Border Town is what we’ve become. Most everywhere you look on Miami’s major sports landscape our teams are borderline: Fighting for the playoffs and for relevance somewhere in the gray between maybe not good enough but not bad, either. The flux leaves fans living on the edge, optimism and pessimism jousting.
I can’t recall another time quite like this one.
Being a fan is easy when your team is great. It’s simple when your team is awful, too; sports’ culture of complaint guarantees you will always have plenty of company.
The challenge is this in-between stuff, when your team is — well, when you don’t know what your team is, exactly. Look around and see what I mean.
The Marlins, who convene their full squad for the first time Tuesday at spring training in Jupiter, are supposed to be good, improved, a playoff contender. Fans seem uncommonly optimistic. There is a buzz nationally. And yet the betting over/under on Marlins wins is 81 1/2. That’s straight-up average, not a playoff number. So what do we have here?
Hurricanes men’s basketball is considered a “bubble” team in terms of being invited to the NCAA Tournament as it prepares to host Florida State on Wednesday. Like the men, the UM women also need a strong finish to avoid missing out on the main event of March Madness. So what do we have here?
Panthers hockey was climbing, seemed ready to move onto NHL playoff pace, but then came consecutive 4-1 and 5-1 losses entering a tough Tuesday night game at Chicago. Now Florida is still chasing that elusive No. 8 and last East seed. So what do we have here?
The Heat hung onto the No. 7 playoff seed entering Monday night’s game, but six teams were bunched within 21/2 games.
Elation over the Goran Dragic trade still was percolating when the somber news hit about Chris Bosh missing the rest of the season because of blood clots, and now numberfire.com puts Miami’s playoff likelihood at only 39.8 percent. So what do we have here?
The Dolphins, of course, have been the NFL model of mediocrity for a while, with consecutive 8-8 seasons and no playoff win since 2000. Credible, competitive, but seemingly always falling short, right? Some fans wonder if quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be great. More wonder if coach Joe Philbin is the answer. So what do we have here?
Canes football is in spring practice right now trying to shrug off last year’s 6-7 record. That marked only the school’s third losing season since 1979, and yet UM football fans — more than any in this market — take anything but excellence as a personal insult, so the pressure is on coach Golden approaching his fifth season.
“Big improvement” had better be his answer to: So what do we have here?
(I should mention that, fittingly, we are sort of in-between with top-level soccer, too. We have a team … but we don’t. David Beckham has been granted a Major League Soccer franchise for Miami but can’t seem to get a stadium built. More limbo.)
Everything teeters and anybody is lying if they tell you they have any idea where any of this will land.
I truly believe the Heat and Panthers could both make the playoffs and that UM men’s basketball could be in the NCAAs and that all three could surge past the first round. Yet I also believe all three might very well fall short.
I believe the Marlins absolutely could live up to the hype, be exciting and play into October. I also believe they could prove to be a major letdown.
And, yes, I believe the Dolphins might make the playoffs and win in them in 2015 and that Brad Kaaya’s Canes might be poised for a big season ending in a big bowl game. But I also believe both teams might do nothing but get Philbin and Golden fired.
Living in Border Town might not be exciting, exactly, but it isn’t dull, either.
What we have might be a poor substitute for excellence, but tension does build and hold your interest when you aren’t at all sure what is around that blind corner and what might happen next.