The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year
Illustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year

Florida really outdid itself this year. Cuba Gooding Jr. came here and ate a cell phone, which should be enough to catapult this year to the top of Florida's all-time ranking of strange trips around the sun, but Gooding's antics barely cracked the list of the weirdest things to happen in the Sunshine State during the past 12 months.

Houses got destroyed. Children's drawings got turned into drugs. Axes were swung, people got hit with burritos, and a whole lot of folks were injured for getting in the way of other people's sexual escapades, which is frankly something we, as Floridians, ought to grapple with in 2017. This past year was so weird that Pitbull became embroiled in a state government spending scandal, and everyone treated the whole ordeal as if this sort of thing happens in other states. It doesn't. A teen murdered two people and ate someone's face, and we're not even going to bother discussing that today.

By December, the array of strange Florida news becomes overwhelming, and wrapping your head around the sheer volume of strangeness seeping from the bedrock of limestone every 12 months becomes unbearable.

So for the fifth year in a row, we're dishing out some awards to the weirdest people and events of the year, just so we can keep our own heads on straight. Join us.

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This YearEXPAND
screencap via YouTube

New Times' Annual "Alligator of the Year" Award: Rambo the ATV-Riding Gator

Gator of the Year is a coveted award in Florida history. And the competition this year was fierce: Who could forget Gwen, the 47-year-old male alligator who lives in a Coconut Grove pond, eating a diet of literally only pizza and Chips Ahoy? Somehow, Gwen didn't bring home the top spot this year — the WTF Florida Voting Academy (which is comprised entirely of locally raised manatees hopped up on mescaline) instead chose Rambo, the only 'gator in the Sunshine State objectively cooler than most live human beings.

Lakeland resident Mary Thorn has raised Rambo to be one of her own children — in Florida, this means Rambo wears human clothing (including glasses), eats dinner at a human table, and rides his own ATV around town. Upon hearing news that someone in Florida had actually raised a docile, safe pet, the State of Florida tried to take Rambo away from Thorn — but Rambo won his court case in December, and thankfully got to spend the holidays wrapped in a snug little Santa suit.

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year
via Sheriff's

Most Metal Event of the Year: Man Swings Viking Axe at Cops, Shouts "Come on Valhalla!"

Florida is the direct opposite of Norway. The Scandinavian nation is freezing, cloudy, and full of happy, well-adjusted people. God meanwhile made sure the Sunshine State was warm and well-lit, largely just so other human beings could easily spot and avoid the state's swarms of insane, unhinged residents. But occasionally, the world's two most disparate localities collide: In April, 42-year-old Stanley Tonkin of Redington Shores swung a Viking axe at law enforcement officials while shouting "Come on, Valhalla!" because not a year goes by in Florida without someone accidentally reenacting a Dimmu Borgir album cover.

Worst Decision by Public Officials: High School Pep Rally Performer Lights His Own Face on Fire

Fire-breather Ricky Charles literal meltdown at Delray Beach's Atlantic Community High School in March also wins New Times'  "Harambe Award" for the best thing filmed by teens all year. But in a year when power companies continued to pollute the land, public officials stole taxpayer money, and cops randomly shot people, Charles' Spring performance represented the single dumbest decision made by Florida public officials all year.

Charles had literally no business coming near Atlantic High: District rules expressly forbid fire or pyrotechnics at school events, but Atlantic officials went and hired him anyway. And the performance literally backfired, after Charles bungled a fire-spewing maneuver and literally set his face ablaze. In the ensuing panic, multiple students inhaled smoke, and at least one had a seizure on the floor.

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year
psyberartist via Flickr Creative Commons

Worst Piece of Florida-Related Writing: The Tampa Bay Times' Purple-Prose Manatee-Orgy Op-Ed

The Tampa Bay Times is Florida's best daily newspaper. But its readers definitely include some next-level hippie weirdos, and its editors were very clearly asleep at the wheel in August, when they agreed to publish an op-ed about the time a mother and her eight-year-old daughter acted as voyeurs to a craven manatee gang-bang.

Times contributor Samantha Staley and her daughter, who will forever remain nameless to save her from years of middle-school shame, happened upon a ball of seven manatees writhing in shallow water over the summer on Florida's west coast. Rather than let the sea cows be, Staley let her daughter swim right up next to them, only to find that the group included six male manatees, who were all wrestling to copulate with a single female, whom Staley creepily nicknamed "Big Mama." (One writing gripe: Staley said there were "nearly seven" manatees, a description that defies explanation. Was it six? Eight? Was one missing a fin? Count the fucking manatees, Samantha.) Staley then tried to pass off the whole encounter as some sort of mother-daughter bonding experience.

We'll let Staley take it from here, and will meet you at the office eyewash station in five minutes:

That's when it dawned on me that these playful manatees were actually a group of males trying desperately to mate with one estrous female. Nature's way of guaranteeing the survival of a species. As my daughter went underwater with her swim goggles to get a better look, but being careful not to get too close, I stood in the shallows and marveled at Big Mama.

With the exception of an occasional flick of her enormous tail, an indication that she was a bit annoyed with all the attention, she was nonetheless extraordinarily patient with the young bucks. Love was certainly in the water. But in a different way.

There was no matchmaking happening here, but rather, as I watched Sierra absorb this incredible moment, I realized that the love here in these waters, was actually the start of what would surely become the most beautiful love of all… the love between a mother and child.

Funniest Sex: Daytona Beach Tries to Stop Old People From Having Orgies Inside Abandoned Church

If you enter a church in Daytona Beach, Florida, and there aren't at least two old people shaped vaguely like termite mounds 69-ing in the rearmost pew, are you really in Florida at all? The only reason people retire to Central Florida is to open up their stale, 50-year marriages and screw other bored, elderly people in peace. Shame on Daytona Beach's city government for trying to shut down the appropriately named Minglers, a swingers club that met regularly inside an old Daytona church two blocks south of City Hall. Minglers should be city hall.

Best Use of Drugs: Florida Inmate Caught Eating Meth-Drizzled Drawings of the Sun

Did you, Mr. Fancy Scientist, know that you can drizzle meth on pieces of paper? Did you know you could drizzle meth on anything at all? Did you know meth even existed in different material states? I didn't think so, Mr. I-Have-A-Science-Degree-from-Berkely. Now please let me receive mail again after I was caught eating children's drawings with meth on them in a Bay County jail last August.

#cubagoodingjr BEYOND lit at #livonsunday in #Miami - powered @headlinerworld

A video posted by Baller Alert (@balleralert) on

The "Worst Use of Cuba Gooding Jr. Award:" Cuba Gooding Jr. Eats a Phone at LIV

Miami's weirdest Cuba news this year did not involve any actual Cuban people. Instead, resurrected TV star (and dog-sled expert) Cuba Gooding Jr. materialized at LIV, the Miami Beach megaclub, where he took his shirt off, wrapped it around his head like he was reenacting his own scene from Rat Race, punched the air like a weirdo, and then literally tried to eat someone's smartphone.

Gooding Jr. exists in a weird purgatory within American pop culture: He's famous enough to do whatever he wants in a nightclub without getting kicked out, but not quite famous enough for the rest of us to enjoy it. The actor was also filmed blasting patrons with a CO2 smoke gun, which is sexy/cool when someone like Usher does it at LIV on a Sunday, but just weird and desperate when the dude from Boat Trip and Daddy Day Camp is blasting you in the face.

The "Educator of the Year" Award: Miami teacher's video Christmas list includes "good ass sex," a huge penis to suck, and more F's for his students

Alternate Headline: Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School teacher Elton Lewis Very Unclear About What Happens inside Santa's Workshop

The "Proof Floridians Are Harmful to Florida" Award: Man Fatally Body-Slams Flamingo at Busch Gardens Tampa

Pinky the Flamingo loved to dance. When she was happy, Busch Gardens zoo operators said she would shuffle in a little circle of joy, like a whirring top made from smiling cat emojis. But because Floridians hate anything that could remotely be construed as "wildlife," Orlando resident Joseph Corrao body-slammed Pinky to the ground without warning in August, eventually leading to her death. Wild flamingoes used to be native to Florida — European settlers eradicated them once before, and Floridians have apparently remained hostile to the pink, harmless birds ever since.

The "Even Young Floridians Act Like Old People" Award: Woman Closes Eyes to Pray While Driving, Crashes Into House

Quickly: Picture, in your head, the sort of person who you'd assume would close his or her eyes while piloting a moving car, in order to zip off a quick prayer to Jesus. The person you're imagining is roughly a million years old, peers through foot-thick spectacles, and looks vaguely like 1995 B-horror Rumplestiltskin, right? Would you believe the woman who actually did this was just 28 years old? Being elderly in Florida isn't about age — it's about state-of-mind.

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year
screencap via surveillance video

The "Florida Madlibs Cliché Award:" Man Tosses Alligator Through Wendy's Drive-Thru Window

It's stunning Jupiter's Joshua James was charged with assault with a deadly weapon (the alligator) for his April reptile-toss: James was simply acting out the yearly ritual Floridians perform every year to prevent the state from sinking back under the ocean floor where it once belonged.

The 2016 WTF Florida Awards: The Weirdest Things That Happened in Florida This Year
photo via New Birth New Life

Finally: New Times' coveted "WTF Man of the Year" Award: Malachi Love-Robinson

Rarely have the collective jaws on the New Times editorial staff dropped harder or faster than after the February arrest of Malachi Love-Robinson. The head shots. The fact that he was 18 and running a fake medical clinic. The fact that people actually believed his whole "I'm actually Doogie-Howser" shtick. The fact that he conned a business partner into giving him $10,000 to run his fake medical clinic. The fact that when he got caught, he still tried to claim he was a "neuropathic" doctor. The fact that someone let him appear on Good Morning America. The fact that he stormed off of Good Morning America. The fact that he got arrested again in September for trying to fraudulently buy a Jaguar in Virginia. We need a Love-Robinson biopic in 2017.

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