Friday, November 4, 2016

The Longest Championship Drought in American Sports

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) - By Derek Staahl

The Chicago Cubs’ first World Series win in 108 years means there is a new team with the longest...

The Cardinals’ last championship was in 1947 before the Super Bowl even existed. Back then, the team played in Chicago.

Chicago Cardinals memorabilia is hard to find in the Valley of the Sun. Mike Weber, owner of Hall of Fame Collectables in Mesa, said he last had some in stock 12 years ago.

“Phoenix and the history of sports is not like the No. 1 thing,” Weber said. “If I had my choice of stocking Mickey Mantle or somebody from the yesterday Cardinals, there's no contest.”

But Weber thinks it might behoove the future of the franchise to play up the past.

“The more talk about history and not winning, the more publicity the Arizona Cardinals get. The more you mention it, the more talked about, the more action,” he said.

The Cubs played the “loveable loser” card to perfection over the last few decades, but the Cardinals have been reluctant to embrace their history at the more modern-looking University of Phoenix stadium, said Greg Smith, who runs ChicagoCardinals.org.

“You see the pictures of the old Chicago guys in the atrium as you're walking around. The pictures are there, but there's no explanation as to who these guys are,” he said.

Smith said the Cardinals have traditionally been a “have not” franchise; a smaller market team that operated in the red in the early years and may have been hurt most over the years by their mediocrity.

“They weren’t bad enough to get the No. 1 draft pick,” he said.

If the Cardinals stay true to their Chicago roots and wait 108 years to win a championship, it won’t happen until 2055.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
active championship drought in professional sports. That title now belongs to the Arizona Cardinals.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

1988 49ers vs. Cardinals - 'Time Machine Football'


A Note From a True Cardinals Fan...


Up until 2006, when the new stadium was opened, Cardinal fans, both in and out of the Valley and Grand Canyon state, were few and far between.  For most true Cardinals fans we remember the days when the above image was an all too common site, and for good reason, for the Big Red was mired in mediocrity, and has been for most of the 100+ years since the club was formed in 1899 on the South Side of Chicago.  For us die hard fans, humor helps us get through the seasons, much like it has helped Cubs, Buccaneers, and Lions fans, just to name a few. We need humor, for without it we would all take life way to seriously.  

So, if my memes offend or piss anyone off, keep in mind that football is a game and not life, for it is the glory and fun of the sport that keeps us forever young.  Memes convey an idea in a humorous way and help remind us to chill out, especially after a bad loss. At the end of the day what is most important for all of us, both new and old fans, is that the sport and team bring us together and help bridge our cultural, political, religious and racial differences, and make us all one! Win or Lose :-)


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ron Wolfley- The Voice of the Franchise and a Desert Cardinal Original

Cardinals hit man Ron Wolfley deals with the violence of his job by describing it in verse

Ron Wolfley, captain of the Phoenix Cardinals' special teams, is Rambo in shoulder pads—perhaps the toughest man you'll ever meet. On game day he drinks 18 cups of black coffee and listens to Pink Floyd songs like Comfortably Numb and Shine On You Crazy Diamond. What does he like most about football? "The butt-kicking and not having to shower to go to work," he says.


Sprinting downfield on kickoff coverage, Wolfley concentrates so hard on getting to the ballcarrier that he blocks out all sound. The anticipation of knocking somebody on his behind gives him an adrenaline surge. "I don't mind that I'm going to break blood vessels in my forehead when I hit somebody," Wolfley says. "I enjoy hearing guys wheeze and seeing the snot run down their faces. I like the rush of numbness that goes through my body. What I'm most curious about is that time-frozen second where I have no senses whatsoever.

"When I make a huge hit, I don't hear anything. I don't feel anything. I'm seeing stuff, but I won't be able to recall it. I seriously believe that the mind shuts down your body and your senses as a protection mechanism because, let's face it, you're doing something that's not really conducive to your health."

Wolfley, 28, stands six feet and weighs 230 pounds, wears an earring in his left ear and has his hair in a spiked buzzcut. He used to have his jersey number, 24, shaved into the side of his head and a rattail with a colored ribbon tied to the end hanging down the back of his neck. Wolfley, a four-time selection to the Pro Bowl, is a demolition derby on two legs.

He specializes in what he calls "kill shots"—lining up on a kickoff return, sprinting across the field at an angle perpendicular to the opponent he's assigned to block and coldcocking the unsuspecting soul. The force of these collisions has destroyed face masks, cracked helmets and demolished shoulder pads.

"Special-teamers are a different breed from the in-crowd in the NFL," Wolfley says. "We do the jobs nobody else wants. We're the mutants. You'll never see us on Wheaties boxes because, when we're on the field, half the fans are in the bathroom or getting a hot dog. The other half is watching the guy who's kicking the ball or the man who's returning it. Nobody sees the personal battles going on. Nobody knows who I am. Even my Aunt Edna still wonders what I'm doing."

Wolfley delivered his most devastating hit on Sept. 21, 1986, against the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium, when he blindsided linebacker Ray Bentley on a kickoff return. Bentley soared five yards in one direction, and Wolfley shot off five yards the other way. Bentley wound up with a separated right shoulder and double vision. Wolfley's face mask was ripped off his helmet, and he had a severe concussion. He staggered on the field for a few minutes until a teammate directed him to the sideline. His wife, Kathy, who was sitting in the stands, went down to check on his condition, but he didn't recognize her.

Later Wolfley started to rant about returning to the game and defied the team doctor's orders to stay on the bench. Twice he ran onto the field and lined up without his helmet but was quickly ushered off. Finally the Cardinals' coaches put defensive lineman Mark Duda in charge of restraining Wolfley on the sideline.

Despite the pain and anonymity, Wolfley is a special-teamer in body and soul. If he had his druthers, his name would be deleted from the Phoenix depth chart as a reserve fullback. In six seasons he has carried the ball 82 times, for 252 yards and two touchdowns.

"I get more of an adrenaline rush playing on special teams than I have ever gotten playing from scrimmage," Wolfley says. "It's a blast, a total body experience. If only they could dress up businessmen in helmets and tell them to sprint 50 yards and run into a 300-pound guy. They wouldn't have heart attacks or get stressed out. We wouldn't need Disneyland because this ride eclipses anything that you could ever go on. It's the ride of your life."

Off the field Wolfley has his rage in check; he displays no love of violence. He'll poke fun at his Rambo personality when introduced at fund-raisers in Phoenix, pulling a headband out of his suit jacket and slipping it on before speaking. At home he plays Mr. Mom to his three children, Ashley, 7, Connor, 5, and Jenna, one year. A man with strong Christian beliefs, he gains strength from daily prayers and reading the Bible. "I have no fear on the football field," Wolfley says. "Failing my children as a father, my wife as a husband and my God as a servant, that's what petrifies me."

In solitary moments, usually in his den late at night, Wolfley writes poetry about his special teams experiences. He calls it primitive poetry because the punctuation isn't perfect and the words aren't always spelled correctly. Here's a sample, entitled The Army of Sorrow:

Crack goes the whip, a shot in the hip
An intruder assaults my senses.
Boom goes my head, now comes the dread
This foe cares not as it dispenses.
This time my shoulder, hit by a boulder
This force that comes like a train.
It doesn't matter where, it's really unfair
It quickly lays siege to my brain.
I try to stride, there's nowhere to hide
This battle is fought in my spirit.
I try to adjust, play on I must
I have learned that I cannot fear it.
The jury is in, I think that I'll win
But the verdict I'll feel on the 'morrow.
Today I'm a knight, today I will fight
This siege by the Army of Sorrow.

Wolfley began writing poetry five years ago, when he was wrestling with his violent and gentle sides. While watching game films, he felt detached from the destructive force inside the number 24 jersey on the screen. He suffered three severe concussions in 1986, and he started to wonder if he took pleasure in injuring himself. He never intended his poems to be read by anybody but himself, not even Kathy, and for a long time she didn't know that he was writing them.

"I just needed my own personal analysis of my job," Wolfley says. "I needed to be able to say, 'O.K., this is what I do,' and then answer the questions, Why do I do that? How come I feel that way about it? At first I'd write them and rip them up. It was purely therapeutic. I didn't want to go to a shrink and pay him $200 to say, 'When did it all start with you, Ron?' I thought that was bogus."

It all started for Wolfley in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg, four miles from Rich Stadium. He was the second-youngest of Ron and Esther Wolfley's five children. Ron Sr. was a short, barrel-chested truck driver, and Esther was a self-proclaimed football coaching genius. All three of her sons played football: Craig, 33, was an offensive lineman at Syracuse and now is a guard for the Minnesota Vikings; Ron was a fullback, known mostly for his blocking, at West Virginia before becoming Phoenix's fourth-round draft choice in 1985; and Dale, 24, was a guard at West Virginia who was not drafted by the NFL. Esther used to get down in an offensive lineman's stance to give the boys pointers. She and Ron Sr. struggled to make ends meet, and often there was barely enough food to feed their brood. Ron wore hand-me-down tennis shoes from Craig.

"My father would get up at four in the morning and go out in the dead of winter, in the freezing cold," Ron says. "He did it with a smile on his face, knowing his kids were tucked away in a warm bed with a roof over their heads. He was my idol—a tough, tough guy."

Football was Ron's escape from the hard times. "When you live on the wrong side of the tracks in a
very nice town, you have to justify yourself in some way," he says. "I was good at football, so I worked at it. It made me feel proud and accepted."

In the fall of 1982, during Wolfley's sophomore season at West Virginia, Ron Sr. was dying of leukemia after a five-year battle. Instead of confronting his father's illness, Wolfley chose to ignore it. He would purposely stay out of the house at times during his visits to avoid having to see his parents suffer.

"My father lay there and couldn't move," Wolfley says. "He used to be 220 pounds, and now he was about 120. It freaked me out. My mom was suffering with him. I was filled with so much frustration and rage that I wanted to make other people feel the same way I did, put them in the same pain. The only outlet I had was football. I didn't care what I did to myself, because I knew that it couldn't compare to the pain that my father was going through. But I could make other people hurt."

Not until Wolfley began to write poetry did he realize his anger and frustration over his parents' suffering were the origin of his violent play on special teams. "I learned to play the physical game I do now under the strain of his dying," Wolfley says. "Now it's a switch that I can turn on and off. When I put on the helmet and the eye black, not a lot of me is left. The 19-year-old kid who was hurting inside takes over."

That realization helped Wolfley to accept his father's death and to reconcile his own contrasting personalities. Now when he watches himself in game films delivering one of those knockout hits he calls "a visit from Judge Dread," or sending an opponent skyrocketing on a "decleater," Wolfley winces a bit. But he still looks forward to reviewing that next time-frozen second.

"When you settle into the attack mode, you've got to figure out some way to survive," Wolfley says. "To walk out in one piece, you've got to be more angry or more aggressive than the next guy. The day I stop hitting is the day I'm out of football. For me, that's all there really is. And I love it."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Failed Promise That Was Jake "The Snake" Plummer


More Than Meets The Eye Jake Plummer lacks the size, arm and swagger to be a prototypical NFL quarterback. No problem. Here's why the Cardinals might be looking at the next Joe Montana 

(He wasn't even close to being Joe Montana during his years with the Cardinals)

Sports Illustrated-August 17, 1998
By Michael Silver 


Burying his eyes under the bill of a weathered baseball cap, Jake Plummer enters a brew pub near the Arizona State campus and tries to blend into the crowd of revelers. The chance of Plummer, a former Sun Devils star who is now the Arizona Cardinals' starting quarterback, escaping celebrity in his adopted home state is about as great as that of the Valley of the Sun freezing over, but a young man can dream, can't he? Lured to a Phoenix-area night spot for the first time in months, Plummer, a 23-year-old passer anointed as the next Joe Montana by the quarterback's own mentor, Bill Walsh, wages a constant battle to stay out of the spotlight and remain one of the guys.


Hang with those close to Plummer, and it's easy to see why he's at least succeeding at the latter. Humility is only an insult away, and Plummer is getting plenty of good-natured jabs from the circle of friends in his midst: girlfriend Sonia Flores, childhood chum Ty Hamilton and teammate Pat Tillman, a former Arizona State linebacker who in April was a seventh-round draft choice of the Cardinals. They start in on Plummer as soon as he takes his seat at their dimly lit table, citing everything from his bad haircut to his awkward dance moves to his penchant for nose-picking, an example of which was broadcast live on network television last December. "In a lot of ways Jake comes off as a geek," Tillman says of the man who nearly brought the Sun Devils a national title in '96. Many star athletes have a posse; Plummer has a band of roasters.

As the youngest member of a competition-crazed clan that includes two brothers and six male cousins, Plummer has spent a lifetime absorbing friendly abuse. "We've always competed in everything you could think of, and growing up, Jake never won anything--ever," says his eldest brother, 30-year-old Brett. "Even now, we try to humble him whenever possible."

Adds Hamilton, "If he ever did start to get a big head, his brothers would kick his ass."

Plummer may be the only quarterback in NFL history to have been tricked into carrying a skunk into his training-camp dorm room. (Cardinals fullback Larry Centers, who had collected the wounded
animal from the middle of a highway and placed it in a plastic bag, handed it to Plummer and told him it was an order of chicken wings.) On road trips during his rookie season, Plummer dutifully toted a pint of Jack Daniel's for one Arizona defensive starter's postgame indulgence. Vulnerability is a given with this Idaho native, who doesn't fit the NFL stereotype: He grew up eating tofu and soybean burgers at the urging of his health-conscious parents (his mom, Marilyn, once described herself as a former hippie, though she now contends she merely "had long, straight hair and wore beads" in the '70s), and he says he enjoys making pottery. He admits that he's scared of the water, a fear that stems from the time, at age four, when he fell off an inner tube during a run down the Boise River rapids and was quickly fished out by his father, Steve. He's also contrary enough to think that his nickname, Jake the Snake, "is a little too obvious. Something unique would be better." Such as? "Jake the Rake, because I'm so skinny."


For the record Plummer stands 6'2", weighs 197 pounds and has an arm that caused most NFL talent evaluators to scoff rather than drool as the '97 draft approached. He lasted until the 12th pick of the second round, when Arizona, in a move viewed as a not-so-subtle attempt to boost its ticket sales, chose the local hero. Were that draft restaged today, Plummer would almost certainly be a top-10 selection, though Walsh, the Hall of Fame coach and esteemed quarterback guru, insists that "a lot of teams would still pass, because they hold fast to the rule that quarterbacks have to be a certain size. They'd be making a mistake, because so many of the great ones don't have overwhelming arms or physical tools. Football has evolved to where the more athletic quarterbacks, who can get away from the pass rush and make things happen on the run, are the ones who will perform successfully over a long period."

Based on his performance as the Cardinals' starter in the final nine games of '97, Plummer, who pulled out a couple of tight victories and threw for an NFL rookie-record 388 yards in a loss to the eventual NFC East champion New York Giants, is now grouped with the Jacksonville Jaguars' Mark Brunell and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Kordell Stewart as representing the latest breed of pro quarterback. But while Brunell and Stewart are accomplished runners who evoke images of the San Francisco 49ers' Steve Young, it is Plummer who has consistently drawn comparisons to Young's predecessor in San Francisco, Montana. No pressure there--other than the fact that Montana won four Super Bowls in as many tries, threw for 11 touchdowns with no interceptions in those victories and is the greatest quarterback of all time. It's one thing to be compared to Montana by former USC and Los Angeles Rams coach John Robinson or Arizona State teammates, but it's another thing altogether to be held up as Montana-like by Walsh.

Walsh waited until the third round of the '79 draft to snag Montana. Eighteen years later, while working as a front-office consultant, Walsh grew frustrated as the Niners' decision makers ignored his advice to take Plummer. They instead used their first-round pick (No. 26) on Virginia Tech's Jim Druckenmiller, who had a strong arm but was less suited to the 49ers' system, at least in the eyes of Walsh, the man who created it.


"We're happy with what we did, but if you look at it now, picking Plummer would've been a good move also," San Francisco director of football operations Dwight Clark says. "We thought Jake was very exciting and productive and a lot like Joe with his ability to make something happen out of the pocket. But we felt that Druck had the most ability, the strongest arm, the most poise in the pocket and the best ability to read second and third receivers. It's easy to second-guess now."

Says Walsh, "Barring the unforeseen injury, and provided he someday has a supporting cast and system that can allow him to flourish, I see Jake having a Montana-like career, including the Super Bowls." Walsh sees these traces of Montana in Plummer: an ability to throw beautiful touch passes, a knack for improvisation, quick feet, vision, coolness under fire and uncanny leadership qualities that seem to be most effective when circumstances are the most pressing.

Also like Montana, Plummer has shown that he can set aside his field general's persona and mix well with teammates away from the game. Through practical jokes, self-effacing comments and a general refusal to take himself too seriously, Montana counteracted his commanding game-day presence and put teammates at ease. In comparison Plummer tends to expose more of himself, sometimes literally. Whereas Montana was known to sneak out of meetings in training camp and decorate the trees with his teammates' mountain bikes, Plummer, while at Arizona State, sometimes stepped out of the locker-room shower and did the Chicken Dance--bunching his wet hair atop his head so that it stuck straight up, flapping his arms wildly and making chicken noises, au naturel. "I did it because it made Juan Roque laugh his ass off every time," Plummer says, referring to the 6'8", 320-pound offensive tackle now with the Detroit Lions. Tillman recalls being awakened at 1 a.m. in his dorm room at the Sun Devils' August training site in northern Arizona "by a buck-naked guy with a clown mask making weird noises and pounding on everyone's bed with a big stick. But Jake has a pretty, shall we say, distinctive body type, so everyone knew it was him."

In terms of debunking one's own legend, not even Montana ever produced the kind of signature scene that Plummer did in a game against the New Orleans Saints. While standing on the Superdome sidelines, Plummer was captured by Fox-TV cameras placing his index finger inside his nose. The tight shot lasted several seconds as Jake snaked his finger around one nostril. Back home in Boise, many of Plummer's friends and family members had gathered at a tavern to watch the game and were simultaneously exhilarated and mortified. Says an apologetic Marilyn, "It was every mother's worst nightmare. He has a little bit of an allergy problem, and living in the desert really dries it out. Really, it was more like he was scratching. For his birthday, one of his friends gave him a box of Kleenex with a sign on it that said, 'Only to be used on national television.'"

Plummer is sitting on the floor of a Tempe hotel room, penning his name, along with the snake symbol that has been part of his signature since college, to 2,000 trading cards. For this two-hour endeavor Plummer will receive $10,000. "Can you believe this?" he says. "It's like highway robbery. It takes my brother Eric, who's a roofer, about four months to make that."


The disparity could be a lot worse--and probably will be down the road. Jake's agent, Leigh Steinberg, says Plummer "has turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars in endorsements since joining the Cardinals. We have kept a lid on his marketing because it makes no sense to put him on every billboard at this stage of his career."

But Plummer, who as a senior led the Sun Devils on a stirring season-long run that ended with a last-minute Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, has little chance of keeping a low profile. Since the Cardinals moved from St. Louis in 1988, they have been without a bona fide hero. With 10 nonwinning seasons, chronically poor attendance and an uninspiring parade of starting quarterbacks--among them Gary Hogeboom, Timm Rosenbach, Tom Tupa and Jay Schroeder--the Cardinals created a vacuum for Plummer to fill.

Thirty minutes after drafting him, the team opened the box office at its Tempe training facility to accommodate a surge of ticket requests. When Plummer made his first start, against the Tennessee Oilers last Oct. 26, there were more than 5,000 walk-up sales. After Arizona went three-and-out on its first possession, Plummer received a standing ovation.

"He's like a god," says second-year wideout Chad Carpenter, one of Plummer's closest friends on the team. "We go to a restaurant and people stand up and clap when he walks by. No wonder he's a hermit."


There is another, more painful reason Plummer rarely ventures out past the dinner hour when he's in the Phoenix area. In April 1997, just days before he was drafted, Plummer was investigated by the police on sexual-assault charges stemming from an incident the previous month at a Tempe dance club. Four women accused Plummer of groping them, and one claimed he kicked her in the leg after she confronted him in the parking lot. Charged with four counts of felony sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor assault, Plummer, worried about the publicity a trial would bring, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in lieu of assault and had the felony charges dropped. He was sentenced to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service; in March, after Plummer completed the community service, a Maricopa County judge placed him on reduced-supervision probation. Plummer also reached a settlement with three of the women.

Plummer, who admits he was drinking that night, says he learned a hard lesson about the hazards of celebrity. So did his mother. "We don't know what will happen to those girls in their lives, but I'll bet it won't be good things," says Marilyn. "What they did was unscrupulous for women in general and a setback to so many women's rights we have fought really hard to get. It was so ludicrous what they alleged. I know Jake, and he's a very respectful person."

Foster Robberson, an attorney who represented the three women with whom Plummer settled, declined to comment. But the mother of one of the women, who does not wish to be identified, says, "My daughter and the other girls went through hard times with the public criticism from the media. This situation was not about money or getting rich. It dealt with the dignity and self-respect they needed to uphold. The public seems to forget that the girls were innocent victims. They were not looking to be in the spotlight. Basically, the past is behind them. Yet the image of Jake Plummer will always be there. Why is it his agents, lawyers and mother are constantly protecting his image? It sounds like Mrs. Plummer is still working on Jake's image."


The incident tarnished Plummer's reputation--one elementary school withdrew an invitation to have him speak at an assembly--and has provoked a limited amount of public razzing. But he has remained largely popular, partly because of his lack of pretentiousness. Before a game in Baltimore last November, Plummer was heckled by Ravens fans as he and backup Stoney Case threw warmup passes from the end zone. Plummer placed his hand on Case's rear end, and the fans went nuts. "They were yelling, 'Look, he's doing it again,' but it was good-natured," Plummer says. He had the last laugh, leading Arizona on a game-winning, fourth-quarter drive.

It was one of many instances in which Plummer demonstrated his poise, beginning with a stunning debut that made instant believers of his teammates. With starter Kent Graham injured and Case having struggled for three-plus quarters, coach Vince Tobin threw Plummer into an Oct. 19 game in Philadelphia. The Cardinals, who trailed 7-3, were on their two-yard line. "I was like a virgin being sent into a war," Plummer says, showing a flair for the mixed metaphor. He was more like a surgeon, coolly engineering a 98-yard scoring march in which he completed 4 of 6 passes for 89 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to wideout Kevin Williams. Arizona failed to hold the lead and lost in overtime, but Plummer, expected to sit on the bench for at least one season, had won the starting job.

He had plenty of rocky moments, including a four-interception debacle in his first start and two games in which he was sacked a total of 16 times. However, he also threw for 2,203 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine-plus games, and displayed scrambling ability that evoked images of Fran Tarkenton. The Montana comparisons persisted, thanks to Plummer's late-game poise against the Eagles and the Ravens and to a game-winning touchdown march in the final two minutes of a season-ending 29-26 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons.

"The thing that separates him from other players is his confidence level," says Darren Woodson, the Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro safety. "You can just sense it when he's in there--he takes control of that offense."

When Plummer faced Washington on Dec. 7--a game the Cardinals lost, 38-28--Redskins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan adjusted his game plan to account for the rookie's playmaking ability. "We brought a ton of pressure, partly because he's a young guy, but also because I was really worried that if we sat back and put it on him to make plays, he'd beat us," says Nolan. "The big, fast, athletic guys don't scare me nearly as much as the guys who find a way to win. I hate to compare him to Joe Montana, but I'm going to do it anyway: He's a scrawny guy who doesn't look that imposing, but he's a competitor and he has those intangibles like Joe did. He'll learn the rest."


Like Montana, Plummer has a hard time explaining his calm amid the storm. "It's so high-energy," he says of playing under pressure, "yet everything is narrowed to one goal, and your focus goes toward that. It's a powerful situation. It's like you're driving around a tight corner and you see a diesel coming at you--you either find an escape route or you go over a cliff. I don't hear the crowd. It's like whatever senses don't need to be on just turn off."

There is an understated simplicity to Plummer's leadership that is even more difficult to quantify. It starts with the egalitarian values imparted by his parents, who separated when Jake was eight and later divorced but remain good enough friends that Steve's answering-machine greeting features Marilyn's voice. "He has always been able to relate to people from all walks," Brett says of his younger brother. "He's able to look for the good qualities in people and understand them better than anyone I know, and there's nothing contrived about it."

This is evident at the brew pub as Tillman professes his affinity for radio shock-jock Howard Stern and Plummer takes exception. "He's funny," Plummer says, his voice rising, "but I don't think the statements he makes about black people are very nice. It's racist. And he picks on people with mental handicaps. He makes the choice to do that, but they're not in that situation by choice. For me it doesn't work."

As Tillman argues back, Plummer lifts a glass to his lips with one hand and removes his baseball cap with the other. His glare is intense, his cheeks are flushed pink. For the first time all night, he isn't worried about being noticed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Cardinals' Legacy of Futility

For those of us who are long time and die hard fans, we remember well when the Cardinals were the laughing stock of professional football. The Cardinals simply sucked, and there is no other way to put it nicely. However, we true fans persevered until ultimately the Cardinals righted their sinking ship and now have the dedicated fans and fan base they had always sought to attract in Chicago and St. Louis. With that said though, success in football can be fleeting. As a result, I am rewinding the time machine to not that long ago when Rick Reilly took aim at the Cardinals' decades long futility.
Cardinal Sin
By Rick Reilly 

Some people collect medieval torture devices. Others devote themselves to the study of plagues. Me, I just follow the Arizona Cardinals.

Every year I circle the day on my calendar when the Cards open camp and really begin sucking in earnest. They have a Commitment to Wretchedness--58 years since they won an NFL title, one playoff win in that time and one winning season in the last 20.

All that couldn't have happened without Bill and Michael Bidwill, a father-son ownership team that could mess up a one-float parade.

Since then--Chicago Cardinals owner Charles Bidwill died in 1947, the franchise has been the Pinto of the NFL. Owned until '62 by Charles's widow, Violet, and since by his son, Bill, the Bidwills have somehow made the No. 1 sport in America about as popular in the Arizona desert as down ski parkas.

How have the Bidwills been able to avoid winning a championship for 58 years in the parity-obsessed NFL? By keeping their payroll historically low, driving off players and being too cheap to sign good new ones.

You want skinflints? The Bidwills make Marge Schott look like Jackie Onassis. Rookies had to buy their own shoes. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Cardinals would issue each player one of everything--one jockstrap, one T-shirt, one pair of workout shorts--and dock him for any replacements. "That was the cheapest place I've ever been," tackle Lomas Brown, a Cardinal from 1996 through '98, told the Chronicle.

This is the Cardinal way: In 1999 popular tight end Chris Gedney, who suffered from ulcerative colitis, was cut after the first of two major surgeries. Upon his recovery they re-signed him.

Gedney was teammates with Pat Tillman, the former Arizona safety who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. "We were stretching before a home game," Gedney recalls. "There were only 15,000 people in the whole stadium, and they had the speakers tuned to some cozy jazz station, and Pat looked at me and said, 'Man, this place is so bush league.'"

Welcome to Bidwillville. "Michael Bidwill is a miserable human being," a former Cards front-office employee says of the team's 40-year-old vice president and general counsel. "The old man isn't so bad. It's the son nobody in the building can stand."

Even eternally sunny Fiesta Bowl president and CEO John Junker says working with Michael "has had its challenges."

Michael objects. "If people perceive me to be combative, I don't mean to be," he says. "Maybe my style is a little tough. But remember my background: I used to be a federal prosecutor [specializing in homicides]."

He and his father should do time just for screwing up a sure thing. In 1988, after 28 seasons in St. Louis, they moved the franchise to Phoenix--fifth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. and dying for pro football--and got a list of 122,000 people who wanted season tickets. They immediately gouged customers by charging the highest average ticket price in the NFL. They leased Arizona State's 73,000-seat Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe and wound up suing the school over signage revenue.

Seventeen years later Arizona has been the worst draw in the NFL for five years running--averaging 37,533 in 2004. It seems as if half the crowd is wearing the other team's jersey.

At least Phoenicians don't have to watch the Cards much. Because NFL games are blacked out locally if they're not sold out, Arizona fans haven't seen a home game on TV in five years. The Cardinals can be watched only on the road, where they're 1--20 since Oct. 6, 2002. That's one TV success in three years, breaking a record set by Geraldo Rivera.

Oh, wait. One game played locally was telecast in 2003--the Miami--San Diego game, which was moved to Tempe during the Southern California wildfires. Hey, at least fans got to see pro football that day.

"The Cardinals need new owners real bad," says Bob Parsons, president of Scottsdale's GoDaddy.com, the world's biggest domain-name broker. "Advertising at their games is like advertising in a ghost town. Nobody goes there."

Would the Bidwills sell the NFL's lowest-valued franchise ($552 million)? "No way," says Michael. "This has been in our family forever."

And why should they sell, when next season they move into a new stadium in suburban Glendale (a gift from taxpayers, who are footing two thirds of the $370 million cost)? See, kids? Pinch nickels, lose like the French army and cash in!