Monday High 5: Where the Fans Aren’t

Matthew JohnsonFebruary 1, 2021
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It’s Waste Management Phoenix Open week and while a few thousand people will be allowed to attend each day, that number pales compared to the estimated 700,000-800,000 spectators who attend on a typical year – it may feel like no one is there.

A different feel to Phoenix Open week.

Most fans who flock to the TPC of Scottsdale in normal years go for the party, not the golf. In 2021, COVID is wiping out the party, with only 5,000 fans allowed to attend each day. That should make the golf a lot better, if you care for that sort of thing.

Big Takeaway: Rory McIlroy, who holds the No. 7 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, is playing in his first Phoenix Open this year – and it’s no coincidence. With few fans around, the Open is appealing to a new subset of PGA Tour stars, and If the weather cooperates, expect to see some of the lowest golf scores the tournament has ever seen.

Read more: 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open Field Guide. 
Find player profile, ticket tips and more in this special COVID-19 edition of our annual guide to the world’s most-attended PGA golf tournament.

The Rams improve at QB, make it tougher on Cardinals.

The Los Angeles Rams decided to move on from Jared Goff at quarterback, trading him away along with two first round picks to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford. The blockbuster trade on a late Saturday night shook the sports world because these trades don’t usually happen in the week before the Super Bowl, and it will surely shake up the NFC West for the next several years.

Big Takeaway: This is bad news for the Arizona Cardinals, who’ve lost eight straight games to the Rams spanning four seasons. That includes a recent loss in Week 17 when L.A. started John Wolford at quarterback. The previous seven losses were by an average of 21 points. Stafford gives the Rams an elite player at quarterback, a dangerous proposition for the rest of the division when you consider L.A.’s defense led them to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

Valley teams flip the switch to winning.

Late last month, there was a deflating stretch of days for Valley sports fans, when the Suns, Coyotes and Arizona State University men’s basketball team couldn’t buy a win. The Suns had lost three in a row, the Coyotes suffered shut outs in back-to-back losses, and the Sun Devils hadn’t won a game since December 13! Fortunes turned around last week: the Suns beat the Warriors and Mavericks, the Coyotes earned a hard fought win over the Ducks and ASU took down Cal and Stanford in Tempe.

Big Takeaway: When it rains it pours, in both directions. It feels like this is a recurring theme with our local teams: They’re either all winning at the same time or all losing at the same time. We did after all see the Cardinals and Suns each have number one draft picks in the same year.

Curt Schilling misses Hall of Fame by 16 votes.

Former Diamondbacks pitcher and perhaps the most dominant post-season pitcher of all-time, Curt Schilling, fell about four percentage points short of being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was Schilling’s ninth year of eligibility (he has one left) and he was the top vote-getter, so that means no one will be inducted into Cooperstown this summer. Names like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were also up for consideration this year.

Big Takeaway: Schilling went 11-2 in his playoff career with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 19 starts. He lifted the Diamondbacks to their only World Series title in 2001 and helped Boston win championships in 2004 and 2007. He’s also become an outspoken firebrand for conservative politics on Twitter and has criticized many left-leaning media members along the way. Schilling defended rioters at the U.S. Capitol on the eve of the Hall vote. Enough of these baseball writers are holding the tweets against him when they choose not to vote for him and they’re letting politics cloud their judgment on what he did on the baseball field. In Bonds’ and Clemens’ cases, their alleged steroid use is what’s holding voters back from putting them in baseball’s great museum, which is a bit easier to justify.

Cleveland Indians ban fans from spring training workouts.

The Indians emailed Goodyear Ballpark season ticket holders on Monday to announce that fans would not be allowed to attend spring training workouts. It’s still undecided if fans will be allowed for Cactus League games.

Big Takeaway: We’re losing parts of the game that make it special. Spring training is so beloved by local fans mostly because of the access and close proximity you get to your favorite ballplayers. Kids and adults (or older people who are still kids at heart) often lineup early outside a team’s clubhouse or hang out along the chain link adjacent to the baseball field fence to catch a glimpse of their team getting ready for the upcoming season. Autographs can be had and sometimes you can strike up a once in a lifetime conversation with a pro athlete. Baseball fans continue to be the ones striking out.

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