If you talk to many local soccer fans they will point at the arrival of the then Florida Marlins as part of the main reasons why the sport regressed here from a marketing standpoint. The Marlins also denied South Florida the chance of being a World Cup venue back in 1994.
Let’s be honest, soccer was ruined because of the Marlins and their inability to accept that the sport had a legit following in this region. The eventual demolition of the Orange Bowl and their reluctance to allow matches to be played at now Sun Life Stadium saw Miami fall into a football dark age.
Joe Robbie Stadium (I will always refuse to call it its current name) was built with soccer in mind. All throughout the Marlins stay at that stadium they complained about the dimensions. The Robbie family as well as the South Florida fans did not have a chance to see this town become what it has the potential of being- an international soccer town.
After seeing the potential that soccer has in baseball venues, that attitude has completely undergone an about face. Matches at Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park would have been borderline heretical for baseball purists although soccer was being played at these venues even in the 1920’s and 30’s. For businessmen it’s a chance to put seats in butts.
Just about this time last year the Marlins were already complaining about the Barcelona-Chivas match being played 24 hours prior to one of their matches, because of how “complicated” it was to install the pitchers mound in such short period of time.
I guess this summer was the summer where they realized that possibility of earning some major revenue during the off-season at Marlins Park is a big reality. On the wake of seeing impressive attendances at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park as well as Wrigley Field; the Miami Marlins- whose name changed as along with their mentality- is now a receptive soccer entity. Yeah, money makes the world go ’round.
This coming Wednesday there is an announcement set at 10am to talk about some friendly matches that will take place at the Marlins new state-of-the-art baseball park. The Marlins saw the numbers that forced their hand and they would love to see their new ballpark filled. It must have also been a sign of insecurity based on the numbers the baseball team has been able to bring to the stadium and they are seeing that results always trump novelty.
Many here in South Florida still remember who actually paid for that stadium. Many still remember how that was paid.
More importantly, I would like to see what strings are attached to this sudden “commitment” to the Beautiful Game. Is it them coming around and wanting to support this town and making it hopefully an MLS town? If that is the case, the more hands on board the better the cause. Throughout all this, their track record leaves me with many more questions than answers. Sorry, the scars of the past are still there. They will have to prove it to fans like myself, not just talk about it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?