Arizona Sports: Regular Season Success Often Fails to Translate

Oct 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash during his induction into the Suns Ring of Honor speech during half time at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash during his induction into the Suns Ring of Honor speech during half time at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

Fans of Arizona sports are pretty faithful, and deserve to win. Their teams, however, follow a continuous path that fails to result in world championships.

If you’re a fan of Arizona sports teams, chances are you’ve been let down plenty of times.

Obviously that comes with the territory of being a die-hard fan of any city’s teams, but Arizona sports just have a different feel to it. There seems to be that continuous let-down feeling, and rarely a sense of satisfaction. If there is satisfaction, it doesn’t tend to last long.

Take the Arizona Cardinals for example. They were supposed to contend in the NFC after an appearance in last season’s NFC Championship Game. Heck, in the beginning of the season they were projected to make a run into the Super Bowl.

And, I mean, it wasn’t a crazy prediction after all. The Cards had made two-consecutive playoff appearances and finished with more than 10 wins in three-straight seasons. Bruce Arians’ Cardinals were starting to look like a legit threat contenders in the NFL. It was only a matter of time before they broke loose and captured their first championship title since 1947.

But then, 2016 happened. The Cardinals under-performed through the first four weeks and stumbled to a 1-3 record. It was shrugged off; it was too early in the season to panic. And for the last few seasons, the Cardinals just didn’t lose very often in the regular season. Fans didn’t panic because it was only a matter of time before they turned it around.

The turn-around didn’t happen, and it has yet to happen this year as they’re now 4-5-1. It’s time to just accept the fact that the Cardinals are following the path of Arizona sports; a dark and disappointing route, but inevitable at this point.

And the Diamondbacks, too. Fans gearing up for the 2016 season were urged to “Join the Evolution”, as the D-Backs transitioned into a new chapter boasting new uniforms and hopefully competitive baseball. After their 79-83 record the year before, the ’16 season looked promising, especially with the additions of several new faces via the trade market.

But, the D-Backs were only another piece in the Arizona sports puzzle. Expectations quickly died down as they were 14 games under .500 by the All-Star Break.

The Diamondbacks have actually been successful in their 19-year history. They won the World Series in 2001, and have appeared in five postseasons. The lack of consistency though, is a perfect reason as to why they are similar to the likes of all Arizona sports teams.

They won 100 games in 1999 in just their second-year as a team, but failed to make it out of the first round of playoffs as they lost the series 3-1 to the Houston Astros. They won 98 games in ’02, but were swept in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals. After reaching the postseason in 2011, the Diamondbacks haven’t been back since, yet alone post a record above the .500 mark.

Yeah, they were good, but they failed to make it worth something. Just like the rest of them, right?

The Suns, though, are the epitome of professional sports in Arizona. From 1975-85, the Suns played postseason basketball in all but one season. They lost in the NBA Finals one time, lost four-straight Western Conference Finals, and failed to make it passed the first round three times. For ten years, they were among the best teams in their conference, but never could they bring a title home.

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After three-straight seasons in which they failed to reach the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns had reestablished themselves as a basketball-powerhouse. From 1988-’10, the Suns clinched a postseason berth nineteen times. Again, they failed to come through. They lost in the NBA Finals once, lost five Conference Finals, five semi-Conference Finals, and couldn’t make it out of round one, seven times.

The Arizona Coyotes also do it. Upon their entrance in the league in the Fall of 1997, the Coyotes lost five Conference Quarterfinals in six seasons. After those six seasons, the Yotes next postseason hockey appearance came in the 2009-10 season. After winning 50 games, the most in franchise history, they were bested in Game 7 of the Conference Quarterfinals by the Detroit Red Wings. Two years later, the Coyotes lost in the Conference Finals, 4-1, against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Suns, and Coyotes all seem to follow the same path: regular season dominance for several seasons turned into disappointment in the playoffs, later resulting in consecutive sub-.500 seasons.

The last time fans were able to celebrate a World Series/NBA Finals/NHL Finals/Super Bowl win came on November 4, 2001, when the Diamondbacks walked-off the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. And the time before that? Excluding the ’01 D-Backs, an Arizona sports team last won a championship in 1947, when the then-Chicago Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 28-21.

No knock on the Arizona sports franchises, or anything. It’s tough to win, and do so consistently, at the professional level. For all four respective clubs, there were times when their organizations were among the best teams in their sports. But those successful seasons will be lost in the shadows of failing to come through in the clutch when it really mattered.

Being a die-hard fan is tough, especially when the let-down seems to outweigh the satisfaction.