The Life Of An Arizona Cardinals Fan
By Erich Becker
What is it like to root for a team with a history of being nothing more than insta-wins for 31 other teams in the league?
People often ask me what it is like to be an Arizona Cardinals fan. In many cases it’s a disparaging remark looking a team that has been to the playoffs three times in the last 10 years and is now seven years removed from our lone Super Bowl appearance. I look at those people and I explain that being a Cardinals fan is two sides of a coin most of the time.
For every aura of hope in the desert, you have a pattern of bleakness to go along with it. Being an Arizona Cardinals fan is high hopes for new coaches whose past accomplishments or family names lend themselves to success. Names like Green or Tobin or Ryan, prior to their tenure (and firing) in the desert brought with them hope. Hope of playoffs, hope of filling the stadium with 60,000 fans screaming in red. But for every hopeful hiring there’s a series of downtrodden seasons and a firing and the cycle begins anew.
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That’s the life of a Cardinals fan, but, like a popular character on an HBO show recently said, “I intend to break the wheel”, wise hiring like Whisenhunt and Arians have given true football fans, and true Cardinals fans hope in other ways. Men who came from winning cultures, winning organizations, not just flash in the pan stories but a way to change the way things are done. This story has been told many times, and whenever the team is on an upswing, as it is now, the story is always the same, this could be their year, the window is open, they want to win now, they need to win now for XX player. Superlative after superlative flow from the media, but true fans realize that winning takes time, it takes money, it takes a culture in place that can foster development, foster free agents, foster your draft picks. This is what you see as a Cardinals Fan, you see how times have changed.
Times have changed, the catalyst of which was the opening of University of Phoenix Stadium, a palace that the Cardinals have sold out every single game they’ve played in, preseason and playoffs included. The stadium ranks in the top five, as of last season, for number of false start penalties for opponents, in fact, it was number one prior to 2014. When you’re a Cardinal fan, and you look at the turmoil of our Westgate brethren at Gila River Arena in the Arizona Coyotes you have to feel lucky about your situation, your home, your palace, a place where it’s hard to beat the Cardinals.
Superlative after superlative flow from the media, but true fans realize that winning takes time
Being a Cardinals fan is usually like riding a rollercoaster of emotion, each off-season, each season, each game, sometimes each quarter are filled with deflated emotions and rises of happiness as you think about what could be, what was and what will be. The one thing you always think about is the past, because, at some point in the past you became a Cardinals fan, many aren’t born into it with a team only existing since 1987 in this form (then the Phoenix Cardinals at trusty Sun Devil Stadium), you make a choice to become one.
I made my choice very early after the team moved to Arizona, I was six, loved to watch football, but not as much as I love it now, and I was casual fan of many teams to watch the sport, when you grow up without a hometown team, you can pick and choose based on what’s on TV that weekend. Much like I switched my baseball allegiance in 1998 from the Braves to the Diamondbacks, the same happened with football in 1988, we had a team, an awful team for many, many years. Sure, there were flickers of Jake Plummer led hope, or stars coming to the Valley on their way to Canton or just on their way to Scottsdale to retire, the one thing we always had was hope. When you stare at a 3 and 6 record midway through the season, you start hoping what your team will do in February, you know it won’t be playing for a trophy, it’ll be figuring out how to right the wrongs, usually it was with more wrongs, but hindsight is 20/20.
Being a Cardinals fan, I tell those who ask, is resiliency, it is putting up with a lot, getting very little in return (in the grand scheme of things) and, most of all, fun, it’s a fun ride, through everything, there’s never a dull moment. We have our dull seasons, but like we did in the 2008 season, all you need to do is be good enough to get into the dance, after that, it’s a whole new ball game and things can turn around for you very quickly. The Arizona Cardinals deliver fun games, from comebacks, to nail biters, there’s never a blowout to be had and seats with butts in them till the very end (along with hours in traffic leaving the stadium).
So when people ask me what is like to be a Cardinals fan, I just smile and say, “Awesome.”