Dear South Florida:
We probably come from different places.
I was born in Massachusetts eight months before Hail Flutie. Any sports-obsessed kid growing up there in the late ’80s and early ’90s likely saw it replayed dozens of times. I did. Unless they took a peculiar interest in college football, they may not have known much about Miami’s dominance. I didn’t.
I understood the Hurricanes were the bad guys who won a lot, but I was too into hockey and baseball to pay attention. (I’m sure someone at school had an orange-and-green Starter jacket.) As I discovered my passion for journalism, I raised an eyebrow at the stereotypes peddled by some in the national media: namely, Miami had a roster of thugs and criminals. I didn’t fully realize what those words implied, and how wrong they were. I sure do now.
Football, especially the college type, wasn’t a big deal up there. I had a passing acquaintance with the Canes until I moved to Palm Beach County eight years ago.
Oh, what I’ve come to know since.
I learned about Howard’s pipe and proclamations and the State of Miami and how ‘Suntan U’ became ‘Quarterback U.’ I got to know every corner of the UM Sports Hall of Fame, with all its artifacts and the tales they carry. I learned about five national championships, 58 straight in the Orange Bowl, and all those names. You know them. No need to list them all here.
I also learned about how, for alumni and fans, that greatness creates gut-twisting pangs of hunger in the down years. For example, in my first season on the UM beat, 2013, the Canes were hurting but had a chance to stay in the ACC Coastal race. They just had to beat Duke. Those names, the Sapps and Irvins and “Thrill” Hills, said the Canes just don’t lose to Duke. But they did. It got even uglier after that
All the teeth-grinding, season-defining losses in the decade prior, and in the years since: You know them. No need to list them all here. You watched a dynasty fade away, and watched others celebrated while you ached for its return. You saw glimmers of hope, followed by more crushing setbacks.
Miami, my home the last four years, has become a part of my soul. I love the waterfront sunsets and the neon lights and the vibrant mosaic of a culture. After growing up in a comparatively homogeneous place, I’ve had new experiences at every turn. I’m richer for it.
I’ve learned how a college football team can represent a city, better than any pro team ever could, if it draws from the neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs. The Hurricanes, with those roots in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, are this region’s hometown team.
In a year when the Dolphins are struggling, the Heat are rebuilding and the Panthers and Marlins haven’t done much to make people pay attention, they are making fans believe.
Winner of 12 in a row and ranked No. 10, Miami (7-0, 5-0 ACC) can claim the inside track to the ACC Coastal if it beats 13th-ranked Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) in prime time Saturday night (8 p.m., ABC). Should Virginia also lose at home to tricky Georgia Tech, the Canes would clinch the division. They would lock up a spot in the ACC title game — with third-ranked Notre Dame coming to town next week.
Mark Richt and his staff have holes to fill, but it’s starting to feel like the old days – or, what I’m told it was like.
They’re unbeaten entering the final stretch, needing no outside help to win the league. No matter where you’re from, which team you root for or what sport you enjoy, this is where you want your team to be.
Enjoy the ride, South Florida, like only you can.
More Miami-Virginia Tech