In many ways, 2016 has been a bruising year for South Floridians: We’ve had unspeakable gun violence, too much of it by young shooters; the death of a promising and charming baseball ace; the departure of a basketball superstar; the divisive presidential election and the uncertainty brought by Fidel Castro’s death.
So who would have guessed that the Miami Dolphins would provide a ray of hope?
The team ascended into the playoffs on Sunday for the first time since 2008, the year President Obama was first elected. And it was seven years before that when the Dolphins made a post-season appearance.
We had long forgotten the Dolphins could make our December merrier. For years, they faded by Christmas, and our attention turned to the once-winning Miami Heat by this time in the football season.
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But following try after try of hiring coaches, general managers and star players, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross finally came up with the magic formula: Hire a first-year coach, reboot your franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill; have gunslinger back up — Matt Moore — in place when that QB is injured. Get known players like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh and bring together a group of new up-and-coming stars — Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker.
What a thrill to watch the new and improved Dolphins, the ones who find a way to win in the fourth quarter; the ones who can get a kicking team out on the field in seconds and make a game-tying field goal, as they did Saturday to go into overtime and defeat the Buffalo Bills, 34-31. In other words, a team that can make the impossible possible.
So yes, the team deserves praise, but let’s give a tip of the hat to those long-suffering Dolphins fans, those who have endured so many losing seasons. We’re talking about the loyal fans who have been there through the bad times — the only kind the team has known in eight seasons. We’re talking about the fans who still proudly wore Dolphins jerseys; season-ticket holders who have held on to their expensive seats; fans who showed up to training camp; who endured quarterback after quarterback changes. Not the fair-weather fans — you know know who you are.
If you attended all Dolphins home games last year, and the year before — pat yourself on the back. The day you just knew would come is finally here.
Dan Muchnick, of Cooper City, has been a season-ticket holder since the original 1966-67 season. Five decades later, he can still be found in Section 144. He credits Coach Adam Gase with the team’s turnaround. “He is definitely the right coach,” Mr. Muchnick told the Editorial Board. Making the playoffs is “very impressive,” he said. Season-ticket holders are no longer giving away their seats, he said. They’re actually showing up.
How did Mr. Muchnick endure the bad years? “We became great tailgaters,” he said. But now there’s an actual game to rush in and enjoy.
There’s been fan support even at away games. You could see them on television at Saturday’s game in Buffalo and at other games in San Diego and Los Angeles.
At home games, Coach Gase has indicated the fans are the 12th player on the field because the Dolphins feel their energy. “When we’re at home, our players feed off it. You can feel the excitement in the stands,” Coach Gase told reporters.
Kudos to the Dolphins on the field and the stalwarts in the seats who believed there would be a new day. It’s here.