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Tag: michael mooney

Whip it Good


Over at SB Nation’s Longform, the talented Michael Mooney asks: What Happened to Jai Alai:

Looking at the rows and rows of seats, you can imagine a different time. There were thousands of people every night, men in dark suits and hats packed shoulder to shoulder. They’d be waving programs, downing brown booze, smoking cigarettes from cigarette cases or, better still, puffing thick cigars that would fill the room with pungent smoke and give the air just below the giant ceiling lights a ghostly blue haze. As the men on the court used oblong baskets to hurl a goatskin ball over and over against a granite wall, the men in the crowd would be hollering and belly laughing and slapping each other on the back. There was a time when the audience at the Miami Jai Alai fronton was so loud, the players on the court could barely hear their own thoughts.

Now though, the seats are almost all empty. On this clear-skied, 85-degree Tuesday afternoon in mid-winter, there are more players in uniform than spectators in the crowd. On the other side of the building, in the freshly renovated casino, there are plenty of people at the poker tables and parked in front of the more than 1,000 flashing slot machines. But in this massive auditorium, once the epicenter of the gambling action, it’s dead.

With every throw, you can hear the ball—in jai alai, the pelota—crash against the wall with a thunderous, echoing boom. You can hear the scoreboard beeping, and it sounds like the entire building is on life support. What was once a five-star restaurant at the top of the grandstand, the Courtview Club, is almost always dark and vacant now. The skyboxes, once bustling with young women offering cocktail service, now gather dust year-round. Same for the sectioned-off rows that once comprised the sizable press box. Even the players’ names, they once sounded so exotic and intriguing. Now they just seem … foreign.

[Photo Credit: Benherst; Flickeriver]

Dancing in the Dark


I’m a big fan of Michael Mooney’s writing. Head on over to SB Nation’s Longform and check out his piece on a gaming convention in Dallas called QuakeCon:

The next morning the room was full of similarly bleary-eyed, disheveled, computer-toting young people. There were two lines: the one Chris and his friends were in — which was first-come-first-serve — and the Reserved line, for people who’d paid the extra $50 ahead of time. By lunchtime, both lines twisted back through the winding, Kubrickian hotel hallways and nobody seemed to be moving.

The Anatole is a four-star convention hotel, two separate towers decorated in an oriental theme — not the kind of place you’d expect to see thousands of greasy-faced videogame enthusiasts. While the gamers gathered on the west side of the hotel, there was a Mary Kay convention going on at the other end. On the walls in the wing where QuakeCon was held are large paintings of faceless Chinese masses and various deceased Chinese leaders. There’s an 8-foot Buddha in repose right next to the bar. A glass case near the concierge desk houses wooden figures from the Han Dynasty, which ended in 220 A.D., and glazed pottery from the Tang Dynasty, which ran from 618 to 907. And greeting QuakeCon guests just inside the front door were two immaculate life-size wooden elephants, hand-carved in Thailand from a pair of 12-foot Monkey Pod trees. The elephants were donated by a local real estate developer for the 1984 Republican National Convention, when the Anatole hosted both President Reagan and Vice-President Bush (in opposite towers).

In line, some people were laying down, with a lucky, exhausted few managing to sleep through the all-night rumblings of strangers. Some played drinking games. Two separate groups, hundreds of feet apart in line, were both playing intense games of flip cup — a pastime that requires not only chugging skills, but also post-consumption dexterity. Plenty of people were eating the $15 large pepperoni pizzas Pizza Hut was selling in the parking lot — and when the line got long enough, someone turned a discarded box into a sign reading WAIT-CON. There were lots of blankets, pillows, sleeping bags. A few people brought consoles and televisions and set them up along the walls to help pass the time. Some people did card tricks on top of the over-sized boxes and dollies carrying their computers, while others marched around showing off their matching clan T-shirts. One guy offered strangers passing him “free high-fives.” Another guy argued that, if they were forced to fight by some sort of evil overlord, the Hulk could easily do away with Thor.

Check out this short movie by Pablo Korona.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver