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."
Yeah, he took it easy after he kicked that ball into left field and dissed Freddy Gonzalez a little, but that can't offset the greatness of Hanley. Ultimately he apologized, and the team was better off for it. Can't a superstar get a diva moment once a season or so? Sure he can. And Ramirez is a superstar, one of those rare instant Hall of Famers that any fan is lucky to get a chance to watch on a nightly basis. How many guys in baseball might give you 200 hits, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 125 runs, and 50 stolen bases and hit better than .340? Only one — and his initials are H.R. (OK, he probably won't be getting 50 steals again, but he did it in '06.) Last year, he won the batting title and was the runner-up in MVP voting. Oh, and he plays a pretty mean shortstop. It's true he's gotten off to a slow start this year, but Hanley told us not to worry about him. I think we can handle that. (Runner-up: Josh Johnson, a guy who always reminds you why they call it the big leagues.)
The HRPC, hidden just off Stirling Road behind a chainlink fence, looks more like an old Moose Lodge than a modern gun club. The range is all outdoors, and there's no air conditioning. Shooters have to walk out to their targets, which are hoisted on poles affixed to old tires. The PA system is crackly, and the buildings look like they've been around for decades (they have). But what the place lacks in amenities it makes up for in character. Its members are a tight-knit group, just as likely to crack jokes with you as help you improve your aim. They hold friendly, competitive matches on most weekends, often culminating in a lunchtime barbecue and cookout complete with cold brews (no drinking on the range, though). And as far as heritage goes, the club has plenty. It's been around since 1935 and was once presided over by former Hollywood Commissioner and businessman Charles Barney Smith (for whom C.B. Smith Park is named). Even more telling, its last surviving original member, T.C. Rossman, passed away early this year. He was still shooting. It may not be the most state-of-the-art facility, but the HRPC is as much a part of South Florida history as a gun club can get.
Find the "start" sign and dash past the kids' playground, the families picnicking under the pavilions, and the young men playing basketball on the court. Fly past the quarter-mile marker, through the trees and manicured foliage. Pass the tennis lessons and benches and outdoor gym stations (chin-ups, anyone?). Gasping, you'll stumble upon the half-mile marker and jog past the gigantic amphitheater. Keep going, past the aquatic center and, surely, several groups of speed-walking women. The three-quarter mark looms ahead! Stagger past it and walk, panting deeply and limping painfully, back to the start sign. Congratulations! You ran a mile and were so busy observing all the other shit going on around Pompano Community Park that you didn't even have a heart attack! Now, collapse under a pavilion; maybe someone will offer you a hot dog.
If you think women can't play football, you've never seen Anonka Dixon. She's part owner of the Miami Fury, the 11-on-11 women's franchise, but it's as quarterback of the Miami Caliente, South Florida's lingerie football team, that she completely dominates. At 33 years old, Dixon is the best player in the Lingerie Football League. She led the LFL in every passing category and accounted for about 70 percent of Miami's touchdowns. With lightning speed; the ability to plant either foot, pivot, and reverse field in a blink; and a right arm that can launch a perfect spiral 60 yards, she's the female version of Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and the good parts of Michael Vick all rolled into one. (And yeah, she's also gorgeous.)
If you have a fenced-in patch of grass outside your house, you might talk yourself out of taking your dog Roscoe to the dog park. Grass here, grass there, you might say. As long as Roscoe still gets his play dates, everything's swell. Well, just try talking yourself out of taking the ol' best friend to Canine Beach, where Roscoe gets to cavort in the sand and swim in the ocean. The Intracoastal canal's not a comparable substitute, and those sprinklers on your front lawn? Not even close. Canine Beach is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 3 to 7 p.m. during the winter months and from 5 to 9 p.m. during summer. One weekend permit costs seven bucks per dog, but you can also pay an annual fee of $30 to $45. But remember, walking Roscoe along A1A any day of the week is free, and you shouldn't deprive him of the beach: He likes to lick the salt off his nose.
Paddle past the mangroves into the pull of a light breeze and enjoy the uninterrupted chorus of insects. No traffic, no sirens, not a condo in sight. It's so quiet, you can hear the gentle slap of water against the boat. Occasionally, a spindly legged egret appears on the shoreline or maybe a regal blue heron. You watch in awe as a swarm of fish leap from the water in a sparkling arc. You paddle on to Munyon Island, an untouched sanctuary in the middle of the lagoon. At low tide, you can nap on its tiny beach for hours. But you roust yourself in time to paddle back to the dock. You want to sunbathe on the park's blessedly tourist-free beach and watch the Atlantic Ocean crash on a shoreline that feels miles away from reality.