Sunday, December 2, 2007

Of Flesh and Fish

I'm not alone in thinking this one of the less gratifying football seasons in years. It began with Michael Vick, I think; it continued with the bleakly efficient but shady Patriots living well beyond even the best expectations for their season; it has gruesomely continued with Sean Taylor's untimely death at his Miami home. Even if you're not a Jets fan, it seems like professional football only heightens America's compulsion to cannibalize itself.

One of the other disarming oddities of the year has been the failure of the Miami Dolphins. I'm aware of how many games they've lost only by a mere three points (including a loss to the Jets), but the point is that of all the seasons to lose every game, regardless of how many points decide it, they have managed it in a season when the Patriots might break the 1972 Dolphins' unbeaten record. The Jets might seem lackluster bystanders in all of this, except for the fact that they are playing the Fish this week.

It feels wrong to feel any real compassion for the Dolphins. They made a mockery of the Jets in the 1970's. They left the tarp off the field before the Mud Bowl in January 1983. They jump-started the Jets' famous collapse in 1994 with Dan Marino's Fake Spike. This is a franchise that has a richer playoff and championship experience than the Jets have had (that could describe a lot of teams) but Miami has also found the Jets to be an enormous challenge year by year, and it's always been fun to watch them struggle against us. And when things go wrong for the Jets, as they have this season, beating Miami has always been an oddly satisfying consolation.

So two cheers for the Dolphins. I feel confident that the Jets will stumble, and if they do, it will be an oddly satisfying moment. The Jets have also taken their pound of flesh of Fish. They registered a winning streak against them from 1978-81 even when the Dolphins did better overall. Indeed the Dolphins have often been nettled by the Jets the way that Tom was by Jerry. Throughout, beating them has always made me feel better about being a Jets fan. No matter what, our friends in the Sunshine State have always had to take their friends in the north seriously - especially when too many of those Floridians were transplanted New Yorkers who became Dolphin fans. At least a win against them could make you feel better about the lost season.

When Jerry noticed that the local neighborhood dog had gotten the best of Tom, he went out of his way to thwart the bully canine so that Tom could go back to tormenting him. Why not allow them to avoid the shame of being winless during the Patriots' perfect season by playing Jerry to their Tom? After all, we aren't going anywhere this year. Dolphins fans will always be grateful to us for that.

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