Relationships are hard.
This is a lesson that I’ve learned over and over and over again in the past four years or so. I’ve seen some end and some flourish. At the crux of almost all of them is a focal point that relationships that succeed require a lot of work, and not just work, most have factors at play beyond just effort.
I’ve lost some relationships because I haven’t been willing to put in the work, I’ve lost others because they weren’t willing to put in the work. I’ve lost more still to distance, some to lack of interest in maintaining one, and a few to simply the fact that I have nothing in common with the other person involved.
All in all, I’ve found over this time frame that relationships are worth it. They are worth the pain that they inevitably bring, they are worth the time sacrificed to cultivate them, they are worth the stress and the sorrow. The vast majority of relationships in my life I value I’ve started and built in the last four years. This was an intentional step, because a failed marriage in 2014 helped me see how much I wanted to have good relationships, and also how much they can’t just happen by accident. Since that time, I’ve lost some of my oldest relationships as well, because when I finally objectively looked at them, I realized many weren’t good for either party.
Today, I’m writing not a blog, but a break-up letter. I’ve found a relationship that has been poison for me. Honestly, I’ve known about it for a while, but I was so committed, I couldn’t let it go. Outside of family, it’s the relationship I’ve held the longest in my entire life, but it’s time to say goodbye. It’s Dear John time. I’m sorry it had to go this way, it hurts me deeply, but it’s for the best.
Miami Dolphins, I quit you.
For many of my friends, that past sentence may take a minute to absorb. It’s shocking, stunning, and unfathomable to many I’m guessing. I have had people approach me in public places and say hello after a decade or more of not seeing each other. I don’t really look the same, but they recognize me from a distance because of my Dolphins garb. It’s a rare site in north Idaho, and anyone who’s known me a long time, expects me to be in it frequently.
For those that don’t know the history of my relationship with the Dolphins, I’ll create the back story a bit. I was born in Miami and lived there for the first four years of my life. My family packed up their bags and moved to north Idaho in 1990, I was four years old. At the time we moved, I didn’t know what the Miami Dolphins were. I didn’t care about sports at all until around my twelfth birthday. I’m from there, but that’s not the reason I’ve always been a fan.
As a young child, I was not excited to move from Miami to Coeur d’Alene in the slightest. I remember very little of living there, but among the memories I’ve retained, one is vivid. It’s when my parents told me that we were going to be moving to Idaho, and I replied “I don’t want to live in Idaho, there’s nothing to do there.” From that moment on, being from Florida became important to me. I loved Florida, and four year old Taylor was hell bent on making that chunk of his life a cornerstone of his identity.
A few years later, I was in Cascade, Idaho, celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. We had stayed through the weekend and the family was watching football on TV. My Uncle Les was captivated by a game on the television, cheering on his beloved San Francisco 49ers against a team called the Miami Dolphins. As far as I can remember, that was the first time I learned that such a thing existed. Young Taylor immediately fell head over heels in love with the Dolphins. I was at that absolutely obsessed with aquatic life. Sharks, whale, dolphins, etc. They, along with Legos, were the interests I defined my life by. So to find out that there was a team from my identity-bestowing city of Miami, named after the oceanic idols in my prepubescent life, I was hooked.
I ran to my factoid books that I would read obsessively, and scurried to the section listing off the Super Bowl champions, and quickly learned that Miami was the first team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls, and the only team to win one following an undefeated season. I was quick to let Uncle Les know about both, and inform him of his team’s inferiority. I spent the remainder of that game cheering on my beloved Dolphins. I don’t know if they won, it didn’t even understand the game. I was a committed Dolphins fan about six years before I ever actually cared about football. I would let my friends know that Dan Marino was the greatest unabashedly before I ever even learned the name John Elway, I was livid when the kids in my neighborhood started to praise the name of some schmuck named Brett Favre (and I’m still right, Marino was better). I didn’t really understand what they did, but they were mine.
And that was about as good as things ever got. Dan Marino retired about two years into my football following life. As soon as I was actually interested in following the sport, the Dolphins almost immediately stopping giving me a reason to be interested in following. I’m a blindly loyal person in many ways though, I can handle the losing, I really can. The Dolphins were really the only sports team in Miami when we moved, I didn’t latch on to any others. I’m an A’s fan, and the losing doesn’t bother me a bit. It’s just part of being loyal.
Other things started to wear on me though. Geographic separation being chief among them. Long distance relationships are hard. That is true for almost anyone, but it’s harder when television access is the only way to build your relationship, as it was for me and the Dolphins. In the pre-Sunday Ticket days (dark days indeed), I was dependent on Miami games being aired in my area on either them being decent (earning Sunday or Monday night games), or them playing the local teams (Seattle or Denver) to get on TV. Generally, three times a year was the maximum I’d get to watch them. It’s hard to be passionate about a sport, and almost never get the chance to watch your favorite team. Taylor’s loyalty was wavering though. Go Phins.
Fast forward twelve years. I’m married, a college graduate, and for the first time, Sunday Ticket enters my life. The geographic distance no longer has to interfere with the quality time I can give my beloved Dolphins. What became a real issue between us at this time, was that they were dreadfully boring. The annual expectation was 6-8 wins. Never bad enough that you could enjoy watching great players go off against us, but never good enough to actually generate any belief that a team could be something special. Never bad enough that we’d be drafting high, in an obvious rebuilding mode, hoping for something better in a few years, but constantly looking for the “guy” in free agency to get us over the hump to 9-7, and still nowhere near a championship. This wore on me greatly. It’s one thing to always be bad, it’s another to routinely leave fans with no hope of being better later. That was the rut I was in.
Still, it was survivable. I hated that we didn’t have any exciting players, that wins were always 21-17, and shootouts never turned up, and shut outs weren’t an option either. Mediocre across the board isn’t a ton of fun to watch. One thing that adult Taylor did not share in the least bit with child Taylor is that adult Taylor truly and passionately loves the sport of football. If Miami couldn’t give me good football, I didn’t have to stop cheering for them, but I could choose to stop watching them. I’ll come back when it’s good, in the meantime, I have Red Zone, and Packers/Cowboys game on channel 710. Miami understands, the local fans don’t come to the games either.
Of course, that became another point of division. I’m a fan that longs and strives to be all in. I’m a die hard. Among my favorite things about all sports is the community that comes with them. The unique fan culture that breeds and grows among groups of like-minded followers is what long ago caused me to favor college football over the NFL. Miami has none of it. The city is infamous for shallow fandom. If you don’t win, we’ll go to the beach. If you’re 6-6, the stadium is half empty. They don’t care. That is not a fan culture that matched well with me. The relationship is getting rocky.
Of course, the fact that the local fan community where the team plays is also largely a nonfactor, because I’m 3000 miles away. They are literally the team in pro sports furthest away from me in the United States. The community that makes me love sports so much isn’t even an option for me, even if they’re winning, and that’s a problem for me. In my entire life, I’ve met fewer than ten other Dolphins fans, I don’t just suffer, I suffer alone. I’m also a trash talker by nature. I can find fun in fandom, by being in a community with my rivals, and exchanging hatred too, but alas, also not an option. Buffalo, New York, New England, those are the rivals, and their fans aren’t really around here either. I know two Patriots fans, one really prefers hockey, the other soccer. They both have no real reason for cheering the team, and are kind of just bandwagon folk. That’s fun either. The relationship isn’t over yet, but I’ve been reviewing my options.
Being a fan has gotten expensive now. I’ve been through a divorce I didn’t see coming, I’m stuck in a house I can’t pay for. The date is September 27, 2015 and the Dolphins are hosting the Buffalo Bills. They enter the game 1-1 and their season has been hyped as one for a breakout. Some big offseason acquisitions and the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill has fans pining for a real playoff run. The Bills look to be going the other way. This is the back on track game, we’re at home, we’re loaded with potential, and we’re going to start winning after fifteen years. I settle in to watch the game that I’m paying Directv money I don’t have to view, and I don’t care, this year it pays off.
Three hour late, Buffalo 41, Miami 14. Final. I turn the game off at halftime and get an early start on some Christmas preparations.
Miami and I are now separated, but now actively looking to hire a divorce lawyer. I have decided that I can no longer handle being a Dolphins fan, but my heart is not ready to move on. I’m hurting, and I’m trapped. My life is rife with instability, I can’t quit them, but for the first time I acknowledge that I should.
Two more years have passed, an actual playoff appearance occurred, and while my passion isn’t what it used to be, I’ve come to terms that I need to make this marriage one where we “stay together for the kids.” I’m not expecting much from Miami, this season, or really much in the future, but I’m going to make it work. Miami has one thing going for it, my boy, my all time favorite Boise State Bronco (a loyalty that is not on the rocks) Jay Ajayi has landed on the Dolphins roster. He’s not only there, he’s the cornerstone of the offense, toting the rock frequently to bleed the clock and limit the mistakes the defense and subpar quarterbacks can make. He’s not Barry Sanders, but I love him, and he’s a legitimately exciting player to watch. After two plus years of being non-committal on Miami, I pull the trigger and renew financial investments in my team. On Wednesday, October 4th, 2017, I order a new jersey for my champion Jay Ajayi, I’m ready to back the Phish full steam.
October 31, 2017, I awake to get ready to work the same as every morning, alarm blaring at 7 AM. As I always do, because I’m sports obsessive, I check ESPN for breaking news to start my morning. I’m greeted with the news that the Miami Dolphins have traded Running Back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles for a 4th round draft pick.
And then I realize that despite my commitment to the Dolphins that they aren’t committed to me. I had lived in denial that teams aren’t loyal to players, and that any loyalty based on a player is a doomed iceberg to be floating on. Throughout the day, rumors swirl that they are looking to trade Jarvis Landry as well (my second favorite player on the offense), they don’t pull the trigger, but it’s abundantly clear to me that our relationship isn’t going to work. I’ve tried to make it work, but it takes two for a relationship to succeed, and we don’t have that.
I’ve always been afraid to move away from Miami as my team. I feel like I’ve made a commitment to them. I don’t break commitments. I take a long, hard look at my decisions before I make them, and even if I make a bad one, I try to stick with it and accept the consequences. I didn’t willing end my marriage, I didn’t short sell my house when it made all the sense in the world to do so, I haven’t given up any of my pets even though they make finding housing a nightmare on a consistent basis. But I’ve realized how foolish it is to take that stance with my sports teams.
I didn’t make a vow with the Dolphins, I’m not married, and what’s more is that they don’t actually rely on me at all. Staying with them doesn’t help them, it only hurts me. We’re not a good fit. Their fans don’t fit me, their team doesn’t fit me, their location, despite the arguments of a four year old me, doesn’t fit me. We’re not meant to be together.
Three weeks ago, I went and spent some time in Oakland with friends and family. We soaked in a plethora of sports events while there, the capstone of which was a jaunt in the Black Hole at a Raiders game. Those people fit me. They are loyal. They have been bad just as long as Miami has, and they are loyal. The team left for twenty years, came back, and are leaving again, but they remain loyal. They scream for four quarters, they hate the other team and let them know it. The team stinks, and that’s okay. They are close enough (and still will be after the move) that they won’t require a miracle to watch, or a loan to see in person. I didn’t go thinking my fandom was for sale, three weeks after coming back, I realized that fandom should need to be bought, it should simply be desired.
It’s been a long time since I’ve desired my Dolphins. It’s time to stop making my fandom a chore, and look for happiness in it. I’m doing that now. Miami, it’s not me, and it’s not you, it’s both of us. You’ll always have a place in my heart, but it’s no longer going to be first place. It’s bittersweet, it hurts, but it’s time. We are through, but I hope you find success without me.
My heart has a new home in Raider Nation. Just win, baby.