Another rough Valley sports weekend requires deeper look at fanbase
Misery loves company. And that’s a big problem in Arizona, where you’ll find plenty of pathos while cheering for Valley sports teams, a region with one major professional championship in over 125 seasons combined.
But you won’t find a lot of company, especially when things go wrong.
After a big loss in Arizona, casual fans and transplants are the first to flee the scene. There is very little communal suffering because there is very little risk involved. We do not bond over failure in this state. We are only here for the rewards, and only if cocktails are being served.
I realize this every time a reader/listener tells me to be patient, calm down or chill out. Or that I’m being too hard on Deandre Ayton or Andy Isabella. I get all sorts of advice from fans who don’t know a thing about high standards or long-time suffering.
This is one of our blind spots, one of the worst parts of our collective sporting mindset. We are a market that takes a lot and gives very little in return. We embrace the spectacular gifts this state offers its residents, from weather to sunsets to majestic mountains in the distance. We invest very little of our soul in return.
We carry too much nostalgia, clinging to the cities we left behind. Too many claim to be cheering for Arizona teams when, deep down inside, they are feeling nothing at all. Too many guiltlessly ask the bartender to change the television channel to the Twins, Blackhawks or Yankees.
As a result, we’ve grown into a vacuous, big-event, celeb-obsessed party town. It’s not a coincidence that our most popular events are Cactus League games and the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where the focus is on alcohol and people-watching.
This is not our fault. We’re stuck in a terrible cycle. We are a state full of transplants who have little incentive to change deep-rooted fandom or our affinity for hometown teams. Not when we are perennially underwhelmed, depressed and disappointed by Arizona’s professional sports franchises.
And it gets worse:
All local institutions — the Suns, Diamondbacks, Coyotes and Cardinals — have gone through prolonged periods of wretchedness and incompetence. We have been repressed, shamed and unfairly represented by our collection of misguided, miserly owners. The market is full of apologists who serve the teams instead of holding them accountable. And every time a local franchise fails spectacularly, it empowers everyone with an affinity for elsewhere.
Every time an Arizona team flops on the big stage, it is confirmation for all transplants who want to believe there is no place like home.
That’s why Kyler Murray’s postgame performance after a 34-31 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday is so intriguing.
Murray was beyond frustration. He could barely answer benign questions without lengthy, dramatic pauses. He was trying to prove a point; call someone out; attempting to raise the standards around here; or sickened by all the losing he’s done in Arizona, where he’s now 10-13-1.
Either way, I applaud Murray’s attitude after the game almost as much as I do his MVP-like performance on the field. I am the company to his misery.
Because we will never improve as a Big League sports town until we all put our hearts on the line. Until we all feel like Murray did on Sunday. Until we become one team and one city, far more than just a colorful tapestry of mixed allegiances.
Finally, just maybe, we have the quarterback to make that happen.
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.