Instead of tennis crying about moving out, look around first
Written by Michael Lewis on January 5, 2016
What’s the only line by Tom Hanks that anyone remembers from the 1992 baseball movie “A League of Their Own”?
All together now: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
It’s time we said the same about tennis – “There’s no crying in tennis.”
Each failed step in the legal battle by the owners of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne to expand in county parkland and add more stadiums seems to have ended with a threat to take the tournament elsewhere unless they get their way.
It’s like kids in a sandlot ballgame when someone threatens to take the only bat and go home unless he gets to play shortstop.
Before the owners lost their final court appeal, the Miami Open head had said that folks in Beijing and Dubai would love to have the tournament. Closer to home there’s speculation of a move to Orlando, though owners have a contract for eight more years in Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park.
Then after owners lost the final battle in December, their lawyer, Gene Stearns, was quoted as saying “They’ll certainly have to consider their options. Under the circumstances, this has become a hostile environment to conduct business.” He even said the contract with the county to play in the park isn’t valid because the owners didn’t get what they wanted in court.
Of course, now the sneaker is on the other foot. When this newspaper was supporting top-level pro tennis in Crandon Park, Mr. Stearns in 1990 was suing to prevent it. But now he’s quoted as threatening, “At some point it’s going to be gone. The only question is when.”
Tennis is making a big racket, for crying out loud. Does that mean the tournament gets its way regardless of what the law says? Do we reward owners for being bad sports?
The rules fit both sides. Losing fair and square is a loss, just like it is in center court in the Miami Open finals. Quit crying. Live with it.
Don’t get us wrong: we supported the tournament from day one when most of Key Biscayne and Mr. Stearns were saying it would disrupt island life. Now most islanders love it, just like the rest of Miami. So do we.
The Miami Open is a huge attraction. It brings us big bucks with visitors of high quality from around the globe. It overflows with great publicity. Bravo.
In fact, if the courts had ruled for expansion of the tennis site we wouldn’t have minded. But the courts have found that the parkland is under the oversight of a four-person board that has the right to decide whether the Miami Open can pave over more open space, and it can’t.
All the crying in the world isn’t going to change the law. Legal avenues seem exhausted. There are no do-overs.
That doesn’t mean the operators must sit still.
They can take a page from the then-Florida Marlins playbook and pretend other cities are chasing them with great offers. In the case of the Marlins, the county buckled and committed $3 billion, including interest, for a lovely stadium that still can’t draw flies, much less fans.
But the Marlins spoiled that ploy here by admitting later in public that they’d had no other offers and it had all been a sham. Now county officials don’t even mention the Marlins by name.
The Miami Open needs another route. And fortunately, some exist.
The open can partner with business or governments of all sorts to stay right here in Miami-Dade. If operators find another suitable site in the county, in fact, we’ll bet county hall would let them break their contract so they could play elsewhere hereabouts.
And, yes, there are lots of choices. Just ask Florida International University, which has lists of sites to lure the Youth Fair to vacate its county park home so that FIU can have that land too. Sites are plentiful – though workable spots might be a tad harder to come by.
The Miami Open could be played just up the road on Virginia Key in parkland the City of Miami just created beside Miami Marine Stadium. Of course, tennis and the Miami International Boat Show would have to coordinate schedules, but it’s worth a look – particularly since the Miami Open could still use its present Virginia Key parking.
Or take Homestead, where a baseball complex the city built for Cleveland Indians spring training was abandoned before the first spring. And if that doesn’t work, FIU has picked out a dandy Homestead spot where it wants to put the Youth Fair. Maybe it would work better for tennis.
Or maybe FIU, the Youth Fair and the Miami Open could split up Tamiami Park three ways instead of two, making it a three-way fight instead of the present two-way battle for land.
Or how about around Dolphin Stadium, with land and parking aplenty? The area handles pro sports well. Just add tennis.
If none of those works, there’s always the vacant southeast corner of PortMiami. Everybody else has tried to use it, including professional soccer, which rated it superb. The county is hot on getting a paying tenant soon. Why not tennis?
Cutting a deal for any of these could work. We have good sites for all, including tennis.
So the Miami Open should buck up. There’s nothing to pout about. Remember, there’s no crying in tennis.