Peyton Manning rumors bring out the best in Arizona fans
When I left for vacation on March 4th, the Valley was a place where decent sports teams played in front of modest crowds - at best.
The Coyotes' attendance struggles are well documented, the Suns are failing to draw numbers close to what they did just a few years ago, the Diamondbacks couldn't sell out Chase Field and University of Phoenix Stadium miraculously kept its sellout streak alive last season (though it's worth noting rarely was the stadium actually full).
I returned March 9th to a different Arizona.
Sure, the Coyotes and Suns are still struggling at the gates. And no, I don't expect Chase Field to be packed on a nightly basis this summer.
But the fans here care, and they've proven it with the way the Peyton Manning saga (is it a saga yet?) has gone down.
Take former local sportscaster Vic Lombardi, who embarrassed himself on Twitter over the weekend with a series of tweets, including this one:
No disrespect to the Cardinals, but I've worked in both cities. Phoenix is a JV football town compared to Denver. Not even close.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) March 11, 2012
No doubt Lombardi would love to see Manning in Broncos orange, because the team would be better and his job more interesting. But does he have to take shots at Phoenix, the place he once called home?
Needless to say, the Valley of the Sun did not take kindly to his message, as fans and media alike fired off numerous responses, all aimed at putting Lombardi in his place.
Did it work? Who knows, though Lombardi's Twitter issues continued when he later reported that Broncos sources told him they were 95 percent sure Manning was heading to the Mile High City, a story that was refuted by everyone.
And whether or not Lombardi ends up being right - Manning could, after all, choose Denver - the fact that Arizona stepped up to the plate with both passion and knowledge was impressive. Take these responses to other Lombardi tweets:
@VicLombardi It's not even Bill Bidwill. It's Michael Bidwill. His track record has shown that he's committed to winning since taking over.— azc26 (@azc26) data-datetime="2012-03-11T17:10:27+00:00">March 11, 2012
@VicLombardi Denver is an outstanding sports town. Not refuting that. PHX is undoubtedly a "Cardinals town" now. A lot has changed.— Vince Marotta (@Vincemarotta) March 11, 2012
And then, finally, this comment on the whole idea of Phoenix being a lousy sports town.
Guys, the Valley is a transient city. Just like the Bidwill's rep, new reputations take time to establish.— Mike May (@SB_MikeMay) March 12, 2012
Denver may be a better sports city than Phoenix, but that doesn't mean the latter is worthy of being mocked, laughed at or ridiculed.
Besides, you don't see any billboards around here asking if we prefer Manning or John Skelton, which wouldn't be unlike the one in Denver asking if the city prefers the former Colt or Tim Tebow.
By the way, Tebow is leading the vote.
Phoenix will never be New York, Philadelphia or Chicago - we just don't have that kind of attitude. And the Valley will not soon be confused with Denver, Boston or Dallas. But give us time, we'll get there.
In fact, we're already well on our way.