Georgia Tech is in the rearview, undefeated North Carolina is on deck, the Miami Hurricanes are 4-1—one play from 5-0—and this program finds itself at another fork in the road as the reality of an avoidable setback now amplifies the heaviness of this weekend’s monumental showdown; one that will define the rest of this season and the narrative surrounding The U’s long-awaited comeback.
No need to re-litigate what took place at HardRock stadium last Saturday night as it’s been beaten into the ground by insiders, outsiders and every talking head in-between—pundits trying to be more outraged or clever than the big-mouthed clowns before them for the sake of clicks, shares and likes.
The only reminder worth focusing on here, fervent supporters of The U—the fact that it always was, always is and always will be the Miami Hurricanes against the world.
The hate us ’cause they ain’t us. Period, full stop.
Look no further than media coverage this week and the way this coaching staff has been opened mocked, while players photos and videos became memes and the entire college football world not only got their quick laugh at the Miami program—but the made it personal, malicious and showed their asses regarding just how much they loathe our Canes.
Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson certainly deserved legitimate criticism for a bone-headed coaching decision on Saturday night—and they got it—but the joy that outsiders are taking as they revel in the Canes’ pain and make UM this week’s punchline; let it serve as a wake-up call—these mouth-breathers not only fear any rise back to the top of the college football rankings, they remain visibly jealous of the Magic City having any legitimate sports success.
MIAMI SPORTS REMAINS PUBLIC ENEMY #1
Skeptical of the call-out? Travel back six months at unpack the Miami Heat’s unexpected run and a magical NBA postseason—one where they knocked off #1 Milwaukee, #4 New York and #2 Boston en route to The Finals.
What would’ve been a feel-good story for literally any other underdog in the sport—the consensus was to trash the Heat and to root for anybody Miami was facing this postseason.
Got past the Bucks? No shot against the red-hot Knicks. Took out New York? No worries, Boston will dismantle those pretenders—ESPN even running a graphic on social media that the Heat only had a 3% chance to upend the Celtics.
By the time it was Miami and Denver in The Finals, everybody was all over the Nuggets and celebrated when the Heat were done in five.
Weeks later when the conversation shifted to Damian Lillard wanting out of Portland, with Miami his preferred destination—a full-blown sports-nerd meltdown about how out of line his demands were—to the point the Trailblazers front office took an anywhere-but-Miami approach and dragged ass for months on the trade.
After Lillard ultimately wound up in Milwaukee—moving the Bucks to the frontrunner to win it all in 2024—nobody gave a shit that the rich got richer. The haters were simply thrilled Miami didn’t land its big fish, while openly mocking the iconic Pat Riley for coming up short.
DIFFERENT PLAYERS, DIFFERENT BALLGAME
Shifting back to college football’s and last weekend’s biggest storyline—for the sake of argument let’s swap out Miami for Colorado, Cristobal for Deion Sanders, Don Chaney Jr. for Shedeur Sanders and let’s play out the media’s reaction to a phantom fumble that would cost the Buffs a game like this.
It’d be Hands Across America for the injustice and every sports commentator would ramble on about what a travesty it was to steal a game from those kids who clawed their way back from a 17-10 deficit to a 20-17 victory.
Why? Because the media knows no bounds when protecting and glorifying the ones they love while trashing and making a punchline out of the afterthoughts.
Getting a little too conspiracy theory for some of you? Grab your plutonium, let’s get the DeLorean up to 88 m.p.h. and take it back to October 31st, 2015 for Miami’s eight-lateral return at Duke to steal a last-minute victory in Durham—”steal” being the operative word for sports media members who were sideways over this play come Sunday.
USA Today went on to run an article with the headline, “The ACC Needs To Overturn Miami’s Crazy, Controversial Win Over Duke”, despite officials with a lengthy review of the play, confirming the call on the field and awarding the Canes a touchdown.
“The result needs to be vacated and Duke should be awarded the game that was stolen from them,” spewed For The Win columnist Chris Chase—selectively outraged because the Blue Devils were the victim—whereas when it’s the Hurricanes on the wrong end of things, it’s always been generally blown off, justified or even mocked.
MIAMI IS ALWAYS THE MARK
Cleveland Gary and his phantom fumble at Notre Dame in 1988 which wound up costing Miami a shot at a national title. Who give a shit? Tony Rice is a feel-good story, baby. Go Irish.
The BCS screw-up in 2000 where computers sent Bobby Bowden and his Seminoles to the national championship against Oklahoma, despite Miami knocking off #1 Florida State and #2 Virginia Tech and ratting off nine solid wins after losing a close road game at #14 Washington early in the year—Saint Bobby in his post-Orange Bowl interview with some aw-shucks, maybe-the-Canes-would’ve-given-them-a-better-game-than-we-did old man ramblings.
Same to be said for a bogus pass interference call against Glenn Sharpe in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl—stealing a 34-game win-streak and bid for back-to-back national championships when a jaded asshole named Terry Porter decided to chuck a flag after fireworks lit up the Tempe skyline and Miami players rushed the field ripping open bags of Tostitos chips in celebratory fashion.
The jadedness is rooted in many things, but a huge part is South Floridians getting the best of both words and sports fans in other regions simply hating that.
Philadelphia, Cleveland, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis—what do these cities have to look forward to other than frigid cold winters, ungodly summertime heat and generally little else to rally around life-wise outside of their beloved pro sports franchises?
Same to be said for all these podunk southern college towns where football reigns supreme and their fans live to play the attendance game with Hurricanes fans.
I’ve lived in both Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Gainesville, Florida—one-horse towns where the RVs start pouring into town on Wednesday and the entire city shuts down by Friday if there’s a Saturday home game—as college football is literally the lifeblood of regions like this.
Contrast that to a large, diverse metropolitan city Miami; a tropical paradise with beaches, ideal weather, nightlife, culture and a countless options when it comes to figuring out how and where to spend one’s entertainment dollar on any given night.
Miami is an events-driven town, not a traditional sports city—which is why HardRock is a sea of empty aqua-colored seats when UM is playing a lesser foe, but packs it out when a big-ticket rival is in town—turning a college football game into a full-blown event.
This is precisely why The U’s marketing department rolled out black jerseys and an 8:00 p.m. ET kickoff for Georgia Tech last Saturday night—to give it a party vibe to lure in spectators who would’ve blown off a 12:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. kickoff for the average ACC foe.
BUT IF THEY HATE HIM WHY DO THEY LISTEN?
There’s a scene in the Howard Stern movie Private Parts where his nemesis program director incredulous questions why the shock-jock’s ratings are so strong.
The answer to the query; the Stern supporters listened on average for 90 minutes per day, while the Stern hater tuned in for two-and-a-half hours—both groups citing the same reason for tuning in; they wanted to hear what he what he’d say next.
The same can be said for the Hurricanes; a large portion tuning in to see Miami win—while even more are there to see “The U” eat shit—as seeing a hated rival lose results in as big an endorphins rush as seeing one’s preferred team emerge victorious.
This is precisely the reason the media loves to force-feed the “Is Miami back?” narrative early in any season the Hurricanes have an undefeated September and win a few games. The haters will clap back and share the articles with vitriol and double down on the effort weeks later when Miami finally stumbles—the media getting a two-for-on and the clicks they desire, as UM always moves the needle one way or another.
The biggest problem with irrelevance surrounding this Miami program these past several years is the indifference that .500 type seasons breed—as the only thing worse than being hated is being ignored.
The Hurricanes’ best years took place when Miami fielded talented teams that rolled heads, much to the chagrin of the haters—and UM had been flying under the radar a bit this year, as ESPN and others have focused on their energy on the Colonel Sanders’ narrative out in Boulder.
Without that, there’d have been a lot more “back” chatter after Miami’s convincing win over Texas A&M—which was no fluke considering how the Aggies have looked since taking their lumps in South Florida; beating Auburn and Arkansas, while conservative play calling saw them falling by six against Alabama last weekend.
The way the Canes lost to the Yellow Jackets—Miami was reminded of everyone’s true colors and just how this program is loathed nationally. The joy the critics have taken in knocking these Canes and leaving them for dead—in a game that was literally won with a knee-down—should serve as fuel for Cristobal and staff as Miami prepares for a monster road game at North Carolina on Saturday night.
KNOW YOUR ROLE AND PLAY YOUR PART
Don the black cap, accept the role of villain and bring on the hate—knowing everybody wants to see you lose, so they can call the Canes a pretender, the Aggies’ loss a fluke and can point to a stupid personnel decision derailing the entire season for a fragile team; one that coaches “lost” when not kneeling out the clock.
Outsiders work overtime trying to pour gas on this fire, instead of water. Talking heads and click-bait commentators rambling on about breached trust and how the locker room will never get over this—yahoos from across the country with no insight to the inner workings of Miami football or with any real clue how these players and coaches have been dealing with Saturday night’s setback.
Miami has a big chance this weekend to flip the script in Chapel Hill—a place the Canes have only won three times (2011, 2013, 2017) since joining the ACC back in 2004—and if this coaching staff has gotten these kids to bounce back from last weekend’s self-inflicted wound, this could be a net positive in the long run.
There’s no denying that Miami looked lethargic against Georgia Tech, while Tyler Van Dyke was a deer in headlights—locking onto go-to receiver Xavier Restrepo—while not going through his progressions and forcing balls into double- or triple-coverage.
Conversely, the Canes’ offensive line wasn’t the dominant force it was in past games, the ground game didn’t break any big runs and UM’s defense has a bad taste in its mouth from getting burnt on that final drive.
The compare contrast game between Miami teams of old and present day is a bit played out, but its worth mentioning the Hurricanes with a disastrous late season loss at Syracuse in 1998—where a win puts Miami in the Orange Bowl against the hated Florida Gators.
Instead, the Canes were rolled up 66-13 by the Orangemen—and there’s a great clip on “The U: Reloaded”—a documentary by former UM running back Najeh Davenport—who played in that ill-fated game.
Former receiver Reggie Wayne explains how coach Curtis Johnson brought all of his wideouts back onto the field to watch Syracuse’s celebration—the standard remember-this-and-know-this-feeling life lesson for a foundational class of difference-makers who would start the return to prominence.
The more-important footnote to this story; the fact that Miami had #2 UCLA on deck the week after Syracuse—a game that for all intents and purposes it’s not far-fetched to say the Hurricanes arguably wouldn’t have won if they’d beaten the Orangemen a week prior, as the fuel and drive to pull off that upset came from a week of stewing and the embarrassment that resulted from getting their asses handed to them in what was the unofficial Big East Championship game.
Then-head coach Butch Davis famously explained Miami’s pre-Bruins week in the December 14th, 1998 issue of Sports Illustrated—citing the 1992 NFC Championship game between San Francisco and Dallas when Davis was coaching the Cowboys’ defense under Jimmy Johnson.
His message to the team; Miami wasn’t going to stop UCLA and all their superstars—but by staying on the field and generally wearing the Bruins down, the Hurricanes could win the football game.
“The Niners were a machine against us, ran up all kinds of yardage, punted once the entire game—but we hung in there and beat them,” Davis recalled when reliving the 30-20 victory en route to Dallas rolling Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII.
Miami and North Carolina in 2023 bears no resemblance to a game played 25 years ago at the Orange Bowl, outside the fact that pain and embarrassment remain timeless motivators and these Hurricanes are feeling the sting on a national level after that final half minute against the Yellow Jackets.
THE TIME IS HERE AND NOW
The only unknown entering this weekend; how does it translate? Past Miami teams—as recently as last year—packed it in after faced with adversity, embarrassment or setback; a loss to Middle Tennessee State putting a fork in the 2022 season.
Is this team different? Are guys really buying into what Cristobal, Dawson and new defensive coordinator Lance Guidry are selling? If so, the misstep against Georgia Tech will have been forgiven and Miami will show up with a chip on its shoulder this weekend—ready to throat-punch a North Carolina program that’s on a four-game win-streak against the Canes.
An unexpected make-or-break moment in a game that should’ve been a gimme en route to 5-0 until the unthinkable happened—it needs to result in a rallying cry, pulling within to lean on each other and that us-against-the-world fuel that has always driven this program—as anything less lets the bad guys win and creates the kind of doubt that is the difference between all or nothing.
Christian Bello has been covering University of Miami athletics since the mid-nineties. Getting his start with CanesTime, he eventually launched allCanesBlog—which led to a featured columnist stint with BleacherReport. He’s since rolled out the unfiltered, ItsAUThing.comwhere he’ll use his spare time to put decades of U-related knowledge to use for those who care to read. When he’s not writing about ‘The U’, Bello is a storyteller for some exciting brands and individuals—as well as a guitarist and songwriter for his Miami-bred band Company Jones, who released their debut album “The Glow” in 2021. Hit him on Twitter for all things U-related @ItsAUThingBLOG.