SBD/September 8, 2011/NFL Season Preview

Dolphins Coach Expresses Disappointment With Timing Of Home Opener

Ross has pushed for later starts to make it more comfortable for fans
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano yesterday expressed a "level of disappointment" that the team's season opener against the Patriots will be played at 7:00pm ET Monday rather than 1:00pm Sunday, according to Brian Biggane of the PALM BEACH POST. Sparano said there "should be an advantage" to playing the opener at Sun Life Stadium. He added, "It's probably more at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. But there should be an advantage. We're playing at whatever time, 7 o'clock at night, it'll be hot for both teams, but it won't be 1 o'clock hot. But anytime you go into your place, your crowd, there should be an advantage." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross prior to last season "asked the league to schedule the Dolphins' early-season games on the road and in the evening, and ... has made it clear he has had fans' comfort in mind in scheduling" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 9/7). In South Florida, Dave Hyde writes the Dolphins' offseason "evidently has turned off fans in such staggering numbers that tens of thousands of Patriots fans are expected to take up the slack for the home opener." Hyde: "It was Ross who petitioned the league, starting last year, to play early season games in the late afternoon and/or at night to make it more comfortable for fans. ... Be careful what you wish for, huh? Because now it's a large contingent of opposing fans who will be comfortable" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/8).

TIME FOR A CHANGE? CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote fans should "pay close attention to the attendance situation in Florida this weekend," as the Dolphins, Jaguars and Buccaneers all have "struggled to sell tickets." The NFL "remains the most popular of sports, but the blackout situation -- and there are other teams facing this issue, about a half-dozen total -- has to be concerning." It is "possible the only team that ends up blacked out is Tampa, but the fact that so many teams struggled to sell tickets in the opening week is not good." Freeman: "We may be seeing the beginning of a league-wide trend where many teams, in the future, don't fill their stadiums because of ticket prices, drunken fools going to the game and HD television. It seems only a matter of time before the NFL is forced to alter its blackout rules" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/7).
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