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.]
It'll cost you a dollar to catch a glimpse of this postcard setting across the Rickenbacker Causeway, but once over the threshold, you'll see South Florida as most South Floridians only wish it could be. There's so much here to keep you busy that the highlights alone will take a full day.

If the kids haven't joined PETA yet, start with Virginia Key's old-fashioned Miami Seaquarium and its killer whales, manatees, dolphins, and sea lions. Then for a real contrast to the typical tourist trap, find your way to Jimbo's by following the road directly across from Seaquarium's parking lot. A crew of salty regulars soak up the sun with an old movie set as their backdrop. Although it's technically a bait shop, Jimbo's is famous for its smoked fish, cold beer, and crusty characters playing bocce and philosophizing.

The beaches at Virginia Key and Key Biscayne qualify as some of Miami's best, and though Virginia Key's are officially closed and provide no lifeguards, die-hards can still swim and sun there. The less daring can head for Key Biscayne's Crandon Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area. The Crandon shoreline is sublime, but don't overlook the hidden treasure: the old county zoo, now called the Gardens at Crandon Park, a serenely beautiful landscape of ponds, wildlife, and lush vegetation adjoining the southernmost parking lot.

At the island's tip is Bill Baggs, named for a former outspoken editor of the defunct Miami News. Still recovering from Hurricane Andrew, which knocked down thousands of Australian pines, the park has been replanted entirely with native species. All the amenities have been rebuilt as well, and now the airy Lighthouse Cafe offers splendid ocean views to match its outstanding seafood soup. The actual lighthouse (South Florida's oldest standing structure) survived the hurricane, was recently restored, and is open for tours every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. A beachside concession rents sea kayaks, hydro-bikes, and sailboards for those who want to get physical.

Bill Baggs closes when the sun sets -- just in time to make your way back to Bayside Seafood Restaurant. This thatched-roof, open-air hangout can be found by following the road for the old Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key. The simply prepared fresh seafood is reasonably priced. The fish sandwiches aren't bad either. But the mosquitoes can be. Just ask the staff for some insect spray. They're prepared.

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.
"A lot of people claim I'm a rabble-rouser, a curmudgeon," Robert Gewanter says. "But I really don't see myself like that. I see myself like the little boy in the story 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' I'm just here to say the emperor is naked." Gewanter has been saying it every day for the past six years on the message board in front of his store, posting often hilarious little poems about the sad state of affairs in South Florida. Some samples: "Natacha Millan/The junket queen/Has a diploma/That no one has seen." "Ankle monitor unfair/Senator Gutman cackled/Damn right Alberto/U should be shackled." "Virgin birth/No evidence empirical/Re-elect Xavier Suarez/Now that'd be a miracle." "Joe come back/Tell us no lies/We forgive crack/But Rosario's no prize." "Please vote/That would be nice/Heck, it's Hialeah/You can vote twice."
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.
Pity the poor Orange Bowl parade. After 62 years the annual nighttime procession up and down Biscayne Boulevard now teeters on the brink of irrelevance. What once was a national spectacle that reached 12 million television viewers has devolved into the nation's largest small-town parade. At the most recent event the mayor and the police chief rode by atop a convertible on loan from a local auto dealer. The state-championship high school football team waved from fire engines. Marching bands from local high schools and middle schools paraded past in not-quite-lockstep. Municipal workers donated time to construct funky floats that would not be out of place in a suburban high school homecoming parade. Yet despite the low-rent atmosphere, the Orange Bowl parade remains the Magic City's most magical night. It is one of the few times in Miami that Anglos, blacks, and Hispanics smile while mingling. During this past parade, a Nicaraguan family grinned when an Anglo neighbor sublet his shoulders to a tiny black girl in need of an elevated viewing perch. In this context the provincial nature of the parade is not a drawback. It is endearing. Miami never feels more accessible and friendly.
Named president and CEO of Union Planters Bank of Florida this past year, Adolfo Henriques oversees a financial institution with more than two billion dollars in assets. But it is his involvement in the community that earns him the most respect. As chairman of the Financial Emergency Oversight Board for the City of Miami, he helped see that troubled municipality through its money woes. As chairman of the Beacon Council he has worked to recruit new businesses and jobs to Miami-Dade County. And as first vice-chairman (now chairman) of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, he promoted this community around the world. The 45-year-old, Havana-born Henriques is one of the leading fundraisers for the United Way, serves on the boards of the New World Symphony and Florida International University, and is a member of the Florida Board of Regents. Friends and colleagues of Henriques (who is married and has three teenage children) marvel at his ability to take on so many responsibilities and handle them all so well.
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?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®