DAN BICKLEY

Can Jonathan Gannon get his wish of Arizona Cardinals homefield advantage?

Sep 14, 2023, 6:15 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2023, 7:21 am

First impressions work both ways. Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon impressed the Valley in his head coaching debut. What will he think of us?

Welcome to the home-field disadvantage in Arizona, coach.

I desperately want to be wrong. I want to believe that Sunday will represent a raucous renewal for a new regime and its downtrodden fanbase. That even the most profit-seeking, dispassionate season-ticket holders will give Gannon the courtesy of a one-game honeymoon and a welcoming party at State Farm Stadium.

Gannon has stated his expectations. He wants the fans to be loud when the Cardinals are playing defense and quiet when the offense is on the field, attempting to score their first touchdown of the season. I fear he is in for a rude awakening.

If recent history is our guide, the vibe will be strange, disorienting and unavoidable. The crowd optics will likely be a maddening mix of Big Blue and Cardinals red. First-time Cardinals will wonder why the crowd seems to be cheering when the opponent get a first down. Or in a worst-case scenario, the Cardinals offense must revert to a silent count because they can’t hear their own quarterback at the line of scrimmage.

That is the ultimate indictment of a football stadium and a franchise that has lost its fanbase. And in recent years, it’s happened too often in Arizona. The hostile takeovers from opposing fans have become a maddening, demoralizing trend at Cardinals games. Many season tickets holders are capitalizing on the robust secondary market in the Valley, a transient sports town full of infidels and people from elsewhere.

This issue is also a trigger point for sports fans in the Valley.

Some yearn for solidarity and a full-throated, partisan gathering. Others get indignant, rightfully blame the organization for the muted vibe, pointing to all the losing and all the dysfunction that has enveloped franchise in the past two years. It’s staggering to think the worst team in most NFL power rankings held a 10-2 record in Nov. 2021.

Let’s hope the 2023 Cardinals are built to inspire. They have the luxury of playing for moral victories, as evidenced by their Week 1 loss to the Commanders. But they need to play with heart and conviction at all times. They need their defense to play with a ferocity that fills the fan base with pride and swagger.

It’s not easy. But it can be done. And for all the external criticism, Gannon seems to be off to a promising start.

So, what’s he going to think of us?

Dan Bickley

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Can Jonathan Gannon get his wish of Arizona Cardinals homefield advantage?