The Misers of Miramar: The story of the greatest neighborhood football team and how they ruled the football field and a South Florida community.
Don’t call me Ishmael, call me Miser. Everyone has their own story of their childhood and the town that they grew up in. Most of us have our memories of growing up buried deep within the mind’s eye. Tucked away in the dark corridors of our own memories lies the images of the people and places that shaped who and what we became as human beings. Distant memories are preyed upon by our self-preservation and revisionist introspective declarations that paint a picture of ourselves which is bearable to view. Caught somewhere between the truth and the lies is the reality of what our childhoods really were.
There are people who view the same event in different ways and through separate lenses. Perception is reality and that concept is never truer than when we speak and think about ourselves as children. Sometimes, what we remember never happened and often it only exists in our own mind. Not even the town I grew up in exists anymore or at least not in the way it once did. I grew up in Miramar, Florida in the 1970s and 1980s and that Miramar disappeared. Yes, the town is still there on the map but the time and place, the demographics and even the feel of the town no longer exists in reality today.
There is very little proof of what we did outside of police reports, newspaper articles, local news video clips, and unforgettable folklore. It is hard to believe how famous we really got back then, but make no mistake about it, The Misers of Miramar rocked that South Florida town. This is the story about a group of guys that called themselves “The Misers.” Towards the end of everything we did and accomplished, or at least my participation in it, everyone we knew wanted to be called a Miser. Even as we were swelling in ranks we argued among ourselves about who were the true Misers and who were the original ones. Looking back all these decades later I guess the answer is simple. If you did not lay every ounce of sweat, blood, and tears of who you are on the football field at Perry Middle School with us, you were not a Miser.
This is the story about the greatest group of guys one could have the privilege of growing up with. This is the story about a bunch of troublemakers, jocks, burnouts, and nerds that ruled the streets and beaches of South Florida in the 1970s and the 1980s. This is just one more story from The Last Generation of Freedom.
South Florida is a term that is misused more than it is used properly. I even heard people in my lifetime mistakenly refer to the southern tip of the west coast of Florida in the Ft. Myers area as South Florida. The real definition of this term refers to the tri-county area of Southeast Florida that encompasses three counties and three counties only. Palm Beach, Broward and Dade County make up what is called South Florida or better known as West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. It is a tri-county area that is connected by a train system called The Tri-Rail and on the southern tip of Broward County, just north of the Dade County line, lies a city called Miramar. In this tri-county area, a good portion of the population of Florida resides. It is an area that is broken up into different neighborhoods made up of millions of people of many different ethnic backgrounds. Unlike today, Miramar in the 1970s and the 1980s was mostly Irish and Italian. It was, by many metrics, a great place for an Irish-Catholic kid like me to grow up.
The section of Miramar where I lived and where the original Misers sprouted from was shaped like a rectangle. Miramar Parkway, University Drive, Pembroke Road, and the Florida Turnpike would be our rectangle of torture and depravity. From those four geographic walls, a group of guys rose up and made a name for themselves. Our reach and tentacles of pranks and punishment that we handed out to the town did not go unnoticed by the Miramar Police Department. The Misers were classified by law enforcement as a gang. Despite the classification by the cops, we never once claimed to be a gang. If you ask me what we were back then, I would say we were the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d say we were a brotherhood, but more than anything, we were a badass neighborhood football team.
I moved from New York City to Miramar, Florida in the summer between the first and second grade. I lived in the same house on Gulfstream Drive until 17 years of age. I went to school at Sunshine Elementary, Perry Middle School and Miramar High School. I grew up on food from Antonio’s Pizzeria, Royal Pacific Chinese Restaurant and 7/11 nachos and Slurpees. I lost my virginity to a beautiful Italian girl named Ann Marie, played almost every sport known to mankind and grew up with the same group of guys, some of whom I still talk to today, all in the town of Miramar. My oldest friend in the world is a guy I met in the third grade and a fellow Miser named Robert. I’ve seen every hair-band in the 1980s with another Miser named Chuck in a place called the Hollywood Sportatorium or The Sporto as it was called back then, but that is another book. I had my First Communion, Penance and got confirmed at Saint Bartholomew or St. Bart’s as we called it. I hung around with the pretty Catholic girls from Saint Stephen’s and even fell in love with one of them. Music, sports and girls were what I grew up with. I was in every way a typical Broward guy. Of course, Broward County’s demographics were quite different back then. One could say it was the mirror opposite of what it is today. Every time I go back to Broward I feel like a stranger in my own home town.
I’m going to tell you a story about a group of guys called the Misers from my point of view and twisted memory. You’ll have to forgive me if I forgot something or maybe even got it wrong. Of course, you can write your own book; nothing is stopping you. This is what I want you to do right now. Go kick up your feet and get comfortable. Then, sit back and read this story about a group of guys who were ahead of their time. Let me tell you a story about a group of honor students that were the biggest trouble makers in all of South Florida and some of the greatest athletes Broward County ever produced. Let me tell you about the phrase, “Everglades Next!” or the term “Bus 521” and what they really mean. Let me tell you about my friends, The Misers.
In my neighborhood, sports was king. Year-round the guys played almost every sport known to red-blooded Americans. We made every schoolyard, baseball field, football field, and basketball court our own personal property and took it over. Paddleball courts, tennis courts, and public golf courses were turned into our very own sports complexes on any given day. It was our neighborhood, our schools, and our turf. There was not a single basketball hoop or yard of grass in Miramar we did not claim as our own. We bent neighborhood streets, people’s yards and any open field to our will and made it our field of play. We turned miles of people’s front yards into our make-shift Frisbee golf courses. If your backyard got into the way of our kickball game then it became part of our field of play. We drove our bicycles through every blade of grass in Miramar and skateboarded every inch of pavement from Hwy 441 to West Miramar and beyond. We lived and breathed sports and the guys I grew up with would take your breath away showcasing their talents. We played full-court basketball on both Sunshine Elementary and Fairway Elementary basketball courts behind the schools. We took over the grass field at Sunshine for football and played countless baseball games in the school’s official baseball field. We played endless hours of tennis and paddleball at Maxwell Park. We even lifted weights at the YMCA. We faced the “Legends” of paddleball at Garfield Street’s beach courts and back at North Perry Airport. We even turned the block I lived on into a street football field. We spray-painted on the street of Gulfstream Drive an entire one hundred yard football field right on the road itself with yard hash marks, end zones lines and we used wooden yardsticks to get the measurements spot on. But the crown jewel of it all and where other cities and teams came to play us in football was at Perry Middle School. The football field at Perry Middle School was sacred ground and the place where some of the most epic games of neighborhood football in all of America took place. I laid every ounce of who I was on that football field, but not for a coach or any organized sanctioned league, but rather for my friends. I spilled my guts out on that field for the neighborhood. I spilled blood, sweat and tears year after year and inch by inch on that field, all for the Misers. We personally created a football atmosphere in that town which would, in the future, send our neighborhood guys to the NFL. It all started with The Misers of Miramar.
The definition of “who were the Misers” was always in flux, because each new member would have a friend or two outside the group that had drawn in other people. Even in the early years if you asked any one of us who was a Miser, you would get different answers. For me personally, the Misers were Richard, David, Bobby, Robert, Chuck, Kenny, Mark, and myself, Charles. Of course, it expanded way beyond that but many of those people never really put in their dues. We had rivals even among ourselves, but the clear leader of our group was Richard. He was the backbone of everything and the glue that kept us all together. He was an honor student with larceny and mischievousness in his blood. He was a brilliant human being who outshined all of us. Richard was not only the brainchild of most of the pranks we performed, for and to the community, but he was hands down the best athlete I have ever seen up close. Richard was incredible at all sports. I could watch him play paddleball for hours. I could never catch him on a football field and not many could. He personally orchestrated sporting events, poker games and spearheaded most of the pranks we committed around Miramar. He was highly intelligent and he pushed all of us to be better at sports. He was a natural leader and a great storyteller. I was very impressed with that guy on many levels. In a group of more than one alpha male, he was the man.
I spent most of my childhood protecting him and all of the other Misers. I made it very clear that if you were to mess with these guys, I was going to come for you. By the age of fourteen, I was already two hundred and forty-two pounds and six foot three inches tall. I did everything I could do to make sure these guys grew up completely protected. I could not beat up everybody in the neighborhood, but I could beat up most of them. I was their self-appointed protector and if I knew I could not win a fist fight, I still showed up anyway to get my point across. My job was to protect these guys from the neighborhood, schoolyards and on the football field. I played on the line for both offense and defense and if they needed five yards or less I would carry the ball for them to get a first down. I had no speed, but I was the brawn of the group and Richard was the brains. Richard’s favorite band was the Beatles.
David lived around the block from me and he and Richard were best of friends. The connection those two had was unbreakable and special to watch. David’s house was the party house for most of us. We used his garage as our own personal social club. We met there for poker games, Ping-Pong tournaments, to shoot pool and even to swim in his pool. David’s house was ground zero for the Misers. He had a great mom who would come out to the garage and feed us all with sandwiches and stuff. We would sit in his garage and listen to music for hours. Music was a very important thing to all of the Misers. We would sit in his garage and listen to the local radio station have song battles by pitting two songs with the same theme against each other. We would call the radio station to register our vote from David’s garage. We would tell the DJ on the radio that Hell’s Bells by AC/DC was better than Highway to Hell and argue over who was the better lead singer, Bon Scott or Brian Johnson. David was also a great athlete in his own right. He was a pitcher who could throw a ninety mile an hour fastball from the mound and also knock a home run out of the park. David was the quiet type, but loyal to the end. He always had your back and no one ever doubted his word on anything. Plain and simple, David was a standup guy and someone I admired greatly. David’s favorite band was AC/DC.
Bobby lived over by Sunshine Elementary School and came from a great family. I would sit in his house and watch NFL Films with him and his father. Like many of us, they converted their garage into a big living room. Even his mother was a great person to be around. Bobby had a basketball hoop in his driveway and we would shoot hoops for hours. He loved to do pranks. I remember standing in his living room while he lit a flame to his fart in front of the wall mirror in his house. He almost burnt down the whole house! Bobby had a great sense of humor and when he turned sixteen he drove the greatest red convertible in the neighborhood. Man oh man, I loved that car. Bobby had every KISS album ever released and he even had the solo albums from Peter, Gene, Paul, and Ace. Bobby was a hell of a baseball player and my fishing buddy. Hard to imagine we fished the canals along University Drive and ate the fish out of there, but we did. It was a different time back then. We stayed up all night fishing for catfish on the corner of Miramar Parkway and University Drive. He played every sport with us, was super loyal and I indefatigably loved the guy. His favorite band was Rush.
Robert was reading the newspaper in Elementary School. He probably was one of the smartest guys among us all. I met him in the third grade and still talk to him today. Of all the Misers, I was closest to him. He was the biggest sports fan I have ever known. He was and is a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. Robert played all the sports with us and had incredible speed for a guy his size. He wasn’t a small guy but man that guy could run. We played Miramar Optimist Baseball for years together and he was our catcher. He was the greatest bowler I ever knew and he could have had a career going pro if he wanted to. The dude could roll. He was a pretty good football receiver and not too bad at hoops as well. I downed many slices of pizza pie at Antonio’s with him. We spent many days shooting pool at a local pool hall called Roy’s and Ray’s Billiards. Robert and I would talk for hours about life and stuff. He was a great conversationalist. I love the guy to death. His favorite band was Van Halen.
Chuck was my brother from another mother. He and I were very tight. I watched his mother rise from abject poverty after a divorce to become the vice-president of a famous rent a car company. I was always so proud of her. Of all my childhood memories, my favorite always involved Chuck. I still talk to him today. Together the world opened up for the two of us as we discovered girls and live hard rock concerts together. We saw every notable 80s hairband at the Hollywood Sporto. We dove deep into music and Chuck was the guy who got me into writing all those years ago. We would write songs and poems. We went everywhere together. Chuck liked sports and played everything with us, but his heart wasn’t in it. Chuck was a deep thinker and was much more interested in discovering the wonders of the world than breaking his back on an iron grid. He played baseball with us for years and he once had a love for basketball. He was one of the most important parts of my childhood and I could not imagine growing up without him. To say I loved the dude was an understatement. He is my brother. His favorite band was also Van Halen.
Kenny was another Irishman from the neighborhood. He had a cutting sense of humor and was a prankster extraordinaire. I can write a book just on the trouble he and I would get into. He had an infectious laugh and the guy had your back when you really needed him. Kenny and I would travel the dark corners of Miramar together and would torture pizza delivery guys for our own personal entertainment. Kenny played football with us but was not big on other sports. Kenny was busy learning how to use nunchucks and throw Chinese stars. People never knew, but Kenny had a heart of gold. We went through some ups and downs together, but make no mistake about it, I loved the man, plain and simple. He loved Blue Oyster Cult.
Mark, or Little Man, as we called him, was one of the most special dudes I ever knew. He truly was a good person and I have no idea how he landed up getting mixed up with a crazy group like us, but he fit right in. He was a small guy only in height because he stood tall in our eyes. Little Man had a big heart. I never heard a single bad word spoke about him ever, from anyone. He lived in one of the very few two-story homes in our neighborhood and he had a great sense of humor. Despite his size, he had no problem playing sports with us. The guy was just super cool. He loved the band Electric Light Orchestra.
Charles – I was simply bad news. I was literally the kid parents did not want their kid to hang out with. To say I was on a bad path in life or headed the wrong way was beyond an understatement. I was the type of guy Danzig sang about in the song Mother. I was not a good kid, period. I loved sports and in particular, violent sports. Some people are just born bad. There is no other explanation for it. I have been a diehard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan since third grade. My favorite band was and still is Triumph.
The story of the Misers is so hard to tell all these decades later because nothing exists anymore. In the 1970s and 1980s, Miramar was eighty-five percent white and now it is only three percent. So the town does not exist anymore in its former state. That is a dramatic demographic change for any town in one lifetime. The town has different stories to tell now. It is not just Miramar that has changed but rather an entire nation and way of life that has disappeared. The story of the Misers is a chapter of another era that I call “The Last Generation of Freedom.” It is a story about America before 9/11 and a time before the prodigious surveillance state we as a society built up. I write about a time and a nation that was freer. I write about an America that no longer exists anymore. The stories I write are about a time in our country when there was not a camera on every corner. I regale a time that not every mistake was recorded and held against you or memorialized on the internet for all eternity. I remind us all of the real freedom that once existed in our nation. These are the stories of the people who were born and lived before 9/11 and before technology took off. There are many stories of a country that existed before every single thing you did or purchased was recorded in some way, shape or form. We are the voice of the last generation that knew freedom firsthand. There is freedom felt beyond some slogan or notion put forth in a book. It is in that lost era of forgotten space and time of where and when the Misers of Miramar rose up.
It is sometimes hard to remember, but we were different people and country back then. It is said that if I go out my front door right now and go buy a gallon of milk, I will be recorded on seven different cameras on average. Not to mention my purchase being recorded as well but the simple act of buying a gallon of milk is no longer an act of something performed under the umbrella of freedom. If you do not understand that last statement or you are fine with all those cameras because you know no other way, then you are not one of us. I feel sad for you and I suggest you put down that mobile device that is tracking you and go grab a book from the twentieth century and read because there once was a better way.
All of the Misers were born in 1969 and whether we feel kin to it or not, we are Generation X and our trip to the store to buy milk was a little different. The first difference that jumps out was the fact that a gallon of milk cost $1.62 on average. Another difference was we were carrying not just the money to buy the milk, but a note from our parents giving the retailer permission to sell us, the kid, a carton of cigarettes with the milk. The closest thing to a camera we got on that trip to the store was maybe a Polaroid picture of some partially naked girl in our pocket that we pulled out to show our friends. Think about it; how many crimes, by how many people, were committed on that trip to the store with today’s standards? It was a different time and place back then and I for one say it was better. It certainly was freer. We had more wiggle room to grow up and understand the world. The only helicopter parents I knew were parents that actually had a helicopter license and flew out of North Perry Airport. The only supervision we got was the neighborhood knocking at our front door telling our parents some terrible stuff we got into that day or maybe a truancy officer paying a visit about some of us skipping school. We didn’t need cameras everywhere to be held accountable. However, it would have been nice if someone recorded all of those epic football games that transpired on the field at Perry Middle School in Miramar, Florida. Now that would have been a nice use of cameras. I certainly had some touchdowns I wish were recorded for all of time.
My love for football started early in life and I never got rid of the fever for it. Even today I still follow the NFL and when I see a great catch by some wide receiver it brings me back to the days in Miramar. As far as I was concerned, of all the sports we played, football was king. The game itself is simply the greatest sport ever thought up. In each game, whether playing street football in the neighborhood or the latest NFL game on the TV, football has so many storylines that are flowing through it at any given time. No soap opera or Shakespearean novel could ever hold a candle to the real-life lessons and unforgettable storylines of any given football game played in America. No other sport that I know of asks so much from a person mentally and physically. It is said, football, like life, is a game of inches. Balancing on those inches is either failure or success, but it is the will of the men that need to travel that inch together, facing off against the will of another group of men hell-bent on denying you that inch. Football, just like life, is about success or failure. It is about you wanting to accomplish something and the people or obstacles that are in the way to stop you. It is about you performing the fundamentals that got you to the point to give you a chance to succeed. It is a measure of your will deep in the mud and dirt struggling to survive. Football is about getting beat down, only to wipe off the dust from your face to get right back up to try again. The sport is about never wasting a single minute on the clock and being very aware that the clock is ticking. It is the ultimate metaphor for life. Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and they have their entrances.” Not bad for a guy who never knew football. The gridiron is the ultimate stage.
Growing up near an airport was such a strange thing. On the north end of Miramar was a private airport for small planes that were flown by amateur pilots. It was not an international airport with huge jets flown by commercial pilots. Our planes were single-engine Cessnas and old fashioned props that seated just two people for the most part. What I remember most is that the pilots would constantly crash their planes into our homes. It seems strange to me now, but it was commonplace and even normal to have some plane fall out of the sky and crash into one of our houses. We would see dark billowing clouds of smoke rising into the air and we would get on our bicycles and head towards the black smoke. We’d show up at the crash site and sit in front of the house with an airplane tail sticking out of the roof and the house on fire. We acted like it was nothing to see this death and destruction up close. Almost every time, miraculously, no one in the house was ever hurt and only the pilots were dead. It happened so often that we became numb to the drama of it all. I just thought we had the worst pilots in the country. The pilots even crashed a plane into our neighborhood bicycle shop called “The Bike Rack” and upset every kid in Miramar.
Our bicycles were our form of freedom. We would ride our bikes everywhere like professional jockeys on a horse. We would make our bikes perform jumps and miracles in the air. I even used my bike to work and make money. My first job was delivering newspapers to the neighborhood. It is hard to believe now, but it was only children that used to deliver the newspaper. It was the only job I could get at eleven years of age and it paid great money by eleven-year-old standards. Every morning, seven days a week around 4 a.m. a car would drive by my house and toss out a huge bundle of newspapers wrapped in these plastic cords. I would set my alarm for 4 a.m. and walk out of my house into the dark at the age of eleven and pick up that bundle off my lawn. I would carry it back to my front porch and cut open the bundle. One by one I would fold the paper and slide it into these clear plastic bags or sheets and I would place the wrapped newspaper in the baskets I had attached to my bike. I had a huge basket attached to the front of the bicycle and two saddlebag baskets that hung over both sides of the back wheel. By 4:30 a.m. I would have all my baskets full and I would take off into the dark to deliver the newspapers to a certain section of Miramar that was my route.
I rode my bike up and down the streets of Miramar throwing my newspapers into people’s lawns and porches. The ones that tipped well got their paper on their porch. I would throw the paper from the street while passing by on my bike and the paper would sail across the yard in the air and land on their porch. It was almost like throwing a football. I would try to make better and better throws each morning. I would complete my paper route and return home by 6 a.m. and start to get ready for school. I was eleven and I did this until I was fourteen when I was legally able to work in Florida. Each Saturday I would go back to the homes I delivered to and collect the money for the paper that week and turn it over to the lady who was the adult in charge of me and other kids’ paper routes. We were only paid by tips for the most part. It was real child labor law infractions for sure and I loved every minute of it. It gave me money to buy whatever I needed. I made ten to thirty dollars a week in tips and for an eleven-year-old, that was rolling in it. It is almost unthinkable today to have an eleven-year-old go out into the dark neighborhood each and every morning all by themselves to deliver the paper. Not too long after the era of my doing this did the adults take over this job and start throwing the newspapers each morning from their car windows as they drove by.
In addition to our bicycles being used for work and just getting around, we used our bikes as get-a-way vehicles to leave the scene of our latest pranks. The Misers were completely out of control playing pranks on the neighborhood. In retrospect, it is a miracle that we did not get shot. The magnitude of all the pranks and our complete disregard for the concept that people had personal property rights, as we tracked through their backyards and the sides of their houses, had a breathtaking scope. We knew every shortcut and every yard that did not have a fence and how cutting through someone’s backyard could get us faster to the next road. For years the Misers would show up at my house in the early morning hours of the weekend with buckets of these round green beads from some local palm trees that were about the size of a large grape and rock hard. I would join them as we took off on our bikes armed with these projectiles. We would throw handfuls of the hard beads from our bikes as we rode past people’s aluminum awnings that covered the windows to protect them from hurricanes. In the quiet early weekend morning of neighborhood silence, we would blast people awake with the sound of fifty to one hundred beads smashing into and hitting their hurricane shutters. The noise was dramatic and beyond cacophonous. It sounded like bombs were going off. It sounded like the block was being bombarded by aircraft from the sky. People would jump out of their beds running out into the streets in their underwear to see what the heck was going on. Some would try to chase us down, but that was a fruitless effort on their part. We would get an unspeakable and indescribable rush as we pedaled harder and harder to get away from the last house that was blasted. It was so much dang fun.
Miramar was full of all different kinds of fruit trees and we would sometimes bomb the houses with grapefruits, oranges, and mangoes. There is nothing like the sound of a mango hitting a hurricane shutter. It sounds like an explosion. We would bomb each other’s houses regularly. It was hard to explain to our parents that this attack on their home was friendly and that it was being conducted by our friends the Misers. None of us were immune and if you had a screened in pool it was even more dramatic when the screen above your head got blasted by the local neighborhood fruit, as your parents stood there in utter shock. We were, by every conceivable metric, completely out of control. We were the Misers. It was a great time to be alive. We were free.
With an actual football field spray painted on my street, the Misers were able to practice football a lot of the time and perfect our different skills. We played two on two, three on three and sometimes just ran drills all day. For some reason, I do not remember, Richard decided that we were not going to join any organized football team as some protest. We played baseball for our local sports league, Miramar Optimist, most of our lives. I played flag football for Miramar Optimist, joined a summer basketball league at camp at Sunshine Elementary and played organized baseball throughout my childhood for our different pee-wee divisions, but we flat out refused to join organized tackle football. It was that refusal which was the impetus of a neighborhood groundswell which brought us to local fame and notoriety. When the best athletes around flat out refused to play for the local teams and schools, coaches from all walks of life took notice. When we graduated ourselves from street ball to full contact tackle football, we started to make history. We had at our disposal an entire football field, goal posts, and bleachers all at Perry Middle School. When that field was not being used on the weekends, we took over control of that property and made it our own personal home field. If any other group of players wanted to play us, they had to travel to our turf and take us on. We had some of the most brutal full-contact tackle football games, with no pads or helmets, known to occur. Over time people from all walks of life would show up and sit on the bleachers to watch these epic battles between neighborhoods and groups of guys. The girls would come and watch us play. Coaches from all walks of life would show up trying to recruit us. I even met my high school sweetheart because of the trials and tribulations on the field of Perry Middle School.
I played a game one day and then got into a fist fight after the game. I landed up fighting some guy after that brutal football game where I laid my heart and soul on the field and had no energy left. Somehow, completely exhausted and suffering from a concussion after a full game of contact football, I found myself in a fist fight with some guy I didn’t even know. Apparently, I won this fist fight I barely remembered being in due to my head injury, and the guy I beat was some notorious bully. The next day in school this beautiful Italian girl in class was turned on by this and introduced herself as Ann Marie. That whole episode turned into a two-year relationship and an eventual engagement for marriage, all sprouting from the grass field at Perry Middle School. Many things sprouted up from that grass field. I learned a lot about life, perseverance, and teamwork all on that field in Miramar. Most of all, I learned the game of football.
There are many ways and angles to look at in a football game, but for me, I always viewed the entire game through the lens of the defense. I still view this sport that way. The offense cannot do a darn thing if the defense does not let them. Each game is planned to get around the opponent’s defense and their capabilities. For me, there is nothing more boring than a high scoring football game. I’d rather see a team be shut out or held to three points than some out of control high scoring game. If one team can score at will, then that is not worth the time to watch. Most people love high scoring games, but I believe if you are my kind of fan you detest that. Even in baseball, I’d rather see a pitcher throw a no-hitter than watch some team hit it out of the park all day long. My view on this is a fundamental chasm between many sports fans. But it must be said, I am right and they are wrong. Philosophies aside, many people kept showing up to watch us play one group of guys after another. We were unbeatable and word spread fast, far and wide. If you wanted to claim any bragging rights about football in South Florida in the 1980s, you had to show up at Perry’s Field and face us, period.
Win or lose, and we did not lose, we would all meet at Antonio’s Pizzeria after the game in the Publix plaza right next to Perry Middle School. We had to chow down on the best pizza pie in South Florida as a tradition after every sporting event in Miramar. This pizzeria has memorialized the period of sports I write about on the wall of the restaurant. They still have the pictures of Miramar sports of all kinds from back in that era hanging on the wall. They were very much a part of the athletic scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Antonio’s Pizzeria should be designated as a historic landmark by the local government. If you ever visit South Florida, go have some pizza there. The place has not changed in all these years and the food rocks. They will always be the heart and soul of Miramar, Florida. Some things in life are forever. Antonio’s Pizzeria is one of them.
We started to become famous locally back then. Every guy we knew wanted to join the Misers. We even turned the heads of the ladies of Miramar, which was a nice bonus to it all. It is not an understatement to say that the young ladies we grew up with in Miramar were some of the most beautiful girls in the entire country. Best of all, our women had brains. It was the 1980s and fashion was ours. We ripped away from the hands of the Baby Boomers the world of fashion, and with big hair and a can of Aqua Net hairspray, we changed a nation. It was a great time to be coming of age.
Miramar High School was over the two-mile limit from the section of Miramar where we all lived. What this meant was anyone who lived more than two miles from the school could use the school bus system. In Florida back then you had your restricted permit to drive at the age of fifteen, but you had to have an adult in the car with you. Once you turned the age of sixteen, then you could get a normal driver’s license and drive by yourself. What this meant for the Misers was that for our freshman and sophomore years we needed the bus to get to high school. Our bus stop was on Everglades Drive, just south of Miramar Boulevard. This bus stop, over time, became the most famous bus stop in all of Broward County because of the Misers. I would say we played pranks, but that feels like such an understatement. Our bus was Bus Number 521 and the older woman who was our driver was completely incapable of controlling us on this bus. She was this sweet old lady that we tortured for the better part of two years.
There were no cameras on buses back then. The level of madness we dealt out on that bus became legend. We would open the emergency door while the bus was going fifty-five miles an hour down Miramar Parkway and throw firecrackers at the traffic behind us. There were no seatbelts back then. Every day the alarm of the emergency door would go off letting the bus driver and everyone on the bus know the door had been opened. The bus driver never had enough time to pull over the bus to yell at us before we could bomb the cars behind us with fireworks. At stoplights, we would stand up and shake the bus back and forth nearly turning it over as we pushed against the walls from each side. The poor bus driver would freak out while the bus shook back and forth and nearly tipped over on a daily basis at any given stoplight. She would never make a full stop at a stop sign in order to prevent us from shaking the bus from side to side. While we did this, we got the whole bus to sing out loud the Eric Clapton song Cocaine as loud as they could. The bus teetered from side to side while we threw firecrackers out the back door and the windows. It was an incredible scene to see by the onlookers as they saw the sight of a school bus shaking dramatically while the Cocaine song blurted out from the windows as everyone sang and beat on the inner walls of the bus like drums.
The cops would pull over the bus constantly due to the stunts we pulled. We would hide some of the more guilty Misers under the bus seats when the police boarded the bus for the latest problem with us. Every single morning when the bus would show up as we boarded people would scream, “Where you been?” Every day when school ended and the bus was loaded, the whole bus would scream, “Everglades Next!” as we rode out of the parking lot. Our bus stop became infamous and people would travel from all parts of Miramar just to experience Bus 521. People would be put miles away from their own homes on the bus route and walk home great distances just to say they rode our bus. I don’t know how that bus driver did not quit her job or at least get out of our route.
We would constantly get suspended from the bus for days at a time, but they soon just gave up on that to avoid our attacks on the bus. Every time they suspended us from the bus we had to find our own way to school. We would first meet up on our bicycles at the different stops along the route of Bus 521 and hide in the bushes. When the bus would arrive, we would jump out from the bushes with full Halloween masks covering our faces and bomb the bus with grapefruits and eggs until the bus drove away and got some distance between us. The bus would be covered with grapefruit shmeg and raw eggs from front to back. As soon as the kids on the bus saw the masked Misers jump out to attack the bus, you could hear the clicking of the windows as they closed them fast before they got hit with raw eggs and fruit. I don’t know how she drove the bus with the windshield covered with grapefruit and eggs. They just stopped suspending us to avoid the constant cost of cleaning the bus. Every time the bus driver would bring someone else on the bus from the transportation wing of the county, we would act like angels. Then when she would show up without some witness, we would make her pay double in pranks, fireworks, and song.
Many years later some Misers ran into that bus driver at a department store and they asked her about Bus 521. The woman just cracked up shaking her head. She said we were the most insane group she had ever seen in the history of her driving career. She was a great sport about it. She said people talked about it for years and when a new bus driver was hired they would razz the rookie with threats of being put on our route. Bus 521 should be put into the Smithsonian.
Over time as word spread about the Misers, we allowed our membership to grow by including more and more people from the neighborhood. These friends were not there in the beginning, but many of them became very close to us in different ways. As the Misers’ ranks increased, we had no problem fielding eleven men on a football field. People started to speak about us all over town. Even the student who did the morning announcements over the intercom system at Miramar High School would include the latest on the Misers. It was a strange thing at the time to hear all of the announcements over the loudspeaker include our latest football game or prank. I once sat in Economics class and listened to the teacher to explain to the class about the Misers. A student asked him about us and he told the class the group of young men were ahead of their time. He said, “Normally this kind of brotherhood would start in college in fraternities and because the Misers grew up going to the same schools since elementary school, they started earlier.” It was surreal to have people talk about us like this.
It was difficult for the school and the police to punish us too hard when we messed up because the reality was that most of the original Misers were honor students. These were the smartest guys the town had to offer. No one wanted to ruin their future with some expulsion or arrest. I cannot stress how intelligent these guys were. They aced academics like it was nothing. They did it like it was some side interest or something. They really never put too much time into studying. The Misers had many interests including music and sports. They were not bookworms. The academics were kind of secondary to those dudes. It just was not hard for them. Looking back at it, I can’t imagine what they would have done if they singularly focused on education. They might have cured cancer. It was the oddest of things for a town to have their star students going around committing pranks and causing trouble. One minute they came home with a straight “A” report card, then the next minute, they were running through the neighborhood turning off everyone’s power to their houses. These guys were serious pranksters.
I remember one night in mid-October I got a knock at my window and the Misers were standing in my backyard with full Halloween outfits on. I opened the window and they asked me to go Trick or Treating with them. I told them it was not Halloween yet, but that was the point for them. They wanted to see the faces of the people in the town when they opened the door to find trick or treaters standing in their doorway two weeks before the holiday. I explained I did not have a Halloween outfit yet, so they suggested I go in my underwear with a towel around my neck. Well, who could turn that down? I stripped off my clothes, grabbed a towel out of the bathroom and snuck out my window to go Trick or Treating. It was an amazing night I will never forget. The people were so shocked when they answered their doors. They were so confused about what we were doing, but many of them gave us money and food as treats. The night ended when we walked up to the front of this nondescript house, knocked and a man opened the door. We screamed, “Trick or Treat!”
And the dude just looked at us and said, “How about a trick?”
He turned around and revealed to us what appeared to be a Doberman Pinscher that was tied up with duct tape around his mouth and legs. We screamed and took off running. We had no idea what the freak was doing to that dog, but we did not want to hang around to find out.
The year we all turned sixteen, we all had cars in our driveways just waiting to be unleashed on the world. We could not wait to have that kind of freedom and movement. We retired our bicycles and joined the real world with four wheels. Now we could drive to school and expand our Misers’ reach past Miramar and deeper into South Florida. Of course, now the pranks were escalated with us pulling stunts like driving many miles from The Hollywood Fashion Mall back to Miramar in reverse or driving through Wendy’s drive-thru with a naked girl on our lap. I’ll never forget the face of the guy working the drive-thru as he just gawked at the sight of a naked girl on my lap. He just sat there with his mouth wide open and asked me if we needed extra napkins. We went completely insane covering each other’s cars with shaving cream. We just flat out caused havoc throughout Broward County.
I was not a straight “A” student so there was no consideration for me when it came to punishing me for the latest bad behavior. Cops had no problem dragging me to jail. My first arrest happened on the beach when a cop arrested me for skateboarding on the boardwalk. I was fourteen years old at my first arrest. There were many more to come in my life and I soon learned there was no protection for me or consideration for my future. As far as the school and the law were concerned, I was headed for prison or a graveyard. Either way, not too many people agonized over it. To illustrate that point, I have an example.
One day twelve Misers pulled down their pants and mooned the head of the English department. The lady could not identify our lily white butts, but there was no shortage of jealous snitches in Miramar who gave us up. When it came to punishing us for the same incident no one got more than three days suspension and some got just a slap on the wrist. I was suspended for ten school days. That’s right, two weeks for the same offense. Add that to some other suspensions for other stuff and it was getting harder and harder for me to have enough credits to make it to my junior year. My grades just could not survive those kinds of suspensions. Something was going have to give.
With our notoriety starting to peak, some people were questioning the fact that we were not good enough to play football for the school, because why else would we refuse to join their organization? There were many haters standing in the shadow of our infamy and some of those brought voice to such blasphemy. It was this scandalous talk that brought forth the challenge that we play the junior varsity team of Miramar High. We challenged the JV team to meet us on the field at Perry Middle to settle this spurious hubbub about skill sets. The JV team accepted and it was on. Word spread far and wide about the game and everyone became aware of where and when. We would have our biggest audience in attendance to date. It took on such a level of folklore and suspense that when we finally showed up to play, we had to make our way through thick crowds of fans and critics alike.
From the first play to the last whistle we dominated them. The Misers handed out a “Broward County butt-whipping” to the JV team of Miramar High in front of everybody we knew. To be honest, we had harder challenges from the neighborhood, and at no time were we not in control of that game. This one victory shot the Misers into the stratosphere of local fame and legend. People understood as a group we were unbeatable. The results of the game were broadcast across the intercom system of the school during morning announcements and I could hear other classes cheering down the hall from where I was at. After that, most Misers I knew got a girlfriend.
It was an incredible time to be a Miser in Miramar. We felt like kings. We didn’t want to brag too much. That was the year the NFL passed the anti-celebrating rule, so too much braggadocios were now being frowned upon in football society. Things were changing all around us at the time. Coke stopped making their soda we all loved and came out with something called New Coke. We elected the first Black Miss America only to strip her of that crown over some naked pictures. Even our music was changing with Purple Rain being released by Prince. Madonna had the number one song on the radio singing about virginity and everybody was singing “We are the world,” while VH1 debuted that year on cable television. The world was changing and we were coming of age. Our victory over the JV team revealed to most people that we were one hell of a football team. South Florida already was abuzz over football that year with the Miami Dolphins making it to the Super Bowl, and for a time, everything revolved around the sport. I remember feeling so much pride walking down the hallways of Miramar High School being a Miser.
We were Miramar guys through and through. We roller-skated at Rollaway Skating Rink on Pembroke Road. We bowled at Miramar Lanes, later called Parkway Bowling Center, on the corner of Douglas Road and Miramar Parkway. We bought our donuts straight from the Entenmann’s Store on Pembroke Road. We were raised on Antonio’s Pizza. It was a great town to grow up in.
Things were so different back then. Try to imagine, just for a second, a public school in America now that has its own smoking lounge, not for the staff, but for the students. Our high school had a smoking lounge right in front of the school. Parents, staff and students alike would have to drive past the student’s smoking lounge to get onto the property. Just imagine today the sight of the children’s smoking lounge with kids just puffing away on cigarettes as you dropped your kid off for school. It seems so unthinkable now, but that was the world we grew up in. That was the norm. That was the year we televised the first MTV Music Awards hosted by Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler. It was the year that a few TV shows premiered, for instance Miami Vice, Moonlighting and The Cosby Show. Michael Jordan was selected for Rookie of The Year in the NBA and Larry Holmes was the Heavyweight Champion of the World defending his title with 15 round fights.
The world was so different for us, yet we did not grow up to be monsters. Somehow with all that freedom, we found our way. This was the year the first internet domain symbolics.com was registered. We had no understanding of what the internet was and where it would take us. We had no understanding of this new disease called AIDS when that year it was revealed Rock Hudson was dying from it. Our generation came of age sexually at the same time AIDS took off. We have never known a world without consideration of that deadly disease when it came to being sexually active. Together as a generation, we walked hand in hand into a brave new world. Collectively and individually without thought, we became Generation X. Without knowing it, we were The Last Generation of Freedom.
It was not our destiny to bask in the glory of local fame beating the JV team in football. Fate was calling us to a higher challenge when the natural progression of things would ask the question, “Could we beat the actual varsity team?” It was not just the people around us that were musing such thoughts out loud. Some of us Misers were wondering the same thing. Every measuring stick put in front of us, we measured up, but this question lingered in the minds of students and coaches alike. Playing the varsity team of a high school was like going to the Super Bowl for a neighborhood football team. At the time, it was unheard of and I remember feeling a bit of trepidation about the challenge. Personally, I did not want to screw up everything we had accomplished, but like any football player, we needed to know how good we were. Every football player knows this feeling and each and every one of us needs to know what our ceiling of success really is. It is that love for competition that makes all sports go around. It does not matter what level of football one is playing when it comes to knowing who the best is. Everyone did not get a trophy when we were coming up. There were winners and there were losers and we did not need grief counselors to get us through a loss. Looking back at it all, there was no way we would not play this game and answer that question.
I was not involved in the negotiations about this game and barely remember who agreed to what or how they decided. All I know is that both sides agreed to play on our grass field at Perry Middle, but we wanted to do it in secret. I think both sides were unsure of the outcome and there might have been some serious complications with the coaching staff of the high school for the varsity team if they did this and lost. All I know is we were not going to tell anyone about the game and we were all going to find out who were the best football players in Miramar, Florida.
The day of the game came and we all met at Perry Middle School. There were some people there in the bleachers who found out about the game, but for the most part, our secret was kept intact. The younger kids in the neighborhood knew what we were up to. They were too little to be allowed off the block they lived on, but they looked up to us and were rooting us all on. All the younger kids on my block were tuned into the drama of it all. This was about the neighborhood. This was about football and what transpired that day would have a profound effect on my life and future.
I’ll never forget the first play of the game. It has stayed with me my entire life. We won the coin toss and elected to receive. As they kicked the ball off and it sailed over my head, I was part of the line that would block for our kick-returner. Their team came rushing down the field at us full speed and a guy name Brad hit me so hard, I thought I was going to die. One day I counted how many fist-fights I had been in throughout my life and I came to the number twenty-six. Out of those fights, I remember losing about four of them. In none of those fights was I ever hit so hard as when Brad threw a block on me that day on the field of Perry Middle. It was a crushing hit. It was the kind of hit that you can hear all of the air leave your lungs and you have that moment in time when you are not sure whether oxygen will ever return. I laid motionless on that field completely emasculated with my pride bleeding out on to the grass. My body screamed out in agonizing pain as if I were hit by a train. Brad’s muscular body stepped over me like I was a speed bump in the way like I was some gnat he slapped away. The violence of that hit shook me to my very core. It rocked the very understanding of who I was. I was left there helpless knowing that freaking train that just hit me was now heading towards my friends I was there to protect.
Thankfully air returned to my lungs and I somehow picked myself off the dirt and grass. I gathered my strength and I promised myself that would never happen again. I wanted to kill everybody. I turned into a football monster and threw every ounce of who I was into this game. The game went back and forth and revealed to me what I already knew; Richard was the greatest athlete in the whole darn country! He was amazing! Every time we got into a hole, his unstoppable skill set kept us in the game. I could see the amazement of everyone on the varsity team as they watched him play. Nobody on that field was better than Richard and everybody knew it. I was so proud of him. All of the other Misers gave everything they had in this game. The combined effect brought us to the pinnacle of our talents. We never played better. With Richard leading us, we were standing toe to toe with the varsity team of Miramar High School. It was the most violent game we had ever been a part of. Our varsity team was some of the most talented athletes and I was also proud of watching them. These guys were the real deal and all we could do was just try to keep up with them. I knew if we did not match every score we were done. We knew if one drive stalled, that would be it. The game went back and forth with the football gods smiling down upon us all. It was one of the most incredible days of my youth. In the end, we just ran out of time. When the timer blew the whistle thirty years ago, we were down one touchdown. We lost the game. We never played so hard and so good, but we lost the game. I was devastated. It was the last football game I ever played. I went home after the game completely depressed. I guess I needed that grief counselor after all.
I sometimes walk around in a state of nostalgia and melancholy. I ponder the fact that those of us who were born and raised before the Internet, before technology and surveillance was so omnipresent, really were the last generation of freedom.
A lot of us look around at younger members of our family and other people that we know and we come to the realization that we truly did grow up in a different America than they did. Freedom has become a different place when there are cameras everywhere and just about everything you say or do is recorded in some way, shape or form. Freedom had a completely different feel for us.
Not to show my age or anything, but I can remember back in school, our lockers were literally our private property. The locks that were on them were our own locks. Not even the principal of our school had a combination. It would have to take suspicion of a serious, felonious act for the school to even have permission to open up your locker. The principal could only do it with a set of bolt cutters and a truancy officer as a witness standing right by his side. There were no metal detectors when we grew up. Our schools didn’t randomly drug test athletic teams and players.
That’s my point here; we truly are the last generation of freedom. There is an entire generation that walks the earth that has no concept of real freedom. A whole generation of people that will never know what it was like to walk to school alone with your friends or even stand at a school bus stop without parental supervision.
This last Halloween I took my daughter around a popular neighborhood to go trick-or-treating. I was stunned to realize that I was one of the very few that were actually walking door to door to each house. The majority of the people drove around in caravans with pickup trucks with tailgates and large groups of children, driving from door to door.
It is axiomatic that among us in America are truly two groups of people with an entirely different concept for the meaning of freedom, even the feeling of freedom. Particularly in airports, I am stricken with that feeling of this great cultural divide among us from just the feel of flying nowadays.
I was brought into this new style of freedom kicking and screaming the whole way. Every time I walk past a computer and see some kid there typing away for hours instead of outside going fishing or just kicking some rocks around, I am once again reminded of this cultural introspective. I do ponder whether or not an entire generation born under this new state of non-freedom can ever once again produce rebel types or think outside of the box types to keep America on the cutting edge of human evolution.
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