(*Probably the British are paying.)
A British diplomat and I will be kicking soccer balls at one another this afternoon, specifically penalty kicks (PKs.) Loser buys fish and chips, and presumably beer.
This was not my idea. It was Kevin McGurgan’s.
McGurgan is the British consul-general in Miami. He came here from a posting in Afghanistan. His name pops up in at least one Wikileaked confidential cable from “Embassy Kabul.” (Granted, it’s a seemingly boring confidential cable as these things go, i.e. mentions of “office space” and “beds for new staff.”)
As detailed in a WLRN story last year, a much different document brought McGurgan to our attention:
When we put out a call for (Hurricane) Andrew stories, the British Consulate in Miami sent us a remarkable document. Kevin McGurgan, the British consul-general in Miami, was going through old papers, looking for stuff to throw out. “Buried at the bottom,” says McGurgan, “was an old file marked ‘Crisis Management: Hurricane Andrew-Lead-up, Destruction and Aftermath.’
Just in time for the 20th anniversary, McGurgan uncovered a lost treasure from Hurricane Andrew. The British consul-general in Miami at the time had composed a harrowing -- yet remarkably proper -- moment-by-moment account of living through the storm. Those words by Philip Grice became the beating heart of our hour-long radio documentary, Remembering Andrew.
More than a year after McGurgan came to us with that paper, I produced a radio story about South Florida’s inability to sustain a professional soccer franchise. It was apparently excuse enough for McGurgan. From a verified (and crested) Twitter account came the proverbial white glove, face slap.
That began a volley of emails to establish the PK ground rules. We’d tend our own goals. We’d have teams of two. McGurgan’s partner was TBD. Mine would be fellow American journalist Michael E. Miller. The Brits would provide the ball (“which may or may not have a British crest”). I would wear something inherently American. McGurgan, a Scotsman, would wear his traditional kilt.
And if I may actually leak some interesting McGurgan information, we had a bit of American Revolutionary-style trash talk via email:
"McGURGAN: I am happy to accept these Yankee terms as this is when The Empire Strikes Back.
MALONE: In the exceedingly unlikely case that we swashbuckling reporters lose to a team captained by a stuffy, kilted British diplomat, we'd like to know in advance: From which fine establishment would Kevin like his celebratory fish 'n chips?"
Let The Fish And Chips Fall Where They May
To be honest, a big reason I took this challenge was out of curiosity. I’ve been on a mission for at least three years to find the best fish and chips in Florida. Everywhere I go I take a picture -- usually with a pint of Guinness in the frame -- and use an app to note the price and location.
I’m ashamed to say that the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the England section of Disney’s Epcot Center is the reigning champion. The chips are crisp and hearty. The batter fries up light and fluffy. Both take salt well and can stand up to malt vinegar long enough to stop the fries from getting floppy and the fish soggy.
It’s tempting, but I probably shouldn’t make Kevin McGurgan pay for my trip to Orlando, ticket to Epcot and tab at the Fish Shop (all part of the price of those fish and chips, as far as I’m concerned).
That’s why I’m interested in hearing recommendations from anyone who’s got them. Feel free to email them directly to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. But you’d be doing a public service if you can just post them in the comment section below. Obviously tastes vary on this kind of thing, so write a little bit about why you like what you do.
And for anyone interested in McGurgan’s choice: Fado in Miami's Mary Brickell Village.
Writes McGurgan of their fish and chips:
They taste good. Good batter around the fish (I think it’s beer based batter which is great).
It’s good Irish and British food. Which matches me. Yes I’m a British diplomat but my father is from Northern Ireland and I have lots of family across the border in Ireland. While Anglo-Irish relations have had more than their fare share of tense moments, I think this joint “national” dish says something positive about us and is something I can connect to with my Celtic roots.
They serve Guinness. ‘Nuff said, but a pint with fish ‘n' chips is great and Guinness is great (it’s also owned by a British company, Diageo).
The PK contest is scheduled for today at 3:30 p.m. at Miami-Dade County's Tropical Park. We didn’t plan on anyone coming, but we certainly wouldn’t turn spectators away. I can’t say much for the quality of play. But it might be worth the gas money to see Kevin McGurgan perform the most amazing act of kilted athleticism since Braveheart.
I'll end with this thought: If history repeats itself, the Revolutionary War is the least of team U.K.'s problems today. (See British Tradition.)
Updated 9/1/2013: Okay, the British aren't paying. Sorry, America. More to come in a later post.
Updated 9/12/2013: Noting here that the fish and chips from Fado, very possibly the finest I've had in South Florida.