I’ve been to four Dolphins games in my short lifetime, and they’ve lost every single one.
Three of the four were away games, and heartbreak was a common theme at each of those. In 2004 against Seattle, I woke up from a five-year-old’s slumber just in time to see A.J. Feely throw a pick-6 to lose the game in the final minute. 2008 was a good year, but I was at the Cardinals game when the Dolphins got blown out 31-10. 2009 was maybe the worst of all the away games, as 2008 hero Chad Pennington re-injured his shoulder and saw his career effectively ended that day.
There was, however, at least one constant at those three games that made the experiences worthwhile.
My dad, not even a Dolphins fan during any of those games, was always along for the ride.
Through all the Ted Ginn drops, A.J. Feely interceptions, and untimely injuries to my beloved Dolphins, my dad stuck around at the games. Thinking of all the struggles Miami has had since the start of the 21st century, it’s kind of amazing that someone who wasn’t even a fan had the fortitude to come along for every losing effort. That, or he suffers from some mild Stockholm syndrome.
Or maybe I’m just that good of a son — I like that one.
At any rate, my dad was never a Dolphins fan. Growing up during the pre-Jerry Jones days, he was a fan of America’s team. Then, being from the Pacific Northwest, he swore his allegiance to the Seahawks when they became a franchise in 1976.
Really, he had no reason for being a Dolphins fan despite those being the Don Shula glory days. The Seahawks weren’t yet the franchise they are today, but they had enough big names to keep fans around. This being well before my time, I asked my dad this week who exactly he meant.
“Well, they had Curt Warner,” he said after a moment.
“Kurt Warner?” I asked incredulously. “Dad, he was never even with the Seahawks.”
“No, no, Curt Warner with a ‘C.’ He was a hell of a running back.”
Having never heard of him, I wasn’t impressed.
“Well,” he began again, “there was Jim Zorn, Cortez Kennedy, and Steve Largent, too. I was at the game when Largent broke the record.”
I had to look up exactly what he meant — it turns out Largent broke several records during his Hall of Fame career — and in 1986, the sure-handed receiver set a new NFL record for consecutive games with a catch, making it 128 straight.
Between Zorn and two Hall of Famers in Largent and Kennedy, now I was impressed.
A decade after Largent’s career with the Seahawks ended, however, my dad was saddled with a hapless Miami fan for a son. He was soon being dragged along to watch the demoralizing circus that was Dolphins football.
However, after the Chargers game in 2009, he turned to me and said something that gave me hope that I could convert him.
“Evan, as soon as the Dolphins get rid of Ted Ginn, I’ll become a Dolphins fan.”
(This was probably a common sentiment at the time — at the impressionable age of ten, I’d learned from other fans that Ted Ginn was a disgrace to the franchise)
I guess my dad figured that if he was going to watch the Dolphins play, he might as well get to watch a respectable product. And at the time, Ted Ginn Jr. certainly wasn’t helping things.
My dad’s wish came true only a year later in 2010 when the Dolphins traded Ginn to the Niners in exchange for a fifth-round pick. He was gone from Miami forever, but there was only one problem.
My old man still wasn’t a Dolphins fan.
No amount of good-natured ribbing, threats that I’d ask for Dolphins tickets for Christmas to drag him to another depressing loss, or reminders of the promise he’d made would convert him.
With every Chad Henne interception and Daniel Thomas rumble-and-stumble for three yards, he seemed to be slipping away from me.
“They had no identity,” he told me. It was only an excuse, but a good one at that — a coaching and quarterback carousel moving at warp speed will do that to a franchise, melting its chances at cohesiveness in the searing South Florida heat.
With time I admitted defeat and assumed he would never honor the promise, but ten years after the agreement, something strange happened: Just like the Grinch, my dad’s heart grew about three sizes when the Dolphins beat the Patriots last Sunday.
Suddenly, he became a Dolphins fan.
Better late than never, I say.
You see, he’s always reserved a special sort of venom for Cam Newton. He didn’t like him coming out of college because of the computer scandal, and Newton’s refusal to dive for a fumble in the super bowl a few years back cemented the dislike.
But the Dolphins knocking Newton’s Patriots out of playoff contention for the first time since that magical 2008 season wasn’t the only reason for my dad’s change of heart.
Flores and Tua also have something to do with that.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) December 22, 2020
To my dad — and to many others — “Flores epitomizes what a leader should be saying and doing.” It’s been a major topic of discussion among Dolphins fans these last two seasons, but now a new fan is coming to the same realization about Flores’ approach.
My dad appreciates how Flores is finding success with “no-name” guys all over the roster. “He brings a lunch-pail mentality,” my dad reflected. “He’s all about character, accountability, no prima-donnas and being team-first.” (My dad’s a pretty old-fashioned dude himself, in case you couldn’t tell).
As for Tua, my constant raving about the Alabama quarterback leading up to the draft probably got his attention. After the Dolphins took Tua fifth overall and my dad saw how much the young QB meant to Dolphins fans everywhere, he began to think that maybe something special was brewing after all.
Now, with the Fins sitting at 9-5 in the thick of the playoff hunt in only year two of a full-scale rebuild, my dad admits that he’s probably “one of the guys jumping on the bandwagon as they’re trending up.”
Ten years after our initial agreement about Ted Ginn Jr. of all people, I’ll take it.
“They’re the first score I check now,” he said with a slight smile. “There’s a storyline there that’s hard to ignore: a combination of everything that leadership should be about with Flores and adding a little spice on the top with Tua. The amount of hope people have with Tua is crazy.”
For once, I can lump my dad in with the rest of us crazies rooting for Tua and Flores to turn the Dolphins’ fate around once and for all. Ten years after the promise was made, my dad has finally come around.
It’s a Christmas miracle.