By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Dec. 08 2008
GLENDALE, Ariz. — For a visitor from St. Louis, it was a surreal experience to
stop by the Arizona Cardinals' locker room and stand near the afterglow of the
franchise's first division title since 1975.

After the Cardinals wiped out the Rams 34-10, team owner Bill Bidwill was
hanging out with Larry Wilson and Jim Hart and Kurt Warner. Given each man's
strong historical connections to St. Louis, you didn't know if you were in
Arizona, Missouri, or the Twilight Zone.

You expected Don Coryell and Dick Vermeil to walk in and join the fun. You
didn't know whether to be happy or sad, watching this blended family of former
Cardinals and former Rams come together to celebrate an important victory.

"It was great to have the old timers back," said Wilson, the originator of the
safety blitz and the first St. Louis Cardinal to be inducted into the Pro
Football Hall of Fame. "We were up in the end zone yelling like hell. I'm about
as hoarse as you can get."

The star attractions: Warner and Hart, together.

Wow.

Hart and Warner, the last two Cardinals quarterbacks to lead the franchise to
division championship. Hart did it in 1975, Warner this season.

Hart and Warner are, without question, the two greatest quarterbacks in St.
Louis NFL history.

And on this day they shared a triumphant moment.

Welcome to the crossroads of past and present.

Hart appreciates Warner but joked that he REALLY appreciates Warner's
receivers, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

"Kurt throws the ball so well," Hart said. "And boy, does he have some targets.
I was watching that first quarter and I turned to somebody and said, 'I can't
believe how open the Cardinals receivers are. I think I could throw to those
guys today.' Don't get me wrong. I liked the guys that I played with. But it's
like I always told Mel Gray and Pat Tilley, 'Gee whiz, I wish you guys were
three inches taller.' ''

Warner, ever the gentleman, wanted Hart to know how much it meant to have him
there on this big day. Hart was the Cardinals' honorary team captain. He was
joined by a gang of 1970s-era St. Louis teammates that included Wilson, Bob
Rowe, Steve Jones, Terry Miller, Donny Anderson, Tim Kearney, Keith Wortman,
Ron Yankowski, Tom Brahaney, Tim Van Galder and Jerry Holloway (who sang the
national anthem).

"It was terrific to recognize those Cardinals," Warner said. "Men like Jim Hart
defined the organization during a successful period, and in a sense they paved
the way for all of us. It added to the day to have them here."

When Bidwill moved the Cardinals to Arizona in 1988, it left an opening for the
Los Angeles Rams to move to St. Louis in 1995. And that led to a Super Bowl
parade in downtown St. Louis.

But just when you thought that St. Louis was better off with the Rams instead
of the Cardinals, the Rams have gone into an extreme, depressing dive. They've
turned into Bidwill's old St. Louis Cardinals (1960-1987), who missed making
the playoffs in 25 of their 28 seasons.

And now Bidwill's Cardinals suddenly are the 2.0 version of the St. Louis Rams'
"Greatest Show on Turf."

The role reversal is difficult to comprehend. Winning has been a long time
coming for Bidwill. That's why, when fullback Terrelle Smith saw the owner in
the locker room, he shouted, "Mr. B! You're a champ! How does that feel? You're
a champ!"

Bidwill smiled. He was wearing a "Division Champion" cap.

"He's really happy," Cardinals team President Michael Bidwill said. "This is
the first time he's gotten a hat."

Putting Michael Bidwill in charge was Bill Bidwill's smartest move. Michael,
44, has rejuvenated the family business with his expert leadership in
new-stadium construction and team rebuilding.

Some sentimental old-school St. Louis football fans were probably pleased by
Sunday's developments. And I'd have to think that most St. Louis fans are happy
to see Warner's remarkable comeback in the Valley of the Sun.

"It's one of those deals, like St. Louis, where a losing culture has been in
place," Warner said. "And to be a part of changing that culture is special. I
don't think people really understand how difficult that is to get the right
people in place and teach them how to win. It's definitely been sweet for me to
be a part of another situation where we've turned the corner."

Who said there were no second acts in American life?

It was Warner who helped revive the Rams in 1999 after the franchise had
endured nine consecutive losing seasons.

And now he's trying to do the same for Bidwill's Cardinals.

Warner will be in the 2008 NFL playoffs.

And he's taking Bill Bidwill and his new pals from the 1975 Cardinals with him.

Surreal.