We are officially less than a month before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals. Your author is Will Leitch.
Will Leitch is the editor of Deadspin. His words are after the jump.
Before I get started here, I'd like to ask you a legitimate question: Do you know any Arizona Cardinals fans?
I wonder whether you do. I don't personally know any other Arizona Cardinals fans, and I am an Arizona Cardinals fan. Whenever I head to a bar to watch Sunday football, I never see anybody else in a Buzzsaw jersey. I don't receive emails from fellow Buzzsaw fans encouraging me to keep the faith. I'm not sure there are any. They have to be out there, right? I can't be the only one.
So, if you're out there, please let me know, because I never have anyone to talk about the Buzzsaw with. Part of the job description of "sports fan" is to bitch about my team with like-minded sorts, but in this case (as with many), there just might not be anyone like-minded. We're like the dodo, but, you know, dumber.
Anyway. You're probably wondering why I like the Buzzsaw.
A friend of mine (not James Frey, if you're wondering) told me recently how difficult his life as a Cleveland Browns fan was. He said the usual things fans talk about when complaining about their teams; they don't care enough about their fans, they don't have a concrete plan in place and (of course the most important) they'd never made it to a Super Bowl. (As fans, we have all kinds of different whines and empty threats about our team, but it ultimately just comes down to winning, like everything does.) My friend went on for a while about this, because that's what he does.
I told him I had little sympathy for him. In my warped universe, if he were any kind of real fan, he would have celebrated his first Super Bowl win three years ago ... and he'd have a helluva lot better chance at making the playoffs this year too.
A confession: I am an fan of The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals. I did not grow up in Arizona — I've never actually been to Arizona — my last name is not Bidwell and I do not just really like pain. I grew up in Southern Illinois, about two hours from St. Louis, and the Big Red was my team. I loved Neil Lomax and Stump Mitchell and Roy Green and even Pat Tilley. I remember when they lost to Dallas 21-16 in the last game of the 1987 season, costing them a chance at the playoffs for the first non-strike season since I was born.
I remember it because it was the last game they ever played as the St. Louis Cardinals; they packed and moved to Arizona that summer, where they could alienate a whole other generation and region of loyalists. (I've always wondered if they would have stayed had they won that game.) Fans in St. Louis, to my surprise, rebelled against the team immediately; owner Bill Bidwell remains the least popular sports figure in the normally forgiving city, nearly 20 years later.
But not to me. I loved the Buzzsaw, and I didn't see any reason to stop. In today's NFL, being a fan is a year-round job; at the end of the season, you've got your free agency period and then the draft and then your salary cap cut date and next thing you know, it's training camp. Because of Bidwell's "betrayal" - which of course any owner in the sport would do if it were profitable for them - suddenly everyone abandoned the team. But how?
That is to say: When, exactly, was I supposed to switch loyalties? Was there one day that I cared about Vai Sikahema, and another when I was supposed to just stop? I read some piece of information about the Buzzsaw every day of the year. I know the 53-man roster, I know the draft picks, I know the coaching staff, I know the name of the guy who plays the mascot. It's a full-time job, rooting for a football team ... so how am I just supposed to say, "All right, yesterday I cared about these players, but now I care about these"? I couldn't do that if I wanted to. If you can just switch in an offseason, all we have left is chaos; no one is actually a fan of their team. Not really.
And as for "abandoning" a city ... please. On the whole, NFL teams and their fans live in the same city about, oh, 27 days a year. A team and its fans have as much in common as your hand and that vending machine. It's all sentiment.
So the only true sentiment is picking your team, and sticking with it. Sure, I wish I might have picked a better team, but that has nothing to do with team movement. True fans stay around, no matter what; people from Houston should root for the Titans, people from Charlotte should root for the Hornets and people from Minnesota should root for the Dallas Stars. Otherwise, you're the one who's disloyal.
So I looked and my friend and just shook my head. I didn't want to hear it; if he were a real fan, he'd have had his Super Bowl. Six years ago, over the New York Giants. Trent Dilfer was the MVP. You can look it up.
(Oh, for those who keep asking: There's no real reason I refer to the team as The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals. They were 4-12 a few years ago, and, in a mocking email to some friends, I referred to the terror opponents face when they run into The Buzzsaw That Is The Arizona Cardinals. I continue to call them this, and the only reason I can think of is Tourette's.)
(Ah, you're asking about this year's team. Warner's gonna stay healthy all year, James will run for 1,800 yards, Leonard Pope will make the Pro Bowl ... and they'll go 9-7 and miss the playoffs. You know what? That'll be fine.)