MIAMI -- The night it happened, word traveled pretty fast along Biscayne Boulevard.
"We all knew where he was," said Frank Acosta, who has worked at Boulevard Liquor on Biscayne and 30th Street for 13 years, including the night that is perhaps the most infamous in Miami's Super Bowl lore. "We were all laughing. Dumbass."
Eight years later, Eugene Robinson is still a pretty funny joke on Biscayne. Ask just about anyone who works along the stretch from 22nd to maybe 30th -- legally or illegally -- and they'll crack a smile at the mention of Robinson, who on the eve of Super Bowl XXXIII was arrested after offering an undercover police officer $40 for oral sex. It happened just a few hours after the Atlanta Falcons safety received the Bart Starr Award for his high moral character.
"First of all, the girl was too clean," Acosta said, referring to the undercover cop. "He should have known by that. She looked too good."
Athletes behaving badly at Super Bowls is a pastime right up there with baseball and Grandma's apple pie, but Miami seems to be the Super Bowl's most notorious den of iniquity.
Before Robinson, there was Cincinnati running back Stanley Wilson, who was discovered in his hotel room at Super Bowl XXIII higher than the Empire State Building. Before Robinson, there was Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, who admitted to sniffing cocaine right before the kickoff of Super Bowl XIII at the Orange Bowl in 1979.
"Back in the day, Miami was like Las Vegas," Acosta said. "That's why they came here."
Eugene Robinson Row has changed significantly since his infamous bust in 1999. There are multimillion-dollar office buildings and condominiums. A Bentley dealership is adjacent to where Robinson made his costly service query.
A few of the working girls who were there the night of the incident are still around. Not surprisingly, they are banking on NFL players' getting a late-night urge that has nothing to do with Taco Bell.
"Business is always good," said Joanna, a prostitute whose street nickname is "Mommy." "This week, it'll be really good. Lots of rental cars."
If Robinson had ventured a few blocks further, he would have been fine. According to Mommy, Acosta and another prostitute named "Sexy Sandy," N.E. 22nd is well-known for having sting operations.
"We know every cop up and down Biscayne," Mommy said.
Mommy, a 40-year-old blonde who has a few teeth missing, said a couple years ago one of her regulars was an ex-Denver Bronco. She wouldn't name him.
"I felt bad," she said. "He had a family. After awhile, I told him to go home to his wife."
Sexy Sandy has never had a pro athlete as part of her clientele. Although, there is one thing you should know about Sexy Sandy before you plan on a visit. She's a he. And, he/she also wears a peculiar scent that I affectionately named Eau de Urine.
While some things have changed along this part of Biscayne, a lot hasn't. I asked Sexy Sandy and Mommy if $40 was still the going rate for what Robinson requested or had inflation changed the price.
"[Expletive], it's less than that," Sexy Sandy said.
We shouldn't be so na´ve as to treat sex at the Super Bowl as a taboo. Many an NFL player has admitted to engaging in some late-night, extracurricular activity. The Super Bowl reportedly generates a billion dollars wherever it is held, and many of those dollars are funnelled to the sex trade. Prostitutes from across the country typically converge on the Super Bowl. Miami officials expect the big game to bring $400 million to the local economy. Mommy and Sexy Sandy are among the many hookers who just want a small piece.
"Don't you have a TV camera?" Sexy Sandy asked me. "I want them to see me and come on down here."
With the Colts staying in Fort Lauderdale and the Bears near the Miami airport, I don't expect any of the Colts or Bears to make their way to this part of Biscayne Boulevard. But if they do, Acosta wanted to pass along this advice.
"Go down Biscayne from 61st to 79th," he said. "That's where all the motels are."
Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN the Magazine, can be reached at email@example.com.