The Cardinals franchise has had a long, albeit not very rich franchise history, but no one can deny them of this: since 1918 the oldest franchise in the NFL has certainly kept it interesting
You know them. You do. You just don’t know them, know them.
You’ve heard their name. You’ve laughed at their futility. You’ve wondered aloud if they have the worst owner in professional sports. You know them. You just don’t know them, know them.
You’ve heard about their great wide receiver tandem, the one who’s set, and the one who’s upset. You’ve seen Kurt Warner, you know his name. You know they don’t win, and you’ve been told they had one playoff victory before this post-season started. You know their struggle. You make fun of their fans. It’s not exactly ‘chic’ to be a die hard Cardinals supporter. You’ve seen them let go of their good players, only for them to then become great players. You’ve seen them screw up drafts. You’ve looked at their partying backup quarterback and his rowdy pictures. You know them. You just don’t know them, know them.
But in the next two weeks, be prepared for your formal introduction to the Arizona Football Cardinals. The team that history has spit on, and that success has damned. The team that moved from city to city to city looking for fans that love them, and a stadium that could comfortably house them. You’ve heard their name. You’ve seen pictures, and maybe even read about them in the papers. But you’ve never been exposed to them like this. And for good reason. Sans this season, the Cardinals were considered a joke. They’re hardly ever on national TV, and outside of Arizona they rarely make national news. But you’re familiar with them. Because they lose. They lose a lot. They’re the Chicago Cubs of the NFL, only they’re not beloved.
But starting this week you will see more segments, read more articles, and watch more videos of the Arizona football Cardinals then you ever could have imagined. The sad sack Cardinals. Cause now they’re good. Dare I say ‘Super.’ I’ve been following them for years. When I say that they are the invisible team of the NFL if there ever was one I do not joke. They’re hardly even the top show in their own state. The Dallas Cowboys still have a huge fan base in the Valley of the Sun. But forget that, it’s all moot now.
The Cardinals are in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys, well, they aren’t. So sit back, grab a cold one, and enjoy the ride. It’s an Arizona Cardinals tour, and you’re invited. Hands and feet inside the vehicle please. We’ll be leaving the station now. Here we go.
The Cardinals are old. They’re really, really old. How old? Try 1918. That’s when they began play in not Arizona, not St. Louis, but Chicago. And they weren’t the Chicago Cardinals then. Nope, they were the Racine Cardinals. Yup, the Cards are 90 years young. They’re the oldest team in the NFL. Of course, they didn’t start in the NFL. Nope. Their first two seasons were in the APFA. And contrary to their losing history, the Chicago Cardinals actually had a winning season their first year of play. They were 6-2-2. After two years in the APFA, they joined the NFL. Cost of admission to the new league: $100.
The Cardinals won 11 games in 1925. They won 11 games in 1948. They won 11 games in 1975. And that is it. Three times in 90 years, the Cardinals franchise has won 11 games in the regular season. Three!
Charles W. Bidwell, Sr. bought the Cardinals for $50,000 in 1932, and his family has owned the team ever since. Interestingly enough he was actually a vice president of the Chicago Bears at the time of the sale. If you’re keeping score at home, he left the powerhouse Bears to join the sad sack Cardinals. Yup, he dropped a pot of gold, to go search for pennies. Under his first year of ownership the Cardinals… lost. They finished 2-6-2, and it started one of the most unsuccessful stretches for a professional sports team in the history of human civilization. I’d like to say I’m kidding. I’m really not.
In 1959 the Cardinals played their final season in the Windy City. And did you know: their final win came against the Steelers.
From 1932-1945 the Cardinals were awful. They had one winning season (1935), and a lot of other years that were just plain atrocious. In back to back seasons (1943-1944) in which they lost 20 games… and won none.
Because of World War II, the Cardinals had to merge their team with– you guessed it– the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1944. The moral: even a historically brilliant franchise like the Steelers can suck, if you merge them with the Cardinals. That team went 0-10. But they did have a cool name: Card-Pitt. Did you know that? Because I’d be willing to bet you won’t hear it mentioned once this week.
In 1947 the Cardinals went 9-3, and won their first (and only to this date) NFL championship. They raced out to a 14-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, and then held on for a 28-21 victory. Elmer Angsman cemented the win with a 70 yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bidwills probably thought this would be the first of many championships for the Cardinals franchise. It hasn’t uh, worked out that way as history might suggest.
Interesting side note: then Cardinals owner Charles Bidwill actually died in April, before Chicago was able to win the NFL Championship. Amazing, when you think about it. Chicago was terrible for most of his 15 years as owner. He suffered through what was at the time, the longest losing streak in NFL history at 29 games. Finally, the Cards became good, and won it all, and he didn’t live long enough to see it. Fitting in a way if you sum up the Cardinals and their mostly nightmarish franchise history.
The Cardinals were on the verge of back to back championships in 1948 after finishing 11-1, but it wasn’t meant to be as the Eagles got their revenge and beat Chicago 7-0. Steve Van Buren scored the game’s lone touchdown for the Iggles on a five yard rush in the fourth quarter. Ever since that day, the Cardinals never came close to sniffing a championship up until this year.
In 1959 the Cardinals played their final season in the Windy City. And did you know: their final win came against the Steelers. See, these teams have quite a history. Pittsburgh was the last ever team to lose to Chicago. After that, the Cardinals freefalled to six straight defeats, culminating in a 2-10 season, and a ninth losing season in 10 years. They fought the Bears, and the Bears killed them. Chicago, contrary to the belief of others only has room for one football team. That team is the Bears.
So in 1960, the Cardinals took their act to St. Louis. Another interesting fact: the Dallas Cowboys, arguably the Cardinals biggest nemesis, started play that very same year. St. Louis’ first win even came against those very Cowboys 12-10. In 1962 Cardinals owner Violet Bidwill passed away, and the team was passed on to her kids. The team owner changed, but the losing didn’t. The Cardinals threatened to bolt to a new home in 1987 amidst dwindling attendance figures. After Bill Bidwill let it be known he was going to move the team,he began receiving death threats. It got so bad that he couldn’t even attend the final few home games. The Cards were off to Arizona after 27 years in St. Louis. The Rams moved to St. Louis to replace them eight years later.
And that brings us to the here and the now. Since 1988, Arizona has had two winning seasons: 1998 and 2008. They had never been to the Super Bowl until now, and since 1960 they’ve made the playoffs an astonishingly pathetic five times.
But none of that matters now.
Because the team that once merged with the Steelers is now playing them for a world championship.
Funny how things work out.