DAN BICKLEY

Cardinals can further galvanize Valley after Suns’ success

Sep 3, 2021, 7:24 AM
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 20: President and owner Michael Bidwill of the Arizona Cardinals before the NFL preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at State Farm Stadium on August 20, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns have repossessed the heart of Arizona. They have claimed their birthright, taking back what was once theirs. How will the Arizona Cardinals respond?

This might seem like a superfluous question to you, casual sports fan. I’m guessing that isn’t the case with Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill.

Bidwill’s team and his family’s birthright have lost 47 of their last 78 games. The Cardinals haven’t posted a winning season in five years. They have lost Larry Fitzgerald to some murky, urge-less place where football doesn’t matter all that much.

They have also lost Fitzgerald to Suns owner Robert Sarver, who shrewdly carved off a chunk of ownership for the Valley’s most iconic athlete.

In 2021, the Suns and the Cardinals will compete simultaneously, bonding us as sports fans in wonderful ways. Both franchises have high expectations. Both were gifted giant stages on Christmas Day. It will be a merry celebration of our expanding presence and our collective star power, a sports market now fueled by Chris Paul, Devin Booker, DeAndre Hopkins, Kyler Murray and J.J. Watt.

If the Cardinals are in playoff contention, we will reach a rare altitude in the Valley. It could further galvanize the Valley, which has grown significantly in population over the past decade; where Phoenix has become the fifth largest city in America; where the Suns lit a communal fire during their dalliance with a NBA championship.

There’s a new energy around here, a time for us to grow up and grow together around our own sports franchises. If Murray is truly an elite quarterback, we will surely know in Year 3. The Cardinals will be a playoff team, maybe even a championship contender, just like the Suns. And this market will finally be on the road to adulthood.

There is also a chance the Cardinals will be a disaster, saddled with the wrong head coach and the wrong mix of players, overmatched in the NFL’s toughest division, forced to tear it all down and start anew yet again. That would be a shame after all the sizzling dishes Steve Keim has delivered in the past two years, like a candlelight server at Steak 44.

Bidwill is deeply vested. Physically, he moved this franchise out of a life sentence at Sun Devil Stadium. Spiritually, he moved them out of the Dark Ages. He learned from his father’s competitive flaws. He emphasized player relations. He erased a stigma, polished the family crest and created a culture that suddenly ranked among the best workplaces in the NFL.

By all accounts, he is also guilty of meddling, micromanaging and getting in the middle of everything, just like the Sarver of yesteryear.

Bidwill might also be learning the heavy lessons Sarver has absorbed along the way. Namely, the dangers that come with extreme wealth, power, controllable general managers and affordable head coaches; with not enough leadership in the locker room and players who truly understand and exhibit a winning commitment.

For now, the slate is clean. Bidwill looks trim and tailored, better than ever, almost like a mid-life movie star. Let’s hope his football team isn’t the equivalent of “One Direction,” an act that peaked in 2015.

Dan Bickley

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