We are only three weeks into the NFL season, and, sort of amazingly, there are only three undefeated teams remaining. These teams are not the New England Patriots, or the Seattle Seahawks, or the Denver Broncos, any of the usual suspects. They are:
* The Arizona Cardinals, a team that didn't make the playoffs last season, a franchise that has had only three above-average teams since it moved to the desert nearly 30 years ago, a historically inept organization that no one but me cheers for.
* The Cincinnati Bengals, another historically inept franchise that despite having made the playoffs four out of the last five years has not actually won a playoff game since 1991. It has been so long since the Bengals won a playoff game that the team they beat was the Houston Oilers.
* The Philadelphia Eagles, the defending champions of the NFC East but still the Philadelphia Eagles, perhaps the most historically doomed NFL franchise of them all. (There's plenty of competition.)
Suffice it to say, none of those teams are world beaters. And none of them are likely to stay undefeated for long. The Eagles will be underdogs this week in San Francisco, and the Bengals and Cardinals, both idle this week, will be underdogs in week five, on the road against New England and Denver, respectively. The odds are excellent that after week five, there will be zero undefeated NFL teams. And you know what that means: We get to hear about the 1972 Miami Dolphins again.
We all know about that supposed saddest, smuggest tradition in sports, the 1972 Miami Dolphins' yearly insistence on getting together and toasting themselves shortly after the last NFL team loses its first game. As the story goes, when that final team goes down, the remaining members of that team dance on the graves of the defeated. Last year, they were even rewarded for going 40 years without anyone matching them, with a trip to the White House. (If you'll remember, three members of that team didn't go because of philosophical disagreements with President Obama, which remains stupid regardless of your political persuasion.)
This has made the 1972 Dolphins immensely unpopular. Here's Deadspin's Drew Magary, aptly summing up the case against that team:
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the saddest, douchiest collection of Grey Ghosts ever assembled. During their "dominant" regular season run that year, the Dolphins beat a grand total of two teams with winning records (and both of those team were a mere one game over .500). The winning percentage of the Dolphins opponents that year was .365. … I don't even know how you end up with a schedule that easy. We should note 1972 as a strike year or something. If that exact same team played in today's NFL, they wouldn't win a single game. Not one. No one cares about your oldass team. I assume you keep rehashing games from thirty-seven years ago because you have nothing resembling a useful life now.
This is rather secured in the public consciousness, this supposed post-defeat celebration, especially after that White House visit. So it might come as a surprise to you that this "tradition" is totally bunk. It is simply not true. The Dolphins do not all get together every season after the last team loses. This has been definitively debunked. Internet legend debunker Snopes did the heavy lifting on this in 2011, but to repeat:
Jim Riley, a defensive end on the team: "It doesn't happen. That all got started by three guys, Garo Yepremian, Nick Buonticonti and Dick Anderson. And they only did it one time."
Coach Don Shula, back when the 2005 Colts looked like they had a chance: "Buoniconti, Dick Anderson and Bob Griese might "go out into the parking lot and pop open a bottle of champagne … But they are too cheap to invite the rest of us down [to Coral Gables, Fla.]."
You can see more at the Snopes page, but seriously: It's time to stop repeating the 1972 Dolphins Champagne story. It is not real. It is made up. They don't do it, they've never done it, they never will do it. These are just a bunch of old football players who are known for one thing, and every year, we trot them out as cranky old men still desperate to recapture past glory. As if it isn't hard enough to be an old football player.
It is very likely no team is going to make it past 3-0 this year, which would be the first time that has happened since 2010 and only the second time that has happened since 1971. So in the next fortnight, the 1972 Miami Dolphins will come up again, and we'll all mock them again, for something they don't actually do. Let's try to cut them a break this time and remember: This is an urban legend. It is false. Please stop repeating it.