Sitting at home during this quarantine watching my kids play has given me a lot of time to think. My mind wanders a lot, thinking back to old times. Old road trips with friends, great game experiences, new trips to new cities.
So, while digging through old boxes that have been packed and upstairs for FAR too long, I came across a number of old sports-related trinkets and memorabilia. Some old bobbleheads from my desk. An old photo from a UM game at Florida almost 2 decades ago. My old recorder when I covered the Bucs for ESPN radio that I hadn’t seen in probably 6 or 7 years.
This ticket represents my first ever Miami Dolphins game, home or away. August 22, 2003. I was a law student at the University of Miami, where free time was tight and money was even tighter. It was easy to go to the UM games, since I lived for part of the time not far from the Orange Bowl, and – more importantly – the games were free with my student ID. Win-win. But convenience, time, and money hadn’t put me in great position to do all that much else.
So, as it would be, I got an extra ticket for a preseason game against Atlanta, and I gratefully accepted. I was finally going to get to see in person where my dad and I had watched Marino make his magic happen on TV. And I would also get my first look in person of Michael Vick, who had carried the Falcons to the NFC Championship game 7 months earlier. After all, it was the third preseason game. The dress rehearsal, the one where the starters would play the most.
Or at least that’s what I thought. Vick didn’t play, and it was mostly the Doug Johnson show, with a chaser of Kurt Kittner. Blech.
Anyways, it was also the first time I’d ever been to Pro Player stadium for a football game. Driving up and parking, I remember the insanity of the tailgate. Much like UM’s, it was loud, boisterous, and….well….it was Miami. Different from the SEC atmosphere’s that I grew up going to, and. I. LOVED. IT. I love you, Miami tailgates. You know what you are, and that’s one hell of a party. Never, ever change.
I also remember going up what felt like the longest escalator of my life at the corner of the end zone, as the orange hue of the skyline hung over the tailgate tents and cars. It was flat-out gorgeous.
As far as the game itself, it was nice to see Jay Fiedler play for most of the game. For the day, he was sharp, completing 16/22 for 115 yards and 1 TD. His hot and cold streaks were obviously noteworthy throughout his career, but he’s a guy whose toughness I always respected and felt he didn’t quite get his due for it. Ricky Williams, who I had recently seen reading a book by himself on the front porch of a South Beach coffee shop, ran 9 times for -1 yards (how?), but caught 3 balls for 27 yards. What I wouldn’t give to have him in his prime right now.
As it was a preseason game, the result was meaningless (although Miami won 31-21, so that’s always good) and the game was semi-sparsely attended as one would expect for a preseason game. However, the experience still met what I’d imagined for a long time. Seeing the Dolphins logo on the field under the lights of Pro Player Stadium, I was finally witnessing what I’d watched on TV for years with my dad. I cheered like it was a late season game with implications simply because I was there. I was a part of a game experience at a Dolphins game. And it was glorious.
What was your first memory/experience of a Dolphins game? Let’s hear it.