Welcome to Bizarro, Arizona.
Population: Four Professional Sports Teams
Ok, can I see a show of hands of everyone that believed this is how the Arizona sports scene would look like half way through 2009? Anyone? No, no one.
Well at least you are not alone.
To think that the Arizona Cardinals are not only the best team, but have the best running organization, is a sight I would have never believed.
I am a born and raised Arizonan (not sure if that is a word). I have been fortunate enough to have season tickets to the greatest single season in Arizona sports history, the 2001 World Series winning Diamondbacks and the first playoff appearance ever by the Arizona Cardinals 1998.
I was at game one of the World Series, and remember how emotional the night was coming off of 9/11, playing the hated, yet loved Yankees.
I remember as the game started being embarrassed about the lack of knowledge of the fans around me and I was only 15 years old.
That was supposed to be the beginning of a renaissance era in valley sports. It ended up being a one shot deal.
Then in 2004 the Suns captured the imagination of not only the Valley of the Sun, but the country.
Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash created one of the most exciting brands of basketball seen in years.
The Diamondbacks were young and improving, the Coyotes were the sheik pick to finally crack the playoffs with a "talented" young team with the right mix of veterans and the Cardinals had hired Dennis Green.
The Arizona sports scene was booming. It ended up busting.
So here we are five years and zero championships later and what has happened?
Well, the importance of a good owner is now more apparent than ever. For years Arizona sports was synonymous with one name, Jerry Colangelo.
Jerry sold the Suns to penny pinching business man Robert Sarver and was pushed out as owner of the Diamondbacks as he began to sell off his shares.
The Coyotes, well they are a story for another day and time, I just don't have the power to write everything that the ownership of the Coyotes has done wrong.
The Suns have traded away every young player they have had the opportunity to draft, in order to save money.
Robert Sarver has proven that he is more of a businessman, than a basketball man. That is not what fans want from their ownership.
He was fortunate to have such an entertaining team for the first years of his ownership, but that has all come crashing down now, and he has shown that he does not know exactly how to get out of this tailspin.
Not only that, but he is struggling in his personal banking business (the way he made his money).
The Diamondbacks have made some terrible contract decisions, Russ Ortiz, Troy Glaus, Eric Byrnes, that have held them back, along with the fact the that ownership is not willing to spend money in order to put a great product on the field.
They have taken Florida Marlins approach to their team. Meaning we will sign some veteran players on the cheap, but we are doing it with young, unproven guys and will take our lumps.
The Coyotes, well let's just say they are the joke of the NHL. They can't find anyone that is willing to pay for them to stay in Arizona, the best offer that has been publicly announced is $156 million by Jerry Reinsdorf.
The team is over $200 million in debt.
So, how did the Cardinals become the toast of the town, and the only team that seems to know what they are doing?
Easy, they are the only team with any consistency in the ownership and front office.
They did not blow everything up in the bad times, the Suns. They did not reward an unproven commodity after one good season, the Diamondbacks.
Since the Cardinals moved into the new stadium, they have become a great organization, whoever thought they would say that.
They had some lean years the first couple of seasons in their new building, but they began building a strong core of players and developing talent.
They stayed the course and brought in a coach with a plan, he outlined that plan and put it into motion.
They took a gamble on the aging star and it paid off, the Suns took a gamble on an aging star and they are now in the process of dismantling their team.
They have taken a hard line stance against malcontents, instead of coddling and allowing them to show up not only the coach or manager, but also management.
The Arizona Cardinals are the model sports franchise in Arizona.
I never thought I would see the day.
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