Will Cardinals fans step up in Tampa?
The stage is set for the most unlikely Super Bowl the league has ever seen. The Arizona Cardinals, who were dubbed an unworthy playoff opponent, are prepared to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a run for their defensive-minded money. Arizona, where careers use to go and die, now sees the resurgence of Veterans Kurt Warner and Edgerrin James. But what does Tampa’s crowd have to say about it?
Pittsburgh Steelers fans travel well. Nobody knows that more than Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt. In the Steelers Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks in 2006, Whisenhunt did the play calling, and he remembers the friendly crowd.
“My last experience was from the other side of it, and it was sort of like a home game for us in Detroit when I was coaching for Pittsburgh,” Whisenhunt said.
The screwball calls of Super Bowl XL echoed the sentiment that it was a home game for the Steelers.
Three years later, the underdog Cardinals will have the little guy vote. After all, who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?
The Cardinals will appear in their first ever Super Bowl. They are also the only No. 4 seed from the NFC to advance to the Super Bowl. It’s been seven years since Kurt Warner has stepped onto the Super Bowl turf. Edgerrin James has never been.
Those story lines and many more, are just some of the reasons that the Cardinals won’t let the crowd stand in their way. Karlos Dansby plans to keep his head down and keep grinding his way to his childhood dream of winning the Super Bowl.
Darnell Dockett has the same game plan, even if the Steelers are backed by President Barack Obama.
The Cardinals have Obama’s downed opponent John McCain on their side. Arizona hopes a similar destiny isn’t in its cards.
“That is cool,” Darnell Dockett said. “Again, he has his opinion and he wants his team to win. I’m pretty sure that there are probably more Steelers fans than Cardinals fans. At the end of the day, they have to play 60 minutes. I do have intentions to shake his hand at some point in my career. This might be the closest to an opportunity that I have. I am definitely going to keep that in mind during the game that I need to go to the White House.”
Safety Antrel Rolle isn’t concerned if the majority of the crowd is Steelers fans. He says they’ve played on the road before. But the Cardinals are a road-weary team. Rolle says they are in Tampa to play, period.
“The game still has to be played on Sunday no matter who is in the stands,” Rolle said. “At this point in time, it is all in. Either you come in first or you come in second, but who wants to come in second. Nobody remembers who comes in second. I can’t look at it that way. I have to look at it as we are coming here for a purpose. Going to the Super Bowl is great, but to me, it is nothing unless you win it.”
Rolle hasn’t found inspiration from any other underdog teams or players he has watched in the past.
“I just watch ourselves. It doesn’t get too much worse than that. We are striving for a great game, trying to be the best that we can be as Arizona Cardinals. That is pretty much it.”
Amberly Richardson is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.