Seasoned Canes: Fans Share Their Stories
It’s hard to imagine that before her University of Miami freshman orientation in 2005, Michelle Wallace had no inclination that Hurricanes Football was…well, a pretty big deal.
“I did not grow up in a sports household whatsoever,” Wallace said. “My dad is a big Yankees fan, but I hadn’t really watched football otherwise. I watched the Super Bowl every year, but that was the extent of things.”
Wallace, who grew up in New Jersey but was born in Florida, always planned on coming back to the Sunshine State for college. She applied to four different schools in Florida, but didn’t tour any of them before making her decision, eventually deciding that UM was the best fit.
Fast-forward more than 15 years later, and the Hard Rock Stadium green lot might as well be a second home for her and her friends on Saturdays.
“I feel like I’ve always been the one that gets spirited about things and dive right into it,” Wallace said. “I went as a freshman and I loved it. It’s a great feeling being a part of a community, in that aspect.”
Wallace spent time back in New Jersey and completed an internship in Brazil before working for the Miami Dolphins from 2013 through 2014, and took advantage of a side benefit from her job in the NFL.
“Every day at lunch I would walk the stadium, and I kind of figured out where I wanted to sit based on what looked good,” she said. “What was close to bathrooms, close to concessions, close to where I parked….I got it down to a science.”
Wallace usually paints a clever tagline on the back of her car before every home game (“Pluck the Hokies!” was a recent one). In addition to the necessities – table, chairs, grill, giant Jenga set, etc. – Wallace said there is another aspect that defines their tailgates in the fall.
A shrimp round.
“Sometimes my New Jersey accent comes out in things I don’t intend for them to come out in,” Wallace said with a laugh. “The first time I was running through all the food we had, I had to explain what a shrimp round was to my friends.
“They were like, ‘What? A shrimp round? What is that?’ It’s a ring of shrimp!”
Now, the running joke has turned into a staple at every tailgate.
And though Wallace says there is no clever nickname for her group, they are defined by an unmistakable flag that flies proudly every Saturday: two shrimp in the shape and colors of the ‘U.’
No matter who accompanies him to University of Miami football games, Craig Dearr makes two things perfectly clear ahead of time.
“I always get to the game on time and never, ever, ever leave early. It doesn’t matter if we’re winning by 50 or losing by 50. We’re here until the end.”
Dearr’s parents moved to Miami from Brooklyn, New York in 1949. Dearr, who was born in 1953, grew up four blocks from the Coral Gables campus. As avid sports fans but with no professional sports teams in the area, the Dearr Family turned to Hurricanes Football as its main source of entertainment upon relocation.
“We would have Friday night dinner, and then pack in the car and go to the games,” Dearr said. “That was our regular ritual. Our lives revolved around University of Miami Friday night football games.”
Watching the Band of the Hour and soaking in all of the pregame festivities were almost as important as the game itself, Dearr says. And, though his father passed away when he was nine years old, the family continued to attend games in those season tickets until 1972.
“I remember it so well,” Dearr said. “We were in the south stands, Section S, Row 13. We were right on the 45-yard line behind the University of Miami bench.”
Even though his mother eventually gave up the seats, Dearr would soon be accepted to Miami and continue attending games at the Orange Bowl, all the way through law school.
“I was buying tickets while I was a student, having no idea that I could go sit in the student section for free,” Dearr said with a laugh. “I went to as many as I could. It wasn’t until I was in law school, in 1978, I learned I had the right to go to games for free!”
Dearr purchased season tickets after graduating from law school, and has attended three of Miami’s five national championship wins. One of Dearr’s fondest memories is bringing his son, Sheldon, to a game when he was just two years old, in 1992. The Hurricanes were favored heavily over the visiting Arizona Wildcats.
With it being Sheldon’s first game, and with a potential lopsided score incoming, Dearr thought there was a chance he might break his own rule and leave the game a little early.
“The game turned out to be a nail biter,” Dearr said. “Sheldon was really pretty good. Towards the end of the game, he was worn out. But we stayed until the end.
I said, ‘Sorry, son. We’re not leaving.’”
Final score? Miami 8, Arizona 7.
“They missed a field goal on the last play of the game,” Dearr said.
Dearr eventually relocated his seats to the 50-yard line, where he now enjoys one of the best views in all of Hard Rock Stadium. He has enjoyed bringing Sheldon and daughter, Julianna, to games. He has also brought friends, clients and co-workers.
“Tailgating isn’t important to me. I go in and sit in my seat. I want to watch warm-ups, and to be there for the Band of Hour and hear them play…it takes me back to when I was four years old, when they’re playing some of the same songs.”
He might have grown up in Chicago, but Big 10 football was never appealing to Jorge Pinares.
“I was bored stiff, because all they did was run the option,” Pinares said. “When I first watched the Hurricanes, I said, ‘This is my team.’”
Pinares, who spent time in south Florida while vacationing early on in life, eventually relocated to Miami, and raised both of his daughters to be Hurricanes fans.
“I like the Bears, I like the Cubs, and I’m a Blackhawks fan, too,” Pinares said. “But my favorite sport, by far, is college football.”
Pinares first became a season ticket holder in the mid-1990s, attending games at the Orange Bowl with family and friends.
Oftentimes he brought his two girls, Candice and Jillian.
“Even when they were teenagers, my kids had never heard me swear in the house,” Pinares said. “But when they saw me at the Orange Bowl, I had to explain it was a little different.”
And even though his daughters eventually attended Florida State for college, the lessons they learned from their dad stuck with them during college and after graduation.
Pinares’ small group eventually turned into a group of nearly 20 people who tailgate together on Saturdays in the fall. Typically, Pinares packs up his tailgating gear at his neighborhood in West Kendall and makes the trek to his daughter’s place near the Florida Turnpike.
“People bundle up into a few cars, and we head in as soon as the tailgate lots open,” Pinares said. “When my grandkids are coming to a game, we usually take them to one where there’s a tamer crowd – not Florida State.”
Pinares’ favorite Hurricane of all time? Edgerrin James.
“He could have gone to any school he wanted to go, and he said he was going to Miami,” Pinares said. “He came at a time when we were down. Those are memories that really stick out to me, watching him run all over everyone in 1997 and 1998, when the stadium was half empty.”
His favorite recent memory? That’s an easy one – Miami’s win over Notre Dame in 2017.
“Having grown up in Chicago, I have hated Notre Dame since I was a little kid,” Pinares said. “We had so much fun at that game. That’s the game that really stands out in my mind.”
After a year with no tailgating, Pinares is excited for a return to normalcy.
“We look forward to those six home games or seven home games all year. We have a great time,” Pinares said. “We get along really great with that group. There’s nothing better.”