This post should have been up before either team visited this season, but, due to circumstances beyond my control, it had to wait until now.
The Miami Herald website, showing a lack of proofreading, is predicting the following for Wednesday: "Rain likely. High 72F. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 100%. Rainfaill near half an inch." You read that right: Rain is both "likely" and with a "100 percent" chance. Plus wind. It's going to be lousy weather. At least it won't be cold.
Florida is a former Confederate State, and parts of Miami sure seem like a foreign country. But you won't need to bring your passport or change your money. And it's in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to fool with your timepieces.
Tickets. The Heat averaged 19,712 fans per home game last season, a sellout. LeBron James is gone, but Dwyane Wade (when you've won 3 NBA Titles, you can spell "Dwayne" any way you want) is still there. Throw in the 1990s Knicks-Heat rivalry, and getting tickets may be hard. Although it might be easier for a Nets-Heat game down here.
Dolphins tickets are freakin' expensive. In the Lower Level, the 100 sections, seats go for $325 on the sidelines and $295 in the end zone. In the Upper Level, the 300 sections, they're $165 on the sidelines and $150 in the end zone. The 200 sections are Club Level, and, truly, prohibitively expensive, so don't even consider them.
Tickets in the 100 Level can be purchased for as low as $140. In the 300 Level, as low as $65. In the 400 Level, as low as $20. In each case, though, be prepared to pay a bit more.
Getting There. It’s 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami. Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, but you’ll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you’re trying to get from the airport to downtown, you’ll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami’s Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights, lasting 3 hours, for under $500 round-trip.
The train is not a very good idea, because you’ll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak’s Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 5:58 the next day’s evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:10 AM and return to New York at 11:00 AM, “only” 27 hours – no, there’s no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it’ll cost $386. And the station isn’t all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there’s a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.
How about Greyhound? There are 5 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:45 PM to 7:30 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (This is not fun, but, since New York to Miami should be straight down and back up I-95, it's also pointless. Resting the passengers, changing the driver and refueling the bus all make sense; making passengers change buses, twice, doesn't.)
The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 33 hours. Round-trip fare is $438, but it can be cut by more than half to $198 with advanced purchase. The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. It’s worth the fact that it’ll cost twice as much to simply fly down. Plus, going from New York to Miami on Greyhound, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.
If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You’ll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami – maybe a little under 6 hours if you get a hotel near the stadium.
Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia and 2 in Florida, you’re talking about a 28-hour trip.
Once In the City. A lot of people don't realize it, because Miami is Florida's most famous city, but the most populous city in the State is Jacksonville. However, while Miami has about 425,000 people within the city limits, there are 6.5 million living in the metro area, making it far and away the largest in the South, not counting Texas.
Because Florida is so hot, and air-conditioning didn't become common until the mid-20th Century, Miami was founded rather late by the standards of the East coast, in 1825, and wasn't incorporated as a city until 1896. The name is derived from the Mayaimi tribe of Native Americans. Miami Avenue is the east-west divider, Flagler Street the north-south.
The Herald is the only major newspaper left in the city, but the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale should also be available. And, considering how many ex-New Yorkers are around, you might also be able to get the Times, the Daily News, or, if you're really desperate (or really conservative), the Post.
The sales tax in Florida is 6 percent, but it's 7 percent within Miami-Dade County. Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail, and a downtown-only smaller service, Metromover. Both above-ground, sort of like Chicago's El and the Detroit People Mover, if they were in the same city. The fare for the Metrorail and the Metrobus is $2.25.
Metrorail above, and the smaller Metromover below
Tri-Rail has run commuter rail service since 1989, linking 3 Counties: Dade (Miami), Broward (Fort Lauderdale) and Palm Beach.
A Tri-Rail train
Going In. The American Airlines Arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999, with a concert by hometown heroes Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine. Two days later, on January 2, 2000, the Heat played their 1st game there, beating their geographic rivals, the Orlando Magic.
A3, with the landmark Freedom Tower in the northwest corner of the photo
The arena -- sometimes called the Triple-A or the A3 -- is located downtown at 601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets. It's across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. It can be reached via the Freedom Tower station on Metromover. If you're driving in, parking can be had for as low as $9.00.
Since moving in, the Heat have won the NBA Championship in 2006, 2012 and 2013, and also reached the NBA finals in 2011 and 2014. The '06 and '11 Finals were confusing because they played the Dallas Mavericks, whose arena is named the American Airlines Center.
Since the arena is essentially on a pier on Biscayne Bay, you will almost certainly be entering from the west, along Biscayne Blvd. The court is laid out east-to-west.
Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and with all those ex-New Yorkers and ex-New Jerseyans who know their basketball and their food, you would expect the basketball team in Miami to have great food at their arena. Here's a guide from the arena website.
They have separate banners for their NBA titles and Conference titles, but 1 banner for every 4 Division titles.
The 2 retired numbers of players who actually played for the Heat are 10 for guard Tim Hardaway and 33 for center Alonzo Mourning. Hardaway played for the Heat teams of the 1990s, while Mourning not only played for them then, but returned in time for their 2006 title.
Mourning and guard Gary Payton, who was only with the team for 2 seasons but 1 was the 2006 title season, are the only Hall-of-Famers who have played for the Heat. Shaquille O'Neal, who also played on the 2006 team, has not yet been elected, but he almost certainly will be, and his Number 32 is not currently being worn, so it might be retired. Presumably, Wade's Number 3 and LeBron James' Number 6, which is not currently being worn, will be retired after they hang up their sneakers.
In another unique distinction in the NBA, the Heat hang banners for their Olympic Gold Medalists: Hardaway, Mourning, Wade, James.
UPDATE: In 2016, Shaq was elected to the Hall of Fame. As yet, it is unknown if the Heat will retire Number 32 for him.
Stuff. The Miami HEAT Store (apparently, the ALL CAPS is official) is located on the ground floor of the west end of the arena, along Biscayne Blvd.
Despite having built some history the last few years, there aren't many books about the Heat. Josh Anderson wrote the Heat's entry in the NBA's On the Hardwood series in 2013, in time for their most recent title. Rick Leddy has written the most recent LeBron biography, LeBron James: King of the Game, including his "re-rat" from South Beach back to the North Coast. Most confusing of all is that there are at least 2 books titled Miami Heat, but they're both, uh, "romance novels."
There's no 20th or 25th Anniversary video, but there are DVD collections of their 2006, 2012 and 2013 titles.
During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Heat's fans 13th, a little better than average. It gives them credit for coming even after LeBron left, and for coming before he came and while Wade was injured.
South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he’s Jewish. Or Italian. As a result, you may see a lot of Knick fans.
However, the Knicks-Heat rivalry means a lot more to Knick fans than it does to Heat fans. South Floridians save their animus for teams from North and Central Florida: The University of Florida, Florida State, the Jacksonville Jaguars (being in the AFC means Dolphin fans hate them more than the NFC's Tampa Bay Buccaneers), the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and, in basketball, especially the Orlando Magic.
Between Heat fans not really hating the Knicks, local Knicks fans being on hand, and downtown Miami being safer than some other parts of town, you shouldn't face any rough stuff. You and, if you drove in, your car should both be safe.
Julia Dale, just 14 years old and introduced during the 2013 Playoffs, is the National Anthem singer for both the Heat and the Marlins. The Heat use the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" as a fight song. The Heat's mascot is Burnie, a big furry orange fat thing with a basketball for a nose, and really needs to burn some calories.
But he still does well with the ladies.
After the Game. Miami has some rough areas, but the area around the arena should be as well-policed as that around Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden, so you should be safe.
As for where to go after the game, I can’t be sure. I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city’s NFL teams.
J.C. Wahoo’s Sports Bar and Grill is supposedly the home of the South Florida fan club of the Giants. But it’s at 3128 N. Federal Highway (yes, the same U.S. Route 1 that goes through The Bronx and New Jersey), between Northeast 31st and 32nd Streets, 40 miles north of downtown -- further north than Fort Lauderdale, or even Pompano Beach, almost up to Boca Raton. It’s not even all that close to the stadium.
The South Florida Jets Fan Club meets at Hammerjack’s, at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie, a bit closer to the stadium, but still 24 miles north of downtown.
Don't bother looking for Dan Marino's restaurants: They've all closed. He's had financial setbacks, partly due to paying his extramarital baby mama millions of dollars in hush money.
If you visit Miami during the European soccer season (now drawing to a close but starting again in mid-August), the Fado Irish Pub chain has an outlet downtown, at 900 S. Miami Avenue. Brickell on Metrorail, Tenth Street Promenade on Metromover.
Sidelights. Miami’s sports history is long, but aside from football, it's not all that involved.
* Sun Life Stadium. Probably best known under its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, the Dolphins' home was named for their longtime owner, who had it built for them and for a hypothetical MLB team that became the Marlins. It’s 15 miles north of downtown Miami, in a location that’s been called, at various times, Miami, Miami Lakes, Miami Gardens, Carol City and Opa-Locka. Sounds like a bad variety show sketch.
The Stadium is between 199th and 203rd, and between the Turnpike and 27th Avenue, across 203rd and Snake Creek from Calder Race Course. The exact address is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the coach who won the Dolphins' 2 titles and the record number of NFL coaching wins he has.
Public transportation there is a bit tricky. You'd have to take Metrorail from downtown to M.L. King Rail Station, then transfer to the Number 27 bus, riding that to NW 199th Street & NW 27th Court. And then you'd have to walk down 199th for about 15 minutes and turn into the parking lot. Not exactly ideal. (Somehow, I don't think a situation like this, especially with a transit station with his name on it, was part of Martin Luther King's dream. But he certainly would have approved of a racially mixed crowd watching racially mixed teams playing each other.)
The stadium has been home to the Dolphins since 1987; the Orange Bowl game in 1996, 1997, 1998 and since 2000; the University of Miami football team since 2008 (their games were the last thing the Orange Bowl stadium hosted before its demolition to make way for Marlins Park); the Marlins from 1993 to 2011; and the Champs Sports Bowl from 1990 to 2000.
It's hosted 5 Super Bowls: XXIII (1989, San Francisco over Cincinnati), XXIX (1995, San Francisco over San Diego), XXXIII (1999, Denver over Atlanta), XLI (2007, Indianapolis over Chicago, and the only Super Bowl that's yet been rained on) and XLIV (2011, Green Bay over Pittsburgh). Sites for Super Bowls LIII and LIV (2019 and 2020) have not yet been selected, but Sun Life Stadium (or whatever it would be named by that point) will likely be awarded one of them. (Update: It's been awarded Super Bowl LIV.)
It's also hosted 2 World Series: 1997, Marlins over Cleveland; and 2003, Marlins over, uh, let's move on. It hosted 4 BCS National Championship Games: 2001 (Oklahoma over Florida State), 2005 (USC over Oklahoma), 2009 (Florida over Oklahoma) and 2013 (Alabama over Notre Dame).
The stadium is also a premier U.S. soccer venue. On August 4, 1989, London's Arsenal played Argentine club Independiente, each team coming off winning its national league title. Arsenal won, 2-1, but only 10,042 fans came out to see it in the oppressive August Florida heat. (Perhaps this is why Arsenal did not play in North America again for 25 years, coming to Red Bull Arena in 2014.) Other major club teams to play there include Mexico's Chivas of Guadalajara; England's Chelsea of London, Everton of Liverpool and Manchester United; Spain's Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia; and Italy's AC Milan, Internazionale and Juventus.
The U.S. national team has played there 4 times: A 1-0 loss to Colombia on April 22, 1990; a 1-1 draw with Bolivia on February 18, 1994; a 3-1 loss to Sweden on February 20, 1994; and a 1-0 win over Honduras on October 8, 2011.
* Site of Orange Bowl/Marlins Park. The home of the team that became known as the Miami Marlins when they moved in for the 2012 season was built at the site of the stadium known as the Miami Orange Bowl. It will be a long time before it builds up anything of history, but it will never match the history of the classic horseshoe with the palm trees at the open east end.
Opening in 1937, and known as Burdine Stadium until 1959, it hosted the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and once more in 1999 when the Dolphins made the Playoffs to make their new stadium unavailable; the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel); the Miami Seahawks of the All-America Football Conference in 1946 (they moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season, but this was arguably the 1st "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States); the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl (a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL's divisions from 1960 to 1969, also known as the Playoff Bowl, a game so lame that Vince Lombardi once called it "the only game I never want to win" – and he didn't); the Dolphins from 1966 to 1986; the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976; and 5 Super Bowls, most notably (from a New York perspective) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held here.
The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL's only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and 1942. And the Cleveland Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that's not the NFL.
The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII, and then Super Bowl VIII. And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. (They’ve done so in Los Angeles twice, and once each in New Orleans, Houston and San Francisco.) They also haven’t been to one in 30 seasons, or all of their history in their new stadium. "The Curse of Joe Robbie," anyone?
The Orange Bowl hosted a lot of soccer games, including Arsenal's 1st visit to North America, on May 31, 1972, beating the Miami Gatos 3-2. Only 4,725 fans saw it, which is what you get for scheduling a soccer game in Miami on Memorial Day Weekend.
1501 NW 3rd Street, between 7th Street, 14th and 16th Avenues. Number 11 Bus west on Flagler Street from downtown, then 3 blocks north on 15th Avenue. Be careful, this is in Little Havana.
* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida’s finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, “Hey, Namath! We’re gonna kick your ass on Sunday!” And Joe said, “Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we’re gonna win. I guarantee it!” He was right.
NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.
* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather. The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988. These teams won FSL Pennants in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1978 -- giving Miami 7 Pennants, counting those won by the NL Marlins.
Miami Stadium was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that “the Los Angeles Dodgers” played their 1st game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990.
It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It’s just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.
* Site of Miami Arena. This was the home of the Heat from 1988 to 1999, the NHL’s Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1998, and the University of Miami basketball team from 1988 to 2003. When the Overtown race riot happened in January 16 to 18, 1989, in the week before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage, and succeeded.
* BB&T Center. This has been the home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers since 1998, and there’s a reason the team is called “Florida” instead of “Miami”: The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th . If you don’t have a car, you’d have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the arena.
* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association’s Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties’ Conventions in 1972, were held here. (The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon each time, and the Democrats nominated George McGovern.) Why? Simple: They wanted to be away from any city's downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.
"Float like a butterfly, sing like a Beatle!"
* Site of Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina in 1930, was used as a Naval Air Station, a convention center, a concert hall, a 6,900-seat sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here), and as the indoor-scenes studio for the USA Network show Burn Notice.
It’s also been known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. Under that name, on March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, “I’m from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!”)
It was demolished in 2013, and a park is being built on the site. 2700 S. Bayshore Drive, at Pan American Drive & 27th Avenue, in the Coconut Grove section of town. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.
* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.
Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo’s Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and the aforementioned Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation).
Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There’s Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It’s at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.
The penthouse used by the Kardashian Sisters to tape Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach, but I don’t think they use it anymore, especially since Kourtney and Kim have now “taken New York.”
If you’re a fan of The Golden Girls, you won’t find the house used for the exterior shots. It’s actually in Los Angeles. The address mentioned on the show was 6151 Richmond Street, but that address doesn't exist in Miami.
The largest college in the area is, as you might have guessed, the University of Miami. Its new Donna E. Shalala Student Center, named for the former University President and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, is at 1330 Miller Drive, about 7 miles southwest of downtown. University Station on Metrorail.
Florida International University is at 11200 SW 8th Street, 16 miles west of downtown. Its FIU Stadium, seating 23,500, is at 11310 SW 17th Street. Bus 8. It should not be confused with Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Its 30,000 FAU Stadium is at FAU Blvd. & N. University Drive. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton station. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. soccer team had a 1-1 draw with Honduras at FAU Stadium.
While no President has ever been born in Florida, or grew up there, or even had his permanent residence there, Miami has a key role in Presidential history. On February 15, 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were at a rally in Bayfront Park, when Giuseppe Zangara started shooting. FDR was not hit, but Cermak was, and he died on March 6, just 2 days after FDR was inaugurated. Bayfront Park station on Metromover.
More recently, the building where the votes for Dade County were supposed to be counted in the 2000 election was besieged by protestors, hired by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, so Miami was ground zero for the theft of the election by the George W. Bush campaign. The University of Miami's Convocation Center hosted a Presidential Debate between Bush and John Kerry in 2004. And Lynn University in Boca Raton hosted a Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012. 3601 N. Military Trail. Tri-Rail to Boca Raton, then Bus 2.
Miami's top 2 museums are the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), at 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Museum Park station on Metromover; and the Patricia and Philip Frost Museum of Science, at 3280 S. Miami Avenue, Vizcaya station on Metrorail.
At 789 feet, the tallest building in the State of Florida since 2003 has been the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, at 1435 Brickell Avenue downtown. Financial District station on Metromover. Indeed, Miami has seen a building boom, with the waterfront becoming home to a series of skyscrapers known as the Biscayne Wall. The tallest of Miami's older buildings is the Freedom Tower, built in 1925 as the home of the now-defunct Miami News. It now houses Miami-Dade College and a Museum. 600 Biscayne Blvd., downtown, across from the American Airlines Arena. Freedom Tower station on Metromover.
You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. You should be able to enjoy yourself, even if neither the Knicks nor the Nets currently seem to be good enough to, pardon the pun, beat the Heat.