As the reigning WBA/WBC cruiserweight champion, O'Neil "The Supernova " Bell is the hottest commodity in Seminole Warriors Boxing, a promotions firm based in Hollywood. And Hollywood's Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has been the site of some of Bell's defining moments as a professional: a 12th-round knockout against Dale Brown and an 11th-round knockout against Sebastian Rothman, both in 2005. Those two matches were preludes for the legendary battle Bell waged in January 2006 against Frenchman Jean-Marc Mormeck in Madison Square Garden — a tenth-round knockout for Bell. The two have a rematch scheduled for early March in Paris, though it's in flux since Bell's arrest in February on charges he threw a hatchet at his training partner — an incident that suggests Bell has taken his Seminole Warrior association a bit too literally. Still, there's no questioning the native Jamaican's toughness. Keep an eye on Bell as he mulls adding weight for a run at the heavyweight title.
Panthers fans will probably tell you that the best Panthers player is, uh, on another team right now. Management has a nasty habit of trading beloved players (Roberto Luongo, anyone?) for unremarkable ones (we won't name names). Now, after seven seasons without a playoff game in sight, fans — and the athletes themselves — are tired of all those marks in the L column. By the end of this season, even the usually unflappable Olli Jokinen was expressing frustration and otherwise-promising powerhouse Nathan Horton was playing like he was asleep. But there on the ice, behind the blue line, stood the team's secret weapon on blades: Jay Bouwmeester. The notoriously shy 23-year-old defenseman speaks so softly in interviews that he can barely be heard. But his eyes? Intense. His feel for the game? Intuitive. His skating? Wicked fast. That's why he was the third pick in the 2002 entry draft, why he played on the Olympic team (for Canada), and why he made the All-Star team this year. By all accounts, JayBo is a smart, agile, well-rounded player who's just coming into his prime. And best of all is his contract — he's ours until at least 2009.
No one at Dania Jai-Alai wins as much or finishes in the money or produces as many highlight reel plays as Arriaga Andoni Echaniz. A native of Markina, Spain, the 32-year-old Echaniz has no peer in the jai-alai frontcourt. That position calls for lightning-quick reflexes and swift lateral movement — Echaniz has those, in addition to a crowd-pleasing habit of colliding with walls in his pursuit of a point. In his player profile, Echaniz claims a weakness for plays to his left, as well as for the occasional cigarette. But it doesn't seem to slow him down. So on your next trip to the Dania Jai-Alai, skip the slots. The smart money is on Echaniz.
So what is it that Pat Riley has for short, chubby, bald sidekicks? First, he had Stan Van Gundy, who might have been hopping barrels in a game of Donkey Kong rather than coaching an NBA team of giants. Now there's Ron Rothstein at Riley's side. Neither man looked all that impressive or had a stellar rise in the game. Yet both men proved formidable. Van Gundy was an able — and animated — head coach, leading what was a listless squad under Riley to the playoffs before he was fired. (Oh c'mon, you don't actually believe he voluntarily stepped down so he could spend every day with his kids do you? Puh-lease). This season, Riley stepped away from the team again as it struggled, leaving it in the hands of Rothstein, who immediately proved himself a worthy head coach during a Shaq-less seven-win stint. As if the roundball gods were out to punish Riley for his fickle comings-and-goings, Dwyane Wade suffered a serious shoulder injury on the day the former Showtime coach returned, hurting the Heat's hopes of repeating as champions. For his brief but impressive run as coach, we honor Rothstein as coach of the year. What, you thought we were going to give it to Nick Saban?
Back in March, the Heat coach decided to break his longstanding silence on political issues. It was a move most of us have since come to regret. On the Iraq War, he said, "When you're in a fight, you just can't blame. You've just got to win the fight and then figure it out. We've got guys over there that are fighting this war for us, and we're over here arguing about it." Uh, yeah, Pat, that's kind of what we do here in America. It's called democracy. "Win the fight and then figure it out"? Dude has obviously been playing the role of hardwood dictator for too long. Unfortunately, he kept going: "I've never taken any kind of a real stance, ever. I have my beliefs and the way I am. I'm very proud, so much, to be an American. I am pro-government, OK?" You know that part about never taking a "real stance," coach? Stick with that from now on.
Most of us moved to Florida for the sun-drenched coast, but then, paradoxically, never actually go to it. "I don't have any quarters for the meter," we say. "Ugh. Can't deal with traffic on 595." "Bed, Bath, & Beyond is having a sale! It's air-conditioned in there!" Think swimming, scuba diving, sand castles, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, sunrises, sunsets, starry nights, sea turtles, and simple seaside strolls — and those are just the S's! Do you see where we're going with this? Add Broward County's 24 miles of coastline to Palm Beach's 45 and you have a playground that's not only honking big but free! I can't speak for you, but I sure feel lucky.
All beaches are not created equal. Some are lonely; others are crowded. Deerfield Beach splits the difference. Where A1A makes a pretty little S-turn just where it meets Hillsboro Boulevard, some lovely establishments have nestled into this cozy curve along the ocean. The setup offers not only the holy triumvirate of surf, sand, and sexy people but also stuff to do besides swimming. You Ôll find a pier that's perfect for fishing and a red brick path that's kind to bare feet. The athletically inclined can enjoy permanent volleyball nets or take free surfing lessons every Saturday morning (courtesy of Island Water Sports) while the alcoholically inclined can barhop at a cluster of watering holes. Boutiques and restaurants line the strip, and a new parking garage (finally!) alleviates the jockeying for spots that drove drivers insane in the past. Deerfield is pretty, clean, safe, and most important, happy-feeling. Did we mention they sell gelato in the post office?
The best beaches have a split personality: wholesome family fun center by day, make-out/skinny-dip destination after dark. The prior requires cheap and copious parking with a choice of nearby casual dining. The latter requires soft sand, a somewhat deserted feel, lax law enforcement, and a bit of natural lighting to deflect the crazies. Delray Municipal Beach has it all and then some. It's lined by a romantic cluster of trees and shrubbery that horny couples must pass under to reach the beach. The twilight quietude is only occasionally interrupted by some drunken karaoker at Boston's on the Beach, which is not at all reminiscent of the rockin' daytime performances on Saturdays and Sundays. Those factors, on top of the warm water (heated by the Gulf Stream current) and the varied water activities (kite-boarding, swimming, surfing, volleyball, sailing, wind surfing, snorkeling, kite flying, Frisbee, and paddleball) convinced Travel Holiday magazine to rate Delray Municipal Beach in the top 35 public beaches in the southeastern United States a while back. But we prefer it for the face-sucking.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park
JDMB bills itself as an "island in time," and that's not a vacant marketing slogan. Where else in South Florida are you going to find a two-mile expanse of beach with no condos on it? With 438 acres of protected wildlife refuge? With a beach that's wider than a football field is long and sans those neon-lit seawalls? JDMB gets even better once you go underwater, where snorkelers can see barracudas, nurse sharks, sea turtles, Florida lobsters, and sea anemones that are all attracted to the limestone rock reefs that pepper this throwback of a beach. And just like the old days, the hours are long (8 a.m. till sundown) and the admission fee is small (a measly $4 to park). The only problem: Every other snorkeler in the area knows about this place too. But if you can get away during a weekday, you'll have this huge underwater menagerie all to yourself.
A couple of years ago, during a surf contest on Lake Worth Beach, a local surfer — who wasn't in the contest — took major offense at being asked to move out of the break so contestants could get some waves. In utter defiance of the golden rule of surfing, he dropped in on the same wave that a contestant was already surfing — and the two started throwing punches as they rode. Spectators' reaction was, "Well, the localism isn't as bad as it used to be." In the '70s and '80s, cars would get keyed and faces punched. But because this is one of the few public-access points in mansioned-out Palm Beach County, the turf (and surf) almost begs to be protected. Although the south side of the pier doesn't quite look like Pipeline, double-overhead swells sometimes make their way through, and even on normal, smaller days, waves are about as consistent as they get in South Florida. The beach offers cheap restaurants and colorful people, and a lifeguard and a sandy bottom (as opposed to a reef break) make this a good learning spot for beginners. The downside? Crowds. But these days, the worst you'll get from the old-timers is a condescending stare.

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