Cards Fans: Don't Believe the Hype...Yet

I understand the hype. I do, and I'm caught up in it, I really am. The Cardinals offseason has been straight out of the story books, especially for long suffering fans of the Redbirds. For years, if you turned to a friend with some 'hot' news about the Cardinals your friend's response was almost always a sigh, an eye roll, and a 'It figures.'

Signed Emmitt Smith when he was already done.

"It figures."

Let Jake Plummer walk.

"It figures."

Anquan Boldin is hurt.

"It figures."

There were signs of hope this season.  If nothing else Cards fans went into the offseason saying, "The new stadium should be stellar."  We were just happy to have something to look forward to.  Just happy to have one thing we knew would be positive.  Unless the thing fell down, it was going to make Cardinals football better.  Indoors, September home games.  Just the retractable field seemed so much more 21st century than anything else the Cardinals had offered us in the past decade.

Still, it wasn't until that beautiful March day that you actually caught that friend of yours off guard.

"Did you hear who the Cardinals signed?"

He was ready, arched eye brow, little smirk.  He was ready, it was on the tip of his tongue.



The eye roll was replaced by wide eyes.  The smirk didn't look quite right when the mouth hung open just a little bit.


While Shawn Alexander was clearly the biggest free agent running back, there really was never any doubt that the Seahawks were going to resign him, which made Edgerrin James the de facto best available running back out there.  Better yet, he seemed such a great fit for what Dennis Green kept saying he was trying to build.  He catches the ball out of the backfield, blocks well, and doesn't necessarily want to carry the ball 30 times.

We basked in that glory for a little while.  So happy to have Phoenix as the center of the football universe for a couple of days.  Still, we knew it was going to be short lived.  We just knew something else would happen, the other shoe would drop.  We were picking #10.  Just high enough to have expectations, just low enough to completely screw it all up.  There are still holes, on the O-Line, in the secondary, behind center.  What would we do?  How would it go wrong?

That friend of yours came with you to Jackson's on 3rd for the draft.  The place was already buzzing with the news that the Texan were NOT going to take Reggie Bush.  Nobody could believe it.  Everybody's draft board was messed up.  The bartender asks, "Is that really going to affect the Cards though?  I mean, they weren't going to have a shot at Bush or Mario Williams."

Your buddy had been working out that eyebrow.  Getting ready to use it on pick after pick.

"Nope, won't affect the Cards at all," your friend says, "They'll still screw it up."

You hung your head, you did.  You looked down at your beverage, tried to think of a witty comeback.  Williams went first, the Saints practically tripped over themselves getting Bush's name in.  Vince Young went and a few more faced looked shocked.  Pick after pick went, and then all of a sudden it was at number seven or number eight and somebody said aloud,

"Could Matt Leinart fall to us?!"

The whole bar flipped out. 

"Shut up!"

"Don't jinx us!"

"What are you doing!"

And so for 20 minutes everybody held their breath.  It couldn't happen, there was no way.  The camera kept flashing to Leinart and those Hollywood looks.  He was trying to stay cool, but it was obviously a blow to him.

Detroit needed a quarterback.  Everybody was saying they didn't, that they were looking defense, but how could they pass up the USC star? 

"With the ninth pick in the 2006 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select...Ernie Simms...Linebacker...Florida State."

There was a moment of stunned silence.  Then a cheer went up at Jackson's on 3rd. 

And all over the valley.

Your friend still had a smile.

"They're not going to take him, they've got Kurt Warner."

There was panic for a minute there, they'd done this to us before, passed on the best player, passed on who we wanted.  They wouldn't do it again.  They couldn't.  The commish walked to the podium and fingers were crossed.  Prayers were mumbled, looks exchanged.  Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease...

And they took him.  They took the Golden Boy.  The lefty who knew, above all else, like nobody in this draft, how to win.  The Cardinals hadn't elicited cheers like this since they beat the Cowboys in '97.  We were on our way.

Which brings us to the point.  Edge.  Matt.  Stadium.  Three huge things, but that's not enough to start singing.  Not yet.  The Cardinals have had a great offseason, they've done a lot of things right, but they haven't won yet, they haven't proved anything.

If the Arizona Cardinals are going into the season expecting respect, this team is screwed.  They need to earn the respect.  They need to win.  They've sold out the new stadium, they are selling jerseys.  They have hype, excitement surrounding the team.  I can't count how many times I've been asked if I can get somebody into the stadium, get them seats (I can't by the way, don't bother asking).  Now they have to take advantage.  They have to earn the respect, they have to win. 

For the first time forever, 8-8 is not going to be good enough.  This team needs to post a winning record.  They need to be in the playoff hunt.  They need to capitalize, and earn that respect. 

Your buddy (and yes, he's a Broncos fan, as if you hadn't already guessed), he's licking his chops.  He can't wait until the team falls apart, he can't wait until they start 0-4.  But for the first time in a long time, he's got his doubts.  The eyebrow isn't raised quite as high, the insults aren't quite as loud.  There is doubt in his mind.

And hope in ours.  They've got hype, now go earn the respect.

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