Bordow: Bill Bidwill finally tasting triumph - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Bordow: Bill Bidwill finally tasting triumph

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Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 4:15 pm | Updated: 2:15 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Imagine being laughed at for 20 years. Imagine being ridiculed and booed and cursed and called the worst owner in professional sports - by your own fans.

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Imagine, too, how it feels to have your last name used as a synonym for failure - Bidwillian.

If you were Bill Bidwill, you might take some time this week to lash out at your critics. Your Cardinals are in the NFC championship game. You're a success and no one can argue otherwise.

But that would mean putting yourself in the spotlight, and if you weren't comfortable doing it when the team was losing, you're certainly not going to do it now.

So you quietly walk through the locker room Monday, soaking in the scene but making sure you don't become part of it.

All the while, you're having the time of your life.

"I've never seen Mr. Bidwill more relaxed than he is now," general manager Rod Graves said. ... "To see how much he's enjoying this, it's a Kodak moment."

* * *

Let's not rewrite history. The Cardinals were one of the worst organizations in pro sports. You win one playoff game in 51 years, you've earned your reputation.

And as much as the Cardinals want to blame their ineptitude on having to play at Sun Devil Stadium - "We knew this would happen. We just needed the revenue sources from a new stadium to make it happen," team president Michael Bidwill said - the fact is, the franchise was a mess from the top on down.

It's not that Bidwill didn't want to win - no sane man would want to subject himself to that kind of torture Sunday after Sunday, year after year. He just didn't know how to win.

So draft picks went unsigned. Players complained about having to pay for socks. Coaches were hired and fired every three years or so. The franchise was in constant turmoil, and the owner became a punch line.

Jerry Jones would have fought back. Daniel Snyder would have accused the media of negativism. Bidwill never said a cross word.

"He took a lot of harpoons and barbs but he always took them with grace," said former public relations director Paul Jensen. "He used to love to antagonize the (newspaper editorial) cartoonists. When he took a shot from a cartoonist, everybody else would be walking on eggshells, but he'd ask me to call the cartoonist and ask for an autographed copy."

That passivity was viewed as another example of Bidwill not wanting to win as badly as his fellow owners. But it also reflected who Bidwill was and still is: A man uncomfortable in the harsh glare of the public.

"He's a very misunderstood guy, very private," Jensen said. "Consequently, people don't know him that well even after all these years."

* * *

Bidwill declined to be interviewed for this story. He's letting Michael run the franchise and speak for it.

But Bidwill hasn't completely disappeared into the shadows. He accompanied Graves and his son as they interviewed coaching candidates after the 2007 season. Some of the interviews lasted seven or eight hours, and Bidwill's voice was heard.

"It was very important to him that we get it right," Graves said.

Still, it's easy to lose sight of Bidwill these days. The focus, as it should be, is on Ken Whisenhunt and Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. And if there's a Bidwill who deserves credit for this unexpected and stunning run, it's Michael.

But how can you not feel good for Bidwill? He is finally tasting triumph after all those years - no, decades - of anguish.

So he wasn't the best owner. And, sure, he was a little tight with the wallet. But he's never been a bad guy. His intentions were virtuous even when his methods weren't.

That's why his family members and friends are so happy for him now. He's no longer the butt of jokes or an object of scorn.

He's a winner.

"It's been a longtime dream of mine to watch my dad have this kind of success," Michael said. "I'm really proud of him. I'm proud he hung in there and I'm proud of the way he handled this whole thing.

"He's a terrific boss and a terrific dad, and I hope we get to see him in a few weeks holding the (Vince Lombardi) Trophy."

Imagine that.

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