GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1. Happy new month, all! 2) In The Previous Blogpost: All-Star Games poll, Marino's Super Bowl ad, running as unhealthy obsession, bad week for '72 Dolphins & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Periscope.
Super Bowl With a Smirk on the way: Super Bowl With a Smirk is our annual SB Week daily notes column looking at the lighter side of the big event. In other words we make fun of as much as we can. Smirk debuts online later today and in Tuesday's paper.
SUPER BOWL WEEK PRIMER: THE STORIES YOU'LL BE SICK OF IF YOU AREN'T ALREADY: The Super Bowl is in six days. Are you sick of it yet? My theory: The main reason America loves the arrival of Super Bowl Sunday is that it marks the blessed end of the ponderous buildup, the two weeks of brain-numbing preamble during which Your Friend The Media masticates every possible angle and theme. So I am here to bemoan that excess by contributing to it! Here is your Super Bowl primer, the storylines that will be beaten to pulp as the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and national sports media descend locust-like upon Santa Clara, California. There are a bunch of local, Miami-related story lines to Panthers-Broncos along with the broad national themes so let's get started:
▪ Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning: The starting quarterbacks almost own the Super Bowl stage — it has been so since Joe Namath’s guarantee — and we love a stark contrast. So there could hardly be a greater quarterback matchup than Carolina’s young, brash, hip, black Newton against Denver’s ancient and exceedingly white Manning. Only one of them calls himself Superman and is dabbin’ after touchdowns. The other one is so old and hobbly, you half expect Broncos executive John Elway, 55, to name himself the starter Sunday. This is a New School/Old School, Future/Past contrast with the added heft of it possibly or even likely being the final game of Manning’s storied career. But it is the black/white thing that will prove irresistible and be seized on as an overarching theme. Erudite analysts and columnists will extrapolate and see this quarterback contrast as a metaphor for race relations in America, if only to appear intellectual and not bound by the narrow constraints of mere games.
▪ The two coaches: This is not a great clash of masterminds from a media standpoint because it lacks a lightning-rod star such as Bill Belichick. Nevertheless, Carolina’s Ron Rivera facing Denver’s Gary Kubiak marks the first time in 30 years (Mike Ditka-Raymond Berry) that two former NFL players have dueled as Super Bowl coaches.
▪ Team pedigrees, or lack of: Denver has appeared in seven previous Super Bowls but won only two, and not since 1998. The Broncos were in it just two years ago but got embarrassed in a 43-8 loss. Carolina has been in the SB only once before, losing to New England 32-29 in 2003. Theme: Broncos are the established franchise and Panthers the upstarts. It will be ludicrous fun to hear Panthers players — 17-1 and heavily favored next Sunday — try to play the “we don’t get no respect” card all week.
▪ Golden anniversary: This is Super Bowl 50, which will launch a million retrospectives and greatest-this-or-that lists. The NFL isn’t using Roman numerals this time, perhaps because “Super Bowl L” looks and sounds funny, and in sports parlance, L means a loss. Technically this is actually the 47th edition of the game because the phrase “Super Bowl” didn’t kick in until after the first three NFL-AFL championships had been played, and was retroactively applied. But let’s not spoil the NFL’s golden party.
▪ The offbeat emotional story: On the periphery of every Super Bowl there always are the sort of off-field human-interest stories that appear on TV with soft violins or a tinkling piano in the background. This Super Bowl’s nominee: Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has Alzheimer’s.
▪ The host community: Every year, enterprising reporters with a social conscience like to paint a stark contrast between Super Bowl glamour and celebrity parties, and the “have-nots” across town living in poverty. However, that will not be possible this year because Santa Clara is affluent and has shipped both of its homeless people to San Jose for the week.
OK, those are our national storylines. Now, here are Super Bowl 50’s top five Miami-related connections:
SOUTH FLORIDA THEMES
▪ 1. Mike Shula, Panthers offensive coordinator: There’s a Shula back in the Super Bowl! And that hasn’t happened in 31 years. This is what it’s down to, Dolfans. The Fins never get to the Big Game anymore, so we’re relegated to mentioning folks with Miami ties. Mike Shula was a Dolphins coaching assistant in 1991-92 and QBs coach in 2000-02, and is, of course, the son of Dolphins legend Don Shula, who will be attending the game. Kid Shula, now 50, the same age as the Super Bowl, has been coaching 24 years and, beyond the notable bloodlines, has earned credit for substantially developing Newton. "I was trying to not let so much time pass since the last time a Shula was in the Super Bowl," Mike said recently. "But time was trotting along."
▪ 2. Greg Olsen, Panthers tight end: A Miami Hurricane in 2004-06, Olsen is Newton’ s favorite target and just had a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. Olsen’s 14.3-yard average (it’s 15.8 in the postseason) was second among all tight ends, trailing only Rob Gronkowski.
▪ 3. Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers receiver: The Dolphins’ 2007 No. 1 draft pick is enjoying his best pro season at age 30. He is the Cats’ second-leading receiver after Olsen and led Carolina with 10 TD catches. He also returns punts. Oh, and he still has a great family.
▪ 4. Ken Dorsey, Panthers quarterbacks coach: The Hurricanes’ 2001 national-champion quarterback, now 34, is completing his third season as Carolina’s QBs coach.
▪ 5. Evan Mathis, Broncos guard: Mathis played seven games for the Dolphins in 2008, and Miami considered signing him as a free agent before this season. Denver did instead, and he’s the starting left guard.
Others SoFla ties in this Super Bowl: Broncos: Reserve cornerback/special-teamer Kayvon Webster is from Miami Pace High; center Sam Brenner was a Dolphin from 2013 to ’15 but hardly plays; assistant receivers coach Marc Lubick is the son of former Hurricanes defensive coordinator Sonny Lubick; and director of pro personnel Tom Heckert was a Dolphins scout in the 1990s and personnel boss in 2000 (but will miss the game attending to a blood disorder). Panthers: Backup cornerback Cortland Finnegan was a Dolphin in 2014; receiver Kelvin Benjamin from Belle Glade Glades Central High was a star in ’14 but spent this season injured and will be inactive Sunday; and assistant receivers coach Cameron Turner was an FIU assistant in 2013-14.
Well, that’s it. Now that you’re ready for Super Bowl 50, you can spend the entire deciding what kind of dip to buy for your party.
HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:
1. NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: Canes hoping for top 10 football bounty Wednesday: National Signing Day is in two days, the annual day when everyone speaks in sign language. Naw I'm kidding. It's the annual day when college football teams announce their latest class of high-school recruits. ESPN ranks Miami’s incoming class 14th in the nation as coach Mark Richt seeks late adds. National Signing Day: When the media instantly grades how schools did by flat-out guessing how good a bunch of 17-year-olds might turn out to be.
2. HEAT: Bosh joins Wade as All-Star, Miami wins fourth in a row: Chris Bosh was named an Eastern reserve, joining All-Star starter Dwyane Wade. Meantime Miami has won four straight games to climb to fourth in the conference standings with three straight road games on deck. Amare Stoudemire has enjoyed an increased role lately, surprising analysts who had forgotten he was on the team.
3. HURRICANES: Fresh off win over Duke, UM men host Notre Dame: No. 15 Miami, off a big home basketball win over Duke, hosts No. 25 Notre Dame on Wednesday with another sellout crowd expected. Expectations have risen like attendance has. Is it Sweet 16 or bust now?
4. TENNIS: Djokovic and not-Serena win Aussie titles: It was championship weekend for the Australian Open, the year’s first major. Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in today’s men’s final, one day after German Angelique Kerber stunned Serena Williams for the women's crown. Last year Serena made a run at the Grand Slam. This year's hope was slammed shut early.
5. NFL: Super Bowl Week kicks off with the awful Pro Bowl: We're six days from Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos. First, on Sunday, it was the Pro Bowl! Four Dolphins were in it, but they were all replacements because not even players care about the Pro Bowl. I'd rather have watched a slow-motion replay of a chess match than Team Irvin's 49-27 win.
6. NHL: Big Panthers presence in hockey all-star game: Forward/captain Jaromir Jagr, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, goalie Roberto Luongo and coach Gerard Gallant represented Florida in Sunday's NHL All-Star Game in Nashville. League changed formats yet again. But it's still better than the Pro Bowl.
7. MARLINS: Fences moved in as spring training nears: As the Feb. 19 start of spring training nears, they moved in the fences at Marlins Park to make it more hitter-friendly. Too bad there was a way to move in the fences for the bottom of innings only. Meanwhile Jose Fernandez's camp thinks he can command $30 million a year in free agency after the 2018 season, leading one to surmise Jose's camp may be drunk.
8. HORSE RACING: Mohaymen win Holy Bull at Gulfstream: Mohaymen comfortably won the annual Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday, a Triple Crown season prep race. "Never in doubt," said the cocky horse.
9. SAILING: Miami hosts World Cup event: There were 711 sailors from 64 countries competing in the Sailing World Cup Miami on Biscayne Bay, many of whom will be in the upcoming Rio Olympics. The city of Miami ordered extra wind for the event, which was nice.
10. UM BASEBALL: Canes begin preseason practice: Coach Jim Morris' guys are back on the field preparing for the 2016 season and expectations are large, with UM ranked as high as NO. 4 kin the national polls. Peyton Manning yells, "Omaha!" Canes fans are yelling, "Omaha or bust!"
Missing the cut: Heat limited partner Raanan Katz was reported to have said but then denied saying LeBron James tried to get Erik Spolestra fired in Miami. The most interesting thing about that story? The limited partner's name is pronounced "rainin' cats" ... New Dolphins coach Adam Gase ended up retaining nine assistants from Joe Philbin's staff. Uh oh ... NFL scouts swarmed to Mobile, Ala. for the annual Senior Bowl, the only possible reason to voluntarily go to Mobile, Ala. ... Canes football schedule was released and features Florida State here on Oct. 8, a trip to Notre Dame Oct. 29 and 10 other games not nearly as interesting ... Heat prez Pat Riley was named an "American Icon" by Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital Foundation. Pat's trophy room is bigger than my house ... Florida Panthers sign Sasha Barkov to long-term contract. Cats GM Dale Tallon might be having the best year of any SoFla team executive ... American Lindsey Vonn broke the record for most titles in World Cup downhill skiing. Wonder if Tiger Woods sent flowers? ... FSU settled with Jameis Winston's accuser. Winston: The gift that keeps on taking ... Dwyane Wade's son, Zaire, 13, texted him words of encouragement. My son texted me asking for money ... Funniest headline I read all week: 'John Rocker endorses Trump' ... Predictionmachine.com ranked the Perfect Season 1972 Dolphins only the ninth-best Super Bowl champion ever. "!@#$%!" said Don Shula ... Dan Marino and actor Alec Baldwin star in a new TV commercial for Amazon Echo that will air during the Super Bowl. The best way to describe Amazon Echo is that it's pretty much a complete ripoff of Apple's Siri ... Michael Phelps wore only Speedos and his gold medals to participate in Arizona State's Curtain of Distraction at a basketball game this week. It worked. The opposing player missed both free throws.
Poll result: Baseball big winner for best all-star game: We asked which big-four sport put on the best all-star game and MLB dominated with 69.4 percent. The NBA had support from 18.8%, while the NHL had 6.5% and the NFL 5.3%.
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