Once a thriving spectacle, jai alai, America’s high-speed sport, has witnessed a stark decline. Originally hailing from Europe, it made its way to Miami in 1924, quickly captivating audiences.
With balls whizzing at astonishing speeds between 150 and 170 miles per hour, the sport’s adrenaline-fueled excitement drew celebrities and crowds of up to 15,000. However, a series of events led to its fall from grace.
Gambling became intertwined with jai alai, a double-edged sword that sustained it financially but shifted the focus from the sport to the wagering. The arena transformed into a casino, overshadowing the once-thriving game.
Despite dwindling crowds, passionate players like Benny Bueno continue to keep the tradition alive. They persevere, driven by a deep love for the game that transcends audience size. Today, jai alai may be a shadow of its former self, but it stands as a reminder of an era when it reigned supreme in Miami’s sporting scene.
Top image: Jai Alai sport. Source: Lander Eizagirre / CC by SA 4.0.