The Miami Marlins have, at many times, done the team's fans quite wrong. The team has been owned by three different men, and during the watch of these three men, terrible things have happened to the team that have crushed the fan base. Of course, the biggest offense in the sordid history of the Miami Marlins franchise has been its history of fire sales. For the Fish, these sales have occurred three times in the near-20-year existence of the team. Each fire sale brought on difficulties for a fan base that never got to establish itself with the team before it was sent away multiple times.
Still, despite reports to the contrary, there are Marlins fans out there. And of the fans that do indeed exist (I swear!), the ones that are perhaps the strongest of the bunch are the ones who have outlasted the three fire sales of the team's existence. Of all the challenges that being a Marlins fan entails, surviving each and every fire sale to meet each and every rebuilding project sounds like the tallest task of them all. But mixed among the new, young fans that joined up with the team in the late 2000's, or the ones that were enthralled by the 2003 World Series run, or the ones that began in modest means as fans of the young Marlins in the early 2000's, are the fans that have experienced everything there is to experience about the Fish.
Mixed in among fans of all ages are the ones who have been through all three fire sales and have survived to tell their tales.
And what grand tales they should be. That is why Fish Stripes will begin the project to record some of the tales of the fire sale survivors of the Marlins' fan base.
I cannot take credit for this idea's inception. Many of you have already seen and responded to Fish Stripes regular Andrew Townes's survey regarding the "Miami Marlins and you," and that is from which the genesis of this idea came. Within that survey of Marlins fandom stood a whole array of answers from fans of the Fish who came to like the team at various times during its inception. Each of those answers were very entertaining and revealing about the demographics of this club's fans and this particular site's readership.
But one response really caught my eye and got me thinking about the idea of speaking to the survivors of the three fire sales.
1. When did you become a fan of the Marlins? What made you become a Marlins fan?
2. Were you a fan of a different MLB team before you were a fan of the Marlins? If yes, why did you switch?
3. What MLB franchise is, geographically, closest to where you live?
4. What do you like about the Marlins?
5. What, if anything, do you dislike about the Marlins?
6. What are your favorite (if any) NFL/NBA/NHL teams?
It was not an extensive or eloquent response, but it contained an important point. There are Marlins fans out there who began in the late 2000's or even in the 2012 season. There may be impressionable young fans who have never lived through something this tragic in a sports fandom sense. Fans like gsinthere may never have experienced the sinking feeling that many Marlins fans probably felt when their first fire sale happened. They likewise probably did not have the reaction that perhaps other, more jaded Marlins fans had of disappointment, of shaking their heads or rolling their eyes with the thought of "not again" going through their minds.
The veterans of this team's fan base are the ones who are most in touch with the ethos of the team. Those fans have been through the ups and the downs numerous times over, and they understand best what those newer fans are feeling right now and how to best handle those feelings. Fans such as myself have seen the Marlins play in front of the sparsest crowds with nary a talented player to be had. They have also seen the team conquer those problems and grow in front of our very eyes. Marlins fans who have witnessed all three fire sales have seen the burning down of a core and the rising from the ashes of a new one.
So who better to guide Marlins fans into the new 2013 era than the fans who ahve been there the longest. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting interviews with fans who were Marlins fans from before the 1998 season. These are fans who at least witnessed the 1997 World Series win and subsequent disbanding of the team. What kind of experiences did they have before and after that pivotal moment? How did they feel at the time about the team? Had they ever considered abandoning the franchise? These are just some of the questions I would love to have answered from those fans.
I do believe these answers will help new Marlins fans deal with the uncertain future. It should also be a great history lesson for other Marlins fans as we head towards this new chapter in 2013 and beyond.