Dave Barry

Starve a cold, feed playoff fever the gripping drama, dripping spareribs

This Dave Barry column was originally published October 4, 1997

I will admit that, until approximately Tuesday of this week, I was not a major Marlins fan. To me, baseball has always seemed less exciting, as a spectator sport, than basketball, or football, or hockey, or appliance repair.

For example, on Labor Day weekend I went to No Longer Joe Robbie Stadium to watch the Marlins play the Orioles in a game that lasted at least as long as puberty. Needless to say, it rained -- this was, after all, South Florida, a place where homeowners must routinely rake the fish off their lawns. So in the second inning there was a lengthy rain delay, followed by an even longer delay during which an extremely meticulous group of men, apparently trained by the Florida state highway department, replaced the entire infield one dirt molecule at a time.

After nearly two hours, play resumed, but, in accordance with standard baseball strategy, as soon as anything threatened to happen, one of the managers would stop the game and walk slowly out to the pitcher's mound to form a gathering of men for the strategic purpose of scratching their personal regions. I left after five hours, with the game still going on (it ended Sept. 19).

That was my only involvement with the Marlins until this week, when I caught Playoff Fever. What caused my change of heart? Basically, it was the same thing that has attracted Americans, young and old, to baseball for more than 100 years: A chance to fly to San Francisco and eat fine Chinese food at The Miami Herald's expense. There are some terrific Chinese restaurants out here, and I plan to eat at as many as possible in my relentless quest to keep you, the South Florida sports fan, informed on these playoffs.

Since I was in the area anyway, I also attended Friday night's baseball game between the Marlins and the San Francisco Giants at the stadium here. It was originally named "Candlestick Park, " but the sponsorship was subsequently sold to a computer company, which renamed the stadium after itself: "Nerd Park."

No, seriously, it is now officially known as "The Stadium Formerly Known As Candlestick Park, " or, as the locals sometimes call it for short, "Candlestick Park." There was an enthusiastic crowd on hand, including one man waving a sign that is far too tasteless to print in a family newspaper outside of parentheses ("Muck the Farlins").

The Marlins went into the game with a two-game lead, needing only one victory to advance to the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves. So the burning question on the mind of virtually every person in the stadium Friday night was: What if there's an earthquake? At least that was the question burning on my mind. I was sitting in the press box, which is the last place on Earth you want to be if there's a major tremor, because you could find yourself trapped under thousands and thousands of pounds of sportswriters, some of whom have been consuming chili. So I was nervous. I found myself jumping up every time I heard anything unusual.

"WHAT WAS THAT SOUND??" I'd shout.

"The National Anthem, " the sportswriters would answer. Apparently this happens a lot.

Fortunately, the stadium did not fall down. That was the highlight of the game, as far as I was concerned; for details, you should read the other stories in this sports section. For my part, I will remain out here for as long as necessary to cover this story. That could be weeks, especially if I start ordering the Peking duck.

(c) Dave Barry

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