CURCIO’S CORNER: A sad day for this dol-fan
You may all want to reread this lede more than once, because I’m about to reveal something absolutely shocking about yours truly: there are some topics I see through rose-colored glasses.
My faith and family are foremost, but there is one team for whom I have never shied away from saying I am a lifelong fan, for better or worse. Anyone who has either been to my house or seen my desk at work knows for sure.
But just think for a minute, each sports fan has at least one team for whom rooting is not a logical but emotional decision.
For me, the Dolphins will always make me think of my father.
Paul Curcio Sr. was an original season ticket holder for the Dolphins from the team’s inception. I can still see the view in my mind where we sat, although I was young at the time. It was probably about halfway up section O or P on the South side of the stadium (the open end was to the right of the seats). For long-time Miami fans, that’s the “GO!” side, not the “MIAMI!” side as the old chant went.
My folks always had two pairs of binoculars to watch the game up close, before there was such a thing as a Jumbotron. The stadium was no-frills, but I don’t ever remember being miserable despite the heat, rain or anything else.
We always parked in the same person’s driveway who lived within walking distance of the stadium, and I came away every game with a pennant from a different team. For years, I pinned pennants of different teams above my bed (with Miami on top, of course).
The one person I can remember throughout all the changes the team went through was Don Shula.
Coach Shula, who died Monday at age 90, is still the all-time winningest coach in NFL history with 328 regular-season and 347 total career wins. He was a four-time NFL Coach of the Year and won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins.
A total of 288 of those wins came with Miami because he was willing to adapt his style of play to the talent he had. That has always stuck with me. Miami ran the football predominantly in the 1960s and ’70s and threw with Marino in the ’80s and ’90s.
But more than that, he was a driving force behind the only undefeated season in NFL history — the 1972 season. 17-0. Perfection.
The only team to go from 0-0 to win every game of the regular season, both playoff games (including the AFC title game in Pittsburgh) and the Super Bowl in the same season.
One of my most prized possessions is a book called “Dolphins 72” (with the right color of aqua, by the way, not the robin’s nest egg blue the team wears today. I still want Miami to go back to the old logo and colors permanently). In it is art work, black and white photos and descriptions of each game the Dolphins won.
The book was printed by the Dolphins themselves with Joe Robbie, the team’s first owner, writing a foreword. I’ll never forget how my dad would smile when he recalled Robbie calling him personally when we didn’t renew our tickets as we moved into the North Georgia mountains in the early 1980s.
There are wonderful insights and pictures of Coach Shula in the book, but more than that it’s a book as old as I am more or less. It’s something my family and I have had all these years and found its way from Miami to Hiawassee to Albemarle.
Coach Shula was best encapsulated by Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka, whose name will always come to mind when I’m on a broadcast and a Stanly running back squares his shoulders up and runs over defenders.
Csonka told the story of himself of someone from Miami finding an Oakland playbook left at the Alameda Coliseum back in the day. When Shula was given the playbook, and the Raiders’ ideas on how to stop Miami, Shula didn’t read it but gave it back. He wouldn’t cheat.
I will take a coach who does not cheat and still becomes the all-time leader in coaching wins over number of Super Bowls won any day (read into that what you will).
Shula was an example for all of us of what hard work, determination and attention to detail can mean for anyone in any walk of life.
Besides the plethora of pictures on the walls of my house with my beautiful wife in them, there are five pictures hung on the walls of which I enjoy the most.
My Pfeiffer diploma.
A picture of my father bowling his best three-game series.
A picture of myself and the best man at my wedding, Leo Brunelli.
The two-man team for many years doing Stanly County Monday Night Football (Brian and myself).
Finally, a collage of many of the greatest Dolphins of all time, with Coach Shula the central figure in the artwork.
Thanks for everything, Coach Shula. You will be missed.