Sunday, June 29, 2008

Requiem for the Orange Bowl, Domain of Manimal

I received this image in an email from a good friend the other day. This is what's left of the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

The Orange Bowl was one of those rare places that transcended sports. Although it was the home of those talented (and cocky) Hurricane teams and those ancient, way-back, long ago championship Dolphins teams, and was the location of five Super Bowls, it also hosted some the biggest names in music. According to the all-seeing and all-knowing Wikipedia, the Orange Bowl hosted performances by The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, and Michael Jackson (which I think was his Super Bowl performance, so that really shouldn't count).

Personally, I only went to the Orange Bowl once. No, it wasn't to see the Seminoles lose to the Hurricanes in one of the many missed field goal games ("Wide Right" even has its own Wikipedia entry).

I went to see Metallica.

Way back in their pre-St. Anger days, back when Jason Newsted was still in the band, and fresh on the heels of their Symphony & Metallica release, Metallica included a stop in Miami on their "M2K Mini-Tour". Thanks to Encyclopedia Metallica, I know now that this show occurred on December 28th, 1999. Check that out, they even have the set list and everything. Very cool. But I digress ...

Other than being the largest show I have ever attended (some 80,000 strong), and besides the fact that it was my brother's first concert, and besides the fact that I also saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock there as well, my Metallica experience at the Orange Bowl changed my life forever. It was the day I met a man - nay, a legend - named Manimal.

After spending the majority of the opening acts near the stage, my brother and I were forced to vacate our spot and venture nearly mid-field during Metallica's performance. Call us wimps, but between the constant shoving and being pressed into other sweaty male bodies we were becoming quite uncomfortable. So we decided to high-tail it to a spot where we could see the show without getting a steady diet of elbows to the ribs.

Back in the day, my brother was a big dude. Although only 16, he was, if I remember correctly, "a biscuit shy of 300 pounds". So when he said he was going to a less-crowded spot, I smartly decided to follow.

As you can imagine for a crowd that size, people were everywhere. The stage was located in the endzone and people were all over the field. Although I don't how rowdy the crowd was during Sevendust, Kid Rock, and Creed, when Metallica hit the stage the whole field turned into a warzone. Bodies running into each other, people beating the shit out of each other, and dancing crazies spinning like whirling dervishes. With size on his side, my brother cared little for this large array of oddites. With me in his wake, my "little" brother mowed through several mosh pits, throwing people out of his way on the journey to safety.

When we finally reached a relative area of calmness, where people were actually watching Metallica instead of impersonating human locomotives, we asked around to see if anyone would be moshing in the area. If so, we were ready to move.

Our answer came from a short, bald, stocky, stereotypical biker dude wearing a t-shirt that read "Fuck You, You Fuckin' Fuck". Looking deadly serious, this beast of a man said, "I'm Manimal, half-man, half-animal." He then proceeded to show us the biggest man-ring I have ever seen. It resembled a class ring, only two to three times bigger.

"You see this ring," he asked.

Of course, how could we miss it?

"Nobody is going to mosh near me. If they do, I'm going to hit them with this ring."

Sure enough, true to his word, no one moshed near Manimal. And to this day, Manimal remains one of the most intimidating people I have ever met.

So although the Orange Bowl is now gone, I still live by a few simple rules: don't mess with people who wear masks, don't cause trouble with people with facial tattoos, and never, ever mess with a guy named Manimal.