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Panthers up, Dolphins down in fan favor


fl-florida-panthers-fans.jpg

Another indication of how far the Dolphins have fallen as a franchise is in their ranking of 110 out of the 122 teams in the four major professional leagues in ESPN the Magazine’s Ultimate Team Rankings for 2012.

Rankings were based on input from fans in eight categories: bang for the buck, fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaching and title track.

Conversely, the Florida Panthers made the biggest leap in fan favor of any pro team, improving to 33rd from 111th last year.

The NBA champion Miami Heat led South Florida teams in 31st place. The Miami Marlins, in their first season in the new retractable-roof stadium, were No. 67, two places better than their in final season at Sun Life Stadium.

The Oklahoma City Thunder received the No. 1 ranking as the franchise that provides the greatest rewards for the emotion, money and time fans invest.

DolFan-protest.jpgAccording to ESPN the Magazine: “The Thunder turn fans into family.”

The conclusion was that the Dolphins have done the opposite: created a disconnect with fans during the dismal past decade.

Coincidentally, the Dolphins came to much the same conclusion from extensive surveying of season-ticket holders during the recent offseason and have begun efforts to regain fan trust and improve the game-day experience at Sun Life Stadium.

Winning must figure prominently into achieving that objective. The Bang for the Buck category in the Ultimate Rankings factors victories during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.

This season the Dolphins are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 perfect season while attempting to end a three-year run of losing seasons behind rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and first-year coach Joe Philbin.

“Were re-emphasizing football at the center of everything we do,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. “This is obviously a franchise that is fortunate to have great history, and we are going to continue to celebrate that history.”

The Panthers demonstrated how quickly fan perception and satisfaction can change as the ended a 12-year playoff drought while winning the Southeast Division championship in 2011-12.

“With the support of our owner Cliff Viner and his partners, we have worked hard not only to achieve success on the ice, but also to improve our customer service, in-arena experience and community outreach. So this great ranking is a testament to the hard work of many people throughout our franchise,” Panthers President and COO Michael R. Yormark said.

That positive turn for the franchise may be jeopardized by the impending lockout by NHL owners in the labor dispute with players that could begin when the collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The top Florida franchises in ESPN’s rankings were from the Tampa Bay area: the Lightning seventh, the Rays 16th. The Jacksonville Jaguars were 65th, the Orlando Magic 77th.

Here are the top 10 pro franchises in the view of fans:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Green Bay Packers
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Phoenix Coyotes
7. Tampa Bay Lightning
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Texas Rangers
10. Arizona Diamondbacks

Perhaps more enlightening is the list of teams that rank below the Dolphins, including several old-guard franchises that in the view of fans don’t go out of their way to please the paying customers.

At the bottom are the Toronto Maple Leafs. According to ESPN the Magazine: “The Leafs are like the Yankees -- an internationally famous franchise with a glorious history, devoted followers and staggeringly high prices -- except they play like the [Kansas City] Royals.”

Here are the bottom dwellers:

111. Montreal Canadiens
112. Chicago Cubs
113. New York Knicks
114. Edmonton Oilers
115. St. Louis Rams
116. Columbus Blue Jackets
117. Boston Red Sox
118. Washington Wizards
119. New York Islanders
120. Charlotte Bobcats
121. Sacramento Kings
122. Toronto Maple Leafs

Dolphins offer skin cancer screening

The Dolphins will be looking out for the health of their fans by offering free skin cancers screenings prior to Sunday’s home opener against the Raiders.

The screenings will be conducted by licensed dermatologists at Gate C from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The first 100 fans that get screened will win a pair of free tickets to the Oct. 14 game against St. Louis. Additionally, three fans who attended the screening event in June will attempt to kick a field goal from the 50-yard-line at halftime for a chance to win $10,000.

The event is in partnership with Melanoma Exposed™, an educational campaign aimed to raise awareness of melanoma and its risk factors. Dolphins CFO Mark Brockelman’s wife, Jan, passed away from melanoma in 2010.

Brockelman attended the first screening event in June, bringing with him his two daughters and Jan’s family and friends.

“This campaign is very meaningful to me and my family – it is our family’s mission to get the word out about melanoma and the dangers of sun exposure,” Brockelman said.

Panthers photo: Fans reveled in the Panthers' first trip to the playoffs since 2000 earlier this year. (Jim Rassol, staff file)

Dolphins photo: Fans registered their displeasure with Dolphins management during a protest outside the team's practice facility earlier this year. (Taimy Alvarez, staff file)

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About the author
CRAIG DAVIS In more than 33 years at the Sun Sentinel, Craig Davis has written about a wide variety of sports topics from baseball to yachting, fishing to triathlons, and also worked as a copy editor and page designer. Recently he reported on local sports, including running, swimming, cycling, equestrian and beach volleyball. He enjoys sports as a participant as well as a spectator, is active in the South Florida running scene plays in the curling club at Saveology Iceplex. This blog offers a glimpse at the business side of sports in the interest of enhancing enjoyment of the games and sporting options as a spectator as well as a participant.
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