Dolphins fans are not a happy group II

No Jeff Fisher as coach. No Peyton Manning. No Matt Flynn. No Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III from the draft. No Brandon Marshall to catch passes from the aforementioned four quarterbacks. Possibly no local TV for home games, aside from the near-guaranteed sellouts against New England and the Jets.

Rare have the Dolphins left their fans feeling as empty during the offseason as this year.

Oh, and a “Fire Jeff Ireland Now” online petition has 1,384 signatures as of Saturday afternoon. Empty is the fans’ love bucket for the team’s general manager.

“I understand a changing of the guard and that’s great … well, give us something, then! Give us something here,” said Rob Rutolo, a fan from Fort Lauderdale. “We looked like fools when we went after Manning. We were the only ones who chased him and talked to him for a little while. He went to everybody else. So it didn’t seem like we were serious about that. We didn’t end up with RG3 …”

To call this a new nadir in Dolphins history overstates things. But football nut Richard Nixon was this nation’s new head-coach-in-chief when last the Dolphins entered the season so buzz-free. There almost always has been something — not always something that worked, mind you — to spark offseason optimism.

This year? First-year NFL head coach Joe Philbin might be the least heralded new Dolphins head coach ever (remember, even Cam Cameron was an It Guy in 2007). Right now, their quarterback depth chart includes not the hope of Manning’s health or Flynn’s potential, but the proven mediocrity of Matt Moore and David Garrard.

Perhaps realizing fans and media thought they were scurrying about sans direction, owner Stephen Ross called Jason Lawrence, a Hollywood resident who saved his lunch money with his twin brother Chad for his first Dolphins season tickets back in 1991. Lawrence, who now has 12 season tickets, was one of the 30 or so fans who protested Tuesday in front of Dolphins headquarters.

“It was a really nice 27-minute conversation,” Lawrence said Saturday afternoon. “Very candid. I’m so impressed they would do this. I feel so much more positive and everyone I talked to about it is more positive.”

Lawrence said Ross told him that although Manning didn’t choose the Dolphins, the Dolphins weren’t spurned by Flynn. He said the owner claimed the Dolphins simply weren’t willing to overpay for Flynn, who has two NFL starts, and automatically install him over Moore. And that getting two third-round picks for Marshall was the best they could do after shopping him around to get him out of the locker room.

“Ross promised me they would be more transparent and try to talk to fans,” Lawrence said. “I told him, ‘I don’t want to know your secrets. But if you make a move or don’t make a move, tell us why. Other teams do it.’ ”

Ross surely also realizes something else — after a number of years of disappointment, anger turns into something worse: apathy.

“Yeah, it’s about as empty as our stadium usually is,” Rutolo said of how this offseason has made him feel.

Self-deprecating humor, gallows laughter from Davie. Lawrence, even before the Ross call, and Rutolo are going to keep their season tickets. Not everybody will.

Despite ticket prices remaining the same, the final season-ticket count could be under 40,000 for the first time since the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season. Last season, with a season-ticket count of around 44,000, the Dolphins avoided their first regular-season blackouts since 1998 only when Ross and local businesses purchased the necessary remaining tickets.

This year, that could be too expensive a proposition. It’s simple supply and demand. Bargain hunters wanting to attend a specific game need not pay for single game sales from the team. The secondary market figures to be filled with season-ticket holders and ticket brokers looking to get back anything on their investment.

The Dolphins’ pursuit of Manning prompted Shorecrest resident Kimberly O’Mahoney to pony up $3,300 for three tickets.

“At this point, I don’t think I can sell them,” O’Mahoney said. “Who’s going to buy them now that they’ve got some loser quarterback?”

And so look for more of the kind of mixed crowd for which Dolphins games have been infamous.

“When we get these big games, we’ve got more of the opposing fans in our stadium than we have our own,” Rutolo said. “They need to change that. And they’re not going to change it doing it this way. At the rate they’re going, it’s never going to come around again.”

Fewer fans means fewer dollars from concessions and merchandising. Empty coffers? No. Gargantuan TV contracts and revenue sharing all but guarantee a profit for NFL teams. But don’t think there’s not a bottom-line effect to little hope after a decade with only a brief playoff appearance.

Consider: the star-studded, successful Heat presents an array of six different jerseys. The Marlins pumped up their roster while changing their colors and logo. After years of emphasizing the blue in their color scheme, the Panthers returned to red, overhauled their roster and appear headed back to the playoffs.

And the Dolphins? Still in aqua and white under clouds of failure obscuring what stars there might be. Where’s a South Florida parent dropping cash to get the happiest squeal from a 6-16-year-old throat?

(Before you start talking “tradition,” recognize that, to a South Florida teenager, all four teams have been here their whole lives; the Heat always has been at least good, sometimes a championship contender; the Marlins hang around the wild-card race; and the Panthers and Dolphins usually fall out of contention by midseason.)

“The Heat,” said O’Mahoney, a sports-obsessed mother of two boys. “Hands down, 80 percent of our sports paraphernalia from Miami is the Heat.”

Her 6-year-old son has a Panthers jersey with a player’s name on it, among other merchandise, and she has a T-shirt for sleeping. And the Dolphins?

“Now, we’re getting less and less,” she said. “We have the Brandon Marshall jersey, which obviously is going to be donated to the Goodwill. We have the flag we take to the games. I have a Dolphins T-shirt I wear to the games.”

The ones she’ll go to, that is.

(source Miami Herald)

Posted by Necesitamos Mas Football on 13:23. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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