My dad died three weeks ago. Amazing how inconsequential everything else seems in that context. Particularly when it was the second parent.
Dad had impeccable timing. He bought season tickets for the family beginning in 1972. We cherished those teams and everything they meant to South Florida. The glory year Canes and last year's Heat didn't threaten the same passion with or connection to the community. I've detailed previously that we went to the airport to meet the Dolphins after they returned from Los Angeles, with me pulling mom's hand closer and closer to the platform to get a once in a lifetime view, as she sheepishly apologized for her son's aggressiveness. Dad was laughing a few feet back, squeezing through our wave.
Dad gave up our tickets a few years later, when Joe Robbie ignored letters to move us to the south (sun free) side. For the remainder of dad's life he followed the Dolphins casually but not to the same degree as the glory years. #21 was forever Jim Kiick, #85 Nick Buoniconti, and so forth. When I returned from Las Vegas for Christmas each year we attended one or two season ending Dolphin games, depending on the schedule. I played a little game, asking dad who was #45, or whatever, on the current Dolphins roster. Invariably he'd come up with the name from 1972 and 1973, even if the player had been retired for 25 years. Thank you, Curtis Johnson.
We unabashedly rooted for the final unbeaten team to fall each year. That's the excuse for this post. It was like reliving 1972 all over again, with one more win each year. So I guess we're at 57-0. Each season dad asked me who I was worried about. No matter how it played out, we'd talk about it often, and check the schedule if it drifted too far. I hated the years when Thanksgiving was ruined, an unbeaten still out there. Just last year we were desperately concerned about the Packers. I remember sitting alongside dad and following that game on the scroll, trying to figure out who had the ball and the time out situation. The old way made it so special when Kansas City ran out the clock, the final finally flashed.
Dad was in decent shape at that point. We knew it couldn't last, not with pulmonary fibrosis. I secretly hoped for early 2014, perhaps mid 2014, but knowing probability as I do, it figured to be early, not late. Dad declined sharply after acquiring acute pneumonia in late August. He made it home a couple of times, once for 22 days, then 5. He liked Tannehill, and the new coach. The final game was vs. the Rams. We knew he'd never make the next one. Dad was very pleased that on his final football weekend he got to watch his two favorite teams win back to back, Miami over St. Louis followed by the Giants' dismantling of the 49ers.
Dad's input was fantastic the following few days. Going through everything, financial and otherwise, while telling me I'd be swamped via all the paperwork and necessary contacts. How right he was. At one point I switched subject and asked him who I should root for down the road. We loved to watch golf together. He mentioned Michelle Wie, always his favorite, and "the Irishman." (Rory McIlroy). Then he said to make sure to root for the final unbeaten team to lose, and think of him along the way.
I certainly did, dad. Love those Saints.
Younger fans naturally don't understand the obsession, especially the way the current team failed today. But if I were to briefly return to life 50 or 100 years after my own death, obviously I'd be interested in the family history and political situation and technological advancements, but first instinct would be to check if unbeaten alone remained intact.
BTW, the header needs adjustment. They were not the Fins in 1972. A sloppy abbreviation like that didn't exist. Kudos to John Congemi for always stating it fully and correctly.