Best Rookie 2008 | Samson Satele, Miami Dolphins | Sports & Recreation | South Florida

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.

Throughout history and film noir archives, there are hundreds of creative ways to dispose of that most awkward bit of evidence, a body. Just as the Mob is synonymous with the cement-shoe swimming lesson, the Everglades drop-off is a South Florida staple. There are many more things you can do with dying flesh in a region with access to oceans, swamps, landfills, and Rush Limbaugh, but for the killer with pride — the kind who likes a trophy to show what a big man he is — there's only one place to go: Gray Taxidermy, the world's largest marine taxidermist. Just as Captain Bill Gray did more than 50 years ago, Gray's will turn your dead body into a work of art that you'll proudly prop up in any den, dining room, or dorm. Whether you killed a tiny, colorful character or a gigantic monster with man-eating jaws, Gray's will give you a reproduction that looks like it just came from the water. Note: For readers looking for the best way to dispose of a human body, the answer is definitely feeding it to Rush Limbaugh.

Some people want a yoga class that will make them sweat buckets or work their muscles so hard they'll be walking like a bowlegged cowboy all week. But if you're just looking to relax, mentally and physically, while getting a moderate workout, Yoga Warehouse has the formula. The yoga style is Hatha, which means there's emphasis on breathing exercises (that's pranayama to the yoga elites). The classes take place in an airy warehouse space that's cooled by fans. The vibe is friendly and intimate, with room for only about a dozen students. Most of the regulars are focused on enjoying the practice rather than showing off with complex strength postures and tortuous balancing poses. That is, until a train comes rumbling by on the tracks just outside.

If a middle initial in your name does, in fact, make you classier, Stanley C. Panther, the mascot for the Florida Panthers, is the classiest cat you'll ever meet. As he works the crowds at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise with his permanently wide eyes and frozen grin, he's the silent type. He lets his six-foot-six (on skates) frame, furry brown coat, and Panthers sweater do the talking for him. And whatever he's doing, it seems to be working at least a little bit: though the Panthers didn't make the playoffs, they were the only major pro franchise from South Florida that didn't finish dead last this year. Now Stanley opens up to New Times about what it's like to stalk the arena every night and his thoughts on the rough times sports fans have had recently.

NT: You're constantly interacting with South Florida sports fans; how would you describe them overall? 

South Florida sports fans are by far the best in the business!  I've visited many other cities in my travels and I can honestly say that no one holds a candle to our fans!  Though not all South Florida sports fans are native Floridians, it is quite comforting knowing that those who truly are diehard fans would stop at nothing to show their support.  As for the folks who put on that "other jersey" once or twice a year... no comment.

Do you have a favorite B-movie or horror movie or sci-fi flick? 

I must say that being from the Everglades, SuperCroc was quite the thriller! 

Do you have any guilty pleasure movies? 

The movie Zoolander never gets old... plus, I can relate to being "Really, really, ridiculously good-looking!" 

 And finally, Stanley, if you were to star in a B-movie, what would it be about, and what would it be called? 

It would probably be in the form of an independent documentary that chronicles my daily activity in a single week.  Due to my demanding work schedule, I would foresee it being a three-part series comparable to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, and The Godfather...only better.

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