Okay, that’s it.
Really, that’s it. I’m done. Finished. Over it. Had enough. Straw. Camel. Back. Outta here.
I’ve spent most of my life rooting for these Dolphins. From Griese to Woodstrock to Marino to even Fiedler and the rest of those that came afterwards. From the great Shula and then the distant echoes of those who followed, each a lighter and lighter photocopy of their predecessor. Not-quite-championship Johnson, who was better than not-quite-there Wannstedt, better yet than not-now Saban, still miles better than not-ready-for-prime-time Cameron, and only marginal improvement since that nadir in the forms of not-good-at-offense Sparano and not-showing-emotion Philbin.
I grew up a child of South Florida in the 1970s, too young to have seen the glory firsthand but old enough to hear about it in a mostly-present tense tone of voice. My grandfather was one of the several thousand whom in 1966 suggested the name "Dolphins," and my family were proud season ticket holders for many years. In person or on TV I was treated to many great moments – Griese’s last few years, the Killer B’s, the emergence of a young Dan Marino, A.J. Duhe killing the Jets, The Spike, Taylor-Thomas-Madison-Surtain-Marion, beating the Bears on MNF, The Hook and Ladder Play. Playoff contention more often than not. Games that mattered. And players that mattered.
But that’s all in the past. I’m done. And I’m done because this franchise is not the team I grew up on. Sure, it was painful to lose two Super Bowls in the 80s, and to come close in the 90s but run up against Buffalo in the playoffs too many times. But any fan would take that level of relevance over the current state of affairs.
What’s made the Dolphins relevant over the past decade and a half? Narrowly avoiding a 0-16 season? Big name hires who don’t pan out (see: Saban, N., but also Parcells, B. and to a fair extent, Johnson, J.)? A rotating cast of end-of-the-line-former-stars and bargain-bin problem children (Thurman Thomas, Chris Carter, Chad Johnson, Lawrence Phillips and even Cecil "The Burglar" Collins) all supposed to come in and breathe new life into this failing patient (apologies to Reggie Bush and Chad Pennington, both of whom exceeded expectations and were model citizens to boot). Hard Knocks? Bullygate? Failing in the clutch?
This latest flame-out only falls into line with the rest of the disappointments over the years. There’s a reason Dolphins fans don’t come to games much anymore – it’s because we don’t trust the product (a concept I would think businessmen like Wayne Huizenga and now Stephen Ross would well understand). Giving the Dolphins a lead in a game or an advantage in the standings is like giving a compulsive gambler more chips when they’re ahead – you know they’ll find a way to blow it. Two weeks ago, number crunchers gave the Dolphins a 77 per cent chance to make the playoffs. Even after the Ravens squeezed out a season-saving win last week, it was only down to 70 per cent. But, against all odds, the Dolphins saved the best for last, losing to two division rivals whom they appear to have better talent than. And both of whom had nothing to play for, unlike the Dolphins who had everything on the line.
Even today, I would estimate I spend between one and two hours a week on the Dolphins, reading up on the team from afar. More if I watch their games, which is harder for me to do from overseas, but which still I do about half the time, forgoing sleep (games start about 2:00 am my time early Monday morning) to see the team firsthand and experience the games live.
But no more. I get to have that time back now. And I’ll be keeping it, for a long, long time, until this team can find good players and use them correctly. Until this team can get up for the most important games of its season. Until it can be trusted to keep a lead or beat a division rival on a regular basis. Until it can make plays against rookie quarterbacks when needed. Until it can hit on at least half of its draft picks and free agent pickups. Until it can matter again.
So, thanks for the memories, Miami Dolphins, both good and bad. I will still remember the Snowplow Game, the dingy but lovable feel of the Orange Bowl stadium and the many wonderful and classy players and coaches (and even the minority who weren’t) who came through those doors every season to change our fortunes and tell us THIS was the year. I hope one of them is finally right sometime. But just don’t tell me about it any more. I’m not tuning in again until this team is at least 9-5 or better late in the season. No more hope, no more belief. Just a winning season. So even if it takes five or even ten years, that’s my benchmark. Go sell hope somewhere else. Call me when you have proof.
Until then, I’ll at least be consoled that one of my longtime South Florida teams understands how to be relevant, and has been so since bringing on new leadership almost 20 years ago. Sure, there’s hope and belief being sold, but there’s also proof in not only getting to the playoffs frequently, but actually winning, and also a pretty damn good record in free agency, especially in 2010. They have a solid system and way of doing things that keeps the players focused, they demand accountability, they have great and authentic camaraderie, they hire good coaches and they seem to understand how to compete in their league. They don’t play too far away, Mr. Ross. Maybe you can convince Mr. Riley to try out the NFL next season.