We learned something about ourselves inside that darkest of nights. We learned that the cause was not lost, and that it hadn’t even been missing. And once seen, it could not be unseen. It possessed us with a most magical ability. We believed in tomorrow . . .
What a difference two months makes.
Exactly two months ago in this very spot, I penned a bad romance of a love letter to my favorite team in the world, the Miami Dolphins. There was no need to read between the lines since I was as brutally honest as a Jim Bob Duggar paternity test. The Dolphins were all set to rewrite history . . in crayon, and the only reason I wasn’t doing somersaults is because I am on a strict somersault diet. But I was all chips in on a losing hand because I was under the impression that less would equal more in the long run.
A funny thing happened on the way to NFL ignominy. The Dolphins stopped sucking.
By winning their third game of the season, the Dolphins would basically have to get Tony Soprano to serve as their draft point man in order to score a top three pick right now. Say adios to quarterback Joe Burrow and defensive end Chase Young- the top studs at their respective positions. A couple more wins and not even Tony Soprano will be able to un-fuck the situation.
And guess what? I’m kinda loving the zeitgeist of these formative moments that are busy trashing the temporal sensibilities- like standings and draft positioning. Because what Brian Flores is coaching up in South Beach is a bulldog mentality that doesn’t give a blessed fuck about gutted rosters and tank jobs.
Because maybe all this worrying I was doing about getting a top name in the NFL draft was for naught. Maybe it doesn’t matter one little bit whether we draft first or fifth . . or wherever. Maybe what matters more than that is what’s going on, right now. What Brian Flores is doing with the skeleton crew of a band that started the season 0-7 but has gone 3-2 since. He isn’t winning coach of the year, but he’s damn worthy of getting someone’s vote, out of principle. It would be a fitting apology, after Flores got trashed for presiding over what many sportswriters were calling the biggest sporting abomination of all time. Which is hyperbole at its most hypocritical when you consider all the real world shit the sports world has thrown at us.
This might sound strange, but this team is the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. Because that country club mentality which had worked its insidious vines into the heart and soul of a franchise for the better part of two decades is withering just a little bit. It’s by no means dead and gone, but it’s no longer being allowed to retrench itself. Because maybe they’re figuring out that most prized possession of all; more vital than a blue ribbon prize in the NFL meat market. Maybe they’re figuring out a culture that transcends big names and splashy acquisitions.
Ask the Steelers what culture means, because they pretty much wrote the book on it. They lost their star quarterback, running back and wide receiver in one calendar year and yet they’re standing at 7-5 after beating the Browns today. The Steelers have had three head coaches in the past fifty years. In that same span of time, there have been five Popes. Enough said.
And look at those Browns, with all their big name talent- including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who oh by the way . . was the first pick in the draft a couple years ago- who are busy making vacation plans for January after falling to 5-7. If ever there was a cautionary tale when it comes to falling in love with top picks and big names? They are it.
If I had to choose one word for this season, it would be perspective.
Lamar Jackson beat the stuffing out of us in the opener, but he’s done that to a lot of really good teams since. And it’s worth noting that thirty teams overlooked him in the draft. And okay, putting up a thirty seven burger on this Eagles team isn’t nearly as impressive as it might have seemed back when everyone- including yours truly- was penciling them in as a playoff team. But it still counts.
And so what if they’re not the worst team of all time, destined to take home the top prize for their futile efforts? And so what if they’re light years away from having a legitimate shot at knocking off guys like Mahomes and Jackson? All that really matters is their allergy to the canvas, because they refuse to lay down on it. And it’s not much, not really.