During his first season in aqua and orange, the dreadlocked one busted out for 1853 yards on the ground. That broke the Dolphins' single-season rushing record and garnered for Williams the NFL's rushing title. (He also broke Miami Herald sports columnist Dan Le Batard's record for most coverage in a single season.) The Dolphonics gave up two first-round and two fourth-round draft picks to grab Williams from New Orleans and have him run roughshod over arch-rival New York Jets, the New England Patriots, and the Buffalo Bills. Naturally Miami's NFL franchise, in typical fashion, wasted (check that: obliterated) Williams's banner year by missing the playoffs in yet another end-of-the-season collapse.

Miami-Dade Transit's Route B is a study in contrasts. Originating downtown, your bus soon offers a postcard view of the concrete jungle you left behind and of the Brickell skyline as it crosses the Rickenbacker Causeway on the way to the manicured municipality of Key Biscayne. This trip affords access to several of Miami's prime recreation locales. You can hop off to visit Virginia Key's sandy coves or Seaquarium; the golf course, tennis courts, and beach of Crandon Park; or stay to the end of the line to reach Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (for the park, the bus sign must indicate "Key Biscayne by Way of Crandon Boulevard"). By taking public transport you also save on the Bill Baggs admission fee.

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

Why? Because he's so damn entertaining. Because he's not afraid to lie down in a $1000 suit in front of a jury to approximate a corpse. Because he comes up with cute nicknames for opposing counsel (he mockingly told a jury that if federal prosecutor Allan Kaiser got his way, police would blow kisses to criminals rather than arrest them; he called it the "Kaiser Kiss"). Because he moves his arms constantly when summarizing. Because there's not a gag order around that can shut him up. Because if you're a cop accused of something very, very bad, so bad you don't think you have a prayer, this is the guy who will put on a show that just might distract the jury enough to get you off.

Santa's Enchanted Forest
When you're baked, nothing beats a carnival of lights. Santa's Enchanted Forest, which runs from early November through the first week of January, is a great place to bug out and munch out. First you go through the acid-inspired Christmas displays, enhanced by more than three million flickering Christmas lights draped overhead in the forest of Australian pines. Along the way you encounter the off-the-chain performances of Kachunga the alligator, Dondi the Elephant, and Randall's High Diving Pigs. For the truly adventurous, test your limits by climbing aboard any of the looping, twirling, twisting carnival rides operated by substance-impaired carnies. Talk about a thrill. But best of all, Santa's is a great place to alleviate the munchies. Succulent turkey legs, tangy barbecued chicken, jumbo-size corn dogs, piping-hot ears of corn, and our personal favorite: sweet elephant ears.

Well, okay, the Lord never said, "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor with electoral fraud." But Tony! Neither did He say, "Go forth and bear false witness to petition signatures because homosexuals belongeth to an axis of evil." In the absence of an explicit prohibition, our local Christian Coalition leader apparently figured there'd be no problem. The issue was repeal of the Miami-Dade law forbidding discrimination against our neighbors because they are gay, lesbian, bi, straight, or asexual. Last August state law-enforcement officers arrested Verdugo and charged him with one felony count of false swearing during the Take Back Miami-Dade petition drive that forced this repeal question onto the September 10, 2002 ballot. (Agents also arrested three others in the Take Back family.) A few hours later Verdugo was out on bond, unrepentant, and preaching on AM radio about how he had been framed by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, the supervisor of elections, various prosecutors, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other members of the homosexualist Mafia. Verdugo hit bottom, however, when he took little Elian's name in vain. He told listeners that his own arrest reminded him of that early morning in April 2000 when federal agents swooped in and snatched the miracle child. Verdugo now knows the power of mercy, if he didn't before. Because he was a first-time offender, prosecutors gave him the option of performing community service instead of standing trial. And so the charge was dropped.

No doubt about it, the hands-down winner this year was the touring production of the long-running, groundbreaking Broadway musical hit, featuring director Julie Taymor's stunning visual imagination. Using a blend of lithe, live actors; huge carnival-like puppets; and an array of exotic theatrical traditions, Taymor took the popular Disney animated movie and did it one better, reinventing it as spectacular, unforgettable theater. The Lion King blended traditional American musical elements with classic literature (the story of a dispossessed lion cub is a reworking of Hamlet) together with a joyful celebration of African culture. The show was also a happy merger of art and commerce as the Broward Center for the Performing Arts was packed throughout the show's sold-out run.

Take some advice from Art History 101. Sit on one of the benches in the center of the main gallery and fix your eyes on a far corner of the room. Then take a visual sweep along the walls, making smaller and smaller circles, until you see an intriguing piece of ... art. Sidle into the side gallery behind your whimsically dressed, scruffily coifed subject. Pretend you are engaged in a "happening." If he shares your conceptual bent, invite him to the garden where courtship will commence to the atonal strains of some IDM DJ. If you're really lucky, you can then lead him into some sort of throbbing, dimly lit, vaguely perverted installation in the former crack house next door.

The 37-year-old Garcia was known in Havana as the host of the television program De la Gran Escena (From the Big Scene). "I talked about literature, film, and theater," he says. Anything but politics. His eschewing of that, he says, cost him his job in 1999, after fourteen years on the Cuban national boob tube. "I want to live in a society where debating and thinking is possible, not in a trench in which ideas are used to exclude someone from professional life or from the civil society of a country." Here, on his WQBA-AM (1140) nighttime talk show La Noche Se Mueve (The Night Moves), he is constantly declaiming the importance of pluralism, freedom of expression, the U.S. Constitution, and respect for ideas. "Those things don't fly in a totalitarian society," he notes wryly. Sometimes they don't fly in Miami. For example, when other locutors of the AM waves recently took up the subject of Havana-based pro-democracy dissident Oswaldo Payá, they and callers ragged on Payá for being a dupe of the Castro regime. Garcia, in contrast, had a show featuring Payá himself via telephone so callers could rag on him directly. (Others praised Payá, while some actually attempted to inform themselves by asking him questions.) Because Miami is Miami, Garcia's pluralistic tendencies draw accusations that he is a Red. One night the seemingly harmless topic was "integration" -- as in Cubans in the "diaspora" reuniting with their estranged compatriots on the island. An angry caller boasted that he had left Cuba in 1968 and would never go back until the Communists are gone. He was also sure that most people who travel to and from Cuba and talk about democracy are secretly Communists. The caller even suspected there was a "Fidelito" (little Fidel) hiding inside Edmundo. The host wholeheartedly disagreed, but instead of yelling, he threw the First Amendment at the caller. "You think there's a Fidelito in me," Garcia summarized, "and that's your opinion."

Since its first performance in 1997, Maximum Dance has offered Miami balletophiles a refreshing alternative to the tediously typical tutued-lady-lead-dancer-lifted-by-boy-prop programs. Though co-directors/choreographers David Palmer and Yanis Pikieris have put in time as principal dancers with respected older groups like the Joffrey and Miami City Ballet, their own electrically energetic ensemble does muscular, modern-way-beyond-Balanchine ballet that is deliciously unpredictable. Their works have been set to an astonishing variety of music -- classical composers like Handel and Lizst, modern masters like Philip Glass, stoner faves like Pink Floyd, even some original scores. The dances themselves are just as varied, ranging from this past season's world premiere of The Four Seasons, a romantic neoclassical piece set to Vivaldi's familiar score; to the hysterically humorous Grand Pas d'Action, a dance-off pitting a snooty classical ballet couple against a slinky modern-dance duo. The company also performs educational programs, including a charming children's Peter and the Wolf. Performances this past season included one in Belgium with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, but downtown's Gusman Center continues to be Maximum's performing home. Let's hope we can keep 'em here.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®