Jumping off the bandwagon

The deadline for renewing our two Arizona Cardinals season tickets has come and gone.  I am not renewing for the 2011 season, not that there will be a season if players and owners fail to agree on a labor contract.  No matter.  After five seasons, I am, in the eyes of the hard-core True Believers, jumping off the bandwagon.  I am a traitor.

I originally purchased those tickets prior to the 2006 season, the team’s first year in the new stadium at Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix.  I remember the excitement.   A former All-Pro running back, Edgerrin James, had been signed.  And then came the drafting of the USC golden boy, Matt Leinart, who was to be the Cardinals quarterback of the future.  That first year was special and I enjoyed it very much.  I enjoyed even the unbelievable debacle with the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football that led then-coach Dennis Green’s famous rant, “Crown their asses.”

But in truth, I never was on the Cardinals bandwagon. Not even when the Cardinals made it all the way to the Super Bowl.  I’m not even sure I would know a bandwagon  if I saw one.  But I will tell you this.  The “bandwagon”  is a very expensive ride.  For two season tickets in the corner of an end zone,  I paid almost $1,600 in 2010.  That’s $80 a game for one seat, up 25 percent from what I doled out the first season, in 2006.   Cost aside, there are numerous reasons I saw for not renewing.

  • A loss of faith in ownership.  The Bidwills lied.  “We Do This Together” is the organization’s motto.  Yes, together.  I give them my money, and they hold on to it for their own personal gain.  In the disastrous 2010 season,  no money I could see was spent to bolster player talent, most notably at quarterback.  The Bidwills had built a foundation for success, then let it slip away by not re-signing key players.  
  • A loss of faith in the coach, Ken Whisenhunt.   Rather than change his system to fit the talent last season, he told his players, “Believe in the system.”   For example, Whisenhunt’s decision to use a passing offense when the passers were all inaccurate defied belief.  At least with a more balanced approach, the games — even the victories — would not have appeared so ugly.  His faltering attempts at explaining away the release of Leinart last summer were embarrassing.  Whisenhunt seemed no more than an organizational toady.  
  • The fans.  A stadium setting is just not my thing.  I do not enjoy high-fiving with the crowd or listening to the mostly irrational views of football.  Nor being in the proximity of a human being dressed in red feathers.  For the most, I am neutral.  I do not care who wins.  I like to watch great athletes perform.  I appreciate the team that overcomes odds, be it the home team or not.
  • Lack of information.  The stadium noise is often so loud you can not hear, say, the head official explaining a penalty.  The JumboTron does not show every controversial play.  You get more information sitting at home, watching the game on TV.
  • The loss of an entire day.  Six hours pass from the time I leave the house until the moment  of return.  It would be half that with TV.  And you could easily get up and walk away from the tube if the game got too, too ugly.

I was called out on one of the message boards last season.  “So you admit you’re a bandwagon fan.  We don’t need you.”  I admitted no such thing.  And wrong, the Cardinals do need me and my likes.  Without me, the Cardinals would not filll up their stadium.  And there would soon be no franchise in Arizona.  The rabid are noisy, like the Tea Party crowd, but they are few.   

So ta-ta, season tickets.  Goodbye stadium.  Best wishes, fans.  To the True Believers I would say I am not so much jumping off your bandwagon as alighting from it.  Softly, almost imperceptibly.  The landing, I anticipate, will be pleasant.

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