It happens every season, and maybe if no one mentioned it or paid attention maybe it would cease to be a tradition of an NFL season. The last undefeated team loses its first game, and the 1972 Dolphins are all over your timeline and whichever ones are left alive and haven’t filled their diapers with their own shit (or maybe they do too in their own way) celebrate. We haven’t gotten rid of them, though just about every fan outside of Miami would very much like to. And we very well may never.
The Dolphins are, of course, an anomaly. Are they the best team ever? Nope. They outscored their opponents by 214. The 1985 Bears by 256. The 2007 Patriots by 315. The 1999 Rams by 284. The Bears and Patriots won more games. You could easily use these as examples of where the Dolphins rank all time. But of course, all of them lost a game, and there’s no getting around that.
We could point out how the rules are different now, and it’s nearly impossible to horde talent as it was in the past, making it nearly impossible for a team to lord over the rest of the league to the point of going undefeated. But that won’t matter, because all they’ll say is they were undefeated and no one else was. Whether it’s an anomaly or not, because it’s the only time to ever have it happen, its uniqueness can easily be mistaken for unmatched excellence. Especially by those who need it to be so.
It’s why everyone hates Patriots fans or Red Sox fans or Yankees fans back in the day. No matter how credible any argument might be, those on that side have something they won’t hear of any points against. Six rings, four World Series, 28, whatever the number may be. The same thing goes for MJ and Lebron. Doesn’t matter what is laid out, those on that side feel they have something impenetrable and indestructible. No one can get through.
It is truly wondrous that in all of the NFL seasons, only one went flawless, such as it were. It’s unique to the NFL, as no other sport has so few games where it’s even a consideration. As we know now, they were mere inches away from being joined by those Patriots. Eli Manning throws that pass to David Tyree 99 more times and he probably doesn’t catch one. I have listened all of my life to Bears fans theorize how that Monday night in Miami could have, and should have gone differently. Maybe one of them was right, but it didn’t.
Every football fan’s blood rises just a little when last night happens during the season. Here they come again, with their fucking champagne and boasts. And we know we can’t avoid it, which is what really bothers us. We rage and yell, and know, deep down, that it’s essentially yelling at the rain. We can’t win. They always will.
And they’ll probably all spin off this mortal coil knowing that their accomplishment remains unique. Mistaking an anomaly for unmatched greatness. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or we are. The two sides will never reach an accord.
We won’t get one over them. It’s the truest insult, knowing you’ve lost an argument so completely that there’s no way out. Sports fandom is a series of arguments, after all. The hope is that your team will one day give you ammo to win the arguments you’ve been losing to others for most, if not all, of your life. There’s always that faint hope that the day will come when you can scream and shout and no one, even for a day, can say that you’re wrong.
Not so with the 1972 Dolphins. They’ll tap the sign, and we all have to sit down, no matter the calculations we’ve done. It’s a rite now of every season. I’d say we should get used to it, but the wailing and the frustration are part of the season, too. It’s just how it works.