Shea: It's all about the Cards

OBR Detroit bureau chief Bill Shea, a Browns fan living in the city of ultimate NFL horror, evaluates this Sunday's event. This year's Super Bowk features one long-suffering franchise and one, well, ugh...

And then there were two.

When the final gun sounded on the Arizona Cardinals' improbable NFL Championship game victory Sunday before last over the witless Eagles, it left just two "old school" NFL teams without a Super Bowl berth on their resumes - the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.

One could argue the Cards' victory augers slightly worse for Detroit because that franchise is now the only NFL team to be in existence for all 43 Super Bowls and never played in any of them. The Browns were on Modellian-induced hiatus (or in NFL purgatory, or something) from 1996-1998.

So Cleveland has that going for it, which ain't much.

Three other teams that have never been to the Super Bowl: New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Saints missed the Lions' dubious record by a matter of months. The team began play in the fall of 1967, and Super Bowl I crowned Green Bay the champion of the 1966 NFL-AFL season on Jan. 15, 1967.

So, technically, while Cleveland is the older franchise, New Orleans has had more opportunities to earn a Super Bowl berth but failed to do so.

Small comfort this frigid January day.

That all said, there's something comforting in the Cardinals heading to Tampa Bay for Super Bowl XLIII. Because if that shopworn franchise can make it, any team can.

"Any" for our purposes being the Cleveland Browns, recipients of numerous AAFC and NFL crowns, but nothing since 1964 – three years prior to the Lamar Hunt-coined Super Bowl.

A look at the Cardinals' history is enough to make a Browns fan blush at his or her embarrassment of riches compared to that hapless team.

The franchise traces its roots to the Chicago's Morgan Athletic Club in 1898, with a stop in St. Louis from 1960-1987, before settling in its current home in Glendale, Arizona.

The team twice has won NFL titles - in 1925 and 1947. It didn't host another home playoff game after ‘47, a span of 62 years, three states and several cities, until this year.

Now that sucks.

The team's history of quarterbacks after the modest success of Jim Hart and Neil Lomax reads like a who's who of has-beens, busts and unknown journeymen: Gary Hogeboom, Timm Rosenbach, Tommy Tupa, Chris Chandler, Steve Beurlein, Dave Krieg, Boomer Esiason, Jake Plummer, Jeff Blake and Josh McCown.

Even now, Arizona is riding on the right arm of a 38-year retread graybeard, Kurt Warner, who's lasted this long into his NFL golden years because he has only 10 seasons of wear and tear on him.

As much as any team in the league, these guys deserve a shot. The Pittsburghs and Dallases of the world have had plenty of opportunities, and no one wants to hear from their sniveling, sneering fans, who stand second only to Yankees fans for gross condescension.

If one needs any other reason to cheer on the red, black and white these next two weeks, it can be found in the Cardinals' opponent, the oafish Steelers. This is "Arn Beer" City's seventh Super Bowl (one for every tooth, on average, a typical Yinzer still has by age 18, but I digress), second only to Dallas' eight.

There is no worse nightmare scenario for Browns fans than an AFC Championship game featuring the Steelers and the illegal and illegitimate Maryland NFL franchise (I still refuse to name them in print).

Barring forfeit because of a localized outbreak of crippling venereal disease or mass arrests for parole violations (very real possibilities with these teams), the AFC Championship game wasn't going to be cancelled, and one of these gangs of overrated, egomaniacal thugs, goons and criminal deviants was going to the Super Bowl.

And it's the tiresome Steelers and their ridiculous, ignorant, snot-rag waving fans.

My hope is that Warner and the Cardinals have enough magic left to deal smug Pittsburgh a humiliating defeat that's so profound it staggers the franchise to the point it tumbles into a downward spirals of endless losing for the next three generations.

That would be a good start to 2009.

Bill Shea is the OBR's Detroit bureau chief. He can be reached at

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