Wow. I think that is the best word that can sum things up from this past weekend at the MetLife Takeover event hosted by DolFans NYC.
If you’ve been following the stories here on PhinPhanatic relating to the event, you already know that what occurred on Sunday was a hugely monumental event. Record shattering group ticket sales saw a group of DolFans, organized by DolFans NYC, took over nearly two full sections of the stadium. Hundreds more participated in the event after obtaining tickets throughout the stadium via various other means. I have been going to Dolphins away games in the northeast for nearly thirty years, and never walked into an away game, let alone against a divisional opponent, and felt like I was walking into a home game for the Dolphins. That has now changed.
Leading up to the event, there had been a buzz that would slowly turn into a roar, via Twitter, FaceBook and other social media platforms. Interviews and stories appeared here on PhinPhanatic, MiamiDolphins.com, the South Florida news sites and more. Various players for the Dolphins and media personalities retweeted information to the event, and even the Jets fans began to show worry and started buzzing about us coming to the stadium. The Takeover was in effect before it even started, and it only got bigger on game day.
With all of the coverage that this event has already received, I wanted to share my experience with the DolFans NYC crew from this past weekend.
Approximately three hundred DolFans met up at Slattery’s Midtown Pub at 8 am on game day if they were taking the chartered buses in to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. For many of us not taking the buses, as well as for organizers of the event, the day began even earlier. The remaining DolFans came in via any transportation means available. For yours truly, and the group that I was with, we arrived in NYC the day prior. On game day, we took a train from Penn Station to Secaucus Junction at 8 am. From there, the stadium has a shuttle that runs beginning three hours before kickoff but not wanting to wait an additional hour and a half we hopped a cab over to the stadium and began our hike to the bus lots.
Waiting for the bus to arrive, amidst my pacing impatiently, I used to Twitter to reach out to various personalities both with information as to where to find the group as well as helping to see if they could attend. In addition, I began reaching out to other folks whom I knew were in attendance – such as the folks from the Miami Dolphins VA Fan Club & Meetups group. A short while later, the buses arrived and all hell broke loose in a fantastic way.
Shortly after the buses arrived, a number of us began hauling out the tailgate items to set up. Several hundred pre-game tailgate tickets were sold for the catered tailgate, and the catering company began working furiously as well. Hauling out everything from PBR’s, cases of rum, tables, ice, coolers and merch saw the tailgate set up in no time. Those already on site began merging with the groups that disembarked from the bus and numerous fans who had only spoken via social media previously met each other for the first time. Many of us volunteered for various shifts handing out beer and other items, helping keep everything running smoothly while Michelle, Igor, Bryan and Alex (to name a few) went around making sure everything went smoothly.
The tailgate itself was crazy… from Igor having to climb atop an RV to take pictures of the group (and still not be able to get everyone in the shots), to the ENORMOUS flag that was sent to the tailgate by the Dolphins, it was a resounding success. In addition to the fans that came in from all over the country, there were a number of high-profile guests in attendance as well. Below is a brief list of the personalities who attended:
- Tom Garfinkel, Dolphins CEO – Unfortunately, I missed this appearance while assisting with various items.
- Nat Moore, Dolphins legend – Unfortunately, I missed this appearance as well.
- Claudia Castillo, MiamiDolphins.com – Claudia was awesome as ever. Going around the tailgate with her camera man, interviewing Dolphins fans and personalities alike. To give you an idea of the sheer size of the tailgate group, it took me about thirty minutes to find her in the crowd. She was wonderful and supportive of everyone there. In addition, Claudia and her camera man spent a great deal of the game up in our section with us taking video account of the fans as we cheered on the team.
- Omar Kelly, NFL Beat Writer & Sun Sentinel – Omar wasn’t sure initially if he’d be able to stop by the tailgate before the game, but was helping in directing people to our location. Halfway through the tailgate, Omar showed up and was a complete and total class act. Omar made time for every fan that came up to him, and was very open and welcoming of folks. While I will admit I used to see Omar as a voice of strictly negativity, my view has been changing on that over the past few weeks and I know it meant a lot to the DolFans to have him stop by and make so much time for us amidst the business of his NFL Sundays covering the ‘Fins.
- Solo D, Miami Dolfan Music recording artist – Solo D brought his setup with him and DJ’d the entire tailgate while also serving as an MC for various info and announcements. Having recorded a MetLife Takeover song especially for this event, he put on one hell of a show for the fans in attendance with a mix of live performance and recordings.
In addition, Miko Grimes, wife of Dolphins CB Brent Grimes showed up towards the end of things as well. I saved this one for last for several reasons, as this special guest ended up being special to me in the amount of interaction I got with her at the event. With Igor and I both having reached out to Miko to hopefully convince her to attend our tailgate (I even offered to buy her a ticket to sit with us!), it was great to see her show up. For anyone not following her on Twitter, she is one of the best “follows” out there and can be found at @iheartmiko. Miko showed up just as things were winding down, and most DolFans had already headed into the stadium for the game. A handful of us had stayed behind and were overseeing putting items from the tailgate back on the bus, and I was prepping for an interview with DolFans NYC’s video crew to provide a wrap up for their video coverage of the tailgate. Miko came strolling up with another DolFan who found her searching for us. Immediately after checking with her that it was ok, we had her step in for a quick interview with the crew. While I did my quick interview, which can be seen on the DolFans NYC website in the near future, Miko was mingling with the various fans that had lingered behind.
Once I wrapped up my interview, it was time to head into the game. I wound up walking in with Miko, and we got to chatting. I got to find out that while she may come across loud and boisterous at times she is also a very down to earth and cool human being. She wanted fans to know that she and her husband are both very approachable people, and how they always thought Miami would be an option. She was very open about the options that Brent had on the table (though she didn’t specify teams) and we got to chat for about 10-15 minutes on the way in. There may be a few surprises in store with Miko and Brent here on PhinPhanatic.com, so make sure to keep an eye out for those both on the site, on Twitter and on FaceBook. It was very clear to me that both Miko and Brent want to stay in Miami, and I think I speak for all of us in hoping that Miami is able to retain him.
In Stadium Pre-Game:
Entering the gates of the stadium well after the majority of our group, I found myself surrounded by more DolFans than Jets fans. I entered the stadium with several of them, and after talking with them one was introduced as Mark Duper’s nephew (a claim I will be following up on), and after talking with another I discovered it was a long time reader of PhinPhanatic.com in Matthew Stoddard – who, whether we agree or disagree on a point here on the site, always provides an insightful opinion on the matter at hand.
Making the trek to the upper deck, where we had taken over sections 322-323 (or as Joe Philbin referred to them in talking about the group during an interview with Jesse Agler this week – “The Cheap Seats”). Coming up into our sections, you could see the sheer magnitude of Dolphins fans occupying the seats in what was truly a sea of aqua and orange. I arrived to my seats right at kickoff, and everyone from the group was already in a bit of a frenzy.
If you paid attention to the game this past weekend through any medium, there is almost no way you could have missed our presence the event. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the game back as of yet, but I from what I have been told any of you watching at home could hear over the broadcast the effect that we had on the stadium. Brian Hartline pointed to all of us following a touchdown before celebrating, and from my understanding the announcers for CBS referred to the DolFan presence on several occasions throughout the game. Several times during the game you could see various players looking up into the rafters at us.
Tom Garfinkel and others tweeted photo’s of our group during the game, and I had a conversation with PhinPhanatic’s lead writer, Brian Miller, over email throughout the game as to how much the folks at home could hear us. The noise coming from our sections was deafening. From singing the Dolphins fight song after every touchdown (pre-emptively on the one that was called back), it was a raucous but (mostly) respectful group. There were no problems with DolFans with the security in our group, despite several jets fans being unlucky enough to sit in our section. Speaking of the few Jets fans in our section, it was pretty comical to see their reactions as they turned to head up to their seats in our section. There was always that inevitable moment of “Oh,” when they turned and looked up only to be faced with a view of over 700 Dolphins fans on their home turf. The only real issue with any fans in our section wound up being a Jets fan throwing beer bottles towards the field on occasion.
While the product on the field was not up to par for the Jets, it amazed me to see how empty that stadium became early in the second half. Partway through the fourth quarter, you could pick out nearly every DolFan in the stadium as they were the only ones that remained, aside from a very small handful of Jets fans. In the thirty years that I have been attending NFL games, I have never seen a stadium this empty of home fans. Ever. Being near a major metropolitan area only compounds the fact that they evacuated the stadium so early. Evacuation is the only word to describe it.
Despite the evacuation of Jets fans, there was still a showing of DolFans throughout the stadium cheering on the team. Our sections only became even more obvious in cheering on the team at that point, as the only remaining “full” sections in the stadium and with no chants to oppose ours. Following the game, we were able to spread out quickly into other sections to ease our exit from the stadium.
Following the Game:
Since the game Sunday, you can really see and feel the effect that this event had on the game and the players. Immediately following the game, Tweets from Dolphins players such as Brian Hartline, Jared Odrick and many more began pouring out. Articles and interviews have begun airing in various locations, with several more to wrap up the event. Coach Philbin, as mentioned previously, touched on us briefly in an interview on MiamiDolphins.com. This event was a resounding success on all fronts.
Not to be lost in all of this is the impact that DolFans NYC has for charitable gifts. Following up with Michelle Starks Kramer, DolFans NYC raised over $3000 for charity during the event. That alone deserves a round of applause and adds a great deal to the level of success seen by the event.
Great job, Michelle, Igor, Bryan, Alex and the rest of the DolFans NYC crew! Further information on the event, including pictures, videos and links can be found at www.DolFansNYC.com, on the DolFans NYC FaceBook page and on www.MiamiDolphins.com.
Additionally in the days that followed the game word came out that at least one couple who had been en route to attend the Takeover were involved in the horrific train crash Sunday morning in New York. Obviously unable to attend the event following this, the couple were amongst the injured. Following them on Twitter via his account – @miamifinfan, it appears his girlfriend got the worst of the two of them and was in the hospital ICU for a few days with a pretty severe spinal injury. They have both been released following treatment, and are on the road to recovery. They have received well wishes from several current and former Dolphins players, including OJ McDuffie and Tyson Clabo, and appear on the road to a speedy recovery. Keeping in good spirits throughout, BDav let it be known that his girlfriend got the most upset when emergency personal had to cut her Dan Marino jersey off of her.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
Next DolFan Encounter:
At the event, I made contact with several DolFan groups, and will be attending a meet up and viewing group this coming weekend in West Warwick, RI at BoneHead’s Wing Bar to view the game against the Steelers. If you’re in the area, swing by and check it out!