Wasn't it only a few years ago during the Super Bowl Dead Week (maybe before SB XXXVIII or SB XXXIX) when we were told that the Arizona Cardinals were planning a cosmetic change to their logo -- that a tougher, more-agressive-looking, less-cartoonish bird would be on the helmet when the Cards took the field the following season?
Naturally, we all laughed our asses off -- primarily because the press release involved a team which, for the 478th year in a row, was not participating in the playoffs, but also because we had the perfect punchline at the ready.
"The only way to make the Cardinals' logo look tougher and more-aggressive would be if somebody drew a full-length cartoon bird holding a cartoon machine gun and a cartoon stick of dynamite."
Ohhhh ... did we laugh.
Long into the night ...
That's the funny thing about animation -- a cartoon face is made to look more human ... "wings" are drawn to look more like "hands" ... hands which can be drawn in the shape of fists which can hold machine guns and sticks of dynamite.
Funny shit ...
Well, who's laughing now?
Urlacher: "Me ... "
The STEELERS aren't laughing, we presume ... although nobody's scared of a team which was losing 34-0 to the Jets at halftime of a 56-35 pummeling or a team which was gettin' de-boned and fileted by the Pats, 44-0, through 3 qtrs. of a 47-7 shellacking.
Right, right, right, right ... "it's a totally different team now, blah blah blah ... " Because of the Ken Whisenhunt/Russ Grimm "toughness" which was instilled, it "changed the culture," yadda yadda yadda ...
As if Denny Green DIDN'T want to win ...
CHANGING THE CULTURE ... that's a trendy catch-phrase that football writers from Peter King to Jason Cole to John Clayton to Bill Williamson use as NFL-speak to further an agenda, rather than joining forces and pooling their prolific talents to create one unifying voice which says, "When the Hall of Fame voting takes place on Saturday, we'll do the responsible thing and elect Ed Sabol and Steve Sabol (the pioneering NFL Films father-n'-son masterminds) and Dick LeBeau and/or Dermontti Dawson."
When the above DOESN'T HAPPEN on Sat., we can chalk up another victory for what was articulated so articulately in "U-Shaped Logic" (2/4/06) ... and it'll only add to the list of crimes committed against the Sabols and Dick LeBeau, who, in all likelihood, will be enshrined in Canton probably 10-15 years following their deaths (see: Gene Hickerson's induction a few years ago ... 30 years after he retired, Alzheimer's had so racked his body that his failing health rendered him unable to give us an induction speech ... complete bullshit authored by those jerk-offs who call themselves "a selection committee" ... it was immoral how Gene Hickerson was violated ... and his death at the outset of this season, well, that's blood on the hands of selection committees past, present and future ... ).
Lest we forget, former Cardinal safety Roger Wehrli -- the secondary stalwart who picked up where Hall of Famer Larry Wilson left off -- was in Gene Hickerson's induction class. And, that "R.W." is likely to be joined in a few days by ex-Steeler Rod Woodson (although, sad to say, the R.W. who'll never get to Canton is R.W. McQuarters).
Equally unfortunately is the fact that in the days ahead, the nostalgia of Wilson and Wehrli will yield to Warner ... as in cutting-edge journalism repackaged endlessly as "Kurt Warner: Hall of Famer?"
Whaddya expect from writers who never played the game?
Their brains are on the PUP ("physically unable to perform") list, so do the math, America ...
This is the era of the ShamWow and the Snuggie ... and the "journalism" of the era reflects these priorities.
The easy-way-out "news" hooks are: "Didja know that the Cardinals and the Steelers combined their rosters in 1944 (as WWII raged) and the 0-10 team became known as 'the Car-Pitts' because everyone walked all over 'em?" and/or "The Cardinals have allowed everyone to QB this team from the mid-'40s 'til now, be it Gary Cuozzo or Gary Hogeboom or Stoney Case or Tom Tupa, blah blah blah ..."
[NOTE: Practically everybody alive loves to play that game of "Crossover QB" in which we name all the QBs which have played for both teams. In this scenario, we've got an "active" aspect in Brian St. Pierre, who has exchanged his familiar #2 Steelers jersey for a red #2 which more closely matches the jersey color that he wore at B.C. >>> Other than BSP, however, all we can remember off the top of our heads is that Cliff Stoudt and (get this) Ted Marchibroda -- both wearers of #18 as Steeler QBs -- rounded out their careers as Card QBs. >>> The only case we can think of for Car-Pitt QB is (oh, shit) Kent Graham, the Arizona QB in '96 and '97 who Cowher chose as the starter for the 2000 opener and, oh sweet Jesus, did the Ravens treat him like a pinata or what?]
Let's have a moment of silence as we and bow our heads for greatest soldier that Team U-S-A! U-S-A! ever produced ... the late, great Pat Tilley.
Before the black WR made the white WR obsolete, Pat Tilley was a quality WR who ran precise routes and, oooops ... it's Pat Tillman, not Pat Tilley!
(Whatever ... y'know?)
Sometimes we forget that being a proud American means that "America" includes American Samoan.
And, it might make better copy if only somebody had the onions to elaborate on what many of us read on the back of Niko Noga's 1989 ProSet trading card (#334 in the series ... the one where he's pictured on the front wearing his traditional red-w/-no-frills, Cardinal-red jersey w/ white 57 while tackling Roger Craig ... the card where we first learned that he was born in March '62 and was an 8th-rnd. selection out of Hawaii in the '84 draft).
On this card of this Card, we learned:
"Late round draft choice who defied odds and has become top-flight linebacker ... won starting assignment in 1985 ... had 13 tackles against Philadelphia in first NFL start ... first freshman ever named All-WAC ... wants to pursue career as underwater welder after football ... "
It seems insane -- an underwater welder ...
If he's not in it for the money, could it possibly be the glory?
Or is he looking to avenge the deaths of the faceless underwater welders who went before him?
Where is America's expose on the American underwater welder from American Samoa?
In many circles, Niko Noga will remain a forgotten Cardinal (except to those of us who rank Niko Noga with Garth Jax and Freddie Joe Nunn as our Cardinal LB Dream Team threesome ... and to those of us who will never forget that his full first name is "Falaniko" ... and that he was in the same NFL draft as three Texas Longhorn DBs named Mossy Cade, Jitter Fields and Freddie Acorn).
(YEAH ... that WAS a ploy to get the names of Mossy, Jitter and The Acorn into the mix ... )
Before we immerse ourselves in "The Underwater Welding World of Niko Noga," let's be clear that the Steelers are probably not fazed about facing Whiz N' Grimm, not to mention whatever secrets Brian St. Pierre, Sean Morey and Jerame Tuman are sharing.
After all, there are greater areas of concern .. such as the Hall of Fame worthiness of Hines Ward, who, if we're reading this right, might one day join Rod Woodson and Jerome Bettis (their enshrinements are pending) and Dermontti Dawson and Alan Faneca in a Canton population which some might feel is already overrun with too many Steelers.
Dick LeBeau: NOT scheduled for election any time before Super Bowl L in 2016.
It's more-likely to occur the day before Super Bowl LXXXVIII in 2054.
Which'll make for one helluvan induction speech for Dick LeBeau a few weeks shy of his 117th birthday ...