Where do I begin. How do I find the words to given the weight os the forthcoming subject matter. I can only say this, I will try my best to tap into the emotions I felt as I met Coach Shula and then dined at his steak house in Miami Lakes not 30 feet from him. Truly it was a thrill of a lifetime.
For this story we need to back in time and revisit Monday morning. As you know I had just finished spending 10+ hours on my bike and was ready for a whole lot of nothing for the next few days. However my routine has been, while on these stays over in Ft Lauderdale, to take in all things Dolphins. The includes stops to all the local sports store as get the latest & greatest in the new Dolphins gear. The selection here is far superior to anything I've found in my travels, and certainly more than I can find in the mall back in Toledo. Live radio shows have been another Dolphins activity that I can be found at when in the area. These are amazing and have yielded some incredible signed collectables. And Dolphins promotional events, why tomorrow from 10-12 the '72 Super Bowl trophy is going to be on public display and the IKEA showroom in Sunrise, Florida. While on vacation here,.....if it's Dolphin's related, Im there ! Period, end of story.
Now imagine if you will the excitement I felt whenI read the FB post from Shula's Steak House. They posted that they where taken reservations for Thursday evening as Coach Shula was also going to be dining there this evening as well. I was floored and made the call as to inquiry about this as it seemed to good to be true. My mind was running wild, I wanted in. But what would it cost ? Hell,...I just spent $170 for Marino's autograph while in canton over the Summer. I thought for sure it would be an arm & a leg,....if I could even manage to get the reservations. There was no answer and I left a message on their answering machine, that was around 9:30 in the morning. I got a return phone call around 3 or 4 that afternoon. After a brief conversation I discovered that there is no fee associated with this event, just the cost of dinner. Which I might add is a pretty penny,.......it ain't cheap to eat at Don's place. I will say this though, the portions are large and the food is delicious. I was sold, and our reservation was set for 5:45PM on Thursday evening. It was also explained to me that Coach about be signing autographs and taking pictures prior to dinner. I was floored,.....so excited that I called a few Dolphin buddy's in a state of ultra hyper disbelief. Now the waiting begins,.....
3 days never crawled by so slow, but it did eventually make it here. Everything had to be just right. Jeans and Dolphins gear would not do for this type of event. So out came the dress slacks and a nice white dress shirt. Now I had and 8x10 of us together from the only other time I met him 6 years ago. However i really wanted to get him to sign a Dolphins throwback mini. The only problem is I didn't have a blank one. Bob Griese signed the last one I had. No worries,....I'll just buy another one. Ahhhhhh,.......nobody close by had one in stock. After about 20-30 minutes of working the phones I located on about 40 minutes away ( each way ). The dinner was tonight and I had to have it so I made the drive. Once home I showered and readied myself for the big night. I was nervous like a little kid.
MapQuest said it was a 30 minute drive from our location, so I left 45 minutes before our reservation. Funny thing about traffic here in South Florida,.....it can be murder. Bumper to bumper traffic and I have to find my way across town. It got ugly real quick. I feared the worst, I was going to miss a golden opportunity. I called to inform them I was running behind due to traffic and I was informed that all is well and to just drive there safely. For some reason this did not set me at ease. My heart was pounding and my mood turned fowl as my Wifey noticed I was obviously upset. Those last few minutes in the truck heading over there might have been the worst feeling i've had to experience in a long time. At last we did arrive safely.
Before we go any further I suppose I should address the pink elephant in the room,.......should I or shouldn't I bring my HOF bust for a photo op with a living legend. Part of me says "no",.....wrong place, wrong time. After all Shula's Steak House is an upscale place complete with country club golf course. Not the place for silly photos. Then there is that little kid in me that says,......"are you crazy,.....do it !". Well I went back & forth a few times but ultimately the fan in me overrode any sense of cooth.
I try not to take myself to seriously and a plan was hatched. I packed it up in a non-discript duffel bag complete with 8x10 photo and throwback mini.
We arrived 30 minutes late for reservation and I could see that there was a line of folks waiting for their moment with Coach Shula. The hostess greeted us, and put me completely at ease that I was going to in fact meet Don. I figured I was just going to be put in the line and wait my turn. Nope,......straight to the front of the line !!! here I fumble quickly through my bag as to get everything in order as make this as smooth as possible. Mind you my hear is still going pretty good and I got to pull it together enough to get a few coherent sentences out to describe me and why I got a bust with me. Talk about a pressure kick with the game on the line........
CAN SOMEBODY GET THAT CAMERA IN FOCUS !!! HUT,...HUT, HIKE !!!!!!!!
THE KICK IS LONG ENOUGH,.....STRAIGHT ENOUGH,......IT'S GOOOODDDDD !!!!!!!!
DOLPHINS WINNN !!!!!!!!!!!!!
That was a rough 30 seconds but worth ever moment waiting for it to happen. With my heart really racing we were seated at our table. Now here is the thing, we just got there, walked in and had an amazing experience and it was only just beginning.
I was thrilled and on cloud nine as I came away with a new photo with Don, and a signed mini and previous 8x10. I've seen alot of mancaves, and plenty of Shula signed stuff. But this piece went from my hand to his and back again making it uniquely mine. I think it's safe to say I will be cheering extra loud this Sunday,....which is a whole other story.
Our table was a small two top with may back against the wall giving me full view of most of the dining room that sat about 200 guests. The walls had several large black & white pictures from the '72 season and there was a large table in the center of the room that sat 24 or so. Coach Shula sat at the head of the table not 30/40 ft from were I was seated. So, now I'm about to hang out and stuff myself on Don's top notch eats. I can deal with this,....easily.
As you know i'm a therapist, and I witnessed Don's gait pattern as he walked right by us to get to his seat. He's still moving, but his looks like he could use a tune up. Poor ambulation posture/ position of RW,....all very fixable, but left unchecked increases fall risk. Just say'n.......and I search out Tom the gentleman running the photo line earlier to make mention of this. It's what I do all day, every day. Increase functional mobility. So Tom introduced me to Adam, Don's assistant to a degree, and I told him too later in the evening. He tells me that Don has therapy 3x per week so I'm put at ease. However, he might need somebody in his ear to get that posture up and walker back. Let me at him and I'll coach him up a bit,......
Anyways,.....his place is awesome. it's like a mini shine to all things '72 and being there on the 40th anniversary of that season seemed awfully special.
Here I go all "next level"on you,.....my 1st "official" OFF4L "scoop" !
Coach get the key to the city of Miami Lakes ! He's going to weigh in the old team and make them run gassers !!! Classic ! Cheers to you Coach Shula ,.....347 wins and still perfect !
And we have yet to eat dinner. Are you kidding me ??? How did I end up here ??? Talk about "perfect" timing.
I sat there stuffing myself over the 90 minutes enjoying every second of it. And in the end still can't believe how my Dolphin adventure has continued to take me to the most remarkable places. Organizing a group of 28 just weeks before the Cincy game and having the time of my life. Going to NY for week, watching a beat down and then escaping just in time. Then wrapping up the DCC. And now this this right before my 1st home game of the season ! I definitely will need a vacation from my vacation,....that is a fact.
The evening was winding down and some of the guest had left. I didn't want to be "that" guy being the last to leave so we picked up and shuffled off to the lounge / lobby area to take in some of the pictures and artifacts that are about the place. Behind the reception stand was a small pro shop. in there they had all your golf basics,.....and these old pair of shoes. Pony's huhhhh,.....I wonder if they fit ?
Ya know,...it wasn't that long ago that I was back in Ohio and now I'm on some sort of amazing Dolphin escapade. My contact at work doesn't start until a week from Monday. In there I need to find some time bring it all back together, because this is crazy !!!
Now,...a shameless self plug,...
If you are a Dolphins fans, you will rec this post. I'm way behind in my yearly "rec" quota and I'm close to losing my phinsider holiday bonus. Besides,....this is my best work to date,....
Take that martin, you 'rec" machine. Now maybe i can compete with your work,....maybe,....