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Dan Bickley

There’s plenty to be thankful for among Valley sports teams

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Gratitude requires perspective. The ability to feel blessed when the hometown teams haven’t produced a major professional championship in nearly 20 years.

We should all feel thankful for:

Al McCoy’s work ethic. And good luck to the guy who has to succeed him on a full-time basis.

Kyler Murray’s seriousness. Somebody important expects him to be great. Maybe it’s his father. Maybe it’s the underdog in the mirror. Either way, you’re not going to stop this kid from getting where he’s going. Maybe in the offseason, he can share some pointers with Deandre Ayton.

Valley athletes who are narcissistic and ambitious enough to wear No. 1. (Murray, Devin Booker).

Athletes who are brave enough to defy superstition by wearing No. 13 (Kurt Warner, Steve Nash, and James Harden).

Our collection of general managers, starting with the dynamic duo of Mike Hazen and John Chayka, who think big, understand analytics and are unafraid to take risks. And for James Jones’ ability to build a real team and suit up for the occasional practice, thus proving that real shooters never die.

How the Territorial Cup lives up to the hype. The game is never predictable, always weird and eternally fueled by uncompromising vitriol. This rivalry defines modern-day America, right down to the juvenile insults. In politics, you are either red or blue. In Arizona, you are either a Sun Devil or a Wildcat. There is no room for nuance. Or for the losers of this game.

Those with a platform and a voice who remain politically detached, unbiased and unafraid to tell the truth. I could point fingers and name names. But you know who you are.

Our collection of mascots. The Gorilla is legendary. Sparky is iconic. D. Baxter is sneaky good, once autographing my son’s forehead with a Sharpie.

Cactus League games with Uber. Night games at Chase Field with roof and panels open. Walking up the tunnel and entering the 16th hole of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, on a Saturday morning, with a credential around your neck. Concerts at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum when you can feel the ghosts of Suns games past.

Archie Bradley. When he’s good.

Larry Fitzgerald. For staying put. For displaying the ultimate class. For talking trash off the record. For hugging me that one time, ruining my dress shirt with a lather of practice sweat that would put Sean Miller to shame. For always being clutch. For showing your teammates the way. For getting involved with the Suns and riding bikes with Robert Sarver in San Diego. For being the best athlete ambassador Arizona has ever had.

Besides Pat Tillman.

That Kurt Warner pledged allegiance to the Valley over the city of St. Louis. That’s important, and probably won’t happen with Paul Goldschmidt.

Our grass roots revival. Arizona has recently produced a National League MVP (Cody Bellinger), a No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft (Auston Matthews) and three members of the Cardinals who starred at Scottsdale Saguaro High School (D.J. Foster, Christian Kirk, Byron Murphy). It’s only getting better as the Valley gets bigger, and a robust prep scene is always the foundation for a close-knit sports town.

Our next dominant professional team. We adored Steve Nash’s Suns for routinely beating teams by 20 or more points. We revered the 2015 Cardinals, who routinely prevailed by three touchdowns. The Phoenix Rising FC was so impressive in 2019 that it created a real civic buzz while playing a niche sport on the pitch.

Nothing makes a community stick out its chest or gather around the water cooler like a team that steamrolls the opponent. We all want to be part of a hardcore crew, identifying with a group that takes no quarter off, shows no mercy and creates memories that last a lifetime. Those are the teams that change us for the better.

New England’s NFL team has won 10 or more games in 17 consecutive seasons. The Ravens are currently making national headlines for the carnage left in their wake. The NBA’s Western Conference will likely pit two Los Angeles teams that share the same building.

We look forward to the next Arizona team that melts our collective heart, quickens our pulse and expedites our growth as a professional sports market.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier