By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Still thinking about making it to the Super Bowl? Well, it's certainly destined to be one of those once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime gridiron experiences, worth all of the teeth-rattling expense it entails. To put it in succinct Madison Avenue terms:
Ticket to the game: $5,540 (the current average)
Parking at Dolphin Stadium: $50 plus $10 in fees
Hot dog: $5
This is, of course, utter bullshit. The game promises to be one of the worst of the year, extravagantly hyped, mistake-filled, full of long, boring defensive stratagems and glacial, clock-consuming touchdown drives. You'll get home from the game after fighting a two-hour traffic jam on I-95, no doubt with a feeling of profound emptiness. Your spirit will be sapped, and yes, so will your wallet. Right now, knowledgeable football fans with box-office connections are thinking not about relishing a football game next Sunday but about how they're going to unload their tickets for huge profits.
If attend you absolutely must, save the six grand for a down payment on a car or an installment on your kid's college tuition. When there's this much money involved, Tailpipe says, the Robin Hood principle kicks in. Rob the rich to help the poor (assuming you're one of the vast majority of pro football fans for whom a four-figure ticket price is as inconceivable as a Rolls-Royce planted in your carport).
So Tailpipe has come up with these sketchy routes to a ticket:
Blackmail. The NFL has offered tickets at face value ($600 to $700) to elected officials, including some ethically challenged members of the Broward County Commission. Got the goods on a pol? The 'Pipe suggests showing up at the office of Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion (who, asked by the Miami Herald if he was buying, said it was a "private" matter, so you know he's got some) with a DNA report, claiming he's your long-lost father.
Get in on the gig. An ad on craigslist.org calls for "local promotional models, background actors and major fans" to participate in the halftime show. Of course, if selected, your ass belongs to the producers. The good news, though, is that you can actually work your way into the Super Bowl provided you're willing to reduce yourself to indentured servitude, wear "appropriate" garb, and stand for hours with no fiscal compensation.
The mascot ploy. Pat Patriot and Blue are so gussied up in their costumes, nobody knows who's really under there. A long shot, maybe. But this crusty car part has heard of schemes far more outlandish than donning rubberized headgear that disguises your larcenous identity.
Sand. It used to be that all you needed was a worthy disabled person whose wheelchair you could push into a stadium event, but then Immigration and Customs Enforcement started getting all sticky about security matters. But who's going to question a smartly dressed workman pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand through the service entrance, saying with an officious growl, "Adam Vinatieri"? Field-goal kickers need sand, don't they? Well, no, but by the time security figures that one out, you'll be in a beer line.
Alice Faircloth hadn't saved quite enough for her retirement, but the 74-year-old Hialeah woman liked her job as an usher at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. A self-described extrovert, Faircloth was glad to get out of her house, which has been missing a portion of its roof since Hurricane Wilma.
Toward the end of the Florida Panthers game last Halloween night, a man wearing an expensive suit slipped into the section of the stadium reserved for disabled spectators, not far from where Faircloth was standing. "He seemed agitated his neck was bulging," Faircloth says. "And all of a sudden, he said the f-word really loud. Usually, if someone does that, we call security and have them ejected, because this is a family environment."
As the final seconds ticked away, the man's swearing only intensified. The game ended in a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. As the man stormed out, Faircloth leaned toward him to say, "Excuse me, sir, but you have an awfully foul mouth."
The man stopped and glared at her, she says. "I thought he was going to hit me, he was so angry," Faircloth says.
"Do you know who I am?" Turns out he was Michael Yormark, chief operating officer of BankAtlantic Center. According to Faircloth, he then said, "I don't ever want to see you here again."
Moments later, Faircloth saw Yormark walk into the office of the contractor that provides ushers for the stadium. Later, Faircloth's supervisor told her not to come back. "I'm blackballed from going back to the BankAtlantic Center," she says.
Yormark did not return calls for comment. Faircloth hasn't found another usher job, and the rain comes through her roof, but she has no regrets. "I didn't know who he was," she says, "and I don't care."
Controversy is a fledgling newspaper's best friend, so when the Fort Lauderdale City News debuted in October, the free monthly offered readers and advertisers a steady diet of allegations about Fort Lauderdale public officials, Mayor Jim Naugle in particular.
In the paper's recent "Politics Et Cetera" column, for instance, City NewsPublisher Steve Kelley asserts that "100% of the cops [in Fort Lauderdale] hate Naugle along with all 2,500 city employees," and he relates an anecdote about Naugle's spilling a drink during his flight to a League of Cities conference. (The mayor is, thus, clearly an alcoholic, right?) Kelley also reads between the lines of a Naugle press conference to conclude that the mayor supports the shooting of black people.
Naugle, who's been mayor for 16 years, shrugged off the attacks as politics as usual until a city employee e-mailed him seeking nominations for community activists to be honored by City News. It was a sign, he says, that someone in City Hall was taking the newspaper seriously, rousing him to growl from his City Hall lair.
Kelley, Naugle says, is "one of the most dishonest people in the city. I know that he was dismissed from one neighborhood when they had missing funds from the newsletter." He says also that the spilled drink in question came from a fellow airline passenger, that he's not in favor of shooting black people, and that some local cops actually smile warmly at him. He added that Kelley has never called him for a comment.
When Tailpipe reached Kelley the next day, the publisher could barely conceal his delight. "Mayor Naugle went apeshit," Kelley marveled. "He slandered me... and I might sue him for libel."
Naugle says he's ready to call Kelley's bluff. "It's difficult to sue someone for telling the truth, but he's welcome to try."
The mayor produced the minutes of a 2002 Victoria Park Civic Association meeting, noting that members found that Kelley, who was editing their newsletter, could not reconcile advertising revenue with deposits in the association's account. Kelley resigned as advertising manager shortly afterward. ("I don't have any comment on that," Kelley tells Tailpipe.)
Kelley says City News has a circulation of 50,000 (though the numbers are not confirmed by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which monitors newspaper figures). He says he gets no financial support from the cast of erstwhile politicians who form the paper's editorial board, such as former commissioner Tim Smith and former mayoral candidate Dan Lewis, both of whom are treated reverently in Kelley's pages.
But he concedes that the paper is floundering and that he's losing money. "I won't tell you how much," he says, "but I'm losing my shirt on it."
When El-Ad Group bought a chunk of real estate on Fort Lauderdale Beach for $56.3 million in October 2005, beach bums were bummed. It looked as if their favorite watering holes, from Blondie's to the Elbo Room, were doomed to make way for (yet another) fancy condo/hotel.
Blondie's drained its kegs and shut its doors, but a few key players stood in the way of El-Ad's mission to buy up the entire block. According to a Sun-Sentinel story by Brittany Wallman last August, the Elbo Room's owners refused to budge, and a guy named Lior Avidor a friend turned foe of El-Ad's bought a chunk of land that El-Ad would need to put its big luxury puzzle together. El-Ad (which also owns the Plaza hotel) figured it would sit and play the waiting game until its opponents gave in.
But the other day, Tailpipe was psyched when he saw the doors to Blondie's wide open, the TV sets a-blarin', and the pinball games plink-plinking away not to mention the usual suspects sitting at the bar. Word on the street is that the same guys who operate Spazio and Café del Mar are now operating Blondie's (now officially called Dirty Blonde's). Well... wouldn't that be... Avidor? None of the honchos from either side returned the 'Pipe's calls, so he was forced (forced!) to mosey in for a tall one and scope out the scene. Except for better, sharper flat-screen TVs, the place still has its old lovably divey vibe.
The old bartenders are trickling back in, and the regulars? "They're not trickling," the fair maiden who refilled the 'Pipe's pint glass says. "They're already here."
As told to Edmund Newton