Seasoned Canes: Fans Share Their Stories
Watching the Hurricanes play in a road series during his time as a undergraduate student at Florida was the first time Andrew Smallman knew unequivocally.
“I was in Gainesville for eight years, between undergrad and law school. During my freshman year, I went to a baseball game and that’s when I knew I would never be anything other than a Hurricanes fan,” Smallman recalled. “I saw the Canes take the field, and the Gators, and I said, ‘Who are we kidding? This is it.'”
Though both of Smallman’s parents were Florida alumni, growing up, his family in South Dade was always all about The U.
“My dad worked for Knight Ridder and the Miami Herald when I was a kid,” Smallman said. “My first memory was when we won the national championship in 1984, because I was six. We had a lot of stuff in my house – mugs with the front page of the Herald, things like that. We were always a Canes household.”
Though his wife is a diehard Gator fan, Smallman said their son, Landon, decided his fandom on the outcome of the 2013 game between the Hurricanes and Gators at Hard Rock Stadium. Whoever won would earn his allegiance. Jenn has the couple’s daughter, Peyton, on her side of the rivalry.
“We are truly a house divided. We have rules during football season,” Smallman said. “If either team loses, there’s no talking about it for 24 hours. It’s not okay. Saturday mornings, everyone throws on their colors, we meet in the kitchen and look at each other in disgust.”
Smallman said being able to share the love for the Hurricanes with Landon is one of his greatest joys. They’ve traveled together to road games and attend every home game, including this past year, when the Smallmans had a celebration for Landon’s bar mitzvah at a suite at Hard Rock Stadium.
“The great thing about Hurricanes Football is the time my son and I spend together,” Smallman said. “I try to remind him this is about fathers and sons. This isn’t about wins and losses. Period. Even after a tough loss, you turn it into a life lesson and explain that a lot of this is the journey not the destination.”
Joining his dad on his clearning routes in the early 1950s is how Les Haber initially became a Hurricanes fan.
Having relocated from New York in 1948, Les and his father would travel to the athletic dorms on campus as part of the elder Haber’s laundry route.
“Some of the coolest things that happened when I was little, and players used to give us stuff all the time,” Haber recalled. “Tickets, sure. But once, we got a monkey named ‘Dammit’ and we took it home. After three days, my mother made us give it away. We got snakes, animals, all kinds of stuff.”
Though his dad left the cleaning company, the Haber family decided to get tickets in the 50th row of the Orange Bowl on the 50-yard line.
Haber remembers a distinct “friends and family”-type feel to the crowd in those days.
“Back then, if a home game had 9,000 people it was a lot,” Haber said. “I remember when Gables played Miami High – I graduated from Gables High in 1961 – we put 45,000 people in the Orange Bowl.”
In 1977, when Haber’s own son Lon was born, he found out his father was struggling financially and had stopped paying for season tickets.
The news came on the morning of a home game, when Haber arrived with his son to his father’s doorstep.
“I said, ‘Get in the car.’ We went to the game bought tickets from a scalper and I think it was a Notre Dame game,” he said. “I decided after that game, we’re getting tickets, a bunch of tickets.”
Haber shares his love for the Hurricanes with his kids – including a daughter in Colorado and a son in upstate New York – and they get on three-way video calls during away games.
“Whenever Miami scores, we do a shot of tequila,” Haber said with a laugh.
It wasn’t until the day he was set to report for freshman year of college that Roy Berger saw the campus of the University of Miami for the first time.
Having graduated from high school on Long Island, Berger distinctly remembers his first Miami Hurricanes football game in the fall of 1970.
“I was there as a freshman and we played William & Mary, who had a young up-and-coming coach by the name of Lou Holtz,” he said. “The ‘Gator Flop’ was also that year. We all hated Florida.”
Berger, who graduated from the School of Communication in 1974, covered the football program for The Miami Hurricane, where he served as sports editor, editor-in-chief and executive sports editor during his final three years at UM. Berger also spent time behind home plate on the call for Miami Baseball games on student radio station WVUM.
Berger continued to cover the Hurricanes and even traveled to cover the team in his days after college. He called the transformation of the program under the direction of Howard Schnellenberger “absolutely phenomenal.”
“Back then, you had to count on the networks and we never ever got any air time,” Berger said. “We were the school who got scheduled as a ‘Homecoming’ opponent for Oklahoma and Alabama, or Notre Dame…to see what happened to the program in the late 70s and early 80s, I can’t tell you how much pride I had.”
Berger, who retired as the President/CEO of Medjet, now lives in Las Vegas and writes a weekly blog called Sunday Morning Coffee on his personal website. He maintains his four season tickets and tries to make at least one game per season.
“That’s my little way of thanking the football program for what it’s meant to me personally and I’ll never give up my season tickets,” Berger said. “I’ll always do that and make the contributions I can. It’s always been a sense of pride for me.”
Tell Us Your Story
Seasoned Canes is a platform for season ticket holders to share their stories of supporting The U – from favorite moments to tailgate traditions to personal memories of rivalry games, now is your chance to share!