Forget the Cardinals

Stately, plump Bill Bidwill moved in regal fashion past the food line in the press box at Sun Devil Stadium last Saturday.

Mexican food was being dished up. Bidwill's hands remained at his sides, however. The Phoenix Cardinals owner did not reach for a platter.

"Have a plate of food, Mr. Bidwill," one of the servers cried out. "It's delicious." "No thanks," Bidwill said, "I prefer to take a doggy bag home after the game." He wore a blue blazer, his trademark bow tie and tortoise-shell glasses, and a wistful smile on his pale face. The season has become something of an embarrassment to him. Consequently, Bidwill's weight, about which he has been sensitive since his youth, has ballooned again. In the last month, Bidwill has grown as wide in the seat as Derek Kennard, the Cardinals center--the player police have arrested more than once this season for drunk driving. As the Phoenix Cardinals owner galumphed alongside the food line, he delivered cool Christmas glances to the few sycophantic sportswriters with whom he still remained on speaking terms.

Bidwill looks down on sportswriters. He considers them social inferiors. He prefers publishers. At least they understand the bottom line.

Still, for a long time, Bidwill couldn't quite understand why sportswriters always ended up penning such snide articles about him. Finally, he ascribed their antipathy to envy of the rich and wrote them off entirely.

An hour remained before the final home game of the season, with the Denver Broncos, would get under way. But Bidwill had reason to be cheerful, even optimistic.

John Elway was in the line-up for Denver, after all. And Bidwill's money counters had assured him that more than 56,000 people had bought tickets for the game. There would be a hefty payoff.

The sportswriters could write all the nasty things they wanted about his handling of the franchise. Who cared about Bob Costas and Brent Musburger and Dan Dierdorf and what they said on TV? They should all learn to talk nicely about the Cardinals like Jude LaCava and the other fine young men on KTAR. Why must everyone be critical? There's a lot of money to be made if only everyone could learn to play the game like LaCava.

The sky boxes turned out to be a touch of genius. They were his ace in the hole. An owner with plenty of sky boxes would never go hungry. There were always the fixers like Keith Turley, Karl Eller and their kind ready to fill the boxes by spending their stockholders' money. Even if the general-admission seats remained more than half empty all season long, Bidwill knew he could still continue to make a bundle every year.

There's a line from an old Zero Mostel movie called The Producers that comes to mind. "That's it, baby!" Mostel shouts maniacally. "When you got it, flaunt it! Flaunt it!" You can imagine the conversation that Bidwill had last week with Larry Wilson, his subservient general manager.

"I want you to tell Hank Kuhlmann to start this Timm Rosenbach kid at quarterback," Bidwill says.

Wilson wasn't sure that was such a good idea.
"The kid's awful green, Mr. B." Wilson says. "He never gets to handle the ball much in practice. I don't think he's got a clue as to how the offense runs." "Larry," Bidwill says, "I've been watching the Cardinals offense since before the days you played defensive back.

"Let me tell you something. I don't give a damn if Rosenbach knows the offense and neither do the fans. They're sick and tired of seeing Gary Hogeboom. They want to see somebody else. Even I want to see somebody else." "But what will I say to Kuhlmann. He still thinks he's a long shot to coach the club next year. He wants to win at least one game. He'll be against starting Rosenbach." "Just tell Kuhlmann I'd like to see Rosenbach. Kuhlmann's like every other marginal coach in this league. You'll find that when push comes to shove, he'll do what he's told." And so Timm Rosenbach, the Washington State phenom who missed all preseason training while his agent worked out a deal to make him a millionaire, got the start.

Rosenbach was simply awful. He was worse than that. He was positively dreadful.

Some players have such disastrous debuts that they are forever remembered for their initial appearance no matter what happens subsequently.

Rosenbach clearly never understood his role.
Once, he simply dropped the ball that had been placed in his hands by the center. A Denver linebacker scooped it up and ran for a touchdown.

Not long after this, Vai Sikahema totally eluded the Denver defender covering him. All Rosenbach had to do was loft a soft pitch in his direction and it would have been a Cardinals touchdown. Any high school quarterback could have completed that pass. But Rosenbach managed to overthrow Sikahema, costing the Cardinals an easy score.

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Tom Fitzpatrick