Let's be honest, this season is not exactly hopeful for your Miami Dolphins. With a rookie quarterback and coming off a 6-10 campaign in 2011, the oddsmakers aren't exactly worried you'll hit the 200-1 sweepstakes that the Dolphins win Super Bowl XLVII. That won't stop belligerent Dolphins fans from filling the Sun Life Stadium parking lot for this Sunday's home opener against the Oakkland Raiders -- and for the seven home games that follow.
"It usually doesn't matter how good the team is when it comes to tailgating," says avid tailgater Marc Matar, who's missed just one regular season home game in the past six seasons. "The die hard fans are the ones that tailgate anyway; they come out no matter what (the Dolphins) record is."
This season, the Dolphins' AFC East plays teams from the NFC West and AFC South, as well as every team in their own division. That translates to home games against the Raiders (who were savaged in a Monday night game against the San Diego Chargers), St. Louis Rams (week 6), Tennessee Titans (10), Seattle Seahawks (12) and Jacksonville Jaguars (15) to go along with the usual slate of Jets (3), Patriots (13) and Bills (16).
If you had to pick just one, the Pats games are always a riot. Want to get harassed by obnoxious fans and possibly get into a fight on your way out of the stadium? Definitely save your once-a-year for Week 3 against the Jets. For an out-of-division team, the Jags come through more often than we care to remember. It won't be likely, however, to see the Raiders, Rams, Titans or Seahawks in Miami for a long while. If you like watching the phenomena of quarterback progression in the NFL, you are in luck. Except for the Raiders, all the out-of-conference opponents are starting a rookie or otherwise novice quarterback.
If you want to have a good time and avoid the drama, they're are some quick rules to go by.
- Follow the Rules. Most of them make good sense anyway, like "don't bring any kegs" and "only one parking space per vehicle." You are allowed to park where you desire only in the first hour the gate is open, after that you have to park in the order you show up. There are no saving spaces. Regular cars cost $25 and RV's will run you $80. Sun Life Stadium asks that you make sure to clean up your area before you leave.
- Get There Early. The gates open four hours before kickoff and the lots close two hours after the conclusion of regulation. That means 9 AM for a 1 PM start for all eight of this year's home games. Unfortunately 5-11 teams don't get much in the way of primetime night games, so you'll be sizzling in the sun and risking heavy rain fall early in the season for the Raiders, Jets and Rams. Those games all fall during hurricane season, though having a game cancelled due to a hurricane is a rarity.
- Drink Beer. No, this isn't sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. Beer contains less alcohol than vodka, so you're less likely to be throwing up at halftime. You can be the "cool guy" and drink your vodka tonics with a twist of lime. For this potentially seven-hour drinking marathon, we at Short Order will have our beers in koozies to keep them cold and our hands warm.
- Bring Plenty of Food. No box trucks, trailers, grills in tow or catering service is allowed, but you can stock up your SUV or pickup at no extra charge. Portable grills that use charcoal are the easiest to find and bring, but make sure it has a cover or you'll be waiting for hours for each burger.
- Take Advantage of Resources. There are often companies and individuals setting up games and giving away stuff in the lot. Stay sober enough to communicate and be able to walk around exploring,. For any questions or concerns, call the game day hotline at 305-626-7373.