Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Was On The Sideline Just 15 Feet From Shula!

Back in the 80's, when I lived in West Palm Beach I went to all the Dolphin home games.

They hardly sold out so I basically had only 2 choices to watch a game:
1) Drive all the way up to Vero Beach, the southern most area of Florida not serviced by a Miami TV station broadcast signal and I could watch them at a bar up there.


2) Just go to the game with some friends.

Well, I never made it to Vero Beach other than to see the Yankees play the Dodgers at Dodgertown during spring training. But that's another tale for another day.

One particular Sunday comes to mind frequently, unfortunately I don't recall who we were playing that day, but it had to be the mid 80's because Marino was the QB and the game was at the Orange Bowl.

The OB was your classic old stadium.  It had bleacher seats, which for $1.00, you could rent a hook-on seat back that supposedly gave your back some support (not proven by anyone).  More importantly, the seats were very close to the field.  The sideline area between the seats and the field had to be at least half the size as the same area at Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Sun Life.

I loved going to the OB for games.  The OB was located smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  If you weren't a long time season ticket holder, they didn't have enough parking for you nor most fans.  So you would pull up near the stadium and park in someone's yard or driveway for $5.00.

There was a catch.  If the drivers of the cars who parked behind you went to a local bar after the game then you had to wait it out in someone's yard.  The key to staying sane was keeping a few beers in a cooler just in case.

Anyway, on this particular Sunday, my friends and I had seats in the lower corner of the end zone and we went in early to watch the warm-ups.  I would always purchase the team's staff shirts that they would wear for that season and as would happen at this game, I wore mine.

As we were stretching out across a couple rows, I noticed there was no security down on the field in our corner. 

Marino was throwing some balls, Reggie Roby was booming some punts and either Ewe von Schamann (could have been 1984) or Fuad Reveiz was splitting the uprights.   But no one was watching the wolves.

I stood up to look around and sure enough, no security.  My best friend asked "You getting another round?".   I responded "Better, watch this!"

So I did, as would any good natured transplanted lad from Jersey would do, I meanandered down to the rail and seeing no one watching hopped it and waltz to the Dolphins' sideline between the 10-15 yardline.

Now mind you, I am wearing the current Dolphin's staff shirt and kacky shorts to boot.
To an untrained eye, I looked like I belonged down on the field.

I could hear the ball whistling through the air off Roby's foot.  I knelt down next to a photographer and asked if he needed any help carrying his bag.  He said no and walked away, leaving me in the open.

I sleaked closer to the team box and mixed in amoungst some other photographers.  Marino is 30 feet away firing bullets to Clayton and Duper.  I look back at my buddies who are laughing their asses off.

I am in seventh!  Now I know why they are laughing.

I notice him out of the corner of my eye as he comes right up to me and asks "Sir can I see your sideline pass?"  I look down at my waist then spin around looking around the grass below me.  I raise my eyes to meet his and with my very best look of bewilderment say "It must have fallen off."

He doesn't buy it and asks where my seat is.  I tell him and he leads me to a gate into the stands, opens it and lets me walk back up the rows to my belly busting pals.

The Dolphins head back into their locker room and now I have the attention of the section we are sitting in.  I tell everyone within earshot how cool it was to be that close to Marino on the field.

The stadium sound system kicks in and the visitors take the field.  Soon smoke begins to bellow out from the opposite corner, the crowd goes wild and here comes Shula and the Dolphins out onto the field.

Well as luck would have it, once again, no security in our corner.

Now what could I do.  There was so much activity on the sideline.  Smoke breezing by.  You know I just had to. 

It was just as if an invisible hand was pushing me back to the rail and over it again.

Only this time I go directly into the team box.  I am only 10 feet away looking into Marino's eyes.  He was so intense.  He looked like a man actually going off to war. He was rifling that ball a gazillion miles an hour into Dupers hands while Clayton was catching the return.  10 feet away!

Don Shula is standing only 15 feet away, arms crossed talking with his son David, our Offensive Coordinator.  Players are buzzing around me.  This is absolutely incredible!

I step towards Shula.  I gotta hear what he is saying.  I step around a player but there is no way to get closer.

I spin back about 5 feet towards the seats and I see the same security guard about 30 yards away and heading towards me.  Only this time he has 2 cops in tow!

I look at the rail guarding the stadium seats and then back at him.  Now he and the cops are in a jog. Oh shit!!         

I sprint for the rail and as I get my right leg over it, I feel a tug on my pants.  He has his hand in my back left pants' pocket!  I reach around a fan in the first row and pull on the bleacher.

Now somethings gotta give.

Yep, my pants!

I sprint up the stands, through the fans and into the stadium walkway, leaving the security guard with a handfull of the back pocket to my shorts.

With half my ass hanging out, I rush into the nearest men's room and hide in a stall, standing on the toilet.

Listening to at least 2 series of the game, I figure the coast is clear.  I walk up to a vendor counter and buy a long sleeve Miami Dolphin T-Shirt and tie it around my waist. 

Why take a chance that there is an APB announced that they're looking for a half ass fan!

Anyway, I get back to my buddies, their high fives and free cold beers the rest of the game.

But every once in a while, that security guard wondered by looking up into the stands and searching for what may have been his White Whale and the one who got away.

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971
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LMAO - That is a great story. I love it.


David, glad you enjoyed it and I have plenty more. Never a dull moment with me or my friends.