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The Miami Dolphins: An Empire of dirt?

We are in difficult times. The world around us has changed and gotten darker. The economy stinks. And the Dolphins are missing the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.

No one knows what will happen Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. when Miami ends the 2010 season against New England, the best team in the NFL. Will the Dolphins respond to this opportunity to salvage what has been a disappointing season? Or will we see the Dolphins we've gotten used to -- no offense, and usually good, but sometimes inconsistent defense -- fail for the ninth time in 16 games?

And what about afterward?

What will happen in the weeks and days after the season's final play? Will owner Stephen Ross keep Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland? Or will he fire the last vestiges of the Bill Parcells era and start anew?

No one knows for certain.

I do know this: The glory days were long ago. And they haven't returned.

The Dolphins were once the winningest professional sports franchise on Earth. They boasted the fact every week in press releases. No more. Nowadays, they don't even acknowledge when they sign a player that might make them slightly less mediocre. That is not improvement.

Things have changed, folks. And for the worse. The end of this season reminds us. The franchise that was once a gleaming, shining beacon of excellence and, yes, even perfection for one fateful season ... gone.

More of today's Dolfans remember 1-15 than 17-0. Fewer of today's Dolfans remember their last playoff win. Or their last playoff game. Or their last back-to-back wins at home, for that matter.

The Dolphins, once a source of community pride, is now watching the community turn its attention to the Miami Heat. The Dolphins now more closely resemble, in the words of Johnny Cash, an empire of dirt.

 [Thanks to Dolfan Joe Alvarez who created this video and passed it along to me.]