Friday, October 30, 2009

In which you learn more than you cared to about jai alai

It's been interesting to hear the buildup to Florida-Georgia this year. Dawg fans don't have much hope, and what they do have is based around the premise Florida's red zone offense will make zero progress from what it has been the last two weeks. UGA has to hope for big plays, which they're most likely to get from AJ Green or Branden Smith. Smith's a DB who they play on offense occasionally, and the guy can fly. UF has got to be aware of him when he's on the field. Brandon Boykin's been dangerous on kickoff returns too. One trend to keep an eye on with UGA is that they've tended to turn the ball over early in drives for some reason. I think UF gets the job done, and Tebow looks much more like what people expect to see from him as Florida secures the win. It's not a great weekend for college football overall - here's the list of games from Awful Announcing.

Let me get this straight: Tatum Bell the luggage thief is talking trash about the UFL's Orlando Tuskers being able to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Right, a team composed entirely of NFL castoffs would beat a team of players who aren't. That makes a great deal of sense. The only thing that would be stupider than that argument would be for people to take anything "reported" by proven liar and fraud Dan Sileo seriously. Nothing like calling Tom Hicks, owner of the Dallas Stars, "Hickey" when you're supposedly reading names off a secret list to give you credibility. It sounds like Sileo may have gotten himself in some serious hot water here, with Tampa's ABC affiliate reporting he's been suspended. I hope so - he's everything that's wrong with my medium personified.

The whole Brett Favre storyline comes to a head this weekend with his return to Lambeau Field. I have to give the guy his due - to this point he's played better than I anticipated, although the early part of the Vikings schedule was complete trash. Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News does a great job of illustrating why the Packers still clearly made the correct call in telling Favre enough was enough when he tried his unretirement stunt last season. For me the game of the weekend is St. Louis at Detroit. The Rams are awful, and if they lose this one the possibility of 0-16 beomes very real. That would tie them with the Bucs for the longest losing streak ever at 0-26 - let's go, Lions!

One of the unique things we had in Florida when I was growing up was jai alai. It existed in a city here or there in a few New England states, but there used to be frontons all over Florida. Things began to tail off when the lottery was created in 1986 to give gamblers another way to spend their dollars. A lengthy strike caused a major disruption in 1988 and further damaged the sport. Sadly, it's been downhill ever since. I really enjoyed going to Tampa Jai Alai with friends, but the fronton was eventually closed to make way for a Home Depot. Now, one of the last operating venues is shutting down. Orlando Jai Alai goes away for good effective December 27, although they don't have any live action scheduled between now and then. My friends and I made a lot of trips there over the years, especially for the Citrus Invitational tournament in January where top teams from Spain and Mexico came in to play. The Ocala fronton bills itself as a poker room, although they stage the state required minimum number of jai alai performances to keep their license. At Hamilton the fraud of calling it a "jai alai" venue is even more absurd. They have six man singles games (real jai alai has eight, with singles and doubles) and there are literally no bets placed according to the results on their website. It's a shame - the game's a lot of fun to watch when played well. Only Miami and Dania are left as true American jai alai venues, and I'm not likely to be down there for any reason anytime soon. If you are, I encourage you to take some time and check out a performance.

That's kind of a downer note to head into the weekend on, so here's your chance to get a first glimpse of what the upcoming A-Team movie looks like. It should be good for a laugh, anyway. I had no idea Jessica Biel was in it - can't say that she and Liam Neeson would have been the people springing to mind if I'd been involved with casting. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.


Anonymous said...

You got the jai-alai status right. Too bad about Orlando.

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Anonymous said...

Heath, I'm horribly confused. So there's some minor league football team of ex-Cons in Orlando that sounds like they're from Nebraska that plays its games at a major league baseball stadium in St. Pete?

In the late 70's Tampa was known nationally for three things: The Bucs, Berns Steakhouse and Jai-Alai. It's a shame that a sport that was so unique to Tampa and Florida in general continues to fall by the wayside. Standing in line behind some creepy bum at a filthy Circle-K in order to buy Lotto tickets just cannot compare to an evening at the Fronton.