We make no secret of our obsession with Tailgating here at NFL Weekends. It is an American phenomenon and for us Brits, it is quite frankly all a little bit bizarre. So, hopefully we can teach you a little more about the sports watching culture over in the States in this short article.
James caught up with Dave Buchler of the ‘Finatics’, official fan group of the Miami Dolphins. Dave hosts the wonderful tailgate parties on game-day and NFL Weekends guests will be fortunate enough to experience Dave and his friend’s hospitality at the Hard Rock Stadium. We speak to Dave about his love affair with the Dolphins, his thoughts on British fans, the wonder of tailgating and much more. Thanks Dave and we can’t wait to see you again later this year!
‘’No matter how well or badly our team do then we always say ‘at least we have each other and our tailgate’…It is about friendship and comradery, making fantastic memories and a common love of our Miami Dolphins’’
Back in early March, we shared a coffee just off Miami Beach and discussed exciting plans to work together for the 2020 Season…..hmmmm, say no more! But anyway, where did it all start Dave? Tell us about becoming a Dolphins fan through to present day and leading the Finatics.
I started following the Dolphins aged 6 in 1972 just before the ‘72 perfect season, so they were sure easy to fall in love with! I grew up in Yonkers just north of NYC, and then moved to Florida for college and then on to South Florida after graduating. In fact I bought a Dolphins season ticket with my first pay cheque all those years ago! A group of us fans became friends and a website formed called E12.com (after our space in the parking lot) to arrange who brings what and to organise the tailgate. As time grew, a more appropriate name was required and in 1997, ‘The Finatics’ was born! Now we are the official fan club of the Miami Dolphins, have thousands of people who follow our website and social media and a very fun and inclusive tailgate at every home game.
Are you positive for a full stadium at the Hard Rock come the start of the 2021 season?
Yes for 2 reasons – Florida is a very liberal state in terms of the restrictions etc, and the powers that be are very keen for things to return to normal. Secondly, a lot of revenue would have been lost in ticket sales so there will be a need for extra revenue. Of course, all of this being possible pending a successful roll out of the vaccine.
How has it been this year, did you get to many games?
We only went to the Bengals game. It was dubbed as the Tua vs Burrow game but sadly Burrow went down injured and couldn’t play. The Dolphins have been widely celebrated across the NFL as leaders when it comes to the pandemic and how they dealt with it, the game was a great experience and we all felt very safe, and of course the Dolphins won fairly comfortably which is always nice!
It’s an exciting time to be a Dolphins fan as we both well know. I think we could clinch the Super Bowl within the next 3 seasons. Do you agree and are things looking rosy for the fins?
Well there are a lot of reasons to be excited and I can definitely say we will be in the playoffs next year. Firstly, we have a very young squad which can only be a good thing in terms of moving forward from a 10 & 6 year. We also have 4 draft picks in the top 50, including number 3 and 18 in the first round. We also have Tua – I personally am very positive about his first season and with a couple of tweaks he will be a star and our QB for the future. Finally but crucially, Coach Flores has the respect of the team, he has changed the image of the whole organisation and I now believe we will attract the best trades, free agencies and picks based on his presence – he is a truly fantastic person and coach.
From my experiences of tailgating, yours is smaller and slightly more family oriented – is that a fair assessment?
You can get all ends of the spectrum at a Miami game-day, just take a wander around and you will see all sorts within 100 yards – it’s very diverse but that makes it fantastic! Yes, ours specifically is very welcoming and friendly but not enormous, we like it that way.
What does tailgating mean to you?
No matter how well or badly our team do then we always say ‘at least we have each other and our tailgate’. That says it all to me. It is about friendship and comradery, making fantastic memories and a common love of our Miami Dolphins.
Talk us through game-day with the Finatics, from setting up first thing in the morning all the way through…
I actually begin loading the car on Saturday afternoon and like having it full by Saturday night, aside from the food. Gino designs the menu and is the main chef, he will also be preparing on Saturday afternoon. Us tailgaters take our food very seriously indeed! On gameday, we arrive at the stadium at 830am for a 30 minute set up, ensuring we are good to go by 9am. We break most of the tailgate down before going into the game, but we meet back up after the game for a de-brief for final celebration or commiseration. We are home and shattered by 6/7pm.
What’s your favourite away day?
We go to at least one away game a season so I have been to most stadiums. My favourite experience is up at the Green Bay Packers, they are a very hospitable bunch and the tailgate is so much fun, they live for football up there! The Dolphins and Packers don’t have much history or rivalry so the relationship is a good one. I also must mention London and meeting the British fans in the pubs etc, we loved Wembley and all the history too, it was a real privilege and we can’t wait to go again!
The Dolphins are the most popular team in the UK, say many sources. What do you make of the ever-increasing popularity of the NFL here across the pond?
We’ve been over 3 times and each time we go over it seems to be bigger and better than before. I have noticed a pick-up in mainland Europe too. I know there is a current drive here to really engage with the UK and I’m sure NFL Weekends can be a big part of that. We welcome you Brits with open arms!
What is your favourite ever Miami Dolphins game that you have been to?
Vs Patriots 2018 @ The Hard Rock – The Miami Miracle. It will be forever imprinted in my mind. Gronk was for some reason playing Defence and he just got done, the play started with 7 seconds left on the clock. It was so unexpected and dramatic…you just couldn’t write it!