It was an unusually brisk Monday evening the last time the New England Patriots ventured into Dolphins Stadium. Along with the cold weather, the Pats also brought a horde of fans who were incapable of pronouncing the letter R and gratuitously used the term wicked. But the only thing truly wicked that evening was the Dolphins' defense, which picked off quarterback Tom Brady four times to preserve a 29-28 victory.
New England would, of course, go on to claim its third Super Bowl in four years, while the Dolphins fired their entire staff. But this year's Pats haven't looked quite so stellar. After losing offensive guru Charlie Weiss to Notre Dame and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to the Cleveland Browns, Bill Belichick's team looks damned near pedestrian.
Meanwhile, it's been an up-and-down season for the Fins, who have looked brilliant at times only to follow with offensive performances so inept that they couldn't score if they had the Burger King king playing wide receiver. In a division marred by mediocrity, this game could actually springboard the Fins toward the post-season. Wicked! The game kicks off at 1 p.m at Dolphin Stadium (2269 NW 199th St., Miami). Tickets start at $25. Call 888-FINS-TIX, or visit www.miamidolphins.com. Paul A. Leone
Carolina faces the Panthers
Maybe it's because football season is in full swing or because the Heat just kicked off its 2005-06 campaign or because the temperature is in the mid-80s, or maybe it was that silly little strike thing, but the Panthers seem to be a forgotten franchise this year. It's hard to believe, considering they're currently near the top of the Southeastern Division standings and because hockey is one of the few sports in which you can openly cheer when toothless goons punch one another in the face.
When the Carolina Hurricanes skate into BankAtlantic Center (1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise) this Friday at 7:30 p.m., you not only get to applaud every time a dude is crushed into the glass but you can also take out your post-Wilma aggression on their insensitively named franchise. Tickets start at $20. Call 954-835-8000, or visit www.flpanthers.com. Paul A. Leone
Heat starts home swing
It may seem as if the playoffs just ended, but faster than Ron Artest can punch a fan in the face, the Heat is already half a dozen games into the season. For those suffering from Shaq withdrawal these past couple of months, the wait just got longer after his ankle sprain, but the Shaqless Heat starts a four-game home stand at 8 p.m. Thursday against Yao and the Houston Rockets. They follow that with games on Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats and Tuesday against the New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Albuquerque/Sheboygan Hornets. Both games tip at 7:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami). Tickets start at $10. Call 786-777-HOOP, or visit www.heat.com. Paul A. Leone
We Canoe You'd Like This
Of course it counts as "exploring nature" when you see how many 12-packs your canoe will hold before it pulls a Titanic! But save that experiment for another trip; the Explore Nature Canoe Tour is about biology, not physics. A naturalist explains what's up with all the flora and fauna as you paddle through Tree Tops Park (3900 SW 100th Ave., Davie) Saturday from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Cost: $8. Call 954-370-3750, ext. 25. Deirdra Funcheon