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Back on December 12, I wrote

It is starting to look like 2023 will be yet another year where the Dolphins have a pretty good record heading into December only for the team to lose games they should win and flame out before the playoffs.

Final update: yep, they lost. After yet another December flame out, they lost their shot at winning the conference (last accomplished in 1984) and then their shot at winning the division (last accomplished in 2008). Once again, they backed into the playoffs as a wild card and then lost their shot at winning a postseason game (last accomplished in 2000).

Last year they lost to the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo in 28° weather. Last night, it was an even less competitive game, a dull 7-28 against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City in -28° wind chill weather. I'm a little worried about what the temperature might be in next year's loss (in Cleveland?). Oh, well. That's the price you pay for not winning enough games to avoid away field disadvantage.

(To be completely fair to the Dolphins, for the second year in a row, by the time they got to December, the roster was devastated by injuries. It's hard to win at any temperature when you have no first- or second-string linebackers [although the real fail in the late season was an inability by the offense to score, partly due to lingering injuries but also bad scheming, play-calling, and execution]. I don't watch each game with the expectation of winning a Super Bowl; I just like football, and I like the team I cheer for to play well. It's just disappointing when the team seems to always be playing its very worst when the stakes get highest.)

My bigger problem with the loss was that in order to watch it, I had to subscribe to Peacock. The Dolphins v. Chiefs game was the first ever NFL playoff game available exclusively on a streaming network which charged a subscription fee and still ran a shit ton of ads. Fuck you, NFL and NBC. I'm glad your game was a frozen turd, and I'm glad I watched on someone else's account so you didn't get an extra dime out of me.

Welcome to the future, where the playoff football is terrible and you have to pay extra to see it. Living in the past increasingly seems the better option. I hear that 1972 was a pretty good year.

UPDATE: The Detroit Lions have won their playoff game, which means they no longer are the NFL team that has gone the longest since their last playoff win (31 seasons since 1992). That honor now belongs to, you guessed it, the Miami Dolphins. Twenty-three seasons and counting! Woot!

And since we're on the topic, I might as well point out that the Miami Dolphins currently sit at #5 on the list of NFL teams with the longest stretch since appearing in a Super Bowl. It's been 38 years since Joe Montana beat Dan Marino. It's been 47 years for the Vikings and 55 years for the Jets but it could be worse; the Lions and Browns remain tied at "never." So, yeah, that's the bright side: it be worse.

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Wow, what a rough year 2023 turned out to be. Domestic political dysfunction, nonstop foreign wars, losing your starting wide receiver, starting running back, starting defensive end, and starting cornerback in a seven day span just before the playoffs in what was looking to be the most promising season since 1993... Ick. Less of all that in 2024, please.

As seductive as it can be to fall into despair, this is hardly the first time global events have seemed to be spiraling out of control. In such circumstances, it is always worthwhile to listen to voices of wisdom.

I'm reminded of one speech in particular:

There comes a time when we heed a certain call, when the world must come together as one. There are people dying, oh, and it's time to lend a hand to life, the greatest gift of all.

We can't go on pretending day-by-day that someone, somewhere soon make a change. We're all a part of God's great big family, and the truth, you know, love is all we need.

Honestly, it can't be said enough. We are the world. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can make the choice to start saving our own lives.

We are the ones who'll make a brighter day, so let's start giving our all and make 2024 a year to remember proudly.

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This time last week, despite winning zero games against teams with winning records, the Miami Dolphins were in position for the first place seed in the AFC, something they hadn't accomplished since 1984. If the Dolphins are the number one seed, they're guaranteed to make it to the first round of the playoffs and not lose for the first time since 2000... because they wouldn't play in the first round. Number one seeds get a free pass into the second round where they'll probably lose against a team with a winning record.

Then, last night on Monday Night Football against the 4-win Tennessee Titans, the Dolphins blew a 14-point lead in the last 4 minutes 34 seconds, something no team had done since 2016.

I've been watching football long enough that 2016 doesn't seem like such a long time. So far as I'm concerned, the Gold Standard for blowing a late game two-score leads remains the 2011 game where brand-new starting quarterback Tim Tebow led the 1-win Denver Broncos to score 15 points in the last 5:05 to eventually win in overtime... over the Miami Dolphins. It was the first time the Broncos had ever won in Miami. That game sparked the movement that would eventually become Tebowmania as he piloted the team to win their division and their first-round playoff game. Remember Tebowing? Yeah, that was the Dolphins' fault.

It is starting to look like 2023 will be yet another year where the Dolphins have a pretty good record heading into December only for the team to lose games they should win and flame out before the playoffs. I'm not mad about it. That's what the Dolphins do. If I wanted a different outcome, I'd cheer for a different team.

It could be worse. I could be an Atlanta Falcons fan.

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Tonight is the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. I usually watch, but not this year. There's no point. The Miami Dolphins have no first round pick, all because their owner got caught cheating.

The jury is still out (by which I mean that an actual lawsuit is still pending) on whether owner Stephen Ross is a racist who tried to fix games, but the NFL decided that he definitely tampered with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021 by trying to steal their quarterback (just has he tried to steal the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers back in 2014). As punishment, the League took away the Dolphins' first pick this year (and their third next year).

This is actually the second year in a row that the Dolphins have no pick in the first round. Last year, the Dolphins gave away a boatload of picks to get Tyreek Hill. And while Hill made a big impression, he's hardly going to be a Fin for a long time. He's already announced that he plans to retire after the 2024 season, so it's a "win now" situation.

And they'd better win now. The Dolphins had a total of 4 picks last year, and they currently have 4 picks this year. It's awfully hard to build for the future when you only get to add 4 young players a year. Or, for that matter, when the quarterback you're building the team around is more fragile than a bag of potato chips.

The Dolphins still haven't won a postseason game since the year 2000, and if they can't do so soon, it might be 2040 before they have enough talent to try again. That of course assumes that Stephen Ross doesn't get in his own way again, which is no guarantee.

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On September 26, someone on this blog *cough, cough* wrote

"[T]he Dolphins haven't made the postseason since 2016, and they haven't won a postseason game since 2000, so I'll be happy just to get that far this year."

Well, despite losing 5 of their last 6 games and playing a 7th-round rookie at quarterback in replacement of Tua "Should Really Start Thinking About Retirement While He Can Still Think At All" Tagovailoa, the Dolphins have backed into the playoffs on the strength of their early success (and weak competition) after an 11-6 win over the hapless Jets (also playing their 3rd string QB, former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco — how the mighty have fallen!).

And I find I am not happy about it.

The team has demonstrated that it cannot win without Tua, so there will undoubtedly be a push by those who care more about wins (read: $) than player safety to bring him back, ready or not, for next week's playoff game against the Bills. The same Bills who gave him his first concussion (of 3) on the season back in Week 3. The same Bills who beat him soundly in the fourth quarter during the Week 14 rematch.

Hey, Tua, it's not worth coming back for this. ESPN's only giving the Fins a 1.4% chance of winning the Super Bowl, and I think those odds are kind of generous given what I've seen from the team this year. Save yourself, man. Try again next season. So what if the team can only score field goals without you? That's their problem, not yours.

If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything.

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Did everyone have a Merry Christmas? I guess I did, all things considered. I mean, so long as I ignore the fact that the Miami Dolphins collapsed in the second half and lost their 4th straight game, going 0-4 in December and demonstrating that despite some earlier success they are definitively not ready to be a playoff team for the 22nd year in a row. (Annual reminder: their last playoff win was in 2000.)

Yeah, ignoring that and the fact that I badly cut my thumb on the large carving knife while doing the dishes, the rest of the day went pretty well. It was in the wee hours of this morning that I ran into trouble. Or maybe I should say that it was Louis who ran into trouble for us all.

After watching Sunday Night Football go to overtime and spending an hour trying and failing to play online games with Friend James (the trouble seemed to be with his ISP), I noticed at about 1:30 in the morning that something smelled wrong in my room: the faint smell of burning plastic. That's never good.

I began sniffing my way around the darkened house for the cause, starting with the basement. It wasn't coming from my room. It wasn't the furnace which has been running all out for days to combat the 30-year historic cold. It wasn't in my studio where I had been painting finishing veneers earlier in the day. So I moved upstairs where the smell was indeed stronger. I thought maybe it was the Christmas tree lights, but no, they seemed fine. And It wasn't any appliance in the kitchen or anything electronic in Mom's office. I even grabbed a flashlight and checked outside to no avail. What *was* the source of that smell?

When I came back inside, I noticed that the flashlight wasn't a spotlight like it was outside but an illuminated beam, a fuzzy lightsaber. As a former Boy Scout, I quickly recognized this as a Very Bad Sign. The good news is that I could follow the flashlight beam to find the areas of thickening smoke.

The source, as it turns out, was behind the curtains separating the den from the sunroom that Mom uses for crafting. As is usual in the winter, the "sun" room was the coldest in the house, and she has been running an older model portable oil space heater day and night to keep the chill out. At this point, you've probably figured out where this is headed.

Context clues indicate that sometime while I was preoccupied with football or video games, my mischievous puppy, Louis, had taken a break from chewing up my new shoelaces and pajama bottoms to sneak behind the curtain — where he knew he wasn't allowed alone — and knocked over the heater. The sideways heater did not have an automatic shutoff, and worse, on its side it started leaking oil, oil that fortunately smoked before it flamed.

I uncovered the problem in time to prevent any further damage to life, limb, or property. (Sure, the house *smells* like burnt plastic and oil, but at least there's a house to smell.) I think from now on I'm going to have to keep Louis tied to me. And I'm going to recommend that Mom mounts her new space heater (with automatic shutoff!) to the floor!

Post-Christmas crisis averted!

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After only three weeks of play, the Miami Dolphins are the last undefeated team in the American Football Conference of the NFL. I wouldn't crow about that except that A) I don't expect that to last much longer, and B) the last time the Dolphins were the last undefeated team in their conference was 1995!

Only one team in the Super Bowl era has run the entire table and ended the season undefeated. That was, as you no doubt know, the Miami Dolphins in 1972, exactly 50 years ago. So think of the current streak as an anniversary celebration.

For the record, there have been exactly three other teams in the history of the NFL to win every game in the season; all of them lost their championship game, including the 2007 Patriots who fell victim to David Tyree's "Helmet Catch." Interestingly, before the NFL introduced a championship game in 1934, there were also four teams that went undefeated for their entire season. While none of them had a championship game to lose in, none of them were undefeated, either. All four of those had at least one tie. (Yes, there will be a quiz later.)

Will the Dolphins make the Super Bowl? The odds at this point aren't great. The last time the last undefeated team in the League even made the Championship game was the aforementioned 2007 Patriots. But the Dolphins haven't made the postseason since 2016, and they haven't won a postseason game since 2000, so I'll be happy just to get that far this year.

It's kind of nice to have something to cheer about on Sundays.

UPDATE 2022-09-30: Yeah, so, Tua's head. Oh, well. That's what I get.

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After years of lackluster commentating on Monday Night Football, ESPN has giddily hired an all new 2022 crew, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (stolen from Fox Sports for something in the neighborhood of $100 million), thereby ensuring another year of lackluster commentating.

The labor of calling a football broadcast is divided into two roles: the play-by-play announcer who tells the fans who weren't looking what just happened on the field, and the color commentator who explains why what just happened was a good/bad thing. Good crews inform you about what you might not have noticed and teach you about football. Really good crews get you excited to see more. Then there's the Buck-Aikman combo.

Competent play-by-play announcing is an art, and each sport is a different discipline. I'll give Joe Buck credit for being far above average at calling baseball games, but after years and years of trying, he comes across as disinterested and generally ignorant of the football games he calls. If the announcer doesn't care about the game, why should anyone listen?

As for the other side of the booth, I might have been the only person in the world who didn't enjoy John Madden's broadcasts because he reduced his commentary to idiot-level "BAM"s and "YAK"s to reach the average television-watching moron, but Aikman appears to have the actual vocabulary of the average television-watching moron. As a teacher, he's more a substitute than tenured professor; he's proven completely unable to elevate the game. At least he's really grumpy.

So did ESPN buy themselves a good crew or a great crew? The Buck-Aikman combo certainly has me excited... to see what's on a different channel.

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As someone who has long observed the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise from the outside, let me say that I have no idea how accurate former head coach Brian Flores' game-fixing allegations against team owner Stephen Ross are. And while it is obvious to even the casual observer that the racial composition of the player base is not reflected in management, I don't know if Flores was actively discriminated against by the league owners.

But between Flores, Ross, and the NFL, I'm inclined to believe Flores.

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I vowed that if the 1-4 Dolphins lost to the 0-5 Jaguars today in London, I wasn't going to watch another Dolphins game all season.

Final score: Dolphins 20, Jaguars 23.

So long NFL. And thanks for all the fish.

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To be continued...


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