This ugly adjective has been attached to Valley sports fans for years.
Our ever-growing, ever-changing transplanted population base here in Phoenix has about as much loyalty to our local teams as they do the triple digit summer temperatures.
I’ve heard all the excuses.
It’s too expensive.
The kid’s have school.
We live in Glibert…who wants to fight traffic on a Tuesday to go see the Coyotes in Glendale?
Blah, blah, blah.
Look a little deeper it’s easy to see why the rest of the country views Phoenix as a “soft” sports market and local fans tune out the hysteria as quickly as they bought it.
Quite simply what have you done for an encore? Each local team has taken their turn rising to the top, then quickly falling back to mediocrity.
The Cardinals stunning rise to the NFL spotlight hit a crescendo with a trip to the 2009 Super Bowl. What followed has been a Big Red stinker. One trip back to playoffs a year later has been proceeded with 18 wins, 29 losses and a handful of bad quarterbacks. Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer bring hope but the reality is while the Cardinals were regressing the rest of the division was progressing. Most of the back part of the secondary is new and the jury is still out at running back with tough-luck Ryan Williams competing with Rashard Mendenhall who came over from the Steelers in free-agency. Keeping pace in the NFC West will be no easy chore this fall with a neat little four-game stretch which includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Falcons and Texans preceded by a bye.
The same can be said for ASU who must deal with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame (three of the four played in BCS games last year) after opening with little more than a scrimmage against Sacramento State. Todd Graham is dreaming big in Tempe and it’s easy to get excited with a host of skill players returning on both sides of the ball. The question is how will the Devils perform as the hunted instead of the hunters? Dennis Erickson proved he could still recruit great talent but ran the ship way too loose. Graham’s first challenge was getting key players like Brandon Magee, Keelan Johnson and Cameron Marshall to buy into his “yes sir, no sir” style. Once they did others followed. Beating UofA is great and all but ASU’s opportunity to make a national splash last year ended with a Thursday night ESPN 43-21 drubbing by Oregon on the Devils’ home turf. Before last season ASU hadn’t finished over .500 since 2007.
Ditto for the Suns who have fallen faster than any team in Phoenix in recent years. Sure the overhaul, at least on paper, looks improved with wiz-kid GM Ryan McDonough taking over for public ghost Lance Blanks. Nobody knows exactly how Jeff Hornacek will perform. Both have a chance to put their finger prints on the rebuilding this week with two first-round picks but much like the Cardinals several teams around them (Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Denver) have gotten better during their three-year absence from the playoffs. A kindergardener can tell you to win consistently in the NBA you need superstars. The current mis-matched roster is merely a collection of role players at best. What’s part of the problem you ask? The Suns have selected (and kept) an impact player in the draft since Amare Stoudemire back in 2002?
Where do we start with the Coyotes? Easily the most fatiguing story in Phoenix over the last few years has been the ownership issue. Staying or going? Like the Cardinals the Desert Dogs captivated the Valley last summer with a deep playoff run. It was the first division title in franchise history and first playoff series win since arriving in Arizona in the mid-90’s. After missing the playoffs this year it’s great having leader-of-men Dave Tippett back in the fold. Let’s just hope he’s not spotted house hunting in Seattle.
The best local story through the first half of 2013 has been the Diamondbacks resurrection. Kirk Gibson and his staff have done a masterful job considering the laundry list of players who have landed on the disabled list since spring training. Kevin Towers’ overhauled roster has meshed well both on the field and in the clubhouse. It’s interesting to see the more the Diamondbacks win the less we hear about the Justin Upton deal. Clearly Gibson and Towers trust the system. I say this with guarded optimism. The starting rotation outside of Patrick Corbin is shaky and the closer situation is a mess. Lurking in the shadows are the defending World Series Champion Giants. The Snakes have made the playoffs just once (2011) since 2007.
The parallels between the teams are almost frightening.
A box office hit followed by a “Caddyshack II,” “Dumb and Dumberer” or “Blue Brothers 2000.”
Phoenix hasn’t seen a consistent, long-term (five years plus) winner since Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni re-energized the Suns nearly a decade ago.
An embarrassing and harsh reality for one of only 12 markets with four pro sports franchises.
Arizona fans may be viewed as fickle, aloof and disengaged but they deserve better.
Can’t say I blame them.