Can Arizona Cardinals rebuild home-field advantage by beating Chiefs?
The Cardinals have a domestic problem. Their home life has gone stale.
They have won just 10 of the past 32 games played at State Farm Stadium. They carry a five-game home losing streak into Sunday’s season opener against the Chiefs. Their stadium is easily accessible to transplants, tourists and infidels.
In the realm of Houses Divided, we have clearly regressed as a football town.
There are easy alibis. In the NFL, home-field advantage is now like the extra point. It’s no longer automatic. Athletes travel better, eat smarter and sleep longer. Newer stadiums provide comfortable housing for the enemy and visiting locker rooms are no longer the size of side closets. Road teams are winning more than ever before in the NFL.
But in Arizona, the home-field disadvantage is hard to ignore.
There was a time when a gleaming football stadium built in the middle of Glendale cotton fields seemed to produce magic on a weekly basis. The stadium is 2-for-2 in hosting blockbuster Super Bowls. It is also propped up by a giant cement column poured by me in a hardhat, at the invite of Michael Bidwill. We agreed to call it the Dan Bickley column.
There was a time when crowd engagement in Arizona became the talk of the NFL. Statistics were kept on how many offsides penalties were called on visitors who couldn’t hear beyond their earholes. And when the Chiefs last came to Glendale in 2014, they lost to an ascendant Cardinals team that improved to 10-3 on the season and 7-0 at home.
The latter mattered a great deal to former head coach Bruce Arians. He almost willed it into being.
This Sunday, there will likely be an enormous gathering of Chiefs fans in attendance. Sports fans have become empowered by easy access to secondary ticket markets, where no scalper interaction or street corner weirdness is required. And ticket buyers are now likely to be business fans, ready to monetize their investment whenever the market gets hot. As a result, State Farm Stadium is like an international airport, and only the football team is to blame.
They must regain a home-field advantage in 2022, and the energy exchange starts with their actions on a football field. The Cardinals must regain our trust before they regain our collective voice. There have been too many letdowns, too many big-game meltdowns. And as fate would dictate, the historic Hail Murray pass to beat the Bills occurred during a pandemic, with only 4,200 fans in attendance, spread out in dystopian pods. If that moment had occurred before a full house in Glendale, it would’ve echoed for an eternity.
The 2022 Cardinals already have a lot on their plates. They are overtaxed by injury. The offseason has been a relentless flow of drama and adversity. They are strangely underfunded on defense, a sure sign that general manager Steve Keim is operating on a shoestring budget.
But somehow, the Cardinals need to light the fire, restore the roar and make their stadium the place to be on any given Sunday. Beating the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes is a great way to create some heat, a great way to strike the match.