Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 the year in sports in AZ

Oh what a difference the beginning of the year versus the end of the year makes in sports. In Arizona it's been a crazy ride.

In January we had the following:

  • Arizona Cardinals in the NFL Playoffs
  • Phoenix Suns making a run to the playoffs
  • Phoenix Coyotes on their way to 107 points and a playoff birth
  • Arizona Diamondbacks anticipation for a good season

Now in December we see the following:

  • Arizona Cardinals 3 - 9 (as of today)
  • Phoenix Suns mediocrity
  • Phoenix Coyotes making another run after a lackluster start
  • Arizona Diamondbacks making moves at the GM meetings and anticipation of a new Spring Training Facility and the All-Star Game

Taken one at a time:

The Cardinals first sign that things would not be the same was the retirement of Kurt Warner. This left the team in a quarterback quandary. Could Matt Leinart be the QB of the future? Who would the team sign? There were a few other players that let the team via free agency which hurt, but it seemed that the replacements could fill in fine. The team signed Derek Anderson to compete with Leinart for the starting job. The preseason came and the Cardinals offense was offensive. Leinart was cut and Anderson named the starter. Un-drafted rookie Max Hall and 5th round draft pick John Skelton were named the number 2 and 3 quarterbacks. It hasn't worked out for the Cardinals and the 3 - 9 record proves that.

The Suns had their own off season changes. Most notably the departure of Amare Stoudamire. This gave everyone the opinion that they would not be able to compete in the Western Conference. So far they haven't done bad, however I believe that they will fade as they rely too heavily on Steve Nash to be on his game every night. Can they make the playoffs? Maybe, but I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up around 10th or 11th in the conference.

The Coyotes had some changes, but nothing major. The biggest issue surrounding the team was who would step up and buy them. The NHL currently owns the team and if a buyer was found that would move the team then the fan base would deteriorate dramatically. That situation however seems to be getting closer to resolved. Nevertheless the team did not start out well. Then a hot streak in November and the Coyotes are starting to show the form that won over the fans. Hopefully they will continue to be strong and given head coach Dave Tippetts style they should once again make the playoffs. Here's hoping because there is nothing quite like the atmosphere of playoff hockey (and I want to go to a few playoff games again).

Finally the Diamondbacks have had many changes this past year. The team performed poorly during the season and the manager and GM were both let go mid-way through the season. Enter in Kevin Towers (former Padres GM) and Kirk Gibson as manager and things may get turned around. The trade of Mark Reynolds earlier this week and the rumored trade talks surrounding Justin Upton should have put everyone on notice that Towers will be taking this team in a direction that will (hopefully) build a winner. The D-Backs will be moving to a new Spring Training facility in Scottsdale this year and host the all-star game. The team needs to perform to show that these "perks" are warranted. I believe the players will respond, but whether that translates to success on the field is anyone's guess.

If the question "Which professional Arizona sports team would be the best in 2010?" was asked in January, I believe the answer would have been the Suns or the Cardinals. It's amazing to me that if it was asked now the answer HAS to be the Coyotes. Imagine hockey in the desert is better than football, basketball or baseball.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I am depressed. Yes I admit it. I don't know if I need medication for this bout of depression, however it could be a close call. You see yesterday morning FIFA announced the countries that will host the World Cup Soccer Tournament in 2018 and 2022. The USA bid for the 2022 games and my hopes were high that we would be awarded the cup. My 7 year old soccer son will be 18 in 2022 and it would be a great graduation gift to take him to some games.

Alas it was not to be. The 2022 games were awarded to Qatar. Now I'm willing to bet that most of you can't pick out the country of Qatar on a map even if it was written in 72 point bold font. The country is smaller than Connecticut, has one major city and only one "world class" soccer stadium. Oh yeah, did I mention that in June and July (when the cup is traditionally played) it reaches temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit on a regular basis?The Qatar bid boasted of being able to build air conditioned stadiums that would suit the needs of fans and players perfectly. Of course anything's possible when you simulate it on a computer. Qatar has never qualified for a World Cup and now they have by virtue of being the host. My bet is they will be the second host nation not to advance to the second round (South Africa was the first in 2010).

FIFA has stated that one of its goals was to broaden soccer's appeal globally. Qatar they say gives them a chance to get into the Islamic world as well as the Middle East. Of course placing the tournament in an oil-rich country probably doesn't hurt. Not that I'm saying Qatar didn't buy the votes it needed to win, however they did play a very political game to get them.

I tweeted, facebooked, and plurked that the decisions for 2018 and 2022 were travesties. I still believe that to be the case. FIFA has become a political machine and is getting up there with the Olympics as far as how to host an event. Let there be no doubt this is NOT about the game, it's about politics. It's a shame that President Blatter can't take his own advice about sport that he stated in yesterday's awarding ceremony.

As for me? Well the depression will subside in a few months (maybe after the major soccer leagues in Europe come off their Winter break). But it will hit again in 2014, 2018 and 2022 as I think about what might have been. I mean could you imagine the look on an 18 year old when he finds out that he will be traveling the country to see the world's top soccer stars play in the World Cup?

The next three cups will be in Brazil, Russia and Qatar. Not exactly the kind of road trips that I would plan with my son. Although I did live in Chile for 2 years and know what to expect, it would still be hard as I don't speak any of the languages in those three countries. I will have to see what transpires, but the dream of attending a World Cup may have to wait until a tournament further out than 2022.

Of course it could be worse. I mean I could be English. The birth place of soccer was voted out in the first round of balloting for the 2018 cup. They haven't hosted a tournament since 1966. It seemed like the right time to bring football to its mother land. Alas again it was not to be.

The decisions by the voters at FIFA are hard to explain when you look at what has to be done in order to pull off a tournament the likes of the World Cup. Two countries that have the infrastructure, stadiums and fans (yes there are soccer fans in the US) were bypassed. This was done in order to give soccer a more "global" reach. Note to FIFA, you get global reach by attracting the fans to the games and to the TV. Host it poorly and watch the world move away. For soccer's sake I hope that Russia and Qatar can live up to their promises. I know England and the US can.