Five Positives to Take From a Down Year in South Florida Sports

Brian Flores on the sidelines at Hard Rock Stadium earlier this year.
Brian Flores on the sidelines at Hard Rock Stadium earlier this year. Photo by Eric Espada / Getty Images
One thing I think everyone can agree on is that 2019 was quite an exhausting year. It was just...a lot. As a society, we tend to focus on the negative more than the positive in life. Thankfully, we had the occasional Heat or Dolphins game to make us feel better about things, or at the very least, to take our minds off the daily grind. Sports are meant to be a getaway from life. They're meant to be entertainment, pure and simple.

In 2019, sports weren't exactly good for Miami. To say our local sports teams have seen better times would be an understatement. We'll ignore that, though. We're not here to harp on the bad; we're here to reminisce about the good that was. So as we soon ring in 2020, let's enjoy all the great sports things 2019 brought us. Here are a handful of our favorites.

click to enlarge Tyler Herro celebrates with Kendrick Nunn against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half on October 23, 2019. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL REAVES / GETTY
Tyler Herro celebrates with Kendrick Nunn against the Memphis Grizzlies during the second half on October 23, 2019.
5. The Miami Heat are unquestionably back on the NBA map. It wasn't too long ago —- this time last year, even — that the Miami Heat were an afterthought. Dwyane Wade's retirement tour was just about the only thing the team had going for it. No playoff series wins in the past few seasons or reason to hope for any immediate change, thanks to a very gross salary cap situation due to some regrettable front-office decisions.

Then the Miami Heat woke up one day and were all like, Nah, we're going to just be awesome again. And so, it was.

The Heat traded for Jimmy Butler and gave him a max contract without any cap room. They plucked Kendrick Nunn off the Warriors' G-League bench, and — would you look at that, he's a front-runner for Rookie of the Year! They drafted a nineteen-year-old in Tyler Herro who's a human bucket. And last but not least, Bam Adebayo has grown into a future All-NBA player.

Yeah, 2019 was a pretty good year for the Miami Heat and their fans. It's good to be back.

click to enlarge When was the last time you went to a Marlins game? - PHOTO BY ERIC ESPADA / GETTY IMAGES
When was the last time you went to a Marlins game?
Photo by Eric Espada / Getty Images
4. The Miami Marlins are on the come-up and sooner or later Miami will recognize it. On the cover, these are your same Miami Marlins. It's very easy to scoff at any real change occurring when the record in 2019 reads 57-105. It's harder to acknowledge that the Marlins have been busy revamping their entire minor-league system these past two years, going from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best (before the upcoming draft, even!) — and that for the first time in a long time, elite talent is on its way to Marlins Park.

It was never going to be easy to rebuild the Marlins from the ground up after Jeffrey Loria and David Samson sold the franchise to a group led by Derek Jeter. So far, though, it has gone better than expected, won-lost record be damned. Soon enough, everyone will see the results on the field. Until then, fans can decide whether they prefer to harp on the past or get in early on the future.

click to enlarge Brian Flores on the sidelines at Hard Rock Stadium earlier this year. - PHOTO BY ERIC ESPADA / GETTY IMAGES
Brian Flores on the sidelines at Hard Rock Stadium earlier this year.
Photo by Eric Espada / Getty Images
3. The Miami Dolphins got through a season of tanking without totally embarrassing themselves. The Dolphins were the laughingstock of the entire sports world for two weeks in September. It was rough. When you spend the first month of your season losing 59-10, 43-0, 31-6, and 30-10, that much is deserved. A weird thing happened when the Dolphins eventually got to 0-7, though — they actually got better as the roster got worse.

The Dolphins traded away their best players for draft picks, placed the cream of what was left on injured reserve, and for the most part fielded a rosterful of leftovers. Somehow, some way, they've gone 4-4 since that 0-7 start, and head coach Brian Flores has displayed an ability to get a locker room to buy in — a feat a half-decade's worth of coaches with much better teams have failed to do.

The Dolphins are a mess, but reinforcements are on the way, via the draft and free-agency money to be spent. They may have found a coach, too.

click to enlarge The Florida Panthers' new ad campaign - FLORIDA PANTHERS
The Florida Panthers' new ad campaign
Florida Panthers
2. The Florida Panthers hired Joel Quenneville. Hey, the Florida Panthers are still a thing, all right? Sure, hockey hasn't exactly caught fire in South Florida, but the Panthers are still Miami's team. After years of disappointing seasons and squandered rosters, the Panthers went out and hired Joel Quenneville, he of the résumé that boasts three Stanley Cups. Not a bad pickup for a squad that needed some direction to go with a roster full of young talent and more on the way.

Quenneville is now tasked with figuring out how to get Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad, and a host of others over the top. If the season ended today (it doesn't, sadly), the Panthers would be in the playoffs again. That would be a nice start.

Manny Diaz
Courtesy of University of Miami Athletics
1. After a terrible season, the University of Miami might finally decide whether it's still a football school. For years, the University of Miami has hobbled along by spending less on its football program than most major schools do on theirs. And despite the new indoor practice facility, there's no true "home-field advantage" because the Hurricanes don't have an on-campus stadium. And with respect to coaches, let's just say it has been a long time since they last paid up for a big name. The Hurricanes have skated this far on the advantage of being located at the epicenter of the college-football talent pool.

Until now. The 2019 season was a definitive crossroads. If this rebuild under Manny Diaz doesn't hold, a reckoning surely awaits. If the 'Canes need to fire Diaz and start over, it'll be time to spend the kind of money that's required to compete in college football or come to terms with the fact that the pack has caught up to Miami — a school that has never won an ACC title — and the helmet they wear is no longer a guarantee of more than seven wins per season.

In a way, 2019 was good. There has been a lot of lying going on in Coral Gables. Mostly by the team to itself. The time has come to put up or shut up. 
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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.