This award wasn't about to go to Pavel Bure, that's for sure, even if the Panthers hadn't traded the sulking Russian wingman to the Rangers in exchange for -- for, well, absolutely nothing. Bure's simmering discontent affected the whole team and kept the Panthers from seriously improving. Now, with him gone, the squad can build around its strengths, the most promising of which is Luongo. The one and only time the Panthers achieved success, including a trip to the Stanley Cup finals, was when a solid goaltender anchored a team of workmanlike scrappers. The goalie back then was named Vanbiesbrouck. Now, at the start of an era free of plastic rats raining down on the ice, Luongo is positioned to shine.
Following a trade from New Orleans, Williams comes to Miami as a bit of a weirdo (he used to keep his helmet on while signing autographs) and a bit of a slacker (so underwhelmed were the Saints with Williams they drafted another running back, in the first round, only one year after drafting Williams). Yet the Dolphins have every reason to expect great things from this youngster. The Heisman Trophy winner from Texas finally gives the Fish the offense they've needed for years, or at least since Jimmy Johnson returned to town: a big-time running back to anchor a pass-dependent offense. If Williams performs even marginally up to expectations, the Dolphins' offense should finally score some points. Even in the playoffs.
Anyone who needed proof that Zo is the heart, soul, and muscle of the Miami Heat got it when the most intense center in the NBA was knocked out of most of the 2000 season by a kidney ailment. He returned, half-strength, at the beginning of the 2001 season to a team as shaky as he was. But then the star power came through when a reinvigorated Zo rallied a ragged team in the second half of the season, turning an abysmal losing streak into a real shot at the playoffs. That even made the dour Pat Riley crack a courtside smile.
On a young team loaded with prospects and emerging pitching talent, we especially like the promise that Beckett holds. The right-handed pitcher from Spring, Texas, was named USA Today's high-school pitcher of the year in 1999. He was also the first prep pitcher drafted by the Marlins in the first round. After starting last season with the AA Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs, Beckett debuted in the major leagues in September. Immediately he proved he belonged, allowing only one hit in six innings in a victory over the Cubs. In four starts Beckett allowed only one-and-a-half earned runs and struck out an average of one batter every inning. That was good enough to be named the team's rookie of the year by area sportswriters. That's no small achievement on this young team. And Beckett is no small talent.
You know there's something going on when 600 people turn out to watch a football game featuring four-year-olds. Yet that's what happens, dependably, when these two Liberty City parks play each other in Pop Warner football. No matter what the weight class, from the four-year-old pee wees up to the fifteen-year-old midgets, a game between Gwen Cherry and Liberty City generates an astounding amount of community interest. It's not uncommon for dedicated fans to wager a thousand dollars or more on their teams. In the past few seasons Gwen Cherry has held the upper hand, winning most of the games and even winning a national championship last year in the 110-pound weight class. But in Hadley Park, where the Warriors play, they've hardly abandoned hope. "We started the whole thing," one Warriors booster crows. "Our program was the first program in the inner city. Gwen Cherry was a spinoff from us, and they got all the money from the [Greater Miami] Boys and Girls Club and all these grants from the county so now they've got better uniforms and better equipment and that means they're getting better players. But the one thing they don't have, the one thing they'll never have, is Warrior pride. And without that? Shit, man, you don't got nothin'."
After buying the dismantled 1997 World Series champion Marlins from H. Wayne Huizenga, John Henry made lots of promises to South Florida baseball fans, a couple of which he actually kept. In the process he proved the fallacy of the expansion-team philosophy: Add more teams because TV needs more sports and fans will come. He also proved that, these days at least, megamillionaires have a hard time convincing the public of the need to underwrite new sports stadiums, even when they issue threats and plead a kind of rich man's poverty. So Henry sold the Marlins to Jeff Loria for $158.5 million and disappeared from Miami-Dade. But not before plunking down $600 million to purchase the Boston Red Sox.
We like Don Noe for what he is not. He's not a bumbling grandpa bouncing through the low and high temperatures. Nor is he a slinky siren in a miniskirt relaying the boating conditions in a sweater tight enough to impede speech. He's just a no-nonsense guy, friendly enough but with a reliable weather forecast delivered quickly and without pretense. That's all we ask. Noe is no mere weather reader. He's a certified meteorologist, meaning he knows about the science of weather patterns. Armed with this knowledge, he shines brightest when facing a crisis, such as a hurricane, which fortunately we haven't had in a while. When we do, as we inevitably will, we trust Noe to steer us through it calmly, professionally, and capably.

Reasons the loquacious, pugnacious, and thoroughly informed emcee of Habla el Pueblo (The People Speak) likes his new home at WKAT-AM (1360), Radio Uno: "It's very professional. There's no interference from the management." Compared to, say, WWFE-AM (670), La Poderosa, whose owner canceled Milian's show this past November after the host criticized Miami City Commission candidate Angel Gonzalez. (Gonzalez then paid the station several thousand dollars to use Milian's time slot for campaigning.) Milian had inherited the show on La Poderosa from his father Emilio, whose legs were blown off by a bomb in 1976 after he criticized the violent tactics of anti-Castro extremists. A former Broward County assistant state prosecutor, Milian peppers his aggressive style of public-policy debate with the most elevated put-downs on the Spanish-language AM dial. (Habla el Pueblo airs on WKAT weekdays from noon to 1:00 p.m.) During one show about allegations that Jackson Memorial Hospital is saving money for buildings rather than spending it on suffering patients, Milian offered a characteristically sharp simile: "It's like having money in the bank while your relatives are dying of hunger." He recently upbraided a caller with this: "I came here to live freely, not to live in another dictatorship. The only thing evil needs to triumph is for us to remain silent." Staying quiet is not in Al Milian's program, which he sees as a tool for pounding the moral turpitude out of Miami-Dade's sleazy ancien régime. "We're going to overcome the corrupt bastards," he assures between shows. "I have the sledgehammer."
And girlfriend, we do mean personality. Although Mark Moseley did a decent job for years pretending to be queer, Lita lit up the airwaves with tough-as-nails humor only a real big queen could hammer home. Whether dispensing no-nonsense fashion sense to Hialeah hootchies or dishing the dirt on that tacky J-Lo, Lita told it like it is. We don't care if she did write a column for that other weekly. In these sensitive post 9/11 times, who else dared go where Lita went, beyond bad taste to the cavities where the vulgar becomes sublime? Who else could shut up the whole morning crew with tales of playing hide-the-bin-laden in a boyfriend's deep dark caves? We'll miss Lita so.
Ninoska isn't for everyone, but unlike most of her peers in the anti-Castro radio business, she's not a megalomaniac and she isn't using her high-profile platform as much for her own career advancement as for communicating her passionately held beliefs about her homeland. Ninoska is in fact a good communicator and her shows have more flavor than the endless other exile call-in programs, simply because she makes an effort to be in touch with real Cubans, both on and off the island. These days she doesn't do as much of what made her famous -- those often hilarious crank phone calls to Cuba meant to expose the foibles of self-important Communist Party officials and of the system they uphold. But Ninoska, despite a predictably Evil Fidel spin on everything, still manages to be more on top of Cuba-related events and trends than just about any other exile talk-show host anywhere.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®