The Miami Dolphins were supposed to take care of business on Sunday but after giving up 10 of their 17 point lead in the 4th quarter, it would take a small miracle from the three yard line to seal the game.
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Build up heading into the game made national news when Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald broke into an argument with 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the weekly press interviews. It was further amplified on Friday when Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro died at the age of 90.
Castro’s death rocked South Florida as Cubans poured into the streets of Little Havana to celebrate but for one Miami Dolphins player, the thought of Castro was enough to make this game almost symbolic.
Kaepernick had once worn a shirt that featured a meeting between Malcolm X and the dead Cuban president. Kiko Alonso didn’t care what reasons were in Kaepernick’s head for wearing the shirt. He simply found it degrading. Here was a man making a national statement about the U.S.A.’s National Anthem but apparently showing some type of support for a ruthless dictator. Putting Kaepernick squarely in the “hypocrite” category.
On Sunday, Kaepernick took the field for pre-game warm-ups to a quarter filled stadium that was mostly filled with red 49’er jerseys. The echoes of boo’s however was deafening. He pranced downt he field to do his reps and was once again booed as he came off the field.
In the tunnels the large American Flag was being carried to run out on the field. Kaepernick was trapped between a wall and the flag needing to get to the locker room. One member of the flag holding team let me know that he was giving a divisive and uncertain look to the holders as if debating to climb over the flag or crawl under it. Luckily the flag began to move and he was freed to join his team.
The stadium now full, the first time and every time Kaepernick took the field he was met with a chorus of boos that shook the stadium but it was, in the end, fitting that a Cuban-American who chased and harassed Kaepernick all game long would make the emotional play to end the game.
Players often make plays on a game field but it’s rare that the raw emotion of a singular event can literally be felt. As Ndamukong Suh coralled Kaerpernick’s feet, Kiko Alonso slammed into his waist bending him backward for the game winning stop.
It was at that moment amid a roar that reverberated down from the stadiums new canopy that Alonso ripped his own helmet off and ran down the field to the 50 yard line. It was there that he jumped into the air to side slap with Ryan Tannehill. Both players fell to the ground with their hands in the air.
Alonso stood and strutted for a moment as he raised his fists into the air all the while every Cuban American in the stands screamed, some around me yelling “Liberte'” It was an impassioned moment that seemingly put an exclamation point on a controversial week. And it was fitting.