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This past weekend on September 11th, there was a great deal of interest in the days leading up to the game as to whether or not the Seattle Seahawks were going to stage a Colin Kaepernick inspired protest during the singing of the national anthem. When it became known what the team's plans were (standing arm-in-arm to show team solidarity,) the brightness of that spotlight seemed to dim somewhat. Then, four members of the Miami Dolphins generated a media storm by taking a knee during the anthem. Running back Arian Foster, defensive back Michael Thomas, wide receiver Kenny Stills and linebacker Jelani Jenkins joined Kaepernick in kneeling, as a statement intended to protest systemic racism in the United States. 

 

The response to this protest, as all across the nation, has been a mixed bag of emotionally charged outcries, some in favor and many condemning either the action itself or the choice to take this stand on September 11th. It seemed disrespectful to many to use this opportunity to make a political or social statement on a day which is the anniversary of a day of national grief; a day intended now to inspire unity among all segments of our society. There are so many voices shouting their opinions loudly and angrily, from all sides. The media response is predictable as well, greedily taking advantage of the opportunity to increase sales/clicks/name recognition by eagerly reporting anything that will feed the controversy. 

 

But there is something missing from all of this, as there has been with too many discussions of race relations.

 

Very few people seem to want to do the one thing that is needed for any substantial improvement to happen. 

 

Very few people seem to be willing to LISTEN.

 

I don't mean the kind of listening where you are just waiting for another opportunity to state your case. I mean the kind of listening that implies a genuine desire to hear and understand the other's position. Arian Foster, in his explanation to the media of why the players decided to do what they did, had this to say: "

“It’s more important to create a healthy dialogue. It’s easy for you to just sit here and say, ‘Shut up, you stupid (N-word)’ rather than saying, ‘Why do you feel like that? And if you do feel like that, tell me more about it.’ It’s just so easy to hate. If you really proclaim to be a true American, freedom runs in your bloodline, right? It’s supposed to. And so if somebody’s telling you they don’t feel like they’re free, then why wouldn’t you listen to them if you’re an American?”

I am a middle class white American man. I served in the United States Army, as did both of my brothers, my father, and his father before him. That grandfather served faithfully in World War I and is buried in Arlington cemetary. I love our country. I love the principles that it was founded on, even as I acknowledge that the reality for some American citizens has not always reflected those principles of equal opportunity and treatment regardless of race, religion or social status.

Here's the thing. I think I've been too quick to dismiss the message. Oh, I've heard the complaints. Heck, I've spoken some of them aloud. "These guys are among the top of our society in terms of income, social status and public adoration. When an athlete gets into legal trouble, they are able to afford such legal representation that puts them at a huge advantage over any of us "commoners." They are the elite, and here they are taking a stand against oppression that they do not from our perspective seem to experience much." I get it. Spoiled rich athletes whining about how bad they have it. But I've got to tell you, if we believe that's all there is to this, we are missing the point. We're not listening.

I don't know that I agree with the tactics of Foster and the others. But he's no dummy. He's not a guy you can just dismiss as attention-seeking. He is a deep thinker, and a philosopher. He insists that they mean no disrespect. And he's absolutely right about this. Part of what I served in the military for was to defend the rights of people like him... like you and me... to speak out for what they believe in. It's a complicated issue and I don't want to make premature judgments without listening first. Kenny Stills added this to the discussion: 

“We want people to understand where we’re coming from and we want to understand where other people are coming from,” Stills said. “It’s no disrespect. There’s no hard feelings. There’s no hatred. There’s none of that. And that’s why I feel like as adults we should all be able to do that. And the people that can’t do that — it hurts. It stinks. You should be able to have tough conversations. Why can’t we? Why can’t you disagree with what I’m saying and us still have a relationship?”

So my point is this. Maybe you don't agree with their tactics. Maybe you question the validity of their cause. Maybe you're even right, if such a thing is possible in this kind of situation. BUT. Before we decide to disagree, or worse yet to be disagreeable in our disagreement; before we respond with hate, condemnation and draw a line in the sand, before we dig our heels in and defend with clenched fists our position, let's try doing the one thing that might actually help.

Let's try to listen. 

Maybe we won't change our position at all, but... maybe, just maybe, we will understand why those we disagree with feel the way they do. 

 

The Good

 

Rich Rodriguez, PhinfeverThe Dolphins defense played well enough to win. The defensive line pressured Russell Wilson almost the entire day, getting three sacks and holding the Seahawks ground game to 3.5 yards per carry. Reshad Jones led the defense with 12 tackles and 1 pass defensed. His partner in the deep secondary, Isa Abdul-Quddus, chipped in 8 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception. Koa Misi (10 tackles) and Kiko Alonso (11 tackles) both had productive games. Ndamukong Suh (1 sack), Mario Williams (1 sack), Jordan Phillips (0.5 sack) and Jason Jones (0.5) were all part of a ferocious pass rush that kept coming consistently. Cam Wake also looked like his old self, bringing pressure as well. The defense forced two turnovers. The only reason they gave up 352 total yards on offense is because the offense was rarely able to put a drive together to give the defense a rest.

 

The Bad

 

The Dolphins offensive gained 222 total yards and were 3 of 13 on third down. But the most painful part of the game was probably some of the plays left on the field. Of note is a deep ball from Ryan Tannehill to Kenny Stills that would have been a sure 71 yard touchdown. It was a perfectly thrown pass that was dropped by the wide open Stills.

 

The offensive line did not resemble the unit from the preseason. There were few lanes in the running game and while the line was able to hold up against 3 and 4 man rushes, blitzes typically ended in disaster for the Dolphins. When it was all said and done, the most sacked QB in the NFL the past 4 years added 4 more sacks to his resume, not to mention numerous other pressures.

 

The Ugly

 

Tannehill played an ugly game. A lot of it had to do with the offensive line and some bad drops by his receivers. Some of it had to do with playcalling that continues to call for passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage. But with more freedom to change plays at the line, more of a focus will be on Tannehill this season. Tannehill did not throw any interceptions and he did lead the team to a 4th quarter comeback, but this offense needs to put up more points.

 

Adam Gase's playcalling seemed much like Bill Lazor's. Passes behind the line of scrimmage, very little in the way of misdirection. It seemed like a very bland gameplan. Here's hoping we see more of an open playbook the rest of the year.

 

Overall

 

The Dolphins were huge underdogs, going against a championship contender in a very hostile environment. The Dolphins hung tough in an ugly game. But, as usual, they failed to make the necessary plays when it mattered most. A defense that played well all day seemed to soften up on the last drive. An offense that left too many plays on the field put the team in that position in the first place. We can call this a "moral victory" if we want, but Dolphins fans are tired of them. We want to see tough wins. A few points separates a culture of losing from a culture of winning. The Dolphins need to turn that corner.

 

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Week 14: Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins, 1 pm, FOX

 

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