One day prior to the dawn of a new presidency and the start of a new chapter of history in our great country, there is turmoil within your Phoenix Suns. A divisive force has ripped through the team and franchise that even Steve Nash, the NBA’s version of Kurt Waldheim, can’t smooth over. It’s not about politics, playing time or touches on the offensive end. It’s about the Super Bowl.
After an exciting win in Toronto (side note: Steve Nash has had 18, 16 and 18 assists in his last 3 games against the Raptors), we were able to catch most of the first quarter of the NFC Championship game before leaving the Air Canada Centre for a 45 minute drive to the Toronto airport. We listened to the game (sort of) on the bus radio – the reception was horrible and I’m sure the snowy weather didn’t help. Several of us were monitoring the game on our phones and Blackberries (mobile ESPN was a godsend). Shouts and cheers would come from the Cardinal fans whenever something good happened, while the naysayers kept waiting for what they called “the inevitable collapse.” When we arrived at the airport, the home team had posted their 24-6 halftime lead.
International security check and our trip through customs always makes the Toronto travel days a bit longer, and once the team got to the plane the second half was underway. We had to wait a bit before takeoff so that the wings could go through the de-icing process. Without any radio or TV, we had to rely once again on our connection to mobile ESPN for updates. Even though I had mine set to refresh every 15 seconds, it was agonizing to watch and wait for each play to come across the screen. When the Cardinals scored the final go-ahead touchdown, the Arizona fans erupted. With just under 3:00 to go in the game, our plane was de-iced and we were ready to roll. Our takeoff was delayed just long enough for me to call my buddy Mark back in Chandler and get a live play-by-play from him of the last Eagles possession that I passed along (that 15 second refresh was killing us!)
Since our team is made up of players and coaches from all over the world, it makes sense that not all will be fans of our other local teams. You might recall a story on suns.com from August detailing Terry Porter’s trip to Flagstaff to spend a day with Ken Whisenhunt and the Cards coaching staff during training camp. Amar’e Stoudemire is a Cardinals season ticket holder and was taking abuse from the other players (all of whose NFL teams were at home watching Sunday’s game) once the Cards had given up the lead. He, of course, had the last laugh, along with trainer Mike Elliott, equipment manager Jay Gaspar and the rest of the Cardinal fans on board.
Upon arrival in Boston, we dropped our bags at the hotel and headed out to watch the 2nd half of the AFC Championship game at a local establishment. Head Trainer Aaron Nelson, possibly the biggest Steelers fan outside the state of Pennsylvania, holed up in his room and didn’t join us until after his fellas had secured their trip to Tampa. So for the next 2 weeks, the training staff is split. Although I’m not at liberty to discuss the side wagers that were talked about Sunday night, I can suggest you keep an eye on the facial hair of our fair trainers. It could be a long 2 weeks.
One more thing about the Cardinals’ unlikely ascent to the Super Bowl – there are some great parallels between them and the Suns. Neither were given much of a chance to be successful by national media, both have playmakers at almost every position (the Cardinals have won games this year with offense, defense and special teams) and the calmest, coolest QBs in the league in former MVPs Kurt Warner and Steve Nash. So, why not the Cardinals? And why not the Suns?