As Cardinals Leave Asu Stadium Their Memories Are As Dim As Their Play

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Almost to a player, the Arizona Cardinals say they are glad to be departing Sun Devil Stadium.

In news accounts following the Cards' 27-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, which was Arizona's final game in Sun Devil Stadium, players said the 17 years there were uneventful and unmemorable.

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Pat Tillman's spirit is alive and well in Sun Devil Stadium.

A newspaper headline read, "Cards happy to leave home" and former Card fullback Larry Centers said, "as far as memories of Sun Devil Stadium, I don't have a whole lot."

Wow, he and the others have no memories of a stadium where Pat Tillman once played and a moving memorial service was held?

Maybe those Cardinals choose to remember wins -- of which there were few -- more than they do their teammates.

For former Cardinals coaches Dave McGinnis and Larry Marmie -- who both should be trying to forget their years in Arizona after being fired by team owner Bill Bidwell -- there are plenty of fond memories lingering on Frank Kush field.

Many of them center on Tillman.

At the memorial service in Sun Devil Stadium, which was held in the spring of 2004 after Tillman had died fighting in Afghanistan, McGinnis and Marmie shared their recollections.

McGinnis, the head coach when Tillman played for the Cardinals, delivered a power-packed eulogy in which he told the crowd that Pat Tillman's spirit was alive and well in the stadium.

That lump in your throat, the tear in your eye is Pat, he said.

Marmie also insisted Tillman's spirit lives on in the stadium where he had some of his finest days as a football player.

He's on the sidelines, in the stands, on the field doing back flips and sitting on one of the light poles, Marmie said.

McGinnis and Marmie also pointed to Frank Kush field yard markers, saying it was there they remembered Tillman intercepting a pass, recovering a fumble or making a huge fourth down tackle.

If Centers and other Cardinals had been present that warm Saturday morning when a flyover of F-16 fighters began the Tillman tribute, their memories of the stadium might be much fonder.

Who will ever forget the singing of "God Bless America" and the releasing of 27 white doves, one for each year of the former Cardinal safety's life?

Also, never to be forgotten will be the huge pictures of Tillman as a U.S. Army Ranger and Arizona Cardinal that stood at the south end of the stadium.

Outside the stadium, a roof had been constructed to shield the makeshift memorial that had sprung up in the 17 days after Tillman died in a firefight in Afghanistan.

On A mountain, directly below the huge gold "A" that is a source of pride among ASU students and alumni, a maroon and gold 42 -- the number Tillman wore when he played for the Sun Devils from 1994 to 1998 -- was painted.

If the disgruntled Cardinals players had been on hand last spring at the inaugural "Pat's Run," memories of the stadium might be a tad fonder.

Obvious from the onset of the run was that the field wasn't the usual band of young, hard-core runners with zero-percent body fat, high-tech shoes and state-of-the-art racing garb seen in most long-distance runs.

Instead, it was a diverse field of young and old runners and walkers.

Some pushed baby strollers, some carried backpacks and others ran in combat boots.

They were the type of people Pat would have loved.

It was also obvious from race banter and post-run chatter, the character, integrity, commitment and courage Pat showed during his life were an inspiration to everyone.

As runners approached the finish line at the 42-yard line (42 was also Tillman's number as a Cardinal), well-wishers yelled, "Come on, do it for Pat."

Thoughts that day in Sun Devil stadium were not of wins and losses, but of a man who laid down his life for his country.

It's understandable why the Cardinals want to forget Sun Devil stadium.

A 62-80 home record, one winning season and one playoff appearance is not the stuff great memories are made.

But even in the Cardinals' dismal performances in the stadium, there should be some great recollections -- most supplied by an intense, scrappy, undersized football player who thought more of his country than a million-dollar professional contract.

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