Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Opening day and Marlins fans will celebrate…Two World Championships.

That’s right, as if it weren’t enough to applaud the Florida Marlins heroics of last fall, this summer their fans will get enjoy a long-delayed victory lap from the 1997 World Series win.

The Florida team that won in 1997 was derided as representing everything that was wrong with the game: free agency, expansion, wild cards. It’s subsequent, lightning-fast, dismantling gave the critics even more fodder. If this wasn’t a championship purchased then what was.

As lame as this argument was (because every team strives for the same goal within the parameters set up by the sport’s governing body) it was one that quickly gained traction and the 1997 Marlins became a footnote, and an aberration. Pundits declared this a false championship.

As shameful as it was nationally it was even more so in South Florida where the 1998 season became a grueling march towards a merciful end. Instead of a spike in attendance and interest that a championship usually brings this one only brought uncertainty, vitriol and eventually a sports team’s worst enemy, ambivalence.

Now, 6 years and two owners later, the Marlins are once again the reigning World Champs. This time representing everything that is right about the game. With a true team effort and youthful enthusiasm the Marlins were able to capture the game’s crown on a pauper’s budget proving that it’s better to be smart than rich.

This time the fans have nothing to be ashamed of. They can bask in the reflected glory and celebrate for once…for all.

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