By Jim Berry

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As 2020 comes to an end, there were some major wins – and losses – in the year of South Florida sports.

In February, Miami hosted the Super Bowl for a record eleventh time. The spectacle lit up the South Florida sky as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira put on a dazzling halftime show.

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Then Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes lit up San Francisco. The quarterback sparked a Kansas City comeback and led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title in fifty years.

“We have heart. Just from day one, coach pushed us to be the best people we could be and we never give up,” Mahomes said after the game.

The big game would mark the last public appearance of legendary coach Don Shula. The Miami Dolphin icon would pass away in May at the age of ninety.

The man who coached the Dolphins to Super Bowl glory in the ’70s, with the only perfect season in NFL history, was fondly eulogized by former players and family.

“You know he was our dad obviously but we always knew that he was part of a bigger family than ours,” said Don Shula’s son David.

Jim Kiick and Jake Scott, two other famed members of that 1972 perfect season team, would also pass away months later.

The Miami Heat began the Jimmy Butler era by holding their own until March when the coronavirus pandemic halted the NBA season for four months. When play resumed in a COVID free bubble in Orlando, the Heat caught fire and stormed thru the playoffs.

The team developed a swag and a scowl, knocking off favorites Milwaukee and Boston on their way to the NBA finals before succumbing to Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

The Marlins were another pleasant surprise. The team shook off an early-season COVID outbreak to reach the playoffs in baseball’s abbreviated sixty game season. It was their first postseason appearance in 17 years.

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The Marlins swept the Cubs before being swept by the Braves, but their promising turnaround earned Don Mattingly honors as National League Manager of the Year.

The Florida Panthers also reached the playoffs but didn’t stay long. After being quickly ousted by the New York Islanders, the team fired general manager Dale Tallon, replacing him with Bill Zito.

Major league soccer made an enthusiastic debut in South Florida with expansion team Inter Miami. After losing its first five games, the team finally broke through with a win over rival Orlando City.

The team also made headlines when its players walked off the field before a match in August, joining a sweeping protest all across professional sports as athletes called for social change in the wake of another police shooting of a Black man.

Progress was seen in two South Florida teams.

The Panthers made Brett Peterson the first Black assistant GM in NHL history. The Marlins hired Kim Mg as MLB’s first female GM.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the Miami Open to be canceled. The only pro tennis we got locally was a tournament in which a handful of lesser-known players slugged it out on a court in somebody’s backyard.

The pandemic also forced the Miami Dolphins to adapt in the NFL’s first virtual draft. The Dolphins took Tua Tagovailoa with their first overall pick, pinning hopes on him as their quarterback of the future.

After a three and three start with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, the team made Tua its starter in week seven. The rookie has had its moments, but a much improved Dolphin defense has led the team’s resurgence and put it in the hunt for a playoff spot.

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Meanwhile, the University of Miami football team weathered its own COVID outbreak. It was riding high until an ugly late-season loss to North Carolina knocked the Canes out of the top ten and ruined their chances to play in a major bowl game on New Year’s Day.

Jim Berry