Steve Ross out to raise Dolphins' profile as he did business empire

NEW YORK

On the 19th floor of his signature development, near the hectic end of his busiest year as he opens branches in Beijing and Abu Dhabi, Steve Ross walks through his company's Manhattan office with thunder in his voice.

"I'm angry," he says.

He waves a hand forward as he walks.

"Come on, I'll show you why," he says.

Here, in his corner office, on the desk with a postcard view of Central Park's foliage, an open magazine sits amid the collected souvenirs of Ross' full life: dozens of charitable awards, dozens more business awards, photos with the likes of Democratic President Bill Clinton, Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and crooner Tony Bennett, who came to Ross' office one recent birthday to sing — what else? — Happy Birthday.

"Look at this," Ross says, pointing to the photo laid across two magazine pages.

New Orleans defensive back Darren Sharper is shown fumbling the football a yard from the goal line last week in the Dolphins' loss. The play was ruled, mistakenly, as the photo shows, a game-turning touchdown and not the Dolphins ball it should have been.

"That cost us the game," Ross says, stabbing a finger into the picture. "Can you believe that? Look at that picture. The question I have is why wasn't there a proper replay camera to show what's obvious — what we thought at the time? It was a fumble."

He's asked what, as Dolphins owner, he's done about it.

"Not a damn thing," he says. "There's nothing you can do, except get angry. The game's over. Time to win the next one."

And so goes the NFL baptism of Ross. It has been a six-game fling thus far of high business and carnival ride that, a few minutes later, makes him reach across with his left hand and pinch himself on his right wrist. The anger is gone. The much bigger picture than the one of Sharper is the subject now.

"It's like I'm living a dream," he says.

Already, he rode the downer of an 0-3 start, the peak of a win against the New York Jets — "Maybe the best game I've ever seen," he says — as well as a steady unfolding of his game-atmosphere ideas that will keep going all the way to the Super Bowl in South Florida, when each of the Dolphins celebrity partners will perform at the NFL's Super Bowl party. Marc Anthony. Jimmy Buffett. Gloria Estefan.

"It'll be the greatest Super Bowl party the NFL has ever had," Ross says.

It's all part of his grander, eventual plan to open the league to such ideas. He's not on a hard-sell campaign, not this first year, not as "the newest kid on the block" of NFL owners, he says.

Today, the 68-year-old kid for the first time gets to emerge from his New York residence, go across the Hudson River and watch his Dolphins play the Jets in the Meadowlands.

Ross considers himself a South Floridian at heart — he attended Miami Beach High School — but he's a familiar part of the New York landscape, so much so that his image is advertised on a bank, he attended the Yankees' World Series game Thursday and he's used the same barber since 1968, even bringing the man out of retirement every few weeks to this 19th-floor office to cut his hair.

But this week brought the expected fallout of this geographical cross-living: New Yorkers see him on the street and say, "I love you, Mr. Ross, but I love my Jets more."

Friday afternoon, standing at his desk, he took a call and told a friend going to the game it'd be easier to meet at his home.

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