We’re Not In Kansas Anymore
By Pat Catello
I've heard it said that if one looks hard enough, it is possible to relate the Wizard of Oz to every aspect of life. In fact, it has been rumored that one of the most popular musical Albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” can be synchronized to an exact soundtrack of the famous film. I have investigated this, and although there are some similar attributes, I am not sure I am in this camp. I think that there may be some outside influences that are needed in order to acquire this point of view. That being said, the Miami Dolphins are on their way to an abysmal start, and find themselves in a situation that I have not experienced in my lifetime.
I’m sure the inaugural years in the 1960’s were somewhat of a strain on their fans, however with any new team entering a formidable league, expectations are much lower and there is a certain amount of leeway given in regard to a learning curve. I’ve decided that with nowhere else to turn, and my options limited, I would apply the “Wizard of Oz Theory” on South Florida’s finest football team. For those unfamiliar with the storyline of the Wizard of Oz, I lend this brief recap for both of you. The movies main character Dorothy lives in Kansas with her dog Toto, and is lifted to a magical journey when a fierce tornado strikes her ranch. She meets 3 main characters with whom she joins on her magical journey down the yellow brick road, in search of a solution to her problems, a dilemma to be solved by the all knowing answerer to life’s problems, the empowering and mighty Wizard who resides in the land of Oz.
Her companions come in 3 forms; first the Scarecrow, who is fixated on his lack of one quality, a brain. He is envious of others with this quality and in desperate need to fulfill his need. Then there is the Tin Man, a man in full armored tin, who has a brain, yet lacks what he regards as a more important feature, a heart. Finally there is the Lion, a fully coated specimen, complete with every quality the “King of the Jungle” requires, that is everything except the quality needed to bring his rewards to fruition, the courage to do so. Now I am beginning to find a connection. Let’s start with placing the Miami Dolphins football team in the main role of Dorothy. A team with an enormous amount of success in the past, a prolific history that includes 5 Super Bowl appearances, 2 Championships, a Perfect Undefeated Season, and a 17 year quarterback who set nearly every major passing record while wearing the aqua and orange uniform. However, despite the luxury of Dan Marino for all these years, they still search for something to complete them, a modern day Championship. It is here that the tornado makes its way in. No, I am not referring to Jimmy Johnson, although I certainly entertained it, but I will be nice and go with the simple retirement of Dan Marino. I pick this event, because it has become evidently clear that with Marino at quarterback, the Dolphins have always had the luxury of avoiding a prolonged losing streak. There were certainly times when the team was devoid of enough talent to warrant such, but it seemed the lofty abilities of Marino alone was enough to overcome this. In fact the longest losing streak under Marino’s leadership was only 5 games, this happened towards the end of the 1988 season, and other than that you have to strain your eyes to find even a 3 game skid. Since his retirement, the Dolphins have had 4 different head coaches in just 8 years, and have struggled to find both stability and consistency. Along this path, the Dolphins have had some very capable components. They were lucky enough to have had arguably the best running back in football for a short period of time in Ricky Williams. It seemed as though they would be able to build around another future Hall of Fame player in Williams, who when he performed, was as good as anyone at the position. Williams however, lacked that all important quality our scarecrow character desired so much, at least when it came to abstaining from a substance that has since suspended him several times from the league, and ultimately cost him his shot at Canton. The Dolphin defense has its share of talent as well, both in the form of a league defensive MVP in Jason Taylor, and the absolute personification of consistency and determination in Zack Thomas. You will not get me to say a bad word about these two players because they are certainly the light that broke through the clouds when the skies got dreary. However, the defensive squad that they play for has always had a “Tin Man” complex in that it lacks heart, the quality needed in tough situations that never seems to show its face when it is needed most. The infamous Monday night debacle at the Meadowlands when the team could not sustain an enormous lead is just the exclamation point of a history of heartless defensive stands. Finally there is the lion, which lacked the courage needed to perform as expected, and for this role I turn to former head coach Nick Saban. Saban took over an ailing franchise with all the roar and intimidation of a ferocious lion, but when the program was placed completely in his hands, he did not have enough courage to tell the truth when it came to his future plans with the team, and left virtually overnight, leaving the franchise to once again pick up the pieces and start over.
However, there is a positive in this story of dismay. When Dorothy and her friends finally arrive at the home of the Wizard of Oz, they find that the Wizard’s powers are not the answer. In fact, the mighty Wizard is a fraud and can offer them no help to their dilemmas. Instead, they find the qualities they desired are those which they held inside all along, and simply had to find and develop within themselves. I have said all along I feel this team has key elements and championship caliber players in place; they simply have to look within themselves and bring them out. As the Dolphins continue to follow their yellow brick road this week in hopes of finding their much-needed remedy, keep in mind that there is certainly room for hope. At anytime Jason Taylor and Joey Porter can break out. Ted Ginn Jr. and Trent Green can show why they were brought in with such anticipation and high hopes and Ronnie Brown can continue to prove he can be one of the top backs in this league. But just remember, when the inevitable 3rd and 15 arrives, close your eyes and clap those red high heel shoes together, because, “We’re Not In Kansas Anymore!”