Ask anyone in the coin-operated arcade game industry and they'll tell you flat out: Pinball is all but dead. [Editor's note: The reference to The Who song "Pinball Wizard" that had been here has been deleted. You're welcome.] Instead of playing that silver ball [We let that one slide.], kids today are more interested in blasting the unsettlingly real and gruesome zombies of House of the Dead 2 or controlling a kung fu fighter by motion-capture of their own movements rather than using a joystick, as in Virtual Arena Tekken 3. GameWorks offers all the latest and loudest amusements, including a very silly looking virtual wall-climbing game, but it scores its biggest points by serving as a museum. In addition to providing a bank of the earliest video games (Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac-Man), it has, yes, pinball machines. Seven of them, five of which are tucked away on the second level next to the pool tables and the bar. Most who remember pinball's heyday have certainly long passed drinking age. And yet on one recent excursion to GameWorks, who could be seen lighting up the Godzilla table but a tousle-headed youngster no more than ten years old, causing one observer to remark, "That kid sure plays a mean ... [Whoops! Sorry folks. That was close.]
The Panthers releasing underachieving defenseman Ed Jovanovski to the Vancouver Canucks for rocket-fueled superstar Pavel Bure. The pocket change acquired by Florida in the deal (defenders Bret Hedican and Brad Ference) is worth more than Jovanovski alone. And Bure? Well, let's acknowledge that he's the ...
What a dull team the Panthers were, and not only compared to the sheen of their new National Car Rental Center. The anonymous faces circling between the blue lines were less exciting than the vertigo-inducing pitch of the Broward arena's seats. Early in the season, without even name-brand goalie John Vanbiesbrouck between the pipes, the Panthers sank into the league's lowest tier and were a lock to miss the playoffs. Then came January's unbelievable trade, and onboard came the Russian Rocket. One of the best players on the planet, Bure immediately proved his value by scoring six goals in four games. Unfortunately that's about all he did, after a knee injury ended his season almost as soon as it began. Nevertheless Bure's exceptional speed and awareness have single-handedly raised the profile of the entire organization. A long-term contract has him locked in for years to come, not only with the team, but most likely also with this here award.
The Heat didn't make many changes going into this strange, truncated season. Yet the addition of Terry Porter as a guard off the bench is proving to be an inspired move. At age 36 Porter is an old man in the NBA. But his experience and tenacity are bringing solid rewards as valuable as the speed and lift he might have surrendered to age. Still Porter hasn't given up much. Plus he is averaging more than ten points per game. He's also one of the Heat leaders in steals and assists. This year he passed two important milestones: 1000 games played in the league and 1000 three-pointers. Come postseason, Porter's experience in 92 playoff games during a fourteen-year career will surely come in handy.
In the Fusion's inaugural season, this spunky Colombian was high-scorer. He was MVP. He's got wheels, a nose for the goal, and a rocket shot. Perfect striker material, and as the season progressed, and the coaching staff changed, he found both his position and his confidence. By the end he was scoring in every game, and hat tricks weren't uncommon. But that's not the only reason fans adore him. A little shaky every once in a while on his defensive skills (he's just not an enforcer), Serna would rather throw a play than challenge. In short his dives are Olympic-quality. Always elaborately contrived, frequently accompanied by dramatics, and hardly ever yielding the results he wants: Rather than hold up yellow cards, the refs practically flash placards with big tens on them.

For years the Dolphins were an offensive showcase. Of course a weapon such as Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino can be hard for a coach to ignore. Jimmy Johnson, though, never lost sight of his primary pledge to improve the team's defense. Mission accomplished. The Dolphins now possess one of the best defenses in the league. No defender better personifies the team's newly stingy soul than linebacker Zach Thomas. Since joining the Dolphins as an unheralded rookie two seasons ago, he has emerged as all-NFL, all-Madden, and all-important to a team that still hasn't won the Super Bowl Johnson promised three years ago. Management recently rewarded Thomas with a five-year, $22.5 million contract. Some of that money will replace the cash the player lost in January when he was mugged in New York City. Considering Thomas's imposing build, the bandit who blindsided him (he suffered bruises and needed five stitches in his lip) must be an all-pro in the criminal community. Best Moxie by a Mugger?
Miami may not have much of a reputation as a haven for bibliophiles, but you'd never know that from spending time in the backroom of Books & Books's Coral Gables store. John Grisham may rule the Beaches, but the caliber of talent holding court in this intimate spot is strictly topnotch. Week after week store owner Mitchell Kaplan shepherds authors here and in his Lincoln Road shop from around the nation, where they read from their work, scribble their John Hancocks, and best of all, banter directly with the audience. Ever wonder what makes Robert Stone tick? What makes Salman Rushdie run? Just where does Elmore Leonard get those twisted ideas? Here's your chance to put the question to them, face-to-face. With an admission price that's (almost always) zip, you've got one of Miami's best bets for highbrow, low-budget entertainment.
All he did was rush for more than 1000 yards in two straight seasons. All he did was gain a mind-boggling 299 yards and score three touchdowns against top-ranked UCLA. All he did, basically, was put the Hurricanes back on the map. The importance of the victory over the Bruins, a game in which James was the winning difference, cannot be overstated. When the final gun sounded, wide-eyed high school blue chips across South Florida decided then and there they were going to be wearing Canes colors next season. UM's subsequent recruiting class is considered the best in head coach Butch Davis's tenure. James didn't just help his team win a big game. As much as anyone, and more than most, he turned around an entire program. Enjoy the pros, son. Miami will be thanking you for years.
Ho hum. The best jai alai player in Miami? Michelena. Still. As always. Forever. Since he debuted as a rookie in 1983, the Basque native has dominated his curious sport like no other athlete in the city. Marino? Mourning? No, Michelena. At age 37 he's not quite a world champion anymore, but he does have a world cup title on his résumé, along with nine Miami Jai Alai triple-crown titles. After all this time, he remains the man on which the smart money is bet.

Forget Demolition Man. This 25-year-old reliever (a Florida native) is the unheralded star of our mediocre team. He works hard, pitches at better than 90 miles per hour, and closes games as easily as some people close their garage door. This past year he put up numbers that placed him among the National League's ten best relievers, and this year he's even hotter. The guy is a bargain by professional baseball standards -- a one-year contract worth $735,000. On top of that, he's a likable fellow. With the Marlins frequently falling behind in the early innings, new owner John Henry needs something that'll keep fans in their seats. Mantei is the man for the job.

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