Sunday, February 8, 2009

Super Bowl; OneTeam and Fans Have Room to Grow

Attending the Super Bowl is a unique and marvelous experience. Having been in Tampa to cheer our Arizona Cardinals on last Sunday I realized the experience is quite different for various segments of the attending population. For the advertisers, football dignitaries and lucky locals, it’s all about the hype, glitz/glamour and ceremony of the game and parties that accompany it.

For the true fans of participating teams, it’s fun, but a passion-filled investment. It costs a load of cash to buy a ticket (ours were in the corner “club” level at $1000 each, face value). Add airline, hotel, meals and requisite memorabilia shopping and cha-ching…it adds up quickly. As season ticket holders from the beginning of their 1988 tenure in Phoenix my husband (Brad) and I, along with his parents (Jim and Nancy Markins) were fortunate enough to be drawn for tickets and are blessed to have enough in our bank accounts to make this memorable trip, especially if we sacrifice another vacation later in the year.

The monetary investment, however, paled in comparison to the emotional output during the game. We watched with dread as the Steelers dominated the first half. Then when Fitzgerald scored our lead-taking touchdown in the fourth quarter, our spirits soared. We were two minutes and 30 seconds away from “shocking the world.” But that thrill was short-lived when the Steelers answered with a scoring drive to win the game. It all happened so fast Cardinal fans felt like the stunned victims of a mugging. (Much the same feelings I experienced in the stands at the '97 Rose Bowl when the Sun Devils lost a last second-imminent victory.)

Aside from the game itself, the host city is nice. Weather is identical to ours with an ocean view. We had a lovely, albeit pricey dinner, at Oystercatchers at the Hyatt Regency, where the Cardinals made their temporary home. We did the tourist thing at Ybor City, Tampa’s counterpart to Tempe’s Mill Avenue. Same rowdy bar crowds and exuberant football fans exchanging friendly trash-talk as they pass on the street. This proved a bit intimidating around town and at the game as Steelers fans outnumbered Cardinals fans about 20-1. Yikes! We heard many people exclaim, “You’re the first Cardinal fans we’ve seen!”

Raymond James Stadium has nothing on University of Phoenix Stadium. The “club level” concourse was carpeted and a bit nicer than other areas. They had various vendor stations set up with more upscale offerings, but mostly it was presentation that made the difference from any average game. The Patron tequila bar constructed from blocks of ice was pretty impressive! The lower level concourse was concrete floors where they sold expensive hotdogs and bottled beer. I felt like I was at Sun Devil Stadium.

The NFL Experience was an extravaganza designed mostly for kids with games and lots of over-sized football trivia. Costumed performers threaded through the crowd on stilts for random photo ops. My father-in-law commented that he once paid more than the $12 he shelled out for a bottle of beer, but it was in Paris.

The experience was truly memorable and worth the time, money and effort expended to make it happen. But there was something missing (aside from a Cardinal victory). Tradition. Steelers fans have songs, chants, established greetings and the “Terrible (yellow) Towels” they waved so boldly at the game. This team was established in 1933 in a town that has generations of practiced fans who know how to inspire their team collectively. Cardinals fans wanted to bond and cheer in a united front but didn’t have an established routine. We’re babies when it comes to fan tradition, especially since so many people are just beginning to catch Cardinal Fever.

The Steelers had no cheerleaders present, yet the fans knew how to support their team in unison. The Cardinals cheerleaders were visual candy for some men and six-year-old girls but did nothing to bring fans together or encourage the team. They did many versions of pole dancing (sans the apparatus) but never proffered signs saying things like “Go Cards!” or “De Fense!” We could have used some people to—I don’t know, lead cheers?

Let’s hope that as this team continues to draw fans and build a legacy, the Cardinals organization wraps its arms around the fans and helps us to present a more united front. We have nothing to be embarrassed about. Our players did the unimaginable. They took Arizona to the Super Bowl. We have a football team to be proud of and a growing base of passionate fans to cheer them on. I’m going to start saving; maybe we can see them play next year in Miami!

Any thoughts? Comment here.

Diane Markins

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So true. It is great to see actual Cardinal fans instead of only a smattering in the midst of the other team's jerseys at games. But Phoenix fans seem to be more fickle than cities with a longer history with their teams. (Is anyone watching the Suns right now?)
Whether you live in Arizona or another part of the country being united as fans is a great diversion in our current economy. Hopefully the team will continue to build and the fans will stay devoted.
Steve P.