DAN BICKLEY

Will Red Sea reignite as fans sell out Cardinals’ home opener?

Sep 16, 2021, 6:05 PM | Updated: 6:20 pm
The Arizona Cardinals run onto the field for the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the U...
The Arizona Cardinals run onto the field for the NFL game against the New England Patriots at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

State Farm Stadium was eerily quiet in 2020, when a pandemic interrupted a streak of 144 consecutive sellouts.

A new era begins Sunday.

As the Cardinals look to legitimize their annihilation of the Titans in Week 1, they will be fueled by the return of their fan base in full. They will remember what it’s like to play football downhill, surfing the currents of electricity provided by your presence.

Athletes aren’t just competitors. They are performers. They crave an audience as well as a stage. By the end of Sunday’s game against the Vikings, they will realize how much they’ve missed us.

Well, most of us.

The raw power of this synergy was on display during the NBA playoffs, when the Suns opened their doors to a new arena, harnessing raucous house parties and unleashing a secret weapon on all visiting teams. The rabid nature and full engagement of those crowds became a major part of the story. Suns fans awed and inspired those in uniform, earning big cheers in return. They impacted outcomes and raised the bar for all professional teams in Arizona, maybe even the NBA.

Will Cardinals fans take the cue and do the same?

The atmosphere in Glendale has grown stale in recent years. That’s because the Cardinals haven’t posted a winning record since the 2015 season. At times, they’ve been boring and bad, a lethal combination at the box office. Along the way, many ticketholders have been incentivized to sell their seats to infidels, to fans of the opposing team.

Those turning profits and making pragmatic business decisions were viewed as a different kind of sellout. They were arming hostile takeovers, creating something of a rift in the Red Sea.

The Cardinals once enjoyed a hefty home-field advantage at State Farm Stadium, where the decibel levels rivaled or surpassed even the most rabid NFL stadiums. That is no longer a given, and no longer a daunting obstacle for incoming opponents.

Hopefully, that changes in the coming months. The 2021 Cardinals have significant star power. They arguably feature the best pass rusher, the best wide receiver, the best center, the best safety and one of the biggest personalities in football. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray has outrageous talent, and MVP chants could soon be part of the stadium’s soundtrack, just like it was at Footprint Center with Chris Paul and Devin Booker.

After a dominant performance in Week 1, it suddenly feels like something special might be brewing. General manager Steve Keim kept his promise about delivering a greater level of physicality. Kliff Kingsbury carved himself a slice of credibility against Tennessee. And diehard Cardinals fans were surely motivated and galvanized by what we all experienced during the NBA playoffs, namely our communal love-in with the Suns.

I’m guessing they don’t appreciate hearing how the Suns have recaptured the region’s heart, regaining their throne in the process.

Cardinals fans are a proud bunch, and their official response will come Sunday. The game will be sold out, representing our largest public gathering for a sporting event in a long time. The atmosphere should be cathartic, chaotic and compelling.

After all, it has been a while since we’ve gathered as a standing army, rallying around a really good football team.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Will Red Sea reignite as fans sell out Cardinals’ home opener?