DAN BICKLEY

Is this year the worst in Arizona sports history?

Jun 24, 2024, 6:13 PM | Updated: Jun 25, 2024, 5:31 am

Worst year ever? 

That’s a loaded question in Arizona, where heartbreak is relentless, where we stock warehouses full of sporting misery. 

Yet in 2024, there is a terrible mix of abject failure and unmet expectations. We lost our NHL team to Salt Lake City, which carries great weight in this conversation. Losing a franchise causes significant trauma and abandonment issues for any major metropolis, even for a team as perennially underfunded as the Coyotes. Even worse, most of the fan base would rather wait patiently for an expansion team than saddle up with Alex Meruelo, the billionaire who delivered a stake to the heart.  

In a league full of skates, Meruelo is certainly the cheapest, and apparently the only owner capable of killing our resilient hockey team.  

Just a few months ago, Frank Vogel promised the super-team Suns were “going to be a monster” in the postseason. Instead, they were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. They’re getting further, and not closer to the championship ring. Three consecutive NBA postseasons have now ended with indignity and embarrassment, which is why most of the fan base is ready for padded walls.

The Suns enter a low-wattage NBA draft with very few moves left on the chessboard; a shoddy draft history that includes Deandre Ayton over Luka Doncic and Jalen Smith over Tyrese Haliburton; along with strange affinity for Bronny James. They have three great offensive players in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. And yet they are still missing three very important pieces: point guard, athletic wing, big man with verticality.    

It takes a telescope and a great imagination to find legitimate championship hopes on Planet Orange. 

Meanwhile, Arizona State’s athletic department is no longer plummeting only because it has finally hit rock bottom. As radio host/diehard ASU fan Vince Marotta noted on Monday, the Sun Devils are one of four power five athletic departments that missed out on a bowl game in football, and the NCAA Tournament in both men’s basketball and baseball. They are at a table with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Stanford. Yuck. 

The Diamondbacks remain a wild card. They spent handsomely to ensure a successful encore season. They have been decimated by injuries and bad luck. If they hang around long enough to field a healthy pitching rotation of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jordan Montgomery, and Brandon Pfaadt, they can again tear through the postseason. If not, they will represent another kick to the midsection. Either way, the tank of optimism is waning, and so is the giddy buzz that accompanied last year’s magical run to the World Series. 

Which is why we are all taking great solace in a four-win football team.   

Like the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals can save us from a worst-case scenario. They seem to have the physical identity, the quarterback and the chemistry to be an ascendant team in the coming months. They seem primed to be one of those outhouse-to-penthouse stories we often see in the NFL. After all, they were a missed field goal removed from being 4-4 in the return of Kyler Murray. 

National media and experts remain dubious and skeptical of the 2024 Cardinals, which means we’re in danger of looking like a bunch of rubes clinging to silver linings. But we know something they don’t. 

Namely, Monti Ossenfort and Jonathan Gannon haven’t let us down yet. And in Arizona, that counts for something. 

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Dan Bickley

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