It has always been tough to be an Arizona sports fan. We are a resilient bunch, coming back each season for more punishment as we watch the Cardinals, Suns and Diamondbacks work through their perpetual problems. But hey, at least we have multiple major league sports teams. That alone gives us hope in the big picture.
It used to be pretty easy to be an Arizona resident, flying quietly under the national radar as the more high profile states gobble up all the news. A red state, for sure, but we have the Grand Canyon, beautiful winters, awesome golf courses, a casual lifestyle and plenty of sunshine. That was before SB 1070 took over our lives and made us hide our heads in shame. We were used to sports shame, and even a fair amount of political shame, but nothing in this category.
The Arizona Cardinals' unlikely run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season was a surreal gift to their long suffering fans. Charles P. Pierce of slate.com called it "at best a fluke, and, at worst, a disgrace". See what I mean?
The Suns teased us again this year by getting to the Western Conference Finals only to lose to the eventual champions, the hated Los Angeles Lakers. Despite nineteen seasons with 50 wins or more, nine Western Conference Finals, and two NBA finals in '76 and '93, still no championship. And the only two triple overtime games ever played in the finals involved the Suns. Sadly, we lost them both. There was the instant classic in Boston in '76 which we lost by two and then the John Paxson 3 point dagger for the Bulls in '93. See what I mean?
It's true the Diamondbacks gave us a World Series championship in 2001, but it was the year of September 11th and the entire planet was rooting for the New York Yankees under the circumstances. And who could blame them? Our Korean closer, Byung-Hyung Kim, famously blew two consecutive saves at Yankee Stadium, both with a 2 run lead going in. Just the other night on the local Diamondbacks telecast, Mark Grace remembered how hard that was on the 22 year old pitcher, stating he was never the same after that. We will be forever known as the team that took the championship away from New York at the time they needed it the most. See what I mean?
We got pretty excited as the Arizona State Sun Devils took their number one seed to Omaha this year in impressive fashion off stellar pitching all season, only to lose their first two on the way to early elimination. See what I mean?
But last night, Edwin Jackson's no-hitter gave us a brief reprieve from our suffering. I got home from work and got a text stating that it was the eighth and Jackson had a no-hitter going. Admittedly I considered it a foregone conclusion that either our pitcher, or a teammate of his, would find a way to blow it, in all too familiar heartbreaking fashion. After all, the Diamondbacks have a notorious pitching problem this year. In mid-June, we had given up 138 earned runs in 169 innings pitched as a team, an average of 7.33 ERA. I didn't have the heart to research the stats on relief pitching this year as it would remind me of how many times our starter gave his all only to watch a reliever come in and give it all away in short order. It is almost more than even an experienced Arizona sports fan can take. Even our no-hitter was ugly. Jackson walked a career high eight batters, all but one in the first three innings when he walked the bases loaded in the third, and hit a batter, too. Relievers were warming up starting in the 6th inning and there was even talk of taking him out despite his pending no-hitter because his pitch count soared, ultimately reaching 149, the most in the majors in the past five years. But thank God our baby manager, A.J. Hinch (so called due to his youthful appearance and lack of experience as a manager despite being awarded an absolutely inexplicable three year contract...oh, don't get me started), let history take its course and left him in. Thank God for Edwin and thank God for us fans. It sure wasn't pretty but it was ours. Never mind that the Rays have been no-hit three times since last July.
So just for a wonderful moment, watching our team jumping up and down in celebration at someone else's park, it didn't suck to be from Arizona. Thanks, Edwin. We needed that.