Monday, June 8, 2009

Enough with the pity party already

"Whatever a man wishes were true, that he more readily believes." ~Francis Bacon

Come on Dolphin fans, let's stop for a minute and start thinking with our heads rather than our hearts.

Last week's team awards ceremony and charity golf outing provided ample opportunities for the local papers to get a few new quotes to run. Loquacious linebackers Joey Porter and Channing Crowder made sure to get their two-cents in regarding this upcoming season, and their thoughts were characteristically brash and bold.

Porter proclaimed,
We proved the AFC East comes through Miami...I don't understand how you put someone in front of us. We're the AFC East champions. You've got to beat somebody to be the champion. We had to beat somebody.

And Crowder added that "Talk is cheap -- always," when it comes to re-anointing the Patriots as the best team in the AFC East.

And you know what? I'm fine with them saying that. As players, they have to believe that. Otherwise, they wouldn't stand a chance on game day.

But as fans? Please, we should know better. Just because we support a team and its players doesn't mean that we are required to parrot every line they say that gets printed in the media and believe that it's true. Our fanship isn't jeopardized by thinking less of them than they do of themselves. Again, they have to think they are the best things since sliced bread. That's part of the territory.

But as outside observers we are free to step back and rationally judge things for how they are.

And guess what? New England is a better team than Miami, and they should rightfully be thought of as the best team in the AFC East right now. What is so hard to understand about that?

If the NFL were some kind of static entity, every team would perform exactly the same year in and year out, but that's obviously not the case, as Miami clearly proved last season. Things change in the offseason - things like getting one of the best QBs in league history to return to health - and teams' chances for success are radically altered in the time between the last game of the season and the first game of next year's season.

Yes, Miami won the AFC East last year fair and square and they deserved to represent the division in the playoffs, but let's not kid ourselves here. We had the same record as the Patriots. We snuck in by a tie-breaker during a season in which said all-time great QB was injured for 15.75 games. This was no definitive season declaring the old kings dead and the new kings in power. Rather it was a fantastically opportunistic season taking advantage of an incredibly fortuitous injury situation.

So New England finished with the same record as we did, and now they get Tom Brady back. Let's just face it, nothing the Dolphins could have done over the offseason could possibly have closed the gap between Brady returning to the Patriots.

And I've seen close-minded Dolphins fans pointing to Brady's injury as a reason why the team won't be as good next year, even going so far as to compare his injury to Daunte Culpepper's from 2005. Except that there are at least two huge differences between those injuries. 1) Brady got hurt in Week 1 and thus has had the maximum amount of time a player can have to heal in time for next season, while Culpepper got hurt in Week 8, halfway through the season. And 2) Brady tore two ligaments, while Culpepper shredded three. There really should be no comparing the situations.

Also, these are the same fans who last offseason said that Ronnie Brown's knee injury would be no problem and that he would feel no ill effects at all during the season, all while more reasoned fans (like myself) continued to try and temper expectations since every running back feels the effects of that kind of injury. But hey, he still put up a pretty good season right? So why is that out of the question for Tom Brady this year too?

You see, far too many fans flip on their home team colored glasses and refuse to ever take them off and that's frustrating. As Mr. Bacon so eloquently put it, these people actually alter the way they perceive reality to fit the way they want reality to be. But I can close my eyes and wish a million times that I were a lottery winner, but that's not going to make it one iota more truthful.

Fans need to stop thinking of the NFL as a king of the hill style game, where once a team climes the hill and wins the division that that becomes their starting position to defend the hill (title) going into the next season. Things change. Prospects change. Tom Brady comes back.

The Miami Dolphins may be the current defenders of the top of the AFC East hill, but we're back on the slope and looking up at New England.

So, in conclusion, Miami fans need to quit whining about "not getting enough respect" from the national media because they won't automatically slot every prior division winner into the same position this year. I enjoy reading positive columns about the team too, but stop saying every writer who writes a glowing article about the team "gets it" and that every negative article is way off base. Most importantly, stop framing all your thoughts around what you want to be true and look instead toward what the evidence would reasonably lead you to believe is true.

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