Forty-years ago, Miami Dolphins football in December had genuine significance and gave South Florida a real sense of identity, excitement and togetherness that it had never before enjoyed.TIME Magazine, December 11, 1972
Building For The Super Bowl - Miami Coach Don Shula
I know -I was there.
Some, including many who should know better, foolishly say that South Florida has become "a basketball town."
That's NOT true, of course, since real basketball towns support both professional AND college basketball with equal affection.
I ought to know, because I've lived in two of them: Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Miami is nothing like them.
Still, given the anemic showing the Dolphins have made on the field the past 15 years, and the equally amateurish, dog-chasing-its-tail sense of ineptitude and stupidity shown by the two most-recent ownership groups off-the-field, it's not easy to rebut those foolish claims with a straight face, especially when the Miami Heat have won two NBA championships in the past 6 years.
What's happened is that the Dolphins have slowly bled the heart and evaporated the soul out of many of their most loyal fans and sent them into hiding underground.
They watch the games on TV, but going to see them in-person, with the current crew in charge, is too painful.
When you know what real professionals look like and act like, because you've seen them with your own eyes, and in fact, have grown up with them, it's very hard to accept second-rate and lackluster effort.
Accept such a consistent lack of fundamentals in basic aspects of the game, or the lack of knowledge of the rules, or lack of personal accountability on the field.
And then to be asked to applaud that?
I know I can't, and I'm far from alone.
nitroradio99 YouTube Channel: Highlights of Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins. December 20, 1970. Uploaded April 27, 2011. http://youtu.be/3wtp94Ffg3w
This 1970 game was the first Dolphins game I ever attended in-person at the Orange Bowl, with my Dad. I was nine-years old, the Dolphins but five.
Jean0987654321YouTube Channel: Intro of 1973 AFC Championship: Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins, December 30, 1973. Uploaded May 26, 2012.
monteroed YouTube Channel. Uploaded October 27, 2010
sluggotv YouTube Channel: Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins. December 2, 1985. Uploaded May 22, 2011. http://youtu.be/_m0SzNtY9WI
The day of this game I was wearing the same trademark aqua-colored Dolphins cap I'd worn all week around Evanston in predicting that Don Shula was not going to allow the undefeated Bears to come into the Orange Bowl and emerge unscathed.
It was weird how confident I was, but having seen all the '72 Perfect Season home games in- person, perhaps it was the the fight-or-flight kicking in!
And my intuition has always been my strongest trait.
I watched the Dolphins-Bears game from the Norris Student Union at Northwestern University in Evanston, where I had moved that summer, and planted myself at a table underneath one of the large TVs they had on the side of the columns.
I'd often watch the network evening newscasts there and grab a bite to eat while waiting to meet my friend, ace lifeguard, boater, guitarist and very talented singer Susan Smentek, who worked in the art gallery there, and whom I even watched sing a few times in their bar.
Susan was also my creative arts/film friend muse with whom I finally saw "Back to the Future" with when it premiered back then!
Susan was the sort of wonderfully kind and well-grounded friend you always hope you have on your side when you need to sort your head out and make some difficult choices.
For me, at that time, Susan was the friend and confidant whose opinion I cared about so much that I'd rather have disappointed my own parents and sisters than her, because she's the one who actually listened intensely, and the one person who helped me and cheered me up more than anyone else did the two years I lived in the Chicago area.
Frankly, much as I'd like to write otherwise, those two years along the shores of Lake Michigan were not the happiest of times for me, as I had to deal with a lot more personal anguish and professional disappointment in a short period of time than I'd ever had on my plate at one time before, despite what I thought at the time had been more than enough planning and preparation on my part before heading up to Chicago.
I leaned on Susan a lot, and though I tried not to over-do it, I know that sometimes it was too much, so those times when I knew I'd really disappointed her, I was really racked by intense pangs of guilt.
I deeply regret that I fell out of touch with Susan not long after after she visited the Washington, D.C. area around 1994 while touring in support of her CD, Siren Song, and I got a chance to see perform yet again, that magnetic voice of hers as strong and impressive as ever.
Which made Siren Song such a perfect name for her!
And how's this for irony, she now lives in Elmhurst, the very town that I was originally slated to live in when I first moved-up there in 1985.
But if I had, I'd never have met Susan, which proves the wisdom of the saying, "Friends Are God’s Way of Taking Care of Us"
That table at Norris where I watched the Dolphins beat the Bears was the same exact table where seven weeks later, I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger launch and subsequent explosion as it happened, which not that many people there were watching a mere five minutes beforehand.
Yet within 15 minutes, seemed to have half of the Northwestern campus there, much of it consumed in tears and sobs, the rest in varying looks of astonishment and bewilderment.