Everyone remembers that woolly October, with Pudge doing his best Cerberus impression at home plate and Josh Beckett mowing down Yankees. But were it not for Willis' summer, the champagne-soaked 2003 Marlins would have been the yeah, whatever 2002 Marlins. In May, the Fish were reeling from injuries when Willis, 21, got the call from Double A. He jumped in with 11-2, smiled for the cover of ESPN the Magazine, and became an unlikely sensation (that double-wide grin! that whiplash windup!) for a team with renewed verve. The Fish bottomed out at 19-29 on May 22, then closed the season at a 72-42 clip, tops in the majors down that stretch. In retrospect, their preposterous postseason looks like destiny, but those selfsame indestructible Marlins were scrapping for a Wild Card spot until autumn. Willis, the National League Rookie of the Year, was the reason they were even in contention. The capper: He's all of 22. Readers' Choice: Josh Beckett
OK, so you aren't on television risking imminent unemployment at the hands of real estate mogul Donald Trump on The Apprentice. That doesn't mean you can't hobnob with "The Donald." If you're willing to put out, that is, and we mean big bucks -- really big bucks. For just getting into Mar-a-Lago, Trump's oh-so-exclusive private club in Palm Beach, you'll put out 150 grand. And that doesn't even include the $9,200 annual dues. Trump snapped up the nearly 20 acres that were formerly home to cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, E.F. Hutton, in 1985, paying a mere $7 million for the 110,000-square-foot, 118-room estate and its contents. Locals feared he might do something vulgar, like divvying it up into smaller parcels or turning it into a casino. Instead, he plunked down another $2 million for a beach and created a haven for the ultrarich (and got an award last year from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County for restoring the property). If you're among them, you'll have access to an expanse of beach, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a spa. You'll also be expected to live up to the image of a contemporary Palm Beach aristocrat, as in driving the right vehicle (better yet, being driven in it), wearing the right clothes, eating the right food, shelling out for the right charities. The costs? Incalculable. The benefits? Priceless.

During our great nation's early history, as Europeans fought with the native people for control of precious land, the Seminole Indians of Florida established an alliance with escaped African slaves. They had a common enemy: angry ol' Mr. Whitey. But this alliance was by no means the strangest in the Seminoles' history. You can behold the strangest yourself when you look west from Interstate 95 as you pass the Stirling Road exit. That monstrous tower on the horizon, built through a partnership between the Seminoles and London's Hard Rock Cafe, is about as bizarre an alliance as you'll find. Still, the newly opened Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has quickly changed gambling in South Florida. A 130,000-square-foot facility open around the clock, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino features more than 2,000 money-thieving machines and 40 to 60 tables of poker offering such old standbys as Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold 'Em. What's more, this casino's location between the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood downtown areas should make this gleaming new popsicle stand one that Gen. Custer would have saluted.

Park space comes in a couple of distinct varieties. First, there are those swatches of jungle speckling the map; the old-growth, thousand-acre preserves that muffle the sounds of motors, block the views of buildings, and launch your thoughts out of this stultifying alleged civilization for a few hours. These parks are mistresses. The other main sort of park, the wife parks, are those that nestle into the cityscape like oases, as if air and grass and peace and physical joy belong in your average day. Count the 13-acre park that horseshoes around Lauderhill's City Hall and library among the latter category. After civic meetings, residents cross the parking lot to play cricket on the lighted field. Kids clog the basketball courts just steps away from the Boys & Girls Club. A waterfall rolls out of the back of City Hall into a small lake. Tennis and racquetball courts, a playground, and picnic pavilions -- all surround the most staid of civic strongholds, a bit of country in the city, freeing us even inside the grid. Readers' Choice: T.Y. Park, Quiet Waters Park (tie)
Twenty years ago, the only thing a park would need to keep the kids happy was a baseball field and a concession stand. Nowadays, parks need to offer traditional sports facilities, as well as something for youngsters into the Xtreme sports of skateboarding and rollerblading. Phipps Park caters to both crowds, offering a place where kids can slide into first base and slide down a handrail. The nearly 40-acre park features lighted baseball fields, a soccer field, a pavilion, a roller hockey rink, and the Sanctuary Skate Park. The skate park includes a miniramp, several quarter-pipes, and the usual assortment of street obstacles (fun box, manual box, pyramid). Sanctuary also has its own skate shop carrying all the latest products for skateboarders and in-line skaters. In addition to its existing facilities, Phipps Park plans to add a wet play area and plaza at the north end of the park. So, whether you're into fastballs or kickflips -- or just relaxing under a tree -- Phipps Park is a safe bet for some real fun in the sun. Readers' Choice: Spanish River
Too often, urban parks are built on unwanted or undevelopable land. Not this one. This 13-acre hideaway just west of downtown Fort Lauderdale existed as a three-hole (!) golf course from the early '50s until the early '70s, when the land was dredged for bedrock. Named in honor of one of Fort Lauderdale's first African-American cops (shot and killed on April 18, 1977) and next door to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, this modest park nestled in a sleepy crook of the New River is a little-known gem. A perfect spot for an outdoor lunch or early-morning bike ride on the path that circles the lake, the ideal time to visit is near sunset, when the new skyscrapers of downtown take on a deep orange glow and are reflected in the water.

What dummy thought of this category? Duh... the best picnic spot is from the lido deck of your yacht. What? You don't have one? Oh. Well, what shall we do about you then? Ah, here's a good one -- leave your car at Phil Foster Park beside the Blue Heron bridge that links Riviera Beach with Singer Island. Next, you'll still need use of a boat, but any kayak, rowboat, or even the water taxi will do ($5 a person). Cruise south, a mere couple of hundred feet across the Intracoastal Waterway, and hook up to one of Peanut Island's docks (free) or pull up on its beach (also free). This wee island is an unmatched spot for a picnic. It's got nature trails, showers, a pay phone, tent pads, picnic shelters, tables, charcoal grills, and a fire ring. And there's even a nuclear bomb shelter, which was built for part-time Palm Beacher John F. Kennedy during his presidency. Yes, the island has been undergoing a major face-lift, so there's a bit of lingering construction -- but most of that should be out of the way by summer. One thing to watch out for: sandbars during low tide. Ready, set, row! We'll wave at you from the yacht! Readers' Choice: T.Y. Park
Before the flaming Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy went on television and made being a metrosexual oh so cool, real men played pool in smoky bars with grimy tables and sticks as crooked as the bartender, whose scowl could melt the paint off a freshly pimped ride. But, alas, times have changed, and so have pool halls. Nothing represents this shift in the velvety felt better than the new Billiard Club at the Oasis at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise. Located on the second floor, the Billiard Club features 20 Brunswick Gold Crown regulation tables, a gourmet menu, and a full bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of Broward County's Mother of All Malls. And best yet, the sticks are as straight as the young cocktail waitresses who saunter gracefully between tables and cues, drink-laden trays in hand, dressed in miniskirts and black tuxedo shirts. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends (the Sunrise location opens at 5 p.m.). Table prices range from $10.50 to $15 per hour depending upon time and the number of players.

"Thank you for calling the Ground Swell Surf Report. Today is Saturday; the shop is open from 10 until 6 p.m. We have a great selection of sandals and boards inside the shop, the north county's friendliest store. Surf conditions at the Juno Pier at 6:45 a.m.: The wind is out of the northeast at about ten miles an hour. The surf is running at about thigh-high, and the wind is making for choppy but ridable conditions. Have a great day." No, it's not a robot making this recording, despite her totally predictable, totally reliable, totally-useful-bro surf report. It's shop owner Susan French, who does surfers a huge favor in the wee hours of every morning-- even on Saturdays and Sundays! That means that when you call, you know whether to jump out of bed and strap the boards to the roof or whether to roll over, wrap your arms around that furry thing you sleep with, and ride the waves back in dreamland.

And lo, unto the buffet didst thou go, and there ye did tarry amongst the starches and plentiful prime rib, sinking ever deeper into the iniquity of two dozen kinds of pies, taking into thy breast the butter-fried tilapia and candied pork. And then didst thy body protest against thy loin garment. And the heavens opened, and a voice commanded, "Get thee to a temple of weights." So moved by the words and thy greatness of girth didst thou wander into Faith Body Fitness for redemption. Then did ye casteth thine eyes upon the wall and readeth the holy motto from I Corinthians 6:19: "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" And thou cast down $350 for a one-year membership. And thy heart and soul and gut stood right with the Lord.

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