Welcome to the refreshed Revenge of the Birds! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post.
Onto the stories.
I wish I could have a cooler "Why I am an Arizona Cardinals fan" story than I do.
Something miraculous or inspiring, such as being taken to a game at a young age, experiencing the team in the Sun Devil Stadium days with the scorching sun hitting the hot metal benches while Jake Plummer led a comeback win.
Or having a family history dating back to two generations of Cardinals fans. Maybe even being a doey-eyed child waiting in line for a Larry Fitzgerald autograph up in Flagstaff, the scent of ponderosa pines all around.
I remember that I used to root for the team to tank as a child for their draft pick to go higher than it would be already.
No, my story as to how I became a Cardinals die-hard is less interesting than many. But by no means less passionate.
As a young child, I wasn’t really into football. In part because I didn’t quite grasp the complexities of the game and was never born athletic. Ask my father and he’ll still tell you the story of the time he tried out for the football team at his local high school in Fremont, Michigan.
He was so tiny, they didn’t have any pads that fit him. Instead, the equipment manager found a pair of tiny leather pads that were from the 1950’s, at least, that fit his smallish size. His first snap, not knowing what to do, he rushed after the quarterback.
That didn’t end well.
The offensive tackle took a single kick-step and literally picked my father up off the ground, stared at him a minute, and then threw him back about five feet, breaking his glasses.
So I never quite had the genetics going for me to play football (sadly).
But I did have passion.
A passion that was discovered around the same time many of the younger generation of Cardinals fans like myself discovered it—in the days of Fitz and Boldin, Kurt Warner’s remarkable comeback story, Adrian Wilson leveling a running back and Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby drama as they held out for new deals in between sacks (hey, Cardinals fans know I’m being honest).
If anyone deserves credit for a love of Arizona sports, it’s probably my mother, who despite her and my father both being Michigan natives, decided to adopt the local teams after moving to Arizona. My first Cardinals memory, officially, was listening to the team draft Matt Leinart on the radio and the excitement and buzz that followed. But it wasn’t until that magical 2009 playoff season that my interest was piqued.
Because, honestly, no one really expected anything from that team that postseason.
During that magical run, it was like a city coming alive in support. And I felt alive as well.
All the new-found love for the Cardinals came to the chagrin of many fans of other teams, who all whispered the words "bandwagon" and "fair-weather fans".
But the truth was that a wind of change was spreading. And the idea of a "bandwagon" couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Arizona Cardinals had earned it.
Nothing has been easy being a fan of this franchise. Constantly overlooked as a market and franchise, constantly ridiculed with statements like "Same old Cardinals" or "It’s snowing in Arizona? Guess the Cardinals won the Super Bowl and Hell froze over."
Always feeling like the underdog from the years of the organization struggling to find handholds to pull themselves out of the scrap heap and never has gotten true national attention. Think that’s changed?
Look at their schedule now after one down year and ask Cardinals fans how they feel.
That dissatisfaction with the status quo all Cardinals fans possess has been built by the years of utter disappointment, the struggle of supporting a team that seemed to be the laughingstock of the league year...after year...after year.
It was built by having to share a stadium with the local college team outdoors in the heat for years and years.
Speaking of stadiums, all everyone seems to talk about is how Seattle has "False-Start Field" (Guess which stadium ACTUALLY has the most false starts in the leaguesince they opened? You guessed it, our fans in the University of Phoenix stadium, but all you hear about is Seahawks fans this, 12th man that....
That chip on your shoulder grows a little more.
It was built by that magical playoff run, in which nearly everyone picked against the Cardinals in every single game. And even again in that incredible ‘14 season which saw three quarterbacks but one of the most gritty defensive seasons we’ve ever seen in the NFL.
It was built in that ‘15 season in which they were totally counted out and went on to have a 13-3 season. And built again in the postseason when almost everyone had counted the Packers the eventual winner until a 70+ yard run by Larry Fitzgerald put that all to rest. You get the feeling that no one believes in your team.
As Rodney Dangerfield once elegantly quoted: "I get no respect, I tell ya."
That disrespect sticks with you.
And it’s maybe one of the biggest reasons I am a Cardinals fan: I feel I can identify with the players and with the fans.
Most Cardinals fans feel as though they and their team have always been the down on their luck underdogs.
I can relate to that struggles and how they feel as an Arizona native myself.
The city of Phoenix was born from nothing, built from the ashes of a dead civilization, and even the name itself implies a rebirth, a resurrection from the dead. That is how Cardinals fans feel about their team—a strong, competitive and entertaining football team built from the ashes of a downtrodden organization.
That chip on your shoulder digs in just a little further.
Cardinals fans ultimately have a unique culture of sports fans from all over, all ages, genders, levels and passion; a true reflection of Arizona as a state.
And even in a time where the nation, and even Arizona, is divided politically, ethnically, socially and economically, I can sit in a room, or a building packed 50,000 strong with a common rooting interest who can look past those differences.
A reminder of what makes us human, and why the Birdgang is one big family.
Sure, there will be disagreements like in every family. And there will be fans who watch camp practice cheering on "Tim Hightower" in 2014 only for you to have to tell them it is in fact, Andre Ellington.
(Yes, that actually happened).
But that’s family and from the painted head-gear wearing fans to those who saved up their allowance to buy just one official Honey Badger jersey, ultimately it’s that hope and belief in the organization that is what drives Cards fans to be the unsung best fanbase in the NFL.
It’s why I’m an Arizona Cardinals fan. Because that knowing where you’ve been, and having hope for the future to how high you can go?
That’s just a metaphor for life as we know it.
IT’S TIME TO RISE UP, RED SEA!
-You can follow @blakemurphy7 on Twitter for more Cardinals coverage and hot takes.
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