For the first time in franchise history, the thought of the Miami Dolphins leaving South Florida seems remotely plausible.
Now playing in an outdated Sun Life Stadium, there is serious doubt that the Super Bowl will return to Miami any time soon. And when a new owner eventually buys the Dolphins, as current owner Steven Ross is not expected to pass the team down to his heirs, relocating to a city that is capable of providing a brand new state-of-the-art facility that will attract future Super Bowls will be tempting.
“The Dolphins are one of the only franchises in the NFL that don’t have a long-term lease with their community,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee told WFOR-TV in Miami yesterday. “At some point somebody’s going to buy the franchise from Steve, and clearly the stadium is the first thing they would need to address.”
Stephen Ross is committed to keeping the Dolphins in Miami. Nobody is questioning that. Ross went to high school in Miami and loves the Dolphins as a fan more so than an owner. As long as he owns the franchise, there is no imminent fear of the team leaving South Florida.
But there’s no guarantee the Dolphins’ next owner, who is expected to buy the team from Ross within the next 10 years, will share the same loyalty to Miami.
That’s why I urge Ross to be extremely selective in whom he eventually sells to. Don’t sell the team until you find a potential buyer who will stop at nothing to keep one of the league’s most storied franchises in the city where its tradition began and continues.
The city that saw the Dolphins become the only undefeated team in the history of major professional sports. The city that witnessed two Super Bowl titles, five Super Bowl appearances, and at one time, the highest winning percentage in NFL history. The city that claims the winningest coach of all-time in Don Shula and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game in Dan Marino as legends.
The Dolphins are synonymous with Miami. That tradition just runs too deep.
No, the Dolphins do not own a long-term lease with the South Florida community as Mike Dee so bleakly points out. But some things run deeper than a lease document.
The Dolphins may not be contractually obligated to remain in South Florida, but the franchise’s marriage to the city of Miami shouldn’t be dependent on a piece of paper. It shouldn’t be conditional, either. It shouldn’t rely on the success of a stadium renovation effort.
The Dolphins are not the Dolphins without Miami. Miami is not Miami without the Dolphins. And the NFL is not the NFL without the Miami Dolphins. It should take much more than the possibility of losing out on some Super Bowls to even threaten to change that.
That is, if there is any sentiment remaining in professional sports.
Stephen Ross has had his fair share of mishaps as an owner. At times, under his leadership, the Dolphins have looked completely dysfunctional as an organization.
But give the man credit; Ross desperately wants to see the Dolphins return to their glory days as a winning franchise that is king in Miami. And if he is as committed to keeping the team in this great city as he says he is, he’ll make sure that the billionaire he sells the team to shares that vision.