2006 Web Weekend

For the 3rd year, the Miami Dolphins rolled out the proverbial red carpet for us - the people who devote their time and energy to promoting the Miami Dolphins on the web through our views and our actions. As we've been told, we're sort of the ambassadors of the team, and I believe that they recognize and to some degree appreciate what we do.

This year began like last year with an invite to the Nick Saban show. I was unable to make it to the show, but I did listen to most of it. I loved hearing Big Papa Pump get up and tell Nick that he would be happy to go in and do a pregame speech. Nick agreed to let him do just that if the team had another mediocre performance. Had I been there, I might have asked if Nick knew whether Wes Welker was single (referring, of course, to the previous week's show, where a woman breathlessly asked the same question).

Friday night, I went out for drinks with Doug (Phinatic), James (finforum), Brian (also finforum), and lets just say someone "in the know about the team." We had a great time talking football, dolphins, and former dolphins. I learned a lot, as well. It was a blast. Its a shame that I can't see more of these guys...

Saturday morning, we met up for a tour of Dolphin Stadium. We had done this before. And yet, this time was different. Better in many ways. We started downstairs. On the field, with Jimmy Cefalo along once again. We did the tour of the locker room. And Jimmy gave us a talk that lasted for nearly half an hour. It covered a range of Dolphins related issues, his playing days, his relationship with the team, and his career as a broadcaster. It was entertaining and enlightening.

Then, we went upstairs to the football press box. It had already been setup for the broadcast, and someone (not me) started playing with the telestrator. Then, someone else (also not me) put on Rich Gannon's headset. When, in walks one of the CBS crew. He simply says "Don't touch my equipment," and we skulk out like scolded children. It was remarkable to see the football pressbox all setup.

Next stop: the control room. This place is the nerve center for the HD scoreboards, the music, and the ribbon banner that surrounds the stadium. Its state of the art, and for those of us geeks in the crowd (hey, we're all webmasters, and therefore pretty much all geeks) it was like nirvana. Wow. The guy who runs it all (Jeff) took the time to fill us in on every excruciating detail of how it works, how they do their job, and the technology behind it. I was amazed at the number of HD cameras, and the number of people it takes to make it come alive on Sundays. And after hearing him speak, I could only imagine how he was sweating bullets for the few minutes that the scoreboards went dead during the game on Sunday.

We also made a stop into the Phins gallery. It contained a lot of memoribilia (Shula's desk, the old projector they used, some old lockers, old uniforms, etc), and was intriguing to a Dolphins history buff. Bob Monica - the longtime equipment manager for the Phins - runs the hall, and was on hand to answer questions. That was the best part, and he had some great stories. I did get admonished here as well. I was getting my picture taken with the bronze statue of Shula, and Bob said "that's disrepectful" when I put my hat on Shula.

We had a break, and a few of us went over and got some wings. We had a little fun sitting and chatting about the things we saw, and wondered what was yet to come.

A while later, we headed into the training facility. Most of the items that had been on display here were now over at the hall we had just been visiting. So, it looked a little sparse. We were taken around parts of the facility as we had been in the past. But, as we were walking through the locker room (aside: you'll have to trust me when I tell you that you see some interesting thigs in there), we were thrown a wrench: two former cheerleaders came in as our "ambassadors" for the evening. (Fantasy football, anyone?) It was amusing how 30 or so guys suddenly quiet down when 2 pretty girls enter the room.

We hit the pro shop, and then went onto to the hilight of the evening: we went into the practice bubble. Man, oh man, is that neat. They had tables set out for us for a dinner buffet, and there was a podium for some speakers.

But, what caught my attention were the mini-football centerpieces. I picked one up and tossed it to a friend of mine, and then ran out onto the field and put my hands out, and he threw it back. In moments, we were on the Miami Dolphins practice field playing catch. Someone else whipped out a real football, and it became even more fun. This new field turf, with the little rubber granuales is a great surface, and gives surprisingly easily. I went deep for a pass, and tried to make a cut, my foot caught on the turf, but then slipped out from under me and I fell. Because of the slip and the rubbery surface, it didn't hurt, and I was able to pop right back up.

We had our guest speakers: Manny Fernandez and Bill Stanfill (they were funny), Joe Bailey, Bryan Weidermer, Michael Kelly (president of the superbowl host committee), and Nick Saban.

Michael Kelly talked about the Superbowl coming to Miami, and how we can help get involved. Manny and Bill reflected on their careers and talked about the practice bubble. Bryan talked about us a bit, and how the Phins are always trying to improve in many ways. Joe talked about how the Dolphins are trying to innovate (and who can argue? Just look at the scoreboards that are beyond anything any stadium has today).

Nick was great. He gave us some of his time, and seemed in no rush. He told a few stories - like the baseball story he used 4 times (with us, in his weekly column on the Phins website, on his radio show, and during his weekly recorded show) - he told a mildly off-color story that I won't repeat, and he took a few questions. Now, he seemed in a pretty good mood until "Igor" (Bored with Losing) asked if Nick had practiced his flag throwing. He was kidding...but it went over like a lead balloon, anyway.

Nick explained the situation (yet again) and seemed a bit put off by it all. I thought about changing the mood by asking if he had kept up with the accordion, but instead Doug asked about Jason Allen, which made it better, but didn't change it completely.

There were "Webbies" awarded to various sites, but yours truly didn't win (again). We did a team photo at midfield of the bubble. And I took a quick nap (see photo above).

Sunday was game day. We elected to take the bus for the heck of it. The guys from Sheddawgs were on the bus, and it was fun to talk with them. Fins TV went to Newfoundland - to the shed - to interview them, and then was following them around this weekend.

We had a little tailgate, and then went onto the field for pregame warmups. It's always fun to hang out and see the field from, uhhh, the field. Finally, it was off to the seats, which were in the visitor's dugout. Literally. Or should I say the "stands" since we really didn't sit much...they were great! We could sit on the bench and watch the game on the big tv (and be in the shade)....or we could stand up by the rail with the Phins banner (the one you saw in the pictures) and watch the game from ground level at the back of the end zone.

I enjoyed being in there, and watching everything. Heck, I missed some plays, and certainly missed some nuances of goings on, but it was still pretty cool. And, you could step into the inner part, and watch the players come and go from the locker room.

But, we weren't quite done yet. As the game wound down, H Wayne stopped by and said hello. He wasn't entirely sure who the group was that was there, but he knew it was something to do with websites. It was a nice touch that ended the weekend in a cool way.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I (and my guests) enjoyed themselves enormously. Thanks again Scott and Rodney for putting this event together.

I can't imagine how they will top this event, but Scott says he already has some ideas. About all I can say is: wow.

2005 Web Weekend

Our thanks go to the Miami Dolphins, and in particular Scott Stone and Rodney Wood for holding web weekend 2! It was another great event, and we here at Dave's enjoyed it very much. Web Weekend has become an annual event where the Miami Dolphins open their doors to the websites which pay tribute to the Miami Dolphins.

The first order of business was to attend the Nick Saban show. We were offered reserved seats up front, and had a chance to meet Jimmy Cefalo and coach Saban before the show. It was, well, a radio show, so it wasn't that exciting. But, Nick is a genuine guy. Seems pretty down to earth and personable. He came around and shook everyone's hands, and said hello. He posed for pictures. He signed autographs. And he took fans questions unscripted and live.

My favorite had to do with a quote that appeared in the local papers. Basically, he was quoted as saying to give Ronnie Brown 5 years. A fan asked him about that and he said that he believes Ronnie is a good back, and if you evaluate him in 4-5 years from now, you'll find he ranks with the best. Don't judge his career by two games. That's a misquote as far as I'm concerned.

And then Jimmy Cefalo asked about the Carolina game. How would they handle Peppers? How would they rush against a team that only allowed the Patriots 39 yards. Nick happened to be taking a sip of water, and I had a vision of Nick suddenly spitting out the water, and saying "What?! Only 39 yards? Geez, we better get to work on a gameplan!" And storming out.

Nick also mentioned that he wants to "stick to tradition" and wear the uniforms that best suit the team and sticks with tradition - so, whites at home for an afternoon game. He did note, however, that he never has any idea what the coaches uniforms for the day would be until he sees them in the locker room.

Saturday, we started with a stadium tour. But, this was not your ordinary tour. Instead, it was an event. Scott had arranged for Jimmy Cefalo to come in and talk with us for a while. He walked around the field with us, and shared some stories. Then, we went into the room where Saban holds his post game press conference, and Jimmy told us about the organization and what its like to be a part of it again. He took our questions and was a very gracious host. I personally find Jimmy to be one of the most insightful and articulate broadcasters in South Florida. This was a nice treat.

Afterward, we were taken to the newly redesigned locker room. When I say its astounding, that doesn't do it justice. If you saw the piece on FINS TV, you got a small taste of what it's like. But, even that didn't do it justice. It was un-freakin'-believable. And to add to that, Tony Egues and team had just finished setting up the lockers for gameday, so all the equipment was in there. And Tony was still around, so he took time to tell us all about the locker room, and told lots of stories about the team. Very, very cool stuff.

We also saw the coaches locker room, and some of us had a chance to sit at the coach's desk. And by the way, we knew before Saban did that the coaches would be wearing aqua for the game.

We headed up to the media box after that. Its neat to get a view of the field from up there.

After that, we had a break planned in the day, so a group of us headed over to the Quarterdeck for a few drinks and a little food. It was entertaining, and fun to talk with a bunch of the other webmasters in an informal setting...

Then, it was time to visit the training camp. We had the obligatory pictures with the superbowl trophies. We admired the little museum they had on display. Then, we had an opportunity to eat dinner in the team facility. They had a nice spread for us, with plenty to eat. That was pretty amazing, and a very nice touch.

Afterward, we went to the team meeting room for the interaction with team management. First up was coach Saban. He was - as I had noted before - very personable. He started by asking us to work with him. Keep it positive. Be good fans. But, the odd thing was that while he repeated the same message Dave had given us last year, but it came across as a softer message and not quite the plea Dave made. And he also gave us a sense of how he motivates the team, and gave us the Reader's Digest version of his team speach for that evening. He said he would take 3 questions from the group, but actually decided to take a 4th when one question - which came from one of the women in the crowd - was where he learned to say "A'ight."

A tough act to follow, next it was Dolphins CEO Joe Bailey. After hearing him, I can understand why H Wayne hired him. The guy has a sense of what it takes to be successful, and makes plans to achieve that success from a business standpoint. He listens to fans. He makes lots of observations. He talked about the trips he took with H to visit other team's facilities, because he wanted to see what every other team had to offer its players and fans so he could better it. He talked about the team's idea for the "supersite." I have to admit my skepticism at the concept, but he certainly did a nice job of making me lean more toward acceptance of the idea. I'm still not sold on it, but I am much closer.

Randy Mueller came next. I find it amusing that he and Rick Spielman effectively changed jobs, since Rick is now at ESPN. He talked about his experiences, the team, and how he feels about the organization. He made a general comment that he looks for the players that Nick wants. I guess you could say it's a partnership, and I would guess that Randy looks at all players, and pares it down for Nick. Plus, Nick can suggest a particular type of player he's looking to find.

Bryan Weidemeir took center stage after that. He continued the themes for the evening, and talked about the supersite, and the team. Good stuff. Last year, he took a lot of time to tell us about the team and the salary cap. This year was really no different. I really appreciated all he had to say.

Two special guests were next on our agenda. Joe Auer and Tim Ruddy came in to talk with us. Tim looked nothing like Tim. He dropped a lot of weight and shaved his head. I didn't mind hearing him talk about the team, but I personally was more interested in Joe. Tim said a few things about the current team, and gave a less-than-ringing endorsement for Seth McKinney. I can only assume that's because Seth took his job. Joe had some yarns to spin. He was downright funny.
  • He said he always felt as a player that you inspire yourself, and its not the crowd. He loved going in to opponent's stadiums and shutting up the crowd by simply doing good things.
  • He talked about the old locker rooms at the OB, where it was 2x4s and chicken wire, and players had to bang their helmets on the wall before going out to a game to get the bugs out of them.
  • He told the story about the time he was asked to pick up the team's uniforms from a drycleaner before heading in that day. When he got there, the bill was $150, and they wanted cash, because the team was in arrears. He paid them, and it took him 2 months to get his money back
  • He told the story about how George Wilson had a bus pull over at a bar on the way back from an away game, and had the players order drinks.
  • He also said that Wilson had marched them into a swimming pool with their uniforms on to boost morale.

    We had the webbies (for excellence in Dolfan-dom) next. Alas, Dave's Bitchin' didn't win any of the categories again this year. But, ours is not your typical fan site...

    Next stop on the tour: the rest of the team facility. Rumor has it that this had to wait until the end because Ricky Williams had come by for his daily workout. He was doing some individual drills outside while we had our break. He was in the weight room while we ate. And he was in the locker room while we had our "team meeting." So, if Ricky happens to be reading this and happens to have heard any of the jokes I was making about him, I hope he laughs. We went through the locker room, and saw the players lockers as they left them that day. Let's just say its interesting to see the personal side of some of these guys, and leave it at that. The weight room was astonishing by its sheer size.

    And thus concluded our Saturday.

    On Sunday, a bunch of us met at the team hotel and took the bus to the stadium for the game. It turned out okay because we got a chance to see a few players. We said hi to Heath Evans and Channing Crowder to name two. And we stopped and talked with Ronnie Brown for a few fleeting moments. Ronnie was very nice about it all, and I have to believe that he was inspired after meeting us, simple because we never mentioned the word "bust."

    At the stadium, we had a tailgate inside the Dolfan tent, which was a good thing because there was a monsoon outside. It ended just before it was time to go on the field for pre-game field access. That's a real treat. Just to be down there and wandering around and seeing players up close is nice. We talked with some of the game officials. We heard Randy McMichael crack "I'm being held!" to the ref. Chris Chambers made a spectacular one-handed catch that prepared him well for his game situation.

    And then, it was off to our seats. They were in the visiting team's bullpen area, which is at field level on the southwest corner. And while they're not great football seats - you're too low and the media are constantly blocking your view of the field - they were awesome. You get a different sense of the game. You can watch on the scoreboard if you want to see it all, or you can watch the "game within the game," or you can simply watch the cheerleaders (who are right in front of you).

    There was a woman sitting in the stands behind us who was pretty funny. She took great offense to the what the cheerleaders were wearing. She kept saying things like "put some clothes on, honey." and "you shouldn't be naked." The cheerleaders for the most part took it in stride and laughed it off. Heather - the director - was sitting right behind us, and she kept rolling her eyes about it.

    It was pretty amazing, all in all. And a totally unforgettable experience.

    And here's to hoping that Scott forgets that I walked on the Dolphin in the locker room. That was a big no-no. :)

    2004 Web Weekend

         What a weekend!

    We here at DBLATMD would like to extend a special thank you to the Miami Dolphins organization for hosting the first ever web weekend. Dave's site was one of the 12 or so websites invited to attend the event. And while it was initially met here with some skepticism, it turned out to be a fabulous weekend. You can read all about it at MiamiDolphins.com

    Not that I'm getting a big ego, or anything. That's all of us at the training facility.

    Friday, we met at the Dolphins practice facility. It was great to meet the other prominent webmasters and talk about some of the ins and outs of our experiences in web publishing. We watched the practice, had a BBQ, and got a few autographs and pictures. Then, we got a tour of the training facility, which was pretty cool. We also had a "team photo" taken out on the practice field. And individual photos with the superbowl trophies.

    Then, it was on in to the team's meeting room to discuss how we can work together. I think we all assumed that there would be a lot of specific discussion about what we can and can't do, but were pleasantly surprised to instead be greeted by Eddie Jones (President), and then to get talks from Seth McKinney, Dave Wannstedt, Bryan Wiedmeier (COO), and George Paton (Director of pro player personnel). There was also some information shared by our host, Scott Stone, and by a representative from the NFL. I think its safe to say that we have an understanding of that you won't be seeing any video or any clearly copyrighted material here or on any Dolphin fan site. It is also safe to say that they appreciate our efforts as fans, and it would seem that they also read our websites, too!

    Seth was asked about his comments on Ricky. He simply said he stood behind his comments, but its all in the past now. Dave saw a guy in our group wearing an 84 jersey, and he stopped, turned around and said 'I thought for a moment that was a 34 jersey, and I wanted to ask you to leave.' Neither would comment on who the starting QB would be, or their preference.

    On from there, we got a tour of the stadium that included the locker rooms, the press box, and field access. And though we passed the cheerleader's locker room, we didn't get a tour of that (darn!). That was pretty remarkable, seeing the stadium as they were setting it up for the game.

    On Saturday, it was game day. We had a barbeque, and had an opportunity to interact with some of the Dolphins alumni. Again, cool. There were two things I observed as we stood there: (1) they had a plastic fence separating us from the players, and the players had to come over to us. I was reminded distinctly of high school, where it was athletes on one side and, well, computer geeks on the other. And (2) in spite of the Dolphin alumni signing autographs, Ricky Williams was not attendance autographing an $8 million dollar check. (see below)

    After that, we had pre-game field access. For me, that was the hilight of the weekend. We got up close an personal with the team as they warmed up. We heard Junior Seau making cracks about the songs playing on the PA. We had Matt Turk talking to a few of us for a moment of two. And after that, we moved up to the legends club to watch the game. Located in the upper skybox of the east endzone, it was really nice. And hey, the bathrooms didn't smell, and someone was cleaning the floor. You don't see that in the general stands.

    And back to the Ricky Williams item...H has decided to try and recover the money Ricky owes the team. He has asked for it to be returned. Ricky says he doesn't have it. Ha. This will get interesting.

    During our talk on Friday, George put up a depth chart, and talked to it. He mentioned that it was preliminary and subject to change. Someone asked whether Antonio Freeman was going to be listed as the #2 wideout. He then went on to say that the depth chart wasn't really meaningful. He also mentioned that the teams was always looking at other team's rosters to look for possible additions to the team. He mentioned Spielman was on the road....then just before the game on Saturday, we heard about the trade between the Bears and Miami: Ogunleye for Booker and a 3rd round pick. And what he said suddenly made sense. Another thing he pointed out: Rex Hadnot will be a starter before too long. I tend to believe him.

    There was this giant check on the field. At first we thought it was for $8,000,000 from Ricky drawn from the bank of Neverland. But, we were wrong.
    Something about watching people clean a stadium with firehoses that I just find amusing...
    Dave and Seth talking with us
    The entrance to the locker room...
    And inside.
    The superbowl trophies.
    The entrance to the press box.
    Okay so technically, its the baseball press box, but its still pretty cool.
    And here we go onto the field...
    Junior was right in front of us. And he didn't make any slurs while we stood there.
    While watching them warm up, Antonio Freeman caught a pass right in front of me. For a moment as he regained his balance, I thought I was going to get clobbered. Here's what that might have looked like, complete with cleat marks on my face.
    To give the perspective, the arrow shows where we were standing.
    Your starting QB's locker at training camp. Jay Fiedler.