Best Place to Spend a Rainy Day 2008 | Reball Madness | Sports & Recreation | South Florida

All you hear is the constant barrage of gunfire. All you see is insurgents. Their faces are covered with handkerchiefs; their hands clutch black rifles; ammo is stashed on their belts. Reball Madness looks a lot like Iraq... if Iraq featured a snack bar that sold Hot Pockets. Inside this massive warehouse, opposing teams shoot reballs — like paintballs that don't break and splatter — at each other while trying to avoid gunfire by sliding on squishy green turf and hiding behind inflatable pyramids. Referees keep an eye out for fairness and safety, so you get all the adrenaline-pumping excitement of battle without any of the pesky death and destruction. Awesome! Reball is perhaps most challenging during a game of Battle Ball, when there's a mission that needs to be accomplished — say, one team has to move "the President" to safety. For this, organizers will set up gunner forts and wooden barricades and even unleash fog in the room. (I know! We said it was awesome!) Although reball, at $45 for a four-hour session, works out to be cheaper than paintball, a word to the uninitiated: getting hit hurts just as much!

There are poker rooms all over South Florida where wannabes can grind out flops, rivers, and turns as the hold 'em craze spreads to all walks of life. But one casino beats the others like Johnny Chan beats the donkeys who believe a chip and a chair are all they need to be the next World Series champ. Pompano Park is just a nice place to sit and gamble all day. It has comforting wooden walls that make it seem more like a captain's lounge than a poker room, large televisions playing every sport on earth, and top-shelf drinks available from a bar that could stand on its own merits. The food is good, the dealers and most players are friendly, and there are attractive young ladies in red jerseys who will massage your back for luck.

Think fast: Who was the only Apostle to die a natural death? Antifreeze often contains what common food item? Which popular facial fashion accessory in the 18th century was made out of mouse hair? If you answered John, honey, and false eyebrows, in that order, you could probably clean up at "pub quiz," a quaint British tradition that involves booze and general knowledge questions and perhaps a round of "name that tune." Every third Sunday of each month, shortly after 7:30 p.m., the tiny King's Head Pub in Sunrise hosts a brilliant pub quiz. A saucy Brit named Neil reads the questions, and he's even kind enough to repeat them. Teams are limited to five people (and text messaging for help is NOT allowed). There's space for about a dozen teams. Grab your favorite science geek, newshound, sports addict, and pop culture maven and go early to stake out a spot. Winners get a $100 tab good for drinks or food.

It wasn't just a bad year for the Miami Dolphins, it was the worst in the storied franchise's history. Although every pro sports team in South Florida had a bad year (all but the Panthers finished dead last), no team was as pathetic as the lowly Fins at 1-15 with their only win coming at home in overtime against the almost-as-bad Baltimore Ravens. The two highest-profile rookies, quarterback John Beck and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., had more blooper-reel moments than breakthroughs, but the draft class of 2007 was not a complete waste. Center Samson Satele, from the University of Hawaii, was one of the team's silent stars. He became the first rookie in team history to start every game at center, and before running back Ronnie Brown went out for the year with a knee injury, the team was having some success running behind Satele's flowing dark locks. The Dolphins may not make a huge turnaround this year — they still have to play the Patriots twice every season — but at least they have a solid center to build around. Now if only he had someone to snap the ball to.

For fans of marksmanship, the right gun range is a necessity. We've all been through this: You're new to town, or to firearms, so you pop into a local range. What you expect to find is a friendly dude who wants to take your cash in exchange for lane rental. What you actually find is painfully snarky, buy-a-gun-here-or-we-don't-care-about-you attitude. Well, those days are over. For purists, stepping foot into a corporate range feels wrong. At first. But take a private lesson at the Bass Pro Shop's Redhead Range and you'll be a changed soul. In addition to being refreshingly friendly, their shooting staff is outsourced, so they don't care if you buy a gun on location or not. They just want to correct everything from your breathing to your posture by the time you leave. Also, as long as you bring factory-issue ammo (no re-loaded or steel core/steel case) you don't have to purchase your bullets on site. (Plus it's really fun to use their digital target distance devices — you feel terribly high tech.) Maybe best of all, Bass wasn't grandfathered in under old codes like most neighborhood ranges in Florida, so they have a top notch ventilation system; you'll breath easier knowing that lead and other ammo byproducts stay at the range when you leave. And if you're not in the mood for your pistol or rifle — bring your own weapon, there are no rentals — you can try your luck at archery in the fully automated bow and arrow room. Competitive lane pricing ($10) and inexpensive eye/ear protection ($1, or bring your own) top off this joint's credentials; what keeps us going back is the friendly staff.

Amidst all the embarrassment and frustration that Dolphins fans felt in 2007, no individual was a bigger letdown than Joey Porter. He came to town with a mean snarl and a Super Bowl ring that he won with the Steelers. It cost the Dolphins $32 million to snag the loud-talking linebacker after Pittsburgh cut him, but it sounded great in theory: bring in a dominant outside force to line up opposite Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor. Well, lots of things are good in theory and end with good people getting ripped off; see Reaganomics. Porter was like that, and the Dolphins defense ended up abhorrent despite the work of Taylor. And Porter was involved in a few off-the-field controversies: he jumped a Bengals lineman at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, he passed out offensive slurs like Christmas cards, and his pit bulls got loose and killed a horse. Still, Miami fans could have lived with all that if he'd just helped the team win.

He's a legend — and a loser. Subtract the championship year, when he took over the Heat from Stan Van Gundy, and Pat Riley has had an atrocious decade. Subtract Dwyane Wade's heroics in 2006 and Riley hasn't won a playoff series in this century. He's coached some of the best players the world has seen, yet he makes amateurish personnel decisions (Ricky Davis? Jason Williams? Are you kidding?). With all his early success with the Lakers, Riley earned the right to relax, yet he seemed to get tenser each season. And with good reason: This year he managed to put one of the worst teams in league history on the floor. It was so bad that he fired himself (for the second time). Yet even as he showed his flaws as a coach, he earned our respect. Night after night he was courtside coaching his terrible team like the playoffs were at stake. He went down with the sinking ship. And for that we give a tip of the hat to a man we'll never quite understand.

Its coaching ranks are loaded with former college players, and the games can be as intense as anything you'll see on Sunday television. The American Youth Football League has 14 traveling teams and hundreds of players in seven age and weight groups, ranging from 75-pound peewees to high-school-aged unlimiteds. And since it's in South Florida, which produces a ton of gridiron talent, it's got some of the best youth football in the country. You think Little League baseball is exciting? Please. AYFL kids work twice as hard, and so do the coaches and parents. Football moms (and dads) put their more publicized counterparts on the soccer field to shame — and it shows at Saturday game time.

Before you moved to Florida, you caressed travel guides. They showed exotic, beachside locales with magical tiki bars and plush lounge chairs. There were waterfalls pouring into swimming pools and legions of non-opinionated cocktail waitresses just waiting to bring the imaginary you another splendid blended concoction. So you moved here. Then you found out that those picturesque brochures were just bait. Being a resident doesn't give you the privilege to hop into those multi-million dollar resort settings; you're supposed to use the city pool, just like you did back home in Scranton. Phooey on that. Now we at New Times don't support trespassing, breaking and entering, or any other form of illegal act. But if you happen to stay at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and then lose your room key, we suggest that you enter its luscious pool paradise from the beach entrance. And tell folks who ask that you've just arrived from a city with a familiar but boring-sounding name, like Des Moines. Nobody wants to pester people from Des Moines with questions. They are certain that you have it hard enough already. This frees you up to explore the best celebrity-grade amenities in Broward and Palm Beach, like the 8,000-square-foot tropical lagoon pool — you can't miss it, it's conveniently situated between the waterfall and the open-air bar. Stake a claim on any of the ultra-squishy, sun-worship-worthy lounge chairs while you flag down a waitress. (Insist on paying cash and tip generously.) And when you're ready for a change of scenery, tuck yourself away in one of the many secluded Jacuzzi oases, make friends with folks who rented a private cabana, or grab a snack from the upscale cafeteria. Finally, you're living the Florida dream.

Shaq had a decent run in Miami. It was just a bit longer than it should have been. The guy generally played half the season and didn't exactly shine come playoff time, but he brought victories with him and the Heat might not have won a crown without him. Still, by the end of last season, when the Chicago Bulls crushed the Heat in the opening round of the playoffs, it was obvious that Shaq wasn't the team's future anymore, and certainly wasn't worth his $20 million-plus salary. Ideally, Pat Riley would have unloaded the big fella and started rebuilding afresh this year, but instead Riley waited until midseason, when all was already lost, to send the Diesel to Phoenix for Shawn Marion. Better late than never, though. At least now the team is looking at a lottery draft pick — start praying for Michael Beasley — and some salary cap space to help it get out of the gutter.

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