While on one side of town dignitaries from the National Football League and the nation's media were, after watching a special rendition of the Ickey Shuffle earlier in the day, munching on shrimp and prime rib at the Super Bowl XXIII host committee press party, on the other side of town, a super market was on fire, a furniture store was being emptied faster than you could say "loot," an NBA game was being postponed because of civic unrest, and His Honor Xavier Suarez, mayor of Miami, was dodging bullets in a police helicopter.
Whether any of the above had anything to do with any of the other of the above, TV psychologists on the 11 o'clock news were still trying to decide as they went off the air Tuesday night, and Miami was trying to figure out why us and why now?The 23rd Super Bowl is set to be played in sparkling new Joe Robbie Stadium Sunday afternoon. Billboards on the edge of Miami welcome visitors with "have a Super week" slogans. Temperatures are as advertised, which is to say, in the 70s. Parties are on tap all over Dade County all week long. Every limo is rented out. Three thousand media members are here. The 49ers are here. The Bengals are here. Ickey is here. NBC is here. It's a realtors' dream week come true. Hotel rooms are as scarce as snowdrifts. Bumper stickers all over the city say "Miami Nice."
But three people died Monday and Tuesday in inner-city Miami, where racial tensions flared, and that has cast a sobering effect on Super City XXIII and on the week it had in store.
It's hard to give a lot of attention to Jerry Rice's sprained ankle when portions of downtown are under siege.
It's hard to debate long and hard whether Cincinnati's line can get to Joe Montana when an NBA game scheduled for Tuesday night in the downtown Miami Arena between the Miami Heat the and Phoenix Suns was postponed because a mob of teen-agers was staging a pre-Super Bowl parade, throwing rocks instead of bubble gum.
Freeway exits to the downtown area were blocked off Tuesday afternoon and evening when Mr. Suarez, the mayor, took a look-see by helicopter. Even that wasn't safe. After a spray of bullets came close to the chopper, he quickly returned to Earth and said a full investigation of the police shooting and killing of amotorcyclist - the incident Monday that started the unrest - would be forthwith investigated.
Still, it appeared that media reports exaggerated the situation somewhat. You could drive around Miami safely enough Tuesday night. The pockets of unrest were isolated and clearly confined - if you didn't want to be there, you didn't have to be.
And from most reports, racial tension didn't appear to be the problem nearly as much as enterprising criminals - who knew a good cover for looting, plundering and vandalizing when they saw one.
Blacks and whites and members of the myriad of races that blend in Miami seemed to be coexisting well enough on most fronts.
At the massive Super Bowl photo day at Joe Robbie Stadium, for instance, where if anything matters were much improved Tuesday, fighting over a good location to shoot Ickey Woods doing his dance steps wasn't as, well, as life-and-death asit might have had a tendency to be at other Super Bowls.
What the heck. It's only a dance. Here, want to borrow my lens?
Reporters with the tough assignments were in Overtown and Liberty City, trying to keep out of the way of Molotov cocktails and tear gas.
With the countdown to the Super Bowl game well under way, the universal hope was that by Sunday the only big news decisions remaining in Miami would be reduced to whether to do more on the game itself, or on the corportate parties going on outside, or on the way visitors from the North were coping with the Florida sun, or maybe an in-depth look at the inequity of the way the NFL disperses its game tickets.
You know, your basic Super Bowl week overkill.
Taking the game too seriously is what it's all about - and all it deserves to ever be about.