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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Cardinals: An unlikely Super Bowl story

    As the ugly duckling grew into a beautiful swan, so have the Arizona Cardinals in transforming themselves from a perennial NFL joke into the Cinderella story of the new year. Millions will watch Super Bowl XLIII in hopes of witnessing history as one of the NFL’s historically worst teams has the chance to capture the ultimate prize.

    Their improbable run through the NFC postseason has prompted both a fervor of anticipation for the first Cardinals’ NFL championship since 1947 and an avalanche of trepidation that the dream will slip through the gloved hands of Kurt Warner and leave Arizona for another 62 years.

    Predictably, the Cardinals near-fanciful season has brought out more bandwagons than an Oregon Trail marathon.

    Since 1947, the Arizona Cardinals have won five playoff games, an average of one playoff victory every 12.4 years. Loyal fans of the success-deprived franchise have had little to celebrate, except for the annual satisfaction that they don’t have to root for the Chicago Cubs. Toughened by decades of disappointment, these fans have endured season after season, searching for consolation in one moral victory after another. Nearly ending the season in perfect meltdown form, the Cardinals were able to salvage a wild card berth and scrap toward their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

    These last few weeks, loyal fans have reveled in the sweet euphoria of delayed gratification. However, their great fortune is accompanied by a group despised around the world: bandwagon fans.

    Like the daycare bully who abandons his own toy to steal yours, bandwagon fans have left their former allegiances in an attempt to capture a shiny Super Bowl victory. The instinct of Cardinals nation may be to reject these newcomers, only accepting those who have endured the years of pain. But loyal Cardinals fans must ask themselves the source of such overwhelming support.

    Of course, there are those who only hope to root for the winning team, but there is also a deeper mystique. Long the laughing stock of the NFL, the Cardinals have found their way by following the footsteps of the journeyman Kurt Warner.

    Trying out for the Green Bay Packers fresh out of Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner lasted only several weeks of training camp. After a lifetime of playing football and working toward his ultimate goal, Warner saw his dream turn tail and leave him in the dust. Without an NFL salary, he was forced to bag groceries at the local Hy-Vee supermarket as he clung onto football in the defunct Arena Football League. However, Warner’s work ethic was just enough to keep the NFL door slightly ajar as he was chosen for the backup quarterback position of the St. Louis Rams in 1999.

    Just a decade later, Warner has two NFL MVPs and is preparing to lead a young team full of talent, but absent of probability, to his second Super Bowl victory.

    While such heartfelt stories are often dismissed as over-reaching and too idealistic, that is precisely why the Super Bowl is the perfect context for such an occasion. On the one hand, the NFL is the highest level of athletic competition, which millions of athletes have devoted their lives to. On the other hand, many relegate sports to the land of fantasy, due to the overwhelming odds of reaching that level. In the middle of this spectrum lies a dream world that is seemingly inaccessible, but truly open for only those with the utmost desire and self-sacrifice.

    In today’s college environment, students are hard-pressed not to think about their future careers. Many feel as though their career path hinges on an unbroken string of successes right after graduation. As a story of triumph in the face of defeat, Warner’s experience transcends the realm of athletics and could become a lightning rod of inspiration for all, sports fan or not. The trials overcome and critics silenced serve to bolster the relevance with which many will view Sunday’s game.

    If Warner can again succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds, his victory becomes that of Arizona -ÿas well as anyone who hopes to achieve greatness after failure.

    – Daniel Sotelo is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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