The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

WHY IT SUCKS TO BE A CARDINAL
cheeseheads birdbrains big brains
An interesting little sidebar story heading into the NFL playoffs has been the adulation the Packers and city of Green Bay have given Arizona Cardinals receiver Nate Poole for scoring the touchdown that eliminated the Vikings and clinched a playoff berth for the Packers. It's mostly fluff, but it's kind of unusual.

Am I the only one who notices something strange in a player from another team so fully accepting this feting in an NFL town?

I read the reports of Poole accepting the invitation to Green Bay, and making his public statements, and I kept expecting him to say something like, "First and foremost, I made the catch for my team, so we could win our game." But you know what? I haven't seen a trace of that. I realize it would be a bit cliche-ish, but it's almost common courtesy for a player to point out how the primary concern in a situation like this is to play for yourself and your teammates, regardless of implications for other teams. But nothing.

If it were any team other than the Cardinals, I'd be really curious about Poole's omission, even taking into account Poole's pending status as a restricted free agent (meaning he'll be looking for a contract that Arizona will either offer itself, match based on another team's offer, or pass on). But it being the Cardinals, I can make certain assumptions. Arizona is one of the least-desired destinations in the league for players. It's a chintzy organization that spends only as much as it needs to on everything from players to facilities. Incompetence seems to be a built-in feature of the franchise; no matter who they bring in on the field or in the coaching staff, they always end up with a losing record. Poole's already gone through enough losing, including this season's 4-12 record, that he's doubtless hoping for a ticket out of Tempe.

The contrast with his experiences in Arizona and his Green Bay reception also had to be eye-opening to Poole. Doubtless, he made his big catch in front of a half-empty stadium in Arizona, and got used to being in a city where the Cardinals were not talked about too much. In Green Bay, he walked into the euphoria that usually surrounds the Packers, especially when they make the playoffs. In fact, I'd guess that Poole probably got way more recognition in Green Bay than he did right after the game in his own home stadium.

The result is that Poole's gotten a taste of how it feels to be an NFL player outside of Arizona, and is already lobbying for a new home, whether it's in Green Bay or elsewhere:

"But maybe, you know, if it doesn't work out with the Arizona Cardinals, I would love to be up here," he said. "Because the fans are just terrific."