The Miami Marlins, more than any other team, are preparing for the impending apocalypse, and they’re doing so by building neon-drenched, jaw-dropping monuments like they’re the modern-day equivalent of the Mayans.
It is very difficult for me to hand out even backhanded compliments to the Marlins, because they are the only team I truly despise. I was at the last game at Shea Stadium in 2008, when they defeated the Mets, 4-2, to destroy the home team’s playoff hopes for a second year in a row (though the Mets themselves played a major role in that outcome), then high-fived each other on the field as if they were little leaguers who’d just earned a postgame pizza party. This sight comes back to me in dark moments and plays out in my head like a scene from a supervillain’s origin story.
Like many folks, I’ve reacted to the Marlins’ dizzying offseason moves mostly with derision. Their new uniforms are easy targets, designed as a consortium of Tapout and Trapper Keeper, topped by caps whose insignia can be seen from space.
The Marlins’ new stadium is a less whimsical boondoggle: a retractable-roof facility the team bullied Miami into plopping down on the former site of the Orange Bowl, Marlins Park or whatever they’re calling it. (The park has already drawn an SEC investigation of the half-billion-dollar bond issue that funded it.) Your fraud has to be especially venal and blatant for the SEC to dare question it, and in the case of the Marlins, the charges range from accusations of shady campaign contributions to city officials complaining they were swindled into footing a $2 million annual tax bill for the stadium’s parking garages.
Almost as galling as this, albeit for very different reasons, is what Miami’s unplanned generosity bought for the Marlins. Back in October, an artist’s animated rendering of the stadium’s planned “home run celebration display” was released. Shortly thereafter, you could hear millions of jaws hitting the floor in unison.
Blinking lights, riotous colors, soaring fish, this...thing had no precedent in baseball, or sports, really. Its aesthetic originated somewhere closer to Bollywood. Or Jesus-themed clocks sold at flea markets. Or Roger Dean album covers. Or pachinko machines. Or all those elements and more, thrown into a monstrous potpourri of bad taste.
Using construction site photos, SBNation’s Grant Brisbee attempted to determine just how big the Marlins’ Home Run Thing really is. His conclusion: Pretty God damn big. And Brisbee’s assessment was compiled before construction crews added 20-foot-tall flamingos to it. This is beyond the realm of mere stadium entertainment. It resembles the looming monument of a vain, inbred emperor who is convinced that when he dies, so dies the universe, something Shelley would have written a poem about.
Seeing this Day-Glo Cthulhu stagger to life, I can no longer hate the Marlins. The Mayans told us that 2012 was it for humankind, and the Marlins have accepted their fate in a manner befitting a depraved, decadent empire like Florida. No expense (or sense of taste) has been spared to send us all out with a bang.
How else can you explain what the Marlins have become this offseason? Once the Logan’s Run of baseball, they now issue free agent contracts to veterans that are not only insanely long, but also extremely back-loaded (and therefore untradeable). They’ve taken on Carlos Zambrano, a pitcher who is virtually guaranteed to collapse on himself, supernova style. This new, high-priced roster will play for a manager (Ozzie Guillen) whose every spoken word exhibits zero knowledge that there is moment beyond the one he is currently experiencing.
All of this expense and risk has been executed by a team that has never proven it is wanted by its constituency (if attendance figures are any indication), in a state where there are practically more foreclosed houses than people. Between their new park, new contracts, and the tough times Florida is experiencing, the Marlins could easily prove to be a financial sinkhole of mammoth proportions.
The Marlins have built baseball’s Tower of Babel, a flashing, twirling celebration of Armageddon that pokes the eye to God himself with an animatronic dolphin flipper. Despite myself, I am forced to applaud their eye-numbing embrace of the impending End of It All.