DAN BICKLEY

Strong presence of Steelers fans humiliating for Cardinals

Dec 10, 2019, 4:14 PM | Updated: 11:35 pm
Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate a 23-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm S...
Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate a 23-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Steelers have left town. Their fans have gone home. All the way back to Pittsburgh. All the way back to Scottsdale, Tempe and other places where replica fans hung up their replica jerseys and resumed their dual lives in Arizona.

Look at the damage they have caused:

The rhythmic visual of Steelers fans waving Terrible Towels inside State Farm Stadium will scar our psyche for years. It was humiliation in a third dimension, a reminder of rock-bottom days at Sun Devil Stadium, a collective effort that shamed us all. The Cardinals’ home-field advantage at State Farm Stadium became a laughable notion against the Steelers.

We are the Red Sea no longer.

I will not tell you how to spend your money. You have every right to recoup your hefty annual bill by selling off tickets and a small chunk of your sporting soul. The Cardinals are 2-15 in their last 17 home games and the blame for this debacle is squarely on the organization. For presenting and staging a team that has won 21 of their last 61 games.

When Kyler Murray is right, the Cardinals are at least entertaining. When he’s not, the gutted roster is laid bare. The price tag for Steve Keim’s wretched drafting in recent years can be seen and not heard in the stands, where one of the league’s loudest buildings is once again a speed bump for opposing teams. In just a few years, a raucous NFL building has fallen on hard times, from hostility to apathy to surrender.

I can imagine few things bother Michael Bidwill worse. After all, this is a building he helped produce out of thin air, when nobody trusted his surname. This stadium is his key contribution to the mix and the evolution of the Cardinals, a turning point for a dormant franchise. To wit:

You could make a top 10 list of great moments in State Farm Stadium history and leave many great games off the list. That’s how robust the early years were in Glendale, including playoff games, legendary Super Bowls and iconic college events; hallmark wins against the Cowboys and Packers, including one of the best quarterback duels in history; and that sublime day against the 49ers when the Cardinals had two pick-sixes against Colin Kaepernick in the first six minutes of a 40-point blowout.

These days, there’s very little to cheer for at State Farm Stadium. The Browns are coming to town for Arizona’s last home game of the season. It will be a high-profile event featuring a circus act team from Cleveland and the past two Heisman Trophy winners from Oklahoma. And if Murray regains his form in the final three games, there’s a chance the audience rediscovers its optimism and remains on the hook in 2020, thereby keeping Bidwill’s precious sellout streak intact.

Except for this:

Over the past 50-plus years, Ohio has ranked among the top four states for Arizona transplants, along with California, Illinois and New York. Sunday’s game is a chance for downtrodden Browns fans to flex, to better the performance of Steelers fans this past weekend.

They know the football stadium is there for the taking. And it might sour local fans on ever coming back again, at least in the near future.

In any NFL city, fans purchase tickets for the game-day experience, for the camaraderie and the energy inside the building, the communal vibe they can’t get while watching from the couch.

That thrill wanes when you are no longer in friendly company. When most everyone in your vicinity is cheering for the other team and making you feel like an idiot. Like a stranger in your own home.

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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