|Finally! There is joy in Marlinville|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
The Florida Marlins are champions again. Finally.
How will it feel? For nearly 72 months, long-suffering Marlins fans have asked ourselves this question. How will it feel? How will it feel when the long wait finally ends and the Marlins win a second World Series? How will it feel when south Florida can finally raise another championship banner over historic Pro Player Stadium? How will it feel when the Marlins finally win the championship that our brothers who are two years older than us have been waiting for during most of their high school education?
Six years! That's how long it has been since the Marlins last tasted World Series champagne. Six years! Perhaps only Cubs fans can identify with our excruciating wait. Six years! Maybe only Red Sox fans can appreciate how this long nightmare was our own personal Vietnam.
Not that we ever lost faith during those years spent wandering in the desert. No, not ever. Not even once.
Oh, we'll grant you, it wasn't easy to keep the faith during those dark days that seemingly would never end. Perhaps never was the morale lower in Marlins Unincorporated Municipality than when management traded Mike Piazza after we had grown to love him for almost a week. That trade of the man we had come to regard as Mr. Marlin crushed our hearts but could not kill our spirit.
Lesser fans would have given up. Lesser fans would have abandoned their team. But not Marlins Unincorporated Municipality. We stood by our team as loyally and passionately as we had during those almost unendurable four years we spent waiting for the first championship. Regardless of how many players management traded, regardless of how many losses piled up, we packed the stadium by the hundreds. Some games, many of us even stayed through all of the rain delays before ducking out to beat traffic in the eighth inning.
And when the good times resumed, our full assemblage turned out in force. When the Marlins took over the wild card lead in early September, nearly 11,000 of us crowded the stadium - and that was for just one game. But that's nothing. When Alex Gonzalez hit his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 last week, almost 35,000 of us still were on hand to watch him circle the bases.
That's passion. That's loyalty. That's Marlins Unincorporated Municipality.
And, of course, we feel best for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Surely, no owner ever deserved to hold the championship trophy as this art dealer who loves his Marlins so dearly that he is a Yankees season-ticket holder. Expos fans can tell you how much he has invested in teams during his long and distinguished career as an owner. And he did no less for us, pouring his sweat and blood into this organization for the nearly 19 months since Major League Baseball awarded the Marlins to him for his role in bringing about baseball's renaissance in Montreal.
To Loria, the players, manager Jack McKeon (we've loved you since day one in May, Poppa), and especially the new Billy the Marlin, we raise our champagne flutes to toast you. We cannot thank you enough for rescuing Florida from our seat between the Cubs and Red Sox in baseball purgatory.
And we won't forget those friends in Boston and Chicago. We might be drinking Dom Perignon now, but you are still in our thoughts. Keep the faith. Don't give up. Your time will come.
You just have to wait your turn.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.