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At one time, jai alai was as popular in the United States as horse racing and greyhound racing, where the average fan could walk into a casino, bet on a game and watch in real time.
Jai alai, a sport played mainly in Spain, France and other Latin American countries, made its way to the USA in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St Louis and spread across the country to several cities in Florida up to Connecticut and Rhode Island and as far west as Las Vegas.
Although jai alai has been mentioned in pop culture in movies like “Black Mass,” TV shows like “The Simpsons” and video games like “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” the sport is down to one fronton, which is located at the Magic City. Casino in Miami is also known as the “Yankee Stadium of jai alai.”
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However, reports of the death of the sport appear to be premature.
Magic City Jai-Alai has emerged as a destination for elite jai alai athletes from across the US, Spain, the Philippines, France and Mexico. While the head-to-head and doubles season is currently underway, the league is also set to bring back Battle Court for its second season. Four teams, the Cesta Cyclones, Chula Chargers, Rebote Renegades and Wall Warriors will compete in a nine-week season starting September 23rd and will play singles and doubles matches, ending on November 18th.
To the uninitiated, jai alai may look like the new pro sports series on the block which is similar to the last hole or the cup hole. However, it is one of the oldest sports in the world – created in the 1800s.
Scott Savin, chief operating officer of Magic City Casino, described the sport perfectly.
“It’s like racquetball on steroids,” Savin told Fox News Digital, “in the sense that it’s a three-sided court and our front and back walls are made of concrete.”
In the head-to-head format, players go against each other in a one-on-one or two-on-two match. Players or teams must win two out of three sets played to six points. Unlike tennis, there is no deuce or advantage, and ball speeds can reach up to 150 mph.
A high level of athletic ability is definitely required.
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“The analogy we used sometimes is if a baseball player had to catch and throw with the gloved hand. So imagine the guy is catching it with his left hand, and then he can’t move and to throw with his right. He has to throw. the baseball to the base or back home plate with his gloved hand,” Savin explained.
“It takes a tremendous amount of athleticism. The players are very, very skilled because you have to play the game right-handed. If you’re left-handed, and we have a few lefties on the roster, they have to learn how to judge. and throw with his right hand.”
In an effort to appeal to a larger audience, Magic City Jai-Alai partnered with Bet Rivers. Sports fans in several states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Illinois and Iowa as well as those in parts of Mexico and Canada could bet on the game through the app. The league recently announced a streaming deal with ESPN3.
The league has also grown on social media, boasting more than 130,000 followers on TikTok in the past six months.
Magic City Jai-Alai offers another twist to separate itself from the major professional sports leagues in North America – the average Joe can become a team. Sponsoring a team for a season costs $100,000. Some team owners include Chris Cote, podcaster of “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz”, and South Florida radio personality K Marie.
“For the owners who are essentially writing checks from their own bank accounts, they are playing for prize money if their team wins the championship,” Savin said, adding that some donations of $50,000 are also going to the charities of the owners. option.
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“One of the families that is coming back and buying for the second season, even though they’re writing the check themselves, they’re nominating Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for the $50,000 if they win this year,” Savin said. “It’s not even for them to pocket the money and try to recoup their investment. They’re going to be giving 100% to charity. It’s just a nice thing and it’s one of the things we’re really trying to do than build a community. with jai alai.”
The second season of Jai-Alai’s Magic City Battle will begin as the NFL and college football take center stage on television, radio and podcasts. MLB will also wind down in preparation for the playoffs and the NBA and NHL regular seasons are about to take shape.
So why should the average sports fan play in a jai-alai game?
“I think there are two reasons,” said Savin. “I’m looking at LIV Golf, and of course we follow these things very closely, and it’s amazing, and it’s out of (Saudi Arabia) and they’re giving away literally hundreds of millions of dollars but it’s both which is ours if you are. are sports fans … the ability to be the owner of the sport we think is very cool.
“More importantly, the athleticism of playing jai alai is probably more than any other game we could think of. I mean you have a ball going 150 mph. All the throwing is a helmet ( the players) – no padding. They’re not like hockey players or hockey goalies or football players. It’s a ball going 150 mph, you wear a helmet, and it’s coming at you, and you have a second to react, to make a catch and to throw back. whether it’s falling off the wall, how to angle yourself. For me, I think when people see the sport in person or even on TV, they appreciate how much are the athletes.”
Lindsay Savin, the league’s director of communications and Scott’s daughter, agreed with the notion of incredible athleticism.
“Jai alai is such an exciting sport to watch, and I think as a fan of the sport that’s kind of coming down to ground level and being able to follow the careers of all these athletes and watch them get better and better and choose your favorite players. and to really come in from the beginning of this evolution of this sport is a fun thing to be a part of,” she told Fox News Digital. “There’s no argument. It’s just a really exciting sport to watch.”
Scott Savin added that the players are basically competing for the love of the game.
“They’re not paid like basketball players or football players or baseball players. They’re not making millions of dollars. The median player earns about $50,000-55,000. The top guys earn a little over $100,000,” he said. Every man in the locker room understands the potential of being a professional athlete.
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“I think they all understand that they are part of an effort to save a sport that was usually a night in Florida or Connecticut in the eighties. 10,000 people came to watch jai alai. The athletes have made a huge effort and each of us in the background to save something that we think is worth saving, to make it economically viable and to expand it. what it was in the eighties.”