Despite lots of losing, Arizona sports fans have reasons to be optimistic
Arizona has a bad reputation. We are a soulless, bandwagon, transient sports market.
Most of us are from elsewhere. We take no vows. We soak up the climate and culture, giving little back to the well of communal good. When it comes to the local teams, we stick around through thick and thick, through good times or bail.
Don’t feel guilty. It’s not our fault. Most of our miserable condition can be blamed on terrible ownership, a malfeasance of stewardship that has partially defined three of our four major professional franchises. The list spans Bill Bidwill, Robert Sarver and the wannabes who barely had enough money to keep the Coyotes afloat in Glendale.
The results are as hard as the data:
The Cardinals currently have the longest drought among major professional franchise, 71 years without a championship, including 31 seasons in the Valley. The Suns have zero titles in 51 years. Since moving from Winnipeg, the Coyotes have zero titles and just one extended playoff run in 21 years. Our only major title occurred in 2001, before newbie Diamondbacks fans could pay their dues or understand the meaning of it all.
To date, Arizona’s Big Four has played for a championship just four times in 123 seasons combined. And yet we are only the second-worst sports Mecca in America. To wit:
There are five cities wholly defined by their sporting experience, where all four major professional franchises play within city limits: Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. They create a special kind of energy.
Of the remaining eight big-league sports markets, only Minneapolis has a more compelling gripe than Arizona. Like us, their heritage franchise is their NBA team. And they’ve gone 27 years without a championship, title-less since the Twins won the World Series in 1991.
They’ve been waiting 10 years longer than us. While cheering a NFL team that is 0-4 in Super Bowl appearances and authored one of the worst losses in conference championship history.
Meanwhile, the great city of New York has been without a championship parade since 2011, since the Giants upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl. That’s a lifetime on Broadway. In the interim, they’ve dealt with the Knicks, the Mets, the Jets and the Giants’ pathetic performance at the NFL Draft. The other night at Yankee Stadium, fans booed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, recklessly selected with the No. 6 pick in the draft.
But there is hope. For all of us.
Back in 2000, a newspaper in New England bemoaned their lack of athletic success, and how they hadn’t won a championship since the 1986 Celtics. The articled tabbed Boston as “Loserville.”
Shortly after, the city of Boston rattled off 12 major professional titles, including six with the Patriots. Had the Bruins won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, they would currently possess three of the four major professional championship trophies. That hasn’t happened since Detroit in 1935.
So things can change in a hurry, and in Arizona, there is even more reason for optimism:
A rash of redemption stories have sprouted up all around us. The Cubs finally won a World Series. Cleveland won a NBA title. The hard-luck city of Philadelphia watched the Eagles win the Super Bowl, along with two NCAA titles from Villanova. The Capitals won a Stanley Cup and partied for months, ending the awful drought in Washington, D.C. The Blues were the worst team in the NHL a few months ago, only to win their first Stanley Cup in 51 years.
Our time must be coming. Michael Bidwill has atoned for the competitive sins of his father, and if Kyler Murray is the NFL’s next transcendent superstar, the Cardinals might be closer to a parade than anyone realizes. Sarver has reportedly changed his meddling ways, and if nothing else, the Suns are due for a jolt of good luck. The Coyotes are about to be owned by a billionaire, giving the team financial flexibility to recruit marquee free agents and pale Canadian superstars for the first time in their sordid history.
And if the Diamondbacks win a second championship before any other peers win their first, well, their bragging rights will be insufferable.
Keep your fingers crossed. There are only a handful of great stories left in sports, from the Browns winning the Super Bowl to the Maple Leafs winning a Stanley Cup for Canada. But we have three of them right here in our midst, from the redemption of the Coyotes to the coronation of the Cardinals to the long-awaited parade on Planet Orange.
It’s about time.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.