Lots of memories returned as we drove up to the stadium. I’ve been here for the OU-Florida State Orange Bowl, the OU-Southern Cal Orange Bowl, the OU-Florida Big Bowl, the OU-Miami regular season game of 2009 and the OU-Clemson Orange Bowl.
What struck me is how many different names this stadium has used.
In 1987, it was christened Joe Robbie Stadium, named after the Dolphins’ owner. The name went corporate, Pro Player Park or Pro Player Stadium, from 1996-2005.
The name for the OU-USC Orange Bowl was Pro Player Stadium, but six days later it reverted to Dolphins Stadium.
The “s” was dropped, so for OU-Florida, it was Dolphin Stadium.
Nine months later, for OU-Miami, it was Land Shark Stadium.
By OU-Clemson, it was Sun Life Stadium.
Now it’s Hard Rock Stadium. In all, nine stadium name changes. It’s very difficult to keep up.
Miami Gardens is a suburb north of Miami and west of Fort Lauderdale. Eighteen years ago, most people referred to the stadium as just being in Miami, and even Miami writers didn’t really refer to it as Miami Gardens, for good reason. It was unincorporated. In 2003, Miami Gardens was incorporated and now is a city of about 113,000. The city is largely innocuous, except for the ballpark that is home to the Dolphins, the University of Miami and, until recent years, baseball’s Marlins. It’s among the most inconvenient college football stadiums in America – 22 miles from Miami’s Coral Gables campus.
Anyway, after Media Day, we jumped back onto the bus and headed back for the hotel. Bowl games are a lot of work. I generally go from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, with only stopping to grab a bite of lunch. Thursday was no different. I wrote a column about Pete Golding, blogged and put together a Lincoln Riley Q&A for the Friday Oklahoman.
The football games on ESPN were total duds – Duke blew out Temple, Wisconsin waxed Miami – so that was barely moderate help as background noise.
But Trish the Dish came back from shopping around 6 p.m., and eventually we headed out around 7:45 p.m. for a triple date – Ryan Aber and his wife, Kim; Bob Przybolo and his wife, Brittany; the Dish and I. Bob covers OU for Rivals and used to work at The Oklahoman. Brittany is the sister of another Oklahoman alum, Jake Trotter, so it was all in the family.
We jumped into an Uber – a Suburban carried all six of us – and went back to the Fort Lauderdale beachfront. The Dish and I had passed a cool-looking place called Casablanca Café, so we decided to give it a try. I’m a sucker for “Casablanca,” the movie, and this place had a great feel. Spiral staircase, terrazzo floors, banana-leaf blades on ceiling fans, stucco walls, Spanish architecture. A groovy duet performing live music. Just a neat place. The restaurant’s menu says the building is the oldest remaining on Fort Lauderdale Beach, built in 1927 as a home and renovated and restored in 1995 into Casablanca Café.
I had seafood pasta, the Dish had salmon and the whole evening was great. Noisy, because Casablanca by nature is a little chaotic, but still a grand time.
We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table, so we strolled Seabreeze Boulevard, and it was just as windy Thursday night as Wednesday night. Oklahoma has nothing on Fort Lauderdale Beach when it comes evening wind.
Uber got us back to the hotel, where I watched Baylor beat Vanderbilt and take the Big 12 to 2-0 in bowl season. We’ll see if the Big 12 can keep it up.