Maybe you missed this trend because there are too many sports trends coming at you. There are so many games being played simultaneously right now that, if you’re keeping score at home, someone just scored as you read this paragraph.
So maybe you didn’t have a wide-angle lens to detect this South Florida sports trend:
In the last week, Miami Heat youngsters Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro took the Eastern Conference Finals by storm, Marlins rookie right-hander Sixto Sanchez stretched his eye- and career-opening strong starts to five before losing Friday and the Dolphins' two rookie offensive linemen, Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley, had good first games in New England.
That doesn’t even get to the Dolphins' hope in quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth pick in the NFL draft who everyone is waiting to unwrap whenever Ryan Fitzpatrick starts acting his (nearly 38) age. Will that be Sunday’s home opener against Buffalo? Week 8 after he gets some bench-side education?
For most of this millennium, South Florida has waited for tomorrow to arrive in good part because the todays have stunk. The Heat can ignore this thought. But for most of two decades the others teams haven’t done much. But cavalry coming over the horizon now?
Any story of youth starts with the Heat’s great run and the fearless play of Herro, 20, and the winning plays of Adebayo, who is just 23. They’re accomplishing something. They’re playing deep into the NBA calendar and starring in its biggest games.
But this isn’t about their games.
This is about their ages. It’s an ode to youth. It’s about Junior Achievement finally on display.
"Too young? Why?” Herro said earlier these playoffs when asked about taking some of the game-on-the-line shots he has this postseason. (You could include Duncan Robinson in this idea, but he’s 26 — a geezer compared to Adebayo and Herro).
There are two generational ways to win big in sports: The first is to be old and experienced enough to understand what it takes to win — and grasp the pain of losing — in the manner the Heat’s Jimmy Butler, 30, and Goran Dragic, 34, and the Dolphins' Fitzpatrick surely are.
The other way is to be young and ignorant. Oh, and talented, of course. It’s not just the Heat. Look at the Marlins' kiddie corps of pitchers like Sanchez (22), Sandy Alcantara (25 on Sept. 7), Elieser Hernandez (25) and Braxton Garrett (23).
Baseball always has random numbers to back up any pronouncement, so there’s this about Sanchez: He was the first player in 30 years with 20 strikeouts and less than a 2.00 earned-run average after five career starts. Only three pitchers have ever done that. And, OK, the other two, Steve Busby and Rich Delucia, didn’t threaten the Hall of Fame. So who knows what it means?
Jackson, too, has just one start at the all-important left tackle position for the Dolphins (OK, it’s not as important when the left-handed Tagovailoa enters — his blindside is covered by the right tackle). But if you watched Jackson and Kindley, you watched hope for the Dolphins. That’s something they haven’t had much of in awhile.
Sure, recent history says to sit back and see if first impressions last. Many haven’t. Some of that is franchise- or sport-related like the Marlins having to dump young stars like Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcel Ozuna.
Other problems have been never matching build-up to results. The Florida Panthers' young nucleus of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aaron Ekblad has done nothing. And they’re not so young anymore as they’ve all been in the league at least six years.
But you take hope where you can find it. And you’re finally finding it again. The Heat are doing it best, as always, bringing up the next generation on a contending team. The Marlins have been talking about tomorrow since Derek Jeter arrived and you see more than glimpses of it.
The Dolphins? Their home opener is Sunday. If Fitzpatrick struggles again, the leash gets shorter and Tagovailoa gets closer to playing. Then we’ll really see if this youth movement is moving.
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