It wasn’t that long ago that the word “retirement” was the buzz surrounding 37-year-old Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. But his resurgence this season has shown the world that Brett Favre isn’t the only old name capable of baffling NFL secondaries in a game that rewards youth and vim.
There’s an acronym in the state of Arizona that has characterized professional football in the state since 1988 when the team made the move from St. Louis to arid AZ: SOC.
It stands for Same Old Cardinals.
The consensus around the campfire these days is that, thanks to Kurt Warner, these are not your Same Old Cardinals.
Arizona Republic sports writer Paola Boivin captured the Arizona optimism that has invaded the state in yesterday’s column: “If there’s a tougher player in the NFL,” she says of Kurt Warner, “I don’t see him.”
The Same Old Cardinals wouldn’t have had the atmosphere they had Monday, a noisy, home-team-heavy crowd waving towels that made University of Phoenix Stadium look particularly telegenic for a national TV audience. It was an ideal evening for football, enhanced by a stadium with its roof open. The Same Old Cardinals wouldn’t have come into the game with some gutsy coaching decisions that have served this team well.
We know a thing or two about being optimistic about the chances of your professional sports teams early in the season here in Chicago. Pitcher Ryan Dempster predicted a Cubs world series appearance during spring training last year. I predicted, and maintain, that the Bears will never lose another game as long as the franchise exists.
But something’s different in the Arizona air this year. A skeptic might say that this week’s squeaky victory against the lowly 49ers on the game’s final play is nothing to brag about. But the plot lover in all of us would love to believe that it’s a turning point for the team. That it’s a sign of good things to come.
Wins and losses are cyclical. As Mike Ditka once told us, success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal.
The city of Chicago lost two legitimate playoff hopes in the baseball realm, but saw its native son win the Presidency. Arizona has watched its native son lose yet another bid for the same office. Could it be time for the football tides — those oft-cruel fates — to drift in the direction of an unlikely team with an unlikelier leader?
Logic tells us that political elections and the game of football are entirely unrelated. But if you’re a fan living in Arizona, logic has nothing on a 37-year-old giver of hope.