Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
An urban walk needs big-city grit. Problem: Downtown Fort Lauderdale doesn't have grit per se. It's too purty, and so much of it near the river is wrought with a Disney-esque sensibility. But just as Disney creates longing for small-town America -- minus the litter, the claustrophobia, the nosy neighbors, and the violence embedded in the winding sheet of the American family -- here you don't need the real thing to extract the finer parts. You need the symbols of it. The imagination will fill in the outlines. And sometimes it's better to experience these things as poetic apprehension. It tugs at memory and desire, making the moment more personal. Blurring the raw truth is better sometimes. Especially if you're taking a walk to relax. Riverwalk stretches along the New River on the north side for three quarters of a mile, from SW Seventh Avenue near the Broward Center on the west to the Stranahan House at SE Fifth Avenue on the east. There is the Auto Nation skyscraper for that we-are-but-human-ants feeling. Automobiles rumble over two drawbridges that cross the river. If you time it right, a Florida East Coast Railroad train might thunder past. Construction cranes growl and clang. You can feel the gnawing mouth of the military-industrial complex. By contrast, that fresh-scrubbed family clad in khaki taking an afternoon walk along the river sure looks good. Don't they look happy? The breeze off the New River feels sweet. Maybe grab a coffee on Himmarshee and sit on a bench for a while. Watch the kids race by on bikes. Read the paper. It's shady and surprisingly cool. The rhythm of the river aligns with the blood flow. Heck, why not just take a little spin on the Water Taxi? You won't be missed. Duck into the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. You must climb the stairs to transcendence, but it can start here, dude, down in the city with a river running through it and a place to walk and think beside it.
Everybody knew the Dolphins' offensive line wasn't very good last year, even with a healthy Mark Dixon. While the team's inability to run the ball was often demoralizing, at least the Fins were a team that could stop the run, right? Umm, no. On December 16, 2001, the San Francisco 49ers exposed the Dolphins' vulnerability to a strong running game with several punishing, clock-eating drives en route to a 21-0 victory. This cemented our selection of Gardener as the one player Miami could not do without. Largely because the big defensive tackle was out with a back injury, the Niners' interior linemen were able to get off the line to put a helmet on Zach Thomas, nullifying his speed and playmaking. This year, the coaches are talking about moving Gardener to defensive end to save his back from the beating he takes playing inside. Not sure we agree: While he's a good enough player to make an impact outside, his true gift is as a run-stuffer. If he's healthy, that's where he belongs. If team brass leaves him there, Thomas will be grateful. So will we.
If the Marlins' ownership had been stable this past winter, Cliffy would already be gone. Of course, had that been the case, he might have had an even better year in 2001. His post-All-Star slump seemed to correlate directly to the failure of the stadium drive and the uncertainty about the team's South Florida future. As it was, Floyd still ended up with excellent numbers, offering a consistent, mostly healthy (hooray!) presence in the three-hole, steady, sometimes spectacular defense. And he was the closest thing these pups had to veteran leadership. This year, by the time the trading deadline rolls around, he'll be ripping screaming liners into the right-centerfield gap for a playoff contender -- here, if the young pitching progresses, Luis Castillo and Charles Johnson rebound, and Alex Gonzalez gets his shit together, but more likely somewhere else.
Our favorite feature of this strip of sand in Deerfield Beach is the absence of cars zipping by on A1A ten yards from your beach blanket. In 1967, the Army Corps of Engineers set up boulder piles on the sand every 30 feet or so to prevent erosion. You can sit on the rocks and enjoy the water, lie on the sand, or dive into the ocean. The sand is broader than most of the Fort Lauderdale beaches, and there are vegetation breaks that separate your shot at tranquility from the busy and polluted street. Part of the strip has condos and guesthouses, but they're small and set back from the shore. The sand is dotted with the occasional tiki hut, and a concrete walking path lines the northern end. The nicest, quietest part of the beach is the southern border, which the lifeguards call south beach, not to be confused with South Beach, which is filled with people, restaurants, and dance clubs instead of sea shells and breaking waves. Metered parking is eight bits an hour.
Hidden behind sand dunes and patches of natural Florida vegetation, this place can easily be missed. After you find a parking spot, which admittedly can be close to a mission impossible during the winter season, lug your sun umbrella, towels, and folding chairs through one of the thick and canopied beach entrances. There, you will understand why Delray is among the nation's favorite beach resort towns. The nearly mile-long, pristine, and wide beach is unusually clean and welcoming, without rocks, piers, or fishermen. Food and nonalcoholic drinks are allowed, but don't feed the sea gulls no matter how cute they seem; they'll turn into pests. There is a recreation area in the beach's southern part where teenagers sometimes pass the football and kite enthusiasts fly their creations in the shapes of birds, scuba divers, and sharks. The beach also offers chair rentals, five volleyball courts, showers and bathrooms, a water sports rental shack, and several exotic diving attractions (be mindful of the resident ray at the 19th-century wreck just offshore). And when the sun hits the water just right here and the ocean turns breathtakingly turquoise, you will remember why you live in South Florida.
"Swim Nude to Prevent Sea Lice Infection." Such was the recent headline in a U.S. Public Health Service professional journal. Skinny-dipping is not naughty; it's healthy, experts say, referring to the rash that generally appears on bodies covered in swimsuits. You see, the microscopic jellyfish get trapped beneath the material and release a skin-irritating venom. If that doesn't scare the pants off you, then forget this advice: Peel off your duds behind the Marriott hotel on A1A, scurry across a private beach (though we have had no trouble running around nude for nearly an hour around midnight on several occasions), and give the moon to the night sky.