South Florida’s Greatest Sports Weekend Ever?

Thanks to a pair of unlikely 8th seeds and the transformation of a cursed football stadium’s parking lot into a world-class race track, within a mere 24-mile radius this weekend South Florida will arguably see a confluence of big events for sports fans that are important enough to even impact the most casual of fans.  And, incredibly, it has not a thing to do with football.

There could not be two more different environments for arenas than the glitz and energy of downtown Miami and the suburban office charm of Sunrise.  Yet starting tomorrow afternoon, and continuing through Wednesday night, both the newly rebranded Kaseya Center and the dull-monickered FLALive Arena will each host two second round playoff games, one with a chance to actually close out an opponent with a miserable post-season track record, and the other having the chance to extract still more revenge for a series of losses in a once-hotter rivalry that arguably defined their earlier days.

Tomorrow afternoon, the New York Knicks and Miami Heat resume their series after a three-day layoff, even at a game apiece after Miami’s team effort win on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, despite missing their playoff hero Jimmy Butler.  As James Herbert of CBS reported yesterday, that may change:

Jimmy Butler will have had five full days off when the Miami Heat host the New York Knicks in Game 3 of their second-round series on Saturday. There is optimism that, by then, Butler will be healthy enough to return to the lineup, unless he has a setback, a source told the Miami Herald.

Butler sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s series-opening win at Madison Square Garden. He remained in the game but was clearly hobbled, then watched Miami’s Game 2 loss from the sideline. 

At practice on Thursday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra didn’t answer questions about Butler’s status. “He’s not limping too much and seems to be getting treatment around the clock,” forward Kevin Love said, via the Miami Herald. 

And the following night up in Broward County, the Panthers will continue their unlikely post-season run against the Toronto Maple Leafs, having gotten out of Canada last night with a second consecutive road win that, as any hockey playoff fan can assure you, is thanks to the most desired commodity this time of year–a hot goaltender.  As The Sun-Sentinel reported via The Associated Press this morning:

The Florida Panthers took advantage of crucial mistakes by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and now lead their second-round playoff series 2-0.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves and the Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Thursday night.

“Disappointing, baffling,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We didn’t make those mistakes one time in the last series.”

Anton Lundell had a goal and an assist, and Aleksander Barkov and Gustav Forsling also scored for Florida.

Yes, you read that right–the newspaper that actually SERVES Broward County didn’t even send one of their reporters on the road to cover a playoff game involving the team that plays in that county’s arena.  One can only hope they will spring for the parking to have them cover a home game.

And, appropriately both timewise and geographically in between those two venues, Miami will host its second consecutive Grand Prix, an imaginative Formula 1 event.  As SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Katy Fairman reported:

The Formula One circus is back stateside, as it visits Miami this weekend for an action-packed extravaganza. The inaugural event last year made headlines for its wild and wacky welcome to the sport, and 2023 looks to be no exception,(w)ith one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar and a U.S. driver finally on the grid after a seven-year wait.

Remember the name: Logan Sargeant. The 22-year-old is driving for the historic Williams team this weekend, marking the first American racing driver in Formula One since 2015. With such a huge growth of F1 fans spawning in the States—thanks to the great racing on track and series like Netflix’s Drive To Survive off track—Sargeant will be kept busy during his home race.

Although Formula 1 is hosting three races in the U.S. this year—Austin in October and a new race in Las Vegas ahead of Thanksgiving in November— this Miami event really is one that is close to home for Sargeant. Born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he grew up 20 minutes from the track in Miami.

Hey, you wanna bet he might make a showing at the Heat game?  Or the end of Sunday night’s Panthers game?  Were I working for them, I’d sure as heck have a police escort ready.

He can always go to either team Game 4s, Monday and Wednesday night, respectively.  Better yet, maybe their later round games, should they advance.

Fins Up?  Not now.  This Miami sports extravaganza is all about those other sports.   Savor it.



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