The Cardinals Theory
We could be on the verge of a new sports phenomenon which, since it's still in its fledgling stages and may never actually come to pass, I'll refer to as The Cardinals Theory.
The Cardinals won the NL Central in 2000, 2001, and 2002, winning 95, 93, and 97 games in those seasons, respectively, but they were eliminated in the playoffs each year before reaching the World Series. After a down 2003, they then won 105 games in 2004 and 100 games in 2005, but got swept in the World Series in '04 and lost in the NLCS in '05. Finally, last season, after finishing 83-78 and barely edging out a sub-mediocre Reds team to win another Central Division title, they won the World Series.
Now, in the NFL, the Colts are coming off of a 14-2 2005 season in which they didn't even make it to the AFC Championship game but now, as a #3 seed with no one really considering them contenders, entering the playoffs off the heels of surrendering 200+ rushing yards in a loss to the Houston Texans, the Colts find themselves in the Superbowl.
Here's what has to happen to confirm this postulate as an actual phenomenon: The Colts win the Superbowl this year, and people talk about how similar it was to the Cardinals, that everyone counted them out, they finally weren't overconfident, blah blah etc. Then in the NHL, the Ottawa Senators, who have been the number 1 seed in two out of the last three seasons without reaching the Cup Finals, will finish #4 in the East and end up finally winning it all. Then in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks will finish as the #1 seed in the West and lose in the playoffs again, then next year they'll drop to 49 wins and the #4 seed in the West and they'll go all the way.
I suppose this is less a theory than a random anomaly, cause I don't buy into the Colts or Cardinals or any of these teams taking any sort of substantially altered approach in seasons of adversity / underdogness. The Cardinals, in particular, just got some lucky hits here and there and managed to technically escape with a World Series title while a portion of the nightly Grey's Anatomy audience watched, sort of caring.
Still, it's funny when history repeats itself, albeit in more of a mathematical, happenstance way than an actual general sports trend kind of way. As for me, I'll be sort of pulling for the Sens and Mavs in the next couple playoffs, and when the next NFL playoffs roll around and Marty Schottenheimer's Chargers sneak in as a #5 seed, we'll see if he can pull of the ultimate confirmation of the "#1 seed chokes then wins it all as a lower seed" Cardinals theory by actually - dun dun DUN! - making it to the Superbowl before, well, choking.
He's Marty Schottenheimer. This is just a theory, not a... magic... theory.