You would have thought the Miami Dolphins have earned it.
After starting the season 3-0 with wins on the road against Cleveland and Indianapolis and the topper a home victory over a top-flight Atlanta team (in which the ‘Fins also overcame injuries to several key players), that one word would have finally been earned by the team from South Florida.
You know that seven-letter ward that Arethra Franklin first belted out so long ago.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Yes, we’re talking about respect. Guess what? With the exception of a few media personalities and in a very mild way, the national media has largely ignored arguably the hottest team in the NFL.
Here is the evidence for that statement. Minutes after Miami had completed their amazing comeback against Atlanta, I went on espn.com to get the headline from the game. I fully expected to see it as the cover story.
Nope. Instead the image and lead story on the homepage was about the quarterback battle between a bad Buffalo team and a slighlty better New York Jets team. Now, I understand that rookie quarterbacks who have even a little success bring views and attention to a website. Let’s not be naive. So, I scrolled through the rest of the headlines on the right hand side of the page to read about Miami.
Not one was about the Dolphins’ game. Not one. Yet, ESPN found it necessary to highlight Carolina’s destruction of the woeful New York Giants, not to mention several other highly suspect stories that shouldn’t have been considered headlines.
Let’s be clear. The Dolphins’ 27-23 victory over Atlanta was headline worthy for so many reasons. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had perhaps his first signature moment as a star player with his fourth quarter drive to win the game. The Falcons are an extremely talented team that is now 1-2. The Dolphins were never supposed to survive their almost cruel opening schedule, yet they are thriving. The game was won on an almost unbelievably easy one-handed haul by a rookie tight-end catching his first ball. You can go on and on about why the game was so special for the league, not just Miami and its fans.
The ignorance unfortunately didn’t end with espn.com. Later that night, I tuned in and out of the Chicago-Pittsburgh game, which quite honestly was a snooze fest. With ample opportunity to talk about the day’s stories, I remember some extensive comments about the day’s games but nary more than a word or two about the Dolphins 3-0 record. I do apologize if something substantial was said when I turned away from the game due to sheer boredom.
Finally, there was the always “entertaining” and “detailed” analysis of the Mike and Mike show on ESPN radio on Monday Morning.
They did mention that the Dolphins were 3-0, but only in the context of whether they could compete with New England for the division crown. Dolphins fans had to choke on their morning coffees and breakfasts as noted New York Jets supporter Mike Greenberg mumbled something about Miami being impressive. That must have really hurt him.
Greenberg quickly moved on to his beloved Jets and his new favorite man-crush, New York quarterback Geno Smith.
The silver lining in all of this is actually pretty bright. You might even say it glimmers. First of all, while the national media is still largely ignoring Miami, several fans of other teams have taken notice. I just spent time responding to an e-mail from a Steelers fan expressing envy over the Dolphins start. Ask yourself, when was the last time that happened? Even my father-in-law, a diehard Eagles fan had to acknowledge the Dolphins stellar performance.
The second advantage is that the team itself really doesn’t need the added attention. This is a squad that would be well served to fly under the radar as long it can because the danger of reading your own press clippings is well documented. Teams lose focus and start playing sloppily.
You also don’t need other teams to be broad-sided by Miami’s success. Put another way, the Dolphins don’t need Tom Brady being pestered about the new beast in the AFC before the Patriots and Dolphins play this season. It’s called bulletin board material folks.
Regardless, it would be nice for the Dolphins to start getting a little more respect if for no other reason than the brand that was so popular in the 1970′s and 1980′s needs a renaissance that brings more fans, especially the really vocal ones) to their stadium and even more to living rooms across the nation. The on-field future looks bright Now, a return to national prominence would undeniably improve the luminosity of the off-field product and business side of the organization as well.