The Ultimate Sporting City Debate is in full swing. Two days ago, Cleveland stormed past New Orleans and won by 19% of the vote in solid fashion. Today it's the #2 seed City of Miami vs. the #15 seed City of Phoenix. Bird talks PHX, I talk MIA. Who wins and why?
First off, here's the bracket:
Major Teams – Dolphins (NFL), Marlins (MLB), Heat (NBA) & Hurricanes (NCAA)
Titles – Hurricanes (Baseball: 1982, 1985, 1999, 2001; Football: 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001)
Dolphins (Super Bowl Championships: 1972, 1973 Conference Champions: 1971, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1984
Marlins (World Series: 1997, 2003 National League Champions: 1997, 2003)
Heat (NBA Champions: 2006 Eastern Conference Champions: 2006)
Does Sebastian have enough firesmoke to put together a Miami victory?
The most famous piece of Miami sporting history is forever stuck in the past and gone in the present. Orange Bowl Stadium was originally built in 1937 and has been the home of the both the Hurricanes and the Dolphins. In 1987, the Dolphins moved out of the Orange Bowl
to Joe Robbie to Pro Player to Landshark Stadium to Sun Life Stadium where they still play today. Orange Bowl Stadium was the home of the college football classic The Orange Bowl Game and was noted as one of the premier bowls in all of college football. Sadly, the City of Miami did not put forth the funds to keep the stadium up to date and the Orange Bowl was torn down in 2008.
Sun Life Stadium in nearby Miami Gardens is now the home of the Hurricanes and Dolphins as well as the Florida Marlins. The field is the definition of a rotating sports home as the turf is twisted, toppled, and turned around for whatever sport it may be. In 2012, the Marlins will be renamed the Miami Marlins and move into a brand new baseball-only stadium on the site of Orange Bowl Stadium.
A drawback to Sun Life Stadium is the fact that the Hurricanes have no on-campus or near-campus stadium. The stadium and the campus are separated by 21 miles. It’s a unique college atmosphere for sure.
The Fans of Miami
It is difficult to describe the fans of Miami’s professional teams. The Dolphins seem well attended while the Marlins struggle to bring in solid numbers. This reason is probably because Sun Life Stadium a difficult baseball park.
Miami Hurricanes fans don’t quite know what to do with success. As noted in ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series entitled simple as "The U", it showed how Howard Schnellenberger brought the ‘Canes to life suddenly and won their first national championship in 1983. All of this success was brought on within 5 years. Imagine waking up one day and all the sudden you’re on top of the world and you have no idea how you got there. Naturally you’re going to party. Then you keep on winning with ease. You would get cocky and arrogant. Miami fans act this way. They let you know when you’re on their turf and you feel as such. Whether you have a positive or negative attitude towards Miami Hurricanes football, the home fans enjoy the ‘Canes.
Great Teams/Sporting Moments
The city of Miami has a rich history in great teams and sporting moments, the majority of which revolve around football. The history begins with the 1972 Miami, the only team to go undefeated through the regular season and win the Super Bowl. The squad continues to get together and smoke fancy cigars whenever it’s guaranteed that their record remains. The Dolphins of the 70’s were the elite of the NFL, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1972 and 1973 and winning the AFC in 1971, 1972, 1973.
Orange Bowl Stadium hosted 60 Orange Bowls over the years and many of them have been classics. The Hurricane squads during their title runs drastically changed the image and mentality of college football (once again, see "The U" documentary).
If you are an NBA fan, the Miami Heat won the NBA finals over the Dallas Mavericks in 2006, the first and only time the Heat have ever been in the finals.
If we went through the entire list of the infamous "State of Miami", it would take quite a while. So I won’t list them but if you watch the NFL, you know that the list is very long of products that have come out of the South Florida area. Additionally, Don Shula, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins continues to be involved with the franchise and is still celebrated by the city.
Miami will not publish media guides in their archives on their website from before 1999. But in 1993, Rohan Marley, the son of Bob Marley, was a linebacker for the Hurricanes. That year, he led the Hurricanes with 95 tackles. Marley went on to play professional football in Canada for a stint.
And now on to Phoenix....
Can Rod Tidwell sell YOU a Phoenix victory?
Major Teams - Cardinals (NFL), Diamondbacks (MLB), Coyotes (NHL), Suns (NBA), & Sun Devils (NCAA)
Titles - Diamondbacks (2001), Sun Devils (CWS Champs 1965, 1967, 1969, 1977, 1981)
The sporting venues in Phoenix are all relatively new as the city has exploded in population over the last 20 years. The grandest of venues in Phoenix is the University of Phoenix Stadium: "The only sporting complex that allows you to buy popcorn, Coke, and a Masters in Business all in one trip to the concessions stand." In all seriousness, the stadium was opened in 2006 and has already hosted four Fiesta Bowls, a hoops Final Four, and a Super Bowl. The record attendance for UofP Stadium was 72,219 when it hosted Wrestlemania XXVI.
Winfield's Note: Seen here is Willy Mac of the Clemson blog, Block-C. Willy Mac is a good ole boy from South Carolina who wanted nothing more than to see his favorite wrestlers in person. Willy Mac can now die a happy po-dunk South Cackalackian.
Back to our originally scheduled discussion......
If Old School is more your style, then you'll prefer Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe built for $1 million dollars back in 1958. Sun Devil Stadium is the football home of the Arizona State I-A football squad. SDS was the home field for the Cardinals from 1988-2005 and the previous home of the Fiesta Bowl before it moved to Glendale. The 1996 Super Bowl was also played in SDS. Sun Devil Stadium was featured prominently in all of Rod Tidwell's action shots in the movie Jerry McGuire.
The Fans of Phoenix
As I mentioned previously, Phoenix boomed from the 1980's to the 2000's. A lot of people in Phoenix aren't necessarily Phoenix sports fans, yet. According to Seth from Bright Side of the Sun, Ken Whisenhunt has manufactured the entire Cardinals fan base from the sands of Arizona:
It is a bandwagon town where if the team is winning attendance sky rockets but if not it plummets. Having been a Cardinals fan my whole life I can tell you up until these last few years I've always felt I was one of the only Cards fans and I've lived in AZ my whole life.Cory from House of Sparky is more optimistic about the Phoenix fans:
Most of the fans are fair-weather and the crowds are usually sparse unless it's the Suns. PHX is too spread out and most of the people living here have allegiances elsewhere. Once the children of these transplants grow up, we might see Phoenix become a good sports city, but for now it's not even close.Cory and Seth may be right about how fickle the fans of Phoenix are and looking at attendance numbers really shows the colors of Phoenix fans: 9th best in 2009 NFL percentage, 22nd best in 2010 MLB percentage, 30th best in 2010 NHL percentage, and 12th best in 2010 NBA percentage. To be fair, the Coyotes are a new franchise and the Diamondbacks are one of the worst franchises in the MLB this season.
Great Teams/Sporting Moments
The Diamondbacks, despite their current state, have had a a relatively successful run in the West. They've won the division four times in twelve years and even won the World Series in 2001. In the modern era, there arguably hasn't been a more dominating pitching duo as Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in their prime. Johnson actually tallied three wins in the series as he started Games 2 and 6 and pitched relief in the Game 7.
The Suns are the staple diet of the Phoenix sports fan but have yet to break through and win a championship despite advancing to the Western Conference Finals eight times since 1968. The Suns haven't made an NBA Finals since 1993 (Charles Barkley's first year with the squad) but have made the playoffs all but one of the seasons that Steve Nash has been on their roster (only missed playoffs 3 times since 1988).
The closest the fans of Phoenix have come to a full blown championship since 2001 was the 2009 Super Bowl in which the Cardinals upset three home teams in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl. They were the second 9-7 team all time to reach the Super Bowl. The Cardinals were literally 35 seconds away from a Super Bowl title under the brilliant leadership of Tech Man, Ken Whisenhunt.
Curt Schilling calls Phoenix home. He went to Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix and then went on to play a couple of years at Yavapai College in Prescott before being drafted. Schilling retired in 2009 as a six time all star, three time World Series Champion, and holder of multiple MLB records. He ended his career with 216 wins (82nd most all time) and 3,116 strikeouts (15th most all time). Everyone remembers the bloody sock he wore as he led the Red Sox pitching staff in the 2004 curse ending World Series run.
Ted Williams, possibly the greatest left fielder in baseball history, passed away in 2002. Instead of being buried, cremated, or normally entombed, Ted Williams "chose" to be cryogenically frozen. His body is currently stored in Scottsdale, Arizona. Williams was the last player to bat above 0.400 for an entire season.
We've presented some facts about these two sports towns. Who wins this debate and why?