Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's Haka Time!

A new season is about to dawn on the Miami Dolphins.

When foot meets ball for the opening kickoff this Sunday in Washington, the Cam Cameron era will officially be underway. As with any new head coach, the Dolphins can expect a good deal of change from last season's product. But the Cam Cameron era is bringing with it more than the usual amount of changes for a franchise.

Indeed, the Miami Dolphins are facing a paradigm shift.

No longer is the head coach a defensive mastermind - as has been the case with all of Miami's head coaches dating back to the 1960s (see Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, and Nick Saban, defensive coaches all). Instead, for the first time in a long time, the Dolphins have a coach who has made his reputation as an offensive guru. Also changing is the power relationship between the head coach and the G.M. Whereas Nick Saban held complete control over personnel decisions, Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller have equal say when it comes to shaping the roster.

On the field, Miami will be trotting out a new starting quarterback and a completely reshuffled offensive line on which no returning starter will be occupying the same position he held with the team last season. Gone are the team's top two reception leaders from a year ago - WR Wes Welker and TE Randy McMichael. The special teams unit is also overhauled with a new kicker, punter, holder, and returner as well as several new kick coverage guys.

There is no question this roster was broken down and rebuilt in a new image. In fact, at least 25 of the players on the current 53-man roster were not a part of the active roster last season. That's almost a 50% turnover rate! Most impressive is the fact that 9 of the team's 10 draft picks made the final roster, with the tenth, G Drew Mormino, landing on Injured Reserve. Two other undrafted rookies earned a spot on the roster. Of these 11 rookies, four are slated to be opening-day starters (C Samson Satele, FB Reagan Mauia, PR Ted Ginn Jr., and P Brandon Fields). This is by far the largest and most significant infusion of youth that Miami has seen in some time.

The identity of the Miami Dolphins is clearly changing...but to what? Like a snake sloughing off its old scales, the new era Dolphins must shake off the franchise's bad tendencies and create a fresh team character - a winning character. The fan base must be re-energized. The only way to awaken the team's loyal followers from their dejected apathy is to display some newfound fire and tenacity. But how can this be accomplished?

Well, Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel had a pretty genius idea in my opinion. His idea? Let the new young band of Pacific Islanders on the roster (specifically Samson Satele) lead the entire team in a pre-game Haka war dance. Not only would this fire up the team, it would be something unique to Miami - something for the players to rally around and call their own, something to be proud of and something to fight for.

What is the Haka, you might ask? It is a Maori dance generally performed to inspire warriors and to condition them for battle. It involves a throng of organized combatants chanting loudly and stomping their feet in unison. For a perfect example of what I'm describing, watch this video:



Among Pacific Islanders, the Haka provides a means of expressing one's national identity. Miami's young Pacific Islanders should take that tradition, import it to South Florida and use it to express the new identity of the Miami Dolphins. Obviously, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas are the de facto leaders of the team, but it couldn't hurt to let the youngsters feel an immediate sense of leadership.

Granted, Fialkov was most likely suggesting this idea in jest. But I say, why not? Just imagine before every game, 53 men organized as one, chanting and stomping as a single unit. I can't help but think that would be at least slightly menacing to opposing teams. If nothing else, it will instill the type of unified character that has been missing in Miami for far too long.

Bring on the new era of the Miami Dolphins, and bring on the Haka!

(For more information on the Haka, see this website.)

No comments: