Who digs on 110-degree, sidewalk egg-frying, HOT summer days? Apparently millions of Americans and big-name sports franchises – because Arizona was at the heart of the population the Southwest saw in the second half of the 20th century. And after Phoenix slowly built its way into major-league status, the sports came.
As is typical, the NBA was first to the state, establishing the Phoenix Suns in 1968; NFL football (of sorts) would arrive 20 years later and even sneak into the Super Bowl once, but even the reasonable success the franchise enjoyed on-field in the 2010s may soon be left behind with the Cards looking up at the rest of the NFC West…
Betting in Arizona
Regarding betting in Arizona, state law appears to be in diametric opposition to the more libertarian-minded sensibilities of the citizenry. Essentially, a couple ban written into the state constitution wiped out the possibility of most forms of wagering from Arizona’s incorporation in 1912 through to ’88.
And while the sweeping federal law known as the Indian Gaming Reservation Act (IGRA) allowed lots of Native American-owned and -operated bingo halls and casinos to spring up around the state like mushrooms in the 1990s, laws on betting in Arizona remain pretty restrictive, all things considered: One may play the state lottery, visit a reservation-land casino or make some pari-mutuel bets at one of Arizona’s two horse tracks (the state’s third, the Yavapai Downs Racecourse, closed in 2016 and as of ’18 is still seeking a buyer) legally.
Incidentally, nothing has been omitted in either the above paragraph or on Arizona lawmakers’ checklists: This is in fact one of the 10 states in which daily fantasy football is considered illegal.
Football in Arizona
As in areas such as Tennessee, Denver, Jacksonville and the Carolinas, Phoenix and Arizona in general worked their way up to major-league sports status, though for Arizona, the rise through test-market football status was brief, perhaps due to the state’s pigeonholing within the Broncos, Rams and Raiders markets.
In 1983, the Arizona Wranglers of the United States Football League (USFL) kicked off at Arizona State University’s stadium in Tempe. The team’s first-round draft pick, Eric Dickerson, ultimately never played a USFL down and the team’s first season was quite the harbinger of the Cardinals to come: The Wranglers dropped the last 10 and 11 of their last 12 to finish 4-14 for the season.
For 1984, perhaps the most insane transaction in North American sports history took place, with the Wranglers trading essentially the entirety of coaching staff and roster with the Chicago Blitz. The legendary George Allen would thus coach his final game for the Arizona Wranglers, a 23-3 loss to the mighty Philadelphia Stars in the championship.
More USFL-style inanity hit the Arizona franchise for ’85: Wranglers ownership decided that attendance per game in the 25,000-28,000 range wasn’t lucrative enough (though not bad by USFL standards) and thus sold the franchise … to the Oklahoma Outlaws owner. Said owner, William Tatham, thereafter merged the two clubs to form the Arizona Outlaws. Sadly, in this final USFL season, the Outlaws’ midseason six-game losing streak sunk their mark to 8-10 and made for another playoff whiff.
By 1987, having grown tired of a quarter-century during which his St. Louis Cardinals had gone a combined 0-3 in the playoffs, franchise owner Bill Bidwell took the tack of many Americans in the 1980s: He retired to Arizona. Thus did the Cardinals kick off the ’88 season as the Phoenix Cardinals. The team became known as the Arizona Cardinals in ’94 and finally made an appearance in the Super Bowl in 2008, becoming the 28th (and, to date, last) NFL franchise to make the big game.
Unfortunately for Arizonans, the Kurt Warner Era was brief and the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals’ run thus far (cumulative record of 199-280-1, or a .415 winning percentage) isn’t a heck of a lot more optimism-inducing then that of the St. Louis Cardinals (186-202-14 or .463) or even the Chicago Cardinals before them (167-248-25 or .380). Maybe there is something to this Pottsville Maroons thing…
In college ball, the Arizona State Sun Devils (fantastic name) are the state’s big deal. Fielding teams since 1893, ASU has been known as more of a regional power, though NFLbets wouldn’t be surprised if the ’Devils become a perpetual top-20 football program before too long. Shortly after joining the Western Athletic Conference in the late 1960s, ASU whipped off five straight conference titles from 1969 to ’73, then added title in ’75 and ’77 for good measure. The Sun Devils later joined the Pac-10 and bagged three conference titles there (in 1986, 1996 and 2007).
Among the all-time NFL greats the ASU program has produced are Darren Woodson, Terrell Suggs and Mike Haynes, but probably the biggest Sun Devil star was three-time All-American RB Woody Green, stud of those early 70s ASU teams.
Best of all for ’Devils backers is the news that no less than former NFL head coach Herm Edwards leads the boys in 2018 – We can build on this!!!
ASU’s biggest rivals are naturally the University of Arizona Wildcats, who began non-regularly scheduled play in 1889. The Wildcats history is not nearly as title-laden as the Sun Devils’, with just two WAC titles 91964, 1973) and one Pac-10 title (1993) to their credit. For alums, we may laud Arizona’s production of the Canton-bound Rob Gronkowski, but minus points for Nick Foles.
Betting on Football in Arizona
Like quite a few western states currently taking a relatively hardline against straightforwardly decriminalizing betting on football, Arizona lawmakers may soon have to face some hard choices vis-à-vis their professional sports venues. In states with NBA and/or NFL teams such as Washington, Utah and Arizona may soon be forced to come to grips with a couple of leagues bullish on opening up the playing fields for gambling on their sports.
Arizona could prove to be quite the interesting testing ground for the realities of 21st-century sports betting online. NFLbets is intriguing to see how things’ll shake out in Arizona.