Sports fans who vacation in South Florida have something to cheer no matter what time of year they visit. There truly is big-league action year-round. Like major-league baseball? You can go to bat with the Miami Marlins. Like pro basketball or hockey? You can get net with both the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers.
There’s professional tennis on Key Biscayne, pro golf at Doral, a NASCAR® race at Homestead, college football and basketball at the University of Miami and horse racing covering the calendar at Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Track.
But the No. 1 sports attraction for local fans in South Florida? No contest. The Miami Dolphins. How much does South Florida love the National Football League’s Dolphins? First, let’s take a closer look at South Florida sports fans. Many are first- or second-generation transplants, which mean most local teams don’t have broad, indigenous fan bases that attend games in big numbers year after year no matter what kind of season the team is having. Fans of the Marlins, Heat and Panthers might primarily be fans of the Chicago Cubs, Boston Celtics or New Jersey Devils.
But when it comes to the NFL, the dynamic is different. Except for New Yorkers (who are excused for being Giants or Jets die-hards), most pro football fans, indigenous or transplant, from South Beach to Palm Beach, are Dolphins fans. Or, as they call themselves, Dol-fans. They are loyal. They are passionate. They are legion. They inhale aqua and exhale orange.
How profound is the Dolphins’ impact on the area? Greater Miami is a veritable gallery of iconic sports and entertainment personalities, but the most beloved figures in the region are a coach who hasn’t patrolled the sidelines since 1995 and a quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass since 2000. In fact, with the possible exception of Jackie Gleason, there may be no bigger all-time Miami icons than Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time winningest coach, and Dan Marino, the NFL’s all-time most prolific passer.
And consider this. The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. The Heat won the NBA Finals in 2006. The University of Miami Hurricanes finished the college football season ranked No. 1 in the country five times between 1983 and 2001. Yet the championship season with which the city of Miami is most closely identified, and with which South Floridians themselves still most closely identify, is the Dolphins’ 17-0 season in 1973-74. It’s still the only perfect season in modern NFL history, and it remains an enduring source of pride for fans who have been starving for a Super Bowl appearance since 1985.
OK, so you’re starting to buy in. You suddenly find yourself inhaling aqua and exhaling orange. It’s football season, you’re planning a vacation stay at the Solara Surfside resort and would like to experience what being a Dol-fan is all about.
Soon you’ll be tailgating in paradise, with thousands of other aqua- and orange-clads outside Sun Life Stadium actually needing ice to keep your favorite pregame beverages chilled in the 80-degree sunshine. Soon you’ll be roaring when the Dolphins race out of the tunnel during player introductions. Soon you’ll be cheering every sack and interception and high-fiving every touchdown.
And soon you’ll be planning your next game. But what if it’s the off-season? In terms of fan interaction, there’s really no such thing. If you’re here in July or August, you can check out preseason training camp in nearby Davie. Fans are welcome most days. There also are other fan activities year-round. Check the website for a calendar and more details.
See you around Miami. We’ll be the ones in the aqua and orange jerseys. Wait. That isn’t much help.