MIAMI: Major Sports Town?

written by Enrique Sierra, Jr.

Miami is primed to be a true sports town and right now is the time to make it happen.

As a hardcore sports fan, there aren’t many things that spark my jealousy as much as seeing a true united fanbase rally around their teams. The 2000’s were very good times to have your allegiances lie with the Boston franchises. But, it isn’t simply about winning. I’m talking about a true, passionate following the likes of which Chicago and New York have enjoyed for so long. Admittedly, as a sports market, we’re a relatively young one, but now is the time to take off and we got to fucking go!

Interestingly enough, the teams no one has given a shit about for so long are the ones doing the heavy lifting around here these days. While the University of Miami’s Men’s Basketball team is competing atop the ACC and the Florida Panthers are converting even the fringe hockey fans, the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, and the Miami Hurricanes football team are hell-bent on breaking hearts and turning away possibly the most winning dependent fanbase in North America. Even the Miami Heat has fallen into the basketball purgatory that the NBA has created for itself. They are both too good for the drafted franchise cornerstone, “sure-thing” lottery pick and not good enough to actually compete for a championship. However, with the aforementioned local bottom-feeders finally rising and even the probability of a very successful MLS franchise becoming a part of the sports culture down here, the teams that people have actually cared about need to get it in gear. Miami is begging to become an epicenter of sports and add itself to that list of true sports towns and this is the window we’ve been waiting for.

First the good:

Two words: Jim Larrañaga. The Spanish tilde above the “n” in his last name added to pander to the Hispanic audience was not the only thing that lovable, older white man brought down to Miami from George Mason. The University of Miami Men’s Basketball team is undergoing a serious culture change and this one actually includes – imagine this- winning (as opposed to losers using booster money to pop bottles and motorboat strippers in every back room at BT’s). Larrañaga stepped into a rough ACC in 2011 and worked his way through solid recruiting and valuable transfers to create a program that, in his short time here, has already won the conference, made deep runs in major tournaments and is slotted to be a top 2 seed in the NCAA tournament this year in most bracket projections. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that kids actually want to come here now. Coral Gables has always been a beautiful place to spend your college years, but a program that actually warrants national attention and a fanbase that now fills the Bank United Center makes this an attractive situation for recruits, precisely what a school with already established football and baseball programs needed.

P.S. Can’t hate on college kid’s having a great time with Diamond and Cinnamon, just don’t be afraid to sniff March Madness every once in a while.

More good:

Hockey is alive in South Florida and this shit’s awesome! The Florida Panthers have been so much fucking fun to follow this year. Let this serve as a Public Service Announcement: Everybody jump on the Cat-Wagon… Now! Dale Tallon is the man in charge this team has been waiting for. Acquired from the very successful Chicago Blackhawks front office, Tallon managed to win a division title in only his second year in South Florida and currently rosters a team that also leads their division and holds the second seed in the conference. Hockey excitement has revived down here and reputable veterans like Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo are only part of the reason. The funny thing about being awful in the NHL for so long and getting high draft picks is you actually have to hit on those. Well, Tallon has more than done that. The Panthers currently roster a slew of franchise saving young talent all drafted under Tallon’s tenure. The long rejected Miami team in America’s fourth most popular sport is finally garnering attention in and out of the local market and it is well deserved.

The possible erection (pun intended) of an MLS franchise in Miami is currently a bit difficult to explain and multi-layered. The basic positives to take out of it are these: David Beckham is bringing his sexy down to the 305 and packed some rich friends to come to the party. A franchise of the world’s most popular sport in a town so culturally diverse has the possibility of being very exciting. Spearheaded by a man so respected and well-liked in his world, Miami soccer seems like an attractive destination for some big names and a major step forward for the evolution of the sport in North America.

Now for the sewage. Let’s sift through it quickly to limit the pain…

The Miami Dolphins are not good (#JustTheFacts). The heart-breaking thing is that owner Stephen Ross wants so desperately and tries so hard for them halfway watchable, but the man can’t make a right football decision to save his fucking life. This team has employed more idiots than all of the reality shows on MTV and E! put together. It isn’t for lack of trying that the Dolphins can’t place a decent product on the football field, they win every off-season. Miami’s oldest professional franchise has spent the better part of 2 decades infuriating the fanbase with mediocre seasons that usually include a mild buildup and a soul-crushing new and creative way to rip out our already several times repaired heart.

The Miami Marlins are just a bunch of assholes. What more can be said about a franchise that has made the playoffs twice in its existence, refuses to pay for players, ships out the good ones they already have, and a front office that, seemingly, is devoid of the ability to give a single fuck about the fanbase that built a stadium in Miami for them all to line their pockets with. Sadly, I still talk myself into every season. This one includes performing a blend of several religious rituals I don’t believe in to help with Giancarlo Stanton’s health, passive-aggressively rooting for Jose Fernandez every time he takes the mound, waiting for Barry Bonds to inevitably do or say something stupid, watching Don Mattingly pretend like he can make a difference when he’s really only here because Jeffrey Loria can’t stop hiring enough old Yankees, and the hopeful ongoing development of young guys like Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto and Gordon right before they’re shipped out of town. Baseball is my favorite sport and season’s end has become a depressing, pseudo masochistic relief for me that I actually get some time off from this team. Take my time and money and thanks for the memories, Fish.

Miami Hurricanes football recently got themselves a messiah. It isn’t because Mark Richt is a very spiritual man that I say that. I mean that for the first time in the program’s history the stiff suits running the administration realized the absolute gem they have sitting on their lap and hired a proven commodity to be in charge. Richt comes down from Georgia as an established recruiter and a coach with a perennially competitive team in NCAA football’s hardest conference. The rigors of the SEC never allowed Richt the rings that he was always in contention for, but Miami has been starving for a guy like this on the sidelines. An endless slippery slope into the darkest pits of college football hell has followed a pass interference flag in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Miami and the sport need The U to be awesome again.

I really cannot bring myself to say anything bad about the Miami Heat. The NBA is a fucking brutal league that enables the really good teams to remain atop the leaderboards. The Heat gave me 4 years like I am positive I will never experience again as a sports fan and, even after their biggest star leaves (LeBitch), this front office cannot handle losing and playing the usual tank for high draft pick game that the rest of the league loves so much that they are making any moves possible to remain competitive. The problem is any realistic move out there pales in comparison to the basketball pornography that is going on in Golden State, reducing every other team to pretty much fight for second place.

Miami, stop fucking around and get your shit together. Gather up the sports teams and let’s make this thing happen. Now is the time to give me the sports town I have always dreamed about and the environment this beautiful city of ours needs. It’s going to take a serious amount of winning, but that’s not too much to ask for, is it? Maybe it isn’t the one we deserve, but as polarizing and attention-grabbing as it can be, Miami as a major sports town is definitely the one we all want.

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