I love football. I mean, on so many levels I just love. that. sport. Growing up as a Steelers and Cardinals fan was a pretty sweet deal: on one hand, I was taught the game by watching the Black and Gold fight on the gridiron each week. I remember family gatherings in Pittsburgh when I was 4 years-old and everyone was making friendly wagers and cheering as one, through thick and thin. I never made it to Three Rivers, and I didn’t make it to Heinz Field until I was 18, but I grew to learn how much of a privilege it was, and the wait was well worth it.
When we moved to Arizona, it was easy to go to Cardinals games. I went with my dad, my grandfather, and as I got older, my friends. The draw was always a little different–sometimes it was the temptation of garlic fries (don’t judge), but mostly it was just the love of the game. And that stadium? Obviously I’m biased as an ASU alum, but our stadium is (was) IN A MOUNTAIN. Arizona at its finest, ladies and gents.
In 2008, things got WEIRD. In August, my friends and I did as most football fans do; we made our playoff and Super Bowl picks for the upcoming season. Everyone was really thoughtful when responding, except for me. “I say Arizona and Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl, because that’s how I want it to be. So that’s how it should be.”
And then everyone laughed. And I would forever remember that moment as the only one I ever wished I was at a casino and put money on something silly that came out of my mouth.
Fast forward to January 2009 and the Steelers become AFC Champs… not all that unusual. But yes, the Cardinals were a fluke 8-8 team that no one saw making it to Tampa, but forever and always In Kurt Warner I Trust, and so it went.
Because I am blessed beyond measure to work for the Worldwide Leader in Sports, I was able to head to Tampa for 11 days to work at Super Bowl XLIII. Not only did I wear Jerome Bettis’ Super Bowl ring for a hot second, but I also got to attend both teams’ Media Day activities, press conferences, and… I got to go to the Super Bowl I predicted 7 months earlier.
My dueling allegiances were no secret, so leading up to the big game I was asked several times a day: who are you rooting for? I would always answer: “I’m just glad they’re both here! I’d love to see the Cardinals win though, because it would be so great for that team–for Kurt, for Larry.”
Fast forward again…
DAY OF THE GAME.
Kurt and Larry connect for a b-e-a-utiful 64-yard touchdown and the Cards go ahead.
I start crying. Sad tears. Semi-uncontrollably. In front of several members of the ESPN crew and talent team… real smooth, Kraus. And then one of the group members approaches me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Well, I guess know you really know who you’re rooting for.” I left the stadium that night as a happy fan. My mild deflation over the Cardinals loss was well-masked by the glow of a sixth championship for Pittsburgh.
So there you have it, I am a Steelers fan first, but a Cardinals fan always. Each team holds a special place in my football-filled heart, but one a bit more than the other. I could probably identify specifics, but that’s really more for a therapist than my blog readers, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. You’re welcome.
Have you ever wished you could accompany me while I people watch? If so, get excited because I took pictures at the last Cardinals game I went to because some things are just better when they’re shared with the masses. Stay tuned for #BIRDGANG part two.