Then again, we weren’t exactly numbers 2-31 either. In fact, we were exactly number 32. Cardinals fans were ranked up against the rest of the NFL fans by ESPN the other day. You may have caught a glimpse. Hard to miss it seeing as it was on the front page of ESPN.com.
I choose not to really get into it until now as busy as this weekend was with teams trimming their rosters down and starting to prepare for their week 1 opponents. AZcentral.com did a post on it today as well, so I guess I can’t keep quiet about it any longer.
They took several factors into consideration:
Stadium Factor – is it loud?; Live and Die Factor – do fans take losses hard?; Traveling Road Show Factor – are they a presence in their opponents stadium?; Loyalty When Team Sucks Factor – do the fans stick with their team even when they are losers?; Hate Factor – do other teams fans hate you?; Tailgate Factor – how does the team’s tailgaiting stack up?; and the Home Fans Creativity Factor – how wacky do the fans get?
Scoring was on a based a 1-5 scale, 1 being the best, 5 being the worst. The Cardinals were rated a 5 in 4/7 categories (Live and Die, Traveling, Loyalty, and Hate factors), a 4 in 2/7 (tailgaiting and creativity factors), and one 3 rating, which they got for the stadium factor.
I’m stunned beyond words. Apparently some of their ranking had to do with consecutive sellouts and season-ticket waiting lists. The Cardinals had more consecutive sellouts (20) than St. Louis (2), Jacksonville (0), and Atlanta (0). How do the Cardinals fall below that? I can see where they are going with the live and die factor. I do get very upset when they lose. I don’t like talking to anyone after a tough loss, espeically those the Cardinals should have won. Last year alone, I walked away at the end like that four times, at least. Let’s just say it was a good thing my then 4 month old son and wife were not around when the Cardinals lost to San Francisco at home last November in OT.
The Cardinals also were scored low on Loyalty. I know many Cardinals fans who have stuck through 19 years (well 16 if you don’t count the 1998 season or the 1994 and 2007 seasons when they finished 8-8) of losing. Still, every September, there is new hope. Hey, at least I had practice – I grew up a Chicago Cubs fan. I don’t buy the 5 rating on this one either.
I will buy the traveling presence. About the only place the Cardinals can go these days and still have a presence outside of Arizona, is St. Louis, their former home. Even after 19 years, that is waning. So, I will give ESPN that one.
The hate factor at a 5 rating? Hardly. Many fans hate when the Cardinals come to town. Sure their team is predicted to win, however, I’m sure there are many an NFL fan that hates the Cardinals for bringing down the value of their NFL ticket.
The one rating I don’t get at all though is the tailgating. I don’t know where the so called “experts” from ESPN got their information, cause I doubt they came out to Arizona to visit, however tailgating has been fantastic since moving over to University of Phoenix Stadium in 2006. In fact, last year, a couple of professional tailgaters (no really, that’s what they were), went to every NFL Stadium and ranked the Cardinals experience 10th in the NFL. Not bad for a team that truly lacked in a tailgating tradition, given the fact they came over only two seasons back from Arizona State University in Tempe. ESPN is entitled to their opinion, but right now my opinion of Sarah Palin as possible Vice-President of the United States is higher than than that of ESPN’s rankings.
I realize that someone had to finish last and I am not here to even justify the Cardinals making the top half of the rankings. I am here to tell you though, in my opinion, ESPN flat out got this one wrong. This is what ESPN had to say about the Cardinals ranking: “the team’s new stadium has helped draw sellout crowds, but the franchise faces challenges. Too many football fans in the region had already latched onto other NFL teams, notably the Cowboys, by the time Bill Bidwill brought the Cardinals to the desert in the 1980’s. Mismanagement and losing seasons kept fans away. The franchise is on an upswing and the fans are responding, but the Cardinals must win to turn skeptics into full-fledged believers.”
A couple of keywords in that quote contradict their own ranking. Too many football fans in the region had already latched onto other NFL teams. This may be quite true. It used to be there was a sea of blue when the Cowboys came to town and quite honestly, there still is, to a point. That probably won’t change. A sea of orange and blue took over Sun Devil Stadium a couple of times the Denver Broncos visited. A sea of red when the Kansas City Chiefs came to town. A sea of black when the Raiders made their way south from the bay area. I think you get the point. The fact is, many of those fans have and will continue to come to Cardinals games. However since moving to the new stadium things have started to turn. The place is red – all over. Sounds like the ESPN crew hasn’t been to a game live in UOP Stadium yet.
Secondly, they say the franchise is on an upswing and fans are responding. Yes they are responding – goes to my tailgating point I made earlier. The franchise is on the way up. Unfortunately Atlanta hasn’t been the same since the Michael Vick days. The Jacksonville fans may be in danger of losing their team, which is a shame, cause I think Jacksonville’s players and fans bring a lot to the NFL.
Obviously I’m a huge fan of the Cardinals. I think they deserved a better fate in these rankings. It’s a shame people still think very lowly of the Cardinals. Sure, they’ve not been much of an inspiration on the field, however off the field, they are starting to make all the right moves, say all the right things, and have started to really pay back the fans for the first 18 seasons in the desert. The stadium is beautiful, the atmosphere is top grade, the road team fans are great to talk to. I sat next to a whole group of wonderful people from Seattle last season down here for the Cardinals-Seahawks game. Even they were cognizant of the job the Cardinals are doing in working to change their image.
Hopefully some others will start getting that point as well.