People in this country love a David and Goliath matchup. Americans perpetually cheer for the underdog. And the time has come to cut it out.
The Arizona Cardinals are the NFL’s current Cinderella du jour. Due to their mediocre efforts in the regular season, the Cardinals were branded the worst team in the playoffs by most sportscasters. They come from the worst division in football, the NFC West. They skated into the playoffs despite a ho-hum 9-7 record because, well, somebody had to win their division.
Then, like a blaze that would make Smokey the Bear weep, the Cardinals caught fire. Week after week during the playoffs, sports pundits pronounced them dead on arrival, but each time, the Cardinals proved them wrong. They now find themselves in a place virtually no one thought they’d be: Super Bowl XLIII.
At the risk of having to add my name to the list of know-nothings who’ve incorrectly doubted the Cardinals, I’m going to make this prediction: The birds’ journey will end with a crushing defeat on Sunday, Feb. 1. If that happens, all the upset-hungry fans will have to watch a terrifically boring four-hour game, and they’ll have their own poor taste to blame.
The Cardinals find themselves up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished the regular season with a respectable 12-4 record. Sure, the Cardinals dismantled the solid defense of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. But Pittsburgh finished the regular season with the league’s No. 1 ranked defense, and the Steelers play a more violent brand of D than the Eagles. Pittsburgh is stocked with Super Bowl veterans. In contrast, the Cardinals roster features only two players who have gone to the big dance.
It’s conceivable the Steelers’ superior defense and experience could prove no match for the perfect offensive storm the Cardinals brew up on a regular basis. At quarterback, the Cardinals rely on the steady hands of two-time MVP and former Super Bowl Champion Kurt Warner. The guy’s got a strong arm, calm temperament and a terrific relationship with Jesus.
But if we are truly honest with ourselves, deep down, we know the Cardinals (like Warner’s pal) must die for our sins.
The more people insist on rooting for Cinderellas, the more their interest in the regular season will wane. After all, if a team can lose seven games and still get crowned champion, who cares what they did before the last four weeks? Huge upsets make a mockery of the regular season, so why pay attention if all you want is another underdog victory?
The NFL couldn’t survive if people tuned out football games until February. So, for the health of the sport, pray Pittsburgh reigns supreme. And when Pittsburgh stomps on the throats of Arizona, football fanatics dying to see another upset will instead be treated to a snoozer they should have seen coming.