14 January 2009

Recognizing the Cards

High time the Valley rally behind a playoff team, red from something other than mendacity, and Will Leitch's Buzzsaw appears to be just such an outfit. After two decades of hapless football, it's easy to forget this has been a "football town" for some time, evidenced by ASU's Frank Kush dynasty - and this influential playbook published just before Kush's arrival.

Are the Cardinals for real? What's more real than being one home victory away from the Springsteen Bowl? Regardless of what happens Sunday, these Cards have already made an indelible connection with Valley fans - more than the 2007 Dbacks could muster - and there may be several reasons for this.

One, the Cards are a single game away from reaching their sport's Holy Grail; the Dbacks were an entire series away, winning not a single game of their NLCS. Two, Arizona harbors enormous pent up demand for gridiron success, given the Cardinals woeful history. It's illuminating how the Bidwills have been rightfully lampooned, for decades, as perhaps the least competitive owners in all of sports - yet our town, right now, is truly geeked for their Cardinals. The Dbacks couldnt sell out either 2007 NLCS game (they came close); the first wave of available Cardinal tickets sold out in six minutes Sunday, before the servers crashed.

Both franchises appear ascendant on the field (assuming the Dbacks gradually improved each year from 2004's nadir, which I do), but despite Derrick Hall's unusually strident promotional efforts, it's hard to shake the feeling that the upstart Cardinals enjoy the stronger following. One can hardly patronize a local McDonalds or fill up one's car without spying one or more Cardinal jerseys. They're everywhere! Sports talk radio is going crazy. I havent seen anything like it, at least not since the 2001 World Series.

Sanguine athletic jerseys now blanket the valley for the first time since Ken Kendrick's Kabal dumped 40,000 "Sedona Red" T shirts onto a confused 2007 Opening Day crowd, in an attempt to hijack an inherited championship brand for one befitting a bloody coup.

The apparent enthusiasm disparity might be partially due to branding. The Cardinals tweak their year to year look, like most everybody, but they've stayed true to red - and the littte bird on the hat - remarkably faithful, really, to the image projected two generations ago by Jim Hart, Roger Wehrli and their St Louis teammates. The Diamondbacks, by contrast, opted to obliterate the Valley's first and only championship brand, in order to visually herald their legal and cultural divorce from the Colangelo regime.

The problem is that when they boldly incorporated that estrangement into the visual brand, some fans felt estranged too. The improbable, "feel-good" Baby Backs of 2007 were not merely battling the Rockies in the NLCS, but also the ghost of Diamondbacks past, for the hearts and minds of Phoenix baseball fans. Fans trying to decide whether Josh Byrnes' latest roster of red cheeked kids are really "Diamondbacks" at all - or something foreign and conformist at the same time - tethered more to owners' hubris and cynical opportunism than to our glorious, shared franchise history.

Is it coincidence that many Cardinal jerseys around town are on the backs of adults - men in their thirties, forties and fifties, some of whom might remember Air Coryell and Terry Metcalf? This Cardinal team, despite all the front office blunders, despite the Matt Leinart fiasco, seems to resonate a continuity with the past, by simply honoring it visually. To paraphrase Dennis Green, "These Cardinals are who we thought they were." Win or lose, they always have been. Cant say the same for our Diamondbacks

Go Big Red!!


Song of the Day - This Diamond Ring (Gary Lewis & The Playboys)


Michael Norton said...

Still railing--rightfully, I might add--about the Diamondbacks changing colors, I see.

Of course, could the Cardinals really go with any other color? If they were blue, wouldn't they be the Jays? Or if they were blue and the Cardinals, that would be the Diamondbacks.

Personally I thought the Diamondbacks had the best color scheme in all of sports...before...

Michael Norton
Some Clubhouse - It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere!

Jeff said...

So the sole reason the D'backs changed their colors was to distance themselves from the old ownership? Seems silly.

I'm glad you're enjoying the football Cardinals so much. Growing up close to St. Louis, I was always surprised how I and most everyone I knew rooted for the Bears despite our undying allegiance to the STL Baseball Cardinals.

People in and around STL hated the Bidwells so much that they just stopped going to games or caring for that matter. He was a creep... so I am told. They were gone before I knew too much about football... and I never got close to the Rams having already been hooked by the Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle.

Coincidentally, I hope the Football Cardinals beat the snot out of the Eagles.

Russell said...

Never mind the Cardinals, you are number 33 in the MLBlog rankings and you never post on there. Do you sit at home clicking on your own site? I know I do.

Matt said...

That's what I wanted to write about in my next post, and it completely slipped my mind until I read this. Thank you!

I even askd for (and recvd) a pocket tape recorder for XMAS, so I wouldnt forget post ideas, but it still slipped away. Again, thanks. 33. What a riot!

Yeah, it's been a while since I've railed about it, but this seemed like a good time. There's a number of Dback FO issues (financial, customer service,etc) where I could see my position change or be swayed by addtnl evidence down the line.

But this isnt one of them. I'm not as day to day angry about the color change as I used to be, practically speaking. It's done. But each year, the wrongheadedness of it seems more evident to me, not less. At the risk of sounding like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction", I feel like they've stolen a cherished bit of my past -and I'll never forgive that.


Like most corporate decisions, there were 3 or 4 bullet points used to justify the change:

* purple hard to match up for marketing and various vendors
* NLW Rockies sport similar hues
* wanted to create a bold, aggressive image reflecting a bold,aggressive org

1 is a complete crock. 2 is a legitimate consideration, but doesnt justify the abrupt, wholesale changes they favored
3. well, I wanna be bold and aggresive and screw Tina Fey; doesnt mean it's the right thing to do.

Distancing themselves from Colangelo, purple, the early successes was a huge priority for these clowns. They were initially convinced they would come in with a superior culture and make people forget their predecessor. The FO still calls themselves "The Dream Team". Not the team on the field. The front office, referencing themselves. It's hilarious.

Michael Norton said...

This whole shenanigan is SO Major League Baseball. The fans simply don't matter. The game is played for the amusement of the owners and players.

I wonder how long they would be enjoying THEIR game if the fans quit ponying up?

Michael Norton
Some Clubhouse - It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere!

Brandon Heikoop said...

Off topic, but...

Hey Matt,

My name is Brandon Heikoop, I run 'The Outsiders Look' (http://theoutsiderslook.blogspot.com) a blog dedicated to all things baseball.

I am sending you this note to ask if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions for me regarding the Arizona Diamondbacks. Your answers will be added on my blog as part of a series of previews.

I won't be doing so until the middle of February, but I wanted to get things set up now rather then later.

Brandon Heikoop

Matt said...

Certainly! The answers ARE:

1. Chad Tracy's knee
2. the ghost of Jeff Moorad
3. $1.50 chicken tenders
4. "We need more signs!"

Oh..sorry...yes, in honor of current & former Dbacks Brandon Webb, Brandon Lyon and Chris Brandon Young, I'd be delighted to participate in your preview project, Brandon. Please email all pertinent details at your leisure to:

azdiamondhacks@yahoo.com...that's hacks with an 'H".

I'm waiving my standard $450 article fee on account of I like Niagra Falls so much; however pls be advised I will require a spread of Boars Head deli sandwiches on an organic selection of artisan breads in consideration of my services. The sandwiches should rest on freshly laundered, jewel tone 800 count cotton linens, and the spread itself, that is to say the tablature supporting the actual trays, should measure no less than 28x36 at the outside edge. An assortment of high end chocolate bars (incl at least two Toblerone)is to placed in a wicker basket and left on the mantel, but not obstructing the clock. Also, some crackers would be nice.


Russell said...

You're regretting it already aren't you Brandon.

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