Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My First Time

The first game I ever attended at Dolphins' stadium was a joyous experience. I was about 13. I was 'dropped off' by an uninterested parent (that's right, the bastard wouldn't even attend a game with me, choosing instead to meet me at a pre-determined spot 3 hours later). I went on a spinnie thing (gyro-something) that made me want to throw up. I had a beer (don't ask), which also made me want to throw up. Then, half drunk, I walked into the stadium, and promptly spent my entire life savings on a program and a foam finger.

I managed somehow to find my seat, despite having to walk six miles upwards to get there. I settled in, and viewed the magnificence that was the football pitch. it was a beautiful thing. They didn't have baseball there back then. They even used to and probably still do have all the monster truck rallies indoors at Miami Arena. This land was football exclusive land.

I watched some of my heroes come running out onto the field and saw the big screens and heard the fanfare. Then I noticed something horrible. Very VERY horrible.

I was SURROUNDED by THEM. Buffalo fans. They were everywhere. All ages, mostly middle aged or older but there were teens, 20-somethings, etc. And they ALL noticed me. Sitting all alone...wagging my Dolphin's Number One foam finger. In my other hand was an over-priced glossy program. I didn't even have a beer in my cup holder.

And so it was that for the next 3 hours, I was bullied, ridiculed, spat at, and had various objects thrown at my head. I even made teary-eye contact with the usher in my section, speaking with my eyes to please DO something. She looked at me like I deserved it.

The Dolphins lost 41-27 that day. I lost my dignity. But I did get to see Marino, Duper, Clayton, Higgs, Oliver, Cox, JB Brown, Stoyanovich and some guy named Klingbeil. I was even able to locate my father for the post-game drive home, listening to Rachmaninoff, chewing some old gum trying to cover up the smell of the beer I'd had 3 hours earlier. It was easy enough as it was obvious my father had downed a few himself at a nearby watering hole during the game.

I attended 3 or 4 more games in the coming years, a blowout in the rain of the Chargers, another loss to Buffalo, a Monday Night game (we used to play a LOT on Mondays). But this time I tended to go with at least one friend (still couldn't convince my Dad to go) and I skipped the programs and the foam fingers.

I'd still go on the gyro-scope though.

Do you remember YOUR first time?


  1. My first time at a game was 3 or 4 years ago. We had Ferrote, Chambers, Booker, Ronnie and Ricky. The D had JT and Zach... some of my boyhood heros. I went with a friend and we drank a 12 pack in the parking lot about 1 mile from the stadium. I then went inside and drank atleast 6 more. We beat the Jets and I had fun yelling J E T S sucks sucks sucks. Unlike Tin I was smart enough to sit on the hometeam side, and subsquently had nothing thrown at me. After the win I yelled at jets fans making sure they knew who won as they held they're heads low. Driving out of the stadium I managed to get into 3 fender benders without any of my un-suspecting car drivers calling the cops on me. I've been a season ticket holder ever since

  2. The best play was a Ricky run up the middle for 35 yards and a TD

  3. "Unlike Tin I was smart enough "

    First of all, a bit harsh, but how did you know which side was the hometeam side?

  4. Monday Night Football, early 90's, versus the Washington Redskins. Missed by seconds Marino throw a bomb and heard the cheers so I was pissed. Saw Dannyboy throw a rope through three defenders on a slant and it almost made up for it. I couldn't even tell you who the runningback was but got to see Shula and we won. Somehow, and I'm sure beer wasn't a factor, we got lost on the way home somewhere on Alligator Alley and it took us nine hours to get home rather than six. Of course, me and my girlfriend at the time had finals that morning. She's hated football every since.

  5. Walker, that's the Monday night game I was at, I think! 94 maybe? How many times did we play Washington on Monday Night...

    I feel sorry for anyone that has to drive alligator alley for anything. I once pulled over to pick up a snapping turtle that was sitting in the middle of the road, and the bastard bit me!

    Oddly enough, that was the first of several bad turtle incidents that would haunt me...

  6. walker, sounds like you and i had the same first. mine was a monday night against the skins. a friend of mine called me around 10 and said he had two tickets, we booked a quick plane flight and by 5 were on our way. but not like you, i didnt miss the marino play

  7. That's funny, I went to that Redskins game too. Small world. Haha actually I went with Tinshaker! I was a big Redskins fan then but that was the first of only two NFL games I ever went to.

    TINSHAKER - the girls on the side should be dancing. Make it happen.

  8. Many, many firsts.

    By complete coincidence, my fins rookie year, 1984, was the first full year as starter of no other than legend and future HoFer Danny-boy. My love affair started as a group of friends at University watching games on tv in Leicester, and as soon as I saw the fins I was hooked. I had no idea at the time how magical that season would become or how special the man was, but it was thanks to him (and Shula) that my Dolphin habit started. We all know how that season ended.

    Fast forward 4 years and the participants of the third American Bowl and Miami’s first pre-season game were announced as Dolphins vs. 49ers. They were, and still are, my most hated team as a result of the Superbowl XIX defeat; I later realised how important divisional rivalry and record is but at the time, the 49ers had no equal for my loathing. A gang of us went down to Wembley Stadium, the most prestigious sports venue in the UK, to see the Fins in the flesh for the first time. Some 25 years later and after working for three days at a beer festival immediately before the game, my memories are more impressionistic in nature than digital photography quality. Most fans wanted a party, not a football game – the cheerleaders did their job and got by far the biggest cheers of the day even in the pouring rain. The Mexican wave was (and still is) a big feature of American Football in the UK and in some ways, it felt like the product on the pitch was incidental to the bulk of the 70,535 crowd. After extensive googling, I discovered that Lorenzo Hampton, a #1 pick and the Dolphins new saviour at running back (lol) got the first score for the fins after Clayton had unusually dropped a pass in the end-zone. The end of Q1 was pretty much that for the starters (Marino versus Montana – I naively hoped to get more than a quarter from Dan!), but the back-ups, Jaworski (of MNF fame) versus Young was by no means a shabby contest. The fins gave up a 10 point lead to trail 14-13 at the half, took the lead again but trailed 21-20 when, with 1:28 remaining, that legendary Miami reserve quarterback Dave Archer ran into the end zone from 4 yards out to give the fins an exciting 27-21 victory. Fuad Reveiz (great name for a kicker) must have added 2 field goals. To be honest, I didn’t care what happened as long as we avenged the Superbowl loss. Of course, this was a meaningless game at the start of what turned out to be a disappointing 6-10 season, but it was my fins winning in my first live UK game.

    The next first was a 3-week football holiday culminating in the Dolphins playing on MNF against the (then) Los Angeles Raiders – my first fins game on US soil, and it was on primetime to ice the cake. After booking with an American Football travel company that subsequently went bust, we left the UK clutching 3 tickets for the 49ers versus Green Bay game, which we took our US host to. I loved Lambeau, and after touring through Canada, dropping by Buffalo (and dropping my trousers to it) we went to Canton to see the HoF. The tickets for the Bears game never showed, so our Chicago-based host and his wife graciously spared our blushes, meaning we didn’t have to brave the icy conditions or scalpers. After watching the game on tv, we headed to Denver and got lucky with a pair of tickets at the box office so my friend got to see his team play. Finally, we flew to Miami, ticketless, and headed to the stadium. No tickets seemed to be available anywhere, until I saw a lovely old couple, wearing matching pastel shaded knitwear discussing the sale of 2 tickets to a scalper about double the size of Jevon Kearse. Heedlessly taking my life into my own hands, I interrupted the transaction and gave the couple a sob story about how far we had travelled to see the game and been let down with tickets. They gave us our passage into Joe Robbie stadium, as it was known then, at face value and we bolted for the entrance before the rather irate scalper had time to call for reinforcements. The game was a bit of an anticlimax once the adrenalin rush of obtaining tickets subsided. The fins lost 13-10, in front of a then record crowd of 70,553 – 18 more than Wembley – with Bo Jackson gaining 99 yards and Marvellous Marcus gaining 79. Contrast this to Sammie Smith, who I had big hopes for, getting practically nothing on the ground with Tony Paige out. We were crucified on TOP and there were no Marino fireworks, but at least I saw him throw a TD pass to (of all people) Scott Schwedes! After all we had been through, I was just happy to have seen the game and been at a MNF game, where the atmosphere was incredible.

    My next string of firsts was 8 years later when I came to the US on business and managed to blag a routing through Miami that was cheaper than a direct flight. Consequently, I was able to attend the Bills game on the 13th of September, with Marino still under centre completing a 17 yarder to Lamar Thomas on a baking hot day, followed by a match-up against the Steelers, which I thought would be a much tougher game. This was another first for a naïve Brit abroad – my first tropical rainstorm. We went up 21 zip and the heavens opened. I had no waterproof gear (just shorts and a T), no time to change my clothes before flying back to the UK straight after the game and my leather flip-flops stained my feet dark brown. Still dripping, I was given access to the lounge and when I dried off, I reflected that whilst the weather had killed the game as a spectacle, it had also meant we couldn’t lose with a lead that size. Sam Madison had 2 picks in the game, Karim A-J ran in a TD, Lamar Thomas caught his second in consecutive weeks from Dan and here are some more firsts. Zach stepped in front of a pass and returned it 17 yards for a pick-6 – my first defensive TD. These games were the first I saw live that JJ coached and he got his first shut-out.

    Three years later, my next first was seeing a game in which Dan wasn’t under centre. My best friend (who now lives in the US) and my brother are both Bronco fans, so we met up to see the Fins host the Broncos on December 2nd. Another pretty good game where, despite losing the TOP battle, we won 21-13. Lamar Smith scored on the ground, Chambers caught a TD from Fiedler and big Lorenzo Bromell returned a fumble for a TD. Kenny Mixon also got a pick. It was quite a season for Bromell – he was fined $15,500 for breaking Manning’s jaw (LMAO) and we beat the Colts twice, 24-27 and 41-6.

    The following year, I took a holiday to see my friends new house in Columbus for the first time (the first links are getting very tenuous now?). It also gave me a chance to see the first Wannstedt coached, “don’t-lose-at-all-costs” team if that makes inclusion of this trip more acceptable? Naturally, I was routed through Miami! On October the 6th, we beat the Pats 26-13. It was a nice game in that it looks exactly like what we are trying to do now. Ricky got 105 yards and we got 137 total rushing. Fiedler was 17/27 190, 2, 0 and Sam and Pat both got picks. Our D was playing really well then, even though Brady did get 240 yards. From there, I travelled to Columbus and on to Denver to see my first Sunday night game. My overriding memory of this game was the sickening hit Kenoy Kennedy put on CC, for which he was suspended one game. Every time Jay missed on a pass, the Denver faithful did that lame “in-com-plete” chant and as with Tin’s experience amongst Buffalo fans, I got plenty of fries coated with sauce thrown at my new fins leather jacket from the home fans, which I wore regardless of the consequences. I can say with confidence that this was the best win I have seen in person. We lost our best receiver, we were on the road in a hostile environment, in the cold against a “better” opponent resorting to dirty tactics. And we won. Fiedler had lots of detractors in his career with the fins and he also had limitations, but for pure guts and nerve, that performance was one of his best. He was a complete pro. The atmosphere was electric and I was on a high for a long time after that game.

    The next first was my first thanksgiving in the US (these firsts are really lame now). I started my holiday by flying in to Nashville to see the fins absolutely humbled by the Titans, 31-7, on a cold, clear bright day that I really would rather not dwell on. Griese threw 3 picks, we couldn’t run and we only got a TD in trash time when Sage came on and the Titans were playing off and deep. I sat next to a superstitious guy of about 20 who had a talisman that he held in one hand when the Titans played Offense and the other when they played Defense. He had a low paid job, but he went to as many games as he could afford each season. He was a real fan. After seeing how the Titans played and lots of the components they had in place that day, I am not surprised that they have evolved into the force they are today. As a fan, you just have to get over those kinds of days. As soon as I could the next morning, I flew to Miami to get 2 weeks of sun on my pale body. On the middle weekend, the Ravens came to town. It was a slugfest that we won 3 field goals to 2. My preference as I have got older is Defense, so this was an enjoyable game to watch. We did enough to squeak a close one – sound familiar? That left one game left on my schedule, namely a Sunday night game at Washington, played in the orange Tango suits (another first!) It was another exciting game, which started off with an 80 yard McKnight TD from Greise and we squeaked that one 24-22 after Ricky ran in from 24 yards out, Marion intercepted Hasselbeck on the answering drive and on the subsequent Miami muffed punt, McKnight iced it with a recovery. That trip ended with my first taste of sweet potatoes with marshmallow and CC catching 3 TDs from Fiedler in a 41-20 win which took away and residual bitter taste from the Titans defeat at the start of the trip. There was one more game on that trip and it featured the Pats beating Indy 38-34 at the RCA dome. Taking the result out of the equation (I hate seeing the Pats win second only to the Fins losing), this was the most exciting game I have ever seen and probably ever will. The atmosphere was simply incredible, as was the game. Utterly riveting from start to finish.

    My last first is a regular season game between the fins and giants at Wembley in 2007. Probably the less said about that game and that season the better really. I was in mainland Europe at the time, so I even had to fly back for that game, but there was no happy ending this time. The Ginn touchdown was a consolation of sorts, as was the Giants going on to win it all, but it was a bad team, riddled with injuries, coached badly and just a bad season and I’m sure anyone who reads this will remember the game anyway? By the way, when is someone going to collect that giant inflatable Jason Taylor?

    In summary, I have had lots of firsts, been very lucky, seen the Fins go 8-3, 1-1 in the UK, 1-1 on the road and 5-1 at home. There are just 2 more firsts I’d like to see. One is a play off win and if you can’t guess the other, you haven’t been paying attention.


  9. Let's $15 a owe me...$2700!


    so,uk, you didn't mention what the first game you watched on tv was or which one was the first game where you had on trousers, or which game was the first one that went over 3 hours, or which one was the first...

  10. Sorry Tin,

    Like I said, I got carried away. A trip down memory lane .... and I'd forgotten how many good ones there were!