The Marlins and Panthers remind me of a line from sports mogul and lifelong rich guy Lamar Hunt.
Hunt, who eschewed extravagance, said he owned only one pair of shoes because, “You can only wear a single pair at a time. The rest sit there, depreciating.”
That’s the Marlins and Panthers.
They sit on the sidelines, literally for the moment and in the South Florida sports scene now, depreciating in interest (if not value).
If I need to recount the Marlins’ most recent kneecapping of trust, you’re probably reading this only because you flipped to the wrong section and thought the balding dark head above was Leonard Pitts (I apologize for your disappointment).
The NHL lockout has stalled the Panthers’ momentum from last spring’s first playoff berth since 2000 and plucky seven-game loss to eventual Stanley Cup finalist New Jersey.
This period, which should be their adulthood, epitomizes the perpetual adolescence in which these franchises arrest themselves.
To call either franchise “young” or to say “It still feels weird for there to be Marlins/Panthers,” brands you as middle-aged or old.
The Marlins just finished their 20th season.
The Panthers would be playing their 20th season if not for the current NHL lockout.
And the NHL lockout that eliminated the 2004-05 season.
That means to those 20 and under, here and everywhere, the Marlins and Panthers have existed for as much of their lives as Red Sox and Red Wings.
Especially in the latter case, the only way they know differently is musty media types repeating, “It still feels weird …”
Their fandom should be flowering.
The 20-to-30 set who were taken to Marlins and Panthers games as kids should now be going on their own, perhaps taking their own young children.
Fandom should be being passed down.
In South Florida, our wavering passion for our local teams isn’t that we have too many transplants.
It’s that, with one exception, our franchises have just hit the stage upon which they can call upon tradition.
The Dolphins benefitted from being the only pro game in town, getting very good relatively quickly (Super Bowl appearance in season No. 6), historically great soon after (Perfect Season followed by a second consecutive Super Bowl win) and staying consistently good for all but a few years of the 26-season Shula Era.
That built a mighty fan foundation cracked only by the current decade of failure.
By every measure, we have been a terrible basketball market, NBA and college.
Our most consistently successful franchise of the past 15 seasons on the record, the Heat, dropped the tarp over its upper deck for many games in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
Even the Shaq Era, the omnipresence of activist/center Alonzo Mourning and iconic figure Pat Riley couldn’t cultivate a fan base that would sustain interest through dark years (or year — see, 2007-08).
It has taken more success and the buzz of combining two of this NBA generations biggest stars, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, for the Heat to build what it would have long before had in most other cities.
But the Heat did it.
Meanwhile, the other team in town that has won two “world” championships damaged itself with two eras of uncompetitive austerity, 1998-2002 and 2006-2011.
marlins don’t care