To say it has been a rough season for the Miami Dolphins would be an understatement. Their record, which now stands at 2-11 following the loss in Denver, could be the worst single season in franchise history. It's hard to remember the last time playoff hopes were dashed before November. The players, most of whom have never been part of a losing season at any level, are starting to wilt under the pressure. Cornerback Patrick Surtain is taking the losses so hard that he's starting to believe in the supernatural. "I think we're cursed," he said. "Every week, it's unexplainable. For this to be happening to us this year is sickening. Guys are fighting to the end; we're almost in every single game. We just find a way to implode in the end."
Yes, sickening is an appropriate term for this abomination. You need two hands to count casualties lost to the injury bug: David Boston, Lamar Gordon, Junior Seau, Tim Bowens, and Larry Chester, just to name a few. Defensive leader Zach Thomas (pictured) has missed the last two games with a torn hamstring, but he's expected back this week. Defensive end Jason Taylor has been a bright spot in the darkness, but he too is starting to waver in his resolve. "We shoot ourselves in the foot," he explained, "whether it's a turnover or a big play on our defense. After doing a decent job all day, we find a way to lose the game. It's frustrating."
So this is what the 2004 campaign has come down to for the Miami Dolphins. Once upon a time, every home game was a religious experience; now, games are deemed relevant based on the opponent and stage. This week's contest at least earns an A-plus. The World Champion New England Patriots are paying Miami a visit, and the game will be broadcast on venerable Monday Night Football. The juxtaposition between the opposing sidelines couldn't be more striking. On one side: a franchise that has claimed two of the last three Vince Lombardi trophies. On the other: a team that will miss the playoffs for a third straight season. A good game to watch with your snowbird relatives. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. Call 954-452-7000. -- Russ Evans
Santa Rides a Harley
Small bike rallies -- like your average Sunday afternoon bike barbecue -- might draw 5,000 bikers. And Daytona's ten-day-long Bike Week pulls in more than 500,000. We'll let you calculate how many people might show at the weekend-long Cyclepalooza at the South Florida Fairgrounds (9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach), which is boasting stunt teams, a battle of the bands, half-pipes (for the skate and BMX crowd), and motorcycle vendors.
Certain notes should be cribbed on your palm before you get to Cyclepalooza. First of all, the winner of the Burnout Pit Competition will receive a new tire, although all participants can buy a new one wholesale. First place in the Miss CyclePalooza bikini contest receives an invitation to model for the 2006 Florida Biker Babe calendar. All tattoos in the tattoo contest must be healed, except for the "Tattoo of the Day" category. The Arm Wrestling Competition has three classes for men but only one for women. And Santa will ride in on his Harley. By all accounts, a full day. The show will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost $11 (adults) and $7 (kids). Visit www.cyclepalooza.com, or call 561-758-0461. -- Dave Amber
Triple dose of Heat
The Miami Heat hasn't gotten off to as quick a start this season as some people (namely, their coach) would have liked. Stan Van Gundy has implored his team to play with more intensity, hounded Shaq to get into transition faster, and berated his perimeter players, primarily Eddie Jones, for their poor shooting from the field. But Dwyane Wade has managed to avoid any criticism by way of his splendid play during the first six weeks. The second-year guard has emerged as the prize of the 2003 draft class, a group that includes Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. At the tender age of 22, Wade is the undisputed floor general of the squad, and this week the Miami faithful will be treated with three doses of Vitamin D Wade at the Triple A (American Airlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Friday, the Heat faces the Denver Nuggets, Sunday it plays the Orlando Magic, and Tuesday it's up against the Boston Celtics. Call 786-777-1000. -- Russ Evans
Got a Brand New Bag
Warrior Boxing Promotions and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood) have come to the South Florida public countless times in the past with prime boxing lineups. This week, they're pushing the envelope even further and changing their style. In conjunction with the grand opening of the Seminole Paradise outdoor complex, the aforementioned pair present a world title extravaganza -- free and open to the public. The headliner pits undefeated IBF flyweight champion Irene Pacheco (30-0, 22 KO) against mandatory challenger Vic Darchinyan (21-0, 16 KO). The matchup will be Pacheco's (pictured) seventh title defense, as well as Darchinyan's first fight outside of Australia. The undercard consists of five more topnotch bouts. Doors open at 6 p.m. Call 954-523-3309. -- Russ Evans