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1000 fans see off Cardinals at airport

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1000 fans see off Cardinals at airport

PHOENIX As a lifelong Arizona Cardinals fan, Jose Sanchez felt profound joy in watching his team land a spot in the Super Bowl after years of mediocrity. He ranks the moment alongside the birth of his first son.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Sanchez said he would get into home games by scooping up tickets that had been discarded at halftime by fans frustrated with the Cardinals’ play. At a rally Monday for the Cardinals, Sanchez dressed in all crimson and proudly displayed the tattoo across his chest that bears the name of his home state.

The frustration of many failed seasons washed away during the NFC championship game that sent the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.

“It’s like being a bum and then becoming a millionaire the next day,” said Sanchez, a 29 year old from Tempe who works as a manager for an auto glass nfl jerseys

More than 1,000 fans gathered at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport to see off the Cardinals as they headed to Tampa for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Cardinals, long the league’s doormat franchise with just one winning season in the last 24 years, earned their first playoff berth since 1998 and first divisional title since they won the NFC East in 1975.

Many longtime fans say they felt vindicated after years of watching the Cardinals struggle and are welcoming the addition of new fans, many of whom moved here from other states and were attached to teams back home.

Fans carried signs saying, “Shock the World!” and held up a strip of plywood bearing a team logo that was made out of Christmas lights. Fathers standing behind barricades hoisted their kids on their shoulders so the little ones could see players step onto the team plane. A man was booed loudly as he walked the airport grounds with a Steelers jersey.

Years of love for the Cardinals reached a critical point for Eddie Ortiz when the Philadelphia Eagles scored their last touchdown and narrowed Arizona’s lead in the Cardinals’ victory in the NFC championship game.

When barbecuing at home, Ortiz said he fell to his knees and prayed that the Cardinals could pull out a win. “Please don’t let this happen,” Ortiz said, recalling his thoughts at that moment.

Ronnie Chavez, a bank employee at Monday’s rally, regards the Cardinals’ presence in the Super Bowl as payback for his years of support. “All the years, all the people all trying to hate on the Cardinals The Cardinals are nothing, we are not going to do anything,” Chavez said. “But, hey, look at where we are right now.”

Jeremy Stebbins, who has been a Cardinals fan since he was old enough to watch football, said he has been waiting a long time for his team to go to the Super Bowl and is happy to see others line up behind the team.

Toni Caiola, a former Buffalo Bills fan, said the Cardinals won her over when her mother, an Arizona season ticket holder, dragged her to a game in 1991. Over the years, she has caught grief from other fans for having worn the Cardinals’ red.

“It’s about time they got some support,” said Caiola, who lives in Glendale and works for a printing company. “We have got room on the bandwagon. We’ll move over. They just got to remember this feeling and stick with them.”

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October 14th, 2010 at 3:17 am

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