Sunday, January 18, 2009

Our only Super Bowl XLIII Fun Fact. (Promise!)

Regular RadioactiveSeattle readers will understand why I'm celebrating today's improbable Super Bowl berth earned by the Arizona Cardinals--nee' the St. Louis Cardinals, hence the unnatural interest in the much-maligned team by this Gateway City native. After all, it's a franchise that, as one astute AP sportswriter phrased it today, "for decades has been widely considered the most dysfunctional of NFL franchises."

The Cardinals clinched their 2009 Super Bowl appearance with a gritty come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at home in suburban Phoenix. RadioactiveSeattle already rhapsodized, with typically intense verbosity, in anticipation of this face-off in the posting immediately below ["Say, Rochcester, Can Ya Fetch My Helmet and Pads?", 1/11/2009]. So gloating about this glorious result of the NFC Championship is certainly not the redundant point of this entry.

Rather, I thought I'd try to be the first blog--or among the first, at least--to highlight an oddity we'll be reading about repeatedly over the next couple weeks, I'd wager:

It so happens that Super Bowl XLIII adversaries the Cardinals and the Steelers were once much closer. I mean, apart from during the 60s when both served as Century Division teams in the Eastern Conference of the old NFL. Indeed, believe it or not, they were once literally the same team.

Now this wasn't the Arizona Cardinals, or even the St. Louis Cardinals I watched so many Sundays under the Arch at Busch Stadium in the 60s. No, it was the Chicago Cardinals, based in the Southside facility they shared with the White Sox, Comiskey Park. One of the NFL's charter franchises two decades earlier, the Cardinals found themselves in a strange situation for one season.

The acute shortage of young, athletic men stateside during World War II had forced the NFL into a novel and, to my knowledge, unique solution in the annals of American major league sport: for a couple years starting in 1943, the League simply combined two of its teams into an ad-hoc squad for the season. The first such cannibalization was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, so Phil-Pitt Combine was naturally called by its fans the "Steagles".

But the wartime Steelers would play with a different team the following fall. So, in December 1944, as the Allies were on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, the NFL's Chicago and Pittsburgh franchises were allied across America, concluding an oddball season resulting in the sort of record you'd expect from a bunch of guys who'd never played together before. Finding victory elusive, they played their sole awkward season together under the even-more-clumsy hybrid name "Card-Pitt". They divided their five home games between Comiskey and Forbes Field, the Steelers' (and Pirates') home. The hyphenated combination in the end posted a perfect 0-10 record, something the 2008 Detroit Lions, at 0-16, can only envy. (That's an obvious joke, granted, but one affectionately rendered; I did overnights in Michigan for four years over onetime Lions flagship WJR.)

Anyway, I wonder if anyone on the air at KJR, Seattle's longtime all-sports formatted station--and a RadioactiveSeattle punching bag--has enough of a sense of history of the NFL to know of any of this Card-Pitt and Steagles business.

No need to wonder, actually; of course John Clayton would be aware of it! Indeed, Clayton's such a pro football maven that he'd probably even be able to tell his KJR listeners which Cardinals and Steelers emerged as standouts that weird autumn of '44, though the winless season may not have produced many stars. (But it produced a nickname for Card-Pitt more clever than Phil-Pitt's: The Carpets.)

KJR brass should better utilize the Seattle-based Clayton, of course, the expert analyst who is a bona fide sportscasting treasure on loan from ESPN. If KJR management expanded Clayton's limited role at the station--rather than keeping his often incisive football show almost inaccessible in its obscure Saturday-morning timeslot--those suits wouldn't be quite the sorry excuses for sportstalk radio programmers they have proven themselves to be in recent years.

Now how did I lapse into bellyaching about the talk-radio biz here? See, I've been happily stuck on the NFL ["Rush & McNabb, Tied Intelligently", archived 11/19/2008] and Obama for several weeks now, and I don't see that changing over the next fortnight. I intend to post again shortly after the inauguration hoopla is done, but I won't be surprised if it isn't until after Super Sunday.

A scrappy team upset an overwhelming favorite twelve months ago in the Super Bowl. Now if the scrappy Cardinals somehow in the end manage to plunge longtime Steelers loyalist--and RadioactiveSeattle nominee for Broadcaster of the Millennium--Rush Limbaugh into as deep a funk as I'll surely be sunk, should the Steelers instead prevail in Tampa...well, wouldn't that be somethin'?

BRYAN STYBLE/somewhere


Howard DeLaCruz-Bancroft said...

Hey Bryan, don't forget about your friends in ABQ. Especially your friend Howard he is working on a project that is the first webcast from the New Mexico legislature. email at

Anonymous said...

We are now home owners in Palm Springs and I've had the chance to listen to all the wonderful newstalkers there!!!

Liz still in Calgary but sometimes in Palm Springs.

Anonymous said...

We are now home owners in Palm Springs and I've had the chance to listen to all the wonderful newstalkers there!!!

Liz still in Calgary but sometimes in Palm Springs.

Not Waving But Drowning said...

Please, update your blog! I want to hear your comments on Paul Harvey. I would have liked a review of Frost/Nixon. I miss the radio show, so at least do us this pleasure....