The Orange Bowl Mystique

Mystique. It is an almost indefinable word without its symbiotic partner, the Orange Bowl. People utter the word and others hear it. Only in the context of the Orange Bowl, however, is the meaning truly understood.

The Orange Bowl has an aura described only within its boundaries, and known only to those who have been there and experienced it. All the players, the coaches, the fans – the Canes family – understand. There is an Orange Bowl mystique.

Now, though, that mystique might be abandoned with a proposed change of venue for home games to Dolphins Stadium. To most, this is unfathomable. The Hurricanes are synonymous with the Orange Bowl. That is where Canes games are played. There is no other option, and it's not about history or convenience. It's about mystique. Without the Orange Bowl, the Canes lose a part of their heart and soul. And for what reason should the spirit of the Canes be torn asunder? Cleaner bathrooms, a jumbotron, and some luxury boxes do not make a stadium.

Benjamin Franklin once said, "All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse." This is almost a perfect summary of the proposed departure from the Orange Bowl. There are certain perceived issues with the Orange Bowl that would theoretically cease to exist at Dolphins Stadium. However, it is only a mirage and the powers that be are overlooking the severe consequences of departing from the mystique.

In 1987, the Miami Dolphins made such a woeful decision. In search of the same niceties, team management left the confines of the Orange Bowl for Joe Robbie Stadium, now Dolphins Stadium. For twenty years prior to the move, the franchise enjoyed a raucous home field advantage – winning nearly 75-percent of their home games. Since 1987, the neutered fans attending games at Dolphins Stadium could only help their team to a home win rate of 60-percent. In five of those 20 seasons at the Orange Bowl, the Dolphins went undefeated at home. Since then, they have always lost at least one game per season. Including and since 1987, the Canes have won four national championships. Had they moved along with the Dolphins, and lost an extra home game in those four seasons, how many less championships would the Canes have? Further, would any Canes fan give up even one championship for a cushy seat?

That home field advantage differential is real. It is not some statistical anomaly. Joe Robbie himself designed his stadium to accommodate other sports. The field was made wider in anticipation of professional soccer. From the first row of seats to the sideline is 90 feet. Ninety feet of noise killing space is at Dolphins Stadium, while the norm is 40 feet less. Fans attending games at Dolphins Stadium always got that feeling they were further from the action. Those trying to get into the opposing quarterback's head were stymied. They yelled to no avail. Defenders cajoled the crowd into making more noise, and got mouse squeaks in return. No mystique.

Since losing home games is not likely on the agenda for the powers that be, why then make such a devastating change? Clearly they must not be factoring in the home field advantage differential, or at least they are minimizing it because of other factors. One theory will be dubbed "wet and gross and dirty". This is a direct quote from a fan about the bathrooms at the Orange Bowl - the bathrooms! From almost all vantage points the bathrooms at any sporting event are wet and gross and dirty. By the fourth quarter, the stalls at Dolphins Stadium will be just as disgusting, the only difference is that the toilet you can't see under several inches of human excrement is 20 years newer.

Another theory is the jumbotron. Fans supposedly need it to see replays of the game, and the players need it to watch themselves running towards the end zone. In reality, a jumbotron is needed in a stadium where fans are too far away from the action to see it (like Dolphins Stadium). There is no such seat at the Orange Bowl – the mystique would simply not allow it. Fans that need to see replay should fire up the DVR before going to the game. After each play, fans at a Canes game should be too busy celebrating, recovering, and preparing for the next play. Ditto for the players. Most importantly, fans at the Orange Bowl are treated to the most amazing view of any sports stadium – the Miami skyline through the open end zone. The only distraction from that should be a few numbers showing yet another lopsided Canes victory.

Finally, there is the sky box theory. These days, owners of professional sports teams desire as many luxury suites as possible – that's where the money is. Will the same hold true for college? Not likely. Which corporate crowd will be in attendance? What clients will be entertained? This is Hurricane football. There is no mystique in a 12x12 room, watching the game only part time while some white gloved waiter serves martinis.

While some might define the Orange Bowl as "no block" and "arepas!", the real fan understands those are simply part of the total experience that is the mystique. What the decision makers need to understand is that the Orange Bowl not only helps the team win, but it is beloved. They need to understand that attendance will fall, and it will fall dramatically. And for many games attendance is not something to be toyed with. Moving would be a slap in the face to the core constituency, and the masses of fans will be replaced with the minority of those who need a comfy chair and enjoy only the spectacle of the game, rather than the experience.

The Orange Bowl mystique is irreplaceable. Move the team to Dolphins Stadium, and the team will simply be going through the motions in a sterilized environment, replete with Dolphins insignia and a dirt infield. Move the team and there will be more unthinkable losses due to a sedate and smaller fan base. While the Orange Bowl mystique might simply be a Canes thing that many would not understand, it exists and it is part of the heart and soul of the Miami Hurricanes.

Do not kill the Orange Bowl mystique.


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