30th Sept 2012, By Bob and Carla B

The “football” part of the weekend started with a visit to the team’s hotel the evening before the game, in order to collect our tickets from our friends on the Dolphins staff, Bill Galante and Jeff Griffith. Our friends from Chandler, Brent and Donna, also Dolphins fans, joined us for a lovely evening on the terrace, overlooking a stunning golf course. We talked “Dolphins” of course, and even learnt, rather surprisingly, that the Dolphins had tried, very seriously, to come back to Wembley, but were pipped by the Rams (who subsequently changed their minds about being here for three years!). What a shame.

After an hour or so, Bill and Jeff had to leave us to get ready for dinner, as the Dolphins were entertaining a large group of corporate guests that they had flown in from Miami. A few minutes later, we looked into the hotel at a side corridor, and Brent realised that Coach Philbin was wandering around, looking at the hotels art-work. I didn’t need asking twice, so I wandered over to the corridor, which we realised was guarded by Stu Weinstein, the Dolphins Director of Security. Fortunately, he recognised me, and we had a great chat before the Coach wandered over, his curiosity peaked by my accent! I had a great chat with the both of them for five minutes, enough to know that Coach Philbin struck me as a no-nonsense man, who, for once, really could be “the” coach that we’ve been looking for, for many years. I tried to get a scoop as to whether Reggie Bush would start, but with many smiles and spome laughter, no secrets were let out, even when I promised not to talk to any Cards fans!

Shortly after, I wandered past the bar area, where the senior management and corporate guests were mustering for their dinner outing. As I stepped in the bar, being curious of course, a shout of “Bob” went up, and CEO Mike Dee rushed over to greet me. We last met 3 years ago in San Diego, and, to be honest, I was most pleased to be recognised. He introduced me to Reggie Sperling, who is the Snr Director of Guest, Member & Fan services.

Mike then called over “Steve”, none other than Steve Ross, the owner. We had a chat about DolFan UK, and I was rather surprised that, apart from Mike, they didn’t know about us. It just made me realise how much damage Parcells had possibly done for fan relations, and how much work we need to do once again, to get back onto the Dolphins radar. Still, it made for a memorable evening, and my one regret…not taking a sharpie and anything to sign!

Onto game day! We had been fortunate to get 9 tickets together, on the 40-45 yard line, 20 rows up behind the Dolphins bench. Great tickets, but at $150 each, ouch! As mentioned, there were 9 of us, 7 Dolphins fans (Carla and I, Brend & Donna, Scott & Evie, and Lance) and 2 Cards fans ( John and Anna). Due to the weather forecast, which was that tailgating air temps were going to be between 95-100 degrees, which meant that the parking lot temps would be 110-115, we decided that, as our house is just 10 mins from the stadium, we’d tailgate there. Everyone turned up just after 9am, in time to see the first NFL game on tv (which was 10am Az time). We provided the salad, burgers, and pot of chill (a great success!) amongst other treats and eats, and settled in for a couple of hours of pre-game tailgating. The pool was also well used, which, one of the guys pointed out, you don’t get in the parking lot! Still, it did feel odd for a morning! With an hour to go, we headed for the Stadium, 9 of us in a 7 seater. Carla and I were lucky with seats, but one of the guys sat on the front centre console and the other on a cooler box. The journey was quick and with much laughter.

Due to the heat, we didn’t hang around much in the parking lot, and headed into the stadium. This is the second time we’ve seen the Dolphins here, and I’m still in awe of the University of Phoenix Stadium. They still celebrate Pat Tillman there, and his statue is outside the stadium, with many charity events being held in his name each year. It is an indoor stadium, and most impressive. As kick off time approached, the stadium was officially a sell out. The big difference between the Cards and the Dolphins is that when they, the Cards, announce a sell out, there is barely an empty seat in the house. The only empty seats seemed to be in the very expensive Club Level. The one thing that a visiting team is never prepared for is the noise levels. When the Dolphins offence was on the field, the noise was deafening. It became apparent very early that Tannehill was having to resort to hand signals

Sitting behind the Fins bench, we saw something that we haven’t noticed in the last 4 years. There is clearly a belief and togetherness to this team. No one sits and sulks, everyone’s talking to each other and the coaches, it’s all much more dynamic. Last year in San diego, I noticed players with their backs to the field, chatting and laughing, even when we were losing. Not so this time. Unless being coached, or looking at photos, everyone was paying attention. The “o” line were sitting in front of us, and really, Jake Long is a monster! He’s huge. As a sidenote,  some of his family and friends were in the seats in front of us. One of his parents friends looked like Sean Connery, and before long, he revealed that he was a professional Connery impersonator. He kept talking in the James Bond voice throughout the game, and we had a great laugh with him!

The Dolphins more than held their own until that fateful last three minutes before overtime. A couple of rookie plays/calls later, and we had thrown the game away and headed into overtime. Sadly, the Cards won as we all know, thanks to the so-safe foot of former Dolphin Jay Feely. Many handshakes were shared with the cards fans around us (all looking very relieved!). We stayed in our seats for 20 mins to let the crowd subside, only to hear the very loud voice of John, the Cards fan, shouting “4 and O Baby!”, which had the effect of starting off the Cards fans around us! All in good fun of course. 

By the time we got back into the parking lot, the car queues to get out were long and very slow, so we hung around in the very hot 4:30pm sunshine, well into triple digit temps at that point. Eventually we headed back to the house, and the tailgating recommenced in time for the first half of the Sunday Night Game (5pm in Az). Again the pool was well used and a great day had been had by all.

Our view of the Dolphins? Well….. apart from the last 3 minutes, Tannehill showed a poise and command of an experienced QB. If he stays healthy, and with the right development and coaching, he really could be, for once, the “real deal”.

That said, we left feeling very positive for the future. Ireland needs to keep the vast majority of this roster together next year, as there are good things ahead of us. It’s been a long while since we felt optimistic, but we do now!