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Dolphins dominate sports landscape ... for now

There have been some changes since I left on vacation in June.

Before I left, I shared with you my ranking of NFL teams No. 32 to No. 1 in which I rated the Dolphins the No. 10 team in the NFL. Many scoffed at the idea Miami was already that good despite the offseason additions of Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby and a seeminly fruitful draft.

Well, since then the NFL Network's Mike Lombardi has categorized the Dolphins as a blue chip team, meaning he not only expects them to be good, but expects them to be Super Bowl material. Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, ranked the Dolphins No. 6 on their countdown from No. 32 -- (which kind of blew me away.)

And even while on vacation, I did some radio interviews with stations in places such as San Diego and Seattle and New York and they seem to have high expectations for the Dolphins also.

I am told the Dolphins brass isn't upset folks expect good things from them.

Tony Sparano isn't going to predict titles or publicly set the Super Bowl as the team's goal -- even if that is exactly what owner Stephen Ross did in June. But the coach isn't afraid of facing a bar set high. He often sets the bar quite high for his players, albeit in private.

The amazing thing in all this is that while folks around the country are looking forward to this Dolphins team being a big deal, being playoff caliber, and perhaps championship caliber (if you believe Lombardi), folks locally have allowed their gaze to wander away from the Dolphins.

Basketball, you see, now dominates the front pages, the TV and radio airwaves, and the purse-strings of South Florida sports fans.

The Heat added the Three Kings to their lineup and are seemingly building a championship machine so folks down here have happily jumped on the bandwagon while barely mentioning the Dolphins.

Suddenly, Pat Riley is much smarter than Bill Parcells according to some knee-jerking columnists. Suddenly, the Heat is the team on everyone's lips. Suddenly, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are the biggest local sports stars while the Dolphins have some guys that might or might not get recognized in clubs and restaurants.

Whatever.

It is my humble opinion that one NBA offseason -- regardless of how mega-productive, and definitely the Heat have had a great one -- does not erase 40 years of tradition. It is my opinion that once the games begin, and even as early as when camp opens, the Dolphins will again be at the forefront of South Florida's attention.

This all comes with a caveat, of course.

As we all know, the Dolphins face a difficult schedule the early part of the season. After what, on paper, promises to be a victory at Buffalo (new coach, same old bad QB situation), the Dolphins then embark on a killer stretch at Minnesota, against the Jets and Patriots, at Green Bay, back home to face Pittsburgh, then trips to Cincinnati and Baltimore.

The Dolphins play seven playoff-caliber teams the first eight games of the season.

And unless they prosper against that tough lineup that will carry them through the first week of November, the Dolphins may find themselves the second-tier story locally to the Heat as that team begins its season.

What I'm saying is that, locally at least, the pressure is on the Dolphins to win early. The pressure is on them to start fast, something they have not done since 2003.

The requirement is not just about keeping the attention on them, it also has a lot to do with making the playoffs.

If the Dolphins go into their bye weekend Oct. 10 winless or 1-3, not only can you deem their playoff chances on life support but the attention span of locals will diminish as the attention-grabbing Heat begin their season.

Clearly that won't be the case for Dolphins fans living outside South Florida. A majority of national Dolphins fans have no rooting interest in the Heat. But down here? That's just the way it might play out.

It will be moot, of course, if the Dolphins are the team we all hope for and expect. If the Dolphins are a 12-4 team, or an 11-5 team, one assumes they won't be 1-3 at season's start.

And if they are a 12-4 or an 11-5 team, I would say they will still be the dominant sports story in South Florida, even beyond the Heat.

Just like they were before I went on vacation.

[BLOG NOTE: Come back this afternoon, as I have some minor news that I'll be posting at that time.]

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Wow...we're back and I'm first!!!!!!

Let's get some Dolphins stories printed. The Heat won't distract me.

It's about time a reporter got the Heat balls outta their mouths.

Yes!! Welcome back Mando!!!!!

Excellent column, Armando. Yes, DolFan mania lives in our blood. As much as our fanatical focus is currently on Los Reyes Magos and the Heat, once kickoff arrives on the NFL's opening day, we will shelve the conversation about LeBron and D-Wade for the cheering of Brandon and Defense. Still, Miami fans are fickle and we're quick to hop off the bandwagon at the first signs of failure, so the pressure is high for not only the Heat and the Fins, but also the Canes. An early win by UM at Ohio State would undoubtedly place them in the top 10. For the first time in a long time, Miami fans have incredibly high expectations all around going into the Fall. It's going to be interested, and it's going to be insane assuming all three teams have successful seasons.

I think the high rankings for the Dolphins are warranted. Whether I am right or not will depend on the speed of development of our rookies this year and those from last year blossoming in their second year. At least to me it seems like we have a dominant OL, running game and now should have a complementary and enabling passing game. This translates into clock dominance and lots of scoring. I expect our younger faster DL and LB will be better against the run and short passes while further development of our CB will strengthen us against the pass. The two unknowns are how we will do against the pass in terms of pass rush and FS performance. I think Clemons will pull his weight. I think Wade will be excellent on one side. A lot is riding on Misi and whomever the DE on that side is in terms of pressure. I think Starks will be the second coming of Bama. We will win most games, we will lose some games but every game the opponents will go home bruised and limping.

Thank you, finally some news about the Dolphins for once. Welcome back Mando!

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree Armando. Football is my #1 sport and I go to every Dolphin game and watch as much of it as I can on television. I NEVER go to a Heat game and probably watch only 4-5 games a year on television if an interesting matchup is happening or it's the playoffs. But something feels different this year ever since the Heat got who they got. I am so intrigued to find out what this Heat team is capable of that I'm finding myself waiting and waiting for November to come around to see if a super team really can work. The Dolphins, sure it will be fun to watch them as usual, but they lack something right now that Heat has: Hype. Like Le Batard says, this is an event town, not a sports town, and sorry, but in 2010 the event to be at and watch is the Miami Heat.

Dolphins are number 1
Heat...1A

Dolphins #1....Go Lakers!!!

Welcome back mando Glad to get the dolphin talk started!

Welcome back! Now give us some news.

Welcome back. We've missed you!

Welcome back,, how was your vacation?

Welcome back, Mandoman! This is going to be a great season for the Dolphins!

Heat?

Is that really the name of a team?

Hope you had a good vacation Armando. Glad you are back. GO Dolphins!!!

I'm in NJ so I could care less about the so called big 3. I will be rooting against them. lebron is a fraud. He is supposed to the so called "chosen 1" and we are all "witnesses" to his so called greatness. If he was so great he could carry a team like Cleveland or NY not ship jump to the Heat. I see now that Kobe is miles apart from any other player in the league and I don't even like Kobe. Go Dolphins! I have my tickets for Sept. 26 vs. the paper champ jets! 40 yard line, 10th row!

Welcome back Armando, hope you had an excellent hiatus and that you are well rested. We are all excited to have Miami's #1 blogger back in business.

Full column! Must be REALLY rested and ready to type.. Don't wear out those fingers too soon. It's going to be a long season

Phins who.?.. after week eight at 0-8.. SRO at all Heat games soon after.

Welcome back, Mando. Missed ya my man.

Finally saunters back in... LOL

Welcome back Armando.

I sure hope you can regulate the blog more than before. It was almost unusable for a while with whacky posts.

Basketball is already dead to me... the Heat can get anyone on their team they want and it's still Phins only for me.

Lockout is the only thing stopping me from watching the Phins.

Cheers,

When football season comes around.... no one down here is going to care about the so called 3 kings..... in south florida, they'll care when they are in the second round of the NBA playoff then everyone will get on the bandwagon..... just like every other sport down here...... to prove my point, I've never seen so many Spain flags in cars, now all of a sudden everyone was routing for Spain in the World Cup... PLEASE.... get real South Florida sports!!......

Well halleluyah and amen Armando!!! Welcome back! I wish I had vacations like you man. Great column, I've been waiting patiently for someone with a brain to write something like this. There's a poll on this website asking what franchise reins supreme and the results don't lie. Miami was founded by the Dolphins and the people here know it. There will be a lot of bandwagon fans for the heat now, but they still won't surpass The Dolphin Militia! So come on everyone, let's join hands, sing kumbayah my lord and tailgate the sh*t out of the Jets game!!!

count the empty seats at every phins game first then ask about who's that new kid on the block.lmao.

Welcome back, Mando. We missed you!

Thank God your back and enough with the Heat alreay... please... Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall are not key aquisitions who bring HYPE to the Dolphins? Let me say that again BRANDON MARSHALL!!!!!! and Karlos DANSBY!!!!!! 2 PRO BOWLERS!!!! Can we PLEASE talk about what they mean to MIAMI????

Thank You

Welcome back Mando. Congrats to Miami Heat fans (I think I'll have to jump on the bandwagon). I was ALL happy my Wizards got John Wall as the #1 pick, then you guys just took away our thunder.

But I'm very interested to see what our Dolphins do this season. I think we have a good group and have been hearing great things about Chad Henne (from various sources). I'm worried about NT (since Ferg retired suddenly) but hoping guys can fill in. And safety is still a concern, I'm not sure why we didn't go after Hamlin or one of the other guys (Parcells and Sparano must think Hamlin is trash since they coached him in Dallas). I CAN'T WAIT FOR PRESEASON!!!!

Great to have you back.
I totally agree...as an out of state fan of the Dolphins. We are big time excited about the Fins, and most of us out side of Miami are tired of all the hoopla surrounding the Heat.
In fact if they lose, the country will be laughing and all of a sudden , the stands for the Dolphins will be filled again.
Go Fins !!!!

Great to have you back.
I totally agree...as an out of state fan of the Dolphins. We are big time excited about the Fins, and most of us outside of Miami are tired of all the hoopla surrounding the Heat.
In fact if they lose, the country will be laughing and all of a sudden , the stands for the Dolphins will be filled again.
Go Fins !!!!

very excited to watch both of these teams. LeBron and Wade! TDs from Henne to Marshall every weekend. awesome.

Anyway, welcome back Mando. I tried to substitute my morning fix of dolphin news with the Sentinel blog but it didn't happen. honestly I think your writing, reporting, and insight are way better.

GO DOLPHINS!!!

I am a Miami sports fan first and foremost. 2ndly I'm a Florida Sports fan. When neither is doing well then I become a pseudo national sports fan. That how I rank my sports allegiances.

Lastly I am just a sports fan period!

Must be nice to have that long a vacation, mando. I'm certainly jealous.

The Dolphins will roll in 2010. I will be at the season opener, 25yd line, 12th row. Cincy, Raiders, and Lions game are also on the radar as long as the money rolls in.

By the way, you Heat fans will see what us in Toronto saw for 7 years, Bosh is a slightly above average player with ZERO clutch abilities, very average defense, and a wonky knee. At least in Miami he will be able to ride Wade and Lebron's coattails. He certianly does not belong in Wade's class. LeFraud James - nothing more to say. Kobe is certainly the man - although I'm no fan of his.

Thank God you back Armando. The Sun Sentinel has nothing on you....well except for the TK8 That is a tightly knit group of 8 members of their blog.

Someone tell NJ Phin Fan and Carlito from Golfito to come back. This is their home!!! Seeing them on the SS blogs just doesn't seem right.

Mark,

NJ PHIN FAN and Home were suspended there for their ongoing feud. Things never change.

Welcome back Armando, and all the other folks who frequent this blog. Hope everyone is havibg a great summer. Rob in the OC what up! Look forward to good debate and Dolphin info!

Mark, They were suspended over at the SS yesterday.

dude with all due respect why are you making this a comparison between 2 teams

its a good year for miami in general all of this can only help

players of both sports are more willing to come play here from a professional and collegiate stand point

and every true football fan know that the reall basketball season doesnt start till football season ends lol

and luckily some of us are still here when we didnt have anything to read for over a month... do you know what it is to have to stoop to reading greg cotes crap...lol

you cant blame us if we didnt have anything interesting to read on the dolphins

by the way hope you enjoyed your vacay but its back to business pleazz

I forgot to say WELCOME BACK to ALL the regulars of this blog! Holler if yall can't wait for Pre-season football!!!

thank god football is BAAAACK

what's going on with Hartline???

at last some football talk. Go Phins!!! Sarasota fan

We need TO to make our offense complete. These are grown men playing a sport, they can deal with an ego.

Wow welcome back!!! It's been way to long! Mando don't ever do that again... Lol

Welcome back. I am one of the out of town dolphin fans. I am cautiously optimistic about this team. As Lombardi said, a few big play stops while producing a few of our own (Marshal) we will be tough to beat with the way they executed last year. Even though I am always this excited in July/August – I think this team, with its alpha receiver, huge O-line, younger defense, second year corners etc, definitely has a shot.

The only reason the Heat is getting the press is #1) Football off season and nothing to report
#2) They shocked the world by getting all three of the top free agents.

No way the Heat takes over the Dolphins top spot. BTW- the jests will be another win making it 4 in a row... they suck

Glad your back...hope you had a good vacation. Been dying everytime I start my iTouch app and there is nothing new.

Welcome back Mando!! we missed you... I missed you.. I promise I won't talk crap about you any more.. at least for a few months.. :)

Welcome back!

No report on the vacation? I wish I could take a vacation that long. It's good to see you're still using the name "Armando" so we know you didn't spend the last month getting a sex change operation.

Welcome back Armando. I hope you enjoyed your well deserved vacation and are re-charged for the upcoming season. I don't post much but I frequently enjoy the insights from you and the friendly(or not) banter between the regulars on this blog.
As for the upcoming season I'm reasonably optimistic but AFC champs? Super Bowl contenders? It's a little early to claim supremacy at this stage in the season. IMO
But if they pull it off, I'll gladly choke on this post. Lol
Go Dolphins!!

Welcome back Armando,, dont ever go in vacation this longgg again!!

Armando, Cant wait to get your minor news, dude! I added up what those guys SAVED in coming to Miami and escaping state income tax and its like $6 million bucks!
That's some serious change in this economy dudes! Take THAT Ohio and New York!

Welcome back Mando, missed ya.

The heat dominate the landscape.. Ur a fool if u think otherwise. How many front page pics in the last 2 months were of anything dolphins? Now how many front page pics in the COUNTRY had our Tres Grande?!?! If the fins got Payton and ap to go with bmarsh, we could talk. Right now the fins r a young unproven team with decent AT BEST stats coming into this season. Miami is about to go thru what happened to a little town known as Chicago. Once MJ started winning, the beloved bears were for the first time put on the backburner.

THE FINS HAVE MORE FANS OUTSIDE SOUTH FLORIDA ANYWAY. MIAMI IS REALLY A JOKE WHEN IT COMES TO CHEERING FOR THERE TEAMS. i AM A DOLPHINS FAN BUT I ROOT FOR MY TEAM WITH THE PASSION MY AREA ROOTS FOR THE PATS C'S AND SOX.IT KILLS ME WHEN I HEAR OTHER TEAMS FANS CHEERING LOUDER THEN MIAMI'S FANS. THAT NEVER HAPPENS UP HERE. SO WHO CARES WHAT THE HEAT HAVE DONE CUZ MOST NOT ALL BUT MOST FANS IN MIAMI ARE FARE WEATHER FANS.

Who cares either way?! I'm from Miami. I cheer for Miami. I'm a dolfan and I'm a heat fan. I'm excited at the possibility of both being great. Why would anyone be upset that one team is doing this and the other is doing that. They don't even play the same sport! It give Miami the spotlight and a chance to be a great sportstown. Something we've been lacking for a while. Go fins! Go heat! Go canes!!!

Armando,
Often you are praised, sometimes derided (nearly always unwarranted derision). But while you were away it was very apparent that many, many people missed your input, news and analysis. You are definitely not unimportant.

WELCOME BACK!

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