Main | Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Miami Super Bowl Flashback

Back in 1989, Miami was host to Super Bowl XXIII. Several days before the game, Miami police officer William Lozano fired his gun at a moving motorcycle, killing the driver (and his passenger, who died later from the resultant crash.) The motorcyclist and his passenger were black, Lozano was Hispanic. Massive rioting ensued in downtown Miami, where I was the general manager of the AMC tenplex on the fifth floor of the Omni International Mall, steps away from the worst and most violent rioting in Overtown, Miami's third-worldishly impoverished black neighborhood.

Above the mall was the luxury Omni Hotel, which was hosting the Cincinnati Bengals for the week. Thursday night of Super Bowl week, the promoters of Mississippi Burning had arranged for me to present a special showing of the film for the Bengals. With the nearby streets full of rock-throwing rioters, only two of my dozens of employees had dared to venture coming to work, even though the mall was well protected by Miami's riot police. Therefore, I spent the evening shuttling popcorn and sodas to the players in the auditorium. I think we might have sold a total of five tickets for the other nine screens, all to mall employees too afraid to leave.

After the movie, some of the Bengals gathered at the giant mall windows outside our box office and watched Miami burn. Not lost on them was the parallel between the movie they'd just watched and the flames outside the mall. As the team captain and several players posed with me for a photo in front of the Mississippi Burning one-sheet, a couple of them noted jokingly that I was probably the only non-uniformed white guy for several miles, but I had to tell them that I too had spent the previous two nights upstairs at the hotel, an emergency courtesy granted to the mall's store managers due to rampant rumors that people were being pulled out their cars on the way to the nearby I-95 entrance ramp, something that seemed possible in the madness of that week, but never actually happened, as far as I know.

After the Bengals returned to their hotel rooms, I got a rare phone call from my father, who announced that my grandfather had died in New Jersey and that if I wanted to attend the funeral, I'd have to leave the next day. "Sorry, Dad. I can't leave the mall or I might get killed." Best funeral excuse ever? After the call, I left the office to find a dozen Bengals reassembled outside the box office. For their own safety, they'd been barred from leaving the mall. So would I mind running another movie for them? After a brief huddle during which they unanimously passed on Beaches, Dangerous Liaisons, Working Girl, and The Accidental Tourist, they couldn't decide between Hellraiser II and American Ninja III, so I ran them both. Nice guys and they left lots of autographed popcorn tubs for my employees. They lost the Super Bowl though, the first time I'd ever really cared who won.

And that's probably the only remotely sports-related story you'll get out of me.

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