January 10, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
by Dave Long

Back in the day I really liked the 1972 Dolphins. Even though I was a Giants fan then, I wanted to see them to go undefeated as the wins started to mount. More than any team, they reminded of the Super Bowl-winning Patriots. They were called the No-Name Defense for being without apparent stars, rarely beat themselves, epitomized the word “team” and like the Patriots they were smart, tough and clutch.

The one thing apparently missing, at least for some, is graciousness. That doesn’t include Bob Griese, tight end Jim Mandich and Earl Morrill. All were very complimentary after the Patriots finished a perfect 16-0. Don Shula had some nice things to say. But in saying “if” the Patriots finish this off, he’d be the first to call the coach and congratulate them, they seemed backhanded. Since Shula won more games than any pro football coach in history and two Super Bowls, he knows how hard it is to go through the regular season without a loss. So even if the Patriots don’t finish this off, why wouldn’t he call Bill Belichick at the proper time to offer congratulations anyway for doing what no other team has ever done in going undefeated in a 16-game season?

Instead, the more these grumpy old men chirp away, the more they sound like Norma Desmond desperately trying to hold on to her past in Sunset Boulevard. Take five-time All-Pro Bob Kuechenberg (please!, as Heni Youngman used to say). He said after the spectacular game with the football Giants, “They’ve done a heck of a job thus far but now the exhibition season is over and the real season begins. Obviously, if they can win their first playoff game, beat an even more dangerous Colts team, and then Brett Favre or the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, I will be the first to take my hat off to them. If they can pull it off, they will have earned it.”

Aside from the “exhibition season” crack, which I’ll get to in a minute, that sounds nice enough. However, he added, “But my heart is dead set against it. The ’72 team is uniquely immortal in American sports and I don’t want us to lose that special place” That’s a long way from Hank Aaron after Barry Bonds broke his home run record. And then there is the non-stop flood of tripe from one Eugene Mercury Morris. His mouth seems far quicker than his feet once were — which is saying something. Can anyone tell me what planet he comes from? Although maybe that’s where he got the nickname.

And while I’ll be the first to tell you things can seem different in print than actually intended, I don’t think that’s the case here. I think the Miami Norma Desmonds are praying the Patriots don’t do it and don’t care how small they sound in the process. It reminds me of when I lost the Yanks as my favorite team after I couldn’t stand George Steinbrenner’s abhorrent ways any longer. And since, like Popeye right before he goes for the spinach, “that’s all I can standz, I can’t standz no more,” I’m dropping the Dolphins from my inventory of favorite teams.

And in the spirit of the political season, where if you’re not with me you stink, let me point out a few things that make the great Dolphins season not nearly as great as they remember it. First of all, Bob, get a grip. It wasn’t even the best feat of the YEAR, let alone “uniquely immortal in American sports.” The 1971-72 Lakers completed their streak of 33 straight wins in a row that same year. That’s one shy of DOUBLING up the fish. They also won a then-NBA-record 69 games and the title. I also hate to say (well not really) that UCLA was working on its 88-game winning streak that lasted two years after the Ds lost as they were winning SEVEN straight national basketball titles. So, while it is one of a kind for the NFL from where I sit, it was only the third best accomplishment of 1972!

Next comes the “exhibition season” crack. It makes it seem like the Patriots are playoff neophytes. Three is more than two — right? Belichick’s Patriots ALREADY have won more Super Bowls (and probably aren’t done) than Shula’s Dolphins. And historically they’ll be judged superior as well in part because they’re 3-0 in the big game, while the 1971 Dolphins got smoked by Roger Staubach and the Cowboys 24-3. They’ve also topped Miami’s 17 straight wins twice! They won 22 in a row as they won Super Bowl two and three and currently have a 19-game regular-season streak going. Given the clear superiority it’s galling hearing the old folks talk down to a better team.

Then let’s take a look at who they beat. It’s true you can only beat who’s on the schedule, but the Dolphins had a spectacularly easy one. In the regular season they faced no playoff teams, and only Kansas City and the Giants had winning records at 8-6 apiece. Their opponents were a horrible 70-124-4. The Patriots played six playoff teams, seven teams over .500, and their opponents were 108-99. To their credit the Dolphins won 11 times with Earl Morrill subbing for Griese at QB. It’s hard seeing the Pats doing that with Matt Cassel in Brady’s place. And the playoff road wasn’t that tough either. They beat the mediocre Browns, the up and coming 11-3 Steelers, who got to round two only by the grace of Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception, and George Allen’s boring but effective Redskins.

If you’re from the lunatic fringe in Miami and want to get into who’d beat who head to head: with Miami averaging 253 along their lines and the Patriots 309, does anyone seriously think, no matter how good they were, Miami wouldn’t get worn down at the least? But enough of the personal attacks. Even with all this, what the Dolphins did was great and it made them champs.

It’s just too bad some of them aren’t able to act that way 35 years later.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture

12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat