Editor’s note: The Observer will occasionally run pieces from The Arizona Republic, which covers the Cardinals who are playing the Panthers on Saturday.
The regular season is over and the Cardinals are still alive.
Savor the moment. They don’t come around very often.
This is not meant to be naïve, and I’ve never been into cheerleading. But I’ve always found it sad when sports towns can't get up for playoff games, and it happens all the time.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Sometimes, a fan base becomes sated, gorged with success (Atlanta Braves). A playoff game becomes just another postseason.
Other markets are too pragmatic, where bandwagon fans have too many options to invest in teams with muted buzz, with no real shot at a trophy (pick a city on the West Coast).
Just remember, this is the best time for anyone who follows sports. It’s the giddy anticipation leading into a big game, the days when you can’t win or lose. You can’t be wrong. You can only gather around the water cooler to discuss, fret and dream.
This is when sports towns declare and reveal what they’re all about.
So ignore that the Cardinals defense is breaking down, mentally and physically. That cornerback Antonio Cromartie won’t tackle. That some of the veterans are hitting a wall. That Cards defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ trademark blitzes seem to be backfiring against athletic quarterbacks, and here comes Cam Newton.
Disregard that quarterback Drew Stanton can’t possibly play a football game 10 days after getting his knee scoped, right? Or that backup quarterback Ryan Lindley also tossed three interceptions on Sunday, and it took him 229 attempts to throw his first touchdown pass.
Forget that oddsmakers and media have buried the Cardinals. We must think logically, clearly, without bias.
Important caveat: Most Arizona media want the Cardinals to win. It’s great for business. And personally, I love nothing more than when a community elevates, rallies and bonds around a sports team. Nothing tears down more walls. In Arizona, we need more moments like that.
Alas, the sorry truth is this:
In 2008, the Cardinals entered the playoffs with a 9-7 record. They had lost four of their last six games. Some called them the worst playoff team in NFL history.
The 2014 Cardinals are even worse. They’ve also lost four of their last six games. But they don’t have Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and a healthy Larry Fitzgerald.
But that shouldn’t mean a thing to fans.
Fans believe that the Cardinals defense will be dominant once again. That Lindley can give the team another 17 points, and this time, it will be enough.
Fans believe because that’s what you do when 256 regular-season games are in the books; coaches are getting fired; fans in New Orleans and Philadelphia are wondering what happened to promising seasons; and the 49ers have cleaned out their lockers.
Fans believe because you’re a sports fan. And that alone is reason to celebrate.