These are the 2011 records for Florida’s professional football teams: Miami Dolphins, 5-10; Jacksonville Jaguars, 5-11; Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4-12.
I have a solution: find an Arab oil sheikh.
I have no interest in soccer, but I’m living in the United Arab Emirates among lots of people who do.
Last month, I witnessed a blending of emotion and cultures I could never have imagined before I landed here in July 2010.
A soccer team from England called Manchester City won the English Premier League championship in May. That’s like winning the Super Bowl.
For decades, Manchester City was to the Premier League what the Cleveland Browns are to the National Football League – beloved losers. Manchester City had not won the title since 1968.
In 2008, City was a lot like the Tampa Bay Bucs. Enter Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, then a 37-year-old Abu Dhabi royal family oil-money billionaire. He bought the club for $263 million from Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand and a man with a long rap sheet of human-rights abuses.
The sheikh then proceeded to spend $1.2 billion in the next few years on players alone. The two highest paid Manchester players, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure, each are paid $313,000 PER WEEK. The club last year lost $247 million, the largest loss in soccer ownership history.
After four years of pouring oil money into Manchester’s tank, the club won the championship. The sheikh had attended only one live game in four years. But fans don’t need passionate owners; they just need rich ones.
And Sheikh Mansour’s staggering wealth had taken City from “laughingstock to destination club,” according to the English newspaper The Guardian.
Suddenly blue-collar Englishmen were waving banners proclaiming their affection for a Muslim billionaire. Meanwhile, back here in the UAE, Arabs were celebrating the victory of a once-obscure English soccer team and wearing the blue jerseys of Manchester City.
So, I started thinking that Florida’s terrible football teams should get themselves some sheikhs.
Of course, England has a distinct advantage in this “find-a-sugar-sheikh” contest. It used to rule many of these Arab countries.
But once oil money made instant billionaires out of many Gulf Arabs, their natural inclination was to shop at Harrod’s and buy mansions in Knightsbridge. Suddenly the richest of them had more money than anyone in the United Kingdom. England has become their playground.
But the Arabs love the United States, too. Osama bin Laden’s older brother Mohammed and several of his sisters loved the U.S. Until Sept. 11, 2001, they had dozens of properties in the U.S. and a huge compound in Orlando because they wanted to be near Disney World.
As you may know, Osama was the black sheep of the huge bin Laden family of Saudi Arabia. They made billions in the construction business in Saudi Arabia and remain influential today. All of this is documented in the book “The bin Ladens” by Steve Coll.
So, here’s what you long-suffering Florida football fans need to do. There are young Arab millionaires in your midst. Thousands come to the U.S. to attend universities that have been cashing large checks from Arab oil men for years.
While you have them there, teach them about American football. Hype NFL bling. Make owning the Jaguars, Bucs or Dolphins seem sexier than buying a soccer team.
If you want winners, you gotta go where the money is.
A former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post, Tom O'Hara is a senior editor with The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi and a Middle East columnist for Florida Voices.
© Florida Voices