The Mayans said 2012 will bring the end of the world, and for Orlando and the city’s relevancy as a pro sports town that may very well be true.
Dwight Howard has made it clear he wants out of “The City Beautiful”. After flip-flopping on his decision to not opt out of his contract and become a free agent in July 2012, he is now trying to force his way out of town. When “Superman” finally does leaves the Magic for a big market team it will be more devastating for central Florida than LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland.
Face facts, the Cleveland Cavaliers have always been third behind the Browns and Indians respectively. Sure LeBron’s “Decision” hurt. He is the best player in the NBA and the Cavs had come close with two sixty game win season and an appearance in the NBA finals. He looked like their best chance to break their 6-decade drought of championship futility. But they still have a chance with the Browns and Indians. What does Orlando have?
Dwight’s image is plastered all over town, he helped design the $400 million Amway Center, he is deeply involved in the community and he is the reason the NBA All Star Weekend came to town back in February for the first time in 20 years. He made this town relevant in the national sports spotlight with his play and charisma, the same way Shaq did back in the mid 90’s. The irony is not lost here.
Where will central Florida go for pro sports if he leaves? We don’t have a NFL franchise, the only pro football we have is the Arena League’s Orlando Predators. Arena Football is not nearly as popular as College or Professional football. There is no pro baseball, unless you count spring training for one month a year in March, but even the teams are spread out all over the area. Sure the Florida Gators basketball and football teams are national powerhouses, but Gainesville is two hours away and UCF Athletics has begun to gain national attention too.
Nothing against college athletics, but there is something to be said about an area with strong professional sports franchises. Without the Orlando Magic being one of the NBA’s top teams, we are just theme parks, beaches and shopping malls to the rest of the country. We are relative now because of Dwight. His moniker is Superman, and he is the only one that can save Orlando and Central Florida from Pro sports purgatory. If you doubt how relevant he’s made this area, just look at all the national “Dwightmare” coverage.