This Dave Barry column was originally published Oct. 4, 1993
Now that the Marlins' first season is over, I think we have to agree that it did a lot of good for South Florida. For one thing, it exposed a lot of young fans down here to major-league baseball. One night late in September, I was at a Marlins- Cardinals game, sitting in front of a very young fan -- a boy, maybe 3 years old -- and he was learning about The Nation's Pastime by asking his dad questions. For example, when the announcer announced that Walt Weiss was batting, they had this conversation:
BOY: Why is he "Weiss"?
DAD: Because that's his name.
BOY: But WHY?
It was a long night for that particular dad. For that matter, it was a long night for ALL of us; it was one of those games where the Marlins kept bringing out new pitchers all evening, pitcher after pitcher, until finally the sun was coming up and the guy on the mound was a dazed and confused 52-year-old accountant from Kendall who happened to walk past the bullpen on the way to the men's room.
The Marlins lost that game. They lost a lot of games. They even finished behind our hated expansion-team archrivals, the Colorado Rampaging Prairie Oysters. But the Marlins were still a lot of fun. And they caused an amazing thing to happen in South Florida, something that I would not have believed was possible: They caused the callers to local sports-talk radio shows to stop talking, at least briefly, about the Dolphins.
Don't get me wrong: I root for the Dolphins. But there are sports fans down here -- I am talking about serious Dolphins fans, owners of lifelike inflatable Larry Csonka dolls -- who spend more time worrying about the Dolphins than Don Shula does. For years it has been impossible to tune in to any local sports- talk show, no matter what time of year it was, without hearing an endless stream of callers who are close to suicide over Dolphin-related problems. Nothing else matters to these people.
HOST: You're on the air.
CALLER: OK, I want to agree with the previous 119 consecutive callers about the Dolphins' running game. You can't win in the . . .
HOST (interrupting): I've just been handed an urgent bulletin. The Turkey Point nuclear power plant has exploded, and a huge radioactive cloud is spreading northward over Dade County.
CALLER: Yeah, well, my point is that you can't win in the NFL without a . . .
HOST (interrupting): We're going to go now to Arnold Heeberman of the South Florida Emergency Disaster Authority, who will be giving evacuation instructions.
HEEBERMAN: OK, but first I want to say that I agree with the previous caller.
So it was a nice change of pace last spring when some of the callers tried to make the transition to talking about the Marlins. This wasn't easy. For one thing, some of the fans were not overwhelmingly knowledgeable about baseball ("Hello? I'm concerned about the Marlins' linebackers."). For another thing, South Florida fans had to adjust to the concept that their team might not be very successful. This is not an easy notion for people down here to accept. We are not patient fans, here in South Florida. We are not like, say, Boston fans, who know in their hearts that God, for whatever reason, has decided to punish them by never letting the Red Sox win the World Series again. Down here, we expect our teams to WIN.
But for a while there, the South Florida fans seemed to grasp that a new, inexperienced baseball team could not be expected to win many games, or even necessarily to get the correct number of players onto the field. You heard sports-show callers -- South Florida callers -- actually saying things like, "I know they won't be competitive, but I'm just glad we have a baseball team."