Super Glad It’s Over

When we first moved to Arizona I was amazed to finally be living in what I considered a major sports city. My definition of “major sports city” left something to be desired I have to admit. This was a basketball town that was for sure. The Phoenix Suns were a season removed from a heartbreaking loss to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and we were in the midst of Charles Barkley mania. The round mound of rebound was everywhere; on the radio, at the airport, in shopping centers and restaurants. You couldn’t go anywhere in the valley without hearing about a Barkley sighting. The NBA was not the only game in town, there was also the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League. Of course you would get an argument from many in the valley that the Cardinals did not classify as a major sport and barely classified as an NFL franchise. Not being a football fan I really couldn’t come up with a valid argument that they truly were “major sport” worthy.

In 1996 the Arizona Cardinals were somehow able to talk the other NFL owners into bringing the Super Bowl to Arizona. Writing that sentence still makes me shake my head in bewilderment. The Cardinals at that time played in a college facility on the Arizona State University campus. It was not one of those state-of-the-art college facilities that are built when a collegiate giant is bringing massive amounts of money to the school. No this was one of those stadiums that even when built in 1958 seemed outdated and impersonal. The Cardinals had been unsuccessfully trying to secure a new facility since they moved to Arizona in 1988. The thought process was that if the Super Bowl came to Arizona it would raise awareness of how poor the stadium really was. I’m not exactly sure who’s brainchild it was to use the biggest game in the NFL as an audition for an episode of stadium extreme makeover but you can’t argue the results. The NFL and fans lamented on the state of the stadium and as a result the team was finally able to secure state financing for a new stadium. Now the Cardinals play in a state-of-the art facility with a retractable roof and even more impressive a field on rails that rolls outside for sun then back in for the game. The most ironic point was that for years the Cardinals cried about having to play in a college stadium then they awarded naming rights to the new stadium to the University of Phoenix making their new home a college stadium.

A further result of the new stadium was that the NFL awarded Arizona another opportunity to host the Super Bowl. Today marked Super Bowl Sunday that odd combination of sporting event and television advertising showcase. For the past two weeks major sponsors and media outlets have invaded the greater Phoenix area to cover the extravagance of this event. The Super Bowl coupled with the FBR Phoenix Open golf tournament (which was running simultaneously) meant that the roads, clubs, restaurants were more congested than normal and prices seemed just slightly higher than I remembered for an early February weekend. You could not go anywhere in this town without seeing some reminder of the big football game being played in Glendale.

I am the first to admit that I am not a football fan. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t get how people can be so excited about a season that only lasts 17 games yet spreads across half a year.

But as a Phoenix sports fan I felt I was pretty much obligated to watch the game. I am pretty sure that there is some sort of state law in Arizona that all televisions be tuned to the Super Bowl if we want any chance of hosting another game. Listening to the announcers during the game I was told this was one of the most exciting games in NFL history. I have to admit, it did have a flare for the dramatic. In the final 50 seconds the underdog team that no one gave any chance of winning came from behind and took the lead against the dominating undefeated team. I had to wonder whether the NFL was worried about a plagiarism lawsuit by Major League Baseball. After all you had a dominating team from the Boston area made up of several strange and unusual characters. They were cheered on by a legion of obnoxious fans that followed the team around the country making themselves an annoyance in whatever stadium they played. There were allegations of cheating and bending the rules that seemed to be overlooked for the sake of television ratings. This team who had been the doorstop of the league for many years was now being discussed as potentially the best team ever to play the game. Their opponents were a team of young players who started the season struggling but then went on an amazing winning streak to end the season winning the final 11 road games to make the play-offs over teams who had just a few short weeks prior had looked like a lock on the post season. The young team then went on an amazing streak during the play-offs beating teams that were on paper much better to find themselves playing on the national stage. About the only thing the NFL changed in the story was to give it a Hollywood happy ending by letting the youngsters win. I have to admit, that does make a better story than to have the strong team thoroughly dominate the young kids destroying all hope they had of winning a game let alone the series.

The game did its job, it had the fans extremely involved. Even non-football fans such as myself were glued to the television in the final seconds to watch the ultimate outcome. When the final gun sounded and the game was over sports fans all over the country erupted in celebration. I was right there with them cheering at the top of my lungs. Not because the Giants had just beaten the New England Patriots, no I was cheering because football season was finally over which meant that baseball season was just about ready to take its rightful place at the center of the sports universe. Now that is something everyone can be happy about.

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