By: Ryan Lasner
Before the heroics of Dwyane Wade, before LeBron James in a HEAT uniform was EVER a conceivable thought, before the term “Miami Marlins” became the proper way of acknowledging the South Florida baseball team, and before the Miami Dolphins fan-base went against their owner /organization, there was a humble professional sports-less city of Miami with Latin make-up that had nothing to watch on cable television EXCEPT for the New York Yankees.
It wasn’t until the Miami Dolphins accomplished their undefeated season and won the Super Bowl (1972) that a Miami fan-base was created. In 1970 the Miami Dolphins became an established NFL franchise and started their parallel path with the University of Miami’s (UM) football team. UM began their football program in 1926 but didn’t become successful until the 1983 season, when they won their 1st National title and began DOMINATING the college scene; UM won National titles in ’83, ’87, ’89, ’91 and most recognizably (to our readers) in 2001.
Miami soon became a “football town” with icons such as Dan Marino (former Dolphins quarterback), Bernie Kosar (former Heisman trophy winner at UM), Michael Irvin (former UM wide receiver who won multiple Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys) and MANY other homegrown talent representing the city that once was imageless. Numerable athletes came out of South Florida as it was known as “the hotbed” of sports talent in our country. This overwhelming amount of talent/success would ONLY help increase sports popularity in South Florida. Then, the city began to expand…
It was the year 1988 when the Miami HEAT and Charlotte Hornets began their inaugural seasons in the NBA. As you can imagine for ANY expansion team, it was a SLOW start. It wasn’t until the 1995-1996 season when Pat Riley became the head coach of the Miami HEAT that they became a respectable contending franchise. Alonzo Mourning was Riley’s first acquisition (’95) and NOT his last. He made moves to get players such as Tim Hardaway, Eddie Jones and NUMEROUS hard-nosed veterans. The Miami HEAT got as far as the Conference Finals (against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1997) with Riley’s 1st attempt at construction.
Pat Riley’s NEXT wave began with the 2003 NBA draft (a.k.a. the 1st LeBron sweepstakes). After Miami lost out on the LeBron James lottery in the 2003 NBA draft, the HEAT drafted Dwyane Wade with the 5th overall pick. Wade showed glimpses of BRILLIANCE early as he took a team filled with role players such as Lamar Odom, Eddie Jones and Caron Butler to the 2nd round of the playoffs as a rookie. Riley KNEW the Miami HEAT needed MORE firepower around Wade’s talent, so he maneuvered a trade for dominant Big-man, Shaquille O’Neal of the L.A. Lakers in 2004. In Wade and Shaq’s 2nd season together, the Miami HEAT won their 1st NBA Championship in franchise history (2005-2006). Fans became all-in on the team and nothing could have seemed to deter them away. The honey-moon of Shaquille O’Neal in a HEAT uniform soon faded (the NEXT two seasons) as they began to rebuild following Shaq’s decreasing ability. He was traded away in the 2007-2008 season as an attempt to increase the team’s cap-space. Pat Riley and his staff KNEW LeBron James and OTHERS would soon be free-agents, as the Boston Celtics blueprint had become the most recent formula for success in the NBA. Mulling over Chris Bosh and LeBron James became a reality in 2011 with the tiring maneuver battle from the HEAT’s staff including Pat Riley and his consultant Alonzo Mourning. Adding LeBron James along with Chris Bosh and resigning Dwyane Wade was seen as the BIGGEST move in sports history (by many). As we know, Miami is currently in their second consecutive NBA Finals (they lost last season), as the future looks bright.
In 1993 veteran knuckleballer, Charlie Hough threw the 1st pitch for an expansion team known as the Florida Marlins. It didn’t take long for this team to have success, winning the World Series in 1997 and in 2003 (their ONLY playoff appearances EVER). Besides the two MAGICAL seasons, the Marlins have been known to be a building franchise reluctant to spend money on “Type A” free-agents. Marlins management has notably groomed its top prospects and would sell them at their peak for younger, better talent. This tactic hasn’t abided well with the fans, as support has been limited in the past. While rain delays killed the fans’ motive to attend games, contraction of the franchise had ALSO loomed in the minds of many. Most recently, the Florida Marlins were granted a NEW ballpark with a retractable roof, in an effort to cover the fans from the unpredictably predictable South Florida weather. Along with a NEW title, “The Miami Marlins,” the franchise that has been known to pinch the penny, went with the uncanny decision to spend BIG-TIME money on “Type A” free agents such as Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. They hired the charismatic Latin manager, Ozzie Guillen. The HUGE investment was in belief that a NEW home with rain coverage, a state-of-the-art dome as an attraction and multi-millions spent on talent would get the South Florida spenders excited for baseball again. The Marlins owner’s goal was to lure the predominantly Latin fan-base BACK, and reinvent the joy of watching baseball again, just as if they were watching their beloved Yankees.
The Miami Dolphins are at a woeful stage in their franchise’s history. Once the pride of Miami, they have become the laughing stock of the NFL. We’re talking about a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000 (12 years), and hasn’t played in a Super Bowl since 1984 (they lost). They have won Super Bowls twice in the past, 1972 and 1973, along with reaching the game five times.
However, the fan-base is growing sicker by the day as their owner, Stephen Ross, takes negative hit after hit. Most recently, a riot in front of the Dolphins headquarters called for the resignation of General Manager Jeff Ireland. This was following the trade of their BEST player, Brandon Marshall and NOT signing free agents Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn. The Dolphins were also known for bringing in the great football mind of Bill Parcells, ONLY for him to skip out on them when things got bad. A NEW regime is currently in place with the recent head coach hiring of former Green Bay Packer Offensive Coordinator, Joe Philbin. The NEW regime plans on running the West Coast offense and has since signed Chad OchoCinco to replace Brandon Marshall as the team’s featured wide receiver. The future seems to be quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who they drafted Number-8 overall in this year’s draft. Miami has yet to find their franchise quarterback, as they’ve started 16 different quarterbacks since 1999 (Dan Marino’s final season). Notably, the Miami Dolphins have signed on to become the latest team for HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” as they look to regain the respect and interest they once had.
Invest in Miami
Miami is a VERY diverse sports town on the rise. They have a brand NEW baseball stadium, a dominant basketball team and a football team that will continue to play the country’s MOST POPULAR GAME. Miami has a GREAT market for addressing FUTURE free-agents and will continue to improve, as will its economy. LeBron James currently leads the star-powered city for the moment, but EXPECT names such as Giancarlo Stanton and Ryan Tannehill to take over his throne in the coming years.