The Sports Philosopher Turns ‘CARDINAL FAN FOR A DAY’ or If You Prefer, ‘Why L.A. Doesn’t Deserve an NFL Team’

October 19, 2009
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Newest Cardinal Fan

Newest Cardinal Fan

By Brad Eastland


      My boy Robbie turned 13 the other day….

      Which means of course that he is now a teenager (don’t get me started), and which also means he was in line for some sort of a “you’re-almost-a-young-man-but-not-really” kind of birthday present.   To wit, I knew that there was one thing in the world that the lad had been bugging me about for a couple years now more than any other equally life-and-death thing; namely, taking him to a real live NFL football game.   

      Which is fine.   I love football.   I loved football as a kid.   And I loved it when my dad took me to Rams games at the old L.A. Coliseum, back in the day.   Trouble is, the Rams are long gone, the Raiders have come and gone, and Los Angeles—the nation’s 2nd largest and 2nd most important city, as well as the entertainment capital of the world—is left without a pro football team going on 13 years now.  (Which, ironically and I guess fittingly, is just about how long Rob has been alive.)

      So I started surfing the Internet for cheap NFL tickets within a day’s drive from here.   I said cheap NFL tickets.  

      No such thing.

      So then I just resigned myself to paying several hundred dollars to go to the best game possible within a couple weeks of his actual birthday, and within a few hours’ drive.   Oakland was out.   They suck.   San Francisco was out.   Scheduling difficulties.   And going to nearby San Diego was never an option.   They’re always sold out for one thing, and besides, Rob and I hate the Chargers and so I knew if they won the day we were there it would ruin everything.

      That left Arizona, and the defending NFC Champion Cardinals.

      I was fine with that.   Rob and I both followed the Cards’ improbable run through last year’s playoffs, we both reveled in their heartwarming though ultimately frustrating attempt to knock off the hated and indescribably lucky Steelers in the Super Bowl.   So I plunked down about $300 bucks for field level seats through Stub Hub, and called a cousin of mine in Phoenix to secure free lodging.   I had crossed the river.   Rob was thrilled when he opened the gift bag and saw the tickets.   His dream was about to be realized.   A pro football game.   Road trip.   Father and son.   As American as milk.   What could go wrong?

      Everything.   My car, an oh-so-bitchin’ bronze Chrysler Plymouth convertible (but suddenly not the most reliable machine on the road these days) over-heated four times en route.   I’ll take credit for the first boil-over—I cleverly left the cap off the radiator the night before—but why did the football gods put the whole trip in jeopardy, why the other three reminders of a lifetime of insidiously bad luck?   Turned a 5-hour sojourn of joy into an 8-hour marathon commute from hell.   Rob was a big help; he slept through most of it.   God, I wish I could have stayed a kid forever….

      We finally pulled up to cousin Ginny’s house in suburban Phoenix at 7:30 on Saturday night, pitch dark.   I was relieved.   Rob was hungry.   The 4th boil-over occurred the moment we came to a stop in her driveway.   We went to dinner immediately.

      Ginny was great.   There’s nothing like extended family, and with 41 first cousins (yes, 41), I suppose I could go to a pro football game in any NFL city in the country, and have a cousin or two right there to sponge off of.   She and her husband Richard even gave us their own king bed; they slept on couches.   It had been many years since I had slept in the same bed with Rob.   He had this cute little habit back then of thrashing in his sleep, his arms and legs thrusting straight out and hitting me all night in the middle of his sound sleeping and energetic dreaming.   So cute.   Well, turns out he hasn’t jettisoned that little habit.   And it’s not so cute any more.   The problem is he’s a beefy, muscular thirteen-year-old now, and all those fast-asleep kicks and punches hurt! 

      Next morning we made it to the University of Phoenix Stadium without incident, no boil-overs, got there an hour early, and when we entered the stadium we were not disappointed.

      What a superb cathedral for football.   Red everywhere, Cardinal logos everywhere, practically every fan wearing a red Cardinal jersey, a huge translucent retractable roof, two huge television replay screens, excitement crackling through the air, pageantry itself.   It takes your breath away.   And every seat taken.   Even the nosebleed seats.   Which were three levels above field level, where Rob and I sat like visiting kings….

   It was a magnificent game as well.   The Cards started out like a house a-fire.   Kurt Warner, their aging Hall-of-Fame quarterback, was brilliant.   The old guy was tossing the oblong rock around like he might have been the finest pure passer of pigskin in NFL history….which, of course, is pretty much what he is.   He completed almost everything he threw, piling up over 200 yards, and the two touchdown passes he tossed to Larry Fitzgerald were explosions of athletic perfection, the stuff of legend.   Halftime score: Cardinals 21, Texans 0.   Rob, by this time a Cardinal fan for life, was delighted.

      The second half was exactly the opposite.   Welcome to the NFL.   Houston QB Matt Schaub was doing his Warner impression, fairly marching the Texans up and down the field without resistance.   On offense, the Cardinals could suddenly do nothing right.   Warner’s receivers were letting him down.   Anquan Boldin dropped a pass.   Jerheme Urban dropped a pass.   Even Fitzgerald dropped a pass.   Suddenly it was tied, 21-all.   The crowd was aghast.   Rob was aghast.   Then Schaub made his only mistake, firing an interception that was returned for a touchdown.   28-21 Cards.   Briefly, the crowd returned to its state of glad hysteria.   It was a short-lived rapture, though.   Immediately, Schaub was driving his team relentlessly downfield yet again.   A tieing Texans touchdown seemed inevitable.

      But then something happened which got me thinking.   The crowd rose up.   The noise was deafening.   The domed stadium shook around us.   Magically, in response, the Cardinal defense stiffened, and four downs later, as the clock wound down to just a few seconds to go, their heroic goal-line stand at the one-yard line secured a 28-21 Cardinal victory, and sent Rob’s voice screaming virtually silently into the surrounding din….

      ….and it occurred to me that the crowd had been that way for roughly 80% of the plays during the game.   We literally had to stand up to watch the action about 80% of the time, because everyone else around us was standing up on almost every play, yes, about 80% of the time.  (At first this was pretty irritating to Rob; like most kids he likes to keep unnecessary effort and needless movement to a minimum, and I could tell he didn’t quite understand why he had to sit down after every play, only to have to stand up right away just to glimpse the ensuing action.   But he got over it.)   And like I say, it got me to thinking.   THIS IS WHY LOS ANGELES DOESN’T HAVE AN NFL TEAM, AND DOESN’T DESERVE ONE.  

      Neither the Rams nor the Raiders ever had support like this.   This was genuine “home field advantage” we were a part of.   I truly believe we, the crowd, won that game for the Cardinals.   L.A. fans never won a game for the home team.   I went to plenty of Ram games and Raider games over the years, and while I loved every minute of it, being both football fan and shameless lover of Sport, I was fine with catching the game on TV.   That’s the way L.A. is.   The Coliseum rarely sold out for either club, the Rams rarely sold out in Orange County, and overall fan support, though sincere, was never rabid.   Never all-or-nothing.   Never everyone wearing the same color shirt, be it Raider silver and black or Ram blue and gold.   In other words, these two teams enjoyed a level of support every bit as casual and take-it-or-leave-it as L.A. itself.   And so both teams eventually, and quite recently, left town.   Or should I say fled.

      I know there is currently yet another plan in the works to bring an NFL team to L.A., ‘bring back NFL football.   Even the governor is behind it.   But I don’t think it will lead to anything.   We’re just the kind of town teams leave for greener pastures, not the kind of town pro teams flock to.   And frankly, by and large, we don’t care.   But we shouldn’t feel bad about it.   We are what we are.

      In fact I’m grateful to the Rams and Raiders for leaving.   Having to drive 360 miles just to witness an NFL game in the flesh, it made for a memory neither my son nor I is ever likely to forget.   So as a lifelong Chicago Bears fan I say, “Go Cardinals!”   At least for one splendid Sunday afternoon in October, in the year of our Lord 2009….


P.S.—By the way, the answer to the “Sports Philosopher quiz” from a couple weeks ago is….Whitey Ford.   What was the quiz question?   You mean you forgot?   Well, I guess you’ll have to go back through the Sports Philosopher archive and reread the column to find out.

The Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered within the links below :

Newest Cardinal Fans, at least for the day!

Newest Cardinal Fans, at least for the day!




One Response to “The Sports Philosopher Turns ‘CARDINAL FAN FOR A DAY’ or If You Prefer, ‘Why L.A. Doesn’t Deserve an NFL Team’”


  1. WHERE HAVE ALL THE (LOCAL) HEROES GONE? By Brad Eastland, Your Sports Philosopher

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