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Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson runs past Carolina Panthers' Shaq Green-Thompson during the first half the NFL football NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
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A (tough) love letter to the Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson runs past Carolina Panthers' Shaq Green-Thompson during the first half the NFL football NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Dear Arizona Cardinals,

Thank you.

Now try harder.

This was a fun season. In terms of wins, it was the most successful season the Cardinals have ever had.

You guys were the top-ranked offense in the league for a most of the season.

You hosted — and won — one of the most exciting games in playoff history.

Your defense scared the crap out of a lot of teams this year.

It was all awesome. But it was not good enough.

I don’t want to pin too much on a football team, but the Phoenix metro area — and the state of Arizona as an extension — still feels a little like we’re only a wanna-be major player on the world stage.

And I’m not just talking about sports.

While I realize that bringing the Valley to its fruition — its destiny, if you will — has to be an effort on the part of everybody here, a Super Bowl-winning NFL team sure would help.

The NFL is the most popular sport in the United States, after all, and becoming more popular worldwide by the minute. It’s something to put another big red pin in the map for.

Plus, you guys owe us.

While your University of Phoenix Stadium was mostly paid for with money from out-of-towners renting cars, that would not have been possible without the votes of Arizonans. We’ve also filled your stadium for every single game since it opened and bought your hats and your jerseys and your onesies (that’s a baby shirt that snaps at the bottom for the uninitiated).

I’m glad you guys have spent a good chunk of that money getting great players and I love the attitude of the coaching staff.

But the act of holding you, the Cardinals, to a higher standard means we become better fans and that has a ripple effect. Expecting you to go all the way — and expecting nothing less than winning a Super Bowl — would signal a culture change.

I have a friend who, even though he mostly grew up here, still roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers instead of you guys. I know he’s secretly pulling for you, even though he’s spent years giving me a ton of guff for loving the Cardinals.

He admitted that you guys are a real franchise now — legit for the first time — and possibly an annual contender.

But in his estimation, real fans should expect division titles, not celebrate them.

He thinks, until Cardinals fans stop celebrating the mundane, they will always be satisfied with ALMOST.

So I’m not going to be okay with you guys simply making it to the NFC Championship Game (much less a 49-15 loss when you get there). It’s how it should be.

I’m not going to be unduly excited when you guys win the NFC West. You should.

Ten wins? Meh.

I’m always going to be a Cardinals fan. That’s not going to change. Hell, if living through some ugly, ugly four-win seasons (five of them, mind you) and even a three-win season didn’t scare me away, I don’t know what will.

But I’m going to be a different kind of fan.

Because by being a better, more confident fan that expects the best out of you, I might just help you guys believe that you can make it to the promise land of sports. That will help make the Valley of the Sun, the state of Arizona and the Southwest a place where we puff our chests out just a little bit more when we talk about home.

Love,

Jim

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