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The Dolphins Acquire Some Glamour

JUDY BATTISTA The New York Times 20.08.2009 22:48
Marc Anthony and his wife, Jennifer Lopez, at a press conference on July 21.

Marc Anthony and his wife, Jennifer Lopez, at a press conference on July 21.

DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins of last season were so devoid of star power that their promotional billboards featured an unsmiling image of a rookie head coach and the graying countenance of a front-office executive. During training camp earlier this month, Bill Parcells, the old-school architect of the Dolphins, patrolled the sideline in polyester shorts.

Parcells may not earn any style points on Ocean Drive, but he was good enough to transform the Dolphins from a one-win team to a division champion last season.

That may have been Extreme Makeover: Gridiron Edition, but this season, as if the entire team had been Photoshopped, the Dolphins are going glam, with a new owner intent on turning them into the N.F.L.’s version of the Los Angeles Lakers, boldface-named fans and all.

The Dolphins unveiled their latest rebuilding effort a few weeks ago — not on the practice field, but rather on a fashion runway at an opulent private club best known as the site of a famous celebrity murder. A pop art star and a rapper were the primary attractions as the sun set over South Beach that night.

A few weeks earlier, the Dolphins held a news conference in a mall that featured a blasting soundtrack and an appearance by Jennifer Lopez. That followed a casting call for singers to be hired by the team, a new team song and a stadium renamed for a niche beer with a connection to a local icon.

“We have a lot of seats, and it’s hard to get people to go to games because there are so many alternatives in these times,” said Stephen Ross, the New York real estate developer who recently completed his purchase of the team. “To create an experience for fans to go to a game, an experience the whole family can enjoy, is very important to bringing people out to the games, to make it the place to be. ‘I’ve got to be there.’ If you’ve been to a game recently, there was a lot of apathy.”

Ross grew up in South Florida and was there in the 1970s, during the Dolphins’ halcyon days when they played at the Orange Bowl. Those years remain the gilded era around here — the Don Shula Expressway is a traffic-clogged thoroughfare 37 years after his team completed a perfect season — but almost everything else surrounding the Dolphins has changed. The Orange Bowl was demolished last year, and the Dolphins’ stranglehold on a fan’s time crumbled long before that. Even in their best years since then, when Dan Marino was playing, the Dolphins struggled to fill every seat.


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