Almost a quarter century ago, back when Notre Dame was last this kind of relevant at football, the holy school looked down from on high with condescension at the University of Miami. Sanctimonious Notre Dame earned its championships; we microwaved ours. This created uncommon hostility for what were supposed to be fun and games. Notre Dame legend Tim Brown admits in adulthood that he was afraid those thugs who played for UM were going to beat him up in the parking lot after the game. Notre Dame fans called UM Coach Jimmy Johnson “pork-faced Satan” because merely “Satan” was somehow not quite strong enough. The rivalry was billed as Catholics vs. Convicts, but former Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz says today that was totally unfair ... because not all his players were Catholic.
We don’t like Notre Dame much in these parts.
More recently, Alabama has been hogging the college football titles ... led by former Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban, who fled South Florida in deceitful disgrace to go there, becoming as unpopular a sports figure as South Florida has ever known. He and Alabama have been king of Pro Football Junior since then, and the Dolphins have stunk, Notre Dame and Alabama doing a good job of reminding us that it has been a long time since we were good at any kind of football, college or pro. Saban already has a statue outside the stadium in Alabama, even though he has been there only five years and is, you know, alive (or undead, given that he spends weeks at a time chewing off the faces of reporters). Symbolically, Alabama ran off Mike Shula, the son of Miami pillar Don Shula, to make room for Saban, meaning that pork-faced Saban somehow desecrated just about everything our beloved god Don Shula treasures.
We don’t like Alabama much in these parts.
But, man, the party we have thrown for these people, as they finally play tonight for the championship in The Biggest Game Ever Played In The History Of History since the Last Biggest Game Ever Played In The History of History. It’s like organizing the wedding for the woman who cheated on you and the man with whom she cheated (after he beat your grandfather up and she got custody of your dog). Can’t imagine the party we would have thrown for these folks if we actually liked them.
Walk with me now, down our most famous stretch of sand, this party gathering life the way storms gather strength. Below the parasailers and blimps and message-trailing airplanes on South Beach, under the temporary zipline, Pro Football Junior spent the salsa-ing weekend in our fiesta town, swerving toward tonight’s noisy climax to this season-long fireworks show like a bloated man with spilling martinis in each hand. Our airports have teemed with private jets and pinballing people, and our sold-out hotels have overflowed with overindulging sports intoxication, all these rivers of cash seeming to converge right here at Ocean.
Closed for traffic. Open for business. That’s what Ocean Drive was all weekend, as it is for Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve and all the best parties, so that all that consumption could spill right past all those cooing restaurant hostesses in tight clothes and into the street. This is the strip where tourists come to strip, when they want to feel Miami’s On Steroids, and this might explain why so many of the fans in town actually spent the weekend consuming two beer bottles turned upside down in a giant red tub of margarita mush even though it was not yet noon. When the movie helicopters float over to capture an aerial view of neon paradise, whether it be for Scarface or Bad Boys, this is where they start, and today in the middle of that postcard is, incongruously, a giant and yellow inflatable field-goal post.