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Sports Crazed: SCV's Dolphins superfan

Posted: August 19, 2014 10:01 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2014 10:01 p.m.

Stuart Thompson has spent years gathering memoribilia for his Miami Dolphins "man cave". Signal photo by Katharine Lotze

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It started in 1971.

Stuart Thompson, then just 6 years old, sat watching the Miami Dolphins play and something happened.

“I watched as Larry Csnoka ran down the field with 10 guys on his back,” Thompson says. “Alright, it might have been only one or two but watching him run was incredible. No one could stop him.”

The next day, Thompson’s father got him a Dolphins hat and from that point on he was hooked.

“I don’t know what happened to that hat,” he says. “It may have lasted a year. I wore it out everywhere. I think it might have fallen apart.”

Thompson has never lived in Miami. If his father had turned on a different game, he might be obsessed with another team.

But it was Csonka and the Dolphins on that Sunday.

“I don’t even remember who they were playing,” he says. “I just remember the Dolphins and everything about them and just going, ‘Whoa.’ As a young kid who liked playing football, it was my first real exposure to the NFL.”

If Thompson wasn’t already completely enamored with the Dolphins in 1971, then 1972 sealed the deal.

That year the Dolphins, led by Csonka, running back Mercury Morris, quarterback Bob Griese and head coach Don Shula, went undefeated and won Super Bowl VII. It stands as the only perfect season in NFL history.

They repeated as Super Bowl champs in 1973.

Now as the 50-year-old Thompson, who works in IT with Kaiser Permanente, sits in his Dolphins “man cave” in his home in Valencia decked out in aqua and orange everything — hat, custom Reebok shoes that says “Dolfan” on them, socks, shirt and with the Dolphins’ old logo tattooed on his right shoulder — he reminisces about every piece of memorabilia he has and what they mean to him.

There are things as common as pennants and vanity license plates and then there are things that would leave any collector drooling.

Things like a Dan Marino signed football commemorating his 420th career touchdown pass, three signed Marino jerseys, or a personalized note from Csonka himself on a little yellow piece of paper that a friend got for him.

There’s even a seat from the old Miami Orange Bowl signed by 10 of the players from ’72 Dolphins team.

When the Dolphins organization saw Thompson’s old man cave they sent him the seat as a thank you for being a superfan from thousands of miles away.

Thompson even has a Dolphins logo made of crushed egg shells that was crafted by a prison inmate who he wrote back and forth with.

“I was pen pals with a guy in prison a dozen or so years ago and he sent me this logo he had made out of dyed egg shells,” Thompson says. “It’s perfect. It looks store bought and it’s one of my pride and joys.”

There isn’t much Thompson doesn’t have. Through scouring sites like eBay and Craigslist, he has overcome the how hard it is to find Miami gear in Southern California.

“I challenge people to find me things that that I don’t have,” Thompson says. “I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs. I’m a boring guy. But I have my Dolphins.”

This version of the man cave is actually Thompson’s second. After a divorce he moved and condensed all his Dolphins gear into the smaller room where it is now.

“There’s still stuff in boxes,” he says. “I’ve got 12 or 15 more pennants to finish going around the room and there’s still plenty of ceiling space that won’t go untouched. Trust me. When I find something unique, I look before I buy it and think about where it’ll go in the room.”

Thompson’s passion is also rubbing off on the next generation. Not that they had much of a choice.

“My twins (Conner and Cole) had Dolphins pacifiers when they were babies,” he says. “Conner has really become a fan and Cole hasn’t. But every year we go to a game and paint our faces.”

In 2012 the Dolphins invited Thompson and his son Conner to Miami to catch a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

They were allowed to walk on the field and meet the players.

“That has to be my favorite game we’ve been to,” Stuart says. “We couldn’t really see a whole lot of the game because the players are all huge but just being on the field was great.”

Conner, who walks around with a Dolphins No. 72 jersey with “Undefeated” on the back, named Brian Hartline as his favorite current player and Mercury Morris as his favorite all-time.

From birth he was destined to be a Dolphins fan, and he’s embraced it.

Going with his father to games with his face painted, walking on the field and meeting players has turned him into as much of a diehard fan as Stuart.

“I love football games. It’s really fun and exciting to me,” Conner says. “When the Dolphins scored while we were on the field, it was crazy. It was really cool.”

Among Stuart’s most prized possessions in his man cave include pictures of him and his sons.

“If I could have one thing, it would be to keep going to Dolphins games with my boys until the day I die,” he says. “If I die in the seat, that’s perfect.”

Thompson’s love of the Dolphins may have started by pure chance, but it’s led him to create something he can share with friends and family.

Marc Schwartz, a Dolphins fan himself, has known Thompson for over 15 years and he has experienced Miami games in the man cave.

“It’s very exciting to see games in there,” he says. “There’s so much passion. We express ourselves. It’s fun to watch games with people who are just as emotional and dedicated as you are.”

Sometimes things get really emotional. That’s what the Dolphins tissues are for.

But no matter how low the Dolphins go or what happens in Thompson’s life, he won’t be parting with any of his prized memorabilia.

“I could lose my job, move out of my house, all of this is going into a box and getting stored,” he says. “I’m not selling any of it. It would be the same thing as asking me to sell one of my children. This is like a child to me.”

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