"Life is a carnival," Celia Cruz sang famously in her 1998 hit "La Vida es un Carnaval." Turns out that for the Salsa Queen, death was a carnival too. On July 19, 2003, three days after the 78-year-old singer's death, more than 70,000 bereft fans showed up to pay their last respects during her nine-hour public wake at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Local officials and music-industry honchos put the wake together in an astonishing display of civic unity. Mourners from around the world held signs proclaiming their love in a line that stretched from Biscayne Boulevard and Sixth Street to Miami Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Inside her casket, the Queen looked resplendent in a blond wig, white evening gown, and shimmering jewels. As the mourners filed by her coffin, her hits echoed from a sound system beneath the Freedom Tower's vaulted ceilings. When "Rie y Llora" played, the last hit the star recorded, her voice seemed to come from heaven. She comforted her faithful with the chorus: "Laugh. Cry. Everyone's hour arrives."

With a 40-9-2 record, Johnson would not, at first blush, be regarded as the favorite when he steps into a ring. But he danced around a spell of hard luck and bad decisions right into a victory over Clinton Woods to garner the International Boxing Federation's light-heavyweight championship. Johnson is regarded by fight fans as a hard worker who, though age 35, is now hitting his groove. He was born in Jamaica and moved to Miami in the Eighties. With a title, he is trying to foster a steady following. "I'm trying to be a million-dollar fighter," he writes on www.glencoffe.8k.com. "I can't do that without an audience." Johnson will need all the help he can get. Though he may be in top form at the moment, he's fighting in the same weight division as the legendary Roy Jones, Jr. Help homey by supporting his effort and his attempt to catch a glimmer of the boxing world's spotlight for Miami.

Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000 produced severe flooding in West Miami-Dade, trapping thousands of residents in their homes and causing widespread damage. The inundations underscored the need for a major upgrade of the drainage systems in that part of the county, which is lower in elevation than other areas and which relies on the Tamiami Canal to carry away storm water. When the canal becomes overloaded during heavy rains, Sweetwater becomes floodwater. This past January the first of two 450-acre retention basins was inaugurated with much pomp and backslapping among the local, state, and federal bureaucrats who will spend some $50 million on the project. Located northeast of the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, the new basin consists of flat forest land now surrounded by a manmade embankment, sort of a vast play pool. In a flood emergency, huge pumps will fill the basin with storm water up to four feet deep. It may not be glamorous, and most people will never even see it, but it's great news to nearly half a million county residents who are sick and tired of resorting to canoes every time it rains.

Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the no-name storm of 2000 produced severe flooding in West Miami-Dade, trapping thousands of residents in their homes and causing widespread damage. The inundations underscored the need for a major upgrade of the drainage systems in that part of the county, which is lower in elevation than other areas and which relies on the Tamiami Canal to carry away storm water. When the canal becomes overloaded during heavy rains, Sweetwater becomes floodwater. This past January the first of two 450-acre retention basins was inaugurated with much pomp and backslapping among the local, state, and federal bureaucrats who will spend some $50 million on the project. Located northeast of the intersection of Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, the new basin consists of flat forest land now surrounded by a manmade embankment, sort of a vast play pool. In a flood emergency, huge pumps will fill the basin with storm water up to four feet deep. It may not be glamorous, and most people will never even see it, but it's great news to nearly half a million county residents who are sick and tired of resorting to canoes every time it rains.

The ideal gadfly is an equal-opportunity abuser, which makes A.C. Weinstein, political columnist for the Miami Beach weekly Sun Post, somewhat less than ideal. Example: He is slavishly devoted to Beach Mayor David Dermer and obsessed with undermining Dermer's political enemies. But that aside, his columns are as enjoyable to readers as they are vexing to the targets of his busy pen. As persistent as a hungry mosquito, Weinstein is quick to pull the rug out from under blustering politicians and haughty publications. He's also not above giving credit where it's due, even if it's the same person he skewered the previous week. Example: Miami Beach city manager Jorge Gonzalez. When he wants to, Weinstein can offer his readers provocative analysis of projects and policies that could have a real impact on their lives. But he seems happiest when he's the irritating gadfly relentlessly buzzing his victims.

The ideal gadfly is an equal-opportunity abuser, which makes A.C. Weinstein, political columnist for the Miami Beach weekly Sun Post, somewhat less than ideal. Example: He is slavishly devoted to Beach Mayor David Dermer and obsessed with undermining Dermer's political enemies. But that aside, his columns are as enjoyable to readers as they are vexing to the targets of his busy pen. As persistent as a hungry mosquito, Weinstein is quick to pull the rug out from under blustering politicians and haughty publications. He's also not above giving credit where it's due, even if it's the same person he skewered the previous week. Example: Miami Beach city manager Jorge Gonzalez. When he wants to, Weinstein can offer his readers provocative analysis of projects and policies that could have a real impact on their lives. But he seems happiest when he's the irritating gadfly relentlessly buzzing his victims.

Keep your sabermetrics, kiddo. The only number Jack McKeon needs to know when it comes to baseball is 72. That's how old McKeon was when Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria tapped the venerable coach to take over as manager of his rudderless young team midseason in May 2003. And that's how many years McKeon's got in his gut telling him how to play ball. He might not know exactly the right names of any of these kids running around the field in black and teal, but he knows who to play, who to pull, and when. Can a team win a World Series on bunts? Can a pitcher keep hurling fire on only three days rest? Before the 2004 series any other baseball person would have said, "No!" Ask the old guy, and the answer is the young Florida Marlins winning their second world championship in six years.

A slightly built fellow with shockingly red hair and an engaging manner, Kaplan is the guy who gets to answer the same question again and again: What's wrong with Miami voters? As spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Kaplan is courteous, helpful, and prompt. And he doesn't go home early. Which is good, because ever since the elections department moved from downtown to Doral, it's a pain to get out there and see him.

A slightly built fellow with shockingly red hair and an engaging manner, Kaplan is the guy who gets to answer the same question again and again: What's wrong with Miami voters? As spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Kaplan is courteous, helpful, and prompt. And he doesn't go home early. Which is good, because ever since the elections department moved from downtown to Doral, it's a pain to get out there and see him.

As leadoff hitter, Alabama-born center fielder Juan Pierre set the pace for the 2004 Florida Marlins and helped slay giants (and Cubs and Yankees, oh my). The main artery in a world championship team filled with heart, Pierre gave his all to hitting, base running, and fielding. He almost always put himself in the right part of the outfield at the right time to make the play. On those rare occasions where his positioning failed him, Pierre compensated by flying rather than diving to get to the rock and leave hitters feeling robbed. That speed served him around the bases as well. Clocking in at 3.6 seconds from home to first, Pierre led the National League in steals. And who can forget the team's first at-bat in World Series play, when Pierre tapped the ball into a dead zone in the Yankee defense, showing again that even in the age of steroids and home run kings, it's the small things that make champions. That and giving it your all.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®