New Phins CEO A Breath Of Fresh Air


The Miami Dolphins may be a team searching for an identity but they may have found the right man for the job when it comes to their new CEO Tom Garfinkel.  Unlike his predesesser Mike Dee, Mr. Garfinkel takes a calmer approach to the affairs he is tasked with.  He does so with an undeniable sense of what the fans want and his approach is a breath of fresh air for a franchise that has been kicked around lately.

Making his first appearance in front of us “web-heads”…aka Web Weekend attendees…Tom answered our questions and wasn’t afraid to say “I don’t know”.

To understand how Garfinkel appeared it’s important to note how the man he replaced acted.  Mike Dee served as the CEO for four years before what amounts to a trade with the San Diego Padres swapped Dee for Garfinkel.  Dee was a “rah-rah” type CEO.  He brought an energy to these annual get togethers and was quick to point out his latest and greatest idea’s to the crowd.  From stadium renovations to changes to the mall outside of the stadium, Dee  had an answer for everything.

When Dee was questioned two years ago about the decision to celebrate the Florida Gators national title on the weekend Denver was in town, he gleefully told the group that Tebow wasn’t the starter anyways so it wouldn’t matter.  Dee was asked by me in his first year what he was going to bring to the stadium in 8 games compared to what he could do with 81 from his MLB Boston Red Sox experience.  Dee didn’t have an answer and four years later the legacy he left was the Ride DCC charity event.  A great event but an event outside of the Dolphins stadium.

In other words, no stadium upgrades, no closer action to the field, no home field advantage and despite the giddy school nature of his exuberance no notable changes outside of the orange carpet disappearing…along with fans in the stadium.

Enter Tom Garfinkel.  Tom entered the teams main meeting room as quiet as he left.  A smattering of applause greeted him and after a quick introduction of himself he opened the floor to questions and no one really bit.  See Tom doesn’t handle the football side of the business…nor did Dee…and his recent hire makes him somewhat of an enigma.  We, the group of web-masters, had pretty much heard everything that Dee wanted to accomplish and didn’t.  What could this guy offer us that either hadn’t been on the plate already or had in the mix with such a short stay to that point?

With no questions he could have simply bowed out gracefully and left but instead he told us that he didn’t really prepare for this night given short notice but if there were no questions would continue to talk.  And talk he did.  Tom held nothing back especially after the questions began to come forth.  “How will you approach getting the stadium renovations done?”  “I don’t know, I haven’t started looking at it yet”.  A not so simple question but a very honest answer.  In fact, Tom didn’t mind saying “I don’t know”.

The fact is that he doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t care if you know that.  More surprising than the honest approach was his genuine interest in what we had to say.  In six years of going to these events I never got the feeling that a door stood ajar with the team.  After listening to Tom Garfinkel I actually was left with the impression that if I had a suggestion then I should call him and let him know.

This perhaps was based on the fact that he simply turned the Q&A on those of us in the room.  Tom embraced the opportunity to ask us questions and get our feed back.  He asked us what our issues were with the stadium and in general what we didn’t like.  He got responses from everything regarding parking prior to the tailgating to having security called on you for standing up and cheering.  He didn’t brush them off but wanted to know more.

I told him the issue to me was a lack of home field advantage.  The stands are too far from the field and that didn’t allow fans a true attempt to create the kind of noise generated at other stadiums.  I also told him that while I understood the need for a club level bar area the fact is that the Dolphins lose a lot of bodies outside to the atmosphere inside and frankly no amount of noise generated inside was going to carry outside.  He said that was something he wanted to look at and find a way to better serve the team by having fans outside being heard.

He mentioned changes to the outdoor seating area where options around the NFL and other sporting leagues have different seating arrangements and that the team would look into that as well.  He mentioned small sections where a group of fans could sit together in a living room like atmosphere or “box” and enjoy the game outside.  I told him to walk through the club level during the game and he would see the amount of people inside.  I suspect he did just that.

The reality is that unlike Mike Dee, Tom Garfinkel isn’t afraid to explore the options that best suit the fans.  He did not come across egotistical and there was no, “my way” about him.  Mike Dee was, is, a nice guy but when it came to making decisions it so often seemed as though the decisions were his and his alone like it or leave it.  Tom is new to the NFL and to the Miami Dolphins but the first step he took was listening to what the fans and the season ticket holders hoped to see and he was surprisingly interested and patient.

Later in the weekend I spoke with some of the Dolphins staff and complimented Tom to them about his attitude and was surprised to learn that Tom’s approach with the team and it’s staff are very similar.  He isn’t afraid to have no answers and wants input from those around him.  In other words making it a team venture and not a job saving one.  If this is the approach Tom takes within the city and it’s neighbors then the Dolphins may have found a great fit for their organization.  Tom want’s to end the bickering between counties that has resulted in nothing really getting done and his approach is fresh and honest.

Following his Q&A with us and to us he was handed an envelop with $3,000.00 in it from the web site DolfansNYC.  A charitable collection they took up and give to the CEO annually for the Miami Dolphins Foundation.  They have presented Mike Dee with the envelop two years in a row.  Garfinkel without hesitation invited the three members of the site to his suite in a gesture of thank you.  It was genuine and surprised everyone.

Garfinkel may end up having the same success or lack of success that Mike Dee had but it won’t be due to his lack of reception from the fan base.  Garfinkel embraces the input of the fans.

If you are a season ticket holder or a regular attendee of games shoot me an Email with suggestions that you think would make Sun-Life a better experience and possibly bring fans out of their home and into the stadium on Sunday’s.