The line snaked around the charcoal Hugo Boss mannequins, extended past the neatly-arranged display of striped Lacoste polo shirts and tucked between the Calvin Klein and Michael Kors autumn apparel collections.
As cardboard posters bearing Dan Marino’s likeness and career accomplishments padded a makeshift stage on the second floor of Macy’s in the Dadeland Mall, one night before Halloween, hundreds of shoppers dressed in their favorite Miami Dolphins throwbacks and dug out beloved No. 13 memorabilia in hopes of snagging a priceless memory with the greatest player in team history.
Nearly an hour before the meet-and-greet was scheduled to start, a DJ began blasting remixed versions of familiar ‘Jock Jams’ through the department store speakers – Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was a particular crowd-pleaser – while a fellow employee in an eggplant suit jacket tried to hype anxious fans by rattling off Marino’s impressive highlights.
None of the excitement appeared to faze our 20-month-old toddler, Charlie, who – with his bedtime on the horizon – began acting like a cranky, restless 20-month-old toddler, sprinting in the opposite direction, intentionally grounding crackers and spiking cubes of cheese in protest rather than celebration.
Considering we’d already waited in one line to make a qualifying purchase, followed by another to secure a color-coded wristband that corresponded with our place in the autograph queue, it was hard to blame him. Luckily, with most Macy’s clerks focused on instructing customers and curious onlookers, an unmanned cash register served as a welcome distraction, as Charlie pushed buttons, giggled at the cacophonous beeps and error messages, and quickly discovered how to print blank paper receipts.
Although Marino arrived a half-hour late, to his credit, the Hall of Famer – decked in a slim-fitting black suit and matching tie – made sure to shake each fan’s hand and personalize autographs, listening intently to variations of similar anecdotes he’d undoubtedly heard for decades.
Charlie could barely keep his head up and eyes open by the time it was our turn to meet his our Dolphins hero, gazing silently as an event staffer handed us a trio of black, Hugo Boss embossed footballs and borrowed my iPhone to snap nearly two dozen photos.
After we shared a few kind words with the former NFL MVP – informing him of DolfansNYC’s growth and proud commitment to charitable endeavors – a smiling, nodding Marino high-fived Charlie and gently patted him on the head, penning ‘Go Deep’ above his signature with a silver sharpie.
Charlie may be too young to realize the significance of that moment, but one day, he’ll understand not only the meaning of the inscription, but the sentimental value of joining his parents and grandfather in a snapshot of three generations of Dolphins fans alongside their football idol.
And Dan, when that time comes, he’ll be sure to take you up on your offer.