DAN BICKLEY

Cardinals, Suns making playoff runs could change Valley sports scene

Dec 22, 2020, 6:20 PM
Kyler Murray (left). (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports). Devin Booker (right). (AP Photo/Matt York)...
Kyler Murray (left). (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports). Devin Booker (right). (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Valley sports scene has been ridiculed for years. Our new look begins now.

It starts with a Cardinals playoff berth, even if it requires 10 victories and a win over the Rams in Week 17. It continues with a prolonged playoff run from the Suns in 2021, ending a 10-year postseason drought.

That’s how great sports towns are born. That’s how they’re built. With memories, triumphs and scrapbook moments stacked on top of one another, relentlessly, magically, season after season.

With a rising tide that raises all boats. Even in the desert.

For decades, a fundamental question has framed our existence. Who’s your favorite team? Too often, the answer was an out-of-town team — your hometown team — followed by one of our local franchises.

That’s not good enough.

In great sports cities, you choose between in-house contenders. You don’t have to ask bartenders to turn on the local teams. If we’re to change our transient ways sooner rather than later, Cardinals vs. Suns must become a legitimate debate that trumps your love of Yankees, Bears and Red Wings.

The Cardinals are real close to being special. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins represent an unstoppable NFL combination on offense for years to come. Both players were named to the virtual Pro Bowl, enjoying the best years of their careers together. After some petty head-butting earlier in the season, the two seem to be in a good place.

“I’m pretty sure Kyler, if you know him … he beats himself up, man, on a lot of stuff,” Hopkins said following Sunday’s win over the Eagles. “I feel like that’s something that we all got to work on, even myself. When I don’t get the ball in crucial situations, just moving on past that and playing the (next) play. Sometimes, I think we might let that kind of stick in our head going into the next possession. I think that’s the next step for us.”

If the Cardinals offense peaks in the coming weeks, they just might beat the Rams, earning a better postseason seed and avoiding an undesirable first-round matchup against the Saints or Packers. They will have a chance to do real damage in the NFL playoffs.

They might even resemble the team that made an improbable Super Bowl run under Kurt Warner, with just enough impact players to win big-time games.

The Suns have even higher hopes. The additions of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to a team that already featured Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton has effectively doubled their star power. They have raised the bar to a place we haven’t seen in years.

It’s coming at the perfect time. Mavericks star Luka Doncic is favored by many to win his first Most Valuable Player award in the upcoming NBA season. But the Suns’ Monty Williams is also favored to win Coach of the Year, and that only happens if the Suns break their playoff drought. In that case, everybody wins.

The 2020-21 Suns have the leaders, shooters, defenders and the stars to make basketball a spectacle in downtown Phoenix. We’re a big-event town that loves courtside celebrities, people watching and the energy and fashionistas that come with a highly-entertaining NBA team.

Oh, how we’ve missed that around here.

Put hallmark, heart-stopping seasons from the Cardinals and Suns in consecutive sporting cycles, and it can change a lot. It will build civic momentum and communal pride in Arizona. It will put great pressure on the Diamondbacks and Coyotes to get in the game. It might even help an underdeveloped sports town finally grow up, finding a real path to adulthood.

After all, there’s no place like home, especially if it describes your current address. A better sports town can do that here in the Valley. Our new normal starts now

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