I still have my “Squish the Fish” T-shirt from 1985 when my family lived in the suburbs of Boston and the New England Patriots were my world (this is way before the Pats actually won anything).
As a young child I braved metal benches in below zero temps at what was then Sullivan Stadium just to get a peek at my favorite team. I lived in a neighborhood where the adjacent condos were owned by some Pats players who gave out autographs at Halloween.
So how can I possibly be a Miami Dolphins fan?
By just uttering the phrase I immediately become Benedict-ista Arnold. You see, the Dolphins were the only team that wasn’t expansion when my family moved to Florida in 1989. And that move changed my sports world forever.
Up until now, at Dolphins games I’d sing a song to counter the Dolphins fight song heard a thousand times win or lose.
“Miami has the Dolphins, the worst football team, they take the ball from goal to goal like no one ever sees, they’re in the air they’re on the ground they’re never in control, and when you say Miami, you’re talking toilet bowl…”
The first time I stepped in the then called Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, I laughed at the cheesiness of it all. The teal. The orange. The turquoise. The confetti painted walls.
It was hard not to laugh.
But I’ve lived in South Florida through four stadium name changes (Joe Robbie to Pro Player to Dolphin and now to Landshark Stadium—where the new “margarita-themed” fan area will not help minimize the cheese factor) and I’ve spent more time here then I ever did in Foxboro.
What has two decades and 19 straight years of attending the Patriots/Dolphins game in Miami taught me?
For one thing, that we are different here in Miami. Very, very different.
Maybe it’s all the sunlight or humidity, but the football experience in general is very atypical here, as opposed to if you live in say, Wisconsin. For most of the country, a football game means a big poufy warm winter coat, gloves, a hat, multiple layers, and even a flask.
To Dol-Fans, the sheer essence of football is fundamentally different. Here, we wear next to nothing, and for good reason. It is hot. Brutally hot.
The only people who aren’t wearing SPF and a hat or visor are tourists. The Latin music and influence is blaring, half-naked people are everywhere and saline flows freer on bodies than it does in the sea—and I’m not just talking about sweat.
Football is a different game in South Florida. It’s a different lifestyle.
While most of the country is so cold that it’s hard to hear clapping and cheering through gloves and ski masks, the only thing frozen in Miami are the fruity drinks at the bar next to the palm trees.
The sidelines are filled with misting machines and doctors are on-hand to prevent heat stroke. In December.
But this is what I now love about football. I love attending a game where I can get a tan, a game where I can eat an arepa (a tasty Latin dish), have an umbrella in my drink, and still talk shop. And it’s not only accepted. It’s the norm.
And so after almost 20 years of being force-fed Dolphins beat writers, Dolphins on television and my brother—the original traitor who converted to a Dolphins fan after the Pats last Super Bowl win—I gave in and did the unthinkable. I am a Dol-Fan!
The bottom line is that I love football. And have enough passion for the game to go around. I believe you can love two teams. (I have an argument about how I can love both the Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox that will knock your socks off).
And in the end, I am South Florida and I am proud of my hometown, my culture, and (gasp!) my Miami Dolphins.
Oh, and that “Squish the Fish” T-shirt? I still have it; although it has more holes than my fantasy team’s O-line. And I won’t be wearing it anytime soon.