I’m not writing this article to lay it on thicker for the Miami Dolphins, we do enough of that around here already. I’m simply posing a question that I think now, more than ever, needs to be answered. Are the Miami Dolphins losing their place atop the hearts and minds of the people of South Florida?
For years Miami was a Dolphins town, and why not? The Dolphins were the biggest thing going in the entire city, Don Shula came to town after the George Wilson years and immediately added a sense of legitimacy to the team. The team won the AFC in just Shula’s second season, by his third they were posting the only undefeated season in NFL history, by his fourth they won another Super Bowl. In Don Shula’s 26 years as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins he had just two losing seasons. That tends to ingratiate a team to a city. Especially at a time when the Hurricanes weren’t a real college program yet and the Miami Heat and Florida Marlins didn’t even exist.
Lately though, the Dolphins have been slipping, recording losing seasons in five of the last seven years. Fans are slowly beginning to lose their patience, uncertainty amongst the front office, unclear sense of organizational direction, a failed attempt to replace a head coach and a draft that left many fans scratching their heads has the fan-base largely divided and heated.
And speaking of Heat, the Miami Heat are winning. And they’re not just winning they’re hammering teams in the playoffs with star-power and exciting basketball. Even if you don’t like the Heat, they’re still an exciting team to watch. Compare that dynamic with the boring product being put on the field at the Stadium formerly known as Joe Robbie and you have to begin to wonder whether the Dolphins are still the favorite sons of South Beach.
Now this all comes with the caveat that I am a die-hard Fins fan and I’m really not that big a fan of the Heat. But I was recently in South Florida and despite it being near draft-time I didn’t see a single piece of Dolphins swag in all of Miami (and that was over several days). Now that’s not an indication of how the sentiment may actually be. That’s just what I saw and it was right at the start of the playoffs in the deadest part of the lockout, but it’s still disconcerting. Especially for an out-of-towner.
I don’t know for sure that Miami is now a basketball town. While living in Tampa the Lightning won a title my senior year of high school and for a couple years afterwards Tampa tried to be a hockey town. But it was more of a fad and it slowly passed, the city once again bleeds Pewter and Red.
The Heat may not go so quietly. They’re much higher profile, they have more star power in their starting five than the Dolphins do on their 53-man roster. I figured when LeBron James brought his talent to South Beach ESPN would open up a regional site for Miami, or at least Florida. We already had ESPN New York, ESPN Boston, ESPN Chicago, Dallas and LA, so Miami would obviously be next, right?
Nope, ESPN gave the Heat their own site. The Heat Index on ESPN.com. That means nationally the Dolphins are so unexciting ESPN doesn’t even want to risk lumping them in with the Heat in their own city.
Maybe I’m over-estimating the shift here, I hope I’m wrong, but it feels like the Dolphins may have finally lost Miami. What do you think?