He has long been regarded as the team's best defensive player and the most underrated cornerback in the league, often overshadowed by the team's other Pro Bowl corner, Sam Madison. But this season Surtain wasn't content to let his six interceptions speak for themselves. Having learned that media savvy can do as much for a career as game-day heroics, he announced that, after five years in the NFL, everyone had been pronouncing his name incorrectly. Surtain isn't supposed to rhyme with train, like sportscasters and fans had thought all along. The correct articulation is sir-tan, which made for excellent play-by-play fodder. Then, midway through this past season, his wife Michelle publicly campaigned for him to be given his overdue recognition as the best corner on the team. Apparently it paid off. He was picked for his first Pro Bowl, but also drew the ire and jealousy of his colleague Madison. Publicity stunts aside, Surtain is a game-breaker. Although running back Ricky Williams and defensive end Jason Taylor put up the most numbers, Surtain always sealed the deal when the team needed the big play. The last-second, one-handed interception that beat the eventual AFC champion Oakland Raiders was prime time.

Readers Choice: Ricky Williams

Miss Novak, dazzling in her trademark blond wig, ersatz pearls, and unshaven chest, was present at the New Times fifteenth anniversary party in December 2002. She had this to say: "Ohhhh, you work for New Times? I've got a bone to pick with you. Do you know I've never been chosen Best Drag Queen? This is stupid! You gave it to Elaine Lancaster twice, and I've been here at least as long as she has! One year you gave it to someone I never even heard of! Every queen in town can brag they've won this thing but me! I'm really good! I mean, who doesn't love me? I look like Shelley Winters! Nobody's doing what I'm doing! I'm funny! A lot of people aren't even funny! Did I say I've been here forever? How you guys can go on, year after year, and not select me, I don't know! I've been doing this ..." Or something like that. There was a fair amount of booze involved.

Local movie lovers erupted in thunderous applause on opening night, February 21, when FIU president Mitch Maidique finally publicly acknowledged former festival director Nat Chediak and his eighteen years at the helm. But if this year's resurgence in attendance is any guide, Miamians seem to be moving on from that nasty internal imbroglio and are supporting the festival for the films and filmmakers it can bring to the city. The 2003 event was not flawless. Some films were genuine stinkers, some great films got lost owing to poor programming times, and new director Nicole Guillemet (formerly of Sundance) and her team were arguably too ambitious with a program of record size plus a third venue to manage. Still, packed screenings for documentaries like José Padilha's intense hijacking drama Ônibus 174 bode well for the future. Onward!

In an age when nonstop, homogenized hip-hop thumps from virtually every FM station in Miami 24/7, Zeta's morning duo gets mad props for pushing the boundaries of bad taste: encouraging alcohol and drug abuse, subjecting women to ridicule and degradation on Wednesday's popular "Love Connection," enthusiastically promoting wholesale sexual deviancy. Paul and Ron began their "hectic revelry" shtick in 1990 on WSHE (now Miami's latest rap and R&B station). In 1995 Clear Channel, which owns both stations, moved them to Zeta, where their deliciously boorish behavior has been a fixture for the past eight years.

Readers Choice (tie): Kenny and Footy, Y-100 (WHYI-FM 100.7) and Paul Castronovo and Young Ron Brewer, Zeta (WZTA-FM 94.9)

Unfortunately, with the closing of Drama 101, competition for this award has dwindled further. But fortunately we still have Mad Cat. This troupe led by Paul Tei dares to be different. It doesn't always work, but that's what experimentation is all about. Mad Cat also has done a great service for Miami in attracting and developing that elusive "younger" audience. From Tin Box Boomerang, written by young local Ivonne Azurdia, about two Mexican-American sisters living in a trailer park; to Shoot, about three young girls and gun culture; and Azurdia's eerie reworking of Edgar Allan Poe in Portrait, this theater has offered up challenging, relevant, and resounding works. On the fringe? Way. And stay there.

Even as Riley (a former championship coach, and one of the NBA's top winners) saw his team take a nosedive in the standings and his pocketbook take a $70,000 hit for post-game tantrums about unfair referees, his hair remained unflappable. Riley has been rocking the evil-stockbroker, Armani-suits-and-slicked-back-coiffure look since the Eighties, and it doesn't look like he'll stop until he keels over (look for a sideline coronary next year if the Heat doesn't get a top-three draft pick) or the situation in the Middle East curtails production on petroleum-based hair-care products.

His stats aren't as good as those of Eddie Jones or Brian Grant, but this 6'7" forward is still a rookie. And while other rookies -- Houston's Yao Ming and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire -- have caught the media's eye, Butler has played more minutes than any other rookie, and he consistently ranks among the top rookie scorers. He was picked tenth in the 2002 NBA draft, but he was Pat Riley's first pick, an encouraging start at rebuilding a team beset by age, injury, and illness. Butler beat even greater odds just getting to the NBA. The Wisconsin native was a young gang-banger, pushing cocaine for street dealers at age twelve, arrested more than a dozen times, and sentenced to eighteen months in a prison for youthful offenders by age fifteen. That turned out to be his big break. He spent a lot of time on the basketball court, discovered he had a gift -- and the rest is history. As it becomes increasingly clear that Grant and Jones aren't the franchise players their paychecks would suggest, the Heat's hopes for the future have come to rest on Butler's talented shoulders.

Readers Choice: Caron Butler

The searing image from this year's Fiesta Bowl was the collision that left Willis McGahee's knee twisted 45 degrees the wrong direction. The mighty Miami Hurricanes never fully recovered from losing their top rusher and scorer, a runner who demolished team records with 1753 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Worse was McGahee's apparent personal loss. Before the gut-wrenching hit, he was slated to go early in the first round of this year's NFL draft, where big-money contracts are guaranteed. After the accident it seemed he might not ever play again. Fortunately McGahee had taken out a $2.5 million insurance policy shortly before the accident. But after just fifteen weeks of rehab and a miraculous recovery, he didn't need to collect on that policy. In the draft, the Buffalo Bills couldn't pass up this kid despite the blown knee. Why? No one came up bigger for the Canes in critical games last year. He made the Gators look hapless on the way to 204 rushing yards. He ground out 159 yards against Tennessee. And he found the end zone six times in the Virginia Tech game that catapulted the team to the national championship.

Readers Choice: Ken Dorsey

In Tap Tap one night, talking about the successful poet Rashida Bartley, we became aware of a series of horrified snufflings and belchings, air expelled in violent ssssss's, denoting high dudgeon and street-level contempt. Looking around we saw a purplish-colored fellow in seamed black rags, but with a Ritmo wristwatch and red leather Tiffany's journal, small and boiling, like a fissure in a hotspring. When he had our attention he heightened his voice girlishly: For all tha mo-ments wheeen drrreams were not enuff/ to taalk me into seeing da future.... Trikky winked and scrambled closer over the stools, conspirial-voiced now: "See, even dat crap she write can be im-proved if you stretch and break consonants and riddems, twist da spellin's to sound like brakes squealin' an bumpers scrapin' over dem dead O'town lies, mistuh..." He raked our faces with a steel-comb look: Yeah, I did Rimbaud a thousand years ago had Maldoror's ass/ in my kitchen glass Walt Whitman messed and funk-skank blessed y'all tryin' to write what we sow. Trikky asked for our business cards, accepted a double Jameson's, and said he'd call next time he and his buddies slammed.

BEST LEISURE ACTIVITY OTHER THAN CLUBS OR MOVIES

The beach

With winter 2003 one of the coldest and snowiest on record (tee hee!), one should not take for granted the ability to dip one's tootsies in the ocean or bay, with impunity, in the middle of February. Florida natives or long-time residents whose blood has thinned may well shun the sands until midyear, though the height of summer is our least favorite time to go -- scorching sun and bath-water temps are not so refreshing. Still we are blessed with weather that accommodates a beach excursion most any day (barring hurricanes). We recommend you stay through sunset, the better to appreciate the shifting shades of water and sky as day turns to night.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®