Arizona Cardinals Fans, You'd Better Get Ferocious or Steeler Nation Will Eat You Alive

Even by Arizona Cardinals standards, 2004 was a gloomy year. That April, Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. The Cards were in the middle of a 10-year stretch without a winning season. Even though they'd broken ground on a new stadium in Glendale, some locals mumbled that the team should move to Los Angeles.

If you watched the Cardinals back then, chances are you saw an abnormally lanky guy covered head-to-toe in red paint, with feathered wings affixed to his arms. "The Birdman" appeared on the stadium's jumbotron about 10 times a game because there wasn't much else for local cameramen to focus on in the stands — most face-painted, sign-wielding fans at Cards games were wearing the other team's colors.

The Birdman says he was one of a handful of original Cardinals super-fans, an Arizona native who'd followed the team since they arrived in '88, a guy who took his cheering to the next level during those dim days back in Sun Devil Stadium. The team wasn't much to watch, he says, but he was happy to do his part to give the Cardinals fan base some credibility.

"If you watch other NFL games, they always have these hardcore guys who dressed up, and they're the super-fans for their cities," he says. "The opposing fans at Cardinals games would get dressed up and heckle our group about what bad fans we were. So we decided we wanted to get dressed up, too, and take our city back."

At least, The Birdman decided to dress up.

Now that the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, you'd expect this self-proclaimed super-fan to be the happiest guy in the Valley. But he isn't. He may be the most notorious fixture ever in the Cardinals' stands, but he's given up the feathers and the makeup. Hell, he's given up watching Cardinals games at sports bars with his buddies, much less attending them. He even turned down a ticket to the biggest Cardinals game in history, this Sunday in Tampa.

Turns out all it took to kill off this former symbol of Cardinals fandom were a little extra security and a slightly longer drive to the West Valley. Sigh.

Forget standing shirtless in sub-zero temperatures, as super-fans from Rust Belt cities do, or flying thousands of miles to a game — The Birdman got sick of dealing with the minor inconveniences of the Cardinals' gorgeous, state-of-the-art stadium.

Apparently into self-loathing, he acknowledges that he's a stain upon super-fans everywhere. He says he lives with the intense shame of having given up on his team, on his Birdman persona. So much so that he would be interviewed for this only if New Times agreed not to publish his name.

The former Birdman jumped off the Cards' bandwagon this year, just before most everyone else in town jumped on.

He knows it's not much of an excuse, but he blames Glendale for his woes. The new stadium's security wouldn't let him run up and down the aisles flapping, he says, and the drive from his house in Scottsdale to the new stadium was way too far. He also got sick of painting his 6-foot-2, 150-pound body and spending his Saturdays shopping for tailgate supplies.

Poor, pitiful ex-Birdman.

He did try his hand at being a normal fan, only to be met with scorn.

"The first time I went to a game not as The Birdman, I was heckled by our own fans in my section! All these people were, like, 'Listen, don't come to the game if you're not The Birdman. You can't just stop being The Birdman.'"

The irony, of course, is that none of these fans was dressing up. No one offered to pick up The Birdman's wings and carry on the flight. They just shamed him for wanting to watch the game in street clothes.

But it's even more ironic that a guy who was almost a symbol of the Arizona Cardinals would let fellow fans shame him. Not much of a super-fan, and hardly the ferocious Red Bird that should symbolize a professional football team.

Now that the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, perhaps a new Birdman will emerge. Somebody possessing the attitude of the model on our cover this week.


The grounded Birdman's story's pathetic, and he's fitting for what the Cardinals have been historically — the NFL's most dysfunctional franchise.

It's been pointed out before, but it never ceases to amaze: The Cardinals are the oldest continuously operated American professional football club, yet they had a total of two playoff wins before this year. So when a guy who considered himself the Cardinals' ultimate diehard fan just gives up — during a season that winds up with his team in the Super Bowl — should it surprise anybody?

The former Birdman's reflective of many Cardinals fans in a city with no professional football tradition. Many fans of the red-and-white are margarita-swilling creampuffs too lazy to update their wardrobes so that they aren't be wearing the jersey of a pretty-boy quarterback who stood on the sidelines all season holding a clipboard.

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16 comments
Kathy
Kathy

How sad that Phoenix's village idiot tried to instill some enthusiasm into the Cardinal's fan base by trashing the faithful of the GLOBAL Steeler Nation. If this writer is indicative of the Cardinal faithful, my advice to the super, class act of Whisenhunt & Company is...get out of there...quick!

heather
heather

"And they are. But even if they win this Super Bowl, they'd still have only half as many championships as the Green Bay Packers. They'd need three more rings to have as many as the Chicago Bears, two more to have as many as the Cleveland Browns, or one more to have as many as the New York Giants." Where do you get your facts from? They are totally wrong. I guess fairweather fans don't need to know what they are writing about.

Chris
Chris

Congrats to the Cards for making the Superbowl one of the best ever. It will be one talked about for a long time.

Now to the pressing issue.

Why would the editor of this paper even allow this to be published? Not only does it make the author look like a complete ass, but it also makes his boss look like an ass for publishing this garabge. Your city was on the verge of a blackout for two playoff games because your fans are better than us because you have money that us hillbillies do not. So you put us down for pretty much everything we stand for but what you really did is show the "STEELER NATION" what ignorance comes from by having money. I get it now. Rich people are better than us white trash losers who support are team 365 days a year NO MATTER WHAT!

I am okay with trash talking if it is in clean fun but you sir went WAY TOO FAR by putting down a man who has been a Steeler icon for years, who passed away last year may I remind you because of the way he talks. Myron Cope is one of the most respected individuals from this area who invented our "piss-colored towel" to generate money for Mentally Handicapped individuals, one of which is his son. But let me guess, being that your a poor excuse for a human being, you would find a reason to put down the handicapped as well because they live in hillbillie country. Go fuck yourself! I may not be swimming in money, but at least I know what it is like to struggle and survive and not be catered to hand and foot by a maid or butler. I find it more satisfying to actually work hard to get what I have. Western Pennsylvania is probably one of the hardest working group of individuals any where in the country. I am proud to be from Pittsburgh. There is no where like it in the world.

Hogan
Hogan

Sounds like someone is taking his ball and going home....boo f'n hoo jag

Hogan
Hogan

Sounds like someone is taking his ball and going home....boo f'n hoo jag

john morrow
john morrow

come on guys. we don't show this kind of disrespect for anyone. hey, did anyone see warner's interview before the game? HE HAD ON A BLACK SUIT WITH A WHITE SHIRT AND A GOLD TIE. even he's a ateeler fan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stu
Stu

Wow Sparky, did you swallow extra moron pills this morning? The best you got was that our mascot got arrested for a DUI? I guess he must have been out partying with the now unemployed former mascot of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Oh gosh, we're all rednecks and uneducated yokels from Appalachia. Did you have to look up where that was on a map and then use Spell Check? It's no wonder the Cardinals have no fans. The average age of Maricopa County is deceased, and the ones that aren't snuck in over the border. I just got back from Tampa, and wow do your supporters have a lot to learn about how to be fans. Whining and complaining that every call on their team means the refs must have been paid off, but if a call goes your way, then that time the refs "finally called one." Let's just say that there were quite a few Cards' fans(?) who fit the description you were trying to pin on Steeler nation. Drunken louts who were so inebriated by half time that they couldn't even see straight by the time the Cards managed to take the lead. Speaking of taking the lead, quite a few of the Cards' fans in our section need to take few etiquette lessons in how to act with a lead, or as they have nopw unfortunately learned, it ain't over until it's over.

Don't even get me started on the Ryan Clark hit on Willis McGahee. Clark led with his shoulder and McGahee lowered his helmet. McGahee, and the Ravens all acknowledge that it was a clean hit, but I guess you're more a of a fottball expert than they are.

Please feel free to continue believing that our area is populated by hicks and yokels, but I'm pretty sure the caliber of our educational institutions here leaves yours somewhere in the Mexican desert. I'll take Carnegie Mellon University and The University of Pittsburgh's Medical school over any institute of higher(?) learning you folks have in the Valley of the Sun.

You don't honestly believe that what you wrote about Steeler fans influencing officials at neutral site games, do you?

It's amazing how every member of the Steeler defense is a thug, but every member of the Cardinals is an upstanding member of the community who visits children's hospitals daily, work at the community food bank, and get folks to donate over 5,000 pints of blood because his son has Leukemia. Oh wait, my bad, that was Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith respectively.

In closing, you should probably go back to covering golf tournaments, NASCAR races and Suns' games. Your football team will most likely fall into the storied tradtion of one and done teams from the NFC lately. The one thing I do remember walking out of Raymond James on Sunday night was Steeler fans congratulating Cardinal fans on a game well played and they should be very proud of how far their team came this year, and the response of Go F*#K yourself from the Cardinal fans.

You stay classy Phoenix.

Marcus
Marcus

Weak and hateful article.

The hillbillies are celebrating the ONLY team in NFL history to record 6 Super Bowl wins!

Cameron
Cameron

You know as I was reading this article, I found my self getting angry. Then I realized that this article was coming out of a city that has no sense of what it is like to win. Winning is a good feeling and it is nice to root for a team that respects the city it represents. I am sorry that you guys do not know what it is like to win. It is a great feeling. The cards came out of a the worst division in football at 9-7. That is sad. The Steelers came out of the toughest schedule at 12-4. No brainier who is the best team. Hopefully we will play the cards next year and beat them again. Fitzgerald and Warner are the only good personalities on that team. Fitzgerald will go on to great things but not with that organization.

JOHNNY JONES
JOHNNY JONES

well say all you want, you boys lost to a better team

Cameron
Cameron

Obviously this writer has not been to Pittsburgh. But what does it matter. We have 6 Super Bowl Wins and the red birds have...oh what is it? Thats right 0!!!!!!! After the cards lose Warner this year, you guys will not even stiff the playoffs. Good Luck as we make our way to the big 7.

Maria
Maria

Give me a damn break! We are NOT trashy! Look at your own damn state-you have Terrible Towels flying high there. It's not our fault that your fans SUCK! We earned SIX Superbowl titles! WE HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO GLOAT, BRAG and WHATEVER ELSE! WE ARE A DINESTY! No other team has EVER done what we have done! 100 yard "Immaculate Interception" and who can forget the awesome Santonio Holmes catch? Just face it, your defense sucks! If we were playing Baltimore or Philly, we would've had a challenge. You didn't watch enough tapes and study hard enough-WE DID! We'd rather be loud, obnoxious, trashy fans than fair-weather fans who are sore losers!!!!! SIX-PACK YEAR BABY!!!!!! WELCOME TO SIXBURGH! YAY!!!!

Matt
Matt

The comment about the Steelers winning the AFC Championship because of Clark's hit on McGahee is ridiculous. Did you watch the game? First of all, I'm pretty sure Polamalu's interception return for a touchdown won the game, and until reading this article, I haven't heard one person say that Clark's hit was illegal or dirty...it was just a hard hit with his shoulder, not his head. I respect the run the Cardinals had, and the Super Bowl was a hell of a game, but it seems that the person writing the article about how poor the fan base is, might need to consider assessing his own understanding of the game.

Mathilda
Mathilda

Hillbilly? At least Steelers fans can afford to spend upwards of $1,000 on Super Bowl tickets. Unlike the poor Cardinals fans who obviously couldn't afford to make the trip for their team.

Tammie
Tammie

Most people who claim to "hate" the Steelers and their fans are simply JEALOUS of all that we have accomplished.

Calling us white trash is a bit harsh but fortunately, it runs off of our shoulders as we know better and we know that we ARE BETTER.

 
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