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Sore winners… for 33 years and counting

Well, yesterday the inevitable happened: the Indianapolis Colts lost a game. And the even-more-inevitable happened: members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins — the last team to go undefeated for an entire season — partied down. Well, as much as guys who played football before I was even born can party down.

Of course, we all remember when Joe DiMaggio celebrated the end of Pete Rose’s hitting streak when Rose’s 44-game effort approached Joltin’ Joe’s record of 56. What? Oh, he DIDN’T go to Toots Shor’s for highballs and a nice steak that night in 1978? Hmmm, interesting.

Well… certainly Rod Laver, the last man to win tennis’ grand slam, celebrated when Roger Federer lost in the French Open this year, spoiling the best chance for another Slam in a long while. Wait… the Rocket didn’t down a Foster’s to celebrate? Interesting.

But each year, the ’72 Fins celebrate the final team to notch a loss each NFL season — all with the class and humility of a drunk, horny Paris Hilton. No offense… to Paris. I can think of no other annual rite that is more distasteful. Maybe Groundhog Day, but even the Bill Murray movie redeemed that a little.

This year, the team tried to do some PR work to clean up their image. Since we’ve seen a pretty massive PR makeover on the presidential level in the last 48 hours, the kinder, gentler Fins got less ink. However, this article showed that softer side. Check it out:

[Coach Don] Shula and ’72 quarterback Bob Griese watched the Chargers-Colts game on TV from a suite at Dolphins Stadium, where they attended Miami’s game against the New York Jets.

“We didn’t have any champagne to toast each other,” Shula said. “But we did have some Diet Cokes up there. We lifted the Diet Cokes.”

Griese and a couple of his ’72 teammates have been known to pop champagne when the last unbeaten NFL team loses, feeding an image of an annual celebration that has become a sore point for the old Dolphins.

“We’re depicted as being happy about somebody’s misfortune,” Shula said.

So while Shula acknowledged cheering for the Chargers, several ’72 Dolphins claimed mixed feelings about the Colts’ loss.

“If they had been able to go undefeated, then we could have someone to talk to who would understand the experience,” former running back Mercury Morris said. “It’s like trying to describe to someone what it’s like to walk on the moon. It’s only a description — they’ll never know until they go.”

“So while Shula acknowledged cheering for the Charters…” That just sums it all up. The coach… the leader of the team… is the origin of all this. I guess the phrase, “Records are made to be broken” doesn’t apply to the Fins.

That’s why so many people back the remaining undefeated team each year. Do I really like the Colts? Nope. Besides Peyton Manning’s Mastercard commercials, there’s not a lot for me to hang my hat on. But as they approached the perfect season, I found myself really getting behind them. When the Chargers broke out to a big lead yesterday, I winced. Then, when it became apparent that the Colts were doomed, I couldn’t watch it anymore.

Because I knew that the old coots in South Florida were waddling out of the luxury condos in Del Boca Vista and heading to the smorgesboard to raise a glass and celebrate an accomplishment three decades old. And I KNEW that if Peyton and the gang broke the record, they wouldn’t pull this crap. Peyton’s a classy guy. Same for Marvin Harrison and the rest of the gang. Certainly they wouldn’t have celebrated like this. Alas, we’ll never know.

So, have a Diet Coke and a smile, ’72 Fins. You can crawl out of obscurity again next year. Maybe. Here’s hoping that they don’t get the chance.

Categories: Sports

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