, 72-yard drive. Hall of Fame quarterback Warner – yes, he’s already done enough to be considered that – calmly led the team down field and finished it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tim Hightower.
A two-point conversion, a defensive stop, and the Cardinals were NFC champions.
The nearly improbable had become reality.
Just like the Boston Red Sox coming back from an 0-3 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series en route to their first World Series title in 86 years.
Just like 41-point underdog Stanford with a first-time starting quarterback winning at USC on a fourth-down touchdown pass.
Just like little George Mason reaching college basketball’s Final Four.
“I want to say Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl in the same sentence,” Warner said. “I like the way that sounds.”
It reminds us of all that is possible.
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