"Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends."
- The Old Man and the Sea
The Miami Dolphins have scuttled their chance at Andrew Luck, and how do you think Fins Nation is coping? I guess they're feeling betrayed or bewildered, to paraphrase Nathan Lane's Birdcage alter ego.
But unlike most Fish fans, I'm actually on board with Miami's new penchant for victory. Am I Ray Finkle crazy, you ask? Just maybe. But there's something about winning that defuses all pessimism, chases away the bats in the belfry, and turns the masochistic notion of self-inflicted defeat on its head.
Why - no matter what's at stake - would anyone want to lose professional football games anyway? Don't we have any pride or integrity anymore? Apparently, the alleged "Suck for Luck" campaign is far more enticing than doing the right thing. And, I guess, Miami haven't done the right thing at quarterback for a long, long time.
So whether the Dolphins intended to suck or not, the Luck conversation has taken its talents from South Beach to Indianapolis, a club whose lack of depth makes Paris Hilton look like Thomas Friedman. You have to feel for Colts fans, right? Without Peyton Manning in the line up, their team looks more like the 1986 iteration that lost its first 13 games than the championship-caliber squad No.18 usually commandeers. You see, so many questions churn through the mind of the hopeless fan: Do I even watch the game on Sunday? Are we really giving up, simply to secure one player in the next draft? Can Peyton and Andrew Luck co-exist anyway?
At least Colts owner Bill Polian appears at ease with the hopelessness: "The bottom line is that if the right person is there (in the draft), and it has to be the right person, then now is the time to make that choice," Polian said on his weekly radio show this month. "Peyton and I have spoken about that, and he's OK with that."
Well sure he is. Nobody's replacing one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks as long as he's healthy. I don't care if you're Andrew Luck or the second coming of Johhny U. Peyton's job is safe for now, and that might just be enough to keep Colts fans from bolting naked across the prairies. The thing is, we'd get it if the fans surrendered altogether, wouldn't we? If they started burning throwback jerseys and lobbing horseshoes at each other. It's difficult to stay committed to an NFL season once your team is in a 0 - 3 hole, let alone 0-11.
Look, I've also watched my Miami Dolphins spiral this season, from a team that boasted a potential top five defense, and dynamic tailback ready for real superstardom, to an easy 'w’ for every opponent. Three games in, and the Fins were drowning. The offense sputtered, the defense floundered and the team's most important player, its quarterback, never warmed up more than, well, during the warm up. Suddenly, being a Dolphins fan really did suck. While other fans hovered excitedly around TVs and tailgates to cheer on their respective clubs, being a Finatic was nightmarish.
But thanks to the papers, bloggers, and constant chatter of social media, Dolphins fans were invited to rekindle interest in the season by supporting a losing cause. Sucking was the new planking, or something. Problem was, Coach Tony Sparano refused to sleep with the Fishes, and together with his staff, rescued Miami’s season against the odds. Sure, it won't be a playoff year, but suddenly things are looking, let’s just say, respectable.
In week 9, unloved back-up Matt Moore played perhaps the best game of his career in a 31-3 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs. Moore was 17 of 23 for 244 yards and three touchdowns, which was good for a 147.5 passer rating - the best in the NFL that weekend. Stats aside, it was Moore's new command of the offense and accuracy that wowed fans. His cross-field toss to Anthony Fasano after a fake roll out to the right was Brady-esque. It was the first win for Miami in 2011, and the onslaught was enough to earn Moore AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors from the NFL.
The consensus is that Moore isn't the long-term solution in Miami, but who cares? In week 10, he completed 20 of 29 passes for 209 yards, en route to a Fins 20-9 defeat of the Redskins. “Dolphans” haven't had this much fun since Chad Pennington showed up Brett Favre in the last game of 2008. Great Miami moments - save Fergie belting out national anthems and the occasional tennis star sighting - really feel like they're every three years or so now. But with Moore in the mix, the optimism needle is on the move. Last week, he kept the pedal down and threw 14 for 20 with three TDs. What's next, jumping the Jets in the AFC East? Well, as wide receiver Brandon Marshall told The Miami Herald after the Skins game, "Anything is possible."
So what if we don't get Luck. We've competed, and yes, conquered. Our season, which was close to being completely void, now has some meaning. Instead of asking what might have been, we can focus on what's happening - today. Our defense alone, led by the rampant Karlos Dansby, is worth the price of admission. In fact, as of Sunday, that group had gone twelve straight quarters without allowing a single touchdown. How do you like that action Rex Ryan?
Real Fins fans, the kind that care about their team each and every contest, are feeling pretty fortunate right now - big shot prospect or not.
So good luck to you Indy. But remember, fortune, as they say, favors the brave.
Article first published as Swimming against the current on Andrew Luck on Technorati.