Archive for the Sports Category

Dan The Man

Posted in Current Events, Sports with tags , , , on April 29, 2011 by greedycherry

Well, this seems more like it.

After a week off from the blog, I’m back, well-rested and ready to pontificate. I even think I’ve learned my lesson about blog writing, which is this: one entry a week, unless I’ve got something super-important to say or am super-inspired. Trying to write one entry a day was exhausting (as noted in my previous post), and I think I’m much better off by taking a little breather between each one….even if it does negatively impact my readership stats. (So sad….)

Today I thought I’d write about something that happened to me earlier in the day, something which, to date, had never happened to me before.

I had a famous person directly correspond with me on Twitter.

(And, just as fair warning, today’s post has nothing to do with music. I’m sorry about that, truly, but I’ll get back to my usual blog content next time….I promise!)

Oh sure, I’ve shot off tweets in the direction of celebrities before, but learned quickly that they never write back, and thus to just not expect it.

As a matter of fact, it’s a sad and ironic little situation if you think about it….Twitter gives everyone up-to-the-second updates on what people all across the globe are thinking and doing, and this sense of immediacy sure does make the whole planet seem pretty tiny. After being on Twitter for a while, you may even come to think that you’re just a few typed words away from having a conversation with Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, or Ashton Kutcher, and in one respect, you’re absolutely correct. And that respect is the same one that lets people think they’re just one lottery ticket purchase away from five million dollars.

In reality, you’re still just as far away from these people as you physically are from them. Sure, you could shoot your mouth off about something Oprah Winfrey said on Twitter, and it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that she could see your tweet, find it amusing or interesting, and then write you back. But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

And so it was today that with absolutely no expectations whatsoever, I responded to a tweet by former Miami Dolphins star quarterback Dan Marino. At approximately 11:53am this morning, he threw this message out to the masses: “Golfing in South Carolina but feeling interactive. Tweet a question about the draft and I will do my best to answer.”

Okay, I thought. Why not?

“Miami hasn’t had a great QB since you. Can the draft solve the problem this year….and who do they take??” I texted, put my phone back down, and forgot about it for the most part.

Almost two hours later, I was catching up on reading a few tweets when, to my absolute surprise, I saw that he had responded. I would never had known if I hadn’t been trolling my main feed, because he didn’t reply in the official way, so that my twitter ID was mentioned in the reply (guess he either ran out of characters and had to delete my ID for space, or else maybe he’s not completely versed in Twitter etiquette. Or maybe he just didn’t want to specify whose question he was answering….dunno). I had nothing in my inbox. But the reply was unmistakably to me, as there had been no other questions posted to him since mine.

“A QB makes sense IF and ONLY IF they think a FRANCHISE QB is there. Otherwise I am a firm believer in taking the Best Player Available” Dan said.

Wow.

To say I was shocked was an understatement. But it was really cool. For one tiny moment in time, I had the smallest of exchanges with one of my all-time heroes, a man whose career I had followed all the way from its amazing beginning to its less-than-satisfying end. And it was quite a journey….ended up teaching me a few things too.

I became a Miami Dolphins fan sometime around 1980. Truth be told, I did it for the colors. Everyone around me seemed to love football, and I wanted a team to root for of my very own. However, being only about nine years old, I really had no concept or clue about which teams were great or why. But, luckily, I did know one thing: that my favorite two colors were orange and blue.

BAM. I was a Miami Dolphin.

When I first jumped on the Dolphin bandwagon, it was the end of the Bob Griese era. While I don’t remember much about that, I do remember seeing him on the field, and I did own the football card from his final year with the team. He was quickly replaced that year, however, with eighth-round pick David Woodley from Louisiana State University. And that was fine and dandy….hell, we (and by “we,” of course, I mean the Miami Dolphins….isn’t it odd how once you’re a fan, it becomes “we,” like you’re actually there at practices and in the locker room and are part of the actual team? Funny little bit of fan psychology….) even made the Super Bowl in 1983.

I actually remember that one quite vividly. My father was a Redskins fan, and they were the Dolphins’ opponent in the game. I was all psyched for the contest, and mouthed off a bit about how we were going to crush dear ol’ Dad’s team to bits. Even put my money where my mouth was: I bet Dad a crisp five dollar bill that we’d kick their butts. Why he took the bet I’ll never know, as I was twelve at the time and had no income…..I think I did actually have five dollars to my name, but chances are that I had saved it from allowance money he’d given me for chores or something. All he would have been doing was winning back his own hard-earned money….

Regardless, the Dolphins were winning at the half, and I danced around and talked trash and was savoring the victory to come (and my five bucks worth of winnings, of course). Unfortunately, as any sports almanac will tell you, the Dolphins sort of lost that game in the same manner in which they’ve been frustrating their fans for decades now, it seems: running up a nice score at the half, gathering some momentum, and then letting it slip away in the second half.

Man, was I bummed when we lost. I think I actually shed tears.

Dad told me I didn’t have to pay him the money, and I feebly protested….far too feebly to bother to run and get him his winnings. So, ultimately, Dad and the Redskins got the victory, and I kept my lousy five bucks and learned to stop talking trash. I think everyone came out a winner, don’t you?

Regardless, later that year, as the 1983-84 season commenced, something happened that forever changed the Dolphins and my outlook on sports. Dan Marino replaced David Woodley as the starting quarterback a few games in, and he never gave the job up. From that year all the way through 1999, I was a Dan Marino disciple.

What was so special about Mr. Marino? Well, there was the quick release. The long, exciting passes down the field to a cavalcade of acrobatic receivers. And the records he ended up breaking….the stats he put up, my goodness. When he retired in 1999, he held most of the NFL passing records (only to lose his grip on them, sadly, in the years since…..crappy modern quarterbacks……).

But it was something else about Dan Marino that made me love him so much and consider him a sports hero. Someone to watch closely, to follow and emulate, both in sports and in everyday life. And that thing was this: determination.

You could see it in his face, every play, every moment on the field, every moment on the sideline. People have often commented on the piercing gaze of famous Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary as he roamed the Chicago defensive line, surveying all the players, threatening and beating people down with but a glance. His stare is indeed legendary, but it is nothing, in my mind, in comparison to Dan Marino’s.

His was a gaze of steely determination, a look that said he intended to win and would put 200% of himself on the field every time he stepped out there. He wasn’t giving up, no matter the odds, no matter the score. And to see him angry was a glorious thing….trailing the opposing team while his Dolphins were committing costly errors, you could see his face turn red, his eyes burn with intensity and drive. Somehow, every game I watched, no matter how many points we were down, I would see him stare at the field ahead, survey the offense with those sharp optical lasers, and would somehow always believe that he could make a victory happen. I truly believed sometimes that he would descend, Dante-esque, through every layer of hell there was to get that win.

As another person on Twitter recently reminded me, there was a phrase uttered by a sportscaster during a Dolphins game that really fits: “A fire burns inside that man, Dan Marino.”

And while I can’t honestly say that Dan The Man is completely and totally responsible for that aspect of my personality, I certainly developed over my teen years a drive to succeed (or at least, when not succeeding, a determination not to quit) that I can at least, in part, attribute to watching those eyes. I used to play football every weekend with a group of neighborhood guys, and the games were always fun but fiercely competitive. I loved playing quarterback, and would do so every chance I got….and every single time I took the field, I imagined myself -at least subconsciously – as Dan Marino. I burned for a victory, to accomplish great things every time we played….to deliver accurate, heroic passes, to never give up no matter how far behind the team I was on may have gotten. I hoped my eyes burned with focus and determination just as hotly as Marino’s did.

I actually remember one game where my team had pretty much lost the game. We were playing to a certain point amount, and the other team was just a point or two away from winning, while we were quite a bit behind. We’d been beating on each other for hours, and I think everyone was exhausted and just wanted to go home. I was covering a pretty tall guy named Wes, and as the ball got hiked, I tried to stick with him defensively as tightly as I could, but he definitely had a height advantage I couldn’t quite compensate for. The quarterback threw him the ball, he made the catch, and then headed down the sideline towards the end zone. Tired as I was, I was immediately angry that I had let him beat me to the ball, and I chased him with a vengeance. He got within two steps of the end zone, and I remember a quick flash of a thought within my head: “Just let him take one more step, and we can all go home.” It was tempting for sure….I was tired, hungry, sore from hours of exertion. But….

Hell with that crap.

I launched into him as hard as I could and popped him out of bounds at the one yard line. Giving him my best Marino gaze as he laid on the ground, I turned around and headed back to line up for the next play.

Of course, it’s fun being a legend in your own mind. But I do remember that play, and I remember the intensity and the competitiveness I felt at that moment quite vividly. And I experienced that same feeling, burning bright, every single week of the NFL season.

In the eyes of Dan Marino.

“Do you see a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft? I’ve heard of interest in Mallett….” I tweeted back, amazed at the first reply and hoping to get another response…..to continue that faux conversation with one of my childhood idols.

“With my CBS gig I spend more time watching the QBs on Sunday so it wouldn’t be fair for me to say if a guy is or isn’t a franchise QB,” he replied an hour later.

Grateful for the short “conversation” I had experienced, and not wanting to press my luck, I told him I understood and thanked him for his time. And just like that, the magical moment was over.

I don’t know what it is about celebrities in general, heroes in particular, that captivates us so, and makes us think they’re so far above us, so untouchable. They’re just people….they get up in the morning and put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. But somehow, through a set of particular circumstances, they have been granted success or a notoriety that we never achieve, and I think we all long for a bit of that for ourselves. And when we have the chance to meet these folks….well, we just get so excited, don’t we? (Or get incredibly stupid, as exemplified by when I met Tori Amos.) We just want an autograph, or to get a picture with them, to tell them how much we love their work, or how great they are. To feel proximity to that success, and to be able to say we ran in a different social circle if just for one brief, shining moment. We tell all our friends and show our pictures and brag about it. It excites us.

But in the end, most of these “brush with fame” experiences which excite us amount to little; a small, tiny blip on the radar of our lives, a photo op or story that we can share with people to impress them. For as thrilling as meeting famous people can be, everyone quickly returns to their normal lives and their regular circle of friends, and life goes on, same as it ever was.

But with heroes specifically? People who have changed the way you think or act, or those who have influenced you and the choices you make in your everyday life? I think meeting those people, as awesome and exciting as it can be, will just end up being anti-climactic, really. For the real impact you get from them isn’t from a handshake or a photograph or a conversation…it’s from how the people you think they are, that you have imagined them to be, have already changed you fundamentally, deep down inside. And that’s more valuable than any words that either of you could say.

In the end, I’m sure today’s small exchange was just a blip on Dan Marino’s radar. He asked for questions. I gave him one. He answered….end of story.

But to me? Despite all I just said, it still feels like I caught a texted touchdown pass from #13……and it was so very sweet.

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