For every rose, there’s a thorn. For every rainbow, a rain cloud. For every beautiful, gleaming pearl, there’s a big, ugly clam that you have to dig it out of. And so on and so forth.
The fact of the matter is, it takes all facets of life to make the world go round. In this newest installment of Heroes and Villains, we take a specific look at the great state of Florida, and 15 of the things that make it awesome. And, well, not so awesome.
#1 | HERO: Alligators
The official state reptile, these oversized prehistoric lizards are as authentically Florida as orange juice and sabal palms. More importantly, though, they’re frequently the subject of national news headlines for doing awesome things like chasing down camera-wielding tourists. Well done guys, keep it up.
They say that if a nuclear war were ever to obliterate planet earth, cockroaches would be the only things to survive. Impressive, but what they don’t say is that cockroaches are the foul, terrifying, arthropodic representations of death himself. There’s just something about these hideous creatures, with their quick movements, spiky legs, and satanic little antennas, that send a chill straight down your spine.
#2 | HERO: Ernest Hemingway
Key West in the late 1920’s was not the quaint, iconic, travel-friendly tourist destination that it is today. Back then, it was a poor, sleepy, end-of-the-road town far from the radar of the rich and famous. Which makes it all the more awesome that an A-lister like Hemingway would choose to call it home. Really speaks to the man he was.
VILLAIN: Hamilton Disston
Another famous historical figure, Hamilton Disston was a 19th century real estate tycoon who was more or less single handedly responsible for the environmental destruction of the Everglades. In order to develop vast tracts of land, he cut off the natural flow of fresh water north of Lake Okeechobee, thereby suffocating the massive river of grass that made up the south Florida marsh system. Our pick for environmental Villain of the Century.
#3 | HERO: Orange juice
What’s better than a bowl of oatmeal and an ice cold glass of fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice to start your morning off right? Perhaps other than adding a splash or two of vodka? Nothing, really.
VILLAIN: Grapefruit juice
A lot of people love the horribly bitter tang of grapefruits and grapefruit juice. Those people, god love them, have got something wrong with their taste buds. If you’ve never tried a grapefruit, don’t. It’s like eating a dandelion.
#4 | HERO: Tim Tebow
Last we heard, big Tim Tebow was cranking home runs for a semi-pro baseball team up in South Carolina or some place. Good for him, but to us, he’ll always be remembered as the unstoppable, Heisman Trophy-winning Florida Gators quarterback who led his team to two National Championship titles. So what if he didn’t quite hack it in the NFL? He’ll always be a Florida hero in our book.
VILLAIN: Fred Durst
It recently came to our attention that Fred spent a good portion of his pre-rock/rap superstar life as a tattoo artist in Jacksonville. Fair enough, but when you’re claim to fame is screaming into a microphone that you “did it all for the nookie,” you just tend to kind of naturally end up on the villain’s list.
#5 | HERO: Charlie Crist
Politics aside, ex-governor Charlie Crist earns a spot on our list of Florida heros strictly out of respect for his impossibly glorious tan. That, and I also shared an elevator with him once at a restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg, and he was really, really nice.
VILLAIN: Rick Scott
Again, all politics aside, current Florida governor Rick Scott earns a spot on our list of villains because, well, we kind of think he might be an alien.
#6 | HERO: Florida Panther
Florida’s official state animal has long been suffering on the unfortunate brink of extinction, due mostly to habitat loss and the environmental decline of the Florida Everglades. However, the beautiful, imperious big cats continue to show off astounding resiliency year after year and an undying ability to survive and endure, against all odds. A Floridian hero, always and forever.
VILLAIN: Fruit Rats
Meanwhile, these disgusting creatures are hideous beasts that certainly must have been the result of some sort of evolutionary malfunction. They like to hang around citrus groves and pick off rotting grapefruits and what not that fall to the ground, and I swear I’ve seen some as big as Golden Retrievers. Truly the stuff of nightmares.
#7 | HERO: Tampa Bay Lightning (and the Florida Panthers)
While we’re admittedly not too knowledgeable on anything hockey-related, other than the fact that guys apparently get hit in the teeth a lot, the idea that the sunny state of Florida has not just one, but two professional ice hockey teams, is enough to merit hero status for us. Well done, guys. Well done.
VILLAIN: Miami Heat
Don’t get us wrong, we like Lebron James. But when an NBA franchise buys three of the biggest stars in the game as a smash-and-grab job to try and nab a couple titles, it doesn’t exactly go over well with the neutral sports fan. Not to mention, are we the only ones who think of some weird religious cult when all those fans show up to Heat Arena wearing white t-shirts? Let’s just hope Pat Riley doesn’t bring the Kool-Aid…
#8 | HERO: Hooters
If you’re a sports-loving jock who enjoys being served beer and hot wings by a busty, bubbly, bosomy staff of scantily-clad female waitresses, then Hooters – the pride and joy of Clearwater, Florida – earns a well-deserved spot on your list of Sunshine State heros.
If you’re not a beer-guzzling, sports-loving jock, however, then Hooters probably deserves a spot on your list of Florida villains for its chauvinistic exploitation of the busty, bubbly, bosomy staff of scantily-clad female waitresses.
#9 | HERO: Manny Puig
Born in Cuba, Manny Puig has become a south Florida legend for incredible things like wrestling alligators, manhandling 400 lb goliath groupers, and riding sharks. Sheesh, he would’ve made our list of heroes just off the quality of his hair, beard and suntan alone.
VILLAIN: This guy
Just, just, click the link.
#10 | HERO: Miami
Miami has got a lot of things going for it: Don Johnson, Pitbull, Cuban sandwiches, Dan Marino, the Marlins, etc. Our favorite thing, though, is the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to build a sprawling metropolis on a spit of sand just a few inches above sea level. They do say, I suppose, that courage lies on the threshold of stupidity. Let’s just hope the scientists aren’t right.
VILLAIN: Miami Beach
Like the city of Miami itself, South Beach has also got a lot of cool things going for it: beautiful sand, warm, clear water, nice dance clubs, etc. However, it’s perhaps second only to Huntington Beach in terms of the wackadoos that choose to call it home. Like this guy.
#11 | HERO: Disney World
What can be said about Orlando’s Walt Disney World that everyone doesn’t already know? While we’re not particularly crazy about theme parks ourselves, apparently half of the planet comes here on vacation already (judging by the traffic on I-4), so it must have something pretty good going for it.
VILLAIN: Spook Hill
On the other side of the spectrum from Walt Disney World is Spook Hill: a D-list tourist attraction in Lake Wales where, apparently, if you park your car at the bottom of a small hill and take it out of gear, it’ll start rolling up the hill all on its own. Right…
#12 | HERO: Keys deer
The highly endangered Keys deer are a dwarf sub-species of the common whitetail deer, that live exclusive in the Florida Keys. They’re tiny, adorable little things that are about as heart-warming as a herd of real life Bambi’s.
Giant pythons, on the other hand, are an introduced species that seem to be spreading like wildfire across south Florida. Apparently a couple of jerks released a few a long time ago down in the Everglades, and they’ve since made it their home, snacking on things like ducks, wild pigs, and full-sized alligators.
#13 | HERO: Kelly Slater
If you’ve (somehow) never heard of him, Cocoa Beach’s Kelly Slater is pretty much the Michael Jordan of surfing, having won 11 world titles and virtually dominated the sport since the early 1990’s. In addition, of course, to starring on Baywatch and dating the likes of Pamela Anderson, Bar Refaeli, and Gisele Bundchen.
VILLAIN: Hulk Hogan
Tampa Bay’s Hulk Hogan used to be cool. I used to pick him all the time on my Sega’s WWF Super Wrestlemania video game back when I was like nine years old. Nowadays, though, it seems all you hear about him is stuff regarding bankruptcy, sex tapes, and defamation lawsuits. Not cool, Hulk.
#14 | HERO: Wade Boggs
Apart from being a hall of famer with a lifetime batting average of .328 (and one of only 30 players to ever reach 3,000 hits), legend has it that Tampa’s Wade Boggs once drank 107 beers in a single day while on a cross-country road trip with the Yankees. A true legend, if there ever was such a thing.
VILLAIN: Jose Canseco
Oh, Jose… where did it all go wrong? We wanted to put the Miami/Cuba native on our list of Floridian heros for that one time he tried to catch a fly ball and it bounced off his head and went over the fence for a home run, but then we decided that the disappointing scandals and steroid allegations were reason enough to land him on our villains list. We still love you though, Parkway Joe.
#15 | HERO: St. Augustine
A lovely, quaint, truly charming town on Florida’s central Atlantic coast that boasts the impressive status as the oldest city in America, founded by Spanish explorers back in 1565. A real Florida gem, and a must-see destination for any would-be visitor.
There’s just something about the inland, Lake County town of Clermont that resonates an impression of gloom and desperation. Even when you say it, it just kind of innately comes off your tongue with a ring of despair. It is home to one of Florida’s highest points above sea level in Sugarloaf Mountain, though, (at a whopping 312 ft), so there’s always that, I guess.