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Disappointment in the desert: Dealing with yet another Arizona sports heartbreak

The Suns loss to the Bucks is yet another heartbreak for Valley sports fans. How do we recover from this?

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks
The crestfallen Suns are emblematic of the disappointment we’re all feeling here in the desert.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

How quickly “Suns in four” became “Bucks in six.” Ugh.

I was a Suns fan before I was ever a Cardinals fan, and even the biggest Cardinals fans will tell you that Phoenix is a Suns town, first and foremost. So this one hurts. It cuts deep. It makes the Cardinals late-season collapse last year feel like a papercut in comparison.

The Suns NBA Finals loss is just the latest in a long line of bitter postseason disappointments in this snake-bitten sports town. Just off the top of my head, in my lifetime we’ve had the John Paxson game in ‘93, the ’96 Rose Bowl, Robert Horry and David Stern screwing the Seven Seconds or Less Suns in 2007, Super Bowl XLIII in 2008, and then the Cardinals NFC Championship Game implosion in 2016.

Pretty brutal. And I’m sure I’m missing something.

We have only the 2001 Diamondbacks World Series championship and a handful of Phoenix Mercury titles to try to counterbalance all that heartbreak. (And, uh, the Rattlers, I guess?) That 2001 World Series is still my all-time favorite sports memory (I watched every game from my freshman dorm room at ASU), but the D-backs had only been around for four years at that point, and they haven’t done much of note since. The Mercs are great and Diana Taurasi is a Phoenix legend, but the WNBA just isn’t on the same level as the pro men’s leagues, rightly or wrongly.

Yeah, it’s tough to be a Phoenix sports fan. We’ve got to be up there with places like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Cincinnati as the saddest sports town in America.

This Suns loss is going to take a long time to get over, and it reminds me of my other most painful sports memory, one I’m still not over: the Cardinals loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

I still have nightmares about that game. The stupid James Harrison interception return along the sideline. Ben Roethlisberger eluding the Cardinals pass rush on 1st and 20. Santonio #*@%ing Holmes. I can recall each painful play with torturous clarity.

Of course, for one shining moment—Larry Fitzgerald streaking down the field for a TD, watching himself on the JumboTron—it looked like we had won the Super Bowl.

I had a similar feeling when the Suns went up 2-0. The title was *this close*. But Phoenix sports history taught me not to get too comfortable, so I can’t say I was really shocked when the Suns dropped the next four games to lose the series.

That doesn’t make it hurt any less, though.

But if we’re going to compare heartbreaks, I’d have to say the Cardinals Super Bowl loss is still the bigger heartbreak. We were two *minutes* away from a championship, not two whole games, and there were so many fluky plays that led to our loss. The Harrison play, obviously, and I’m still not convinced that Holmes had both feet down. We played well enough to win the Super Bowl that day, going toe-to-toe with the vaunted Steelers. We were equals that day.

With the Suns, it’s clear that they lost to the better team. There aren’t nearly as many “what ifs”—really just the fourth quarter of Game 4. But in the end we were soundly beaten by the best team with the best player in the world. No shame in that. The Super Bowl really could have gone either way, and that lost stings all the worse for that fact.

But let’s look on the bright side for a moment. The Suns still have a talented young core with Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Miles Bridges, and Cam Johnson. Their talented coach (Monty Williams) and GM (James Jones) should be able to continue to bring in and mold more talent around them to keep this team in the championship conversation for the foreseeable future. Hopefully starting with a new contract for Chris Paul.

As for the Cardinals, while I’m not convinced we have our Monty Williams or James Jones, we clearly have our Devin Booker in Kyler Murray. Maybe one day he can guide us to a Super Bowl and give this city the championship it so desperately craves.

Or maybe, hopefully, the Suns will beat him there.

I’ve said my piece. How are you dealing with this latest Valley sports disappointment, Cardinals fans? When do you think this city will see its next title? Let’s commiserate in the comments.