The English have Manchester United-Liverpool.
In South Florida, we have Jets-Dolphins.
Next fall, the Brits will learn first-hand if an American rivalry stacks up to their own.
The NFL announced Wednesday that the Jets and Dolphins, who have met 97 times and counting, will face off in a historic London showdown in 2015.
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That’s good news for American ex-pats and football-loving Brits alike. But for Dolphins fans, the announcement was far from celebrated. Why? They just lost a signature home game.
Never before has a team surrendered a home divisional game to play in Europe, but that’s exactly what the Dolphins have agreed to do. The game is scheduled for Oct.4, at London’s Wembley Stadium, where more than 83,000 turned out to watch the Dolphins stomp the Raiders in September.
“All I really have to say about that is we had a great experience over there four or five weeks ago,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “That’s the 2015 season, and we’ll deal with all of the ramifications when we get there.”
When asked if he signed off on the decision, Philbin responded: “That’s all I’m going to say about the London game. That’s a year away, and I’m not really even thinking about that.”
So why would the Dolphins surrender such a lucrative — and anticipated — game? For one, it will help their case when they lobby to bring a future Super Bowl back to South Florida.
The league wants Super Bowl-hosting teams to give up a home game in exchange for winning the rights to the championship, and this could be the Dolphins’ way of taking their medicine sooner rather than later.
Also, the stadium’s construction schedule might be a factor.
Owner Stephen Ross has pledged some $400 million of private funds to rehab aging Sun Life Stadium, whose deteriorating condition has kept the Super Bowl away since 2010.
Playing the game at a neutral site would give contractors time to do work that they might not otherwise have.
While it was unclear whether the Dolphins would have their bye immediately following the London game, as was the case this year, NFL.com first reported that the Dolphins will indeed have the weekend of Oct.11 off.
That would create at least a three-week window between Dolphins games played at Sun Life Stadium. The team hopes to have construction completed for the start of the 2016 season.
Inside the Dolphins locker room, reaction to the news was mostly positive — among those who even thought that far in the future. Cameron Wake had little appetite for the conversation Thursday, saying he was focused on Sunday’s critical game in Detroit.
Some groused privately about the thought of another transatlantic flight — a nine-hour ordeal. And as for having to board a plane twice to play the Jets next year?
“It’s whacked,” one player said.
Mike Pouncey, meanwhile, saw it another way. A hip injury kept him from playing in September’s game at Wembley, and he was excited for another chance.
“We had a lot of fun out there,” Pouncey said. “We got to bring our family out. The food was terrible, but other than that, we had a great time.”
When asked about losing their 2015 home game against the Jets, Pouncey said: “I think the game will be a lot better. It’s going to be competitive, because that’s one of our conference teams, so it’s going to be a good game, regardless of where we play them at. But it will be nice for the country over there.”
As for the Dolphins’ regular paying customers, some called the box office Thursday to vent.
The team understands their frustration but points out that season-ticket members will be charged for one fewer game next year, and that quality home games against the Patriots, Giants and Cowboys are still on the 2015 schedule.