Riley: “Not a new culture, but to tightening the screws on a culture that sometimes erodes just a little bit.”
Ah, those halcyon days when we were hated for being so good, so in-your-face cocky. The rest of the country seethed with jealousy, and we luxuriated in it. Loved it!
Miami has had its day at top of the sports world. We have seen the view.
LeBron took his talents to South Beach, and the city threw itself an arena party that others found so off-putting but we didn’t give a [bleep]. For four years the Heat were twice-champion villains from coast to coast and it tasted like champagne to us.
Before that Canes football was the best and baddest in America, Jimmy Johnson swaggering, Michael Irvin a braying braggart, Jerome Brown in his battle fatigues. America’s disdain was our high-octane fuel.
We’ve been lucky, all in all.
I mean, back-to-back Dolphins Super Bowl wins and still the only Perfect Season in NFL history, then that long ride with Dan Marino.
The Panthers reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in only their third season.
The Marlins somehow managing to win two World Series in between fire sales.
We’ve had our day.
Alas, it ain’t now.
What’s that proverb about what goes around comes around? You know, like when an ivory poacher is killed by an elephant?
That’s Miami sports as this decade wanes.
Anybody anywhere who hated our city for the Heat’s Big 3 era or for the cocky Canes and for anything else, it’s their laugh now. We’re on the other end of it.
It isn’t just that Dwyane Wade’s retirement leaves Miami bereft of a transcendent national star — leaves us largely faceless.
It’s that all of our major teams seem stuck. Like a comical sausage race at a ballpark, the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers are stumblin’ and huffin’ to see who can get from bad to mediocre or mediocre to pretty good first. (‘Great’ is shining village beyond the horizon at this point, out of view).
We stink and it’s quantifiable. In a fit of masochism, I did the research.
Miami is one of 13 cities/metropolitan areas in the United States with all four major pro teams: NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.
None is having the success blackout we are.
All of the other 12 cities either have a team in the current basketball or hockey playoffs, a winning record in football last year or a winning record in baseball last year or so far this season. Most cities have multiple teams in those categories.
Miami has none in any of those. Zero.
And no immediate hope of a return to winning, let alone title-contending.
The Dolphins, after a coaching change and an almost complete retooling, have a Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook over/under of five wins for 2019 — lowest in the NFL. An estimate by an ESPN writer on Wednesday was lower, 3.6 wins. By tanking or lousiness-despite-effort, maybe the Fins will be bad enough this season to find a Magic Quarterback in the 2020 draft. Maybe. Meanwhile, oh the indignity, the Dolphins are now officially worse than the Browns.
The Heat, now post-Wade, are nearly the mathematical epitome of perfectly average (217 wins, 212 losses) since the LeBron/Big 3 era vanished. With seven or eight nice pieces but no star, with a $98 million center who ended last season coming off the bench, Miami is good enough to battle for that eighth seed but not bad enough to score big in the draft lottery. There is no whale in view, no escape back to the Finals in the offing.
The Marlins, as bad as most expected at 4-14 entering Wednesday, slog through Year 2 of the Derek Jeter rebuild, a ground-up reboot that relies solely on the hope the farm system will prove verdant and a good team will grow, someday, maybe. Meantime the Fish have the worst attendance in baseball (if that didn’t go without saying). And don’t even get me started on Christian Yelich, which is beginning to look like the worst trade since the Lenape Indians sold Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets in 1626.
With the Panthers, at least we see a glimmer of something. (Dare say hope?) In the young roster of Aleksander Barkov, et al, there is talent. In new coach Joel Quenneville, there is a Stanley Cup pedigree.
All of which summarizes the state of South Florida pro sports quite neatly:
The franchise that is our Next Great Hope is the one that last won a playoff series in 1996.
We have been reminded just this week of the anything-is-possible nature of sports.
Tiger wins his first Masters in 14 years. The Clippers overcome a 31-point deficit to stun the champion Warriors. Columbus sweeps Tampa Bay to end the Lightning’s record-setting season.
There is the serendipity of magic all around sports.
Just none of it trickling down to Miami at the moment.