Snuffing the lights

For several decades, all of South Florida looked forward to the end of the year. Forces promoting Miami’s emphasis on tourism all shifted into a higher gear, trying to tempt visitors with the two weeks of events that culminated in the Orange Bowl football game.

No more.

Now a plethora of meaningless football bowl games dot the country, pitting college football teams with embarrassing won-lost records against one another. Decision makers finally have caved to America’s obsession with Number 1, the desperate urge to crown a single winner over all. So we have playoffs and ultimately, a national champion. Gone are the days when the nation’s best college football teams met on or about New Year’s Day in the four major bowls, the Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange. Eight elite teams that committees in the games’ host cities eagerly courted in the hopes of landing the most exciting gridiron matchup.

In Miami, tourists and natives all eagerly anticipated the King Orange Jamboree parade, an honest parade with floats and bands instead of night club acts. America continues to love the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, for good reason, principally its elaborate floats, imaginatively adorned with flowers, but Miamians took special pride in its New Year’s Eve parade up Biscayne Boulevard. What set it apart was the nighttime setting. Floats glittered with lights, creating a beautiful, other-worldy environment for the bands, marching units and the thousands of fans who packed temporary bleachers set up along Bayfront Park. The local transit company provided special buses. Restaurants and hotels prospered.

No more.

This sparkling beauty of a nighttime parade was losing $200,000 a year when it finally ended in 2002. National television had lost interest. The attractiveness of the Orange Bowl football football game faded. But the fat cats of television are laughing. They have their college football playoffs and their, gasp, Number 1, and of course, their millions in profits.

We who loved the beauty and tradition are saddened. There’s still the Tournament of Roses parade, and that’s still on television. Will someone decide that it’s not earning enough money for TV and kill it, too?

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