MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Memo to Dolphins fans: Tom Brady is not gay.
[Not that there's anything wrong with it if he was.]
Here's the latest Instagram photo of Mrs. Brady for those in South Florida who may still be confused about this topic:
Brady's sexual preference was big issue with the crowd at Sun Life Stadium Sunday, at least for multiple Dolphins fans who noticed anyone wearing a No. 12 Patriots jersey. And the number of Brady jerseys in the crowd at Foxborough South was substantial.
Responsible adult sports fans and their children have moved beyond the trite and hateful saw about that player from the team you hate the most being gay. It's so wrong for so many reasons. I've seen the "A-Rod/Jeter" shirts. They're no better.
But that wasn't Sunday's low point in terms of fan banter.
Not even close.
For four decades, I've been watching the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins play in venues from Oakland to Tampa Bay, from Milwaukee to Denver, from the palace that is the Amway Arena in Orlando to the long-gone Comiskey Park in Chicago.
Never once, did I ever have a fan of the home team, not even a fan of the Yankees or Mets, tell me that they wished my dog would die.
Not until Sunday.
That ill was wished on my 15-year-old Lab/German Shepherd mix by the man seated next to me, who fancied himself as the section cheerleader until he began to lapse in and out of what appeared to be either an alcohol or diabetic induced coma for most of the second half. He was awake by the end of the game and his wife apologized on his behalf.
In general, the crowd in the southwest upper deck corner of Sun Life Stadium wasn't so much blue-collar as it was prison-orange-jump-suit collar. On evolutionary scale, this group was on par with the Patriots' crowd circa Monday night in 1976 against the Jets.
Somewhere between Cro Magnon man and Oakland Raiders' fan.
There were multiple ejections by the stadium's efficient and overworked security staff, which also included agents dressed in suits and ties and brown-shirted personnel representing local law-enforcement. One Patriots' fan who was ejected on the right-side exit of our section returned a couple of quarters later on on the left-side stairwell. Another Dolphins' fan was dragged down 10 or 15 rows of stairs while swinging away at a pair of uniformed police officers.
Beer muscles on steroids. Or maybe angel dust.
Tailgating, alcohol, warm weather in December, the Patriots' shattered defense and Ryan Tannehill's clutch play can be a volatile mix for the home crowd at this venue that's had more names than Foxboro/Schaefer/Sullivan Stadium.
When you wear a Boston-themed shirt or jersey [my son donned his new form-fitting Gronkowski shirt] in a road team's venue, you expect to catch grief, if not the occasional fallout from a tossed beer. You have to give and take it. You're going to have to answer for everything from Bill Buckner, to Spygate to Whitey Bulger.
But dogs, wives and children have always been off limits. Even back in the 1970s when the Yankees came to town, it was only Reggie who sucked, not necessarily the dog of the guy sitting next to me.
But not in Miami.
Their bark truly bites.
This 24-20 loss to the Dolphins ended with Brady throwing an interception to Michael Thomas. Thousands of Patriots-attired clad fans left feeling frustrated, stressed out, hoarse, angry and trying their best to avoid any contact with their celebratory hosts. The loss wasn't as calamitous as it appeared in person. The Patriots [10-4] still have the No. 2 seed in the AFC and need just one more win or Dolphins' loss to clinch the AFC East. And they were in this game until there was two seconds left on the clock. The type of entertainment the folks at CBS and NFL Central love.
[I was the guy in the upper deck who spent the first three quarters yelling for "Brady to stay the hell away from Josh McDaniels at all costs" on the sidelines.]
In the end, it wasn't the heat, it was the humility. It was 89 degrees and sunny when we pulled into the stadium parking lot. It felt like 10-below when we left.
The lone bright spot was the post-game rush that had us out of the stadium, parking lot and on the Florida Turnpike in 15 minutes.
The Patriots' rushing game vaporized inside the 20 and either the Dolphins and/or McDaniels succeeded in eliminating Shane Vereen from the Patriots' gameplan. Vereen ran the ball twice for 12 yards and he had three catches for eight yards [his first touch wasn't until the end of the first quarter].
Sunday's game followed the same script as so many others involving the Patriots this season. This time Brady's final, last-ditch, whip-up-another-miracle last-second touchdown drive ended with an interception in the end zone. But unlike the loss at Carolina, there was no question of interference here.
Long, time-consuming drives on offense produced little results. New England had downfield marches of 15 and 16 plays resulting in six total points. The ability to score touchdowns in the red zone appears to have all but disappeared with the departure of Rob Gronkowski.
The defense bent and then broke at the end of both the second and fourth quarter, giving up touchdown drives in the final two minutes of each frame. While many NFL teams like to claim a cold-weather advantage, there's no doubt the Dolphins have a meteorological edge in situations like this. The Dolphins are legit at 8-6, not a surprise here, and have the edge if they end up in a tie with the Patriots atop the AFC East. Joe Philbin has done a masterful job dealing with the Richie Incognito affair and the loss of both he and Jonathan Martin on the offensive line.
The crusher came not on a touchdown but on a 4th-and-5 at Miami's 45 during the Dolphins' final scoring drive when Charles Clay turned a swing pass at the line of scrimmage into a six-yard gain. That blow staggered New England's defense. Marcus Thigpen delivered the knockout blow, catching a 14-yard TD pass from Tannehill that left Dont'a Hightower face down pounding the turf after he missed both the ball and Thigpen on the play.
Brady had 75 seconds to take the Patriots 80 yards for the game-winning score. But he was out of last-minute miracles. The final drive covered 12 plays and 76 yards but resulted in nothing but confirmation of the issues that have been looming over this team since it was decimated by key injuries on both sides of the ball.
It also didn't help that stellar-all-season kicker Stephen Gostkowski had his worst game of the season, missing a make-able 48-yard attempt and misfiring on his final kickoff that bounced out of bounds, giving Miami the ball at the 40 for Tannehill's final charge. Everyone has a bad game now and then. Gostkowski's timing here was impeccable, for all the wrong reasons.
"We make some good plays and we make plenty of s----y plays," said Brady in his brief post-game press conference.
He took the words right out of my dog's mouth.
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