Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
When she was 5, Sachia Vickery plucked a cheap tennis racket off the shelf of a Miramar shop and told her mother that she'd be the next Venus Williams. A decade has passed and Vickery, now 15, is on track to make good on that improbable promise. The former top-ranked 12-year-old in the nation, Vickery rarely plays against an opponent her own age. Last year at 14, she won a major international tournament in the Czech Republic, then turned pro. This year, she made a dazzling debut at New York City's Madison Square Garden, knocking off an older player in an exhibition match. It will be a long climb from her current world ranking (975), but Vickery's got time on her side, as well as a mother who worked two jobs to pay for expensive tennis lessons, like the ones Vickery's getting now at an academy in France. It won't be long now before that investment begins paying handsome dividends.
Did you doubt Ricky Williams? Back in 2004, did you call him selfish? Did you burn a jersey or smash a bobblehead? Did you mock him for his personal problems? Ricky said he needed to find himself. He retired and moved to a tent in the Australian outback. He enrolled in a holistic medicine school, studied Hinduism in India, taught yoga in a California ashram, and played a season with the Toronto Argonauts. Then he came back. In 2008, he teamed with Ronnie Brown to form the "Wildcat" offense, which stunned defensive coordinators around the league. Then in 2009, when Brown went down and with a first-year starter playing quarterback, Ricky once again carried the Dolphins on his shoulders. He set an NFL record for longest span between 1,000-yard seasons at six years. Now he's one of the longest-tenured Dolphins, just a few hundred yards shy of the franchise rushing record. He won't play much longer, though — he wants to attend medical school. And if you think Ricky won't be a doctor, you've learned nothing. Don't doubt Ricky Williams.
Have you ever been eating something that tasted OK — except for one ingredient that completely dominated the flavor? Maybe the recipe contained capers or mayonnaise or sardines. You know the whole thing would be better if only you could take that shit out, if you could go back in time and never put it in. Those salty capers, that oily mayo, those slimy little fish — that's what Joey Porter was to the Dolphins' defense last year. Let's not mention the fights he got into with both teammates and opponents, the fact that he proudly carries a gun he calls "my little buddy," that he was once shot in the ass, that his dogs allegedly killed a horse, or that within three weeks of the Dolphins' cutting him, Porter was arrested for a DUI in Arizona. Purely from a football standpoint, the Dolphins defense is faster, smarter, and hungrier without Porter. Get used to hearing the name Karlos Dansby.
Yes, he's had his share of off-the-court drama: the messy divorce, the horribly ill-advised business dealings, the legendary partying. And yes, he comes with all the distractions of a superstar: the occasional one-on-one with President Obama, the months training for and playing in the Olympics, the sweet courting whispers from every intelligent GM and coach in the league. And it's true, without another superstar to work with, the team hasn't had a whiff of a second championship. But make no mistake: Professional basketball in South Florida begins and ends, and rises and falls, with Dwyane Wade.
No hockey player feels the shame of a losing franchise like the goalie. This season, the Panthers missed the playoffs for an NHL-record tenth consecutive year, and their struggles obscured what could have been a sterling season for Tomas Vokoun. In 2009-10, the 33-year-old Czech netminder posted a .925 save percentage, the third-best mark in the league. The save percentage is the statistic that will tell you the most about the quality of the goaltender, and it demonstrates how frequently a low-scoring Panther club remained competitive thanks to Vokoun's heroics. Yet the other statistics show just how futile those efforts were: Vokoun lost 28 games — tied for most in the league. Considering how the Panthers' front office blundered by losing top defenseman Jay Bouwmeester the previous year to free agency, that shouldn't be a surprise. Even though Vokoun saved most of the shots that came his way, the Panthers allowed so many shots to get near him in the first place that they essentially lost a numbers game. Whatever is wrong with the Panthers franchise, it's not Vokoun's fault. He's the one cat who deserves to hold his head high.
Most of the überwealthy don't bother to drain their pools when they go north for the summer, which means their onyx and ultramarine oases are ours for the backstroking. Like the famous character in the John Cheever story "The Swimmer," with a little planning, a person in reasonably good shape could practically swim the length of the island in, say, August, when even hired caretakers are narcoleptic with heat. Many mansions are best approached from the beach (hint: The north end of the island is all but fence-free), eliminating the problem of where to park if you lack a sticker. A dip in some absent playboy's pampered pond, surrounded by Grecian statuary, makes a satisfying way to slough off an afternoon's beach sand. Advanced skinny-dippers will want to cabana-crash under cover of darkness. For best results, keep plunges brief to stay one dive ahead of the cops. And if you do get caught, put on your thickest prep-school intonations and ask if you can place your phone call to "Aunt Lilly" or "Uncle Donald."