Best Roller Coaster 2005 | Dania Beach Hurricane | Sports | South Florida

You probably drive past it several times a week, the mass of intricately stacked wood rising ten stories in the air off I-95. From a distance, it looks as though it could be made with matchsticks, but it's actually built of roughly 1 million feet of pine and fir lumber. And when you get on top of that baby and ride, it's one heck of a 3,200-foot-long, two-minute thrill. Like all the best wooden coasters, you spend a good part of the ride suspended above your seat. It may be the only game in town, but it's got a bit of national clout. A group of roller-coaster enthusiasts gave it a ranking of 34th best "woodie" in the world out of 163 listed. And only four of those that ranked higher lie south of the Ohio River. We're no experts, but that sounds like it might be something a little special. Undoubtedly special is the price -- $10.60 for unlimited rides (and $6.25 for the fool who wants to ride only once). You need to ride it five times before you really get your fill. But if you take a kid with you, be prepared for the worst, because youngsters will go on the thing until they're ordered to the ground. A 9-year-old boy recently rode it 23 times straight, which isn't uncommon. But loosen up with the children -- it's a time that neither they, nor you, will soon forget.

Best Thing About the Panthers Lockout


The sheer duration of the National Hockey League lockout places it among the most baffling stoppages in the history of North American sports, and it may well signal hockey's withering into second-tier entertainment. Owners claimed players' salaries were devouring 75 percent of revenue; reckless expansion had diluted the league; with TV ratings down, ABC and NBC dumped their hockey coverage, and ESPN plans to relegate the sport solely to ESPN2. Quagmires rarely carry silver linings, but at least a belt-cinching labor agreement will probably extend the life of the 30-team league. Not only that but in the likely event that the owners impose a salary cap, "small market" teams such as the Panthers may be able to afford some formerly exorbitant talent. The Panthers' 2003-04 player payroll was in the bottom tenth of the league, and only one player, right wing Valeri Bure, was among the league's 100 best-paid. If big-market teams dump expensive free agents to avoid a luxury tax, the Panthers (and the Penguins, the Oilers, et al.) figure to be in terrific position to add discount stars. Assuming hockey survives its own self-righteous cannibalism -- and the Panthers cough up some cash -- look for South Florida to boast an NHL team more competitive than that of recent seasons.

A lot of factors go into judging a great golf hole: natural beauty, approach technique, and overall feeling come into consideration. But as most serious duffers would agree, the single most important factor is challenge. A great hole separates the weekend warriors from the hardcore linksmen, sending the former to the clubhouse whining and discouraged and the latter triumphant and even a little better as human beings. The 18th at Colony West -- recognized by the Florida State Golf Association to be the toughest and longest par 71 in Florida -- is such a hole. Lined with trees on either side of a narrow, right-doglegged fairway, with a water hazard about 300 yards from the tee, this par-four hole is all about the drive. If you lay up just before the water, you get a shot at making it to the green across the way in two and getting in at par. If you don't nail the drive just right, you're done for. Not for the faint of heart, Colony West's 18th hole is the perfect finisher for a uniquely challenging course.

You love your rugrats. They're funny, smart, cute, and they rarely vomit at the wrong time. Well, that doesn't mean you don't occasionally want to free yourself and your mate for a Saturday-night romp. Dancing, maybe. Or bowling. Or, hell, just sitting on a bus bench in peace for a few minutes and breathing deeply. Our suggestion: Try stowing the twerps aged 4 to 12 at the Art and Culture Center's parents' night out, which takes place the second Friday of every month and lasts from 6 to 10 p.m. It costs $15 per kid -- juice and pizza included. The babysitters, if you want to call them that, are generally experienced teachers, so your beloved little monsters will try all kinds of intellectually stimulating things. Among 'em: supervised arts and crafts, games, and even shows. And they'll do it in perhaps the coolest boutique arts mecca between Miami and Fort Lauderdale -- or maybe between Havana and New York. Parents should call in advance; spots are limited.

When Pat Riley stepped down as Miami Heat coach two years ago, he took a lot of flack for bailing out on the team. But the man with the best slicked-back hair in America had already lost face. Remember when he traded Jamal Mashburn to the Hornets in 2000 only to have the Monster Mash dominate the Heat in the first round of the following year's playoffs? It's hard to, uh, rebound from something like that. Riley, looking older by the day, stuck it out for another two tough years before handing the reins of the team over to Stan Van Gundy, from whom very little was expected. He was short, balding, and fat -- the George Costanza of coaching. But Van Gundy, with his self-effacing humor and oven-fresh attitude, shocked the world in his first season, leading the Heat to the second round of the playoffs with the help of his sensational rookie, Dwyane Wade. This season, however, presented an even more daunting -- if enviable -- challenge: To integrate Shaquille O'Neal into the team and bring it to championship level. Van Gundy answered that call with pitch-perfect tone and a beautiful strategy, Diesel Power, which features Shaq's passing talents rather than his scoring ability. By giving Shaq a central role in the half-court offense, every player has been able to profit from Shaq's presence, from Udonis Haslem to Christian Laettner. And it has proven that Van Gundy is master of his domain.

Surely you've seen him. That guy, dressed in camouflage pants and combat boots who's doing squats on Fort Lauderdale Beach with a bunch of sweaty "recruits" in tow? That's the 53-year-old Health Colonel, a.k.a. retired Army Col. Bob Weinstein. Never have we met a man so in love with exercise. When he lets his students take a break from doing 100 pushups or lunging down the sand in a maneuver called the "Death Walk," he says, "Go get some water." But if they linger too long, he faux-barks, "This isn't happy hour!" before breaking into a grin and saying, "Oh wait... yes it is! It's always a happy hour when we are making our bodies healthy!" On his website,, the colonel writes about his quest to "fight the enemy soldiers on American soil" -- like heart disease and obesity. But on the beach on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, he doles out inspirational quotes, dispenses advice to the lovelorn, and leaves his troops laughing -- and buff.

One columnist wrote that Saban has gone entire seasons without cracking a smile. He's serious, cheerless, and dull as a two-yard gain up the middle. He's so secretive that some around the Dolphins camp have already started calling him "Double-O Saban." Maybe his family and close friends know the real Saban, but we doubt it. He's an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a covert playbook. One thing about the new Fins coach, however, is utterly transparent: He knows how to win. During the past decade, he made big winners out of Michigan State and LSU, which were both struggling mightily when he came on board. And he's got a delicious NFL pedigree, having served as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns under the brilliant Bill Belichick. No one can really know how well the Dolphins will do this year, but we're gambling that they'll come out strong. Even if Saban looks like he's attending a funeral every Sunday, the fans definitely have something to smile about.

Shaquille O'Neal is the most powerful force in basketball. The Heat got him from the Lakers and turned in one of the best regular seasons in basketball. 'Nuff said. But the trade wasn't really between the Heat and the Lakers but where the real competition lies -- between California and Florida. For years, each region has been trying to establish itself as the news -- and weirdness -- capital of the world. They had O.J.; we had Elian. They gave the country Ronald Reagan; we gave it the 2000 election. They have the Governator; we have Brother Bush. They've got earthquakes; we have hurricanes. L.A. has the Sunset Strip; SoFla has South Beach. It's inarguable, however, that Cali has taken the lead of late, with the help of that little rascal, Robert Blake, and the Laci Peterson murder. Then the King of Weirdness himself, Michael Jackson, completely stole the show. But just as it looked like South Florida would fall by the wayside, Terry Schiavo stepped up and carried the banner. Go Heat. Best Boxer in Broward

Quiles is in this spot not because he killed a man with his fists, which he did. He is here because he didn't let that horror stop him. It was February 28 last year when Quiles won a 12-round decision over Luis Villalta in Coconut Creek. Villalta went to his dressing room, complained of a headache, and collapsed. He spent four days in a coma and died five hours after his wife and father arrived from Peru. He was 34, the same age as Quiles, and, like Quiles, had two sons. Quiles cried. Drank. Prayed. Nearly retired. Took him two months to return to his Hollywood gym, Warrior's Boxing. But the sport had pulled him from a life of drug and alcohol addiction a decade earlier, and it helped to save him again. Five months after Villalta fell, Quiles returned to the ring, saying, "I don't think I will ever get over it." He won that night. He entered his next bout, in February, as an underdog to a fighter 12 years his junior. Quiles won a split decision. "This has got me closer to myself," he told the Miami Herald after the victory. That fight made Quiles (37-6-3) the second-ranked lightweight in the International Boxing Federation and, further, the rare athlete to recover from a devastating win.

To be a great collegiate volleyball player, you don't have to be the scion of an Olympic high jumper and a decathlete, nor for that matter must you spend a childhood playing eight hours of tennis daily at a specialized sports school in Eastern Europe -- but it apparently doesn't hurt. You can imagine Coral Springs High School coach Frank Bumbales' initial thought when he discovered Andonova, noticing her now six-foot-one frame in summer school: So very tall... Through an interpreter, he asked the Bulgarian-born teen to play volleyball, and to the enduring good fortune of Coral Springs and subsequently Florida Atlantic, she assented. In her first year at FAU, the middle blocker was named Atlantic Sun Conference freshman of the year; the next season, she was first-team all-conference; last year, the 22-year-old junior was named conference player of the year as she led the squad to a 21-7 record and a conference title -- its best season ever at the Division I level. The nation's volleyball coaches even made her an honorable mention All-America. Which, come to think of it, is probably the dream of most little girls playing tennis in Bulgaria.

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