Until recently, I mistakenly believed that outside of heading to Florida, finding an amazing Dolphins get together would be next to impossible. This especially holds true in the Northeast US, being located deep in the battleground of the Patriots, Giants and Jets nations. This past Sunday, despite a heartbreaking last minute loss by the Dolphins, I was proven drastically mistaken. Recently, I heard rumor of a few packs of DolFans that gather on Sundays to gather and watch the Dolphins play in truly epic fashion. While this may sound like hunting for Bigfoot, I had to launch a full-scale investigation into the matter. After reaching out to DolFans NYC via Twitter and Email, I joined their Facebook group and was pleasantly surprised to see the passion with which so many fans posted on their site. Following the “About” link, I looked into their website, FLICKR page and more. I was shocked to see the sheer magnitude of their gatherings, and then noted that their Facebook group is approaching 1500 members and growing. This appeared to be a gathering that I had to see for myself to believe.
After looking into this further, I called my father (who was responsible for brainwashing me as a DolFan from a young age) and we made plans to head into the city to check out this gathering this past Sunday for the Dolphins game against the Ravens. Reaching out to Igor and Michelle, who are the ringleaders of the DolFans NYC circus, I firmed up my plans to attend the event.
Waking up at 6 am on a Sunday is never a welcome thing unless it’s Christmas morning, or in the rare instance of still being out from the night before. Blearily, I snoozed the alarm as long as possible before climbing in the shower, washing my 3 hours of sleep from my eyes. No need to bore you with the details that involve getting dressed at that ungodly hour of a Sunday, but at 7:00 am I was making my way to the car to meet my father and begin our journey to Slattery’s Midtown Pub in NYC, where the DolFansNYC crew gathers for every Dolphins game.
After an hour drive to New Haven, we fought our way through a drastically impaired train schedule that was still on-going for the local commuter lines into New York, we managed to hop on an 8:30 am Train to NYC that would get us in at 10:45 am at Grand Central station. The train ride in wound up being fun in the end, as we befriended a woman and her two grown daughters who were from Minnesota and were going to the city for the first time. We traded stories until we arrived at our destination, about the city, the Dolphins, and the usual good conversation amongst strangers, including a particularly amusing story about one womans son and how he just had his school picture taken with two black eyes and a gouge out of his nose following a pretend battle with ninjas that ended with a placque falling off the wall and into the bridge of his nose and a hospital trip (where he apparently told the doctors all about the ninjas he was battling). After parting ways with our fellow travellers, my father and I began the short walk from Grand Central station to Slattery’s.
After traversing our way through setup for New York’s Polish festival and parade, we arrived at Slattery’s just at 11 am, only to find that we were FAR too early for the 1 pm kickoff and the Pub wasn’t open as of yet. We fended our way through the various Polska groups setting up for the parade and made our way to one of the many local eateries for a quick breakfast/lunch. At 11:30, we worked our way back to the red facade of Slattery’s. We were immediately greeted out front by a Dolfan we spotted a block away who stood out in his bright orange ‘Fins shirt amid a sea of red and white from the Polska festival. Engaging him in a brief conversation, we found out his name was Fernando and he was a budding architect originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and he was pretty new to the group but that it was an absolutely great time and one hell of an experience. Our conversation was cut short when the door opened and a fan in a shiny new Mike Wallace jersey leaned out and told us to “get your asses in here, we have a game to win today!”
There were only four of us in the bar, but I immediately noticed the flat screens scattered everywhere showing NFL pregame. We were informed that the upstairs wasn’t opened yet, and I quickly ordered a coffee and chatted up the two fans that were there as more trickled in. The staff at the bar is all Irish, and pleasant to speak with as they rushed about doing their opening setup. While their coffee was actually fantastic, it appeared that they don’t get many orders for it as they had to do some research to figure out how much the coffee was. The staff was all friendly, and as a few more Dolfans trickled in they opened the upstairs and my father and I quickly claimed a two seat bar table in the middle of where we assumed the action would be. After claiming our seats, we struck up a conversation with a Dolfan, named Joel, at the table next to us. Joel, and a number of his friends, had attempted to come a few weeks earlier, but due to some issues with the NFL Sunday Ticket subscription the game hadn’t been on forcing them to go elsewhere. Slattery’s is a new location for the Dolfans NYC crew, and it quickly became obvious that they were fully embracing being the home base for such an expansive number of Dolfans. After talking with Joel a bit, I decided to explore the setup before the place got packed.
My excitement grew as I strolled around the pub, noting the expansive number of TV’s. I was immediately drawn to the balcony overlooking 36th Street, and was pleasantly surprised to find there was even a giant flat screen tv mounted on the covered balcony, with surround sound and a handful of tables out there. Two Dolfans had trickled in that were on vacation in NYC from Orlando, and had stumbled across the group online and decided it would be a great experience. Decked out in Dolphins gear from head to toe, Joy and her husband had quickly laid claim to one of the bar tables on the balcony. After talking to them for a bit, I went back inside and realied that the far wall was a giant projector screen, and they were set up to show the game there as well. On football Sundays, the traditional Irish pub menu is tossed out in favor of a Dolfan specific menu with some great selections and catchy names relating to the Dolphins, featuring such items as the “Sun Life Nachos,” “Chicken A.B.L.Tannehill,” “Marino Mozzarella Sticks,” and more. After a quick talk with our waitress, Audrey, my father and I settled on a “Still Perfect Burger” and a “Brian Cox Buffalo Chicken Sandwich” with “First Down Fries,” all of which were amazingly delicious and were all very large portions. Audrey was friendly and attentive, as was the rest of the staff, giving it a bit of a down-home, friendly Irish feel in Midtown.
Around the time we ordered, Michelle and her husband Alex showed up, and I finally got to meet a few of the folks responsible for the delightful Dolfan madness that would ensue on the afternoon. Clad in a vintage Dolphins jacket, I got a very warm welcome from Michelle. The fans were really starting to come in at this point, and nearly every fan that came in was greeted with a hug from Michelle, Alex or both. Michelle took the time to introduce me to a few of the fans as she got set up their table where they sell the merchandise (all proceeds of which go to charity), updated her fantasy football lineup, greeted Dolfans and answered any questions they may have had. Igor was under the weather, and combined with the Polska festival that slowed travel in Midtown on Sunday, wouldn’t be able to make it until gametime.
One of the more intriguing fans that Michelle introduced me to was a “born again Dolfan,” and a die hard one at that. Having grown up in New York, going to school and college in New York, now working in New York and having grown up from an early age as a diehard fan of the hated NY Jets. He was a season ticket holder with the Jets for years until, as he put it, he finally got tired of the fact that he didn’t leave his team but his team “left him.” After forty years as a Jets fan, he saw the light and came over to cheer for the Dolphins a few years ago and never looked back. Clad in his brand new, white Tannehill Jersey and Dolphins hat, he was a passionate fan with a deep love and respect for the team.
Close to game time the place was nearly full of Dolfans, with more strolling in every minute. Every Dolfan that strolled in was warm and friendly, and gave the place a “Cheers-like” vibe where everybody knows your name. I found out from Michelle that they have virtually taken over at least one section for the Dolphins at NY Jets game December 1st, with a list of 500 people that is still growing having purchased tickets and planning to attend. There is nothing I love more than the idea of Dolfans taking over a division rivals stadium, and I may be forced to join them in the shenanigans.
Right before kickoff, the ringleader arrived. Clad in Zubaz Dolphins pants, a DolFans NYC denim motorcycle cut adorned with patches, pins and Dolphins swag over his DolFans NYC shirt, Igor entered. Throughout the game, he led the entire bar in their fully interactive participation in the day’s events. From leading the bar in every “De-FENSE… De-FENSE,” chant, to every “That is good for another Dolphins FIRST DOWN” cry, everyone looked to him to lead the way. The greatest and most entertaining audience participation moment comes with every Dolphins touchdown, as Igor climbs atop a bar stool, standing head and shoulders above the crowd, and the Miami fight song comes over the PA system in the bar. There is nothing quite like hundreds of Dolfans singing that as one. Immediately following each DolFan rendition of the Dolphins fight song, deep in the heart of Jets territory, comes the following chant which can be heard loud and clear from the entire block – “J-E-T-S, SUCKS SUCKS SUCKS!”
During halftime, I had the opportunity to speak with both Michelle and Igor, and am looking forward to spending time with them on Web Weekend in Miami in two weeks against the Buffalo Bills. During that weekend, Igor will attempt to get a his name into the 48 oz club from Shula’s by completing Shula’s 48 oz challenge. Michelle shared the story of Igor attempting to crowd surf on a group of Patriots fans following a Dolphins victory at a previous venue, and the subsequent year marching from their previous home at 3rd and Long to buy a round of shots for said fans after yet another Dolphins victory. I won’t ruin it for you, but if you attend an event there, I encourage you to ask.
Following the loss, my father and I made our way back to Grand Central to head home, bumped into a childhood friend, had an NYPD officer lament the Dolphins loss and ask us if we were heading home from Slattery’s, got on the news in an interview at Grand Central and re-encountered our Minnesotan friends from the train that morning. Despite the loss, it was a truly wonderful day, and our Fins are still north of .500, which few could’ve predicted we’d be at this point during the preseason (I believe I did, in a previous article, but who’s counting or self congratulating… I’d have gladly been wrong if it meant 5-0 or even 4-1).
The passion that Igor, Michelle and the other founding members of DolFans NYC have for the team is obvious to anyone that comes into contact with them. Within minutes of entering an event at Slattery’s, even the most casual of fans will immediately notice their love of the Dolphins and fellow fans from all walks of life. Following a tough, close, heartbreaking loss to the Ravens, they still made time to share in the experience with everyone (a victory means that there are shots all around). If you’re ever in the NYC area, and are looking for a home to watch a Dolphins game, there is no better place than Slattery’s with this group to watch a game. and I encourage you to do so. From the high fives after good plays, the sighs to the cheers, through the chants and heartache – in this area, you will have an unmatched experience for watching the game. Everyone will welcome you in with open arms, and for the most part it was a family friendly environment, other than the occasional cursing at the many TV screens on a particularly good or bad play by the team.
Further information on DolFans NYC can be found on their website and Facebook page, and I encourage even the most casual of fans to check them out. Their website can be found at www.DolFansNYC.com and follow them on Twitter: @DolFansNYC. For more information on Slattery’s, the greatest DolFan bar in NYC, please go to www. slatterysmidtownpub.com.
Fins up! (And thank you for such a wonderful experience!)