In a time frame when most, if not all, of the Grand Canyon state professional and college teams are struggling, Thursday night will bring passion and pride to the forefront in Arizona.
How about we run down the list of teams that sports fans in the valley live and die by:
The Arizona Cardinals are cellar dweller mates with the San Francisco 49ers with a record of 3-7. Frankly, I am still unsure why both teams are being featured with the bright lights of Monday Night Football.
Then again, the choice to showcase these two squads might have been more for comedic entertainment value.
Although, when the playoffs start in the NFL, do not be surprised if a 7-9 team or even a 6-10 makes the playoffs. Who knows, maybe the NFC West representative will come from Monday night’s game?
In terms of the Phoenix Suns, unfortunately they play the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and the recent upstart Oklahoma City Thunder year in and year out.
Phoenix and the surrounding areas erupted in celebration after beating their longtime nemesis in Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. However, Planet Orange’s reward was the defending World Champion Lakers.
Clearly, that mountain has yet to be conquered as the Lakers are now going for three in a row.
The Suns fell short, just as the Cardinals did in the waning minutes of the 2008 Super Bowl versus the Steelers.
For the Cardinals, they do not look to be raising the Vince Lombardi trophy anytime soon. As for the Suns right now, their record thus far (8-9) does not scare the best in the Western Conference. So for now, fans can direct their attention elsewhere.
Out in Glendale, the Coyotes rejuvenated a depleted, bankrupt franchise and fan base by making a late season run. As a result, Glendale was alive and buzzing come playoff time with sold out home games versus the Detroit Red Wings last year.
Although as sports fans in Phoenix are well aware, certain teams just rub fans the wrong way. Maybe it is because the hometown teams rarely prevail, but a select few franchises are sure to get a “warm welcome” each visit to the valley. The San Antonio Spurs are probably number one, and the Lakers are a close second, as are most L.A. teams in the desert.
For football, the 49ers have never been a team “red bird” fans have enjoyed watching, and the Seattle Seahawks are right behind them.
The Coyotes have the Red Wings to end their seasons in the most gut wrenching of styles, and no one from the valley leaves extremely happy following those contests.
And well, the Diamondbacks are the Diamondbacks. Although the “snakes” had their moment in the sun in 2001, since then the taste in everyone’s mouth has been sour.
That brings us to Arizona’s college teams, and rightfully so with a major game approaching Thursday night.
It is now late autumn, and even though the college football season is winding down, the competitive games are on the rise as rivalry week around the country warms up households everywhere.
This isn't the Suns versus the Lakers, or Cardinals and Niners. This is the battle for Arizona.
Thursday night, fans in the desert will receive a treat. Although the hopes for roses and BCS bowl berths are not in store, hard hitting, passion-filled college football will be on display in Tucson.
The “Old Pueblo” will host the Duel in the Desert, and the Arizona Wildcats are trying to make it three-years-in-a-row that the Territorial Cup resides in Tucson.
The Wildcats are licking their wounds after three straight losses. As for the Sun Devils, optimism is heightened once again after newly named starting quarterback, Brock Osweiler, propelled ASU to their best overall performance of the season.
One might say that this game features two teams going in separate directions, but when two rivals meet, nobody looks at the records, or previous games, because all of that stuff is thrown out of the window.
Both teams “dislike” the other squad. Neither school can stand the other’s colors or mascot. The fans get into this rivalry with some hate, but a lot more desire.
The atmosphere of any rivalry game adds to the intensity of the contest, but there is no better feeling than winning on your archrival’s field.
Arizona accomplished that feat last season on Frank Kush Field, and ASU did the same in 2006 in Tucson. In the years between, the home teams held serve.
The opportunity for Arizona athletics and sports teams to be showcased on national television is an honor, but the product on the field will be in top form. Maybe even some eyes on the east coast will take notice.
For one night, the houses across the Phoenix Metro area down to Tucson will be divided. Some will be wearing red and blue, while the rest will be in maroon and gold attire.
Words will be exchanged, tempers will flare, but the ultimate battle will take place on the field at Arizona Stadium.
Thursday night will be a time for fans across Arizona to join together, or divide, in a great tradition and an unbelievable spectacle.
It is the “Duel in the Desert”, “The Big Game”, and the right to stake claim to the oldest rivalry trophy in the country.
In a state divided right down the middle, which side will celebrate a perfect season with the Territorial Cup in their grasp?
The 84th meeting of this rivalry will be another one for the ages in the Duel in the Desert.
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