“Grandpa, tell me again the story about how the Marlins, the Panthers, the Heat, the Dolphins and Inter Miami captured South Florida’s heart during the 1918 Spanish flu.”
“You mean the 2020 coronoavirus pandemic, dear.”
“If you say so, grandpa.”
“And Inter Miami wasn’t involved.”
“No, their bubble burst when they burst in the bubble after three lousy games. Lost them all. David Beckham waited years to get a team and — wham — it was nil at the start.
“But what about the Impossible Dream where they all won championships?”
“Yes, it was Impossible Dreams, plural. That was the other teams. No one expected anything from them, either. That’s why it was so much fun. Remember what I tell you is the secret to success?”
“Keeping expectations low?”
“That’s my girl. Expectations were naturally low for these teams, too. None of them had done anything. Then they all played Aug. 1 — well, the Dolphins only practiced, but that was telling, too — and they all won. That’s when it started. Imagine. Pro hockey, baseball and basketball teams winning the same day!
“It helped that LeBron James and Giannis got polio, right?
“That’s later, dear, and it was COVID-19.”
“That’s right, it started with the Marlins.”
“No one knew any of the players. Their two biggest names were Derek Jeter and Don Mattingly, and neither played. But the Marlins came out hitting, the pitching was strong, and they quickly discovered a serious advantage in that virus format.”
“What’s that, grandpa?”
“No fans in the stands. The other teams weren’t accustomed to that like Marlins players were in their ballpark. All the other teams took a while to adjust hearing an umpire’s call echo through the stands. It unnerved those players. But they time they got used to it, the Marlins were on their way in a 60-game season and kept it going in the playoffs. What a run. Magic.”
“Who was next?”
“The Panthers. See, they were helped by the virus format. The games weren’t played in South Florida, where most people couldn’t name two players or spell one properly. The games were in two Canadian cities. They felt the passion even with no fans at games. All the money they spent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was seed money to what he gave that spring. And it’s where coach Joel Quenneville got his nickname — Joel Quarantine.”
“Ugh. Now comes the Heat.”
“Don’t forget that big day in early August that Tua Tagovailoa became the Dolphins starter. What stood out about him was his durability. He didn’t miss a snap all camp! They started calling him “Cal Ripken Tagovailoa” for the manner he showed up and anchored the offense with those beautiful throws.
“What was the big deal, grandpa? He didn’t miss a game in his first 10 years.”
“Well, the coaches agreed with you after watching him practice like that day after day after day. They had no choice but start him, and you saw what happened then.”
“Tank for Tua became Trophy for Tua.”
“And then Two for Tua.”
“And now comes the Heat.”
“They had some fun, young talent. But the key was their young players like Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro played older after the break, and an old Andre Iguodala was miraculously rejuvenated after it. Nunn and Herro played like they did for the rest of their great careers, while Iguodala played like he did for the next seven years with the Heat.”
“It helped, too, that LeBron and Giannis got sick.”
“Well, yes. They were asymptomatic, but there were a lot of conspiracy theories about a Disney character interacting with them just before their series with the Heat. You could see from the Corona Cam they weren’t too happy when the Heat won.”
“Weren’t fans popping champagne on Zoom?”
“Oh, it was a memorable night in the quarantine.”
“More memorable than the virtual parades, grandpa?”
“No one left their homes during those, either, they were so much fun.”
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