It was fate that brought Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins together. During the off-season, the New York Jets waived Pennington after four solid seasons with the team, casting him aside like an old tire to make room for newly acquired Brett Favre. Yet when the Dolphins signed Pennington off waivers, the immediate reaction from most Fins fans was exasperation. Pennington entered the picture as the latest poster child for the Dolphins' ever-revolving door of middling retread quarterbacks since the great Dan Marino retired. Conventional wisdom said Pennington was too weak-armed and injury-prone, and his pair of prior shoulder surgeries only stoked the flames of doubt. But Pennington proved that leadership, class, a tireless work ethic, and pinpoint accuracy can be just as effective as a laser-rocket arm. Cool, collected, and sharp, he took charge of the once-hapless Dolphins from day one and led them to the greatest turnaround in NFL history.

During the last game of the regular season — in of all places New York, with thousands of rancorous, vitriolic Jets fans breathing down their necks — the Dolphins were fighting for their playoff lives. Win and they would pull off the improbable: finishing with an 11-5 record and a division crown a season after winning only one game. Lose and their season was dead in the water. Favre and the Jets had just taken a 17-14 lead late in the game with a quick-strike scoring drive that shifted the momentum back in their favor. Now, with the weight of an entire fan base on his shoulders, it was up to Pennington to save the game, and the season — against his old team. He answered that Jets drive — and his critics — by leading Miami on a six-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a perfect pass to tight end Anthony Fasano in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning, AFC East Championship-clinching touchdown. Revenge, redemption, fate.

"It's not a revenge factor," Pennington told the Miami Herald afterward, an AFC East Champions cap nestled firmly on his head. "It just so happened it had to come through New York. That's the only way fate would have it. It shouldn't and couldn't come out any other way.'"

Indeed.

Grapeland Water Park

Filled with brightly colored play areas designed by local artist Romero Britto, pools with slides, and a large lagoon, Grapeland Water Park — also known as Black Beard's Beach — is 13 acres of fun, refreshing, soak-filled insanity for tikes of all ages. The park opened only a year ago. It features two different play areas — Pirate's Plunge, with its low water level areas, water shooting seahorses, and toddler friendly slides for the little ones and, for the bigger kids, Shipwreck Island, which features a tower with fast water slides and a giant bucket that periodically tips over dumping water onto the folks below. Buccaneer River is a slow winding river that can be ridden lazily around the park on inflatable inner tubes. The family can then wind the day down near calmer waters at the large pool known as Captain's Lagoon. Admission is free for kids 3 and under, $5 for ages 4 through 13, $7 for Miami-Dade residents 14 and older, and $10 for non Miami-Dade residents 14 and older. Group rates are also available. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. October thru April. Days of operation vary, so check the park's website or call them directly.

Miami Dolphins fans haven't had much to cheer about since Don Shula hung up the clipboard. The list of coaches to patrol the sidelines has looked like this, in descending date and professional football coaching ability: Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, and Cam Cameron. When Bill Parcells was brought in to turn the franchise around, one of the first things he did was hire Tony Sparano from the Dallas Cowboys to whip the Fins into shape. Sparano did way more than that in his first season, guiding the Dolphins to a ten-win improvement, a division title, and a playoff berth. Sparano changed the face of the NFL when he introduced the "Wildcat" offensive package. A few weeks later, almost every team in the league had its own option package, and every defensive coordinator had a whole new problem on his hands when dealing with the Dolphins. The upcoming season is sure to be brutal for the Fins, but after last year, there's no reason to believe Sparano can't lead them into a new era of respectability and realistic championship hopes.

As summer sends the mercury soaring and your little nieces or nephews begin begging you for a day on the town, take the impressionable munchkins over to this lush oasis and you'll become an instant hero in their eyes. Located at Pinecrest Gardens, the former grounds of Parrot Jungle — and open daily from 10 a.m. till one hour before the park closes — this place boasts a petting zoo, botanic gardens, a playground, a miniature water park, and a swan-filled lake. Best of all, admission will set you back only three bucks while leaving the peewees believing you've invested a fortune on them.

Obviously, there's only one answer to this category, but if we say, "Dwyane Wade," what else do we write? And no disrespect to Michael Beasley, who, despite not being the instant double-double machine he was promised to be, has at least shown the rare ability to go into an NBA Jam-like "He's heating up!" mode. But Mario Chalmers was the better of the Heat's two '08 draft picks. Acquired cheaply in the second round after the Chicago Bulls heartlessly stole Derrick Rose out from under us, Chalmers has proven he can be the point guard of the future in Miami. He doesn't possess Rose's ability to get into the lane at will, but Chalmers is a better shooter (1.4 threes per game) and, quite possibly, a better defender (1.95 steals per game). Pairing him with supreme backcourt thieves D-Wade and Jamario Moon means the Heat will be creating fast breaks for years to come and terrorizing opposing guards trying to establish space on the perimeter. Then there's always 2010. Chris Bosh down low, anyone?

DeVito South Beach
Leah Gabriel

DeVito South Beach is the type of fine dining Italian steak house on Ocean Drive that'll sell you a $17 meatball, an $18 hamburger, or an $80 Japanese steak featuring the best of ingredients in the best of environs. It's not a cheap place, which is why you'll find its Wine Down Mondays promotion so inviting. Every Monday, every wine under $200 is 50 percent off. Be there from 4-7 p.m. and take advantage of the concurrently running Monday-Friday happy hour, half off all apps and cocktails, and you're in for a taste of the good life at a well-reduced price. Revel in the opulence of your surroundings as you munch on items such as baked clams or Kobe beef tartare ($8 and $11 during happy hour) as you sip on the likes of Mondavi Reserve, Barolo Cannubi, and Pinot Grigio, which will only cost you about as much as store price per bottle. Cocktails are regularly in the $12-$25 range, so if you're looking to knock back a Millionaire's Margarita (Don Julio 1942, Grand Marnier 100, fresh lime juice, $25) keep it real and go half-off till you're an actual millionaire.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Courtesy of the Fontainebleau Miami Beach

From your average local perspective, Miami hotels are only good for a handful of things: bringing in those tourism dollars, their clubs and restaurants, and of course a place to carry on an illicit affair. Well, after a lengthy, $1 billion face-lift, the iconic Fontainebleau scores on at least two of those categories. With an opening that included a Victoria's Secret fashion show and a host of A-list names, the resort managed to lure in money even during dismal economic times. LIV is the latest hotspot, Scarpetta's cuisine is to die for, and if it wasn't for the odd Kardashian or Hilton that pops by every once in a while, the place could almost compete with its former self on the celeb glamour front. As for trying to stage a little adultery action there? In theory it'd be nice if you've got the money, but with everyone in town hanging out there, you're bound to get caught.

This is Miami, son. So it makes sense that the best trade pulled off by any team in the 305 this year was all about the cash money. Don't misunderstand — Jermaine O'Neal is not a bad guy to have banging bodies under the glass, especially on a team that has started everyone but the ghost of Gheorghe Muresan at center since dealing another famous O'Neal to the Suns last year. And Jamario Moon has already brought some hard-nosed D to a team victimized by offense-first ballin' all year. But O'Neal can bomb and Moon can get posterized all spring long and Heat fans should still be mobbing Pat Riley to pat him on the back for this swap. Take half a glance at the free agent class lined up for 2010 and you'll understand why. Everyone from our own D-Wade to Chris Bosh to Dirk Nowitzki to that guy they call the King up in Cleveland is going to be looking for a new contract. And thanks to this deal, the Heat will have one of the most flexible payrolls in the entire league to throw around. Heat fanatics are already waking up to wet dreams of an AA Arena patrolled by D-Wade, Tracy McGrady, and — dare they even imagine it? — Bron-Bron himself. Yeah, right, you say? We can dream, can't we?

Coming out of Calvert Hall High in Baltimore, Jack McClinton was never seen as a hard-court star, let alone a guy who could put a football school on the basketball map. McClinton applied to every college in the ACC and was roundly rejected by all of them. So when the young man decided he wanted to transfer from Siena College — the only school to offer him a scholarship — after his freshman year, McClinton's father sent a highlight tape to UM basketball coach Frank Haith. Haith saw potential in the six-foot-one guard — a sharp shooter with range and remarkable scoring instincts. Yet what McClinton has done since transferring to Miami has exceeded everyone's expectations. Last season, he led the ACC with 87 three-pointers and guided the Canes to their first win over Duke in 45 years. This season, as an All-ACC First-Teamer (and an All-ACC Academic First-Teamer), he averaged 23 points in conference play, dropping 34 and 35 points against ACC powerhouses Duke and North Carolina, respectively.

In his three seasons at the U, McClinton not only emerged as the best pure shooter in all of college basketball, but also developed the rep of a cold-hearted assassin. Jack the Ripper made his name as a big-game clutch shooter, hitting those arching three-pointers at key moments while elevating the play of his teammates. McClinton single-handedly made the basketball Canes relevant and turned them into a team to be reckoned with in the ACC. Not bad for a kid who was told his game would never amount to anything beyond Division II.

No, Jorge Cantu isn’t the most talented guy, and he’s not going to put up the best numbers. He’s not showy, and he’s damn sure not pretty. Cantu is just clutch. And guts. Last season, he rapped so many big hits in late innings that a lot of Marlins fans began calling him “Can-do.” Most of them probably didn’t know he’d already earned that nickname in Class A ball. You want this guy in your lineup. He’s championship-caliber. But the 27-year-old Cantu, conceived in Mexico and born in Texas, has had an up-and-down career. It went up in his 117-RBI breakout season at Tampa Bay in 2005, when he was voted MVP of the then-Devil Rays. The next year was dismal, though, and the guy was drummed all the way back to the minors. That’s where the Marlins — always brilliant at picking up great players on the cheap — found him. He’s in his prime now, hardened by the game, humbled by it, and very well might be ready to help lead a team to the promised land.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®