MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Fans of the seventh-ranked Miami football team have found a unique way to support their team. And you can’t go anywhere around Hard Rock Stadium without seeing the turnover chain.
On-field reporters wear their own for mid-game segments. Celebrities go viral for wearing them in luxury boxes at Hard Rock Stadium. The parking lots outside the stadium are filled with fans tailgating and showing off their own personal version of the bling.
The turnover chain is given to the Miami player who intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble.
Some find places to order the chains online. Others make them out of whatever they can find lying around the house. Some entrepreneurs weave their way through tailgates wearing a dozen at a time to sell off to fans in need. They all have their own little quirks and personal touches.
Tony McGwire thinks he probably got ripped off.
“My paint’s already chipping,” he said. A few minutes earlier, McGwire saw someone with about half a dozen turnover chains draped around his neck. He was selling them for $40 a pop.
The price was steep, but for McGwire and his friend, Jerome Polk, dropping $80 on a pair of chains to wear on game days was a no-brainer.
“It’s a game-changer,” McGwire said.
The $40 price tag seems to be the standard going rate for turnover chains in the Hard Rock parking lots. Trevor Dewald bought his for the same price before the Hurricanes’ win against Syracuse on Oct. 21.
Dewald didn’t track down a salesman like McGwire and Polk, though. He simply saw someone with a chain he thought looked good and started bartering. Dewald started at $20 and kept going up by increments of $5 until finally a friend of the chain’s original owner made the sale.
That’s a lot of money to spend on a plastic chain and with a styrofoam U latched on to it, although you can’t deny it’s a hit. It’s a keepsake everyone at Dewald’s tailgate can take turns wearing.
“We were all happy to get it,” Dewald said.
At the tailgate beside his, two more fans were donning their own turnover chains. Jordan Wiggington bought one during the week leading up to the game against the Hokies. A native of Mississippi, Wiggington was already familiar with Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from his time at Mississippi State when he handed out a turnover belt. The turnover chain was the natural evolution and a perfect fit for South Florida fans.
“It’s more Miami,” Wiggington said.
At the same tailgate, Henter Ortiz wore a homemade chain. Right after he saw the Hurricanes break out the chain during the season-opening win against FCS Bethune-Cookman, he decided to run errands. Ortiz went to Party City to get a plastic chain, then shot over to Michael’s to get a wooden “U” he could paint green and orange.
“I had to do it,” Ortiz said. “It gives a lot of spirit.”
Everywhere you turn in the stands or out in the parking lot, you can spot someone with some variation of the chain.
Miami is always at its best when it draws from the community, whether it’s attracting the region’s top prospects or drawing from the region’s unique culture. Diaz, a Miami native, understands the importance. He’s happy he’s created a phenomenon which has spilled beyond the confines of the gridiron.
“We didn’t anticipate, but I think what it created was a connection,” Diaz said after the Virginia Tech game. “It created a connection with our community. I think Coach [Mark] Richt hit it on the head. It helps that we are getting the turnovers and it’s fun to have that thing come out as often as it did tonight, but I think what we were seeing tonight was that bond starting to grow again.
“People are starting to get excited about the games. What you saw tonight, you have never seen before in your life and it’s only going to get better, so we’re really excited about where all that’s going.”
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