Dave Barry

Taylor, Tuna feud makes for grande preseason

BY DAVE BARRY

I decided to go scout the Miami Dolphins on Monday, to see how they look this year. This is important, because the Dolphins represent South Florida's manhood, and last season we had the same community testosterone level as the audience for a Barbra Streisand concert. The Dolphins lost 15 games and won only one, which I believe was against Princeton.

So there's a lot of pressure on them to not suck so much this year. But the preseason news has been troubling, especially the feud between Jason Taylor and the Big Tuna.

Taylor is, of course, the Dolphins' star lineperson. He's also considering a career in show business, since he has the kind of chiseled GQ-style looks and big muscles that my wife has repeatedly assured me she does not find attractive.

The Big Tuna is Bill Parcells, who got his nickname from the fact that he breathes through gills and can weigh up to 1,400 pounds. He is the Dolphins' Executive Vice President of Football Operations, which means he runs the team from a secret underground bunker furnished entirely with game-worn jockstraps. The Tuna is a gruff, old-school football guy. He is very hard-nosed.

Q. How hardnosed is he?

A. He makes Don Shula look like Barry Manilow.

The Tuna reportedly was unhappy about the fact that Taylor competed this season on Dancing with the Stars, where he finished second to figure-skater Kristi Yamaguchi. This in itself shows you how far the Dolphins have fallen since their glory days. There is no way that, say, Larry Csonka would have let that happen. The Zonk would have found a way to beat Kristi, maybe with an ''accidental'' forearm to the chops during the rumba competition. Those guys just knew how to win.

But getting back to the Tuna-Taylor feud: It got even more feudal when Taylor, during a break from dancing, visited Dolphins' training camp and felt that he was snubbed by the Tuna. The Tuna later emerged from his bunker to claim that there was no snub, that in fact he didn't even know Taylor was in the room because he (the Tuna) wasn't wearing his hearing aids. I am not making any of this up. I heard the Taylor-Tuna-snub-vs.-hearing-aid story being hotly debated for two solid days on sports-talk radio. This is what Dolphins fans have been reduced to.

Neither Taylor nor the Tuna was on hand when I went out to scout the Dolphins on Monday, but I did get to watch some players in action. My overall impression of them is that they are quite large, for humans. The largest one I personally saw was Jake Long, their No. 1 draft pick, who is huge.

Q. How huge is he?

A. He must constantly brush away woodland creatures trying to build nests on him.

So I would say the 2008 Dolphins' biggest strength, as a team, is gravitational pull. Their biggest weakness, from what I saw, is their putting. They were putting because they were playing in the Dolphins' annual charity golf tournament at Grande Oaks Golf Club, which is a classy place, as you can tell by the ''e'' in ''Grande.''

Before the tournament began I got a chance to size up Chad Henne, who's competing for the starting quarterback job. This has long been a weak spot for the Dolphins, who have started many people at quarterback since Dan Marino left, including at one point Kristi Yamaguchi. Henne is a rookie, but he managed to remain poised in one of the most stressful situations an athlete can face, namely, being interviewed at close range by extremely outgoing WQAM radio personality and former Dolphin Joe Rose.

Rose was broadcasting from the porch (or, as they say at Grande Oakes, the porche) and I would conservatively estimate that by 8 a.m. he had consumed 168 cups of coffee. He began the interview with football questions, then switched gears, asking if Henne had a steady girlfriend. Henne said yes, at which point Rose said:

'You got to be careful of the South Beach girls, now. You know you got a month or so before camp, and old South Beach is going, (Here Rose stood up and began calling out in a high-pitched voice to represent the sultry appeal of South Beach) 'Chad! Come down here! We have clubs open all night! You're gonna have a blast! Try us out! Come down in a limo by yourself! Combination packages! Any kind of look you want! Any kind of body! We're down here!' ''

Henne looked concerned -- you'd be concerned, too, if a large hairy man was tempting you in a falsetto voice with combination packages -- but I thought he handled the situation well, assuring Rose that he is happy with his longtime girlfriend.

''You canNOT beat that home-grown girl!'' Rose declared shortly before Henne fled to the safety of the golf course.

So that's my scouting report on the 2008 Dolphins. They have size, but they putt poorly, although this could be offset by their ability to withstand the siren call of South Beach. The big question is whether Taylor and the Tuna will sit down and discuss their differences, and if so, whether the Tuna will hear what either one of them is saying. I predict that it's going to be an exciting and rewarding season for Dolphins fans, at least until it starts.

©2008 Dave Barry

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