Monday, January 26, 2015

How Long It's Been: The Miami Dolphins Were In a Super Bowl


There's a football revolution brewing in Miami, Florida.

It's not the Dolphins. It's not the Hurricanes.

It's David Beckham's MLS expansion franchise, awarded last year, although no one yet knows what year it will start play.

Since 1993, we've seen the Miami Heat reach the NBA Finals 5 times, winning 3; the Florida (now Miami) Marlins win 2 World Series; and the Florida Panthers reach a Stanley Cup Finals. In all that time, the Miami Dolphins, South Florida's signature sports team (at least, until the Heat became the LeBrons), not even reach an AFC Championship Game. That's 22 years. They haven't reached the Super Bowl since Super Bowl XIX, in 1985. That's 30 years. They haven't won it since Super Bowl VIII, in 1974. That's 41 years.

If the Dolphins were an English soccer team, their rivals' fans would be saying, "Big club, my arse."

In Super Bowl XIX, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California, the San Francisco 49ers didn't need this not-quite-home-field advantage to beat the Dolphins. They had a team that went 15-1, with Hall-of-Famers Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Fred Dean, and should-be Hall-of-Famers Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, Randy Cross and Guy McIntyre. (Jerry Rice arrived the next season.) The Niners won, 38-16, with Gary "Big Hands" Johnson getting in Dan Marino's face, and Montana proving, despite the records that Marino set that season, the difference between a passer and a quarterback.

I could do this for the Dolphins' last Super Bowl win, and I probably should have, last year, on the 40th Anniversary.

But their last Super Bowl appearance was on January 20, 1985. That's 30 years. How long has that been?

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As I said, their quarterback was Dan Marino, in his 2nd NFL season. He's now been retired for 15 years. Their head coach was Don Shula, now the winningest coach in NFL history. He's now been retired for 19 years.

The Dolphins' home field, for 2 more seasons, was the Orange Bowl. They moved into what began its use as Joe Robbie Stadium, named for the team's founding owner, and went through several more names as corporate sponsorships came and went, and is now Sun Life Stadium. The Orange Bowl has been demolished, and Marlins Park has been built on the site.

The 49ers have also left their home field of the time, Candlestick Park, for the new Levi's Stadium. Candlestick is now in the process of being demolished, leading many to think, "What took them so long?" Of the 28 teams then in the NFL, only 6 teams are still playing in the same stadium, 30 years later: Buffalo, Green Bay, Kansas City, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego.

There was no NFL team in Baltimore, or Charlotte, or Jacksonville, or Nashville, or Oakland, or Phoenix. There were 2 in Los Angeles. There was a team in St. Louis, but it was the Cardinals, not the Rams. There was a team in Houston, but it was the Oilers, not the Texans. The Colts had just finished their 2nd season in Indianapolis, after moving there from Baltimore. The United States Football League was still in operation, and had Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, Steve Young and Reggie White, plus Steve Spurrier as a coach.

The Chicago Bears, the New England Patriots, the New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills, the San Diego Chargers, the Atlanta Falcons, the team then known as the Houston Oilers, the franchise then known as the Cleveland Browns, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks, the franchise then known as the St. Louis Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints had never been to a Super Bowl. Nor had the Colts, obviously, since they moved to Indianapolis. The Bears, the Giants, the Browns, the Patriots, the Bucs, the Saints, the Seahawks, the Denver Broncos, the team then known as the Los Angeles Rams, and the Colts since they moved had never won one. (The Bears, Giants, Browns, Rams and Cardinals, however, won NFL Championships in the pre-Super Bowl era, while the Bills, Chargers and Oilers had won AFL Championships.)

The NFL had not yet adopted instant replay challenges or the 2-point conversion. There were no stadiums with retractable roofs. The idea of playing preseason games, let alone regular-season games, in other countries was being discussed, but not yet approved. The idea that a player could be a viable quarterback or running back at 260 pounds was ridiculous -- then again, we were mere months from the Chicago Bears experimenting with rookie defensive tackle William Perry, who put so much food into himself at Clemson University that he was nicknamed "The Refrigerator." And hardly anybody had stopped to consider the role of football in domestic violence. Or repeated concussions, or any other long-term injury.

Early NFL greats Red Grange, John "Johnny Blood" McNally, Bronko Nagurski, Clarke Hinkle, Mel Hein and Fritz Pollard were still alive. Peyton Manning was 8 years old, going on 9; Eli Manning had just turned 4. Michael Strahan was 13, Adam Vinatieri was 12 (he's now the NFL's oldest active player), Ray Lewis was about to turn 10, Tom Brady was 7, Drew Brees was 6, and Aaron Rodgers was 1. Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, Mark Sanchez and Ray Rice weren't born yet. Adrian Peterson would be born 2 months later.

The 49ers had dethroned the Los Angeles Raiders as NFL Champions. The World Champions in the other sports were the Detroit Tigers, the Boston Celtics and the Edmonton Oilers. Larry Holmes was the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America and Canada twice, and once each in Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been held in America, Mexico, Italy, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, South Africa and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush was his Vice President. Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, their wives, and the widows of Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy were still alive. Bill Clinton had just started his 3rd term as Governor of Arkansas. George W. Bush was a drunken business failure who'd lost his only run for public office to that point. Barack Obama was working for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The Governor of the State of New York was Mario Cuomo, the Mayor of the City of New York was Ed Koch, and the Governor of New Jersey was Tom Kean. The Governor of the State in question, Florida, was Bob Graham. The Mayor of Miami was Maurice A. Ferré, the first Hispanic Mayor of the city, and the first native of Puerto Rico to be elected Mayor of any large U.S. city.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Brian Mulroney. The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- and its Prime Minister was Margaret Thatcher. Liverpool FC were the defending Champions of the Football League, while "the other team" in Liverpool, Everton, were the holders of the FA Cup.

Major novels of 1985 included The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, Contact by Carl Sagan (all of the preceding set in the future), Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, The Cider House Rules by John Irving, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. The last of these became a major TV miniseries; the rest all became major motion pictures.

Speaking of movies: The Falcon and the Snowman, Witness and The Breakfast Club were about to premiere in theaters. ThunderCats, Moonlighting and Mr. Belvedere were about to debut on American television. EastEnders was about to debut on British TV. "We Are the World" would be recorded 8 days after that Super Bowl, and a month later, Whitney Houston's eponymous debut album would be released. Released that January were John Fogerty's Centerfield, the Commodores' Nightshift, and Phil Collins' unctuous No Jacket Required (though you needed a straitjacket if you liked the damn thing).

There were mobile telephones, but they were huge, still being called "bricks." The Internet as we know it was still roughly a decade away, although its Domain Name System had just been created. Video arcades were still gobbling up quarters from impressionable teenagers, including yours truly. There were personal computers, but they were desktops, not laptops or, God forbid, fitting into anybody's pocket. Playing games on those computers was difficult, taking forever to load. Home gaming, aside from the traditional board games, was limited to your TV, on such systems as the Atari 5200 SuperSystem and ColecoVision. Nintendo was a few months away from launching its NES console.

In the Winter of 1985, a democratic election put an end to 20 years of military rule in Brazil, and another ended 12 years of military rule in Uruguay. British Telecom announced it was phasing out its iconic red telephone booths. Israel began withdrawing troops from Lebanon. William Schroeder became the first artificial heart patient to leave the hospital where his surgery was performed.

Konstantin Chernenko, and Nicholas Colasanto, and Van Lingle Mungo died. Joe Flacco, and Heather O'Reilly, and Cristiano Ronaldo were born.

January 20, 1985. The Miami Dolphins got clobbered by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. They have never appeared in another Super Bowl.

They were 8-8 in 2014, so it's not like they're hopeless. But is anybody really excited about the 2015 prospects of a team with Dennis Hickey as general manager, Joe Philbin as head coach, and Ryan Tannehill as starting quarterback? Let's just say that the Dolphins are one reason I'm glad I don't live in South Florida. Or in any part of the South, for that matter.

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