A week of mild Arizona weather and the start of Cactus League baseball can only mean one thing: Again it’s that time when hope springs eternal for Valley sports fans.
Couple that with your Phoenix Suns playing top-tier basketball and the Arizona Cardinals signing three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and our sports future feels desert-sun dazzling.
But we all know how this ends, don’t we?
With millions of broken hearts.
Because this is Phoenix, and if our hometown had a sports tagline, it would be, “Welcome to the Valley of the Crushed.”
This place has everything — weather to die for, the nation’s hottest housing market, a solid economy, Chris Bianco’s pizza — but no major American city has suffered more sports futility, statistically speaking.
Well, save Minneapolis. But that comes with an asterisk. Allow me to explain.
Thirteen American cities are currently home to all four major professional sports. Phoenix joined those ranks in 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks began play. Since then, the Suns, Cardinals, D-backs and Arizona Coyotes have had a collective 87 opportunities to win a championship. We have worn but one single crown.
And it took a near-miracle World Series victory by the 2001 Diamondbacks for us to have even that single ecstatic moment.
In that time period, Boston has won a dozen titles — at least one in every sport — including six Super Bowls, four World Series, one NBA championship and a Stanley Cup. Los Angeles has 11 titles, Chicago and New York six.
Detroit and Miami have four apiece. San Francisco and Denver have three. Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington each have a pair.
Then there’s us with the one.
Only Minneapolis has been shut out of winning championships in those 22 years. But like I said, there’s a caveat. The Minnesota Twins won baseball titles in 1987 and 1991. Plus, the Minneapolis Lakers took home five basketball titles in six seasons between 1949 and 1954.
Given how slowly time moves in Minnesota, 1954 probably still feels like yesterday to them. I mean, if you’ll eat lutefisk, you have bigger issues to worry about than the Vikings blowing four Super Bowls in the 1970s.
The only explanation for this much major sports futility is a curse. As NFL legend has it, that explains why the Cardinals are suffering the longest current championship drought in professional sports, winning zero titles since 1947.
According to the “Coal Miners Curse,” invoked by fans of the Pottsville, Pennsylvania Maroons, the Cards, then playing in Chicago, stole the 1925 NFL championship from the mighty Maroons, damning the franchise to never win another title until Pottsville is re-crowned champions.
That’s not happening anytime soon: The NFL investigated this theft in 1967 and voted against Pottsville.
Personally, I don’t think this is about coal miners. I think life is too good here, so we can’t have everything.
Sports failure is the price we pay for perfect spring afternoons, abundant sunshine and the natural beauty of the desert and the mountains. Detroit was recently named the most miserable city in America.
Dallas is surrounded by Texas. I’ve lived in New York, Philly and Miami, which explains why I’ve lived here for 25 years and plan to leave feet first — or in an urn.
San Francisco? For the price of a seven-bedroom Paradise Valley manse, you could live in the Bay Area in a cardboard box and awake each day to the pungent aroma of defecating hobos.
Or you can live here. So, what if four times each year you get kicked in the gut when the hometown teams are mathematically eliminated from contention?
Sucking at sports seems a small price to pay for paradise.