“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” wrote Charles Dickens in his novel A Tale of Two Cities. This is the only way to describe a city struggling with its sports identity.
Miami, Florida. Dade County. The 305. My birthplace. Home of the three-time NBA Champions Miami Heat, and the only undefeated team in NFL history, the Miami Dolphins.
Basketball or Football town. What are we?
The origin of this debate begins with the Heat drafting Dwyane Wade in 2003. Instantly the Miami Heat was transformed into a playoff team. The next year, Shaq arrives. The following year, NBA Champions. It happened that fast. Wade and Shaq brought the Heat their first title in franchise history. Dade County was nicknamed Wade County, and the Miami Heat were sitting on top of the city. Meanwhile, the Dolphins were struggling under coach Nick Saban, who already had one foot in the door at Alabama. The tide was beginning to shift. Pun intended.
The next four years saw very minimal success from both teams. Really just a couple of playoff appearances, That’s about it. Until July 2010.
“I’m taking my talents to South Beach”-Lebron James.
Those seven words made Miami the center of the basketball universe. The Big 3 era of Lebron, Wade, and Chris Bosh had begun. As pumped as I was about having Lebron play my for favorite team, his announcement struck a nerve with me. He said he was taking his talents to South Beach. Not Miami. But SOUTH BEACH.
“But JT, aren’t they the same?”
They are not. Ask anyone from Miami and they’ll tell you the same thing. There’s South Beach; and then there is MIAMI.
The years of the Big 3 era served as the perfect symbol of South Beach culture. The glitz and glamour. The fame and fortune. The showing up to the club at 1 in the morning because the party doesn’t end until 6. The American Airlines Arena, also known as the Triple A, became the place to be. Everyone from Diddy to Floyd Mayweather became court side regulars.
While the Miami Heat were on South Beach partying, the Dolphins, whose stadium is located in the middle of Carol City, continued to struggle. This was a perfect parallel to the citizens of the city. South Beach was the tourist attraction. The beach, the nightlife, the partying, the fancy hotels and condos; that’s all you see from the outside looking in. Travel west across the bridge and you’ll find yourself in one the poorest cities in America. One out of four citizens live below the poverty line. The average income of $31,917 is well below the national average of $51,657. The crime rate? 1,060 violent crimes per 100,00 people. Yet, no matter our living situation, nothing brings Miami together like football.
The real Miami will always be a football town. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. Babies aren’t given a onesie and blanket, they’re given a helmet and shoulder pads as soon as they exit the womb. I remember running my first 40 yard dash in daycare.
Looking at the location of both team’s venues, you can tell the Dolphins are Miami’s pride and joy. The Triple A is located in Downtown Miami. Two miles from South Beach. Surrounded by lavish cruise ships and expensive condos. Hard Rock Stadium though, is located in Miami’s inner city. Right next door to your average, everyday Super Wal-Mart. Within 20 miles of the stadium you can find numerous parks, all with their own optimist football team. We don’t call it Peewee football down here. And on any given Saturday, you can find these parks full of people to watch their children play football.
Head six miles south on 27th avenue and you’ll arrive at Traz Powell Stadium. A 10,000-seat stadium known as the Mecca of high school football. NFL stars Antonio Brown, Amari Cooper, Devonta Freeman, and a host of others all played high school football in this stadium. And no matter what Lebron and Wade had going on downtown, Traz Powell was guaranteed to be full for a Friday night football game. Especially if it was The West versus Carol City. Even if you didn’t grow up rooting for the Dolphins, you grew up loving football. Many of our youth see football as a way out. They grow up with the opportunity of playing football in the immediate shadow of a NFL team. I’m a huge fan of both teams, but the Dolphins always seemed more relatable to me. Maybe because I grew up just a few miles from the stadium. Whenever a touchdown was scored, I could stand outside and see the celebratory fireworks from my house.
I had low expectations for Miami sports this year. No more Wade for the Heat, Dolphins coming off a mediocre season; I had nothing to look forward to. But now the Dolphins will be looking for their first playoff victory in 16 years. It was reported on ESPN this morning, January 2nd 2017, that the Phins have a 1% shot to win the Super Bowl. PUT SOME RESPEK ON OUR NAME!!
We’ll take our 1% chance and some pumpkin sized mustard seed faith all the way up to Pittsburgh to begin our road to our first Super Bowl in 44 years.
So #PhinsUp and remember to always
LIVE LIFE HD!!