A Poker Guy Turns to Cards

By Norman Chad
Monday, January 5, 2009

As a rule, unless one were born and raised in Arizona -- a place with a lot of sun, a lot of cactuses and a lot of Applebee's -- one feels no attachment to Arizona. Then explain this:

I have never lived in Arizona, nor even had a dream that was set in Arizona.

I've never been to Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Sedona or Flagstaff, nor even met anyone -- other than Michael Wilbon, who has failed to invite me to dinner in any of his homes -- claiming to reside in any of those towns.

I have no interest in the Grand Canyon; I prefer unnatural wonders, like Mall of America or Madonna.

And I doubt I'll ever retire to Arizona, though I figure Biosphere 2 might be fun to live in because that baby's got to have some really big big-screen TVs.

Yet the Arizona Cardinals, the Team of Destiny, are my team.

I adopted the Cardinals as my Team of Destiny in perpetuity when they signed Kurt Warner, with whom I have had a special relationship ever since I spotted him in NASA photos of Saturn in 1998 just before he landed with the St. Louis Rams.

Still, before the 2008 season, even with Warner my Cardinals seemed to trail, 10-0, in every game from the opening kickoff.

Alas, my team has been an NFL punch line for 30 years and counting. My team entered this postseason widely regarded as the weakest playoff entrant and one of the worst ever. My team -- playing the Atlanta Falcons, led by a rookie quarterback -- even was an underdog, at home.

How many times do I have to say this:

Nobody beats the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Nobody.

Speaking of which, does an online university have online cheerleaders?

(Column Intermission: Moved by Barack Obama's election, I wrote a song celebrating our nation, "A New Day, America," that I hoped could be heard on Inauguration Day. Yes, fellow Americans, Couch Slouch has a touch of patriotic sentimentality. I believe if the president-elect heard the tune, he would add it to the inaugural festivities. My problem is that I've been unable to contact Obama. He's a man of the people, no? Well, most of my readers are people -- do any of you out there know Obama personally? I just can't figure out how to reach him; I'd ask Wilbon, but I can't even reach Wilbon.)

The Cardinals' first home playoff game since 1947 was on NBC. I know it was NBC, because every few minutes there were promos for two new NBC shows, "Superstars of Dance" and "The Biggest Loser: Couples." That's right -- NBC, once the network of "Cheers" and "Frasier," "Friends" and "Seinfeld," is reduced to building its week around couples that dance and couple that don't, plus Howie Mandel.

Anyway, I must admit I was a bit worried about the Cardinals until 10 minutes before game time when Matt Millen -- during a guest stint on NBC's "Football Night in America" as forgettable as his football years in Detroit -- picked the Falcons to win.

It turned out to be a great day. I decided to have one Pabst Blue Ribbon for every Cardinals touchdown. But, then, on the Cardinals' sublime clock-consuming drive in the fourth quarter's final minutes, after Warner completed a third-and-16 pass to the now-immortal Stephen Spach to clinch the victory, I had a fifth PBR. And the 3-year-old dog we're fostering, Sapphire -- who dutifully took in the entire game with me, including Millen's mindless studio patter -- had the final can of the six-pack. She's 21 in human years, so she's of age.

Cardinals 30, Falcons 24; Couch Slouch: 1,000 smiles.

The Team of Destiny is now two victories away from Super Bowl XLIII.

A few years back, country singer Jamie O'Neal had a hit single, "There Is No Arizona." Really? Sure, I've never been there, but I know I can see Glendale from here and, let me tell you, the sun setting over the University of Phoenix Stadium's retractable roof after a Cardinals playoff win might be the prettiest sight in all the land.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Why is everybody on "The NFL Today" set on CBS always laughing and guffawing? (David Leavitt; Shorewood, Wis.)

A. I was wondering the same thing -- what, suddenly it's "Your Show of Shows"? I like Norman Esiason as much as the next guy, but he's no Norm Crosby.

Q. Charles Barkley got nailed on DUI charges while he was apparently in a rush to use the services of, uh, a "lady of the evening." Ever happen to The Slouch? (Paul Breurer; Elyria, Ohio)

A. Wasn't the Internet invented primarily to prevent this type of situation?

Q. How can someone -- in this case, the Dolphins' Chad Pennington -- be the NFL comeback player of the year twice in three seasons? (Daniel Stone; New Kensington, Pa.)

A. Obviously, you've never been married.

Q. Since the Winter Classic is such a hit for the NHL, shouldn't the higher-ups in the Arena Football League consider a similar event? (Anthony Pasceri; Buffalo)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and , if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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