Sports & Recreation - Staff Picks
Published: July 18, 2012
Best one foot in, one foot out
The headlines spattered out like the promo reel of a soap opera drama: Dwight Howard seeks trade; Howard loves Orlando, says he'll stay; Howard calls for Stan Van Gundy firing; Howard's loyalty questioned. And then after the months-long saga, Howard winds up benched with a season-ending back injury (yippee!). In the end, our city's most fair-weathered player stays (for now), but Van Gundy's out and the Orlando Magic is left picking up the pieces. These are the days of our lives.
Best jet-set weekend
NBA All-Star Game
Our city's duties hosting the 2012 NBA All-Star Game went beyond just the courtside amusements. A cluster of A-list celebrities – Kevin Hart, Floyd Mayweather, Diddy, among others – descended on Orlando's hottest nightlife spots to throw red-carpet cocktail soirees, high-end comedy showcases and DJ club parties. After all of the lockout back-and-forth this season, this year's All-Star weekend proved to be a huge boost for not only the NBA, but also for the city of Orlando.
Best football game where halftime is the main event
Each year for nearly 35 years, thousands of fans have gathered at the Florida Citrus Bowl for this annual college-football showdown between Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M. Some fans attend for the game-time action, some only go to experience the renowned halftime marching-band spectacle. So the immeasurably dark shadow cast over this Central Florida tradition, after last year's post-game hazing death of FAMU's Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion, pains us. Florida A&M's marching band has been suspended for the year as a result of band member's actions that may have caused Champion's death, so it might be a while before the Classic is restored to its former glory – when it is, we hope the school's band has cleaned up its act and can remind us why it is that we really love the Classic.
Best attempt to keep fans occupied during the NBA lockout
Tampa Bay Lightning play at Amway Center
There was a time early last fall when Orlando Magic fans twiddled their thumbs while they waited for the end of the drawn-out NBA lockout. In an effort to curb fans' jock itch (and supposedly broaden the hockey fan base), the city invited the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Amway Center for an icy bout with the St. Louis Blues. The arena's inability to execute an appropriate rink floor (a giant hole opened up during the game), plus the Lightning's slow-pace (and losing) efforts disappointed fans craving a basketball bounce-back.
Best game-time decision
Orlando Predators season opener strike
Labor negotiations had plagued the Arena Football League for months leading up to the season opener scheduled at Amway Center in March. The players union demanded a salary bump, and on game day the Preds' players threatened an on-field strike. Within two hours of game time, the league fired the entire rosters of both the Orlando Predators and visiting opponents Pittsburgh Power. (They were notified during their pre-game meal.) Replacement players (including former UCF quarterback Kyle Israel) took to the field that night and the game ended in a 40-26 Predators loss.