January 2009

Go Gridbirds

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I am going to be a bit off-topic and write about the Football Cardinals. Oh come on, you remember them: they played in old Busch stadium, they lost most of their games, they were terribly mismanaged, they made horrible draft choices.  Well, then they moved to Arizona, where they continued to be hopeless. But somewhere along the line, things began to perk up and now, miraculously, they are going to the Super Bowl! 

I wish my Dad were alive to see this day. Man, did I want to call him yesterday after watching that thriller of an NFC championship game (good game, Eagles!).  My Dad and a coworker split Cardinals season tickets until the team left for Phoenix.  His second date with my Mom was a Cardinals football game (she didn’t understand football, but liked the junk food and people watching).  I got to attend quite a few games growing up in St Louis, including a few Monday Night Football games that kept me up way past my bedtime on school nights. 

There was a lot of heartache to being a Gridbirds fan in the late 70s and 80s.  There were many games where the Cardinals would be beating a better team, only to lose in the end on a missed field goal by Neil O’Donahue.  I learned what drunkenness looked like, watching our section mates who drove up each Sunday from Cape Girardeau, only to get progressively drunker as the game got worse and start yelling and gesticulating so much that I feared they might fall over the balcony railing. Many times we all booed our home team. We cursed the owner, Bill Bidwell, for his misguided draft choices and coaching hires. Sometimes I switched allegiance and rooted for the visiting Cowboys because I had a crush on Roger Staubach. There were ineffectual quarterbacks like Neil Lomax and Rusty Lisch, and a primadonna running back named OJ Anderson.  My favorite players were cornerback Roger Wherli, wide receiver Pat Tilley, offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf, and running back Stump Mitchell (short but fast!). 

My dad told of happier Cardinal days in the early 70s, under coach Don Coryell.  The team was known as the Cardiac Cardinals for its comeback ability. There were stars like Jackie Smith, Jim Hart, Conrad Dobler.  Still, no playoff glory. 

The gridbirds were losers, but they were our losers. And we hated Bidwell for taking the team to Arizona when St Louis refused to build him a new stadium (he couldn’t fill the one he had).  A few years later, we built a new stadium and seduced the Rams, who weren’t very good either.  My dad didn’t buy season tickets because he disapproved of the rip-off “personal seat license” pricing scheme. Then the Rams got a former Arena league QB named Kurt Warner who took them to a Super Bowl victory. I was living in New York at the time but I threw a big Super Bowl party with St. Louis foods and I was thrilled to see the win.  My dad was excited too.  I became a hard core Rams fan but I still kept a little pilot light burning for the Cardinals. And then Kurt Warner moved to Arizona and he brought some magic.

Now the Rams stink, and the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.  Let me repeat that: the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl.  That old Bill Bidwell was on the field after the win yesterday, still wearing that stupid bow tie, and looking like he was in shock. Well, we all are. Who cares if they are major underdogs to the Steelers? They’re in the game and they’ve been surprising people all season, so don’t count them out.  Remember, Kurt Warner is Christ-powered and Larry Fitzgerald can do it all. I’ll be whipping up another batch of toasted ravioli and Pasta House salad and a gooey butter cake for the Super Bowl party.  Go Cards!

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