The Heat is off?

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A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection (Moonlight) or the uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies (Manchester by the Sea). It is the story of redemption and of rising against odds. And while the 89th Academy Awards will be broadcast this evening, the NBA and Turner may broadcast Shaqtin’ A Fool, the NBA performance that captured this weekend’s attention.

The performances, malapropism, general weirdness of JaVale McGee’s actions that drive Shaqtin’ A Fool is what network producers crave. The reactions are the bonus material; the social airing of hurt feelings by McGee, by the former player (Shaq) and the team employing McGee (Golden State Warriors). It was a win for everybody except basketball fans who like to watch good basketball. To promote quality basketball is clearly secondary to the reality brand of basketball played off the court.

Comic relief blooper reels. It’s retired stars whose egos need more stroking than jump shots. It’s the banana boat crew and hurt feelings. And it’s too much social media and not enough basketball, meaning not enough Miami Heat brand of basketball. The brand that scores over 100 points a game for 16 straight games. An NBA season high 13 game winning streak, winning 15 of the last 17 games should be enough consideration to be aired on network television . But the fact is this team cannot get network coverage because the star power left town and now lamenting about it half way through the season:

The NBA has always been a cliche “star driven league” and that continues to be true. But what has changed is which court of opinion is more important. And the stars that make their most important contributions off the court now are the ones who get highlighted by the networks on the court. Whether it’s the ongoing Carmelo Anthony drama in New York or how LeBron James molds a team in basketball and in life. And, of course, it is Dwayne Wade, like Lebron, going home to play but not really appreciating the journey:

So, instead of appreciating similar stories like the first Medal of Honor recipient who never fired a shot (Hacksaw Ridge), the networks thrive on the stars that are always taking shots. The difference is that the most revered shots are now taken off the court, not on.

Jason Taylor Hall of Famer

Professional players of the National Football League from all 32 teams profess that the end game, every year, is to win the Super Bowl. Only a select few have the ring varnish on their finger as a testament to their winning participation in the game. That dream eluded the Miami Dolphins last when Beverly Hills Cop was the top grossing movie in 1984. Dan Marino would enthrall Miami fans with many playoff appearances and retire as, arguably, the greatest quarterback ever, in 1999.

Jason Taylor Hall of Famer. His enshrinement will be the first win of consequence that Miami Dolphin fans will celebrate since the team made the playoffs in 2008 (thankfully, the Dolphins did breakthrough in 2017). Jason Taylor should be on the first ballot because he was a leader during the game and a stand up gentleman, win or loss, after the game. Only Cameron Wake has come close to being the all around presence for professional football in South Florida since Taylor played his last game in January of 2012.

Taylor and his faithful are a little less than a year away from learning the fate of his first year candidacy for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Stephen Ross has a month to sell the South Florida sports fans that next year, unlike the previous many years, the Miami Dolphins will be competitive and not contemptible. Somehow, both of these possibilities need to be sold as a singular reality to the South Florida sports fan.

Taylor was there to watch Dan Marino’s Hall of Fame career end and Stephen Ross’ less than stellar ownership begin. In between, there were celebrity ownership, autotune fight songs, and head coach hires that became offensive line coaches with other teams (Sparano, Philbin). Aside from his short time with Jimmy Johnson, the best head coach Taylor played for was Rex Ryan when he made his only appearance in a conference championship game, as a New York Jet.

Jason Taylor was a symbol of toughness, perseverance, excellence (Defensive Player of the Year in 2006), sportsmanship, and leadership throughout his Dolphin playing days. He took losing to heart but he always was available to the fans and media to communicate that disappointment.

Jason Taylor understood that a proud franchise had to be represented during both winning and losing. Ndamukong Suh is the closest thing playing wise to Taylor today and he is as divisive as they come. After one year, the biggest disappointment is Suh’s inability to inspire his teammates to play better. Combined with his less than public persona, his last contribution of proving hope during the offseason was also his most public showing. (Note: Suh probably didn’t deserve that criticism and certainly proved his worth in 2016)

Stephen Ross has the window of a month before the business of football goes dark, save OTA’s and the upcoming NFL draft. His window dressing is Adam Gase and the promise of quarterback whispering in the person of wise youthfulness. Gase tackled the curious case of Jay Cutler with aplomb but it is much to ask of the youngest head coach of football. He alone can’t sell an experience niche restaurants and outdoor barcaloungers in the building of no historical significance and losing football.

This Dolphin franchise needs positive energy beyond what hope can give them. It needs the concrete foundation that was exemplified by Jason Taylor and it needs to promote his first ballot Hall of Fame enshrinement. The franchise needs to start winning fights off the field before they win on the field. That starts with promoting an athlete the franchise can model their behavior after. It starts by showing the fans they are aligned with a goal they can win. It starts by getting behind Jason Taylor.