Barring a comeback of epic proportions rarely seen in the world of professional sports, the Florida Panthers could see their season come to an end as soon as Monday night.
Down three games to none in the second round series with the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay, the team who finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL is being labeled everything from a “disappointment” to “frauds” for the way this series is playing out.
Meanwhile, when the Miami Heat dropped Game 2 of their series with the Boston Celtics by 25 points last week, it was labeled by some as “just another chapter in the championship story” - begging the question of why the same venom was not thrown their way as it was toward the Panthers?
Why wasn’t it? Well, it’s quite simple: the Panthers don’t have anywhere close to the kind of credit built up as other teams when it comes to South Florida’s fickle and - as some in other markets would describe it - bandwagon fanbase.
That’s not meant to be a knock at the Heat or any other team in South Florida. All have earned the right to be somewhat biased in their fandom. Between the Heat, Marlins and Dolphins they have combined for seven world titles along with the five football titles and four baseball titles won by the Miami Hurricanes.
Where did the Panthers rank on the South Florida sports radar? A decent argument could be made that entering the year, they were fourth at best on the pro team rankings.
With that being said, the Panthers came into this season having had a losing record in 13 of their previous 27 seasons and turned it around to have the best regular season in franchise history - all while being led by an interim coach.
You would think that would earn some more respect from the fan base that hasn’t seen a title in any professional sport in nearly a decade. Alas, the average fan - and even some in the media who have covered the Panthers’ record-breaking ride - seem to have given up hope on this season.
Can miracles happen and the Panthers win the series with their in-state rivals? Sure. Can the Panthers win at least one game? We sure hope so.
But no matter what, we can only hope there will be a time when the Panthers get the same kind of blind loyalty that the other South Florida sports teams enjoy.
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