Originally Published: January 24, 2009 9:04 p.m.
PRESCOTT - As the Arizona Cardinals were preparing to battle the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship this past Sunday in Glendale, Marc Israel was stuck at a trade show in San Francisco, searching desperately for a way to break free and watch the big game on TV.
Israel, a 60-year-old former Cardinals' season-ticket holder who now lives in Prescott, made darn sure he did not miss a cherished piece of professional football history.
He visited a San Fran sports bar across the street from the show, where he saw the Big Red win the title and punch a ticket to the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl.
"I found somebody who knows the industry and said, 'For three hours, will you stand in my booth?" Israel said. "Once I got to the bar, there was one young man that had a Cardinal hat on. He and I were the only ones rooting for Arizona. I still have laryngitis from screaming last Sunday."
Saturday at Gateway Mall, Israel and his wife, Deborah, paid tribute - along with hundreds of other fans from Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley - in signing a 14-foot by 2-foot community banner that wishes the 2008-09 Cards well in the NFL title contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers Feb. 1.
The tri-cities' chambers of commerce and Prescott's KDDL 94.3 FM radio sponsored the event. Patrons of the ACE hardware store in PV, Gateway Mall, and the Safeway grocery store in Chino Valley penned congratulatory blurbs and signed their names.
"A bunch of us (at the Prescott chamber) were just talking on Monday that we ought to do something to let the Cardinals know this area's behind them," said Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO Dave Maurer, who spearheaded the effort. "One thing led to another, and we came up with a banner."
Sanford Cohen, the owner and radio personality of KDDL, said his station group - which has carried Cardinals games since 1995 - will ship the banner to the Big Red's Super Bowl hotel site in Tampa Bay, Fla., where it is supposed to hang the entire week leading up to the game.
Cohen said Cardinals executive vice president Ron Minegar will take custody of the banner and ensure it is displayed.
The white banner's message reads, "Prescott - Prescott Valley - Chino Valley Love the Arizona Cardinals" in red letters. Some 500 messages and signatures blanket its front side.
Robert Coombs, manager of the Prescott chamber's visitor's center who helped supervise Saturday's event at the mall, said most of the people he saw were excited to sign.
A couple of sample messages said, "We love our Cardinals" and "Way to go Cardinals! We're here rootin' for you! Keep the faith Kurt Warner (Cards' quarterback)."
Pam Risaliti of Prescott, who signed the banner, said she picked the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season. Formerly of Ohio, Risaliti was a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. She abandoned the Browns' sinking ship to pull for Arizona.
Risaliti's birthday is next Sunday.
"I could see how well they were doing at the end of the season last year," she said. "I told all my friends, 'I gave up the Browns and picked the Cardinals this year. And look, we're going!'"