Cardinals fans left feeling disappointed after narrow loss

PHOENIX -- Hometown Cardinals fans were left nursing broken hearts Sunday night after the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a last-minute touchdown in nail-biting Super Bowl XLIII.

"It hurts," said Bruce Samuels, who watched the game at Gallagher's, a sports bar in central Phoenix. "I'll probably go home and call some people, pour myself a stiff drink."

During the game's last couple minutes, when the Cardinals were leading, fans cheerfully clapped to chants of "Let's go Cardinals." But when it became clear the Steelers would win, many somberly held their faces while watching the TV. They could only stay silent as a small group of Pittsburgh fans swung yellow towels around, then make a hasty exit.

Shelley Malone said the Steelers' out-of-nowhere touchdown on James Harrison's 100-yard interception return at the end of the second quarter sealed the team's fate. "That's where I felt like we couldn't come back from that," Malone said.

For Harold Sims, a Cardinals fan of more than 20 years, the team is still of champion-caliber. "Nothing but good came out of this game," he said. "We shocked the world, even though we lost. We (were) ahead with less than a minute in the game. But you know what? Next year."

Meanwhile, thousands of Steelers fans jumped up and down, danced atop chairs and tossed napkins in the air like confetti at Harold's Corral, a Cave Creek restaurant and bar that bills itself as a gathering spot for Pittsburgh fans.

A lull came over them when the Cardinals were up with two minutes left in the game. But Steelers fans jumped to their feet as the momentum changed.

The few Cardinals fans left at the bar lost all their spunk.

Jim Deschner, a car salesman from Phoenix and a Cardinals season-ticket holder, happily mixed among the army of Steelers fans and proudly displayed his team's colors at the game's beginning. But his mood was more subdued at the end, describing the outcome as horrible.

"They had a great showing," Deschner said. "I just think that they're too young to be in the show. I think they are going to come back next year and be a player."

Despite his team's loss, Cardinals fan Justin Pierce was still upbeat, saying the big game was the best Super Bowl he'd ever seen.

"They played better than the Steelers did tonight," Pierce said. "They just came up a little bit short. Sometimes, the best team doesn't always win, and that showed tonight. I think the Cardinals were two plays away from making this their night."

Andre Bryant, a Pittsburgh native who lives in Phoenix, said he wasn't sweating it when his beloved Steelers trailed late in the game, because he believed Ben Roethlisberger would live up to his reputation as a reliable comeback quarterback.

Bryant said Arizona made great strides as a franchise but still needs to keep trying to build confidence in its modest fan base.

"The best thing the Arizona Cardinals have is the people from Pittsburgh in their organization now," Bryant said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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