There will be an upcoming referendum on whether to spend public money on Dolphins stadium improvements, and the vote will be bitterly contested and the outcome angrily decried no matter the verdict, with well-meaning folks on both sides convinced they are right and no middle ground on the ballot.
It isnt the biggest decision that faces us as a sports community, though.
It isnt even the most controversial or important or emotional choice we face.
That decision is how Marlins fans should and will feel and act moving forward into this new season. What to do with all of the frustration and anger? Where does it go? How does it show? Should fans separate their understandable disdain for owner Jeffrey Loria from the blameless players in the hometown uniform? Or is that too much to ask?
What South Florida decides wont be known as neatly as a referendum vote taken in one day. Here, the ballot will be the ongoing numbers reflected in turnstile counts and TV ratings. The verdict will be the number of filled seats versus empty seats in the shiny new downtown ballpark that will launch its second home season Monday.
It is just as well the Marlins open on the road for a week because it gives us time, as a community, to figure out what is right. That is always tougher when the emotions on either side seem so valid. When people arguing an opposite viewpoint can both seem right even as the only thing agreed upon is that there isnt much gray area between the extremes.
The polarizing nature of this topic appeared in two emails I received just minutes apart on Tuesday both entirely reflective of what I hear all the time.
Rich G. of West Palm Beach wrote: Supporting the Marlins is the same as supporting Loria, and I refuse to do it. Im not going to games, watching games on TV, or even reading articles about them.
Moments later, this from Elena G-L., who also expressed intense dislike for Loria but wrote: I think it is outrageous to sneer at the current Marlins team as if they didnt exist. This is our home team. Dont badmouth it. Im tired of hearing ownership and team lumped together in peoples venom.
Both sides agree only that Loria, after a short-lived rise in popularity a year ago with a star-filed team in the new ballpark has returned to a disdain level in Greater Miami down there with Fidel Castro. The animus is deserved. A pledge that a new stadium would mean consistently higher player payrolls and competitive teams was the foundation of political support for the new park. But the fire sale began after less than one full season.
It feels like Loria has betrayed the public trust, and I dont know he will ever be forgiven for that. See, we dont forget. We hold grudges. Former Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga broke apart the 1997 World Series champions and we never forgave him. A few years later, he threw a lavish stadium farewell for the retiring Dan Marino and was viciously booed when Marino mentioned his name to thank him.
Lorias name might always be mud down here.
The question is, can and should fans who dislike or even hate the owner still support the team?
I say yes.
I say we as a sports community that wants big-league baseball to be a part of our fabric for generations to come must be bigger than the current owner.
The best fans are loyal to their citys team, to that uniform, no matter the men in the suits running it.