What If...Shhh...Don't Jinx It

Okay, I'll admit it.  Just between you and me?  I'm a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Yes.  They of the 12 (going on 13) consecutive losing seasons.  They of the 12 (now 13) consecutive losses.  The team that got swept by the former worst team in baseball, the Kansas City Royals.  The franchise that never seemed to recover from Sid Bream and Francisco Cabrera (possibly a 13 year hangover?)

And I always ask people that follow the Red Sox or the Yankees, "What's it like to follow a good team?"  And they laugh.  They don't seem to understand that it's a serious question.  I really want to know.

After all, when pitchers and catchers report (aka the off-season), everyone's 0-0.  No one has lost yet.  No one has had their spirits broken (fans and players alike) from the grind of a long, grueling season.  Everyone has a chance to win a championship.

Now, the NFL prides itself on parity.  But seriously, how much hope can there be for the six teams (Redbirds included) that have never made it to the Super Bowl in the 40 years since its inception?  The law of averages tells us that if it hasn't happened in the last four decades, it isn't likely to happen ever.  What hope do Cardinals fans have when the team has posted exactly one playoff victory in the last 35 years?  Law of averages, right?

However, with this being the off-season, some key free agent signings, a new stadium opening up, season ticket sales at an all time high, and high quality content on CardinalInsider.com, hope springs eternal.

Then again, the Cardinals were the "sleeper" pick of many NFL experts last season to make the playoffs and ended up finishing a more than disappointing 5-11.  We had high hopes last off-season as well.

But we relish being the underdog, the lovable loser.  We try to be taken seriously when we say we're Cardinals fans, we write inflammatory articles about the powerhouses in our conference and within our division.  We know how to support a loser.  Hope in the off-season, irrational optimism padded by occasional disdain and depression during the season.

Here's a more difficult thought: What if the Cardinals succeed?  What if they win their division?  Go to the playoffs?  Have success in the playoffs?  Let's not lose our heads and place them in the Super Bowl (or winning it for that matter).  Let's just assume that, for the first time in almost 10 years, the Cardinals were one of the 12 best teams in the NFL.

How would we react?  Would we pretend we were kings of the world after securing a Wild Card spot?  Would we settle for advancing to the Divisional Round?  Would we have the audacity to be upset about losing a Super Bowl after not having been for 40 years?

We're used to being losers.  How someone handles success is at least as important as how someone handles failure.  I look at it as being in the best possible position of any team in the league.

Now that the Bengals have ended their 15 year slump, the Cardinals are officially the least successful franchise in the league.  Therefore, expectations are low (after all, has anyone outside of this space declared Arizona as the "sleeper" pick for the upcoming season?)  Since expectations are low, I am hereby endorsing a pessimist's approach.

It's a wonderful thing to be a pessimist.  Either you're right, or you're pleasantly surprised.  I for one have gotten caught up in all the optimism permeating the Valley of the Sun, but I say it's time for some good, old fashioned pessimism.  Wear a scowl when the Cardinals are brought up in conversation.  Give them no love.  Absolutely, positively guarantee that they'll lose every game, then witness the joy you feel when they actually win.

Trust me.  That's what's kept me sane as a Pirates fan all these years.  You can only watch the sun come up so many times before you learn to expect it.

The only problem, once again lies in the minute chance that they do well this year.  However, I'd say that there will be enough last minute additions to the bandwagon in that event that no one will notice if you and your Chicken Little prophesies from early in the season jump on board.

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