Miami loves football and fishing. Here’s how Super Bowl 54 will combine the two

The sea should be kinder to the people who love it the most.

But the deep blue, when angry, doesn’t discriminate.

And on Wednesday, when a group of environmentalists treated Miami’s Super Bowl host committee to a day of deep-sea fishing, the ocean was ticked.

Cold driving rain. Lightning bolts. Enough swell to make the most seasoned boater hurl. Sailfish too smart to bite.

But what’s that saying? A bad day on the water beats the best day in the office?

Expect to hear a variation of that trope plenty over the next 12 months, as we count down Super Bowl 54, which will have a decidedly green (not to mention blue) feel.

The host committee, led by Mike Zimmer and Rodney Barreto, this week announced an official partnership with Ocean Conservancy that grants the D.C.-based non-profit a forum of unprecedented scope.

Ocean Conservancy is a fishing-friendly environmental outfit dedicated to protecting the world’s saltwater. From plastic dumping to overfishing to red tide to sea-level rise, the advocacy group looks to help fix some of the biggest issues facing our oceans.

And the group now has an ally in the nation’s biggest sporting event.

“The entire state of Florida, you’re never more than 60 miles from the ocean,” said Emily Woglom, Ocean Conservancy’s executive vice president. “When you think about the money’s that generated by tourism, when you think about the number of people who are out on the ocean or enjoying the ocean, it’s an ocean place.

“When you think of Miami, you think of the beach, being close to the ocean,” she said. “Being able to reach that community and reach a little bit of a national audience about the importance of the precious resources in Miami, it’s a great opportunity for us. The Super Bowl is an event like no other.”

With a spotlight like no other.

Barreto and Zimmer are determined to use at least a bit of that attention to promote the region’s great natural resources, and the bring awareness to the issues that threaten them. Sustainability is the buzzword.

That dovetails nicely with the work done by Ocean Conservancy, who does more than talk the talk. Representatives in Miami for Wednesday’s partnership announcement were on the beach early Thursday morning, cleaning up trash.

“For us, when you look at Miami and you look at South Florida, the oceans and the Everglades play a critical part in who we are,” Zimmer said. “We as the host committee decided early on that the environment was going to be a critical part of the legacy piece that we leave behind.

“We thought it was a natural fit, with the outstanding things [Ocean Conservancy is] doing with the oceans and what we’re trying to do with the Super Bowl,” he continued. “It creates a unique opportunity for them to get a lot of people involved in what we’re doing on the ocean side.”

Part of the initiative: The non-profit will have a booth at next year’s Super Bowl Live, a free festival in Bayfront Park expected to draw more than a million people.

The plan is to educate football fans on the damage done by egregious amount of plastic constantly dumped into the oceans — the equivalent of a garbage truck every minute. Sea level rise is of course a long-term concern, but Floridians have a more tangible, immediate example of the damage done to our oceans.

Red tide not only chased tourists off the beach last year but also killed untold fish, stone crabs and even manatees. And while the issue has faded from the headlines, there were still trace levels of the toxic algae bloom as recently as last month.

It’s enough to make the most optimistic despair. And yet, there have been great strides made in the health of our oceans over the past few decades.

Entire stocks of fish have been rebuilt thanks in part to federal legislation, said J.P. Brooker, the policy counsel for Ocean Conservancy.

“We’re working to bring people together from across political spectrums and we want to make environmentalism a non-partisan issue,” he added. “We think that if you’re a Floridian or you live in Florida, you should care a lot about your environment. We’re proud to be the spokesperson of that kind of bipartisan environmentalism.”

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