Greatest Time To Be a Cardinals Fan

In every relationship there is that period of time that best can be described as the honeymoon phase. A time when even the most annoying or befuddling behavior or habit is viewed as cute and endearing.

Inevitably that period comes to an end and you are left with a decision to make. Is this someone you can see yourself in the trenches of life with or just a proximity infatuation. ( Although people don’t always make the right call. Just ask Kris Humphries.)

The last week in July and first week in August are the honeymoon phase for Cardinals fan. Except, instead of happening once, it happens every year as part of the relationship between them and the team.

The time between when the first rookie reports to Flagstaff … I mean Glendale for training camp until the opening kickoff of the first preseason game has been heaven to be a member of the birdgang since 1988. With the exception of three season, much of the rest of it after that moment has been nothing short of hell. Despite that though, for the tens of thousands of us who braved metal bleachers out enough to cook a steak, let aline our thighs, at Sun Devil Stadium or would spend Sundays when they couldn’t afford a ticket huddled around the stereo listening to the late great Tom Dillon’s voice, we’ve decided to be married to the team for better or worse.

The last week in July and first week in August are the honeymoon phase for Cardinals fan. Except, instead of happening once, it happens every year as part of the relationship between them and the team.

That’s what makes this time of year so special. Even for the most bitter, and rightfully so, fanbase in the NFL, these two weeks turns us into eternal optimists. Phrases like, “if things can break our way, I can see 9-7 being realistic”, “Kent Graham is the second coming of Bart Star” and “Matt Leinart really has got it together since that hot tub incident. He’s far better than Warner.” come out of our mouths and they don’t even sound humorous at the time. Although, hindsight makes them seem hilarious.

And now it is that time of year again. Time to put away the loses from last season and the memories of an offensive line that would make a turnstile at an amusement park jealous by how many people it let pass through. Time to forget that names like Kolb, Lindley, Skelton and Hoyer lined up under center and put the back in quarterback because that’s not only the direction they set the position but also the part of their bodies they spent the most time on.

The Cardinals have the reigning Coach of the Year roaming the sidelines in his Kangol hat, Bruce Arians, a new group of running backs, the return of Karlos Dansby on defense and the edition of pass rusher John Abraham as well. All new faces to get the excitement flowing like Nic Cage playing a coke fiend.

If that wasn’t enough though, the thing to be most optimistic about is the addition of quarterback Carson Palmer. For the first time since Kurt Warner was escorted out of football by the bounty boys, the New Orleans Saints, the Cardinals have a proven commodity under center. The former USC standout may be in the twilight of his career, but he is a vast improvement over anyone who has thrown Larry Fitzgerald a pass the last three years.

Maybe it’s because I’m in the punch drunk love phase of the season, but I’d go as far to say that, he could be the third best QB in Phoenix/Arizona Cardinal history behind the aforementioned Warner and Jake Plummer. (For those of you asking “but where is Neil Lomax on that list?” That’s like saying Paul McCartney was better known for Wings than the Beatles. Lomax was more St. Louis than anything.)

In three weeks, after the first preseason game I could easily be singing a different tune. As in going from a love song to thug rap. But right now I think Palmer will perform more like fellow former Bengal turned Cardinal Boomer Esiason than Bengal turned Cardinal Jeff Blake.

Then again, that’s the beauty of these two weeks. There are no records, no game tape and absolutely no clue what is going to happen. It’s the perfect time to be a Cardinals.

Enjoy the honeymoon phase. It’s time for outlandish predictions, ridiculous expectations and that euphoric feeling that comes along with a new season. Football season is back and anything, including a Cardinals trip to the Super Bowl is possible.

I said possible, not probable. Even during these two weeks you have to draw the line somewhere.