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Monday, October 27, 2003
Updated: October 28, 12:38 PM ET
Finally! There is joy in Marlinville

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

The Florida Marlins are champions again. Finally.

Marlins fans
Marlins fans take to the streets to celebrate their long-awaited second championship.
We know your agony, long-suffering Cubs fans. We feel your pain, Red Sox Nation. We, the citizens of Marlins Unincorporated Municipality, understand what you're going through. Because we, too, know what it is like to suffer through years of endless waiting.

How will it feel? For nearly 72 months, long-suffering Marlins fans have asked ourselves this question. How will it feel? How will it feel when the long wait finally ends and the Marlins win a second World Series? How will it feel when south Florida can finally raise another championship banner over historic Pro Player Stadium? How will it feel when the Marlins finally win the championship that our brothers who are two years older than us have been waiting for during most of their high school education?

Six years! That's how long it has been since the Marlins last tasted World Series champagne. Six years! Perhaps only Cubs fans can identify with our excruciating wait. Six years! Maybe only Red Sox fans can appreciate how this long nightmare was our own personal Vietnam.

Jeffrey Loria
Apparently, Yankees season ticket holder Jeffrey Loria wasn't too disappointed by the Bombers' loss.
Six years! That was so long ago, Clinton was president. Six years! It was so long ago Boyz 2 Men still had a career. Six years! It was so long ago that the font and design on our 1997 championship T-shirts are embarrassingly out of fashion.

Not that we ever lost faith during those years spent wandering in the desert. No, not ever. Not even once.

Oh, we'll grant you, it wasn't easy to keep the faith during those dark days that seemingly would never end. Perhaps never was the morale lower in Marlins Unincorporated Municipality than when management traded Mike Piazza after we had grown to love him for almost a week. That trade of the man we had come to regard as Mr. Marlin crushed our hearts but could not kill our spirit.

Lesser fans would have given up. Lesser fans would have abandoned their team. But not Marlins Unincorporated Municipality. We stood by our team as loyally and passionately as we had during those almost unendurable four years we spent waiting for the first championship. Regardless of how many players management traded, regardless of how many losses piled up, we packed the stadium by the hundreds. Some games, many of us even stayed through all of the rain delays before ducking out to beat traffic in the eighth inning.

And when the good times resumed, our full assemblage turned out in force. When the Marlins took over the wild card lead in early September, nearly 11,000 of us crowded the stadium - and that was for just one game. But that's nothing. When Alex Gonzalez hit his game-winning home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 last week, almost 35,000 of us still were on hand to watch him circle the bases.

That's passion. That's loyalty. That's Marlins Unincorporated Municipality.

Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis' season was not as good as advertised.
As satisfying as the championship is for us, though, we feel happiest for the players who played so long and strived so hard to finally earn a chance to celebrate on the mound. Dontrelle Willis knows how Pedro Martinez feels. He pitched in the majors five excruciating months before finally earning a ring by pitching several innings in the postseason. Miguel Cabrera feels Sammy Sosa's longing. He waited 17 weeks before finally reaching the World Series.

And, of course, we feel best for Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Surely, no owner ever deserved to hold the championship trophy as this art dealer who loves his Marlins so dearly that he is a Yankees season-ticket holder. Expos fans can tell you how much he has invested in teams during his long and distinguished career as an owner. And he did no less for us, pouring his sweat and blood into this organization for the nearly 19 months since Major League Baseball awarded the Marlins to him for his role in bringing about baseball's renaissance in Montreal.

To Loria, the players, manager Jack McKeon (we've loved you since day one in May, Poppa), and especially the new Billy the Marlin, we raise our champagne flutes to toast you. We cannot thank you enough for rescuing Florida from our seat between the Cubs and Red Sox in baseball purgatory.

And we won't forget those friends in Boston and Chicago. We might be drinking Dom Perignon now, but you are still in our thoughts. Keep the faith. Don't give up. Your time will come.

You just have to wait your turn.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.