It's that time of year again — football is back. Tomorrow, the Dolphins will hit the practice fields at Nova Southeastern University, marking the NFL's official return to South Florida. Die-hard Miami sports fans — desperately in need of anything to look forward to — will make their way to Davie to take in the Dolphins' practices. For the most dedicated fans, a pilgrimage to training camp has become a tradition.
But fans planning to attend practices for the first time may not know exact what they're in for. Believe us: It sounds a lot easier than it is. You must come prepared.
Be prepared to spend a few hours sitting on the face of the sun. If you get to practice early enough, you might score a covered seat — but the rest of you are on your own. Sunscreen is a must, hats are recommended, and if you have any of that Nike Dri-FIT Dolphins gear, this is the situation that material was made for. Don't get too attached to your seat, because it's in your best interest to abandon it so that you can go down to the concession stands and get a break from the sun beating on your face.
Also, if you're faking a sick day at work to take in Fins practice, a sunburn will totally blow your cover.
Download a weather app; it could save you an afternoon of disappointment.
It's South Florida, so expect torrential afternoon rain, and be surprised when a shower does not occur. This is important to remember, not because you might find yourself sitting in the rain watching fake football, but because if there is even a threat of rain during practice, the team takes its fake football into the practice bubble, and you're not invited. Whoops, sorry about that!
Do yourself a favor and download a weather app, and if you haven't already, download Twitter to follow all the Dolphins reporters, because they will let you know as soon as the team cancels outdoor practice. They will be the happiest people when this happens.
Come prepared; bring multiple Sharpie markers and a football to get signed. There's good reason to bring a football or helmet instead of a photo or piece of paper — it's a long day, and anything that fragile will get ruined. A signed football will be much easier to keep nice for two hours of blazing sun or rain, and it has room for multiple places for someone to sign. The last thing you need is a photo of Ryan Tannehill signed by Matt Moore and the long snapper; that's not fun for anyone.
One Sharpie will not be enough, though, because you'll totally lose it. Players tend to take your marker and your item, sign your item, and then give you back your item while taking a new item from another fan — all the while totally forgetting to give you back your pen. You won't care that Cameron Wake stole your pen when you get the ball back, but when Ndamukong Suh walks by ten seconds later and all you have is your ball and your finger, that's when it'll suck if you didn't bring back-up sharpies.
Eat light before you go; then go to Laspadas across the street after practice. Don't eat the slop served at the fields. Those chips and hot dogs were probably sitting in a freezer since last season. Be a veteran fan and get some good eats instead.
But this is important: Do not eat at Laspadas before practice. You must not eat the Laspadas "Monster" hoagie before practice. It must come afterward. Laspadas — if you've never experienced it — is the best sandwich shop in South Florida, but the downside of its awesomeness is it will induce naps and meat sweats. Eating there before you sit in the sun for a couple of hours might cause depression because you'll feel so fat, lethargic, and sleepy.
Go to Laspadas after practice — it should be over around 11 a.m. or noon — and order the Monster hoagie with extra sweet peppers. It comes wrapped in seven pieces of paper, so you can even eat it in the car if you're in a rush to get home.
Get to the facilities early, for multiple reasons. Besides the normal reasons to show up early — like parking and preferred seating — getting to Dolphins camp early is a must for several unique reasons. Think of it as batting practice before a baseball game. Fans can see players arriving at the field, watch celebrities and guests have conversations with players and coaches before practice, and get VIP spots near the fence so when autograph time comes around, your plan of attack is foolproof. Just watching the players practice is half the fun at these things; if you get there early, you can witness a real-life Ballers episode.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.