Miami No Longer Has a True Sports Rival
Photo by Nate "Igor" Smith
If you're a Miami Dolphins fan under 40, you remember when your hatred for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills was strong enough to need professional therapy. Your Monday moods were greatly affected by what happened at 1 p.m. Sunday. Finding out that your sister was dating a Jets fan could spark a legit family crisis.
Not anymore. Now both fan bases barely care about each other. They might act like they care, but the competitive juices have all boiled away during decades of mediocrity.
Similarly, Miami Heat fans once trembled with rage at the sight of Knicks gear after years of watching New York teams burn their playoff runs to the ground. The mere picture of a Knicks player on SportsCenter raised a Heat fan's blood pressure.
Now the Knicks are just another team. As hard as Heat fans might try to dislike them more than other teams, deep down, Heat-Knicks contests barely register as an event anymore.
On the diamond, the closest thing to a rival for the Miami Marlins would be the New York Mets or Atlanta Braves, but neither is on the same level as even the Dolphins or Heat rivalries with New York teams today. As hard as MLB has tried to make it happen, a Tampa-Miami baseball rivalry just won't stick.
The University of Miami Hurricanes might have the best argument for a true rivalry left in Dade County. There's no question that their contests against Florida State University still raise legitimate rage on both sides of the state. But even Noles-Canes has become a one-sided affair for more than a decade, with FSU challenging for national titles and UM cycling through coaches like audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Noles aside, none of these other teams bothers Miami fans much anymore. Yes, we still dislike them and their fan bases, but it's been so long since those rivalries' peaks that it's almost hard to remember ever really caring. The fact that the Dolphins-Jets, Dolphins-Bills, and Heat-Knicks rivalries aren't as heated as they once were is obvious; the stakes aren't as high, and the games have drastically changed.
So who are Miami's biggest rivals now? For the Dolphins, the easy answer is the New England Patriots — based entirely on the fact that the Patriots are on top and the Dolphins for years have been unsuccessful in their quest to knock New England off its pedestal.
For the Heat, the rivalry question is a true a mess. The team is forever changing, as is every franchise around it — and that makes it nearly impossible to get any real footing in anything close to a rivalry. Over the past few years, you could make a case for the Pacers, Celtics, Knicks, Cavs, or Bulls.
Moving forward, we could come full circle. The Dolphins could rekindle a rivalry with the Jets this season, with both teams adding the talent to finally contend again. The Heat could find itself back down to the level of the Knicks, creating a level playing field where both teams are fighting one another to crawl to the top.
One thing is clear: There are no true sports rivals for any of our South Florida teams. Let's hope that changes this season.