C: the Packers, the Cowboys, the Giants. This list does not include the Cardinals. First from Chicago, then St. Louis, now Arizona, the team has gone without a championship longer than any other. Today they play for the NFC title. And if they win, they go to the Super Bowl. NPR's Ted Robbins has more.
TED ROBBINS: No one seemed more surprised or pleased at the pack of reporters and cameras waiting for him at practice than Cardinals linebacker Carlos Dansby.
CARLOS DANSBY: First time I've ever seen this many people out here.
ROBBINS: Dansby has been a Cardinals player for five seasons, during which time the team won 33 games and lost 47. So I asked him in the locker room if he ever thought this day would come.
(SOUNDBITE OF INTERVIEW)
DANSBY: Unidentified Man: Set, hit.
ROBBINS: They may be having fun in practice, but come game time it will be about respect. The Cards made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Then they beat Atlanta in the first round. And in a shocker last weekend, they beat heavily favored Carolina. For the franchise, playing for a conference championship is uncharted territory - but not for its veteran quarterback, Kurt Warner. Nine years ago, Warner helped lead the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory. Before that, the Rams were losers. So Warner is used to being on a Rodney Dangerfield team.
KURT WARNER: You know, I laugh at it just from the fact that, well, why wouldn't we get a lack of respect when we haven't done anything to prove otherwise. Hopefully, we've made again some steps in that direction. But it takes, year in year out, it takes consistency to earn that kind of respect.
ROBBINS: It's even been hard to earn respect or loyalty from fans. In the last two decades since the Cardinals moved here, Phoenix has exploded in population, which means relatively few adults were born here. Crystell Demron(ph) is a typical Arizona fan.
CRYSTELL DEMRON: We have so many of us who came from somewhere else who now live here, who still have allegiance to their hometown, like me, the Bears. It's kind of hard when they play each other, but they don't really do that too often, so.
ROBBINS: No conflict now.
DEMRON: So, I'm excited. Yes.
ROBBINS: Then there are the long-suffering fans. Think what's it's been like for Mike Perry(ph). He's been a Cardinals season ticket holder for 15 years.
MIKE PERRY: Agony. A lot of agony and pain.
ROBBINS: But Perry thinks the agony is over for longer than just this year.
PERRY: They're building a team. They have good players, quality players, coaching staff.
ROBBINS: One year at a time, though. One game at a time. The Arizona Cardinals are still slight underdogs going into the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ted Robbins, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.