Florida home to more than major sporting events

Feb 12, 2013 3:00 AM

The sports scene across the Sunshine State is much like California, Texas, and Arizona: blessed with year-round chamber of commerce weather, plentiful lakes, rivers or oceans, and an outdoor frame of mind.

Florida’s major spectator sports are alive and well (for the most part) with South Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa Bay all housing professional teams; Tallahassee and Gainesville the centers for NCAA competition; and the shores of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Lake Okeechobee hosting huge year-round contingents of sport fishermen. Even quiet interior villages like Lake Placid, Ocala, and Lakeland host high profile sporting events annually.

There’s another group of lower profile sports with long traditions and national reputations. Wellington, in West Palm Beach County abutting the Everglades is the winter mecca of professional polo and championship equestrian competition. Also in West Palm is the National Croquet Center, the largest dedicated facility in the world for the wicket sport. The Central Broward Regional Park is the only sanctioned cricket stadium in the USA.

Wellington in winter is home to wealthy families and captains of industry with many of their sons and daughters competing in the Winter Equestrian Festival. Between rounds of golf at stunning Nicklaus and Palmer courses, parents watch their youngsters in action with dressage, hunter jumper, show jumping and all manner of Olympic level equestrian events.

Returning this season thus far are The Boss, Madge, Bill and Melinda, Tom Selleck, Lou Dobbs and Murray Kessler to name a few.

Down the street at the International Polo Club Tommy Lee Jones captains his San Saba Team; Peter Brant returns with his long time champ White Birch; and Tim Gannon heads popular Outback. The American and Argentine riders, starring male model extraordinaire and polo superstar Nacho Figueras, entertain the Silver Cloud/Bentley tailgaters and thousands of their closest friends gathered at the stadium every Sunday afternoon through Easter.

The National Croquet Center is housed in a stunning 19,000 square foot clubhouse admid a verdant complex of perfectly manicured fields for the faithful malleteers. With 12 full size croquet lawns the facility also provides meeting and banquet spaces and the world’s largest walk-in croquet store. Tournaments featuring national and international players, both professional and amateur, accommodate as many as 200 mallet wielding competitors at once. Play continues throughout the day and on the lighted fields into the night.

A quickie hour flight east to the Caribbean islands is where some top professional cricket is played. West Indies cricketteers are among the best in the world and usually appear in the final brackets for world championships along with UK, India and Australia/New Zealand. After a number of false starts the game is finding traction in Florida led by the South Florida Cricket Alliance, which comprises 24 member clubs from Miami to Port St. Lucie.

Partly dependent on visiting or retired West Indian players, the league operates mainly in the fall and winter. The Central Florida Cricket Association based in Brevard/Daytona is a training ground for young players.

Last July a benchmark match took place before thousands of fans between perennial world powers New Zealand and the West Indies. More high profile games are planned as organizers hope to attract baseball fans to these specially designed friendly shortened matches.

Odds ’n Ends

Two South Florida icons are top level tabloid fodder. Dan Marino – the Hall of Fame QB, community treasure, charity leader – is explaining what happened at CBS six to seven years ago when he fathered a child with a network intern. The jury is still out, but most Dolphin fans are issuing Danny a hall pass.

A-Rod, between parties at his mansion on Miami Beach, apparently had an open tab with local PED distributor Anthony Bosch two to three years ago. Big names, including Gio Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, and Bartolo Colon, were also associated with the “clinic.” Rodriguez issued a serious denial.

Veteran South Florida sports radio personalities, Jeff DeForrest and Steve Goldstein are new morning show hosts on 940 AM “the sports animal.” Goldstein is also the TV voice of the Florida Panthers. Both Syracuse University alums, the two also worked together on 560 WQAM. DeForrest did extensive boxing broadcasts for Fox Sports. Goldstein did play by play for Olympic hockey on radio.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at Casin[email protected].

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