As we come closer to the NBA trade deadline and the Super Bowl around the corner, Phoenix sports fans are once again disengaged. Not because we do not like sports, but the irrelevance of Phoenix’s franchises have forced people into casual, at best, followers.
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States, making it the biggest city not to enjoy a major sports championship, besides the 2001 Diamondbacks. I have lived in Phoenix for four years now and have grown to love the local franchises. After multiple seasons of hope and frustration, I am beginning to wonder why Phoenix can’t get over the hump.
The Phoenix Suns have broken my heart many times. After obtaining Shaq from Miami, optimism was at an all-time high. We had dreams of bringing a ring to the Valley of the Sun, and finally shutting the mouths of obnoxious Lakers Fans. But the run would end in disappointment by the hand of a Tim Duncan three-Pointer.
Last year, the Suns made it to the Western Conference finals to much surprise. Many vendors began to cash in on what seemed like could be an upset. “Beat LA” shirts were being sold and proudly worn at games. But one failed box-out of Ron Artest would suck the wind out of Phoenix and send us packing.
The Cardinals have been equally heartbreaking. We still have nightmares of Santonio Holmes catching an improbable pass (which many believe was an incompletion) to destroy the Cardinals' championship hopes. The next season the Cardinals would enjoy some success, but would not make it to the promised land.
After watching these two teams come close, a pattern began to emerge. Both of these franchises failed to keep any momentum after some success. After a second straight playoff berth, the Cardinals did not retain the services of Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby or Antrelle Rolle. The Suns failed to re-sign Amar'e after they went to the conference finals.
The result: half-full arenas and “maybe next year” rhetoric.
How could this be? Is Phoenix a deprived town wherein poverty overwhelms the love of sports? No. Is Phoenix not able to fill seats? No. Are Phoenix fans fickle? Ding, Ding, Ding!
There is a vicious cycle of lack of loyal fans and half-committed team owners. A lack of loyalists leads to the owners being only concerned with the bottom line. And team owners not willing to do what it takes to win leads to disheartened fans.
Other franchises that have had past success have residual results. The fans will continue to support a franchise for years if they have enjoyed success, i.e. Dallas Cowboys. In order to be successful, teams have to go through a period of losing, teaching and developing draft picks. Not by trading for other teams’ castaways for potential star draft picks. Developing and building can lead to being unprofitable in the short term.
So until the owners decide to throw some cash around and invest, “next year” may never come.