I finally made it to Miami Jai Alai yesterday. I love the Red
Sox and visiting baseball stadiums, and since the Sox were in
the new park in Miami, my brother (also a Red Sox and jai alai
nut) decided to take a quick baseball/jai alai trip. Jai alai
was a big selling point for both of us.
So we headed to the Tuesday matinee. We were staying by the airport and could practically see Miami Jai Alai from where we were staying. We thought it would be an easy walk, but we got on a road where it was literally impossible for more than a mile to go left. We ended up walking back the way we came and crossing a railroad bridge we weren't supposed to be on to get there. Now I understand people who talk about the fronton's poor location.
After we got there, I experienced everything people in here have talked about. You can easily see that they're pouring almost every nickel into the casino side and not the jai alai side. I say "almost" because they are in the process of replacing seats in the fronton.
You can see how much the management 'cares'. It took me two games (we got there in game 4 after our travel misadventure) to find a program. No stand, just selling them at one of the mutuel windows. There was just that one little room on Miami Jai Alai history. Playing partners in the same post had VASTLY different colored shirts. Some guys had names on some of their jerseys. What are those, 5 years old? Some guys had numbers flapping loose on the back of their jerseys.
And the announcing, or lack of it. I saw numerous clean winners and one underserve and one overserve referred to as a "tipped ball." Some teams were never announced. Wrong teams were given credit for winning the point.
And the crowd was very small, maybe 70 people watching the performance.
So what positive could there possibly be?
THE JAI ALAI
I was tremendously impressed with the caliber of play. With the notable exception of the ninth game singles, the players gave everything in every game, up to and including playoffs for quad. It must take a ton of personal and professional pride to give that type of effort every day in a dingy fronton in front of tiny crowds. These guys were not only giving it their all but they were really, really good. Goiko didn't play very well, but it still didn't take away from amazing jai alai.
It seemed to me in the last few years of Milford, and my one visit to Dania in 2008, that the lack of crowds took some of the energy out of the players. Not so at Miami. HIGH CESTA TO THE PLAYERS! And by the way, the fans who were there were very into the game.
It made me think a couple of things:
1. I wish I could take busloads of fans from Marlins Park to Miami Jai Alai to see it. I have to think a lot of them would go "Wow" and want to go back to see jai alai again.
2. To all the people in the other room mindlessly playing slots: You really find THAT more exciting than watching the amazing show going on in the next room.
3. It seems the management in Orlando is actually trying. I wish they or someone who cares about jai alai and knows what they were doing was running things in Miami.
4. Since my only live jai alai since 1995 had been Milford and one trip to Dania, it reminded me how much better I liked the court in Hartford. Give me a smaller, World Jai Alai court with lower ceilings and no side scoreboard any time. Sometimes at Milford in seemed like so many points would just be backcourters playing catch with one high toss after another.
In short, the reason it might be my last visit is NOT because all the bad things would keep me away. I can ignore all the calls of "tipped ball" and the other stuff. It's just I don't when I'll get back to Florida again and if Miami Jai Alai will still be there. If I can do it, I'd go in a second & although my next goal is to finally make it to the Citrus.
Sorry for the very long, rambling post, but when you see live jai alai for the first time since 2008 and only the second time since 2001, you can start to ramble.