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Aqua and Orange

You will never meet a more diehard Miami Dolphins fan than me. I bleed aqua and orange. Some of y’all have had the misfortune of sitting next to me on the dayroom bench while I roar at the television like a belligerent drunk. I’m ashamed to say that I once even went Oscar Night Will Smith on a vocal Carolina fan after Cam Newton engineered a game winning drive against us in 2013. Not one of my finest moments. But what can I say? I’m passionate. I love my squad.

So a few months ago when Head Coach Brian Flores was fired and he alleged that his ouster was somehow racially motivated, my kneejerk reaction was “bullshit!” Maybe you saw the post. I have since learned that it was the entire league he was accusing of systemic racism. Not the Dolphins specifically. Although he did accuse owner Stephen Ross of offering him money to tank for higher draft picks on the way out the door.

Is the NFL racist? I’m not naive enough to believe that there are not small pockets of bigotry remaining. If not of salivating hate, then of some unconscious tribalism. But even that is dying out. Twenty years ago, the league took steps to eradicate this with what is known as the Rooney Rule, named after the late Steelers owner, Dan Rooney. The rule states that teams must interview a minimum of two minority candidates when searching for a head coach.

After Flores got canned by the Dolphins, he interviewed for the opening with his hometown New York Giants but did not get the job. It later came out that the Giants had already decided on Brian Daboll, a white offensive coordinator from Buffalo, before the interview took place. Flores cried foul and claimed racism, even called his plight “The Audacity of Hope” in a press release before filing a lawsuit against the league. I’m as big of fan of the 44th president as there is, but the brutal truth is that the Giants DID already have their sights set on Daboll. Not because he was white, but because Buffalo’s offense was creative and thrilling and spectacular last year. They wanted some of that magic in the Meadowlands.

So maybe Coach Flores is right to call the Rooney Rule a sham. Not because the NFL is racist, but simply because the rule has outlived its usefulness. In 2017 eight of the league’s 32 head coaches were black dudes. Last year there were more black coordinators roaming the sidelines than ever before. All of these men are potential head coaches. Based on merit and scheme and success. Not on the color of their skin. The league is not racist. And calling it that weakens legit movements deserving attention elsewhere. For the most part, I think owners want a competitive product, an energized fanbase, asses in seats, championship rings…

The Miami Dolphins took massive strides in that direction this off season by parting ways with defensive-minded Flores and hiring offensive strategist Mike McDaniel, then franchising emerging TE Mike Gesicki, re-signing pass rush specialist Emmanuel Ogbah, and luring Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead and RB Raheem Mostert to Miami in free agency. But the coup de grace, the stroke of brilliance, the all-in chip heave was acquiring Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs. Can you say Lamborghini offense? Nobody in the league saw that one coming.

Our GM, Chris Grierโ€”a black guy who shot up the organizational ladder after beginning as a college scoutโ€”clearly had a vision for the direction of the team after yet another mediocre campaign. If we make a deep playoff run this year, it’ll be because of his masterful off-season moves. Including the one that sent Brian Flores packing. Not because of the color of his skin. But because he didn’t fit that vision.

Already looking forward to training camp. Go Dolphins.

2017’s must-see games

I get it. Your life is crowded. Between romance and responsibilities, recitals and referendums, revenue and rent, there are not enough hours in the day. Especially not for the distractive force of a 17-week NFL slate consisting of 256 regular season games. Lucky for you, Uncle Malcolm has no life outside of writing books and watching football. Below is a list of weekly must-see games and storylines from the 2017 schedule that will keep you pigskin fluent at both the water cooler and the watering holeโ€ฆ

Week 1 – 9/11 NO @ Min โ€“ Adrian Peterson returns to face his old team and their vaunted defense in the stadium hosting this yearโ€™s Super Bowl. Reality TV at its finest.
Week 2 – 9/17 GB @ ATL โ€“ ARod & Company were run out of the building in last yearโ€™s NFC title game beatdown. But this is a new building, ATLโ€™s home opener in their shiny new stadium.
Week 3 – 9/24 NYG @ PHI โ€“ Perennial bad blood division game. I know youโ€™ve seen the movie Invincible with Mark Wahlberg. Old Bears WR duo Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery now on opposing sidelines.
Week 4 โ€“ 10/1 NO @ MIA (London) โ€“ An early measuring stick game for my beloved fish. If you want to know if your defense is any good, Drew Brees can help you find out quickly.
Week 5 โ€“ 10/8 BAL @ OAK โ€“ Love these West Coast matinee games. If youโ€™re a gambler, take the over. Guaranteed shoot-out.
Week 6 โ€“ 10/15 PIT @ KC โ€“ Revenge factor: KC fired PITโ€™s OC Todd Haley a few years back. Big Ben seems to relish making them pay (see last yearโ€™s blow-out). But this one is in Arrowhead. Tough crowd.
Week 7 โ€“ 10/22 ATL @ NE โ€“ Remember last yearโ€™s Super Bowl? Nuff said.
Week 8 โ€“ 10/29 HOU @ SEA โ€“ If youโ€™re into pitchers duels, circle your calendar. Two of the leagueโ€™s most physical defenses battle it out.
Week 9 โ€“ 11/5 OAK @ MIA โ€“ The second in a trilogy of consecutive prime time Miami games. I canโ€™t remember the last time the Dolphins played on Sunday night. This one could exceed 1,000 yards of offense.
Week 10 โ€“ 11/12 NE @ DEN โ€“ One of the best rivalries in recent memory. But whether itโ€™s an instant classic or a blow-out depends on Denverโ€™s QB situation.
Week 11 โ€“ 11/20 ATL @ SEA โ€“ Refs botched last yearโ€™s regular season game, ATL got revenge when it counted. Looking forward to Julio Jones vs. Richard Sherman Part III.
Week 12 โ€“ 11/26 GB @ PIT โ€“ Two of the best QBs of this era square off in prime time. This one has โ€œlast possessionโ€ written all over it.
Week 13 โ€“ 11/30 WAS @ DAL โ€“ A rematch of last yearโ€™s Thanksgiving Day track meet. Who will win the NFC East? Probably a 4-team photo finish.
Week 14 – 12/11 NE @ MIA (Note: ALL Dolphins games are must-see TV to me) โ€“ Can the Fish whup AFC East bullies and Super Bowl champs on Monday night? I hope this is for the division title.
Week 15 โ€“ 12/17 NE @ PIT โ€“ Has Big Ben ever beaten Tom Brady? Doesnโ€™t seem like it. Home field advantage in the playoffs will be on the line here.
Week 16 โ€“ 12/24 SEA @ DAL โ€“ Unstoppable force vs. immovable object? Two things are for sure: On this Christmas Eve match-up, Dallas will be #1 rushing and Seattle will be #1 vs. the run.
Week 17 โ€“ 12/31 KC @ DEN โ€“ Swiss army knife Tyreek Hill had a coming out party during last yearโ€™s mile-high thriller. Denverโ€™s defense should be less hospitable this time around. Especially with a division title at stake.

And there you have it, 2017โ€™s must-see games, week by week. If I left your team off the list, itโ€™s probably because they suck. But look on the bright side: We are all tied for #1 until the season starts. GO DOLPHINS!

Dysfunction junction

There are 32 teams in the NFL and 53 players on each active roster. That’s 1,696 men. Throw in another 300 or so for each team’s practice squad and P.U.P. list and we’re talking about 2,000 people. Now imagine if that was a town. Dysfunction Junction. Population 2000.

But this is no rural community with an economy on life support, or some fading rust belt township. This is a town full of millionaires. Of mansions and Maseratis. Where the average income is higher than the Hamptons, but the crime rate per capita is worse than Camden, NJ. Think about all the arrests over the past two years. Not just the high profile cases that made the national news, but the other less publicized domestic violence cases, the assaults, the possession charges, the numerous DUIs. There was even an underwear theft in November. And when you include former citizens of this figurative small town, the statistics become even more alarming. Ex-Patriot Aaron Hernandez is about to begin trial for murder with more potential charges pending, and Ex-Saint Darren Sharper is an alleged serial rapist.

Most towns with such minuscule populations have little more than a holding tank in a police substation to house the town drunkard overnight. Think Mayberry. NFLville would need a jail as big as Rikers Island to hold all the defendants. But then again, hardly any of them would ever go to jail because their high-priced attorneys would ensure that they got off with a few months’ probation and community service.

Do I sound bitter? I’m not. I live for the Fall. The Miami Dolphins are right behind Momma on my list of loyalties. And the NFL is not all bad. For every ugly story there are ten that will warm your heart and give you faith in humanity. But I live in a prison dorm and the same can be said for the dudes in the neighboring bunks. I just think it’s amazing that such a small, affluent community could be so rife with crime and self-sabotage.

Makes you wonder if there’s something in the Gatorade.