Living in the Past with the Miami Dolphins

November 15, 2007 | By Doug Benc | Sport

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Growing up in Central California, you were either a Raider fan or a Rams fan, with an occasional closet 49er fan scattered in there. Being a Dolphin fan was tough from 2,500 miles away, but I always had the 1972 undefeated season to fall back on. No other team could stake a claim quite like it in any of the major sports leagues.

When I made the decision to move to South Florida from California, the Dolphins were not part of the equation. But deep down, the idea of standing on the sidelines while the Miami Dolphins made another run at the Super Bowl and made history in front of my eyes was very appealing.

In the past two years the Dolphins have gone through so much turmoil, from changing coaches, quarterbacks andto having a top running back suspended for failing a drug test. Even a high first round draft pick could not separate them from the controversy that has ensued, since Ted Ginn Jr. has so far not lived up to first round talent. It seems that the Dolphins are destined for mediocrity for years to come.

But, even with all of the team’s swelling issues, no fan could ever imagine that a team that once went undefeated could fall so far that they could go an entire season without winning a game. My first Dolphins’ game of the year was a game against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills came into the game winners of three straight, and quickly recovering from a very poor start. As a fan, I felt like this could be the first win for the Dolphins on the year. As a journalist, I wanted to document that win.

As I walked out of the tunnel for warm-ups, I looked up into the stands and could not believe my eyes. I really expected there to be far fewer fans in the stands. With a team on a losing streak like the Dolphins, you would expect a half-empty stadium. It felt very good to be a ‘Fins fan, and the feeling was that this would be the day our team would get it’s first win.

From the beginning of the game, the defense played like a championship defense, shutting down quarterback J.P. Losman and rookie running back Marshawn Lynch. The Dolphins appeared to be in control the entire game. I was looking for images that were going to show a Dolphins win and a Bills loss. The Bills’ players were hanging their heads and Dolphins were celebrating. Telling the story of the game was going to be fairly easy as the mood of the game dictated my images.

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As the fourth quarter started, the ‘Fins held a 10-2 lead. A victory was looking all but assured with the way defense was playing. The crowd was into the game as were photographers on the sidelines that could sense this would be the beginning of a turnaround to the Dolphins’ season.

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Not long after though, the Bills scored a touchdown and then went for a two-point conversion. And just like that, a game that was seemingly one sided was suddenly tied. Some were whispering overtime on the sidelines as the crowd continued to roar on every play. The Bills got the ball back, with a couple of minutes left in the game and drive down into field goal range with less than a minute to play. A look into the stands and you could see the deflation of spirit. More hands were together in prayer than were pointing or antagonizing the other team now. As the kick went up through the up-rights, some fans started filing out of their seats, and others just sat there and wondered if this would be a season for the record books.

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As a journalist, I was desperately looking for images that would show the jubilation of the Bills game-winning kick and the Dolphins hard luck loss. The jubilation from the Bills team was slightly less than might be expected. Although, they had got a win, they had several injuries in a game that they were held in check for most of the afternoon.

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Back in the photography trailer, where most of the local media transmits from, there was more silence. Most of the local journalist, no matter how un-biased they are while working, are lifelong Dolphin fans. Most that still cover the team, were here for much of the glory years with Dan Marino and other Hall of Famers. Seeing the team through this year will be tough, but we will always have an undefeated 1972 to fall back on. For now we will have to live in the past to forget the present.

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