Let’s get it out of the way… last night was neither fun nor funny. It was not over quick. I did not enjoy it. A sane and rational fan would have simply turned off the tv or found some other way to spend three hours rather than listen to ESPN, Desmond Howard, and Andre Ware slurp and slobber all over UCF and Blake Bortles as if he was the second coming of Dan Lefevour. Yes, that’s what I thought. Yes, that’s how it looked. No, I didn’t look away.
It wasn’t the smart thing, but it was the fan thing. Fans, true fans, sit and watch immersed in something they can’t turn away from. Sort of like the car crash metaphor when you want to look away but simply can’t. Of course, this is less love of gore and more love for program, but in reality, it was simply a crummy end to an otherwise unbelievable season.
Sort of like the bad piece of key lime pie after a delicious churrascaria meal. The steak was delicious. The ribs to die for. The garlic roasted chicken? Fabulous. The pie? Terrible. Would a foodie let that ruin the meal? Of course not. He’d order another bottle of moscato, wash the palette clean, and revel in the meat sweats that are about to be unleashed on him and his date.
A metaphorical leap to encapsulate the feelings of this season? Perhaps. But in reality, more appropriate than I expected. This season, despite the bitter end, was nothing short of incredible. I think the argument could be made that in many ways this season was more successful, more fun, and more inspiring of future hope than 2008. 2008 had more Ws, this season had lower expectations to start and that gap between expectations and outcomes is what makes things so damn fun.
To start this season the majority of pundits pegged the Cards at .500 at best with even the wildest optimistic among them (read: me) thinking 7 or 8 wins if everything broke exactly right. To finish with a final tally of 9 wins, a Florida bowl, an all-conference team littered with Cardinals, and a finalist for a national award is the definition of over-achievement. That’s the filet mignon of this season. Don’t let a spoiled piece of Key Lime Pie in St. Pete ruin that.
I’ve seen the cynics in the fanbase out in full force in social media and the like, usually espousing some sort of the “This is what they always do…” argument. Is it? I’m fairly certain most of you posting how this is what “we always do” have only been following the Cards religiously since 2008. That’s two bowls. And it certainly doesn’t qualify as always, now does it? Are the Cards winless in bowls? Yes. Are there other teams that haven’t been to any or as many? Also yes.
For me, cynicism has no place in this particular fanbase. Those who complain when we lose, who complain when we win but not by enough, who complain when we’re successful but not successful enough, on and on ad nauseam just make me sick. In the words of Conan O’Brien, “All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” Sort of applies to football as well.
When Pete Lembo was hired it was met with a resounding “Eh…” from most all. In two years- TWO YEARS- he has led the Cardinals to a nine-win season after a 6-6 season. Let’s not all forget that in 2009 and 2010 before he got here the Cardinals won six games. Total. Over two seasons. I grasp this pie sucked. But man oh man how good the steak has been under Pete Lembo. And don’t look now but thanks to his recruiting efforts this year the post dessert midnight snack looks just delicious.
It’s been an incredible and incredibly fun season. Let’s not lose sight of that and I can only hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Keep your perspective, keep your head up, keep on believing. In Lembo we trust.