This is very unique. It’s pretty awkward. It’s a little embarrassing, to be honest.
Here we are in the middle of November. I’m a sportswriter in Arizona, charged with the duty of telling you why your local teams can’t get out of their own way.
It’s tradition. It’s expected. Coming down from the trees after a battle and shooting all the wounded has usually been easy pickings in these parts.
The Cardinals should be out of the playoff hunt by now. The Suns should be counting turnovers, losses and lottery ping-pong balls. Arizona State should be losing road games, watching another great start circle the drain and preparing for this year’s six-win (fill-in-the blank) bowl game, held on or around Christmas.
And the Coyotes ... are they still even here?
But not this year. Or at least, not right now. These teams are making my life miserable — just when they are supposed to me making your life miserable.
From Oct. 17 (the day after the Cardinals laid another nationally-televised egg and lost at home to Seattle) through Nov. 12 (when the Coyotes put on ski masks and stole an overtime win in St. Louis), the four local sports teams compiled a combined record of — are you sitting down? — 19-3-1.
Since I declared their season over the day after the Seahawks game, the Cardinals beat the Falcons (no wide receivers) and Texans (no coach). Unless the Jaguars shock the world and score a touchdown in Jacksonville for the first time in a calendar year, the Big Red will be 6-4 and legitimate playoff contenders in the NFC. (Excuse me while I accept a blow to the skull from a ball-peen hammer).
I still don’t believe in the Cardinals. Too many holes. Too inconsistent offensively.
But a three-game winning streak in November? When games still matter? I tip whatever you call that cap Bruce Arians wears to the Big Red.
The Sun Devils meanwhile, followed up an impressive home win over Washington with wins at Washington State and at Utah. Sure, the Cougars are horrid and the Utah game was a nail-biter, but ASU won games outside their own zip code, and, if they take care of business against Oregon State on Saturday night, a win next week at UCLA could send them to the Pac-12 Championship game.
The Suns are the real head-scratcher. Double-doubles from Miles Plumlee? What’s an Ish Smith? Markieff Morris the first Western Conference Player of the Week since Amare Stoudemire? Five wins in the first eight games, including two losses on the road at the buzzer?
Where’s Michael Beasley when you need him?
The bad news (yeah!) is that the Suns won’t have a high lottery pick. The good news, to the utter amazement of the front office, is they might have three or four core players on a roster that will be improved with three first-round picks next summer.
Seriously, Jeff Hornacek was an inspired hire. Even if the wheels fall off down the road this season, the job this staff has done in coaching up the players who are here gives real confidence of a brighter future. Of course there is still that superstar or two to locate.
And then there are the Coyotes, better known as the best chance in town for a deep playoff run right now.
Coach Dave Tippett’s team entered Saturday with a 13-4-3 record and has not scratched the surface of how good it can be. Mike Smith is just starting to come around. Mike Ribeiro has been mediocre at best. Lauri Korpikoski entered the week with as many goals as Smith (one) but is starting to heat up.
And the most encouraging thing is owners George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc are happy with the business side. The Coyotes are still dead last in attendance, but the numbers are trending up, and corporate sponsorships and other revenue streams are well ahead of projections.
All of that means GM Don Maloney will have money to spend and assets to use at the trade deadline to add the necessary tweaks (another scorer, more toughness) to put Phoenix on a level playing field with the cream of a very tough Western Conference.
That could make May and even June very interesting.
More winning. Just what I need.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org