The Cardinal Rules
Endings & Beginnings
The New Season
All Or Nothing?
Going into All Or Nothing: Arizona Cardinals I knew next to nothing about NFL. Here in the UK we live, breathe and bleed football (soccer) much the same way our American cousins live, breathe and bleed American football. While we do get a small amount of buzz around the Superbowl over here, much of the bar talk surrounds the football season and Champions League. Teaming up with Amazon Studios for a groundbreaking view behind the scenes, Arizona Cardinals is an emotionally charged, eye-opening look at the inner workings of a National Football League team.
Shot during the 2015-2016 season for the Arizona Cardinals, this championship winning team go on an impressive run and have their sights set on clutching the lucrative prize of a Super Bowl championship at the end of the season. Whether you know the way this story ends or not, the episodes are emotionally charged and surprisingly well paced throughout, building up to the final two episodes that are dominated by on-field action during the Cardinals’ most important games of the season.
Starting with the NFL Draft, the cameras follow General Manager Steve Keim and President Michael Bidwill as they make a pledge to Head Coach Bruce Arians to bring the right players in to the club and build a championship winning team. From here, the season gets underway where we follow the various trials and tribulations along the bumpy road to the Super Bowl.
Each episode combines individual player meetings with training sessions and team talks, building as much passion behind the scenes as that seen on the field. All Or Nothing spends each episode getting acquainted with the key characters in the squad too, with plenty of family life shenanigans and angst from family members in attendance watching their loved ones play. All of this combines to make each win more euphoric and each loss more painful as we experience all of this with them.
It’s a surprisingly good balance and one that saw myself and my partner cheer and gasp at the TV during these moments – an impressive feat given neither of us are particularly passionate about the NFL. Seeing Larry Fitzgerald’s all or nothing attitude at this potentially being his last season or hearing the infamous “Honey Badger” doing his best to spur the team on, are great examples of this and really adds a lot of character to the season.
Much like All Or Nothing: Manchester City, Arizona Cardinals is a series designed with fans of the sport in mind first. Although Jon Hamm’s narration does well to add some colourful insights to proceedings, terms like punts, three-and-outs, defensive back and turnovers give the series a specific sport fan focus for much of its run-time. Having said that, Arizona Cardinals did motivate me to consult the NFL website a few times to understand all the rules of the game and from this perspective, I can confidently say Arizona Cardinals can be enjoyed whether you’re a fan of the sport or not.
Stylistically, the series does well to keep things entertaining throughout with the musical score ramping up the tension thanks to archival shots of the games themselves. These are ultimately the meat of the show and there’s no beating the true emotion and excitement bred from the matches. Seeing the week’s preparation with all the training and team talks leading up to this actually enhances these moments too – you don’t want these players to lose given the time we spend getting to know them.
All Or Nothing: Arizona Cardinals is a well written and emotionally charged love letter to the NFL. It’s exciting, informative and pays homage to the amount of work and dedication that goes into building a championship side. While fans of American Football will almost certainly get more out of this, you can easily go into this one with little knowledge on how American Football works and still find a lot of enjoyment here. Arizona Cardinals perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a sport fan and if you’ve enjoyed sport documentaries before, you really ought to check this one out too.