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Commentary: At least Marlins have given us a title recently


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For all of you so-called fans who have given up on the Marlins.......enjoy!


The rest of us understand.


Commentary: At least Marlins have given us a title recently

By Dave George


Palm Beach Post Columnist


Monday, December 12, 2005


Takes no time at all to dismantle a potential championship team.


See the Florida Marlins. Jack McKeon, the team's manager a few months back, would think he had stumbled into the wrong clubhouse today if he came back to visit.


Makes you wonder, though. For all the yo-yo dieting the Marlins have done since 1997, there have been a couple of outrageous, king-of-the-world feasts. Are we expecting too much from a two-time world championship franchise?


Or to put it another way, isn't it about time somebody else carried their weight in taxpayer subsidies around here?


The Miami Dolphins, South Florida's fan favorite by tradition and longevity, haven't won an NFL title since the 1973 season. Sure, it takes much longer to build a championship team than to tear one down, but 32 years?


There are only a half-dozen players on Nick Saban's roster who have been alive that long.


The Dolphins went to San Diego with the short-term goal of fighting off playoff elimination with three games to play. At least the Marlins staved off that soul-sapping landmark until the final week of the regular season. At least there is that.


Don't think that the Dolphins aren't trying everything they can think of, either. Leading the team over the past three decades have been the winningest coach in NFL history (Don Shula), the brashest coach in NFL history (Jimmy Johnson), the friendliest (Dave Wannstedt) and the stoniest (Saban). We haven't even mentioned Dan Marino, perhaps the greatest quarterback ever, who reached one Super Bowl in a Hall of Fame career.


Jim Bates, now defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers, went 3-4 as Miami's interim head coach last season. Saban, Huizenga's gift to Dolphins fans on Christmas, has gotten to 6-7 on what's considered an inspired roll. Maybe building a Super Bowl championship team is a lot more than just smart coaching or efficient play-calling.


A full-blown miracle is more like it.


Let's move now to the Miami Heat, who will pay Shaquille O'Neal $20 million this season, and then $20 million more in each of the next four seasons. The Marlins' projected payroll for 2006 is $16 million and change. Chump change, that is.


So what are the Heat doing with their investment? They are bumping along near.500, hoping that Shaq might eventually play more games than he misses this season, recognizing that NBA titles aren't as easy to buy as mansions.


By spring, everything should be fine. The Heat will plow into the playoffs with more resolve than last year and probably push farther. Doesn't change the fact, though, that with Shaq and Dwyane Wade and a whole new batch of expensive stars, and with princely Pat Riley atop the personnel food chain, the Heat still haven't been physically closer to the NBA Finals than they were nine years ago, when Alonzo Mourning was young and Michael Jordan's Bulls manhandled the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.


There will be more injuries, more streaks, more comebacks and more collapses for this veteran team. What there won't be is an unsmudged and easily followed blueprint for building an NBA championship. Stan Van Gundy will have to feel his way along, just like everybody else.


And what of the Florida Panthers? Don't get me started. There was that early Rat Pack run to the Stanley Cup Finals 10 years ago and a splash of real star power with Pavel Bure, but the franchise has settled since into a fog of unrealized potential. It is a real challenge for a company of ice-encrusted commandoes to come off as eternally uncool, but the Panthers have somehow managed it.


Name that arena out in Sunrise whatever you want. It only rocks for concerts. It only pretends to be hockey heaven. The only South Florida building ever to fit that description, Miami Arena, is an abandoned relic of another age.


So we've come full circle with the Marlins, all the way back to the expansion-club stage. Scream and stomp all you want, but admit this. Miami's baseball team has a history of rebuilding in less time than it takes our other pro franchises to build.


Will the Heat or the Dolphins or the Panthers, all blessed with stable ownership and profitable, publicly-supported facilities, stage a championship parade before the gutted Marlins do?


No guarantee.


Whether it's pulling a rabbit out of a hat or making one disappear in a puff of smoke, the Marlins never fail to take your breath away.


That's what South Florida forfeits if some other market winds up with them.


That's what every other pro franchise down here has been building toward, steadily, confidently, since 1973.


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