Sept. 22, 1987. That was to be the day of the Miami Dolphins’ first regular season home game at then-Joe Robbie Stadium against the New York Giants, after 21 years at the Orange Bowl.
It’s only fitting the game was canceled due to the NFL Players’ Association strike.
After the NFL merged with the AFL in 1966, the Fins lost their first game at the OB to the Oakland Raiders, 23-14, in front of 26,776 fans.
Despite this, the Dolphins would go on to have the league’s only perfect season in 1972 along with three consecutive Super Bowl appearances and championships in their ’72 and ’73 seasons.
In total, the Fins have played in five Super Bowls, which all came while they called the Orange Bowl their home.
Ironically enough, in 1977, a 10-year lease was signed for the use of the Orange Bowl with a three-year cancellation notice.
Then, in 1984, Joe Robbie’s decision to build a multi-purpose stadium in north Dade County that could accommodate 75,000 people would play a major role in the Dolphins’ immediate future.
This ultimately led to the Dolphins’ final game in the OB on Dec. 22, 1986, and a 34-27 loss against AFC East rival New England, who claimed the division title with the win.
The Fins finished their last season at the Orange Bowl with an overall record of 110-38-3 and a spectacular .738 winning percentage, but as one of the NFL’s greatest franchises the team has yet to make the Super Bowl since its appearance against the San Francisco 49ers in 1984.
As a result, leaving the Orange Bowl has, thus far, proven to be a curse on the Dolphin franchise.
The Dolphin’s first game at Joe Robbie was a preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, where both quarterback Dan Marino and linebacker John Offerdahl were injured.
Although the Fins have had only one losing season at home since the move away from the Orange Bowl, they have made the playoffs only nine times and won the division only three times.
Their last game at the playoffs was in 2001: a 27-0 loss in Oakland to the Raiders, marking the first shutout in 38 postseason appearances for the Fins.
With a 102-57 record and a .642 winning percentage at Dolphin Stadium as of the 2006 season, the Dolphins no longer remain a team to be reckoned with at home or in the league.
Is it the mystique of the Orange Bowl that remains the missing element? Or is the vastness of Dolphin Stadium, which swallows crowd noise and atmosphere whole, at fault for the departure of greatness from the Miami Dolphins franchise?
The move from the OB can almost be seen as having “cursed” them. Sure the Dolphins didn’t trade away Dan Marino, their version of Babe Ruth, but they made a similar trade-off by leaving the OB for Joe Robbie. Will they also have to wait 86 years to raise the Lombardi Trophy?
Christina De Nicola may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.