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I don't know what I'd do if the Bengals stopped being a terrible team. You come to rely on certain things and expect predictable outcomes. The Bengals are a touchstone allowing us to know just where we are in the universe. With the Dolphins long ago adopting a geosynchronous orbit, forever holding them at arm's length from the Super Bowl, we Miami fans truly need the Bengals to make us feel better about ourselves. While the Dolphins may have no shoes, the Bengals have no feet.
Predictable mediocrity is a great source of comfort - it's something we Americans have embraced and even institutionalized. Example? Okay... McDonalds restaurants. They're as identical as possible in a society filled with corporate franchising. You know exactly what's on the menu and what it will taste like. No surprises and no one is going to confuse them with top-flight restaurant. Sure, you say you don't like 'em and I've never met a soul who has admitted to dreaming about a meal at Ronald's place. Yet we also know that they sell 15 million burgers every day, so somebody isn't telling the truth. Hint: Probably the same people who are buying Dolphin season tickets.
The Dolphins are the McDonalds of pro football. You can predict their final record within a game or two in August. To say that they will compete for the division title is a given. That they will choke when the season is on the line is axiomatic - the stuff of natural law. We know the formula and would be badly confused if they ever wandered off the beaten path. It would probably be the same feeling we'd get if the golden arches came tumbling down.
How intrinsic is the Commitment To The Quotidian in Miami? Ricky Williams stunned the world by exceeding all reasonable Dolphin rushing expectations this year - an uncharacteristically outstanding individual performance which threatened to unbalance a very delicate system. This lack of average play was further damaged by Jason Taylor's assault on the single-season sack record. Unfortunately the Dolphins have a mundane streak cultivated over two decades of playing near-beer, not quite football. Remember that this is the franchise which managed to frustrate the best efforts of a hall of fame quarterback for virtually his entire career. That feat was accomplished in the face of passing numbers that were unheard of, touchdowns measured by the ton and completions measured in miles. Even the efforts of highly respected coaches have been thwarted by this Dolphin Dedication to Disappointment. As old age and treachery will triumph over youth and skill, stupidity and timidity will vanquish guts and glory. The Dolphins still found a way to lose as a team despite some sensational individual efforts.
In the post-collapse world of professional recrimination, we hear squealing players blaming coaches, coaches defending their honor and columnists calling fans "spoiled" for demanding something better than the now customary January depression. Very few of the comments we've heard sound much like solutions. So, we make a lot more unpleasant noises and hope for the best. Blockbuster Wayne is going with the same management team, Dave does not seem likely to make any coaching changes and most of the same players will return for 2003. This leaves only one big question to be answered:
Would you like some fries with that?