Albert Einstein, the acclaimed theoretical physicist, is credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Einstein is thought to have had Miami Dolphins fans in mind when he said that. It is true he died 11 years before the Dolphins came along, but that’s how smart he was! He anticipated that, in the coming century, Dolfans would lead the league in believing in their team year after year only to be let down again and again.
He might well have posited, as an example, that one must be insane to engage in the self-torture (or mere self-delusion) of merrily singing, “And when you say Miami, you’re talkin’ Super Bowl” ... even though no one has actually said or thought that of their football team since back when you could buy a brand new Cadillac Eldorado coupe for about $7,000.
So here we are in the new year, as the curtain closes on the latest Dolphins season like a specter of death, fans left in a position to wear the public mask of bravely believing in the best while the hard lessons of sad experience has them bracing for the worst.
Five losses in a row, at the worst possible time, has us all here.
At 8-3 a Miami fan could sing that dumb fight song and maybe actually believe it? For a minute? At 8-8 the Dolphins’ fight song would sound more like a dirge.
To make the playoffs the Dolphins must now beat the hated, stinkin’ New York Jets at home next Sunday — a Jets team newly eliminated from playoff contention and with nothing left to live for but play spoiler and bury Miami.
That’s half of it.
Miami must beat the Jets and have New England lose at Buffalo — a game whose framework will be greatly affected by Monday night’s Bills game at Cincinnati on “Monday Night Football.”
If Buffalo wins Monday it will be still be alive for the AFC’s overall No. 1 seed and be playing to win vs. the Patriots next week. If the Bills lose they will be more apt to rest starters next week, making a Pats win more likely.
So Miami is in the odd position of rooting for Buffalo tonight.
Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts, did all that. Snatched control from the Dolphins. Left Miami to win-and-pray.
If I had one question about the Dolphins at 8-8, a most unfortunate .500, it would be this:
How on Earth or in the cosmos is a team the very numerical definition of average when it has Tyreek Hil and Jaylen Waddle combining for 187 catches, 2,999 yards and 16 touchdowns?
Answer: History repeats. A few decades again Mark Clayton and Mark Duper were that dynamic a duo with an even better quarterback in Dan Marino and yet had little to show for it.
Why? The only logical explanation is that the Dolphins are cursed. Cursed. The franchise’s soul was sold to the devil in exchange for the back-to-back 1972-73 Super Bowl championships that included included the Perfect Season.
It has turned the Dolphins into a team version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”
(As a quick aside I feel like Don Shula — R.I.P. — was never properly questioned by the media over what role he may have played in that curse pact obviously still haunting the franchise. Seems like that should-a been a bigger story.)
The curse is why what first seems good always goes bad around here.
There are exceptions, like Tyreek Hill, who has been beyond great. Is he imbued with magical curse repellent? Or is he about to be struck by a meteor crossing the Don Shula Expressway on the way to practice?
Imagining the start of Miami’s next injury report:
QB Tua Tagovailoa: Out (concussion)
OT Terron Armstead: Out (toe, pec, knee, hip, ankle, earlobe)
WR Tyreek Hill: Out (meteor)
Because what goes good around here always seems to turn bad.
Tagovailoa finally performs, in his third year, like the high first-round draft pick he was ... but then we find out he is made of porcelain. And can you give your future to a breakable QB with a fragile physique from the brain on down? The curse.
Dolphins are lauded for spending big on a major offseason free agent signing in tackle Terron Armstead ... but then we are reminded he has an injury history, too, the sort of past in sports that tends to recur. Curse.
Mike McDaniel is cheered as a refreshing, next-big-thing coaching hire at 8-3 ... but now he looks like a rookie head coach who can’t find the brakes, or the answers to a five-game skid. (And should Miami have gone after Brian Daboll instead? The former Bills offensive coordinator doing great stuff in his first year with the Giants?) Curse.
The Dolphins have an owner, in Stephen Ross, who unquestionably really wants to win ... but then we find out that desperation sends him careening into a ditch and taking the club with him. It’s one thing to cheat, but Ross did it so clumsily he got busted for tampering in his wooing of Tom Brady — and that’s why Miami forfeits its first-round pick in the 2023 Draft.
The damned curse never rests. It occasionally lets up just long enough to tease and taunt. How else to explain a once-proud franchise that has made the postseason only twice in the past 20 years and not won a playoff game since the 2000 season?
So this is where the Dolphins and their fans are as 2023 dawns.
Wondering where the good old days (meaning five weeks ago) went.
Wondering if Tagovailoa’s concussion will let him play next Sunday.
Wondering if Teddy Bridgewater’s finger will let him play if needed.
Wondering it all as that damned song plays softly in the ear, never quite meaning to mock, but always mocking:
“And when you say Miami, you’re talkin’ Super Bowl!”