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Gonzo: Cardinals fans just the latest bandwagon-jumpers

Seriously? The Arizona Cardinals are hosting the NFC championship game? Who saw this coming? I'm honestly asking. Raise your hand if you anticipated this.

Seriously? The Arizona Cardinals are hosting the NFC championship game? Who saw this coming? I'm honestly asking. Raise your hand if you anticipated this.

You there, in Scottsdale - put your hand down, sir. No one likes a liar, least of all a liar with a leathery orange tan in the middle of January.

No, the venue for this game can't be a shock just to Birds fans - who no doubt thought an Eagles win over the Giants would send the flock south for a meeting with the Carolina Panthers. This has to come as a serious surprise to Cardinals fans, too. All seven of them probably were planning on playing a little golf come Sunday.

What? You think seven misrepresents the loyal Arizona backers out there? Maybe you're right. That number is probably too high.

Before wild-card weekend, the Cardinals organization was practically begging people to show up to watch the Other Birds take on Atlanta. In the run-up to the game between the Cardinals and the Falcons, the NFL office had to extend the deadline to buy tickets several times to ensure that the game would not be blacked out in the Phoenix area. According to reports, a local pool company had to snap up 3,000 tickets at the last minute.

Astonishingly, none of the newspapers out there went with the obvious headline: "Pool company saves Cardinals from drowning." A missed opportunity.

What a difference two weeks can make. After the Cards surprised everyone and dismissed the Panthers, Arizona sold out the NFC championship game in just six minutes. Impressive. Especially since University of Phoenix Stadium - the one that looks like something Calatrava might design after spending a month in the Mojave Desert with no water - holds about 70,000 people. Even more impressive: The good citizens of Arizona managed to jam everyone onto the bandwagon without violating any fire codes.

All of which has me thinking. This may be the latest case of a fan base that decided (coincidentally) to support its team only after it got good, but it's not the most egregious example. Since the turn of the century, we've seen people root for quite a few squads that previously were ignored. Here, then, are the teams that inspired the Super Seven of Fraud Fans.

7. The Boston Celtics (2007-08): When the Sawks and Pats were playing, fans all but ignored the C's. And when they didn't get the first pick in the draft and a crack at Greg Oden, the Celtics were left for dead. Then they traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and suddenly a bunch of dudes named Sully were wearing kelly green and watching basketball for the first time since Larry Legend went back to French Lick. New England is a godless land, and not just because of the frigid weather.

6. The Arizona Cardinals (2008-09): Most common question asked in Arizona before the NFC championship: "Do you want my tickets for the Cardinals game?" Most common answer: "Absolutely not."

5. The Philadelphia Soul (2008): You knew Philly was desperate for a championship when we tried to feign excitement about the Arena Football League. Casting our lot with Jon Bon Jovi still makes me feel dirty.

4. The Tampa Bay Rays (2008): Tropicana Field was largely empty for much of the summer. Then the Rays won the American League, and suddenly the fans there were buying up every cowbell on the East Coast. If you're going to jump on the bandwagon, fine. Just don't bust our eardrums while you're at it.

3. The California/Anaheim/ Los Angeles Angels (2002): The organization changed its name and adopted different areas of California - L.A. and Anaheim - to manufacture enough interest to sell tickets. And I'm still convinced that the Rally Monkey was a marketing tool to dupe unwitting Disney-goers into attending games.

2. The Tampa Bay Lightning (2004): I considered going with the 2003 Florida Marlins in this slot, or maybe the 2004 Miami Heat. The lesson here is that any Sunshine State team will do. Floridians are good at professing love for their teams at the last minute. (That, and they play some mean canasta.) You have to hand it to the people of Tampa. Faking adoration for baseball or football is one thing. Pretending to love hockey when it's 75 degrees outside and you could be at the beach is far harder. It takes an especially committed phony to pull that off.

1. Any playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys team: It's like Troy Aikman recently told me: "Dallas people don't get that worked up about anybody." Until America's Team makes the postseason, that is. Then they suddenly can't wait to hoot and holler for the 'Boys. Pity that the bandwagon broke down this season before anyone had a chance to hop on. Philly weeps for you, Dallas.

Andy Reid will drop the puck at Friday's Phantoms game. No, not the coach - a local resident who has the same name. I love minor-league hockey gimmicks. . . . To all of you who keep asking when I'll eat crow: rest easy. I'm looking into some recipes ( Thanks to Bill Conlin for passing it along. I think. . . . Must ESPN show a Duke game every Wednesday? It gets tiresome.