February 1, 2009

With All Due Respect to Pittsburgh...

If either Tampa Bay or Jacksonville were in the Super Bowl, this Dolphins fan wouldn't be rooting for either simply because they come from my original home state.

But I've lived here long enough to understand the state-wide affection and draw the Steelers have. Problem is, I still can't root for them today.

First is the whole "we are the greatest football franchise ever" mentality. While this may be a true statement - the Rooney's can be proud of their team - as a Philly guy and Dolphin fan, it's downright annoying. Childish jealously, I know. But seriously, folks in the western half of the state can't stand anything to do with Philly or their teams and they'd be first to admit it.

Another reason, Edgerrine James. Remember, it wasn't until after James was released from Indy that the Colts won the Super Bowl. Edge deserves a ring.

He was essentially benched one third of the way into the season because it seemed Tim Hightower was ready to take over the starting role. He took the demotion in stride. But as the season wore on, the pass-happy Cards lacked any real rushing threat.

Then came the playoffs, and the resurgence of a fresh-legged James. The one-two punch the pair now provide, mean the receivers get more room to work. Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner have taken full advantage.

The Cardinals will face the league's best defense in the Steelers who come off a brawl with their hated rivals, the Ravens. This version of the Steel Curtain lives up to the franchise's reputation. They are tough, hard-hitting, and force you into mistakes.

Roethlisberger is a gritty competitor and more seasoned than he was when he won this game the first time. Hines Ward and Willie Parker, stars of Pittsburgh's last Super Bowl, need to equal their feat in order for the Steelers to keep pace with the Arizona offense.

Kurt Warner has been here before as well. One of the NFL's best men off the field is becoming one of its greatest on, resurrecting the Cardinal franchise 9 years after doing the same thing for the St. Louis Rams, former home of his current squad.

Seven years after Tom Brady beat him for the Lombardi Trophy, Warner is looking to cap off his own resurrection and strengthen his resume for the Hall of Fame.

I like the Steelers, don't get me wrong. They represent the best of what Steeler football means and are favored to bring home a sixth championship.

But the Cardinals, and Bidwell family who owns them have always been nomads. They perhaps have the smallest fan base based on the constant relocation and lack of championships. The have long been the perennial doormats of the league. They have had as many homes as the Steelers have had head coaches.

Today we find out if a high scoring, big threat offense can finally beat a great defense. Can the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Cardinals (!), actual be Super Bowl Champs? I think so.

Cardinals 33 - Steelers 24

I've always been partial to 13 anyway...
(photo courtesy of SportsIllustrated.cnn.com)

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