Patient James on Edge of ultimate reward, revenge

TAMPA, Fla. -- This is my dream scenario for Edgerrin James:

In Super Bowl XLIII, he rushes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He's named the game's MVP. The confetti falls, the smiles beam. The team gathers on the podium at midfield. James is passed the Lombardi Trophy, gives it a kiss, and then is asked to say a few words.

James takes hold of the microphone, clears his throat, looks into the camera and then tells the American people:

"And to those of you who doubted me, including the coaches on the Arizona Cardinals staff, please take a moment, pucker up real big, and kiss my round, ample behind."

If there is a god in this universe, that will happen.

Few great players in recent years have been so disrespected as James, who underwent the kind of postseason resurgence that has earned him the right to say, "I told you so."

It's James' heart, almost as much as Larry Fitzgerald's gams and Kurt Warner's game, that's allowed the improbable and impossible Cardinals to flourish.

And the coaches on the Cardinals, who basically benched and humiliated James, should please stop talking about how much they now like him. The tulips and love taps emerging from that staff come off as shallow and bankrupt.

The Cardinals treated James like garbage and James in return put a clown suit on the staff. The only thing missing is a red nose and floppy feet.

"He is a veteran that has been to the playoffs a number of years that understands what it takes to be successful at this time of the year," Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We have said all along that were going to need Edge, especially in the playoffs, and that has come true because he has been a big part of the reason why we have had success."

Oh really? You knew all along you'd need James?

No one believes that except gullible Cardinals fans jumping on the bandwagon.

Of all the stories in this Super Bowl, Revenge of the Edge might be the best.

He leads the league in postseason rushing yards and even more fascinating about James -- and reassuring -- is that he never threw a public tantrum about his exile. You know James was hurt and angry over his treatment yet there was no sideline blowup or scream-fest after he was benched and treated like a melted candy bar stuck in a pair of jeans that just went through the wash.

"Nobody else can complain about their time or role on the team if the superstar on our team has acted gracefully in that situation," Cardinals receiver Sean Morey said. "He really, truly earned a lot of respect from the team. We understood that it is more about the team than any one individual. He encapsulated that lesson."

James says all the right things. He talks about how he wanted to play but never publicly crosses the line into outright petulance.

It cannot be understated how much respect James earned in that locker room by mostly keeping his cool. It was something noticed particularly by the man taking many of his snaps, Tim Hightower.

"Our relationship got even better, and that's the funny part of it," Hightower said. "The more I played, the more he was talking to me. And every single time I'd come off of the sideline, he'd point out things that he saw. He showed me how to watch film. He was calling me every day to make sure I put the right things in my body, that I was taking care of my body. It just blows my mind away to think that someone could be so selfless, even in spite of it.

"He should have had no vested interest in helping this rookie out, and yet he was the bigger man and he did. I'm forever grateful and thankful for him to do that. He didn't have to do that. Our relationship got better, and it's getting better right now."

Then Hightower added something fairly striking.

"People don't understand the half of what he went through, and they don't understand the half of what he meant to me," Hightower said. "You really can't understand it unless you experience it. For me, he served as a friend, a mentor, a brother, a father, all in one -- a teammate, a coach, all in one. It's not very often that you get to experience that much in one person at one time. I don't know how he knows what he knows, but he knows something about everything. He's not shy to share those things with me, trying to make me the best I can be."

That about says it all.

Make my dream come true, Mr. James.

Then ride off into the free-agent sunset. You deserve it.