The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Welcome to the Magic City Cubs Fans

The Marlins announced today that games 3, 4, and 5 are all sold out already. A pretty impressive feat in my mind since the Marlins drew an average of about 15,000 fans per game this year (when Dontrelle wasn't starting at least) and for the playoffs they're selling more than 65,000 seats.

Since the Cubs faithful overtook Turner Field in Atlanta last week, I'm expecting that a number of them will overrun Pro Player Stadium (call it Joe Robbie Stadium while you're here - it drives people crazy) this weekend. And since if anyone's reading this blog, it's probably Cubs fans, since I doubt there are actually any Marlins fans out there reading this blog (since it doesn't involve drinking beer, screaming, or doing the wave - although if that's what you want to do while you read, by all means, go ahead).

So if you're in town and are a little surpised at how many Marlins "fans" you see, let me explain it to you. First of all, before I rip the baseball fans of Miami - of which I am one - there are a lot of good baseball fans in this area - from the Keys through the Palm Beaches. High school and college baseball are big and a lot of people religiously follow the team that's in their home town for Spring Training and/or their Florida State League team. The Marlins, however, are a different story.

Many will tell you that they had their hearts ripped out after the 1997 season and that's somewhat misleading. In 1997 the Marlins were in the middle of the league in attendance, despite winning the wild card, being in a good pennant race all year, and having some high profile players (Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Alex Fernandez, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and a host of others). After the 1994 strike, many Marlin fans abandoned the team.

There were a lot of good reasons. One, they weren't that good. Two, the stadium is centrally located between in the tri-county area - which is great for the 10 annual Dolphins games. For baseball, in my opinion, it's not so great. If you're planning on tailgating for a few hours before and after the game, it's a nice place to be. Everyone has room to spread out, there's highways everywhere - not much else you could want. But when it's a Tuesday night in August and you have to fight through traffic for an hour and a half or more on your way from work to the game and then face a long drive home afterwards, it seems like less of a good idea. Especially when parking in a relatively empty lot is outrageously expensive and your seats likely face the field at an angle that will force you to either experience neck pain, back pain, or both by the sixth inning. Again, the stadium was designed for football, and unless you're behind home plate, you will soon learn that this true.

So who are Marlins fans? Are there any? Who are they? I believe there are three kinds.

One is the kind that normally dresses in teal. You will see them at the games and around town in their teal shirts and teal Marlins hats. You're probably thinking "the Marlins still have teal hats?" Actually, they don't. They haven't worn them since 1997 or 1998 when the team woke up and finally realized they were lame. Someitmes these fans wear jerseys - which are either teal or have teal lettering - and they are very likely to be wearing 1997 post-season garb.

This group of fans is very likely to be mistaken for actual, loyal fans of the Florida Marlins. Most likely they are not. These are people who jumped on the Marlins bandwagon around this time in 1997 and have had their gear stored in their closet ever since.

If you're not sure if the person you're talking to in teal is an actual Marlins fan or someone who just jumped back onto the bandwagon, ask them who their favorite players are. If they can name someone other than Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, Jeff Conine (aka "Mr. Marlin" to these people) or Ivan Rodriguez, they might actually be a fan of the team.

The second type of Marlins fan is kind of like the little brother of the 1997 fans. These are the people who have just gotten onto the Marlins bandwagon - or better yet, the D-Train. Don't get me wrong, I love Dontrelle Willis, but a lot of people who don't really follow the team have gotten into the team this year because of the D-Train (more on this later when I explain why Dontrelle deserves the Rookie of the Year award, even if Brandon Webb's numbers are better, since the D-Train may have saved the franchise in Miami). These fans are easy to spot because the gear they wear is usually black. The hats are always black. Many of them wear black jerseys with silver or white letters. There is no teal amongst this group. As with their older brothers, this year's generation of Marlins fans will not be likely to name a current member of the team for you other than Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, or Ivan Rodriguez (Jeff Conine is iffy).

The third group of Marlins fans aren't actually Marlins fans at all. They're people like me. People who fill the time between college baseball season and spring training with the Marlins and Major League Baseball on TV and the internet. Many of us in South Florida are transplants - either from other parts of the US or other parts of the world. I for one, as will become more apparent in the offseason, am a lifelong White Sox fan. But the Marlins are here 81 times per year (and sometimes like this year, even more). The highlight of next season for me will surely be when the White Sox visit the Marlins in Miami for a mid-week set in June.

These people typically know the team pretty well and follow the game very closely. They're among the loyal 5 - 10,000 people who show up at the games all the time (yes, I'm sure there are some people who are actually Marlins fans only, but there aren't many).

The other thing you will probably hear a lot of while you're here is about how many people were behind the team all year and knew this was the year things would turn around. Pop raidio station Y100 is on the bandwagon, claiming responsibility for the team's turnaround... they started (admitting it on the radio this morning) supporting the team in mid-september. For most people in Miami, that consitutes "all year."

Scott Ferrall on WQAM 560 AM in the mornings from 8 - 10 is about the only person who believed in the team publicly all year. And honestly, I think he just got lucky. He seems to have adopted all of the local teams down here.

The Miami Herald (a paper which today honored late former Panthers Coach Roger Neilson as the first "coach" of the Florida Marlins... they got the expansion team thing right, but wrong league. A shameful tribute to honor a dead man) was at least honest when in their playoff preview (looking for the link) they highlighted the articles written throughout the early part of the year that talked about the team's lack of direction and apparent unwillingness to try to win (more on this later as I plan to compare the Marlins front office to the front office in the films "Major League" during the offseason).

Thanks for reading Cubs fans. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.


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