Does LeBron James' defection to the Cleveland Cavaliers mean the Miami Dolphins could regain the top spot in Miami fans' hearts? That's the question many have been asking this past week as the dust settles from the Miami Heat's loss of the best player in the NBA.
Miami has always been considered a football town, but let's be honest: Three Miami Heat championships in the past eight years has changed that fact. Even with the loss of LeBron, the Heat still enters next season with a team that can compete for a championship, something the Dolphins haven't sniffed in more than 40 years.
So what must the Dolphins do to regain the hearts and minds of Miami? Lots of things, most of them easier said than done.
1. Miami unapologetically gravitates toward winners, so the Dolphins have to do that winning thing more often.
Call it what you want -- bandwagon, frontrunner, fraud, whatever makes you sleep better at night knowing you're a better fan than the rest of Miami -- but locals' support will always be heaviest on the side of the winning team. Contrary to popular belief, this isn't a thing that's unique to Miami.
Miami fans support events and big games with meaning. Coincidentally, the Miami Dolphins haven't offered either of those products in years, so it's not hard to figure out why the Dolphins have found themselves on the back burner. For the love of God, Miami Dolphins, win more.
2. Spoiler alert: The Dolphins probably haven't consistently contended in your lifetime, and you're sick of it.
Some Dolphins fans had a great time growing up watching the team put on a show in the '70s; others grew up watching That '70s Show instead of another 16-13 game. You can't expect those two groups of fans to feel the same about the team -- it's just not realistic.
Until 1988, the Miami Dolphins were the only show in town, so it makes sense that older generations see Miami as a football town. Younger people have seen the Marlins win two titles, the Miami Heat win three rings, and the Miami Dolphins constantly embarrass themselves in new and exciting ways, so you can understand the differences of opinion. Give the younger generation some drama, something to talk about. Sure, winning a championship would flip the fandom in this town, but just being in the conversation would be a great start.
3. The Dolphins must stop finding ways to win AND lose in the most boring fashion possible.
It would be one thing if the Dolphins lost 45-42 all the time like the Detroit Lions. THAT'S losing with style points. But they somehow always end up winning or losing 13-10, which isn't exactly must-see TV. Even when the Dolphins teams led by Dan Marino lost, it was memorable. Some of my clearest memories of that time are high-scoring losses to the Jets. Compare the past decade filled with snooze-fest Dolphins games to Miami Heat nail-biters, even the losses, and the Heat is just a better bang for your buck. If you're gonna suck, Miami Dolphins, at least make it on defense. Brandon Fields isn't making me forget about Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade anytime soon.
4. Going to an NFL game has become decreasingly appealing.
With the NFL Red Zone, fantasy football, and bigger, nicer TV sets, staying at home Sundays has become an increasingly attractive option for Dolphins fans. People don't want to fight traffic in and out of the stadium, pay the huge prices, miss the late games, AND see their team lose a boring field goal contest. When people experience something in person, they are more likely to be passionate about it.
A good NFL tailgate will never go out of style, but it's becoming something that is easier than not to pass up seven out of eight times a year. Increasing numbers of fans are deciding Dolphins games are more enjoyable at home; they need more reasons to be at the game. Stephen Ross has shown he is aware of this fact with his in-game remote-control-gadget-in seat-thingy, but that isn't something available to every fan. This isn't a Dolphins problem; this is an NFL problem that needs fixing. Heat games are events that take place at beautiful Bayside; Dolphins games are not-so-sexy events that happen on a gravel parking lot in Miami Gardens.
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5. The Miami Heat lost one of its many stars, but the Dolphins could start with just having one.
The Miami Heat may have lost LeBron James, but they still have their Dan Marino in Dwyane Wade in addition to Chris Bosh. The Miami Dolphins haven't had a true superstar in years, maybe since Jason Taylor.
That means we need someone whom the rest of the league covets, not someone you think is pretty good by Dolphins standards. Cameron Wake is the closest thing to that on the Dolphins right now -- a great player, but not exactly getting asses in seats. Miami needs Ryan Tannehill to step up and be their Peyton Manning or at least something in that universe to win back this town. The Marlins already have the lovable no-name maybe-contenders market cornered every year; this team needs a recognizable star who makes this town believe the team can beat anyone.