Benjamin Franklin once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain; and most fools do.”
Keeping that thought in mind, I still aim to do a little criticizing, condemning, and complaining.
I don’t think it’s a mystery I’m a fan of Miami sports. I love the Miami Dolphins and have been a fan of the franchise since I was three-years-old. I’m a devoted follower of the Miami Hurricanes (baseball, football, and basketball), and have followed their exploits as long as I can remember; certainly long before they ever won a National Championship.
I’ve also been a huge supporter and fan of the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers, and Miami Heat ever since those franchises came into existence, foregoing my allegiance to the teams I rooted for as a child once Miami gained professional teams in those sports.
There’ve been times, too, when I’ve been able to look at those franchises with real substantial hope they would win a title.
Yet, it’s been very rare over the past five or six years that I’ve been able to harbor the same kind of dreams for the teams I love. Instead, far too often, I’ve had my dreams dashed and have had to settle for watching the teams I love wallow in mediocrity.
Isaac Disraeli once wrote, “It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.”
Nothing truer could ever be said, and it’s a wretched taste Miami fans are having to choke down lately.
Coming into this season of sports, we fans were fed the hope that the Miami Dolphins would not only improve on last year’s disappointing season, but that they would have a legitimate shot at contending for a berth in the Super Bowl.
They’d gone out and gotten the best wide receiver in the game to make a decent receiving corps great. Ronnie Brown was healthy again, and with Ricky Williams, was supposed to constitute one of the most dangerous running attacks in the NFL. Chad Henne was set to have a breakout season, and their defense had been bolstered through free agency and the draft.
To put it simply, the Dolphins were supposed to be set to make a run at greatness.
Yet, instead, because of poor coaching in my view, they’re wallowing in that mediocrity I spoke of with a record of 5-5 after being shutout at home for the second time in franchise history by the very mediocre Chicago Bears, 16-0 this past Thursday.
Are the rest of the Miami franchises and teams doing any better?
The Miami Hurricanes football team had tons of promise coming into the year. Everyone felt Randy Shannon had finally built a team that could truly make the leap and at the very least win the ACC for the first time since they joined the conference.
Instead, they’ve suffered embarrassing losses at home to bitter rivals, and watched as their hopes of even competing for a ACC title vanished in the defeat yesterday at the hands of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
As Martha Graham would put it, they’ve continually committed the “sin of mediocrity” this year, and there’s only one person who should bear the blame for that, the head coach, Randy Shannon.
Likewise, the Florida Marlins watched their season end with the same mediocre results, and when it was all over they rewarded the architect of that mediocrity another year as manager, apparently being too lazy to work hard and find a manager who might just elicit the greatness out of the young talent on the team that’s there.
They followed up that blunder by trading away one of the hardest-working players on the team, Dan Uggla, to their division rival, the Atlanta Braves; weakening the Marlins, and strengthening their enemies.
I won’t even touch on the Florida Panthers, for their mediocrity isn’t even really mediocrity, it’s abysmal lousiness, and there’s actually a chance with the changes they’ve made they might eventually climb out of it.
However, I will touch on the Miami Heat, for that is the heart of this article.
Entering this NBA season, there’s never been a team as hyped as the team that plays their home games at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Ever since LeBron James announced his “Decision” to “take his talents to South Beach” there’s been a veritable avalanche of media coverage predicting how this experiment would turn out.
Jeff Van Gundy was adamant that the “Three Kings” would immediately lay claim to the NBA record for most wins in a season; and I was fully in agreement with him, as were many others.
Yet, Miami has now played 13 games, and what do we have to show for it?
Sure, 8-5 is above .500, and the Heat aren’t languishing in the cellar of their division, but they’re also not doing what they were expected to do. Instead, they’re watching a team like the New Orleans Hornets jump out to a 10-1 record (something the Heat should have done); a team that was supposed to be in a rebuilding year.
So, who and what is to blame for this?
It’s all too easy to continue to say Erik Spoelstra isn’t to blame. It’s all too easy to say it’s still early in the season. It’s all too easy to accept the mediocrity till it becomes abysmal lousiness.
I say enough is enough. I say we cannot continue to accept this mediocrity. Not from the Miami Dolphins or the Miami Hurricanes, who should be firing Tony Sparano and Randy Shannon as I write this, and certainly not from the Miami Heat.
As I’ve written before, this Miami Heat team was built not just to be good, but to be great. They weren’t assembled to make the playoffs, but to win titles. They weren’t put together just to win some games against outmatched teams like the Phoenix Suns or Minnesota Timberwolves, but to dominate every team in the NBA; including the Celtics and Lakers.
The fact Spoelstra hasn’t been able to elicit that sort of greatness from these more than talented group of players is a testament to his lack of leadership skills.
People talk about how great he is at teaching defense; that he’s bought into Riley’s system. This is true. However, teaching defense in basketball is relatively simple. Defense is a fundamental part of the game to teach. It’s like teaching someone layup drills or passing.
The true test of a great coaching mind is teaching them offense. Showing them how to flow on the offensive side of the ball so as to defeat those same defensive principles, even if executed properly.
I just don’t see that sort of in-game ability of adaptation by Spoelstra, which isn’t all that surprising considering I never really felt Pat Riley, his mentor, had much of that ability either.
Yet, Riley made up for that with the ability to motivate his players that Spoelstra seems to lack. To paraphrase James Buchanan, the test of leadership isn’t to put greatness in the Miami Heat players, but to elicit it; for the greatness is already there.
With all these teams, the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Hurricanes, the Panthers, the Marlins, and the Heat, we’ve constantly been fed the idea of tomorrow. Ben Franklin would say to that thought, “One today is worth two tomorrows.”
He also said, “Tomorrow, every fault is to be amended; but tomorrow never comes.”
We Miami fans have been dreaming about tomorrow forever, in football, baseball, and basketball, and I for one am tired of waiting for a tomorrow that never comes. I want my dreams to be fulfilled today, and considering the talent on the teams that play in South Beach, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
So, I say to all the franchises and teams, coaches and players, management and owners that play in Miami, quoting William Butler Yeats:
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.”
Hopefully Ben wouldn’t think me a fool for having such dreams, or criticizing, condemning, and complaining about those who don’t work tirelessly to fulfill them; as they’re paid to do.