The Phoenix Suns need to win over those in-the-middle, on-the-fence fans who want to dive in but need a reason to jump.
This is my 400th and likely final post on Valley of the Suns dot com. It has been an equally exhilarating and tumultuous tenure for me here, this, my twelfth month as Site Expert after serving as a contributor for three. While there have been growing pangs and adrenaline spikes writing about the Phoenix Suns every day on such a large platform, I am at the point where I can’t dedicate the time and effort needed to make this site as good as it can be.
So, consider this my parting manifesto and plea for the future.
For starters, here is my dirty truth that I’m sure many of you sleuthed yourselves a year ago. When I took this position before the start of the season, I was very much an on-the-fence Phoenix Suns fan.
I followed them when it was convenient or when they had a hot run, but I was never the guy who decked out an entire room of his house in Suns memorabilia.
Some might call this a bandwagon fan, but I’m using “on-the-fence” because I had been a supporter of the Suns for about 15 years and wasn’t just jumping on to some hot, local scene for the party.
I took this position because I was an avid basketball enthusiast looking for a creative outlet and what better way to get myself over the hump of Suns fandom than to write about them every day.
My basketball religiosity started a fully devout member of “Big Blue Nation” the moniker of the University of Kentucky Wildcats fanbase. I have been to five of the previous 10 Final Fours and consider the first few days of April 2012 in New Orleans when Anthony Davis and company won the National Championship to be one of the best weekends of my life.
That being said, my NBA team affinity began with the Suns’ seven-seconds-or-less era teams so when fate landed me a job after school in Phoenix, I found myself by pure happenstance living in the same city as my adopted favorite NBA team.
Over the years, I actively tried to like the Suns as much as I could. I wanted to be fully converted. I went to a handful of games per season and eagerly hoped they would draft one of the best Kentucky players entering the draft that season, a wish that was surprisingly granted more than expected.
But during the past decade, multiple Kentucky players being on the team was about as much joy as the Suns provided for me, as the team made horrible decision after rotten trade after miserable draft pick to the point where it made it hard for a fan like me to fully dive in, as much as I wanted to.
And fans like me are who the Phoenix Suns need to win over to make the next step toward sustained success.
Let’s face the obvious truism that professional sports (and college, to an extent) in Phoenix are weird. Because this is a city of transplants who moved here in their adult life, many residents’ sports team allegiances lie with the team from their childhood. That is why teams from Los Angeles and Chicago receive such large crowds when they play in the Valley, no matter what the sport.
It will require a full generation of youngsters growing up in Phoenix to change this frustrating aspect of being a Valley sports fan. The Suns have a leg up on the much newer Diamondbacks, Coyotes, and even Cardinals in that they have been around for over 50 years, but considering the growth of metro Phoenix since 1968, they face many of the same challenges.
But like any adversity, the first step in surmounting the obstacle is to recognize it. Let me walk through four ideas the Phoenix Suns can do to win over these on-the-fence fans, not unlike me this time last year.