Don Shula, a bona fide South Florida celebrity and noted NFL coach who led the Miami Dolphins to the only perfect season in NFL history, celebrated his birthday happily on Saturday at Miami’s Land Shark Stadium, with more than 30 former players, NFL notables, and former Senator Bob Graham, according to the Associated Press. Even Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie was in attendance, who sang a rendition of Happy Birthday to the Hall of Fame coach and attendees. From the balcony, however, there was a slightly different mood.
Bestowed the honor of watching the VIPs chow on their fine foods from a balcony, some 80 season ticket holders who were “randomly” invited to attend the event for $80 were served partly-cooked hotdogs, dry chicken and soda on plastic plates, reports Page2Live. And according to season ticket holder Fred Sorentrue, this was only after waiting outside in the cold for all VIPs to get in.
Sorentrue said that despite holding season tickets for 12 years on the lower level, he is considering canceling his $1,700-a-year membership.
Dolphins Director of Marketing George Torres said most invited fans were thrilled. “It was communicated to everyone that they’d be at the balcony,” Torres said. “The registration provided access to watch the party. There was no mention of food. That was added later. We felt we’d found a nice way to incorporate season ticket holders into a good event.”
Regardless of the discontent from above, Shula was all smiles throughout the evening, noting that everyone at the event brought back memories.
“I feel great,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m 80 years old. I used to think 80 was old. My whole perspective has changed.”
Shula resigned at age 66 following the 1995 season, his 33rd as an NFL head coach and his 26th with the Dolphins. Coincidentally, his 80th birthday party took place one day after 80-year-old Bobby Bowden coached his final game at Florida State, whom Shula calls one of his “heroes.”
In 1963, Shula became the youngest coach in NFL history at age 33 when he took over the Baltimore Colts. He joined the Dolphins in 1970, and led them to consecutive Super Bowl championships in 1972-73.
Shula also led Miami to the AFC titles in 1982 and 1984. He won 17 postseason games with the Dolphins; the franchise’s seven other head coaches have combined for three playoff wins, but none since 2000.
For a special Shula tribute, check out the Dolphins’ web site, which features a video dedication to the NFL legend.