Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Once you've made your way offshore and the sprawling cityscape is but a distant backdrop, it's time to drop over the side and find yourself immersed in the surreal. Neptune Memorial Reef, located about three miles off Key Biscayne, is among the largest man-made reef projects anywhere. Planned to ultimately span 16 acres of the ocean floor, it also happens to be a cemetery underwater. It was designed to have the futuristic look of Atlantis, and while it's tough to say whether designers succeeded, it's definitely unique. There's an eerie calmness to it all, much as an old cemetery on land might have, except that the statues and ornamentation seem all the more otherworldly 40 feet underwater. This is particularly true when the fish get curious about your visit.
A round-trip ticket to Barcelona: $1,600. A night's stay in Las Ramblas: $200. Parking your Honda by the train tracks alongside the Dolphin Expressway, watching airplanes land and take off from Miami International Airport, and daydreaming about your summer escape: priceless. Nothing beats the thrill of traveling, but watching airplanes soar just a few hundred feet above you and listening to the sound of their roaring Boeing engines sure comes close, especially when you're right outside one of the busiest international airports in the world. So the next time you want an instant getaway but are too broke to pack your bags and go, take a drive toward Perimeter Road, park your car, and enjoy the free air show.
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In a world where a nefarious con man had laid waste to his people's reputation, where a once great force had weakened, where haters doubted a football team's every move, one linebacker rose up to defend his turf. Miami Hurricanes productions brings you the inspiring story of Denzel Perryman, a Miami native who led his team in tackles, had six games with more than ten total tackles, was named first-team ACC, and bypassed the draft to do it all again next season.
"A one-man wrecking crew," claims ESPN.
"Adding his name to the all-time great linebacker conversation at the University of Miami," says State of the U.
"Instincts, quickness, and explosive hitting ability," raves CBS Sports.
Denzel Perryman: Year IV. Coming to a stadium near you in fall 2014. An Al Golden Production. Rated U for gratuitous swagger.
It's been tough to find a silver lining in the Miami Dolphins for the better part of a decade, what with all the suck that has washed over this franchise like a terrible wasting disease. Yet by some miracle, in 2013-14 there was actually at least one player who gave the Fins faithful hope. Cornerback Brent Grimes, who had missed 15 games the previous season after he tore his Achilles tendon while playing for the Atlanta Falcons, was signed by Miami last spring with the hope that he'd contribute a little if he could stay healthy. The 30-year-old Grimes not only contributed and remained healthy but also recorded 60 tackles and four interceptions, and never once allowed a touchdown to an opposing receiver. Grimes' renaissance earned him Pro Bowl honors, and he was rated the NFL's second-best cornerback of the season by prestigious football analysis website Pro Football Focus. Grimes' kick-ass season also garnered him a four-year, $32 million contract extension with the Fins. It was a despair-filled season for Miami, with a bullying scandal that brought embarrassment to the once-proud franchise, and yet another season of missing out on the playoffs. New changes have swept the Dolphins this off-season, and there's always uncertainty with this team. But at least we know that opposing receivers will be on lockdown for the next four years with Grimes manning the defensive backfield.
Some sports stars seem to fit seamlessly into their cities, like left hands into well-worn mitts. Derek Jeter was destined for Yankees pinstripes. George Brett was made for the muddy modesty of the Midwest. And Wade Boggs embodied Boston with his blue-collar attitude and bizarre superstitions, like eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes before every game. Under Jeffrey Loria, however, the Marlins haven't had much of an identity. Ozzie Guillen was supposed to imprint some personality, but he confounded Cubans by loving Fidel and lost everyone else by, well, losing games. Last season, when white-bread manager Mike Redmond was plopped atop a flavorless lineup, the Fish's season looked sure to be blander than your abuela's overbaked bacalao. But then, on April 7, after losing five of its first six games, the Marlins called up a young pitching prospect by the name of Jose Fernandez, and an otherwise insipid season suddenly got spicy. By now, you probably know Fernandez's story: Born into poverty in Cuba, he tried to leave three times but failed and found himself in jail. On his fourth attempt, he had to dive overboard to save his mother from drowning. But they made it, first to Mexico and eventually to Tampa. On his Major League debut, Fernandez fanned a rookie record of eight opponents. In another game, he struck out 13 — only to do one better his next time on the mound. He won a team-best 12 games with a miserly 2.19 ERA and an absolutely stingy .182 opponent's batting average. His National League Rookie of the Year award was the diamond atop another 100-loss season. But the real reason Fernandez makes Miamians proud isn't his pitching prowess. It's that the kid has character. Sometimes he's goofy — dancing behind teammates during interviews, joking with opposing players, or celebrating Giancarlo Stanton homers like he just won the lottery. Other times, he's deadly serious. In his last start of the 2013 season, Fernandez was cruising to a win over the Braves when they started talking trash. What did he do? He smacked his first-ever home run in the direction of that godawful dolphin sculpture and then told the Braves they could ride that thing back to Atlanta. Sadly for Fish fans, his 2014 campaign was cut short by Tommy John surgery. But if there's a reason to hope for the future of the franchise, it's his long-term future with the team. Fernandez fits the 305 like an old leather glove.
Seven seconds. The Miami Heat was seven seconds from losing its NBA crown and watching the San Antonio Spurs celebrate the 2013 NBA championship on the Triple-A home court. Heat fans were seven seconds from having their hearts ripped out of their chests and their souls condemned to a weary and sullen existence of pondering the cruel fate of their beloved team. The finals, to all intents and purposes, was over. Done. Kaput. The Spurs were up 95-92 and were seven seconds from the title. The home crowd was already exiting the building, the Spurs locker room was being covered in plastic for the champagne celebration, the ministage was being readied to be rolled out onto the court for the trophy presentation, and yellow tape was being unfurled to keep nonessential personnel from walking onto the court during the Spurs' coronation. Then it happened. Suddenly, before us, a dark horse! Its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed closely behind. They were given power over a fourth of the Earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the Earth. The rider wore a robe dipped in blood. From his mouth emerged a sword in the form of a three-point shot. And the heavens shook. Ray Allen, AKA Jesus Shuttlesworth, hit the most epic three-pointer in Miami Heat history, tying the game and forcing overtime. The game, along with the series momentum, shifted in the Heat's favor, and the home team eventually won its second NBA championship. But not before Ray sealed his iconic status in Heat lore forevermore by hitting "The Shot" and then yelling at the arena security people to get rid of that damn yellow rope.
Although most of New Times' Best Of designations are necessarily subjective, this one is empirically true: CJ Jackson is indeed the best boxer in Miami. Last year the middleweight, who trains at Biscayne Boxing and Showtime Boxing Gym, won the National Collegiate Boxing Championship, which means he's one of the best in the nation. "What makes him effective is his IQ," trainer Mickey Demos says. "I can show him something once and he gets exactly why and can do it." And yes, Jackson is just as much brawn as brains. True, having 4 percent body fat probably has something to do with his success, but there's no doubt Jackson has a bit more going for him than his fleetness. Dedication combined with a dilettante's attitude seems to be a common thread in his life. He served five years in the Navy, attended acting school in L.A., and is the first person in his family to attend college. The biology major thinks the subject is a bitch but says he puts as much effort into becoming a doctor as he does his boxing. And it sounds like he'll have no problem with his anatomy classes. "Boxing is an extremely technical sport with a thousand exceptions to every rule," Demos says. "But with CJ, it's like giving someone an NFL playbook and he can memorize 60 in a day."
Since his teens, Jorge Masvidal had dreamed of getting paid to throw fists, feet, knees, and elbows. "I wanted to scrap with people for money from the time I was a kid, like 13 or 14," he admits. And that's exactly when little Jorge began training for a life in the fight game. He boxed and wrestled, and then he got deep into mixed martial arts. But because there was no real amateur MMA scene in Miami at the time, the native 305er took to the streets at 18 years old, fighting backyard brawls for free and even becoming hood famous by beating Kimbo Slice's prized pupil, Ray, in two back-alley, bare-knuckle bouts. The only problems: He wasn't making any cash, and he had to constantly watch out for the fighters and bettors burned by his wins who wanted to stab, shoot, or bash him with a brick. So Jorge went pro in 2003, tore through the Absolute Fighting Championships till 2006, and then signed a $20,000-per-match deal with the now-defunct Bodog Fight league through 2007. Soon he had made his bones by knocking out Pride/UFC vet Yves Edwards with a brutal head kick. He had ascended to the ranks of Strikeforce. And he had even TKOed a guy at the Playboy Mansion. But since the dawn of 2013, Masvidal has been an inked fighter with Dana White's Ultimate Fighting Championship, the biggest cage in the MMA biz, adding three wins and only one loss to his 34-fight record. Today he is Miami's longest-tenured prizefighter in the UFC. As Jorge says: "I always knew I wanted to get paid."
Long before the season began, pretty much everyone knew the squad in Miami was the best in the nation. They weren't just defending champs; they'd also annihilated everyone in their path on their way to the title. The only real question was how they'd deal with the pressure of overwhelming expectations for a two-peat. Nope, we're not talking about the Miami Heat. Even LeBron didn't leave a path of destruction and domination quite like the Cyclones from Booker T. Washington High School did in 2012. The team from Overtown went a perfect 14-0 and won its dynamic head coach, Tim "Ice" Harris, his second state title. With the team's on-field leader — Harris' own son, quarterback Tim Harris Jr. — coming back for 2013, everyone expected excellence. And the Iceman more than delivered. His squad again went a perfect 14-0, topping 40 points in all but four games en route to yet another state title. This time around, they added a cherry on top: an undisputed national title thanks to a top ranking in all seven major high school football polls. After eight seasons and a ridiculous 96-10 record at Booker T., Harris is moving on to Coral Gables this year as an assistant to Al Golden at the University of Miami. Feel free to get those expectations up, Canes fans — Harris clearly doesn't mind that weight on his shoulders.
After three full periods of hockey, an overtime, and the first two skaters of a shootout, nothing separated the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres in a January game in New York. The score was still knotted at 1, and now both teams had come up empty on their first two penalty attempts in the shootout. The Sabres' third try also rattled off the keeper. The Panthers were up. Score and they'd win. Miss again and they'd end with a disheartening tie. There was only one choice to step up to the puck. Brad Boyes skated to center ice, his teammates leaning over the boards and watching intently. He skated toward the goal, weaved to the side, and snapped the puck. It pinged loudly off the post, hit the goalie in the back, and — for what seemed like seconds — hung in the air. Then it slid quietly over the line. Panthers win! "You gotta be kidding me!" the Panthers announcer shouted. That's exactly what a lot of fans would have said if you'd told them preseason that Boyes would become the beating heart of the Panthers offense this year. Boyes has always been one of the most effective penalty shooters in NHL history, but after two monster years in St. Louis from 2007 to 2009, injuries and inconsistency stalled the winger's career. Until his first year in South Florida, that is. On a rebuilding squad, he stayed healthy and led the team with 20 goals. Only one of those rattled off a post and a goalie to win the game, but — as Boyes showed time and again on the ice this year — it takes talent to catch breaks like that.
Yes, Miami is full of places to shop, eat, and look fabulous. But most of those places aren't all in a row on one street. If your dream day in Miami is to walk for hours buying awesome clothes, eating great food, and taking in the local sun-drenched scenery, take a stroll down Lincoln Road. It features all types of specialty shops and restaurants, including SushiSamba, Dylan's Candy Bar, Five Napkin Burger, Armani, Williams-Sonoma, and Y-3 Yohji Yamamoto. When you get tired of spending your money, you can take in some culture at the art-deco-designed Colony Theater and the New World Symphony. Or just sit on a bench and watch the people go by. You'll see beautiful models, awesome street style, and, sometimes, street performers. It's a cliché to say that a place "has something for everyone," but if any locale lives up to that saying, it's Lincoln Road.
Miami Avenue is like the city's aorta. It's the coursing path tens of thousands of drivers use to travel from north to south each day. But since March, that aorta has been blocked at perhaps its most critical point, the bridge over the Miami River. Seems the metal grating and other parts were decaying and must now be replaced. What does this $5.6 million project mean for you? Well, if you are trying to get from Brickell downtown or vice versa, you may be outta luck... that is, at least until March 2015, when it is forecast to be finished. The northbound lanes are closed now. When that is done, they'll start work on the southbound part of the project.