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NFL / WEEK 9 | NEW ORLEANS 21, ARIZONA 10

Another Score Cardinals Behind In--Stadium Polls

October 30, 2000|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TEMPE, Ariz. — It's hard to determine what is more ubiquitous around here:

* Circle K convenience stores. (Since there are so many, they are often more useful as directional aides--take a left at the second Circle K--rather than a stop for late-night junk food).

* Those little circular yellow stickers, "Yes on 302!" worn by Arizona Cardinal officials, fans at Sun Devil Stadium and other avid supporters in the press box. But all the Yes talk off the field, did not translate into Yes on it, as the Cardinals lost their third consecutive game. New Orleans rallied with 14 second-half points to defeat Arizona, 21-10, on Sunday before 35,286.

For the moment, Yes on 302! seems to be ahead of Circle K in terms of current visibility. In terms of a successful proposition, well, it is lagging in the fourth quarter. An Arizona Republic poll of 602 registered voters, Sept. 14-18, had 38 percent in favor, 53 percent opposed and nine percent unsure, with a four percent margin of error.

First, some background. Proposition 302 is on the ballot in Maricopa County to help fund a proposed 73,000-seat, $335-million stadium for the Arizona Cardinals. The underlying, unspoken threat is that a defeat could send the Cardinals to the moving vans again, possibly to Los Angeles, following the quirky Bidwill western wagon train, a path going from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona.

That would be the most logical geographic route. It would also be a kind of strange NFL symmetry, a sort of Trading Places with the Rams. If the Rams can go East, why can't the Cardinals keep moving West?

But this isn't going to happen without a spirited effort. The message is clear even down to the opening message at the main telephone switchboard at the Cardinals' office: "Yes on 302, Arizona Cardinals."

Pro 302 advertisements were shown during the game against the Saints. Video of a fan waving a 302 sign appeared on the scoreboard and fans were urged to "join the final push."

In early October, Cardinal vice president Michael Bidwill visited fans during their tailgate parties before one rare victory, this one over the Cleveland Browns. "The fans reaction was great," Bidwill said, claiming the momentum was shifting.

And on the web site supporting the measure, Azwins.com, it unveiled news of another poll, released Oct. 4 from Channel 8 and Arizona State University. From Sept. 28-Oct. 1, 588 county voters were surveyed, 46 percent opposed, 44 percent in favor and 10 percent undecided.

The alternative weekly, New Times, wasn't so sanguine. In its most recent issue, the newspaper called the 302 campaign: ". . . a textbook case of misdirection, half-truths and futile razzle-dazzle."

But, of course, emotion and rational thought is often swayed by what is happening on the playing field. It was no coincidence, with the vote looming, the Cardinals made a coaching change after their worst loss in 19 years (a 48-7 debacle against the Cowboys), firing Coach Vince Tobin and replacing him with defensive coordinator Dave McGinnis on an interim basis.

The move came last Monday, a day after the Dallas loss. It sent a jolt of energy through the organization and the Cardinal offense was actually able to score a first-quarter touchdown. It had gone 24 games without doing so, and it nearly turned into 25 before quarterback Jake Plummer hit tight end Terry Hardy with a three-yard touchdown pass with just 12 seconds remaining in the quarter. It was Hardy's first NFL touchdown.

This long-lost feat of first-quarter scoring drew cheers from the press box.

"I wanted a touchdown in the first quarter, hell yes," McGinnis said.

Said Cardinals running back Michael Pittman: "He [McGinnis] got us ready for this game. You saw how we went out there--we were fired up, ready to go. We just can't win with turnovers."

That was Arizona's undoing. The Saints (5-3) seemed more relieved than anything else to have won their fourth consecutive game. Arizona (2-6) self-destructed in the second half with four turnovers, but Saint Coach Jim Haslett was hardly giddy afterward.

Nor was Saint running back Ricky Williams, whose streak of 100-yard rushing games was halted at five. But, he noted, the win was the win, no matter the style. Williams did have eight receptions for 73 yards, both career highs

"Good football teams win. That was ugly. That was an ugly win," said Haslett.

And so, the McGinnis debut passed and the Cardinals have just one more opportunity to influence the voters, on the field, next week at home against the Redskins.

"Losing is not what I'm about," McGinnis said.

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