March 22, 2005
Where do you turn when local sports teams go bad? Most East Valley guys can only vent to spouses or friends.
But if the Diamondbacks, Cardinals or Sun Devils hit the skids, every beefeatin’ soul in north Mesa is going to feel Rick Cowley’s pain. "It does feel good to let it out," he says.
Cowley’s Burger King franchise has a message board. If you strike out with two men on, outsource a home game to Mexico, or suit up the PAC-10 MVP and still miss March Madness, Burger King delivers the beef, all right — from the McKellips Road offramp all the way down Country Club Drive.
Every week, Cowley’s Burger King sounds off on things like the Cards’ Kurt Warner signing (4 MIL FOR A GUY WHO LOST HIS LAST 2 JOBS), last year’s DBacks (BOB WILL BE QUIET THIS OCTOBER) and, memorably, the Keith Tkachuk trade (WHAT THE TKACHUK IS GO’N ON?)
"I came here from Southern California back in 1991," says Cowley. "I’ve always been a big sports fan, and I support our local teams." But adjusting from the Showtime-era Lakers to the Stalling-era Cardinals? It’s a wonder his Burger King never said KILL ME NOW. "I have put up a few (signs) that incited people," he says. "But I try not to be too confrontational."
A few weeks ago, Cowley posted CUBS WITHOUT SOSA LIKE A WHOPPER WITHOUT CHEESE, as an homage to the recently traded Sammy Sosa. "It wasn’t even derogatory," he says. "Some people like Whoppers without cheese." But he soon discovered that Chicago-area snowbirds bare their talons to anyone who publicly misses Sosa — even if they couch their feelings in beef-and-lactose allegories. "It was bizarre," he says. "A Chicago radio affiliate called, and told me everyone’s glad Sammy was gone.
"They played me a tape of (Cubs pitcher) Mark Prior saying, ‘The Burger King in Mesa better get a clue: We’re not sad Sammy’s gone.’ Then they asked, ‘Do you mind if we put you on the air and kick you around a little bit?’ " He went on. They kicked.
But things are better now. Cowley extended an olive branch to Cub fans: "We’re offering a spring training Cubbie burger. It’s two-thirds of a pound of beef, and I’ll buy your fries," he says.
"(The fans) have been good about it. They’ve offered me about a dozen suggestions for the sign . . . about 10 of them would get me arrested." Burger King will probably sound off on steroids or the NCAA tourney, but Cowley’s staying away from provocative cheese metaphors for now.
"I’m just trying to have fun," he says. "Every once in a while, we get people in the store who tell me they drive down the street just to see what I’ll say this week. So, that’s kind of cool."