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BECAUSE SPORTS: The Elusive River Dolphin

A column from pittsburgh’s biggest miami dolphins fan.  (yes, that’s a thing.)

Erie, Pennsylvania is a fault line of profession football fandom. The city falls in a broadcast market for the Buffalo Bills but geographically is closer to the Cleveland Browns. Most importantly, it’s also Western Pennsylvania and therefore Steelers Country. Growing up in the region, it was common to see loyal fans of any of these three teams, fair-weather supporters, and the occasional oddball sporting the colors of some far-flung franchise.

Finding myself in the oddball category, my team has been the Miami Football Dolphins for as long as I can remember. Most people just ask, “Why?” Commonly I receive a sarcastic, “I’m sorry,” or, “I feel so bad for you.” The nicest response I’ve received is, “Oh, you must be so loyal,” which I am. A former coworker asked me, “…but you still like the Steelers, right?” in a tone usually reserved for people from Cleveland.

Regarding the last question, yes, I love Pittsburgh, and I love sports, both too much not to at least like the Steelers. They’re just not my team. I spend most Sundays wearing the Aqua and Orange. Though I do own a Steelers’ jersey and a Terrible Towel, I think these things just find their way into people’s closets when they live in this city.

web2To anyone whose response was to say, “sorry,”: Don’t be. I’m not. I spend all of baseball season rooting for the Buccos. I spend all of hockey season cheering for the Pens. I spend all of basketball season…not really watching basketball.

It’s my personal opinion that football is the most enjoyable sport to talk about relative to how much fun it is to actually watch. The length of the off season, the time between games, the time between quarters, and the time between plays grants so much opportunity for predicting, analyzing, and straight up bs-ing. That time is also a reason why I think I have put up with being a fan of an out of market team. While it’s not the reason I became a fan, it is fun to have that difference. I haven’t spent my time consuming the same media about the same sports club all season, which is refreshing.

The Dolphins have been mediocre my entire life. Because of this, I am more emotionally invested in the Miami-Pittsburgh games than in any others I watch. In recent years I’ve made it a point to host as many Steelers fans as I can possibly fit in my football viewing area for their match-ups. When the Dolphins win, I’m happy. When the Steelers win, all of my friends are happy, and that doesn’t suck too much, either.

Unfortunately, the Steelers have had the better of the Dolphins in recent years, Miami winning only one of the last seven meetings since 2004.

Fortunately, they have been entertaining games from what I can recall (excluding the Monday Night Football Monsoon, featuring 375 yards of offense, and a late Jeff Reed field goal for a Pittsburgh win). It took a couple of hours of the “friendship happiness” for me to get over the blown fumble call in 2010 that kept the ball with Pittsburgh, and that trash cowboy, Jeff Reed, had another game winning field goal to beat the Dolphins.

web3In 2013, I remember being surrounded by screaming black and gold fans, with the thought in my head, “that was a forward lateral, anyway,” as Antonio Brown was running up the sideline. In a few seconds everyone around me would be silenced by replay after replay revealing that he had stepped out of bounds. No need to worry about the forward pass. No miraculous kick return touchdown in the waning moments of the game. Just a Miami victory, 34 to 28. And a man called Boob (jokingly) attacking me with a wooden stake, but that’s a story for another day.

I guess it’s the shared experience from a slightly different angle that has kept me a Miami Dolphins fan since I was six years old to this day and beyond. I have tried being a Steelers fan; it has never felt right. I do honestly root for them against 30 of the NFL teams (unless it mathematically assists the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs). The two teams don’t play often enough, and, to be honest, the Phins haven’t been competitive enough for it to be a proper rivalry. However, days like October 15th, 2016 get blocked off in my calendar as soon as the season schedule is set.

As to the question of why I became a Miami Football Dolphins fan: I really like dolphins.

Bob Stallsmith is a sports writer, comic book enthusiast, and a semi-professional pinball player with Polish Hill Full Tilt Pinball.