Wait'll Next Year!

Nothing like a sports championship to bring out the beast in a city

Uwe Krupp's slap shot slid between the pads of goalie John Vanbiesbrouck early Tuesday morning, putting an end to an extraordinary triple-overtime game, claiming the 1996 Stanley Cup for the Colorado Avalanche, and etching a big pout on the puss of Florida Panthers fans all over Miami. Then giddy Denverites hit us where it really hurts.

They rioted.
Miami embraces riots the way New Orleans embraces jazz, the way Chicago glorifies the blues. During the Eighties alone, the Magic City burned four times, and the names associated with those rampages -- Arthur McDuffie, William Lozano -- are indelibly inked on our urban fabric. Thanks to the Panthers' improbable playoff success, historians stood ready to engrave a third name on our local lore, that of team captain Brian Skrudland.

In recent years, urban uprisings have supplanted the ticker-tape parade as the preferred mode of civic celebration, with cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, and even Lexington, Kentucky capitalizing on the success of their respective teams by trashing their downtowns.

Here in South Florida, the possibilities tantalize. While our previous riots were born of embarrassing racial strife, a sports riot presents a chance to bridge color, class, and geographic divides. The involvement of a hockey team only enhances the possibilities. Imagine rabid fans setting Kendall ablaze. (Or Hollywood, for that matter.) Sunrise, the Panthers' future home, might take its place alongside Liberty City and Overtown as a riot epicenter. Timid souls might flee into Carol City to escape the violence.

Yes, we were this close to beating back the wanna-be's that have been chipping away at our hard-ass reputation.

Then came Denver. No sooner had Krupp's puck hit the back of the net, than 80,000 fans spilled into lower downtown Denver, stoked on Coors and primed for mayhem. "The party took an ugly turn around 1:15 a.m.," reads an Associated Press report, "when police used tear gas, Mace, and batons to disperse a crowd of about 3000 unruly revelers who set fire to newspapers, climbed lampposts, and overturned benches. Police Det. John Wyckoff said fifteen arrests were made. Three people were hospitalized with minor injuries."

Meantime, despite the precedent-setting fracas in Vancouver that followed the Canucks' Stanley Cup loss to the New York Rangers in 1994, all remained pathetically quiet back here in Miami.

"Was there any kind of disturbance related to the hockey game?" muses Miami Police Department spokesman Angel Calzadilla. "None whatsoever.

 
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