After the Beatles’ first performance on American soil, February 9th, 1964, before a swarm of shrieking, swooning teenagers on the Ed Sullivan show, the band jetted south from snowy New York to take up a week’s residence in Miami’s Deauville Beach Resort, a sunny, swanky, palm-lined paradise then favored by Sinatra, Sammy and Joey, where fawning fans wrote love letters in the sand and offered free rides on their powerboats and yachts, prompting Ringo Starr to refer to Miami Beach as “The most magnificent place I’ve ever seen.”
The Arizona Cardinals flew into Miami International Airport with less fanfare Friday. They were whisked off to an undisclosed location, a flicker of desperation behind the eyes of a team fighting for its playoff life. Sunday’s clash with the Dolphins is a must win game for the 5-6-1 Cardinals against a Miami team that needs a victory to hold on to its own playoff position. This is a stern test for an Arizona team that has only one road win this season–against the hapless San Francisco 49ers. This is a business trip.
It’s serious business indeed, but this is the land of dangling chads, and the Cardinals need only look at actual headlines such as these to ease any stress:
- Man sprinkled fiancée’s ashes at LensCrafters, causing Florida mall’s evacuation
- Man who “exposed himself” tells police: “I was just airing out my penis”
- Florida goat skateboards into Guinness Book of World Records
- Babysitter accused of sleeping on toilet as 2-year-old wanders to canal with alligators
- Florida man calls 911 80 times to demand Kool-Aid, hamburgers, and weed
- Lawmaker files bill to repeal state ban on dwarf-tossing in bars
- Kangaroo leads Florida deputies on 10-hour chase
- Accused Florida man says his cat downloaded child porn, not him.
- Florida woman renews marriage vows with Ferris wheel named Bruce
Strange things happen in Florida, but would an Arizona victory be so odd? Best to stick to the game plan: slow down Miami running back Jay Ajayi, who has sprung from obscurity to rush for a 5.2 yard average and seven TDs; devise a way for undrafted free agents John Wetzel and Ulrick John to slow down the onrushing bull that is Ndamukong Suh; and trust the defense to rise up in critical moments like it did last week in the Cards’ 31-23 victory over Washington.
Arizona’s leading lights shone in that Redskins game. 36-year-old Carson Palmer looked spry and solid for long stretches, and his 300 passing yards and three TD’s rekindled memories of last year’s glories. Quiet superstar David Johnson added two touchdowns of his own. With 175 yards from scrimmage, Johnson became only the second player in NFL history to gain 100+ yards in a season’s first 12 games. Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 balls for 78 yards, and moved into third on the all-time receiving list. Coach Bruce Arians rolled the dice and went for it on 4th down and 1 from Arizona’s own 34 yard line late in the game with the Cardinals holding a 24-20 lead. Johnson ripped off a 14 yard run, then Palmer chucked a 42 yard TD pass to struggling J. J. Nelson to add to the lead. And finally, Patrick Peterson intercepted Redskins QB Kirk Cousins with 41 seconds left to preserve the win.
Succeeding on key plays has gone from last year’s routine to this year’s rarity. The Washington triumph restored a dash of confidence though, and distracted from subtle retirement hints dropped by Palmer and Fitzgerald, if not after this season then perhaps the next.
But years from now, when those two recall this season on the porch to a huddle of grandkids, they’re more likely to hold the youngsters spellbound with tales of long bombs, one-handed catches, toe taps in the corner of the end zone and a raucous championship celebration than with the current slog of injuries, under-performance, offensive line position-shuffling, kicking game misadventures and a mediocre record.
Today’s game isn’t just about holding on to the bottom rung of the playoff ladder. It’s about the kids.
This blog is not sponsored by a generous grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation