Saturday, June 14, 2008

It Sucks To Be a Florida Marlin

Before I begin, I have to admit the title of this post is strictly to get attention. Of course, the Marlins don't actually suck. But I couldn't resist any headline that even vaguely resembles the delightful tune of “It Sucks To Be a Florida Gator”.

That said, this weekend posed an interesting dilemma for me. Before I moved to Tampa, I didn’t care a wit about the Tampa Bay then-Devil Rays. Throughout all my travels and no matter where I've lived, the Mets have been my team. For those who have read this site for any amount of time know, I’ve discussed my feelings for Mets quite a bit.

Although I was and remain a die-hard Mets fan, the Marlins presented me my first internal fan conflict. Sometime after becoming a big league franchise in 1991, the first owners of the Florida Marlins decided to host their spring training in Melbourne, Fla., where I lived as a teenager. Needless to say, I went to see the Marlins and their minor league teams on a pretty regular basis. Being that the ballpark was 10 minutes away, I gathered my share of autographs, memorabilia, and memories. Even though I still loved my Mets, the Marlins were my hometown team. I even dared call myself a Marlins fan.

Knowing the Marlins and their history, I've often stood alongside true Marlins fans and defended the team through the years. I've countered arguments with people who disagreed with the team's trade-and-reload management style, those who thought the team should be relocated, and even those who believe the team should be contracted or somehow combined with the Tampa Bay franchise. And in what may be possibly my biggest display of Marlins fandom, I drove nearly eight hours from Tallahassee to Dolphins Stadium with my college roommate, an absolutely die-hard Marlins fan, to watch the Fish reveal their 2003 World Series banner on Opening Day 2004.

But now, four years later, I’ve found myself pulling one of the cardinal sins of fandom. Last night, I went to the Rays-Marlins game and rooted wholeheartedly against the team from South Florida. They were the enemy, same as any other team visiting Tropicana Field. Like the thousand and thousands of other Tampa Bay Rays fans in attendance, I cheered the Rays and booed the Marlins. Then, to top it all off, I even sent a few obnoxious text messages to that same former college roommate, bragging about the Rays victory.

(Side note: In response to one of my barbs, my former roommate responded with the Patrick Roy-inspired “I can’t hear you with my two world series rings in my ear.” Say what you want about the Marlins and their fans, but they do have that going for them.)

So am I a sports flip-flopper? Am I an unloyal Marlins fan? Or can my brief dalliance with the Marlins be written off, as I have moved on and they no longer train in Melbourne? Although I don’t see my Marlins-Rays internal conflict comparing to my torn heart, I do think once again, I am one of the most internally confused fans I know.