We Assess the State of South Florida's Sports Teams

That sound you heard wasn't thunder; it was the sound of you realizing South Florida sports have officially entered a dead period. While the Miami Heat technically was finished on the court weeks ago, Heat fans have managed to distract themselves by following the dramatic NBA Finals between LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors. Now that that's over, it's time to face a devastating reality: For the next two months, it's Miami Marlins baseball and not much else. That makes now as good a time as any to assess the landscape of sports in South Florida, and take a look backward and forward to see where we've been and where we are going in 2016.
Miami Marlins 

The Marlins are perpetually in the news for the wrong reasons, but this season has a hint of optimism to it. The Marlins — despite losing All-Star batting champion Dee Gordon for 80 games due to a steroids suspension and Giancarlo Stanton having a nightmarish year — are right in the thick of things in the National League wild card race. In fact, if the season ended Sunday, the Marlins would be postseason bound.

Sitting a handful of games over .500 isn't something most baseball towns would celebrate, but South Florida isn't your traditional baseball hotbed; we'll take what we can get. The Marlins haven't made the playoffs since they won the World Series in 2003, and have rarely even threatened to do so since then, so being in the playoff chase nearing the midpoint of this season is equal parts refreshing and surprising. What is most promising is Dee Gordon will eventually return and Giancarlo Stanton is showing signs of breaking out of his slump —  so reinforcements are on the way. 
Miami Heat 

Now that we are a few weeks removed from the Miami Heat's season, we can objectively take a rational look back at things and... nope, that still sucked. It's tough to think of the Heat's playoff chance as anything but a cruel tease. Heat fans can't help but wonder what the results would have been had Hassan Whiteside and Chris Bosh been available when they were needed most. In addition, it's rough to watch another season of Dwyane Wade's career end in a disappointment before a larger stage. 

The good news is the Miami Heat has reloaded in a surprisingly efficient way since LeBron James left, using youth (Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside) to get them by until another free agent coup can be achieved. This offseason the Heat will look to land what Pat Riley calls "a whale," AKA a star player such as Kevin Durant. Watching how the Heat fills out the roster is in itself a season of sport.
Florida Panthers 

One of the most forgotten franchises in South Florida is suddenly in a position to bring you lots of joy in the future. The Florida Panthers had a fantastic regular season last year, followed by an abrupt first-round postseason exit. That was disappointing. What wasn't disappointing is watching the franchise continue to grow into one that fans can trust to build on top of its successes year after year. Under Dale Tallon, the Panthers have followed the manual line by line that teaches a low-revenue team how to achieve longevity in spite of its economic shortcomings. 

The Panthers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to younger players, another season at the very least of the timeless Jaromir Jagr, and a group of veterans that seemingly do things the right way; that's a recipe for success. The NHL matters again in South Florida, which is something Panthers fans haven't been able to guarantee heading into an offseason for a long time. 
Miami Dolphins 

Here, we look forward, because the past seems so long ago. Everything seems new: the stadium, the coach, the front office, the players, the grass, pretty much everything. The problem is, it feels "new" like when you paint your car: It's really the same car; it just looks better from the outside. The Dolphins have definitely given said car a tune-up, but it's to be determined if any of the work they've done will prove to be anything more than cosmetically pleasing. 

The Dolphins begin training camp in a few weeks. It's a place where everyone is optimistic about the team's future and each and every NFL team is undefeated. New coach Adam Gase is the flavor of the year in Davie. His "system" and "philosophy" will be the newest product shoved down Dolphins fans' throats. It's tough to put any faith in the Fins, but at this point what choice do you have? The NFL is coming back soon. Beggars can't be choosers. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi