Phoenix still the Valley of the Suns

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It took 61 years overall and 20 years in the Valley, but the Cardinals finally hosted a home playoff game in Arizona. (AP/Matt York)

It took 61 years as a franchise and 20 years in the Valley, but the Cardinals finally hosted a playoff game in Arizona. (AP/Matt York)

Phoenix has always been a Suns town.

And aside from the D-backs’ magical 2001 championship run and a couple seasons around it while the Suns struggled, the Suns have always been the best team in town.

Fast forward to 2008-09 and we see the Cardinals win their first home playoff game since 1947 a year after the Suns couldn’t even get out of the first round of the bloated NBA playoffs.

It’s weird to think the Cardinals are in the NFL’s Elite Eight the season after our beloved Suns only finished among the NBA’s top 16.

As it stands, the Suns have spent much of this season in the West’s five through nine positions, meaning a playoff spot isn’t even guaranteed and another first-round exit is eminently possible.

Does that mean the Cardinals could become the Valley’s flagship team instead of the Suns?

Frankly, I don’t think there’s a chance. After all, they are the CARDINALS!!! I love them as much as anyone, but nobody exactly confused them with the ’72 Dolphins this season.

Even when the Suns have suffered through losing seasons, they’ve always had that aura around them that they are the Suns and better times are ahead.

For the Suns that means winning 62 games the season after winning 29.

For the Cardinals that means taking 10 years to reach the playoffs with a 9-7 record since the last time they entered postseason play with the same mediocre mark.

I attended Saturday’s vindicating 30-24 Cardinals win over the Falcons in an electric University of Phoenix Stadium, but something just felt different and even missing in comparison to even when I cheered my Wildcats to a Vegas Bowl victory in a section with my friends after the same 10 years of disappointment after disappointment.

Much has been made in the media about how great the Cardinals’ fans were and really have been much of the season.

We were loud when we were supposed to be loud, looked great waving all those white towels and the scene of chant after chant of “Let’s go Cardinals” walking out of the stadium was the type of thing I’d expect from a real football city.

But my buddy Green (no, his first name isn’t Dennis), a fellow long-suffering Cardinals fan, summed up how I was feeling by asking, “How many of those people were with the Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium?”

“Pretty much just us,” I shot back.

Sure, we weren’t the only long-suffering Cardinals fans back from the bad old days, but it’s amazing how many bandwagon Arizona football fans there are.

I remember being ridiculed for being a Cardinals fan at a Scottsdale elementary school, and then all of a sudden everyone loved them when they reached the playoffs in ’98.

Then 10 more years of same old Cardinals, and now the Valley suddenly has Cardinals Fever again?

It’s been said many times that Phoenix wants to be a football city, if only the Cardinals would win a couple games.

I think it just means that the Valley has a number of transplanted, fair-weather fans who will buy up the remaining tickets to sell out a home playoff game but won’t sit through 105-degree afternoons at Sun Devil Stadium to cheer on a lousy football team.

Look at the Diamondbacks. When Major League Baseball was a novelty in Phoenix and then the D-backs four years in became a World Series champion, fans came in droves.

But even as they went from a terrible team in 2004 to a quality ball club the last two years, ticket sales haven’t shown the same spike.

The Suns by contrast have always been a class organization, always been a winner and rarely have had much trouble getting people into the stands because of a dedicated fan base that always has loved them,

The Cardinals and D-backs will have their standout seasons, but Phoenix will always be the Valley of the Suns.

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