Born and raised in Miami Beach, I have been an ardent fan and supporter of the Miami sports scene my whole life. Graduate studies and work for my wife and I have taken me out of Florida since late 2007, but I still return home regularly to visit family and friends. Of course I also return to visit my teams, which I follow devotedly from afar, partly to feel closer to home.
The sights and sounds of home -- from the shots of the Magic City skyline flickering over Biscayne Bay to the games of dominoes on Calle Ocho -- play just as much of a starring role in any national broadcast as the teams competing that day do. The flash and sizzle of South Florida simply sells, and that hasn’t changed. Miami jumps to mind instantaneously when thoughts turn to championship football; the annual Orange Bowl, the quadrennial NCAA title game, and the frequently gifted Super Bowl all serve to turn the eyes of the nation to South Florida, and all that it has to offer. In short, it’s not just the business and revenue during the event weekend itself that is lost when a Super Bowl is not held here. It’s a lost opportunity for free advertising to entice tourists to flock here during any of the other 51 weekends of the year.
What the representatives in Tallahassee, in addition to those representatives on the county commission determined to make political hay out of objecting to the use of any public funding for sports franchises in the wake of what we’ll call the “Jeffrey Loria Disaster” seem to be forgetting is that our beloved region of the country has one worthwhile industry: tourism. That’s it. That beautiful new rival of a stadium being erected in San Francisco? Local businesses are pitching in….little, trivial companies like Yahoo! and Google. You might have heard of them. Our Super Bowls? If memory serves, I think Maroone used to play a key part;
South Florida is still a top tourism destination; it is one of the world’s first true vacation playgrounds, and still one of the favorites. But between recession and development, the sizeable gap we once held has closed somewhat. Interests and options are expanding all the time, and we have to keep our brand out there.
In terms of Super Bowl 50, we were probably never going to host it. Yes, South Florida’s February has an average temperature 15 degrees warmer than Frisco in February, and it is one of our driest months in terms of rainfall, seeing over two inches less of precipitation than they will. But it’s still an amazing city that hasn’t hosted a Super Bowl since Dan Marino played in a Super Bowl, in the only other state that has three football teams that hasn’t hosted one at all in a decade. South Florida helped make the Super Bowl an event, but the game started in California; that’s where it was going for its 50th birthday party. But losing the 51st to Houston, that’s outlandish, and clearly punitive. Part of their proposal centered on diversity and multi-culturalism; even if Houston has become one of the more diverse cities in America, South Florida doesn’t lose that contest if it wasn’t about the stadium.
Admittedly, there is a lot of sports fan bias here. I was born bleeding aqua and orange, coming from a family that was settled on the beach before there was even an aqua-clad team to cheer. I grew up dreaming that one day I’d get to see child hood hero Marino play in the big game, that the home town team would finally punch through. I’ve worked at two Super Bowls for the thrill of being close to the action, my father and uncles and I manning confetti cannons during post game celebrations of Super Bowls XXXIII and XXXV. I make an event of the game, hosting a daylong party every year since I moved away from home, and the parties my family still throw for the big event. And I’m sure you can still wrangle an economics or statistics instructor at Miami Beach Senior to confirm for you I’ll never be mistaken for a financial prodigy.
This is a real loss for the region. Saying that it’s the NFL’s loss is well and fine, but it’s also a defeatist mantra. In a fit of anger over the con job engineered by Jeffry Loria, state and community politicians called the NFL’s bluff. And not blinking, we have all just been served notice that that bluff really wasn’t a bluff at all. Yes, we are being strong armed a bit. But the gains of continuing to hold a competitive claim to the title of top sports destination far outstrip the start up cost, especially when tourists will be paying most of it. Just the same as our beloved Orange Bowl Classic, the Super Bowl is in many ways just as much a part of our local identity. And it would be naïve indeed to believe that the NCAA couldn’t pull the rug out from under us in the same manner the NFL just did.
Born and raised in Miami Beach, Sean Millerick earned degrees in history and literature from Florida State University before receiving a master's in history from Illinois State University. Presently living in Seneca, South Carolina, Millerick teaches history at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
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