Orange Bowl Adios
View a slideshow from the October 13 game between the Hurricanes and Georgia Tech at the Orange Bowl.
When Stewart Patterson heard the University of Miami Hurricanes would be playing their last football game in the Orange Bowl November 10, he decided to head for the M-I-A. Funny thing — the tall, goateed Atlanta resident didn't attend UM. And he has never lived in South Florida. Yet he drove 666 miles just to be a part of the last gasp of debauched tailgating and partying before the recent UM-Georgia Tech game.
He even wore a special T-shirt for the event. It read, "Last call at the OB. We may have not won 'em all, but we never lost a party."
It's a fitting tribute. The 71-year-old stadium has hosted some of the subtropics' most memorable events, from the 1972 Miami Dolphins undefeated season to some of the largest U.S. citizenship swearing-in ceremonies in the nation. But what really makes it unique are the tailgaters paying $40 to park, the 14-year-olds getting busted for illegal drinking, and the low-rent capitalism personified by two Cuban guys hawking T-shirts at last Saturday's game. The tees showed Fidel Castro being flushed down a toilet above the caption "Arriba! Abajo! Fidel va para el carajo!" ("Up, down, Fidel is going to, well, Hell!")
Santiago Padrón, a stout Cuban expatriate, is particularly upset about the Orange Bowl's demise. Before the October 13 Georgia Tech game, he guides a black Range Rover into a parking spot on the front lawn of his three-bedroom house at 1327 NW Fourth St. "Cut it more to the left!" he shouts to the young driver; Padrón wants to make sure there will be enough room for another customer. Since buying the property for $100,000 in 2000, he has been charging UM fans $35 per ride to park in his yard. On this particularly sweltering Saturday, he makes room for 21 cars. That's $735 for doing almost nada.
Padrón estimates he pulls in $4380 per year on the business, but not after the team moves north to Dolphin Stadium next year. "I'll lose out on making a little money that helps me pay the bills," he laments.
Across the street, on a vacant green lot set aside for students and alumni, some real debauchery is under way. As a hip-hop DJ spins a blaring mix of Soulja Boy, House of Pain, and Wu-Tang Clan, young partygoers pound beer straight from the tap and down shots of hard liquor.
State agents dressed in gray polo shirts and black cargo pants look on. Then one of them, a woman with dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail, escorts a doe-eyed brunette in a sleeveless orange Hurricanes T-shirt to a squad car, where six state agents have already corraled three other female underage drinkers. The agents have emptied a six-pack of Rolling Rock beer into the grass.
A young man in a white Canes T-shirt stands nearby, holding a football. He makes a suggestion to a reporter: "Why don't you ask those cops if they enjoy their jobs? Those fucking dicks!"
Lt. Jorge Fernandez, a portly lawman with thinning gray hair, informs New Times that he and 11 other agents are there to enforce the state's beverage laws. "We usually just give them a notice to appear in court," Rodriguez says. "But if they give us a fake ID or become belligerent, we take them to the stadium's Gate 7, where Miami Police transport them to Dade County Jail. On average we catch 20 to 25 underage drinkers per game."
A few yards away, on a grassy patch, Sebastian the Ibis, UM's mascot, runs through a jubilant crowd of about 50 students. When he does the Soulja Boy dance, they roar with excitement. Nearby, a beer pong contest is in full swing. The table's owner, Alex Cabrera, is leaning against his buddy's 1989 Chevy 1500 truck, which has been modified into the ultimate Hurricanes mobile. A large decal of the UM logo is stamped on the hood. The driver's side is spray-painted in orange letters that spelled out "The U." On a barbecue grill welded to the tailgate, Cabrera's friends are frying eggs and sausage.
Cabrera, a baby-faced UM film school graduate sporting aviator sunglasses, announces he won't be attending any football games at Dolphin Stadium next year. He's no fan of UM President Donna Shalala. "She is giving up our entire tradition for $1.7 million a year," Cabrera seethes, referring to the increased profit the team is expected to make at its new home. "She can kiss the deepest, dirtiest part of my asshole."
Not everyone is going to miss the Orange Bowl. Near the southeast entrance on NW 14th Avenue, Mario Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum, strolls into the stadium. "I'm all for the history, but this place is a dump," Artecona says. "I'm certainly not going to miss the mysterious yellow liquid that falls on you from the upper bleachers during the fourth quarter. You can only pray that it is beer."
He blames city leaders for allowing the Orange Bowl to slide into disrepair. "There were so many chances to save her," he says before departing.
A few minutes later, Hurricanes freshman Shawnbrey McNeal gallops 39 yards into the end zone to give his team a first-quarter lead. The Orange Bowl rattles as the 60,000-plus fans holler.
In Section 1A, Row 17, Jim Hume thrusts up two clenched fists as he grins proudly. He is dressed in a green Hurricanes basketball jersey, a white polo shirt with the ibis logo, and a white UM cap with his last name stitched on the back.
"I just love UM football," the Tamarac resident says. "I've been coming to the games with my son for the past 20 years. I used to buy the fan pack and we'd sit in the west end zone."
Hume's 30-year-old son Brian is arguably the Orange Bowl's most die-hard fan. Last year he had an image of the Orange Bowl tattooed on his chest. Before that, he'd had a picture of Sebastian and the word C-A-N-E-S inked onto his stomach. "I'm happy just going to the OB," Brian says. "It's been like a second home."
On Thursday, October 18, five days after Georgia Tech pasted the Canes 17 to 14, Brian made one last touchup to his orange-and-green body mural. In bold black it reads, "1937-2007."
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