The fútbol fanatics who packed the Knight Concert Hall Monday afternoon primed for a big fiesta starring David Beckham and his best political and business buds got just what they wanted. But the hundreds of reporters and photographers from around the world who came hoping for more concrete info about his planned Major League Soccer team might as well have stayed home and watched some old Real Madrid highlights.
Monday's big MLS announcement was certainly not short on energy. A crowd was packed to the top deck, and rowdy Southern Legion true believers waved scarves and led chants. A hype video starred DJ Khaled. A junkanoo band beat drums up and down Biscayne Boulevard. Massive amounts of confetti exploded onto the crowd.
But many things were conspicuously missing from the event, which was MLS' official award of an expansion franchise to the Magic City. Overtown, the contentious planned site for the team's new stadium, never came up in the hour-and-a-half-long presentation. The stadium — which new owners Jorge and Jose Mas have hinted they might prefer in another part of town — was left out of the spectacle, with no renderings or updates on the plan at all.
In fact, specifics of any kind were totally absent. When will the team begin playing? (Maybe 2020?) What will it be called? What are the team's colors? (We might learn by the end of the month.)
In truth, this party wasn't about answering any of the critics or resolving any of the lingering questions about Becks' four-year slog through Miami's political muck toward an MLS franchise. It wasn't about reassuring Overtown residents that they aren't about to be gentrified out of Miami's oldest black neighborhood; resolving the claims of Bruce Matheson, the wealthy heir suing to halt the project; or hitting back at those who say a stadium with virtually no parking facilities would struggle in a car-driven metropolis.
This was all about letting Beckham and his crew drop the mike on the haters now that MLS's owners have given him the green light and the Mas brothers have given him the local business heft he's been seeking for years. (Recruiting Masayoshi Son, the richest guy in Japan, onto the ownership team certainly hasn't hurt the groups' spirits either.)
Beckham talked openly about the frustrations of the past four years, admitting, "There was times we sat back and said, 'This is not going to happen. This dream is not going to happen'... But I don't give up."
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With MLS's approval and a finalized ownership group, Beckham and his partners now say that dream is a reality. To hammer that point home, they played a video of celebs such as Venus Williams, Will Smith, and Khaled welcoming the team to town. (Though someone really should have rethought Tom Brady's message in the middle of the video — the crowd lustily booed the hated Patriots quarterback.)
Maybe this party is the last big step in this interminable road toward bringing pro soccer back to Miami. But in light of pending legal battles, a stadium project that has yet to receive even a first airing before the city government, and new owners seemingly less than committed to the idea, it's hardly any wonder MLS Commissioner Don Garber made no firm commitments about a timeline for the new team to suit up.
Today it was about toasting the idea of a team — which is not all that different from what Beckham, Garber, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez did four years ago at Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Let's hope this group does right by the people of Overtown — and that we're not back four years from now toasting the latest sign of progress instead of actually watching a damn soccer game.