5:51 PM EDT, May 7, 2013
In many ways, sports teams and leagues are like children.
You have the spoiled brats who are used to getting everything they want when they want it. And when they don't, they hold their breath, stomp their feet and threaten to take their ball and go home.
Then you have the ones who have been raised right, who have been taught that obstacles are often great incentive and sometimes you have to work even harder to earn what you want.
Case in point: The Miami Dolphins NFL franchise and the Orlando City Lions Soccer Club – both of whom were victims a few days ago of the Florida Legislature ending its 2013 session without voting on tax subsidies that would have funded massive stadium projects. In a twisted turn of fate, the Lions and Dolphins can both point an accusing finger at the detestable ownership of the Miami Marlins, whose shady stadium deal is the genesis of why the State House of Representatives wouldn't even vote last week on sports subsidies earmarked for Miami's football stadium, Orlando's soccer stadium and Daytona International Speedway.
"The Marlins' baseball stadium deal and their behavior in the aftermath of that deal left the vast majority of fans and politicians in South Florida with a bad taste in their mouths," says Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who recognizes the value of sports to a community and was in Tallahassee last week lobbying legislators to vote in favor of Orlando's bid to lure a Major League Soccer team to the state.
The Orlando City Lions wanted a state sales tax rebate to help build a new $100 million soccer-specific stadium that would have almost certainly attracted an MLS franchise to Central Florida. The Dolphins wanted the state sales tax rebate – along with the ability to utilize local taxes – to give their stadium a $350 million face lift in order to lure future Super Bowls and more profits.
Here's the difference: The Dolphins, because they are in the high-and-mighty NFL, act as if the tax money is their birthright and are now throwing a temper tantrum and making veiled threats about moving to Los Angeles. In contrast, the Lions, because they know soccer is treated as a second-class citizen in this country, are now searching for other ways to raise money for their new stadium.
"We're disappointed," Orlando City President Phil Rawlins says, "because we had every indication that this initiative was going to go through the legislature. But this is just a speed bump on our journey and there will be more along the way. This is not going to stop us from bringing Major League Soccer to Orlando."
Juxtapose Rawlins' positive reaction with that of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who lambasted House Speaker Will Weatherford – the legislator who refused to bring to the House floor a bill creating a process for teams to gain access to the sales-tax rebates. "The speaker single handedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami-Dade and for all of Florida," Ross kicked and screamed in a statement. "He put politics before the people and the 4,000 jobs this project would have created for Miami-Dade and that is just wrong."
Translation: How dare the state government not give us our corporate welfare!
Even more laughably childish was Dolphins CEO Mike Dee going on a South Florida TV station and hinting that the financial future of the franchise is so "bleak" that moving the team is now an option. When asked if relocating the franchise to Los Angeles is a possibility, Dee told WFOR-TV: "I don't think it's an option for Steve Ross, but for a subsequent owner? The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the National Football League that do not have a long-term lease with their community."
Translation: If the state government doesn't give us everything we want we're going to pull a Dwight Howard and move to Hollywood.
Instead of blaming the politicians in Tallahassee maybe the Dolphins should be blaming their South Florida neighbors -- the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria. After lawmakers agreed to use taxes to pay for three-quarters of the Marlins' $650 million stadium that opened last season, Loria slashed payroll by trading away many of the team's best players and now has one of the worst teams in the league.
Even many local Miami politicians, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, were not gung-ho about giving the Dolphins access to local tax money. Gimenez told the Miami Herald recently that the Marlins "poisoned the well" for everybody.
"We got lumped in with the Dolphins, who got lumped in with the Marlins," a disappointed Dyer said.
What a sad day for sports and politics when a pathetic baseball team in Miami might just cost a vibrant city like Orlando a chance at a Major League Soccer franchise.
The duplicitous, double-crossing Marlins not only suckered South Florida; they put the screws to Central Florida, too.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BianchiWrites. Listen to his radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on 740 AM.
Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel