If you’re going to be terrible at baseball—and the Marlins are indisputably terrible at baseball—you have to give fans another reason to stick around. The Marlins haven’t found it, though, judging by the empty rows at one recent Friday night game; the Fish couldn’t even fill a quarter of the seats, and it seemed that at least half the attendees were there to cheer for the opposing team.
That may be because the sterile new Marlins stadium is an unsuccessful marriage between a nightclub and a ballpark. A spiky-haired DJ flanked by two listless implores the crowd to “GET LOUD, MIAMI!” at seemingly random intervals to little avail; the energy in the park rarely rises above a mild hum. The team’s official anthem is “Just Gettin’ Started” by DJ Khaled, a hookless non-bop that becomes deeply sad when played towards the end of a losing game. On top of it all, the team’s CEO is baseball villain No. 1 Derek Jeter, who’s slashed payrolls, traded the team’s best players, and ostracized the Marlins Man, the franchise’s best-known fan. Don’t play yourself—find a better team.
Everyone loves an underdog, and no team is more of an underdog than the Miami Marlins, currently the losing-est team in the National League. There’s a special sort of freedom that comes with being at the bottom: no high expectations to live up to, no pristine record to maintain, nothing to prove and everything to gain. When your team stinks and the whole city knows it, Miami gets to do what Miami does best—have a good time.
When the Marlins Mermaids come out with their goofy little drumline, there’s a certain joyous nihilism in it all: abandon all hope of winning, ye who enter here, and gaze upon Miami’s finest export—beautiful people. The suckiness of the Marlins has winnowed the attendees to only the hardest-core fans, all the better to get swept up the fishtivities. And when the boys in orange do hit a (shocking!) home run, baseball’s gaudiest and only seven-story sculpture comes to neon-colored life, the animatronic marlins whirring in the outfield as a gush of water spurts up behind it. It’s Miami in a nutshell: a little indulgent, a lot exuberant, and never not fun.