I grew up in South Florida during the early 1980s, and the only pro team a local kid could follow at that time was the Miami Dolphins.
The usual Sunday in my household involved a trip to church in the morning, followed by breakfast and rushing home to watch Dolphins games. I vaguely remember the rise of Dan Marino during the 1984 season, and locking myself in my bedroom at some point during Super Bowl XIX, sulking because the Dolphins were getting their asses kicked. Looking back, that was a big mistake since I never saw Marino play in a Super Bowl again.
During the 1986 season my uncle talked about getting tickets to the Buffalo Bills game that year. I was under the impression that he would be taking me to the game, but I misunderstood. He said I was too young and he was going with a friend. Talk about being heartbroken. I never got the chance to see Miami play at the Orange Bowl.
The Dolphins moved in August 1987 to Joe Robbie Stadium, located about three miles from our home. My Mom learned the team was hosting an open house for the public to check out the facility and watch a training camp scrimmage. When we arrived, Mom bought me a stuffed teal dolphin with an orange fin and a drink in a souvenir cup.
We headed to section 129, just next to the tunnel where the team comes out, about 10 rows up. To me, the stadium seemed massive. The playing surface didn't have the usual artwork, but the grass seemed greener than any field I'd ever seen. I remember watching the Dolphins run onto the field and practice plays. I pointed out Nos. 13, 83 and 85 to Mom at every opportunity.
We didn't stay for the entire scrimmage because the afternoon thunderstorms rolled through the area on cue. As soon as we got to the car, the sky opened up. It was a great day for me, though, to finally see my favorite team in person. I eventually got the chance to see a regular season game at Joe Robbie Stadium.
When the number of teams down here grew, my interest in sports expanded as well. I'll always remember my first Marlins game and Panthers game. But I keep coming back to that day in August 1987 as the one that cemented my interest in sports.