IT’S A TOUGH TIME TO BE AN ARIZONA SPORTS FAN

17Apr14

The Arizona sports fan, not the bandwagon fan, but the true Arizona sports fan, has always had to endure frustrations and heartbreaks. That’s nothing new. After all, there are scores of thousands of people that now reside in this great state that have moved from their beloved but unbearable home states.

That’s why it is not uncommon to attend a game and see the colors of the visiting team blanket the audience. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, but it’s still there.

Over the years, there have been the countless near misses (or near hits, as George Carlin used to argue). The Phoenix Suns came so close to upsetting the Boston Celtics back in 1976, but fell short. In 1993, they almost brought down Michael Jordan and the Bulls, but were killed by a last second three pointer by John Paxson in game 6.

The Arizona Cardinals nearly pulled off the upset of the century by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009 Super Bowl, only to lose it to a controversial Santonio Holmes TD reception in the closing seconds.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. In most of these cases, the team noted was the only one that suffered the heartbreak. The other sports teams at the time did not join the party.

However, there seems to be an epidemic going on in the great southwest that has never been seen before, at least not at this level. Over the past four months, it seems that every team that made a noise in the state ended their party at the heartbreak hotel. (Okay, that was really corny! I apologize and promise not to do it again…..for at least three paragraphs!)

First let’s look at football. The ASU Sun Devils looked like they might actually be a contender this year. They had a rugged early season schedule, with games two through five against legitimate powerhouses. They ended up beating Wisconsin, losing to Stanford, pounding USC and losing a heartbreaker to Notre Dame. They ended up their season winning seven straight conference games by an average score of 44-21. With the Pac 12 South wrapped up, they were about to host Stanford in the PAC 12 title game. Fans near and far were talking about their great season with a certain major bowl bid on the horizon.

That’s when it all came tumbling down. Stanford not only beat the Devils, they pounded them 38-14. ASU was left with a Holiday Bowl bid against Texas Tech, who proceeded to beat the Sun Devils easily 37-23, leaving fans heartbroken and speechless.

But hey, the Arizona Cardinals were starting to put things together and were certain to make the playoffs. Then they gave a game away to the Eagles in week 13. At the time, it didn’t seem to be a huge deal. Unfortunately, even though they won their next three games in a row, including a rare victory at Seattle, they were left on the sidelines when the playoffs hit. They finished the season 10-6, but missed the playoffs by one game.

Next came basketball, and the U of A Wildcats were the talk of the nation. (I know what you’re thinking. As a Sun Devil, I’m not ever supposed to root for the U of A. But let’s be real, has ASU ever been a threat to U of A in basketball?) Even with a season ending injury to their superstar player, they were a number one seed in March Madness. They appeared to be on their way to a national championship when they forgot how to play basketball in the final minutes of their Elite Eight game. They eventually lost in overtime to Wisconsin, and their season was instantly deemed a failure.

The Phoenix Suns were supposed to finish the season in the area of 20-62 and grab the number one draft pick. To everyone’s surprise, they had a very good season, considering their youth and inexperience. They finished the season 48-34, missing the playoffs by one game.

The Phoenix Coyotes, with ownership finally in hand after being run by the league for the past fifty years (okay it was only five), began the season playing like a true contender. Then something happened in mid-season, and the collapse began. Although they weren’t eliminated from the playoff picture until the final weekend of the season, they dropped seven of their last eight games of the season, and missed the playoffs by one game.

Are you seeing a trend here? Every team in the state that even had a sniff of greatness missed achieving it by one game. Somebody on the “Gods of Fate” committee is having way too much fun!

Those that were silly enough to look to the Arizona Diamondbacks for some relief are paying the price. As of today, they are off to the worst start in franchise history and currently hold the worst record in baseball at 4-14. That includes a 1-11 record at home (actually 1-9 at home and 0-2 in Australia). Even the Astros and Cubs aren’t that bad!

So what are the true Arizona sports fans to do? I know it won’t be easy, but we’ve got to find some positives in this fiasco.

Let’s start with the Cardinals. They have made some fantastic off season moves. Even though they are in the greatest division this league has ever seen, they are going to be in the playoff picture throughout the entire season.

The Wildcats, while losing two of their stars to the NBA, have several more coming back and one of the best recruiting years in school history. They will be battling for the national title next year for sure.

The Suns have a great nucleus of young, talented players. They also have a boatload of money to spend and some early round draft picks. Look for them to be in the mix for a #4 or #5 spot next year.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Coyotes or the D-Backs, and you never know where the ASU football program will be, so we’ll have to wait and see about all of those teams.

As a true Arizona sports fan, all I can do is grit my teeth, screw on a smile and think to myself, ”I can’t wait for football to begin”!

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