The Bald Truth
If you're wondering why I haven't posted for a few days (and even if you're not wondering), it's because I'm in Phoenix for a little R&R. As Blago would say, being unemployed can be exhausting!
Anyway, as a detached, objective observer, it's been fun - and more than a little strange - watching Arizona Cardinals fans behave.
Yes, Cardinal Fever has swept across the valley like so many tumbleweeds, but it's hard to take it too seriously. The guy driving in front of me in the Chevy Suburban - a road behemoth that was decked out in Cardinals red and featured no fewer than a half-dozen Cardinals flags - almost surely was not so feverish about his heroes just a few months ago.
The fans here aren't much like Steelers fans (or Bears fans, Eagles fans, Giants fans, etc., etc., etc.). Fans of those teams had little choice. Their fathers and grandmothers and uncles and older sisters worshipped those teams, so they simply had to worship them, too. Through good times and bad, they were Steelers fans (and Bears fans, Eagles fans, Giants fans, etc.) ... period.
Cardinals fans? Most grew up in other parts of the country rooting for other teams. And most kept rooting for their favorite teams after moving to the Valley of the Sun - all but ignoring Bill Bidwell's unlovable losers.
Indeed, fans here had Cardinal Fever only in the sense that they were sick of having to watch that awful team Sunday after Sunday, season after season, when they would have rather been watching their Jets or their Packers or - gulp! - even their Bengals.
This is just a generalization, of course, because I'm sure there are some diehard fans of Arizona's pro football franchise. Just not many.
Now, well, the bandwagon overfloweth.
Perfect weather and a Super Bowl team for a bunch of Cardinal Come Lately fans? Somehow, it just doesn't seem fair.
Scrawl-Line Cubbie Blues
About 1,000 times a day, ESPN runs a little bottom-of-the-screen line stating that the Cardinals franchise's 61-year championship drought is the second-longest in major professional sports.
The Balder Truth
I was dead-wrong about Kurt Warner.
Several years ago, when the Bears were looking for a QB to back up future star Rex Grossman, I wrote that Warner would be the wrong choice. He was too old. He seemed washed up. His wife, Brenda, was a bit of a pain in the posterior. He wanted to compete for the starting job and it would do the Bears no good to stunt Grossman's growth as a QB.
Blah blah blah. I had reasons galore ... and, in retrospect, pretty much every one of them was foolish.
My only solace: I wasn't alone. Bears honchos Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith, who were paid slightly more than I was to be right about such things, also gave Warner the big thumbs-down. Warner was rejected by numerous other GMs and coaches, too.
What a bunch of dopes all of us were.
THE BALDEST TRUTH
So now here it is ... prediction time.
I really, really want to pick the Cardinals because they are such a cool story. You have Warner, one of the NFL's all-time underdogs. You have a defense that came out of nowhere to become formidable. You have dozens of players who are anonymous to fans outside of Arizona (and, methinks, to quite a few fans in Arizona). You have Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin; it's pretty easy to envision those world-class receivers dancing repeatedly in the end zone.
Plus, there's the whattayagottolose factor. If I pick the Cardinals and they win, wow, what a great upset call. And if they lose, hey, it was worth a try.
Having said all that ...
I can see the Steelers' defense making life absolutely miserable for Warner, smothering him, taking away his passing lanes, roughing up those star receivers, making the Cardinals one-dimensional by completely shutting down the running game.
I also can see Willie Parker running wild against the Arizona D and, as a result, Ben Roethlisberger connecting on game-changing deep passes.
From top to bottom, the Steelers are the better, more experienced, more fundamentally sound team. They are far and away the better defensive team, and defense wins championships, right? As romantic as it is to say "Anything can happen" - the Cardinals' presence in Tampa is evidence of that - the best team usually does prevail on the biggest stage.
And so ...
Steelers 27, Cardinals 17.
Go ahead, Kurt Warner. Prove me (and about a zillion others) wrong one more time.