True Miami.Jeffrey Hoskins felt it rising the moment he heard the motorcycle's tangledsmash into an oncoming Buick, a volcano's fire rising fast. He never heard theshot, never saw the cop's bullet crack the rider's skull, didn't know thesecond guy on the bike was fatally injured slicing through the Buick'swindshield. It didn't matter; Hoskins heard sirens and a crash, and he knewwhat came next. He'd been through this before, twice during the city's boiling'80s: black men dead, a white police officer responsible, the community readyto blow. Now here it was, Martin Luther King Day of 1989, Hoskins runningoutside and the crowd massing and cops speaking in scratchy loudspeaker voices:Get back.... Repel.... Get back.
True Miami can'tbe contained. True Miami kicks through the gloss of brochures selling palm andsurf. The January 1989 explosion, Miami's last race riot in an era ofrelentless racial tension, fell like a typhoon on Day One of Super BowlWeek—that glorious tourism bonanza during which, each year, one cityshamelessly primps and pays to have its name drilled into the nation'sconversation. Super Bowl weeks are boring. They're meant to be. The NFL is acareful beast, and over the years it has staged bland extravaganzas in suchplaces as New Orleans, San Diego, Minneapolis and Atlanta. Miami too; Miami,the best, perhaps, except that in 1979, its fifth time as host, the cabbies andhotels engaged in a price-gouging fest so voracious that the NFL wasn't sure itwould ever come back. Only vows of virtue (and a new stadium built by JoeRobbie, who then owned the Dolphins) tilted Miami back into favor. The '89Super Bowl was meant to redeem Miami and—after a decade marked by the MarielBoatlift, bloody drug wars and conflict among Anglos, Latinos and blacks—helpkick off a newer, better age.
All the townneeded was some peace. And anybody who knows Miami knows you never guaranteethat.
Hoskins didn'tget close. Cops setting a perimeter around the bodies, ambulance wailing,people gathering...oh, yes, he knew g this drill. He'd grown up in theneighborhood, in ever-crumbling Overtown, played some quarterback at MiamiSenior High before dropping out, could pick out the faces of his life racingby. Hoskins dropped down on a bench, memories crawling across 3 his skin likesweat. A friend had died in the 1982 riot while trying to protect a white man;the crowd snapped his neck. Hoskins's mother was beaten then too. Now two moremen, both friends of his, were dead. The air thickened again; cracking voicesbegan to I scream. Hoskins felt it all course through him like a wind—kids byvarious women, wasted football dreams, the empty drift and 5 rage of 25 yearsin Overtown. He wanted to smash things. "I'll never forget it," he saysnow. "The tension. I grasped my head 9 and felt all the tension. Thirtyseconds later, the first bottle flew. Then they set a car on fire...."
It was 6:30 p.m.Five blocks away Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope had just filed hiscolumn on the beginning of Super Bowl Week when the news began to filter in."I'd written, 'For God's sake, please everybody, be nice,' " Pope says."It didn't even get into the paper. I had to rewrite. That's how fastthings happen here. I was trying to warn against something, and ithappened—that fast.
"Miami islike a scene from Dante's Inferno: constant ferment. Every day isdynamite."
William JenningsBryan once said, "Miami is the only city in the world where you can tell alie at breakfast that will come true by evening." But that was long ago.Miami is now a place where, under the same magnificent sky, this morning'struth can become a lie by sundown, yesterday's hero-mayor becomes today'sjailbird, last year's slum becomes this year's St. Tropez. One crisis passesonly to make room for the next.
This year marksthe return of the Super Bowl to Miami for the first time since those three daysof unrest stained the "89 affair, and in the interim Greater Miami hasweathered not only a flood of Cuban and Haitian rafters, but also highlypublicized attacks on tourists, the trial of former Panamanian dictator ManuelNoriega, major vote fraud in suburban Hialeah, persistent corruption by publicofficials—accused of smoking crack with a prostitute, one Dade Countycommissioner hightailed it to Fiji—Hurricane Andrew and the sight of Madonnaposing nude on the side of a road.
Yet True Miamialso has an astounding resiliency, an elastic drive that allows it to take itshits and not just endure—but thrive. A decade ago the southernmost 15 blocks ofMiami Beach were a collection of crumbling hotels, creaky retirees and unsavoryrefugees from Fidel Castro's massive Mariel Boatlift of 1980. Now South Beachsnootily boasts Sylvester Stallone, a string of hip Art Deco hot spots andthousands of visitors willing to pay outrageous prices just to sit near astarved supermodel.
In August 1992,Andrew ripped through southern Dade County and became one of the most costlynatural disasters in U.S. history. Experts said it would take a decade forHomestead, a farm-based community and the hardest hit of Dade County'smunicipalities, to recover, so the Cleveland Indians—in a noxious gesture offaintheartedness—abandoned plans to relocate their spring training camp inHomestead. Filling the breach, the Southridge High football team in South Dademarched, this past fall, to within one game of the national schoolboychampionship. In July a $40 million Motorsports Complex will open in Homestead.Meanwhile most of the vegetables on the nation's plate this winter were pluckedfrom South Dade's once ravaged fields.
"I've watchedthis town get knocked down, kicked and gouged," says Merritt Stierheim,president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I was herewhen we had the worst riots in the country; the last Super Bowl couldn't hold acandle to 1980. I was county manager when we had to place 140,000 refugees insix months. We had to build 16 schools and two or three hospitals, and wedidn't get any federal money. But we did it, and we came out of it stronger.And we're going to come out of our current problems stronger."
One undeniableshow of muscle: Since the '89 Super Bowl, Miami has become, arguably, thenation's most vital sports town—not only because of the recent arrival of majorleague baseball and NHL hockey, which completed the city's grand slam of fourmajor team sports, but also because those teams must compete for fans with aTop 10 college football program, men's pro golf tournaments, Grand Prix autoracing, horse racing and a new tennis facility that hosts the Lipton, the besttournament outside the four majors. Miami has access to some of the bestsportfishing on the globe. It has Joe DiMaggio. It has everything Chicago, NewYork and Boston have—except winter.
But it is cold inits own fashion: Miami, on its way to being a great city, remains riven likefew others. "It's very segregated," says Guillermo Grenier, professorof sociology at Florida International University, "one of the mostsegregated in the country."
Former Miami Heatcenter Rony Seikaly felt that the night after the '89 riot began. While drivingthrough Overtown to a Heat game that would be canceled, "my only thoughtwas that I was back in Lebanon," says Seikaly, who while growing up inBeirut saw his country shattered by warring factions. "With the roadblocksand curfews, it felt exactly like I was back home. My parents were visiting,and they told me, 'We feel like we never left.' "
No flipcomparison: With the dominant Hispanic population cut into Cuban, Dominican,Colombian, Puerto Rican and Nicaraguan slices, with the African-Americancommunity angered by Cuban gains and suspicious of Haitian immigrants, and withthe shrinking core of Anglos a distinct minority, Miami is thoroughlybalkanized—more a series of enclaves than a community. People mix (maybe) atthe airport, the beach, the shopping mall.
Mostly, though,they come together for games. Miami's most prominent patches of common groundare the football field and baseball diamond at Joe Robbie Stadium, the hardwoodand ice at Miami Arena, the weathered stands at the Orange Bowl, the new tennisstadium on Key Biscayne—and the airwaves buzzing about the Hurricanes,Dolphins, Marlins, Heat and Panthers. Miami has not been shaken by unrest forthree years. Many believe the town is finally reaching maturity, in small partbecause the games and teams—especially the Marlins, with their relatively lowticket prices—allow blacks, Anglos and Latinos to gather and agree onsomething. Sports, says Eddie Brown, a wideout on the Cincinnati Bengals' 1989Super Bowl team who grew up in Overtown and played at the University of Miami,"gets us together, and that eases people's minds. It's one of the bestthings to happen to this city. It slowed down the anger."
However, even asthey bind and soothe, sports arc only a temporary relief. Indeed, nothingbetter illustrates how Miami continues to fracture than the uncertain future ofits teams. Even before the bells celebrating its arrival had stopped ringing,Miami's big league status was in jeopardy. The Dolphins, once the heart ofMiami sports, left the Orange Bowl for Joe Robbie Stadium, on the northern edgeof Dade County, in 1987. Six years later they moved their training camp overthe line to Broward County. Team owner Wayne Huizenga, eyeing the population'snorthward creep, promises to move his NHL Florida Panthers into a Broward arenaas soon as possible. The Heat, too, is threatening to bolt, to Broward or evenPalm Beach County. The Orange Bowl game will be yanked up to Joe Robbiebeginning in 1997. "It's got to come out the same as when the Dolphinsmoved up to Broward—it's obvious the benefits will go up the road," saysArt Hertz, former president of the Orange Bowl Committee and a pillar ofMiami's ever-weakening old guard. "That just puts another nail in thecoffin of Dade County and Miami."
Not that mostjocks will mind. Few places have a more checkered history when it comes tocoddling sports figures; in fact, when former City of Miami mayor Xavier Suarezlooked into his kitchen in 1990 to see his wife struggling with a gunman, itwas clear that Miami doesn't pamper anyone. Jennifer Capriati was busted forpossession of marijuana across the street from the University of Miami. GolferJan Stephenson's career all but ended after her finger was broken in a muggingoutside Miami Arena in 1990. Dennis Erickson, who coached Miami to two collegefootball national championships before leaving earlier this month to lead theSeattle Seahawks, never felt welcome in his six seasons with the Hurricanes."The biggest shock was the first year or two," he says. "I'd beenat Washington State, where we went 9-3 and went to the Aloha Bowl, and it wasthe greatest thing in the world. Then I come down here and we lose once, toFlorida State, and it's 'You can't coach.' And it continued andcontinued."
Seikaly, thefirst college player ever selected by the Heat, in 1988, was driving down U.S.1 his rookie year when he made the True Miami mistake of cutting someoneoft". "A couple of miles down at a red light, he's screaming at me likecrazy," Seikaly says of the other driver. "I said 'Sorry' and took off,but he sped up and cut me off. Then he grabbed a gun and started coming at me.I put the car in reverse. I thought I was in the movies."
Which is,naturally, part of the appeal. With its gorgeous scenery and exile intrigue,Miami often comes off like a Deco-Noir version of a real city—compared to whichevery other place pales. Live there a year, and you can't wait to move. Livethere three years, and you're addicted. Ask Heat foward/center John Salley, whogrew up in Brooklyn. In his first four months with' Miami, in late 1992 andearly '93, he was hit three times in his car and his house was burglarized. Hemoved out of the house the day of the break-in. But, unlike many sportsfigures, he didn't think of moving north—he just went deeper into Dade."You have people from every part of the world here," Salley says."This is paradise for a New Yorker. You can get a great bagel, go to Joe'sStone Crab, go see all the top entertainers. Think of all the places you canbe. Minnesota? I don't think so."
Neither doesSeikaly. He was recently traded to the Golden State Warriors and plans to livein picture-perfect San Francisco. He would rather be in Miami. "If it'sjust a regular city with no problems, then daily life doesn't have thatexcitement, that vibe, that Miami has," says Seikaly. "You have to lookat Miami realistically. I was there for the transformation from the drug era tonow, where it's the place to be. It's where the stars want to go."
Miami has longteetered between disaster and rebirth. In 1994 Dade County continued itsdecade-long reign as the crime capital of the U.S., even as the modelingindustry continued to make South Beach a Disneyland for adults, and December'sSummit of the Americas sealed Miami's place as the fulcrum of Latin Americantrade. Like New York and Los Angeles, Miami is America's front line for thehot-button arguments over immigration and bilingualism, guns and violence,growth and the environment. But not yet 100 years old, the city is still in theprocess of becoming, and its intimate ties to Cuba, Haiti and South Americamake it the one U.S. metropolis that takes an unnervingly regular dip intoforeign affairs, the one place you must think globally and act locally everyday.
"Castro isclose—hopefully—to falling, and that boils the blood." says OrestesDestrade, of Miami's contentious Cuban exile community. "And it tricklesdown to everything Cuban."
Ballplayers,especially. Born in Cuba, carried to Miami in the first great tide of exilesthat transformed the town, Destrade was signed by the Marlins for theirinaugural season, in 1993, and instantly became more than a first baseman. Formany fans, Destrade was also more than the home team's first homegrown baseballhero. Multilingual, handsome and smart, he was a symbol of Cuban Miami, andeach time he came to the plate he could feel the weight of a people heeding himto succeed.
"I didn'tthink it'd go to that extreme," Destrade says. "I was the Cuban guy.It's not like being [shortstop] Walt Weiss or even [catcher] Benito Santiago;they didn't grow up here. This transcended baseball. Every Cuban cared aboutthe Marlins, and he wanted to know what was going on with me, good or bad. Ithought I could put it in its place, but I couldn't." Destrade was releasedlast season. "It was eating me up inside," he says.
He shouldn't havebeen surprised. The line between sports and a city's tensions constantly blursin Miami: For the Super Bowl to get mixed up with a street riot—in '89 Bengalrunning back Stanley Wilson ran a gantlet of rock throwers just minutes fromhis hotel—would be surreal anywhere else. In Miami the street had been a partof sports for years. Long before the NBA understood the perils oftrash-talking, the Hurricane football team had cultivated a mouthy,crotch-grabbing gangsta persona that wasn't mere fashion. Miami won fournational championships precisely because the team worked hard and intimidatedopponents. Not since the Yankees of the 1950s summed up to the rest of thenation New York's arrogant power has a team reflected its town more truly.Belligerent, colorful and aware that the nation frowns on their behavior, theHurricanes ooze the same us-against-the-world attitude that permeates thecity.
"That gets uspumped up," says Hurricane safety Malcolm Pearson. "People in Miami,the toughness of Miami, affects us when we're on that field."
Inevitably theattitude spun out of control—the '91 Cotton Bowl, between Miami and Texas, wasa circus of Hurricane taunts and personal fouls. But for those who believe theteam now lacks a killer instinct, "Let Miami be Miami" has been therefrain ever since. Sports there are more than a pastime.
Lawyer GeorgeKnox knows. He was chairman of the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority whenit oversaw the construction of Miami Arena in 1988, and he went into Overtownwhen the '89 riots began, hoping to help create calm. He turned a corner andsaw a leader of the looters giving instructions—with one caveat. "Wedon't——with the arena!" the man said. Then, knowing the Chicago Bulls werevisiting next, the man added, "And we've got to end this——before Michaelcomes to town!"
"They didn'twant the arena attacked, because they believe it is a special place," Knoxsays. "There's no desecration at the arena ever. But there is everywhereelse."
True Miami: Onthat Monday night in '89, when at least a dozen buildings were set afire, 20businesses were looted, and cars and dumpsters were torched or hammered, thearena went untouched. This mocking pink hatbox of a building, where the richcome to look rich in public, is always clean. Only Overtown's churches receiveequal reverence, but never more.
"Who's themost revered person in Dade County?" says Knox. "Don Shula. And thatsays it all. Ask people from other cities with our population—Pittsburgh,Akron—'Who is your most significant role model?' Few of them would come up withthe football coach. But ask most people in this town, and they'll say DonShula. I mean, in our community, the most important institution is not thechurch. It's the Heat."
There's nothingwrong with Miami, you will hear often enough, that isn't wrong with any majorcity. "There's nothing wrong with Miami," says Huizenga, beaming andbald and worth half a billion, "except where it's located."
It is a sweetSaturday afternoon. Huizenga, who with the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers isthe only man ever to control three major sports teams—and who, withbrother-in-law Whit Hudson currently bidding to buy the Heat, may cozy up to afourth—sits 22 miles north of downtown Miami on the 11th floor of his officebuilding in Fort Lauderdale. Outside the windows a handful of new towers gleamunder the autumn sun, speaking of a once sleepy tourist burg on the rise.Huizenga, like every businessman in Broward County, waits for the big bulge. Itis moving his way, he knows, like a swallowed mouse easing through a snake:from agricultural South Dade up through the City of Miami, across the Browardline to Fort Lauderdale and on up to Palm Beach County. Joe Robbie Stadium liesjust south of the Dade-Broward border, and if it were up to Huizenga, no teamof his would ever venture below that to play. This is partly because he is aBroward guy, began collecting garbage and made his fortune there. Mostly,though, it is because Dade's middle class has been coursing north into Browardand Palm Beach counties for 20 years. "You have to go north," Hudsonsays. "When you have the Everglades to your left, sharks to your right andCuba to the south, there's only one place you can go."
Huizenga waitswith open arms. He is a businessman, driven by numbers, and they tell him thatthe center of South Florida's population now lies north of the Dade-Browardborder. "Miami is just a little too congested," Huizenga says.
However, thereason many people have left Miami is not quite as innocuous as"congestion." It's what the Herald's Pope has been hearing ever sinceCuban exiles rose to power in the mid-'80s. "A lot are moving up to centralFlorida," Pope says, "and you know what they call that? 'Below thefreezing line and above the Cuban line.' But they don't say it aroundHispanics. They love South Florida, but they don't want to be in themix."
Too bad. Whatthey're missing is a front-row seat on the Hispanic dynamic that will continueto transform the nation—and, coincidentally, the second flowering of Miamisports. The first began in 1964. when Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston inMiami Beach to become heavyweight champ, back before Overtown was sliced topieces by the interstate, and it ended a decade later when the Dolphins, stillplaying in Miami's cozy and raucous Orange Bowl, won back-to-back SuperBowls.
After that theirascible and shrewd Joe Robbie pushed for a new stadium downtown but never gotthe political support. So he went up to the county line and financed thestadium himself, so burdening his family with debt that his son, Tim, wasforced into a partnership with Huizenga. Last year Huizenga, gorged already onhockey and baseball, became sole owner of the stadium and the team and,psychically anyway, the town, too. When the Miami Dolphins' new owner flashedon-screen during the team's playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs on NewYear's Eve, ABC's Frank Gifford put it succinctly enough: 'You could've leftoff 'Dolphins.' He owns Miami."
That, apparently,wasn't enough. Huizenga had also begun pushing for Blockbuster Park, a2,500-acre, $1.5 billion city-with-in-a-city on the edge of the Everglades thatwould have included an arena for the Panthers, a baseball-only park for theMarlins, and stores, hotels, restaurants and interactive computer games, aswell as its own taxing powers and security force. Stunningly, Huizenga facedlittle opposition; sports have such cachet in South Florida right now that theinconceivable elsewhere—a massive private development on the edge of a tenderenvironmental treasure, seeking public funds for private gain with littleaccountability—was applauded at every step.
Viacom, the newowner of Huizenga's Blockbuster Entertainment, nixed the idea in December, butthat won't derail Huizenga: He will still build an arena, and if he can affordit, he will also build the ballpark. Both, he says, "should be furthernorth" of Joe Robbie Stadium. And that, says H.T. Smith, president of theNational Bar Association, the nation's largest organization of black lawyers,and a prominent figure in Miami, will only speed the drain of money and powerfrom the city.
"With allthese entities that are part of what makes Miami Miami, Huizenga has raised theflag of white flight," Smith says. "One of the most successfulbusinessmen in America is saying, T can't stake the future of my investments inMiami. I'm going where the future is, and I'm putting my teams and mybusinesses where the future is. Miami was yesterday. I'm investing intomorrow.' And all the other big-time businesses are watching him."
Pro teams—notablyin Detroit and New York—have fled to the suburbs, but it has always been apiecemeal affair. Huizenga is the first owner to gather a bundle of teams andmake it obvious that he will take it wherever the money goes. In the process hehas helped alter how people in this region view themselves.
Before Huizenga'semergence in 1990 as the point man for an expansion baseball team, citizensspoke of living in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach. The term South Floridahas always floated about, but it was Huizenga's success in selling thetri-county area to lure hockey and baseball—he wanted to call the baseball teamthe South Florida Marlins until marketing experts deemed that unwieldy—thathammered the regionalism into popular use. When the Orange Bowl, too, goes toJoe Robbie Stadium, ending 57 years of civic tradition, it will confirm thatshift like nothing else. "The Orange Bowl? That is Miami," Smith says."That will mark in history the final chapter of the downfall of Miami as weknow it. This idea of South Florida will become the new entity." In effect,it already has: This is Miami's seventh Super Bowl, but the first time that thelocal organizers are calling themselves the South Florida Host Committee.
Yet there is avital difference between Miami and a city like Detroit, which has seen whiteflight decimate its tax base, population, importance. No immigrant group hasrisen to power faster than the Cubans in Miami, and the velocity of thatsuccess rendered the term white flight obsolete almost from the moment it cameinto vogue. Flight from Dade has been color-blind for years. Middle-andupper-class blacks have long deserted Overtown for safer streets. Former Heatforward Grant Long, a product of Detroit, says, "Miami isn't the place youwant to raise three children. Fort Lauderdale and Boca are nice, butMiami...."
Over the lastdecade many of those fleeing Miami have been Hispanic, not Anglo, and they havefled the same things that Anglos once feared from the Latino influx: crime,poor services, squalor. Even Boston Red Sox slugger Jose Canseco—Cuban-born,Miami-bred—is moving to a wealthy subdivision in Broward County, where he willbe a neighbor of Miami...no, South Florida superstar Dan Marino.
"It's notabout race," says Destrade, who lives in St. Petersburg. "It's aboutwhere the situation has gotten to. I love Miami; I go back and I feel theexcitement coming into me—Calle Ocho, the Cuban shops—it just makes me feelso...Cuban. But I don't want to raise my kids there. There's so muchnegativism, so much disregard for what's right. It's the coldness ofit."
On the best days,when the humidity is low and Miamians find themselves awed by the light or thesight of a cruise ship churning magnificently out to sea, they allow themselvesthe luxury of knowing why it is good to live where they do. South Florida isthe future, they say, the place where America's love-hate affair with itsimmigrant roots unfolds to every extreme of pride and prejudice. If you don'tlike it, leave; if you can't adjust, get out of the way. No one has time tomourn you. This is the city's strength. True Miami never stops moving.
"It's kind offlimsy, so you have to shake, rattle and roll with it," says Knox."You've got to be irreverent. You've got to be ready to have it all be gonetomorrow. And then you start something else."
But what if noamount of rolling helps? What then? What do you do when 235 acres of perfectisn't enough? When 69 years of elegance and history, of Winston Churchill andHarry Truman and Jackie Kennedy, of Citation and Secretariat and Seattle Slewkicking up thunder, of pink flamingos circling and every jockey who matteredchk-chking his mount along the long dirt backstretch as sunbeams bent throughthe pines, doesn't mean anything anymore?
HIALEAH PARK, thebig sign outside the wall says, WEDDINGS, CONCERTS, FESTIVALS. FILMING ANDTRADE SHOWS. "Sure," John J. Brunetti snorts. "Bar mitzvahs, youname it."
Lord knows, hehas tried. When Brunetti bought Hialeah in 1977, it was still the premierwinter home of horse racing, still the place for the money boys cruising in onthe special train from Palm Beach and the Garment Gang from New York and themigrating cliques from Baltimore and Philadelphia, all that ice tinkling intall glasses of gin. "I thought this would be the crowning glory of myprofessional life," says the 64-year-old Brunetti, "something to justenjoy, to revel in its history and prestige—to make me feel like the highest ofthe high franchise owners in sports: 'Let's go out and have a day at theraces!' Then I found I was fighting Moby Dick."
Who expected aworld in which the fast horse would matter less and less? Who knew lotteriesand bingo and casino gambling would chew so much life out of the track? Whopredicted 1980s Miami and blue bloods spooked by Miami Vice and Scarface andall those...uh, undesirables? Three years after Brunetti bought the track,Castro unleashed Mariel, and old, white Miami mattered less. The city ofHialeah became 95% Hispanic, and sure, Hispanics work hard, but, well, honey,why don't we just go 20 more minutes to Calder at the top-of Dade or toGulfstream in southern Broward? In 1987 Hialeah lost the prime dates. Then itdeclined and didn't open at all in 1990 and '91. The handle at all tracks isdown 33% from what it was a decade ago; in 1993 Hialeah averaged 6,100spectators a day. "Until three years ago I thought we could bring back theglory days," Brunetti says. "Now I know it's impossible."
He books Latinosingers for the weekends. He grants free entrance to anyone with a ticket stubfrom a Dolphin, Heat, Marlin or Panther game. He loads the downtime withbanquets, festivals, you name it. At any time of the day, chances are a quincephoto session—the glamour shots taken for a Cuban girl's 15th birthday—istaking place somewhere on the grounds. It's not enough. "A lot of themdon't know about the sport," he says of the Hispanics in the town outside."For so many years they thought the wall was there to keep them out. Nowthat they're coming in, they're learning. But they don't bet as much. The percapita is very low. I'll see a father and wife and children come to the window,and it's like a trip to the grocery store. It's social."
Not enough.Brunetti's traditional Anglo base was put off by all that Latin music. Brunettithinks that simulcasting helped him break even last year for the first time,but he knows that the racetrack's land would be more valuable under apartments,shopping centers and movie theaters. For Brunetti there is no doing whatHuizenga docs, no following the money. "You can't pick up Hialeah and moveit," Brunetti says. "What am I going to call the track: HialeahRemoved? Hialeah North? You can't. How do you move Hialeah?"
No, you don'tmove it; one day you simply give in. You hand the place over to your two sonswho work there too, who don't recall 1950, when you came to the track for thefirst time and heard the hooves cutting dirt and saw the palms and fell inlove." I think it will eventually go," Brunetti says of this gorgeousplace. He is tired. He'll leave what happens next to his sons. "I tellthem, 'When I turn over the reins, I'm going to close my eyes and cars,' "he says. "Because I don't want to know."
Three days, thencalm. Three days of anger rising, burning, wearing down; of TV crews filmingflak-jacketed cops firing tear gas and of front-page stories across the land;of Miami cementing its image as Tragic Town. "We can't go out here becauseof the bullets," Bengal defensive end Jim Skow said back then, in '89."So I just sit on my balcony and watch them riot."
Then it all died.The police regained control of Overtown, and on the Thursday before the SuperBowl, the Heat played Michael Jordan's Bulls without incident in Miami Arena.On Sunday, Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers engineered one of the NFL'smost memorable drives to beat Cincinnati. It was, everyone agreed at the time,the best Super Bowl game ever, and that, too, is True Miami: elation rising outof catastrophe, beauty begotten by disaster, like sun after a storm.
"If the cityhadn't put a lid on what was building in those early hours, I don't think we'dever have seen another Super Bowl in Miami," says Norman Braman, the formerowner of the Philadelphia Eagles. "No question about it." Braman lovesMiami. He has lived there 26 years—gave up the Eagles, in part, because hemissed Miami too much during the 16 weeks he spent in Philadelphia each season."It keeps pushing on." he says. "Its greatest problems are itsgreatest assets. The cultural diversity here makes it almost a frontier city.It's the gateway to a booming South American economy. But unfortunately for theSuper Bowl, the problems that existed six years ago still exist. That's theworry. It's combustible. Overtown is still Overtown."
Deep in Overtownone night, Jeffrey Hoskins, now 31, is waiting for his game. He is a part ofMiami's Midnight Basketball League, the program begun as a small answer to theunrest of the '80s and much reviled during last year's budget battle inWashington. Through the Midnight program Hoskins has gotten his GED, and hewants to write someday. He knows, however, that he is also an emblem ofAmerica's urban woes: father of seven kids, buffing floors at night, trying tohold on.
Like many Miamiblacks, he resents how the Cubans came, took jobs, progressed while he and hisown seemed to stand still. He's not sure things have gotten better since 1989,though statistics say Miami's black middle class is one of the nation'sfastest-growing, and Miami's leaders insist that Dade County is better sinceHoskins's two friends crashed and died. In May 1993 the officer who killed themwas acquitted by an Orlando jury, and Miami's civic leaders and police kept thelid on unrest. Hoskins doesn't know if that's maturity—or just a smarter use ofpower.
"You couldfeel the heal coming off: 'Oh, no, here it comes again,' " Hoskins says."But they cut off Overtown like it was a jail. A lot of people took that asa slap, but you're not going to fight a war you know you can't win."
Outside, in thewalkway to the gym at Booker T. Washington middle school, Warren Jabali spewsbitterness. "It's getting better?" he says. "Society has no choicebut to get worse."
A seven-yearveteran of the old American Basketball Association, Jabali teaches at anelementary school. He has been the commissioner of the Midnight league for twoyears, overseeing 100 enrollees who work toward GEDs. He sees kids having kids,kids killing kids and none of them caring. He hears how, among Miami'sAfrican-Americans, Haitians have replaced Cubans as objects of resentment."Eventually we'll see them pass us up," Jabali says, and he's notsurprised. Haitians, he says, have a better work ethic than mostAfrican-Americans. "We used to call each other nigger to be demeaning,"he says. "Now kids call each other Haitian. There's no bond between thetwo."
Jabali stops ayoung man walking by. "If the police shoot another dude in Overtown, whatwould happen?" Jabali asks. Without blinking, the young man says,"Riot."
It is 11 p.m.now, and Hoskins's game is done. The ride home goes behind Booker T., aroundthe detour sign, over the rutted streets under the highway that cuts Overtownin two. It is dark and Hoskins isn't talking and there are no other cars. Theheadlights catch three young black men in shorts, carrying a ball as they walkbeneath the overpass. They appear so abruptly in the shining that it's likeseeing ghosts. "Those poor guys," Hoskins blurts. "Theylost."
And for aninstant the words burn, because maybe Hoskins means what you think, thatthey're lost, that there's no hope, that if they get out alive, whole, strong,with good families and jobs, it will be something close to a miracle. But thenhe finishes: "We beat them pretty easy." So he meant only the game,nothing more. Just one small contest in Miami that tomorrow, next week, SuperBowl Sunday, six years from now, will be different somehow, with a differentwinner, a new small truth under the sun.
It's not enough,though. Mere games never are.
MANNY MILLAN (BASKETBALL)
BOB PEARSON/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE (BURNING CAR)
DAVID E. KLUTHO (PANTHERS)
An oft-divided metropolitan area comes together to pipe up for Huizenga's Panthers, Marlins and Dolphins and to get down with the flamboyant Hurricanes.
RONALD C. MODRA (MARLINS)
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In 1980 Marielitos camped out by the Orange Bowl, and in '89 rioters destroyed property all around Miami Arena—but left the building untouched.
Latinos from Little Havana (above) have joined Anglos from other parts of Miami in the inexorable exodus to Broward County and points farther north.
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Fort Lauderdale (Huizenga's office)
Palm Beach County
Marino Canseco (new house)
Calder Race Course
Joe Robbie Stadium
Miami Int'l Airport
U of Miami/Capriati bust
Canseco (old house)
Key Biscayne (Lipton Tennis)
0 1 2 3 4 5 miles
Since Foolish Pleasure's heyday in'75 (top), the horses and bettors have all but flown, leaving Hialeah to the flamingos.
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The neon of reborn South Beach is matched by the megawatt celebrity of nouveau Miamians such as Stallone and Madonna.
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MICHAEL FERGUSON/GLOBE PHOTOS (MADONNA)
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For Hoskins and others in Overtown, the future is just as dark as it was before the '89 conflagration.