My Cardinals Playoff Odyssey

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

As long as sports are more or less on hiatus, I figure it might be a good time to share one of my favorite sports experiences. Hopefully you will enjoy the account almost as much as I enjoy remembering it.

I had been a Rams fan since 1980 (hey, I was 8 and liked their helmets), even after the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988. However, I was a junior at Arizona State the year Jake Plummer arrived, so I watched intently as he energized the program and came within a couple of minutes of a national championship against Ohio State (last minute heartbreak for an AZ sports team? Say it ain't so!). When the Cards drafted Jake in the second round, I was all in as a fan and have been ever since.

At the end of the 1998 season, the Cards reeled off three improbable wins by three or fewer points (three really is a magic number!) and snuck into the wild card round of the playoffs. My girlfriend at the time wanted to go to the playoff game, despite the fact that it was in Dallas, so I went online and bought tickets for it. Since it was being played on Jan 2nd, we got a hotel room for the night of 1/1 and left Phoenix by car at 6am on New Year's Day. Yes, we were crazy, and we couldn't afford last-minute plane tickets.

After a very long drive of about 16 hours, we crashed at the hotel and woke up the next day amped for the game. I was wearing my Plummer jersey and my face was painted red and white, and I was carrying a sign that said Arizona Beats Cowboys (can you guess which network was televising?). As we made our way to our nosebleed seats, there were good-natured catcalls from the sea of Cowboy fans. It only got worse when the Cards' first possession was (I think) three and out. but Arizona's defense held, and I started verbally dishing it back at the crowd. At halftime, AZ was up 10-0 and the people around us were muted.

Mandi and I went for a beer at halftime and discovered a small but fervent group of fans in the concessions area. They practically dragged us to their lower bowl section near the end zone, and no one bother to check our tickets. We screamed ourselves hoarse as the Cards exposed the aging Cowboy team and pulled off a 20-7 victory. I ended up on TV, yelling incoherently about how Texas Stadium was no longer home to the Cowboys because it is now OUR HOUSE. I was drunk on emotion, not $8.00 beers. Probably.

One thing that impressed me - I always disliked the 'Boys and their fans, but the fans at that game could not have been classier. Some wanted pictures with Mandi and me. After the game, a group in the parking lot gave us beer and a bottle of champagne they had been saving for a Dallas victory and said they hoped the Cards would go on to win it all. It was a much more positive experience with the fans than I had anticipated.

When we got back to Phoenix, I was still so hyped up that I wrote a florid account of the whole trip (going so far as to compare the entrance to Texas Stadium to the gate of Hades) and sent it to the sports section of the Arizona Republic. The next day, Bill Goodykoontz called me and said "I am interviewing Cardinals fans about the game. Are you willing to tell me about your experience?" I think my response was "Oh, let me think aboutYES!" I told Bill the whole story, and when his piece came out, it wasn't about several Cards fans. The whole thing was my story. I was shocked and excited and I still have a few (hundred) copies of it in a box somewhere.

So that's it. If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the story. If you took one look and said "nope - too long," I feel you. To all of you Cardinals fans, I hope you are safe and happy, I hope we have football this year, and I hope our team makes some noise. Go Cards!

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Revenge of the Birds' (ROTB) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of ROTB's editors.</em>