AC In The AM: One Soldier's Love For The Dolphins

Posted Nov 11, 2014

As I decided what to write about Veterans Day, as I spoke to several players in the Dolphins locker room who have family ties to the Armed Forces, I realized that these players aren’t the story.

(Andy Cohen In The Morning appears on dolphins.com every Monday through Friday until the end of the season. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m. Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins).

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We watch football on Sundays and we rarely think about who else might be watching. Our minds never travel half a world away. We never picture the scene at an Air Force base in Afghanistan where American soldiers, Dolphins fans, huddle around a television set in the middle of the night.

But it’s happening. It’s there. Every Sunday, when the war allows, when the time is there to escape, when the television reception is just right, our troops watch football. You think you feel pressure watching the Dolphins play? You think your stomach is in knots when Ryan Tannehill fades back to pass? Think what Senior Master Sergeant Jim Miller must be feeling, huddled in front of his laptop, not knowing if at any minute he’ll have to return to the business of defending his country. That’s pressure.

“I watch the Dolphins,” said Miller, “and for a moment you don’t feel like you are (at war) anymore. If nothing bad is happening outside, you can really lose yourself in the game. It’s a great escape.”

As I decided what to write about Veterans Day, as I spoke to several players in the Dolphins locker room who have family ties to the Armed Forces, I realized that these players aren’t the story. The real stories on Veterans Day are people like Senior Master Sergeant Jim Miller. Born a Dolphins fan. Bleeds aqua and orange. Follows his favorite team as best he can. He was in Kuwait in 2002. He was in Iraq in 2008. He was in Afghanistan in 2013.

Now he is in Atlanta, waiting to see if he’ll be deployed once again, not knowing where he’ll be next football season. I asked Miller about watching Dolphins games in that part of the world. I asked him to paint a picture so we can understand how difficult it is for him to see his beloved team.

Here’s two stories from last season:

• The Dolphins were playing the Patriots at Sun Life Stadium. It’s rare to be able to catch any of the action live in that part of the world. Most of the time it’s on tape delay. But on this early Monday morning, at Bagram Air Force base, about 40 miles from Kabul, Afghanistan, Miller was able to hook up the digital mobile service on his laptop computer. Somehow, he was able to project that picture on a big wall.

“It started out as four of us watching the Dolphins-Patriots game,” Miller recalled. “Then it grew to eight or nine of us. It was a quiet night. Not much going on. I can’t tell you how great it was to be able to watch that game.”

• Earlier last season, the Dolphins were playing the Cincinnati Bengals on Halloween. You remember the game, don’t you? Cameron Wake won it with a safety in dramatic fashion. Miller was able to get off a little early that night and, being a Thursday night game, the Armed Forces network was showing it live. There was a 50-inch TV mounted on a wall in the rec room at Bagram Air Force base. Miller remembers it as if were yesterday.

“It’s the middle of the night and who knows what’s going on outside, and Cam Wake gets that sack and me and my buddy are screaming and going crazy, “ Miller said. “We got to see it live! Imagine that.”

Miller may not have been the biggest Dolphins fan over there, but he’s certainly in the conversation. Hanging from his bunk was a Dolphins flag. Next to his bunk was a Dan Marino jersey. There’s even a picture of that Dolphins flag on the front of his vehicle.

You want stories? Miller has plenty more. There was the time in 2009 in Iraq. Miller was guarding weapons the night the Dolphins were playing the Jets. His buddy relieved him so he could catch the last part of the game. Miller remembers running to the chow hall. “That was a great night,” he said. “The Dolphins beat the Jets 31-27.”

Sometimes it takes stories like the ones Jim Miller tells to help you appreciate the impact a football team like the Dolphins can have, even several thousand miles away on a quiet night in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes we forget about those who would give anything to be sitting in Sun Life Stadium on a powder blue Sunday afternoon.

So the game ends in the middle of the night in Afghanistan. What happens then, I ask Jim Miller. “I just remember where I am and go back to work,” he says. “But it’s always a lot easier when the Dolphins win.”

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(On Wednesday, AC in the AM plays 10 questions with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.)

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by our columnists and bloggers represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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