Greg Cote

Flip the narrative on Miami as a sports town. Here's why we're great and getting better

Miami Hurricanes fans scream as the Canes intercept the ball in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, November 11, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes fans scream as the Canes intercept the ball in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, November 11, 2017.

"Miami is not a good sports town."

How many times have you heard that said, or perhaps said it yourself? Yada yada yada.

It is a perpetuating myth in need of remedy.

The truth: Miami/South Florida is not a good sports town. It is a great sports town.

And it's getting better all the time.

Some of what makes this debatable is how one defines what makes a metropolis great for sports or not. As someone who writes and talks about sports for a living, I hear opinions from sports fans all the time. You can't resist telling the doctor you bump into at a party about the rash on your arm, and you can't resist telling me what you think of Ryan Tannehill.

What I hear on the topic of Miami as a sports town is mostly myopia — a micro-approach instead of macro-thinking.

"You see the Marlins attendance last night?"

"When was the last time the Dolphins won a playoff game!"

"Heat fans show up late and leave early."

Micro, micro, micro.

The success of any city's professional teams surely is a factor in the debate, as is fan support. So is starpower, and there in particular we have taken a major hit in recent years, losing the likes of LeBron James, Giancarlo Stanton, Chris Bosh and Jose Fernandez (and Jaromir Jagr and Ichiro, too).

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade takes the court to practice on his return to the Heat as they prepare to play the Milwaukee Bucks.

But this is true, too: South Florida fans have cheered six major national championships — three NBA titles, two World Series wins and a college football crown — within the past 20 years. That isn't bad. Neither is fan support, with the exception of the Marlins, who are trying to dig out from under years of fan-alienating dysfunction under former owner Jeffrey Loria.

The Heat is competitive, post-LeBron. The hockey Panthers are young and rising. The Dolphins are midpack competitive. The Marlins at least have a business plan now under Derek Jeter. And when David Beckham's Major League Soccer team begins play in 2020, Miami will be one of only 10 U.S. regions with all of the Big Four American sports plus soccer. Plus, Hurricanes football is enjoying a revival with Mark Richt, and UM basketball wins consistently. On balance, our biggest teams aren't bad.

Again, though, why we are a great sports town is bigger than how are teams are faring this years, or yesterday's crowd count.

We have a variety of sports to rival any city in the world. Beyond the fact South Floridians live where so many tourists save to visit on vacation, there is no greater place for a sports fan to be than Miami in terms of an ever-expanding smorgasbord of options and major events.

A united bid from the U.S., Canada and Mexico won the right to host the 2026 World Cup, FIFA announced Wednesday.

Just this month, the United States, Mexico and Canada were jointly awarded the 2026 World Cup, with Miami and Hard Rock Stadium a major part of the U.S. bid.

Now downtown Miami is poised to enter into a 10-year agreement with Formula One auto racing to stage an annual Grand Prix as a stop on motorsports' sexiest, most exotic international circuit. That's major, a three-day event to rival hosting a Super Bowl in terms of spectacle and revenue generated.

That reminds me. We will host our next Super Bowl after the 2020 NFL season. It will be Miami's 11th, breaking a tie with New Orleans for most ever.

Hard Rock Stadium also will host the 2020 season College Football Playoff championship game and host semifinals this coming season and in 2021 and '24.

It was ironic when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in March, when asked about Marlins attendance: "Miami is a great city. It's not a great sports town."

It was ironic because Ross is the man most responsible for making it great.

He will be judged as Dolphins owner first by how his teams do, an appraisal presently harsh. But even if the Fins never win a Super Bowl under his aegis, he still might have proven on balance to be a successful owner for this market.

Fans of Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid and Barcelona arrived early at Hard Rock Stadium for Saturday friendly match between the two sides.

His personally funded renovation of Hard Rock Stadium is why Miami is again attracting Super Bowls and CFP title games and the World Cup.

His Relevant Sports company is the group that founded the International Champions Cup that this summer will bring soccer powers Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Real Madrid to Miami. That same company is behind Formula One racing likely coming here as well.

Doral lost its PGA tour stop, but Miami still has major tennis (though unfortunately no longer on Key Biscayne), NASCAR's grand finale in Homestead, major horse racing at Gulfstream and world-class sailing. Almost forgot: Miami and Dania are two of the few places left in America where you can still watch jai-alai.

Take all of it in when you measure whether Miami is a great sports town.

The Marlins don't draw and Dolphins might be headed for 7-9, but it doesn't start and end there.

We're bigger than that.

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