The guys break down local hoops before some NFL quarterback talk about Kurt Warner, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning, who Ryan says may become the best ever. After that, it’s North Carolina and Duke basketball and a quick nod to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Category Archives: Arizona Cardinals
It’s that time of year.
No, not the holiday season.
Well, OK, it is the holiday season, but it’s something else, too.
The end of the year.
And with the end of the year comes columns and columns of lame lists reflecting on the past year.
So here’s mine.
12 Mistresses flirting
Actually, at last count, the number is up to about 15 women who have claimed an affair with Tiger Woods. His astonishing fall from grace has supplanted Barry Bonds and baseball’s steroid rage as the story of the decade, and it’s become impossible to turn away. And the story is far from over — when will Tiger come back to golf? (Three weeks before the Masters.) What kind of player will he be when he returns? (Dominant — and angry.) When will Elin divorce him? (Finalized July 2010, the week before Tiger wins by 1,476 shots at St. Andrews.) Will we ever revere athletes to this degree again? (Yes, as evident in last week’s fawning Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year article on Derek Jeter.)
Tom Watson, at 59, was on the cusp of perhaps the greatest sporting achievement in history until his approach shot from the 18th fairway took an improbable high bounce over the green. He chipped and needed to make a putt for par to win the British Open by a stroke, but missed badly and faded in a playoff to Stewart Cink. It was sports’ most devastating near-miss in… well, maybe ever. (I still can’t talk about this out loud. I thought about not including this at all. It hurt just to write it. Let’s just move on.)
10 Boring races
NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup doesn’t seem like it will have much drama as long as Jimmie Johnson is around. Until Danica wrecks him…
9 Yankees spending
A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia, Burnett, Rivera, Damon, Matsui, Posada, Teixeira — nine Yankees players made at least $13 million for last season. (Andy Pettitte just missed the cut at $10 million). They cruised to the World Series title, their first in eight years, and while baseball isn’t as much about the money as we’re led to believe — yes, it’s about the money, but not just the money — the Yankees’ ability to cash in (or should it be cash out?) during last season’s hot stove period helped push them to the top again.
8 Bobcats trades
In his continued effort to make the Charlotte Bobcats relevant, Larry Brown has overhauled the roster three times over with a wide array of trades. So far, relevance eludes all, aside from one particular local sports talk radio show. (Note: this number could be nine, it could be seven, it could be 10, it could be six. Like I said, relevance eludes them. So let’s just say eight. Nobody cares; it’s the Bobcats.)
7 Title belts
Manny Pacquiao may be on the verge of resurrecting boxing all by himself (with a little help from Floyd Mayweather Jr. in March 2010). In 2009, Pac-Man was busy, destroying Ricky Hatton before demolishing Miguel Cotto for his seventh title, a first in the sport.
Now if only he could move up from welterweight to heavyweight, boxing would be back.
6 Tourney blowouts
North Carolina came into the college basketball season as a heavy favorite to win the NCAA championship. The Tar Heels lived up to the billing, winning each tournament game by at least 12 points, setting an NCAA record for something other than time outs unused.
5 Cardinals picks
The end of the 2008 Carolina Panthers season only foreshadowed what was to come in 2009. When Jake Delhomme was picked off five times against Arizona in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, a 12-4 team built on defense and the running game went meekly into the night. Now, without hope for a savior at QB for a long time to come, the Panthers may be headed for darker times. I’m sure Chris Weinke is available.
4 Wins in Cameron
I know, I know. Another Tar Heels’ reference, this one about the four straight wins the Class of Hansbrough enjoyed at Duke. And yes, I could’ve gone with Jimmie Johnson here.
Whatever. My school. My column.
3 Drug tests failed
Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Three titans of the game.
2 Feet a-dragging
Remember when it seemed every Super Bowl ended in a 55-10 drubbing? Not lately. A year after the Eil and Tyree Miracle, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled, then lofted a pass to the back corner of the end zone. Santonio Holmes made a fingertip grab and tippy-toed his cleats in bounds to cap a thrilling last-minute drive to lift the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Cardinals and ensure that the apocalypse would be held off for at least another year. (’Cause surely the end would be nigh if the Cards ever win the Super Bowl, right? It’s in Revelation somewhere, I think.)
And a new team for Milton Bradley
Chicago Cubs fans are, by nature, a hopeful bunch. So maybe now after the team has found somewhere other than 1060 West Addison for the clubhouse cancer of all clubhouse cancers to play ball, fans of the North Siders won’t be singing the wait-til-next-year blues at spring training. (Too bad their current optimism is just the egg nog — or Old Style — talking.)
I’m posting last week’s column in this space because, well, because I was pretty pleased with how it came out, and as a writer, that doesn’t always happen. So allow me to feel good about myself for a bit. And if you missed the column about local sports star Steve Jones and his ties to the NFL’s Cardinals, here you go:
For The Birds
They get together every year now.
Before 2007, that didn’t happen. After all, the morning after the team he owns, the Arizona Cardinals, punched its ticket for the franchise’s first Super Bowl, notoriously frugal owner Bill Bidwill drank day-old coffee — grounds that were made 24 hours earlier, and rewarmed twice.
But he said he drank it smiling, so there’s that.
Since Bill’s boy Michael took over football operations, though, former Cardinals, be they of the Chicago variety, who last won the franchise a championship in 1947, or the St. Louis form, who shared a name and a city for nearly three decades with the more popular — and certainly more prolific — baseball team, are treated like the heroes dads of the X-Generationers wistfully believe they are.
Steve Jones is one of those guys. One of these birds of a feather.
And so when he was invited in the fall to fly out to Phoenix for a weekend bash of Old Timers, he jumped at the opportunity. Put up in a swanky hotel, Jones rubbed shoulders with the men who opened holes for him, a unit that once included the still-mountainous, thoughly slightly softened blocks of granite like Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf and three-time Pro Bowler Conrad Dobler, considered by lore as the one of the game’s dirtiest players.
On that Sunday, they went to a game at the palatial University of Phoenix Stadium. Astroturf, the stuff that doesn’t look like grass but does indeed feel like rock, the knee-grinding mistake that blanketed the concrete and served as the playing field for many of them, was nowhere to be found.
And there, before him, Jones could see it.
That same logo, on that same helmet.
That same red jersey, though maybe a slightly different — let’s call it cleaner; brighter, definitely — shade of crimson.
And those white lines, charting the gridiron. White lines that were the same as the ones he played on and in between in Sanford. In Durham. In Buffalo backing up O.J. Simpson for a year.
In St. Louis.
Steve Jones may be Lee County’s most decorated athlete. Some may say NASCAR champion Herb Thomas, and they could make an argument. But Jones’ case would hold water. He led Paul Gay’s Sanford Central teams to three state championships from 1966-to-1968. His high school record as the standout running back? 42-2-1. From there, Jones ran roughshod over the ACC at Duke, setting a school record with 2,951 yards rushing, a mark that stood for 31 years until Chris Douglas finally came along and broke it in 2003. Duke honored Jones by enshrining him in the University’s Hall of Fame in 1992.
“He could have been a college star as a linebacker, could have played there in the pros,” Gay said when Jones was inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. “He was a great athlete, a hard worker and one of the most knowledgeable players I ever coached.”
But Jones kept running — on offense. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the fifth round of the 1973 draft, the 129th player selected. He was traded to St. Louis, though, and later waived to Buffalo, just in time to see Simpson’s rewriting of the record books with the historic 2,003-yard season.
Jones joined the Cardinals a year later. And get this — the Cardinals were good.
Yes, the Cardinals. The team that has now lost 674 regular season games, or, as ghastly as it may seem to point out, 105 more than the Detroit Lions. The team that, should it beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and win Super Bowl XLIII on Sunday, would double the 88-year-old franchise’s previous number of playoff wins in a single postseason.
Jones didn’t tote the rock much in ’74, but he rushed 54 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns in ’75 when the Cards and coach Don Coryell won the NFC East with an 11-3 record. That put Jones and Dierdorf and quarterback Jim Hart in elite Cardinals company — Cardinals players with a playoff resume. Sure, St. Louis lost to the Rams 35-23 in the divisional round, but Jones scored a touchdown on a 3-yard scamper.
It was the last Cardinals’ postseason touchdown for seven years.
Jones was even better in 1976, rushing for a career-high 451 yards and eight touchdowns as the Cards missed the playoffs, but finished 10-4 and second in the division. Two years later, however, even after rushing for 392 yards in 1978 as the Cards spiraled into mediocrity, Jones was out of football because of a neck injury. He played in 63 games, covered 1,204 yards of NFL real estate running the football, and 629 yards of it after catching the ball. He hit paydirt — the end zone — 17 times.
The Cardinals played on without Jones, who would remain in the St. Louis area and work later for Anheuser-Busch. They would make the playoffs just twice more, winning only once, and trail only baseball’s lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, in the most dreaded of all professional statistics — years since its last championship. Even a move to sun-drenched Arizona in 1988 couldn’t put a shine on the Cards, whose title-drought clock is ticking at 61 years.
But here they are now, these Cardinals. Armed with smart draft picks, a ring-wearing veteran quarterback and a no-nonsense and skilled coach, the Birds clinched the NFC West division title two-thirds of the way through the season. And then they clipped a wing, limping into the playoffs having lost four of their last six games.
But, out of nowhere it seemed, the team rose like a… well, like a phoenix. Three improbable playoff wins later, the Cards are, for a change, on the doorstep of history, not the doormat of it.
And Jones, from his perch in the St. Louis area, retired from football and from work, is still watching.
“I am so glad to see them make the Super Bowl, especially after they played so poorly at the end of the season,” Jones said by telephone from his home. “To come back like they did, and the long, long layoff from any playoff appearance, to make their first Super Bowl, I’m happy for the franchise and for the players.”
The franchise. It began in Chicago, lesser appreciated than the crosstown Bears, but loved by the Mob. A franchise that once fired a coach by changing the locks on his office at halftime of a game.
The players. They make millions now, many of them do. Some of them celebrate first downs. Have groups of hangers-on some call posses. One might even scream at his offensive coordinator as the team wins the NFC Championship, angry that he wasn’t on the field for the game-winning drive that clinched the Super Bowl berth.
Very different than in Jones’ day.
But very similar, too.
“It’s like I heard Dan Dierdorf and Jim Hart talking,” Jones said, “we never thought we’d ever hear ‘Cardinals’ and ‘Super Bowl’ in the same sentence.”
He’ll watch the big game with a few family and friends, the 57-year-old grandfather of two will. He likes to hear the announcers, follow the action and keep from being distracted from the exploits on the screen by the crush of a crowded party.
Here in Sanford, you don’t have to dig deep into the soil, even under the most manicured of football fields, like the one in the stadium that bears Coach Gay’s name, to find clay.
And like that clay, with a few short strokes, there underneath the mild manner, the softly spoken words, even the grounded anticipation of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, in Steve Jones, still to this day, even with them some 1,500 miles west of his home, you will find the Cardinals.
My prediction before the Super Bowl was a simple one. In 12 minutes, I picked Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to play three songs at halftime, and in order, my thoughts were: “The Rising”, followed by “Glory Days” before finishing with “Born To Run”.
Two out of four ain’t bad.
My favorite part from my favorite band? That The Boss and Little Stevie did the whole “What time is it?” thing, closing it out with “Boss Time!!!!!!!!”
Sanford’s only sports talk radio show has the boys giving a tale of the tape in the matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used the “Kurt Warner is married to Webster’s ‘Ma’am'” bad joke maybe once or twice.
OK, lots more, with the most recent example coming during my Cardinals/Panthers playoff blog here.
But I’d be remiss, after getting an insane amount of page hits (for me, anyway) seeking pictures of Kurt and his wife — also known as Brenda to those not seeking a cheap joke — and the rest of the Warner family if I didn’t post a recent pic of her and her husband.
She doesn’t look like Ma’am anymore.
More like Cindy McCain.
OK, OK, I’ll stop.
The PODcast makes its return to the blog after hitting the airwaves again last week. Here Jan. 14’s show where Ryan Sarda and I chat about the woes of the Carolina Panthers and North Carolina Tar Heels while also breaking down the Duke Blue Devils and the remainder of the NFL playoffs. Oh, and we even mixed in some talk about the Charlotte Bobcats, if you can believe that.
A running diary of the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers
OK, OK, OK, enough already. The Panthers are supposed to win. Win big. It’s raining in Charlotte, Anquan Boldin is banged-up and should be limited, and after having to rally past the Cards earlier in the season, the Panthers should be a different team than that one, which played without offensive studs Jeff Otah and Jordan Gross.
But we’ll see. The dirty little secret about the Panthers is that they give up leads either late or very early. Either way, they seem to usually always fall behind. That can’t happen this time of year.
7:51 p.m. Boldin has deactivated. Good news for the Panthers — and me.
8:04 p.m. OK, that officially did it. It’s over. Done and Done.
I’m officially through with Frank Caliendo. Thanks for playing.
Please move on Fox. Now. Please. Please.
And I don’t mean from this horrible skit. I mean, move on from Caliendo forever. It’s tired.
8:10 p.m. Wait, Moose Johnson just reminded me that the Cards are 3-1 without Boldin this year. Bad news for the Panthers — and me.
Kickoff The Panthers returns the opening kick to midfield. Nice start there. For a minute I thought Mark Jones was gone and jumped out of my seat.
Gonna be a long night.
12:52 A 31-yard run to the Cards’ 9 for DeAngelo Williams. YEAH!!!!!!
12:00 Jonathan Stewart virtually untouched for the touchdown.
I’m insufferable right now. You don’t want to be near me.
11:56 Can Panthers’ kickers stop kicking the ball out of bounds in big games?
9:54 A shout-out to my buddy Mike Laney. He said there’d be a Damione Lewis sack tonight. Big one there as the Cards were driving.
7:07 Panthers can’t pick up a 3rd-and-2 inside their own 20. Ugh.
5:01 That’s why the Cards are so darn scary. Third-and-1, and Warner rolls out and fires a 41-yard bomb to Larry Fitzgerald to the Panthers’ 10. C’mon, hold ’em to 3.
2:47 Too, too easy. Easy pass to Tim Hightower for the 3-yard score. Lousy, lousy defense that series. 7-7.
2:43 Nice one, Jake. Fumble, and the Cards are set up inside the 15. Um, hold ‘em to 3.
1:51 Edgerrin James for the 4-yard TD.
Yup, gonna be a long night. 14-7, Cards.
:17 The Panthers should do this at least five times a game: throw the ball deep to Steve Smith. He can make the ridiculous catch, but he can also draw the pass interference, which he does here. It’s a 45-yard penalty and the Panthers are to the Cards’ 15.
14:47 Look, Jake, if you plan on playing tonight, let us all know. Delhomme throws a terrible pick in the end zone. This is every Panthers’ fan fear: Delhomme blowing it with one of his “Bad Jake” games.
12:52 Not only is the Panthers’ defense getting blown off the ball, now it’s playing dumb football, too. Should’ve had 3rd-and-2 at midfield coming up, instead Richard Marshall is flagged for unnecessary roughness for a 15-yard flag. Dumb, dumb football.
10:21 Neil Rackers hits from 49 yards and it’s 17-7. Typical Panthers football. They’ve won this year, but it’s been frustrating to watch. I’d settle for that tonight, too, though. Ten points thanks to Jake Delhomme.
I thought I was insufferable earlier. But now you really don’t want to be near me.
9:24 A series that starts 1st-and-5 finishes 4th-and-7. This is horrible.
7:51 Cards look impeccably prepared while Panthers look lost. Kurt Warner is shredding them.
5:32 Another 3 for the Cards and it’s 20-7 after another easy drive. Panthers better score here or it’s darn near over.
A few thoughts from my buddy Mike, who just e-mailed to keep from jumping off the roof of his house:
“OK, here are a few thoughts:
*What’s lost in the Jake crapping himslef is the horrible play-calling on the series we got the ball the 2nd time at our 10. They even took Moose out of the game on third down telling everyone it was a run on 3rd-and-3. That set up the punt and gave them good position again.
*We looked good on the blitz before the Rackers FG, why not mix that in here and there?
*Somebody get a big hit on Warner quickly and break the momentum.”
5:22 That’s it. It’s over. He’s Bad Jake tonight. Another horrible — and horrible in the Bill Walton sense of the world — interception. Who was that to?
3:41 Sorry, but how in the hell does a linebacker end up covering Fitzgerald? Touchdown, and this is over. 27-7.
That’s 17 points charged to Delhomme, Jake.
:00 And Rackers misses from 53 yards. Thank God.
Not that it matters.
All year long, we’ve figured that the Panthers were a team built for the playoffs because they had such a great running game.
Why then, did they abandon the run after the first series, and after Delhomme’s first interception down in the end zone? Why the panic?
Now it’s too late, and the game is gone.
Great coaching effort there, boys. Ken Whisenhunt and his staff for Arizona flat-out owned you tonight.
And the past tense there is intentional.
14:13 Cards pick up a 3rd-and-5 with a slant. Moving again.
The Panthers’ only chance is to get within two scores by the start of the fourth quarter.
12:18 Finally, some pressure on Warner and the Panthers force a punt. OK, well done.
But, like Ryan Sarda just texted me, stop with the celebrating until you pull off the miraculous comeback, OK Panthers?
12:05 Williams with a gain of 15. Novel idea there.
10:15 And the Panthers punt. Yawn.
9:19 FINALLY, A PLAY MADE BY THE DEFENSE!!!!!!!! Interception by Jon Beason. Now score.
8:28 A loss for Williams and then a false start. Unbelievable. Second-and-16.
8:06 No comebacks tonight. Another horrible pass by Delhomme leads to a tipped interception. That should do it.
We all hoped we wouldn’t see the Delhomme from the Oakland Raiders game ever again, but here he is.
Maybe this is a knee-jerk, but it might be time to draft a quarterback.
4:44 Rackers from 33. 30-7.
Mr. Delhomme, you owe us 20 points now.
4:40 It’s late in the third quarter and Delhomme is just 5-for-12. Twelve passes? Five completions? And three picks?
4:05 That has to be the worst fourth-down pass ever.
:52 And Smith gets his first reception of the game. Sigh.
15:00 Anybody remember Frank Reich and the Buffalo Bills?
Well, you see, what happened was the Houston Oilers took this huge lead and Reich… oh, never mind.
Oh Lord, they’re interrupting the game to introduce winners from the Punt, Pass and Kick Contest.
Insert Obvious “Get Pass Winner In There For Jake” here.
14:11 How? How? How do you get a delay of game penalty in the hurry-up when down four touchdowns? How?
14:04 I wish I could buy stock in things like “Delhomme will throw an interception in the end zone.”
13:59 Please Cards, just run the ball and put us out of our misery.
13:17 Good line from Sarda: “Imagine if there was a drinking game based on Delhomme’s interceptions.”
11:47 From my buddy Mike, who’s also a die-hard Cubs fan and somebody who’s been through the wars with me before: “I have visions of Leon Durham, Will Clark, Alex Gonzalez, Adam Vinatieri, Lofa Tatupo, Stephen Drew, Ted Lilly spiking his glove, James Loney, DeRo kicking the DP ball, and now interception palooza at B of A Stadium. I think that about sums up my playoff history.”
All Cubs and Panthers fans just nodded in agreement.
11:29 A screen pass to Stewart. You couldn’t have tried that down 14-7?
10:54 OK, bench him already. No. 5.
10:22 Sarda texted earlier and said that Delhomme has reminded him of Brett Favre of recent playoff vintage with his play tonight. He added: “Now he’s getting frustrated like Favre. All he has to do now is run his coach out of town.”
6:19 It needs to be said that the Cardinals played a helluva game tonight. They were brilliantly prepared, Warner looked fantastic and Fitzgerald was everything Panthers’ fans wished Smith would’ve been tonight. I’m officially rooting for Warner and Co. to go all the way now. He’s apparently signed an extension to his original Faustian deal with the devil for an insane NFL career out of nowhere, so I hope he wins it all again.
And besides, he’s married to Ma’am from Webster. How cool is that? Update on Ma’am.
3:24 Five picks in 25 attempts. Delhomme has been intercepted on 20 percent of his throws!
3:11 Please don’t send Jake back out there. Please.
2:57 What’s it feel like to be a Panthers’ fan right now?
An e-mail from my buddy Fisher:
Quarterbacks projected to be available in Round 2 of the 2009 NFL Draft:
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Nate Davis, QB, Ball State
Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech
Nathan Brown, Central Arkansas
Coaches not under contract for 2009 who live within 2 hours of Charlotte, North Carolina:
:57 Delhomme to Smith for the touchdown.
:50 Panthers line up for the onside kick.
I’d say, “Why not? Stanger things have happened,” but they haven’t.
Ah, forget it.