The Phoenix Suns found yet another list in which they managed to get snubbed. This time, it was the FanSided 250. The question is, why?
FanSided just released the much-anticipated FanSided 250 that ranks fandom of sports teams, celebrities, movies, TV, gaming, and more. 26 NBA teams made the list. Somehow, the Phoenix Suns were not one of them.
In fact, two WNBA teams, the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics made the list over the Phoenix Suns.
The other three NBA teams who missed the cut were the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets, and the Washington Wizards.
FanSided claimed they used three major categories to determine their ranking: social follows, searches, and fan vote. But they evidently also solicited the advice of a headless chicken roaming around on a board full of team names.
Look, I get it. Phoenix is a city of transplants. It is one of the few cities in America where the very first question asked upon meeting someone is, “Where are you from?” because the answer is usually not, “Phoenix.”
In fact, true Phoenicians are so rare they actually have a name: “Natives.” And when they answer that question, it usually goes something like, “I’m actually from here.”
“Actually.” Because out of all the cities in the world, “Phoenix” is the last place someone living in Phoenix is expected to be from.
With all the transplants come their assorted sports team loyalties. A large chunk of Midwesterners fawn over the Bulls, all the Californians rep the Lakers, and so forth and so on.
On top of splintered fandom, enthusiasm in sports is lower in Phoenix across the board than in most cities.
If you ask someone from Pittsburgh to describe themselves, one of the first three things will undoubtedly be they are a Steelers fan. Folks in cities like Pittsburgh don’t consider themselves fans of a sports team, but they see their loyalty to that team as part of their identity.
Another problem, however, is that even “natives” don’t feel this type of connection with the Valley’s major pro sports teams like the Cardinals, Coyotes, or Diamondbacks.
However, I’ve long-held the theory this was because these are relatively new to the Valley.
The Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988; the Coyotes transferred in 1996, and the D-Backs started as an expansion team in 1998. That really isn’t long enough to be ingrained into the culture, and for children who grow up idolizing the local team to be become enthusiastic (and paying) adults.
That’s why I always thought the Phoenix Suns were different. They have been around since 1968 and are by far the most established franchise in the Valley. Sure, when the team is down (which it has been for much of this decade) the arena may get overrun with transplants coming to cheer for the team they grew up watching, but true Suns fans are loyal beasts.
To say the folks in Orlando are more passionate about the Magic than Valley residents are about the Suns is preposterous and worthy of redoing the entire FanSided 250 list.
Assuming that isn’t an option, the one thing that will change everything is winning.
In fact, it’s already started.
After one of the first few games of the season, I watched my television with awe as hoards of Suns supporters enthusiastically chanted, “Valley Boyz!” on repeat. By all accounts, Talking Stick Resort Arena is the loudest it has been in a decade.
Lakers fans, the source for so much arena invasion frustration, were drowned out by Suns fans most of the game when they came to town.
The Phoenix Suns might not have made this list year, but they are building a foundation to never come off this list ever again. With continued on-court success, their fandom ranking will skyrocket.
If nothing else, at least Suns fans aren’t the Washington Wizards, whose city’s WNBA team outranked them. Oof.