The Pottsville Maroons
With today's game versus the Cardinals rapidly approaching, it's tough to really get excited about what is, next to the Pro Bowl, the most meaningless professional football game of the year. At least tonight's game will be aired on NFL Network. Ordinarily I usually have to watch it here in California with such a delay that by the time it starts, half the Broncos that were on the field are already at Park Meadows pestering Tatum Bell and David Kircus to hook them up with cushy mall kiosk jobs.
So, what's there to get excited about with regard to tonight's game? Surely, if given the opportunity to watch the Cardinals game in mid-May, you likely put on your finest jersey and lie to your wife for just this, albeit weak, taste of football. Frankly, for better or for worse, this terrible game is part of the football season and dang it, we're going to watch it... Well, most of the first half anyway.
So what is there to get amped about? We're playing the Cardinals, a team we always seem to run into year-in and year-out in the preseason. Who cares, right? Well, I care! That's why I'm going to give you three reasons for Denver Bronco Fans to dislike the Arizona Cardinals. Consider it a community service.Reason #1: Perfection No More
From 1960-to 2009, the Denver Broncos had never lost to the Cardinals in a regular season game. They first squared off in 1973 and every time they've played since, the Broncos more often than not dominated them. That was the case until last year when, in the middle of one of the worst seasons in team history, the Broncos allowed the Cardinals to get the better of them. Now, this isn't some sort of powerhouse Cardinals team we ran into by any stretch of the imagination. Jay Feeley, the freaking kicker, outscored our entire offense, 25-13. Posting the final score here is just too painful for me. The point is that we lost... badly. From 1973 until kickoff on December 12, 2010 the Broncos had been perfect against the Cardinals. Now they aren't. The game from last year is an ugly stain on our record and that's a darn good reason to dislike them (and certainly Josh McDaniels, but that's another post).
Reason #2: The Denver Cardinals?
What a lot of Broncos fans don't know is that had things gone differently,the Cardinals could very well have ended up as Denver's professional football franchise. Before the Cardinals moved to Arizona or even St. Louis prior to that, they were the second sister NFL franchise in Chicago to the Bears. In 1960, it became clear to the NFL that they needed to move out of Illinois if they were to become an economically viable franchise. St. Louis was chosen as its first landing spot not just because the move was viewed it as a good financial decision, but because it had strategic value against the fledgling American Football League that had been eyeing the city as a possible landing spot for one of the inaugural eight franchises.
During the time the NFL was exploring relocation options for the Cardinals, Broncos founder Bob Howsam attempted to buy the Cardinals with intent to move them to Denver. For a deeper look at why the Cardinals never came to Denver (and why to dislike the Bears) check out this link, here. Obviously, as Bronco fans we should all be thankful that Howsam's acquisition attempt was not granted. Okay, I'll admit that this is kind of a stretch for why to dislike the Cardinals, but let's get real... This is the most meaningless preseason game you'll see this year. We got to have something to hang our hat on.
Reason #3: The Pottsville Maroons
Who are the Pottsville Maroons and what do they have to do with the Denver Broncos? The truthful answer is that they have nothing at all to do with one another. However, the scandal of the Pottsville Maroons is something that EVERY football fan should be aware of. It's a juicy and scandalous story of early NFL politics.
Here's the quick and dirty of it: In 1925 the NFL franchise in Pottsville, Pennsylvania had the best record in football. Back then, there were no playoffs and so the team that had the most wins was simply declared the champion.
Due to a territorial dispute with the Frankford Yellow Jackets, the Maroons were forbidden to play an exhibition game against - of all opponents - Notre Dame's collegiate All-Stars (that featured the notorious Four Horsemen). Scheduling games between the NFL and college teams was certainly not uncommon then. The Maroons played (and won) the game and their franchise was suspended by the league (only to be reinstated the following season). Since their franchise, who had the best (legitimate - there's a ton of nuance that I'm skipping over in the interest of being brief) record in the NFL, was no longer active; the league awarded the championship to the team that had the next best overall record - the Chicago Cardinals (even though the Cardinals had played against teams whose rosters illegally included high school kids and against teams that had already officially concluded play for the 1925 season).
Everyone in the NFL knew that Pottsville was the legitimate champion and even the Cardinals owner refused to acknowledge it. In 1933 the Bidwell family, the current owners of the Cardinals, acquired the team and has since claimed the 1925 Championship as their own (due most likely to the many decades of futility that followed their acquisition of the team). Since 1925, there have been a few attempts by the league to examine the issue, but each time it faced fierce opposition from the Cardinals. Many say that the reason the Cardinals have had such a terrible existence is because the Bidwell's are cursed for how they have handled recognition of the 1925 Championship.
What the Maroons did in ignoring the territorial rights of the Frankford franchise was wrong, but to suspend a team to reinstate them later and docking them a championship in the process is too severe of a consequence. The Cardinals former owner knew it and I'm sure deep down the Bidwell family, they know it too. Simply put, the NFL championship was ripped from the Maroons and the Cardinals could certainly do something to rectify this injustice. It's because they haven't done so that this, the Pottsville Maroons controversy, is another darn good reason to dislike the Cardinals.
For more on this borderline insanity that went down in 1925 check out the following links.
So there you have it. When you're watching tonight, I hope these reasons are enough to get excited about beating the Cardinals. If it's not, no worries. We got Oakland next and that one counts.