April 4th, 2012. It’s possible that this day will be remembered as the day that Miami turned into a hardcore sports town, much along the likes of New York, Boston, and Chicago. It’s more that nothing like that happens and this day is completely forgotten a week from now. Miami is a very special place in the sense that there is always something new to distract the citizens of this eccentric city. This day will be marked by two huge events in the Miami sports community. The big event is opening day of the 2012 MLB season (screw all those silly games in Japan or wherever it was) and the first regular season game played in the Miami Marlins brand new state-of-the-art ballpark. The other event, which has been regulated to ESPN2 (!!!), is the clash of NBA powerhouses between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat.
Now, I can already hear the people being like “You can’t ignore the titles the Marlins and Heat have won!!!”. Those points are completely valid, however they all stood on their own. Tonight will be the inauguration of a new era in Marlins baseball. The change in the name, the logo, the stadium, and the players (FINALLY OPENING THOSE WALLETS!) are all signs that this Marlins front office is all in on investing heavily to bring a consistent winner to South Florida. It is truly remarkable how drastically the image of the Marlins has changed since the end of the 2011 regular season. It may be a bit of a stretch to give them so much praise before a single game has been played, but the most important thing to remember is that they’ve given the fanbase the one thing ALL fanbases want… and that’s hope.
The Heat on the other hand have given us all the hope in the world dating back to July 8, 2010 when LeBron James announced that he was bringing his talents to South Beach. That lead to probably the most highly followed regular season that any professional sports team has ever endured. The constant scrutiny that 2010-2011 Miami Heat endured seemed to be validated when the Big 3 of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh made the NBA Finals in their first season together. Everyone knows what happened next, the Heat blew leads at the end of games 2 and 4, highlighted by a disappearing act by LeBron James that has never been seen on such a big stage by such a dominating player.
We’re now in year 2 of the “Heatles” experiment, and the pressure is as large as ever coming into the April 4th showdown between Oklahoma City and Miami. The Heat were handedly embarrassed by the surging Thunder 10 days ago in Oklahoma City, and the Heat have been playing a lethargic brand of basketball for the last month. The Heat are 1.5 games behind the Thunder for the best record in the NBA, which ultimately will determine home field advantage in a OKC-Miami Final. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are locked in a tight race for the league MVP and this game will most likely shape the opinions of the media (as biased and subjective as they tend to be), who are the ones who vote for the MVP award. While it’s important to stress that no one regular season game is THAT important, with the Heat fighting for the best record in both the East and the NBA, every game counts. The Thunder are just as athletic (if not more so), long, and deep as the Heat and I believe will give them the stiffest competition on the way to a championship. Making a statement in this game will be crucial to silencing the critics, and giving themselves a little peace of mind heading into the home stretch of the season.
Between the inauguration of the ballpark that saved baseball in Miami and possibly the biggest regular season game of 2011-2012 NBA season, April 4th, 2012 will be a launching point for both Miami franchises. One team is trying to change its image and win over the hearts of the fickle Miami audience once again, while the other is just trying to live up to the lofty expectations that have been hung over their heads (albeit, self-induced). My friend Luis has been ramming down my throat that this days’ relevance will only be shaped by the success, or lack thereof, that follow. On many levels he is correct, because at the end of the day Miami fans care about only two things, winning and success. Here’s hoping that both franchises can do a little winning on this historic day.