The art of fan management
After four preseason exhibition games, the Dolphins begin the regular season with a match against the Tennessee Titans, the first of the Miami team's eight home games. Lately, however, hasn't been the smoothest time for the Fins... and it's only September. First there was the brouhaha surrounding linebacker Ricky Williams and his dubious scheduling conflicts. Peace out, R.W. Then came the secrecy surrounding Coach Dave Wannstedt's choice for starting quarterback against the Titans -- Jay Fiedler or A.J. Feeley.
And of course, as always, the football team's spinmeisters have been working overtime to deal with the media, not to mention the many zealous, unofficial Dolphins fan websites, such as www.phinatics.com, whose operators lurk in Alabama, Texas, and Connecticut, and www.phins.com, a site run by an ex-marine Wiccan Unix operator in Boston. In a pointedly diplomatic gesture last month, Dolphins management invited webmasters from about 30 unofficial sites to its Davie HQ for a preseason meet-and-greet weekend of all things aqua and orange. The move was smartly reminiscent of the Pentagon's Iraq War playbook and the theory that, if you embed them, they will write warm and fuzzy stories.
Good luck. The dysfunctional football team/fan relationship more often resembles Fatal Attraction ("I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan!"), its pendulum-like duality whipping between mad adoration and solid contempt, as if there exists an implicit contract stating, "We, THE FANS, agree to treat you, THE PLAYERS, like gods, but at the same time we, THE FANS, reserve the right to tear you, THE PLAYERS, apart."
Regardless, fans, two Kickoff Week opportunities remain to fulfill your contract's adoration clause. On the schedule is a September 9 pep rally in Hollywood from 5 to 9 p.m. along Harrison Street between 20th and 21st avenues. It features regular pep-rally stuff, like food, music, autographs, Dolphins cheerleaders, and Q&As with team alumni. Call 954-921-3404. September 10 is Fins Friday. Wear Dolphins colors (the aqua and orange colors only a fan could love) to school or work. Prizes go to schools with the most participation. For more information on the competition, call 954-452-7000. Kickoff time for the Sunday game is 1 p.m. at Pro Player Stadium (2269 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami). Call 888-346-7849. --Dave Amber
In the Hunt
Marlins Heatin' Up
Hey, Marlins fans, you must be excited about your team right about now. This season, which started out so well as the Fish got off to an 8-1 start and led the NL East standings for most of the first half, hit a snag sometime after the All Star break. But things have heated up in a big way these past few weeks. The team is starting to gel again, and the Fish are just a few games out of the Wild Card spot. And we all know what they did with the Wild Card last year. Can they make a second magical run in the playoffs? Possibly. Jack McKeon has yet again set a fire under his team's ass, and it's finishing strong. And it has a few advantages to its standing just one year ago: a hot pitcher in the making in Carl Pavano -- who's taking a stab at the Cy Young Award -- and a favorable schedule, with 17 of its final 29 games at Pro Player Stadium (2269 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami). You can see the streaking Fish for the season's only doubleheader on Tuesday. First pitch for the opening game against Montreal is set for 1:05 p.m. The evening half begins at 7:05 p.m. Call 305-626-7492. -- Russ Evans
Delray brings the big names
The ATP Tennis season is coming to an end, and the final U.S. tournament takes place this week right here in South Florida. The $380,000 International Tennis Championships run September 13 to 19 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center (201 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach). Top players, including defending champ Jan-Michael Gambill (pictured), Andy Roddick, Leyton Hewitt, Greg Rusedski, and Mardy Fish, join the 32-man singles action, and a doubles tournament consisting of 16 teams is also on the docket. Not only will patrons be treated to topnotch tennis but the week of events benefits a number of worthy charities, including the American Cancer Society, Children's Miracle Network, Chris Evert Charities, and March of Dimes. Various off-the-court activities are scheduled as well, including a Kidz Day VIP Dinner Party featuring a gourmet buffet, a Charity Pro-Am, and a summer closing fireworks display. Single-session tickets range from $10 to $60, and weeklong passes are also available. Call 561-330-6000. --Russ Evans
Run for a Cause
It's hard to believe Saturday will be the three-year anniversary of that fateful day in 2001. Want to do something positive this year on September 11, like an activity that memorializes all those fallen heroes? You're in luck, because this weekend, there's a race along the beach to benefit local heroes. The Firefighters Hero 5K Run to benefit the Broward County Firefighters Association will be held Saturday morning along the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk (Broadwalk and Johnson Street). And this 5K run, which is 3.1 miles for those nonmetrics in the crowd, has been designated by the Road Runners Club of America as the 2004 Florida State 5K Championship. Registration costs $20 to $25. The run starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Johnson Street Bandshell. Call 954-474-4074. -- Russ Evans