Sorry LeBron James, the Miami Dolphins Will Always Rule South Beach
This isn't meant to be a diatribe against the Miami Heat or Lebron James. Such venom is apparently reserved for plenty of others. In fact, I commend Pat Riley and the Miami Heat for putting together an unthinkable trio of talent.
However, there is one issue that should be cleared up for King James and his court—or is it Wade County and its municipalities?
Miami is the home of the National Football League's Dolphins and they are the ruling entity of South Florida. This will never change and here is why:
First and foremost, the Miami Dolphins are one of the leading brands in all of sports. Yes, it's hot in South Florida and there are plenty of things to do, but the Dolphins always maintain reasonable if not impressive attendance for games.
More importantly, there are an unbelievable number of publications, websites, Facebook pages, and other outlets catering to Dolphins fans because "Phin fans" or "Dolfans" crave them. The demand for all things Dolphins is so great, there is even an online news wire (phins.com) strictly dedicated to providing anything connected with the Dolphins in almost real-time format.
The Dolphins are a South Florida passion that has remained on the nation's radar.
Dolphins fans also hold their history near and dear. The more veteran fan still sticks out his chest proudly when talking about the undefeated Super Bowl team from almost 38 years ago.
Another generation still talks of the lasers that Dan Marino fired to the likes of Mark Clayton, Mark Duper, and O.J. McDuffie.
The contemporaries feel distaste for Nick Saban and hope springs eternal for a young team and its new acquisition, the enigmatic Brandon Marshall.
Dolphins fans need their fix, so to speak.
In contrast, the Heat are treated almost as a trendy toy in South Florida. Fans play with it until something else comes along or it loses its shine.
As an expansion franchise that entered the NBA during the 1988-1989 season, the Heat finally won an NBA title in 2006 and less than a year later, the team crumbled. The sparkle was off the trophy and the fans stopped showing up.
Even though this was a scant four years ago, many people in Miami would have trouble naming the members of the championship team minus Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal.
If you take this logic even further, don't expect most fans to reflect on the slightly less fortunate days of Heat teams with Glen Rice, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, or Steve Smith.
Now, the expectation for the new "Superfriends" combo of James, Wade, and Chris Bosh is to win multiple NBA titles. ESPN.com just held a roundtable where every "expert" predicted at least two titles for the Heat during the next five years. One expert put the over/under at 3.5.
If the Heat do win these titles, they will have fulfilled expectations—but don't expect wild parties in the streets suggesting some great feat or accomplishment—but a palpable sense that "they did what they were supposed to do." After all, the Heat weren't built, as much as they were bought.
If the Heat don't win multiple championships, many fans will look at them as a failure. Its not fair, but that's the way this game works when you sign three of the league's top players.
If the Dolphins win a championship in the next five years, the aftermath would far eclipse anything the Heat could generate. A significant part of the fan base celebrates for days with a victory over the hated New England Patriots or New York Jets. Imagine what Miami would be like with a Super Bowl victory.
The Heat don't have rivalries that cross the boundaries of pure disdain. Sure, the fans don't like the Knicks, the Magic, the Bulls, or perhaps now the Cavaliers. Just don't expect message boards to fill up with hate going back and forth for years like it has with Dolphins and Jets fans.
Then there is the age factor which limits the Miami Heat to a maximum six-year window. At the end of their contracts (according to sources, each player signed six-year contracts with a provision to opt out and become unrestricted free agents after the fourth year; reportedly each player also possesses a player option entering the final season of the contract), James, Bosh, and Wade will all be in their 30's. They will have also played more than 10 years in the NBA, suffering an immense physical toll.
The chances of the Heat deciding to or being able to re-sign and get maximum impact out of all three players is non-existent. The Heat will likely have to start over again.
Re-enter the Dolphins. Providing there is a new collective bargaining agreement and a lockout is averted in 2011, the Dolphins have young talented players that will improve and the financial flexibility to add more talent.
The Dolphins are the second winningest NFL franchise since 1970, trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers by one game.
Which makes the point that fans can count on the Dolphins and have been doing so for 44 years. The Heat's four- to six-year run with James, Wade, and Bosh, whatever it turns out to be, just can't compete.
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