Phoenix sports have become heartbreakingly average. The Phoenix Suns are willing to sputter along around .500 if it means keeping Steve Nash's name on the marquee for a few more seasons. The Arizona Diamondbacks reach break-even over the weekend and you can practically hear their fans' hearts race because it seemed so unlikely to happen after Memorial Day this season.
The Arizona Cardinals are a mediocre quarterback from the 87th and last wild card spot after the lockout. The Phoenix Coyotes finished the regular season in 11th place in the entire NHL, a mere three points from being... you guessed it, middle of the pack.
Yet even these teams still possess their identities that their fans have come to love. Coming from Chicago, I can rattle off those teams' franchise birthmarks in one breath: the Chicago Bears run the ball and smash you in the mouth with their linebackers, the Chicago Bulls have Michael Jordans, the Chicago White Sox are Winning Ugly, the Chicago Cubs succeed at failing at the basic tenets of sporting competition, the Chicago Blackhawks just dumped their identity as wandering the wilderness for a new one.
And so goes the Arizona franchises. Each team has a unique trait about them that you've come to expect and root for despite the painful evenness between Ws and Ls these days. In no particular order:
Phoenix Suns: We Do It From Deep
Oh, the Suns do adore their three-pointers and the masterful men who make them. Dan Majerle led the league twice in three-pointers made while shooting a wretched .358 from the arc for his career. Craig Hodges led the league twice in three-point percentage including in Phoenix in '87-'88. Rex Chapman still shares the NBA record for most three-pointers made in a playoff game (9), which he set in 1997 against the SuperSonics.
And, of course, Steve Kerr breezed through town in '88-'89 on his way to leading the league in three-point percentage for all time. Not surprisingly, Kerr was the one to bring Channing Frye into the fold as an unexpected marksman.
As much as we identify the wing-center as the face of the long-range shot for the team now, did you know the men leading the franchise in three-point field goal percentage are Steve Nash and Jared Dudley? Yes, the Human Swiss Army Knife is second in franchise history in accuracy from three. Even Raja Bell slips in ahead of Frye, who is fourth on the all-time franchise record list.
Arizona Cardinals: We Welcome Returns
LaRod Stephens-Howling, whose 1,548 kick return yards led the league in 2010 and ranks 19th all-time, joins a hallowed tradition in Arizona of kick returners extraordinaire. Also in the list of top-30 all-time single season kick return efforts: J.J. Arrington, Josh Scobey, and the immortal MarTay Jenkins, whose 2,186 yards may have just become DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in football with the recent kick return rule changes.
None of the men above crack the list on yards per return, so it obviously doesn't hurt to play for a team that has a long history (until recently) of offensive fourth downs and letting other teams score. The list of single-season leaders for number of returns in a season is littered with such Cards luminaries as Reggie Swinton, Eric Metcalf, and Kevin Williams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: We Whiff Wildly
Kelly Johnson, who has fallen a few behind the lead for strikeouts this season, joins Chris Young and Justin Upton in carrying the torch for fallen comrades who went down swinging so many times before them. Mark Reynolds, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Russell Branyan, Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, and Justin Upton all appear in top 500 career strikeout seasons (most multiple times) and have all been employed by the Diamondbacks recently.
Reynolds, of course occupies the top three single season slots, showing both durability and stubbornness that borders on virtuous. Ditching him has freed up room on the National League charts for Chris Young, who has joined Johnson on the top ten list for 2011. As traditions go, it may not be particularly positive, but it does allow us to point out that Chase Field may be the only stadium in the world to be both air-conditioned and fan-cooled.
Phoenix Coyotes: We... Uhm, Perfect Attendance?
Tellingly, the Phoenix Coyotes struggle with this. Travis Hair of Five For Howling chimed in, "They have a long tradition of Shane Doan. I'm not sure other than that." One could always point out their long and proud history of bitter litigation. In the end, we may have identified another reason why it's been such a tough road to hoe for the Coyotes in Phoenix: who are they, exactly? Who should they be? Your suggestions are welcome below these words.