The Spit Hits the Fans
The Post Game Party is Over for Arizona Cardinals Fans!
Just when it looks like the Arizona Cardinals were starting to "get it" as far as fan relations, they spit in the eye of their growing, but still extremely fragile, fan base.
When will they learn?
The Cardinals and University of Phoenix stadium management decided last week that they are going to crack down on fans who want to hang out in the parking lot and tailgate after the home games.
It's been a "rule" since the opening of the stadium, but has never really been enforced.
But apparently, the Cardinals and/or Glendale city officials want to take advantage of the teams' recent good will and positive press to put an end to what was growing into a nice little grass-roots, game-day tradition.
Fans (like myself) that had grown weary of the excruciatingly slow lines and ridiculously convoluted "system" for fans exiting the stadium after games, decided to relax and enjoy the post-game atmosphere.
We decided to avoid sitting in our running cars and getting exactly zero miles per gallon for an hour or two after the game.
It turned even the most gas-friendly, environmentally pure vehicle into a gas-guzzling clunker.
It's bad enough trying to get IN the stadium, but at least what we had was 65,000 people arriving anywhere between four hours prior all the way up through kickoff to spread out the misery.
After the game, however, we have those same 65,000 fans trying to get on to a relative few exits to the freeways and back home all at the same time. This has sent literally thousands of fans through the neighborhoods just east of the stadium. And while that may help get you to a freeway faster, it doesn't clear out the parking lots any faster.
And therein lies the problem.
Many of us have taken to restarting the grill and tailgating after the game too, sharing stories, going over the finer points of what we just saw on the field over cold beverages, and generally waiting out the traffic without sitting in our cars in a line that doesn't move for two hours.
Have the Cardinals and stadium management even considered the carbon footprint they are forcing the fans to leave?
That can't be good for the environment when you have 15,000 cars all idling, waiting for that moment when you can actually move forward 10-15 feet before putting it back in neutral and waiting some more.
I've found myself sitting in my truck, in the same spot, not only after the post-game radio show went off the air, but even after the call-in show was long since over!
Explain THAT to Al Gore!
Even before the Cardinals burst into credibility last January, fans were coming out to the new stadium, and making a day (or evening) of it.
This didn't happen in Tempe, when the Big Red played (usually before sparse crowds) at ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. But it was happening here.
And it was REAL grass roots by real fans. Not "Astroturf" grass roots by busloads of ACORN members showing up to collect a stipend.
The Cardinals haven't had a great, or even good relationship with the locals over their two-plus decades in the Valley. They haven't built up a strong fan base built on years of quality football and "doing this together" over time.
In fact, I've been to games at SDS where it was more like watching a high school game with 3,000 of my closest friends, than an NFL game. And that was during the regular season!
After last week's preseason sellout against the Chargers, after-game tailgating fans were "warned" that the relaxing of this new "get tough' policy of enforcement would last another week.
That means that fans heading to UoP stadium for tonight's final preseason home game against the Green Bay Packers won't become instant criminals for tossing around post-game footballs and pounding down post-game burgers and brats.
Like in most NFL cities, there are hundreds of fans who maybe can't afford tickets, but want to hang out and enjoy the game-day experience. There are people who, four years ago, wouldn't want to be anywhere near the team on game day.
This will all end tonight. And that's sad.
This is what is known as a "teachable moment."
The Cardinals have an opportunity to solidify their relationship with their biggest, most loyal fans. You know, the fans that were fans before they ended up in Tampa this past February. They have an opportunity give fans another reason to show up on Sundays!
The team can and should work out something with whoever it is that they need to work something out with, and allow the fans to hang out for a couple hours after the game too!
They can do the right thing. They can use the excuse du jour and say its for "green reasons." That part doesn't matter.
What matters is that the Cardinals can build on their growing support, instead of ticketing and fining it.
Note: The image above was taken at the NFC Championship game last January, in the West Preferred (red) Lot. The two individuals pictured will need to put on even MORE pounds to hide that little grill from the UoP Stadium party-pooper police this year.
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