COLLINS AVENUE in
Miami is the Boulevard of Broken Teams. It's the main drag into South Beach,
where Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis was arrested over the holidays after
allegedly alighting from his Bentley at 4 a.m. to urinate alfresco. In the
streets that emanate from this one clogged artery, Eagles linebacker Dhani
Jones, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes,
Steelers tackle Trai Essex, Pistons center Dale Davis and then-- NBA teammates
Awvee Storey and Gilbert Arenas were all taken into custody in 2006, despite
Arenas's reportedly protesting, "You can't arrest me. I'm a basketball
player. I play for the Washington Wizards."
And that is just
one quick snapshot of 12 months in a single Florida neighborhood, albeit one
where Shaquille O'Neal is training to become a reserve police officer. He
should certainly recognize everyone.
No state has so
dominated every aspect of sports—on field and off, the great and the
terrible—as Florida is doing now. It is a state of superlatives in countless
categories, from decadence to prurience to excellence. The Florida Gators,
college basketball's champions, play next week for the BCS title. The Miami
Heat are NBA champs, and the Marlins, Buccaneers and Lightning have won titles
since 2003. Miami hosts the Super Bowl next month, and whoever excels in that
game will go straight to an Orlando theme park, as soon as he posts bond.
And so travelers
at Southwest Florida International Airport last week were informed that the
alarm level was at orange, a redundant announcement in a state where
everything—its most famous football stadium, its ubiquitous construction cones,
Darryl Strawberry's old prison jumpsuit—is thoroughly orange and
comprehensively alarming. What is more orange, or more alarming, than the Miami
Hurricanes, whose mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, embodies the beauty and horror
that is Florida? An exquisitely attractive bird, the ibis is also called a
Chokoloskee chicken by those Everglade epicures who enjoy eating it. Or so we
tourists are told aboard our airboats, alarmed in our orange life vests.
and pull, its repulsion and attraction, is evident at the suburban Jacksonville
estate of Jets receiver Laveranues Coles. It is so vast as to require its own
road, a private Cole-de-sac that ends at 87 Coles Court, where the bachelor has
erected an edifice equal parts Xanadu (he has wildlife) and Xanadon't (he has a
The $8 million
Coles Court kingdom is a modest investment compared with the $25 million
Clearwater estate just unlisted by wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose five-bedroom,
four-and-a-half-nelson neo-Normandy chateau didn't attract a buyer in its six
months on the market. That Taj Mahal is in turn dwarfed by the $38 million,
four-house, two-dock compound on Jupiter Island owned by Tiger Woods, the
world's best golfer and an exile from California, which has been displaced by
Florida in our national fever dream. (The world's most infamous golfer, O.J.
Simpson, is also a California exile in Florida.)
California has an
Orange County; Florida has "county orange," the shade of prison
jumpsuit that was worn by Strawberry, Jose Canseco and Dwight Gooden and will
be worn by all the other retired athletes who get rung up down here with
regularity. Florida is where many athletes retire. Indeed, the City of Legends
near Orlando is a retirement community exclusively for professional athletes,
most of whom live bereft of cares and state income tax.
Until Si Simmons
died in October at age 111, he was believed to be the oldest living
professional baseball player and maybe the oldest living resident of St.
Petersburg, a title vacated by Mary Parr, who died at 113 in 2002 in St. Pete,
to which she had retired 37 years earlier.
retirements last longer than many careers. My father, at 72, is a relative
spring chicken among the snowbirds in Bonita Springs, where the day after
Christmas he pured a seven-iron on a par-3 for his first hole in one. It won't
be his last. As a retiree in Florida, where the people outlive the tortoises,
he may have another 40 years to hone his game.
favorite resident of the Sunshine State is a Hollywood, Fla., inventor—an
Edison of underwear—named Ronald Paramore. He once mailed to my wife, then
playing in the WNBA, a prototype for something called the "female