August 19, 2014

4 ways Marlins can keep Stanton. Will they? Poll. Vote!; plus Mo'Ne Davis, Johnny Middle Finger, wax Beyonce, Ray Allen, Stitches & more

1aa1akanyepaul1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20. Radio? The Le Batard show is on vacation. I'll next be back in studio on Sept. 2. 2) Former Dolphins great Jason Taylor will join Mike Florio's 'Pro Football Talk' show this season on NBCSN. Taylor will appear Mondays as well as other days. 3) Kanye West and Paul McCartney reportedly are collaborating on new songs. Hmm. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge video, Hot Button Top 10, unrest in Ferguson, verdict on D'Onofrio & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1amonedavisMo'Ne Davis doomed to life of spiraling decline: Sad to report that Little League World Series star Mo'Ne Davis appears on the cover the new Sports Illustrated, subjecting her to the infamous S.I. Jinx and a life of cascading woe.

Personal radio note: I have informed The Ticket (104.3 & 790) that I won't be back on the station's Dolphins pregame show this season. Have done it past three or four years and wanted change of pace. Also find that my increasing role with LeBatard show sufficiently sates my radio appetite.  

WHAT MARLINS MUST DO TO KEEP STANTON: In my latest column I make the case why Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton should be considered the frontrunner for the NL MVP award -- a case further bolstered by last night's game-winning hit. His nearest competitiors have fallen or are flawed. Mostly, he deserves it on his own merit, and his league-leading 1aa1agia132 homers and 88 RBIs are just the start. Click on G-Spot for the entire column. In it I touch on but want to explore further here what Miami must do to keep Stanton long-term. Many baseball experts continue to believe Stanton will be traded before he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season because the Marlins don't think he'll re-sign here long-term. I don't think that is as true as it once was, and I believe the Marlins also sense hope that wasn't there before. Stanton, for his part, has smartly remained shades of silent to vague on his future, which would be a big distraction if  he let it. I see four major factors in what I call the continuing, quiet courtship of Giancarlo Stanton: 1) MONEY. I put this first because it is most obvious, not neccesarily most 1aa1agia2important. Miami only has a chance to keep him if its offer is market-competitive, and that will soar above the $25 million-a-year mark, because so many big spenders (Dodgers, Red Sox, et al) will want him. The Marlins let Miguel Cabrera get away. It cannot happen again. The club for some time now has planned to make Stanton a long-term offer after this season. 2) TEAM. What's the roster surrounding Stanton as you bid to re-sign him? This season is encouraging. That Miami is still in the playoff hunt even without Jose Fernandez can't but please Stanton. The Marlins added pieces, got better. As manager Mike Redmond told me yesterday, "Last year was tough for him, it wasn't fair to him. We didn't have guys around him to help him out. Now we do. It has energized him. He's happier. He's smiling. He wants to be part of a winning team." 3) COMMITMENT. This has not been owner Jeffrey Loria's strongsuit but it is where he must step up. The talent-adding and improvement must continue; Stanton must feel like he has a chance to win a World Series here. How will Loria's commitment show itself moving forward? Free agents after this season will include Royals ace pitcher James Shields. Will Loria surrender to the high-payroll teams or will he make a serious run at him? You know Stanton will be watching. 4. FANS. It matters. The crowd and atmosphere at Marlins Park has its role in all this. Stanton is an L.A. guy. The Dodgers average 47,000 fans a night. Miami can't compete with that but can do much better than its current average of 21,575 ranking 27th of 30 teams. TV guy Tommy Hutton blasted Marlins fans Sunday night for not appreciating Stanton, who was taken out of a big win late in the game after a home run and four RBIs in the midst of an MVP season. It was the perfect spot for an ovation; there was none. Redmond and the team know what they have in Stanton. Fans need to know it ... and show it. SUMMARY: The Marlins' unique advantage is that they can (and will) offer Stanton a contract extension now, meaning after this season, two years ahead of when other teams could. Doesn't mean he'll take it; he may be determined to test free agency. But it might be awfully tough for him to turn down what would amount to a $50 million head start on whatever riches are in his future. Miami cannot force Stanton to re-up if he wants out; as club president David Samson says, "It takes two to make a deal." But the club will make every effort to sign him, first, or, failing that, to get a trade-windfall in return. They'd demand proven talent in trade such as Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers or Yoenis Cespedes from the Bosox. OK, now the poll. We aren't asking what you hope will happen but what you honestly think is most likely to. We asked this same question in January 2013 and will be interested to compare results. Vote and say why.


Cardiac Fish:
 Marlins lead MLB in walk-off wins (11), one-run wins (32) and wins in last at-bat (21), after adding to each catgeory last night.

ON JOHNNY MIDDLE FINGER: So Johnny Manziel is playing badly in the Browns' preseason loss to 1aa1afingerWashington Sunday night and the Redskins are chirping to get under his skin and it works and Manziel flips a bird at their bench. (I bring you the screen grab without pixilating the gesture because anybody who's driven on I-95 has seen it). Johnny Football leads the NFL in jersey sales, but, we are reminded again, not in leadership or maturity. He's just a rookie, but you get the feeling he'll be doing the same s--- when he's 35. "I can tell you what the statement was that set him off," Redskins safety Ryan Clark said this morning on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show. "[It] was, 'This isn't college anymore and these people are faster than you are.'" It's a valuable lesson for Browns' opponents: You needn't sack Manziel to get to him.

ON THE RAY ALLEN HOME CONTROVERSY: The trespassers in the former Heat player's Coral Gables 1aa1aallenhomehome (pictured; story here) is an interesting tale, and a quandary. To the cops who did not initially file charges against the seven teens (all 18 or 19), it was sort of dismissed as a harmless prank. No forced entry, nothing taken, end of story. But Allen, his family and lawyer are treating it like a traumatic home invasion and pressing the case, demanding justice. The State Attorney's Office is considering charges. I see Allen's point. Seven strangers, young adults with flashlights, are in his house uninvited at 2:30 in the morning, frightening his wife and young kids? Sorry, but that sounds like a crime to me. Dumbass kids who meant no harm? Maybe. You still don't do what they did. There also seem to be racial overtones in this. These were seven Hispanic teens from a wealthy neighborhood in a black man's home. I wonder if seven black teens in a white man's home would have been treated as such a harmless prank?


1aa1abeyonce"DEAR GREG...":
"...your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a photo of a wax Beyonce' standing with insouciance among a flock of disinterested wax geese from Madame Tussaud's in London. Thank you." Dear reader: I'll get right on it.

CATCHING UP WITH STITCHES: Remember Stitches, the local rapper who flared into 1aa1abrickpublic consciousness during the past NBA season when his song, "Brick In Yo Face," caught the attention of the Heat's lockerroom? (A scene from the video is pictured). I'd have imagined that Stitches' proverbial 15 minutes of fame would have expired by now, but his oddball cult celebrity is exhumed and rescussitated in a lengthy piece in the latest Broward New Times. Click here to read. It is everything you wanted to know about this guy, and probably much, much more.

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August 17, 2014

I do ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge (with video); plus new Hot Button Top 10; plus Ferguson, Mo., verdict on UM's D'Onofrio & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-Bucs exhibition, Mark D'Onofrio poll, LeBron cheer/boo result & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Hurricanes ranking outlook: Miami is ranked 39th in the Associated Press preseason ranking, or 14th among "others receiving votes" after the Top 25. Realistically, that means it'll take at least a 2-0 start, perhaps 3-0, to see the Canes ranked.

I FULFILL MY ALS ICE-BUCKET CHALLENGE: I have developed a love-hate relationship with the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge. The cause -- raising funds to fight Lou Gehrig's Disease -- is a great one. That's why I happily went along. (And yes, there was ice involved). The gimmick has been a fabulous success in raising not only money but awareness. Whomever dreamed this up hit big, because it seems everybody is doing it from famous sports stars and celebrities to regular folks. Now, though, I'm sort of ready for this thing to go away, even as I feel guilty saying it. This is like anything that goes viral and is fun for a while and then you get sick of it. Think Gangnam Style. We also can predict the spate of copycat "challenges" by others in the name of fundraising (or attention-getting). Just wait and watch. God bless America.

 

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is an added Sunday feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition has been on summer hiatus, scheduled to return to the newspaper next Sunday, Aug. 24. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Pass passes, run fails: The quarterbacking was great -- Ryan Tannehill, especially Matt Moore and even newly acquired Brady Quinn -- and so was the overall defense in last night's 20-14 exhibition win in Tampa, but the running game sputtered. It was minus-5 yards in first half, meaning you outgained Miami while sitting on your couch.

2. UM football: Quarterbacks 1 and 1A: It is 15 days until the season begins and the Canes still aren't sure if Jake Heaps or Brad Kaaya -- co-No. 1s on the depth chart -- will start the opener at Louisville. Competition is a good thing. So is a decision. Soon.

3. Marlins: Another shot at .500: After winning six of past nine Fish have another chance today to get back to .500. They enter Sunday only 3.5 games back for NL wild card. Giancarlo Stanton's best case for MVP isn't the homers, but that he has this team, sans Jose Fernandez, in playoff chase.

4. Heat: Christmas present: Release of 2014-15 NBA schedule confirmed the Heat will host Cleveland and LeBron James Dec. 25 in his first return to Miami since leaving in free agency. Four months to decide, South Florida: Cheer or boo?

5. Social media: Ice-bucket challenge: Are we tired yet of the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge? Not the fund- 1aa1aiceraiser for the terrible disease, but the incessant videos by sports stars and others dumping ice on their heads? Hope not. Because mine's coming later today. (Cannot confirm the whole idea was based on a casual suggestion from the ice industry).

6. Soccer: EPL underway: The English Premier League season is underway, with a growing audience of U.S. followers. It's like the World Cup, if the World Cup only involved one country. Sunderland! Stoke City! Woooo!

7. LLWS: Mo'Ne Davis: A girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis of Philadelphia, has been the talk of the ongoing Little League World Series. She's been giving the boys nightmares. Dreams, too, perhaps? (Oh, c'mon. Like you hadn't start noticing girls when you were 12 or 13?)

8. Baseball: New commissioner: Rob Manfred was elected MLB's new commissioner. Manfred hopes to bring something different to the ofifce following guys like Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig. A personality!

9. NASCAR: Stewart idle again: Tony Stewart will voluntarily sit out a second straight race today in the wake of tragedy in which he killed a sprint-car driver on a track in upstate New York. The phrase for that? "Smart public relations."

10. Notre Dame: Academic fraud: Notre Dame football is scandalized by allegations of academic fraud involving four prominent players -- not exactly a quartet to rival the Four Horsemen for nobility. Here's to the Cheatin' Irish!

[Preemptive strike on what's below: You--"Why are you talking about race relations and political stuff!? This is supposed to be a sports blog! Cancel my subscription to the Internet!" Me--This is a Greg Cote blog, sports-based but broader. We also talk pop culture. We talk about what's fun and absurd. Sometimes we also talk about what's not fun, but real].

ON FERGUSON, MISSOURI: I get the outrage. I can't feel it like I could if I were black and living in Ferguson, Mo., but I get it. Some of the same anger and helplessness hit my own state last year with 1aa1afergusonTrayvon Martin, another young black teen, 17, killed for what 1aa1aferguson2seemed no justifiable reason. A neigborhood security-watch guy held the gun in that case. In Ferguson, it was a cop, and the victim was Michael Brown, 18. There are complications here, though; there is gray area. Had Brown just stolen from a convenience store and punched the clerk as surveillance video suggests? Not saying that justified the police shooting; it did not. But it does help explain the possible mindset on both sides of the tragedy. There were angry protests in Ferguson after Brown was shot, when it first appeared he was more of an innocent victim than we would later learn. And I understand a community needing to vent. What I don't get in Ferguson, or anywhere, is how outrage and legitimate protest segue to violence and then looting. I can't find that bridge in my mind. Can't find it in how I think civilization should work. One minute, you are demonstrating the police-shooting of a teenager. The next minute, you are marauding through the shattered window of a liquor store. The police response in Ferguson -- tear gas and rubber bullets -- seemed excessive, but did the looting and violence invite it? Quickly, then, the images conveyed to the rest of the country are of looting and cops in riot gear, and focus on a young man's death is lost. Everything here is sad: The shooting, the militaristic police response, and, yes, the people of Ferguson who found that bridge from protest to looting, and poured across it.

Poll result: The heat is on UM's D'Onofrio: We asked your opinion of Canes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and about half, 49.8 percent, answered "moderate/let's see what happen this year." But "negative/wish he were gone" outnumbered "positive/gets a bad rap" by more than a 4-1 margin, 41.1% to 9.1%.

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August 15, 2014

PS2: Dolphins 20, Tampa Bay 14 (Final): Moore, defense shine; plus Mark D'Onofrio yay/nay poll (vote now), your cheer/boo verdict on LeBron & more

1) It is SUNDAY, AUGUST 17. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron cheer-or-boo poll, Top 10 Heat home games, Tony Stewart, Chinese football, Miss BumBum & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Watch for new blogpost coming later today including latest Hot Button Top 10.

DSM reminder: The Dolfan Statisfaction Meter polls will be back in the blog this year, but they begin with the regular season. Look for the first one on Sept. 7.

PS2: DOLPHINS 20, TAMPA BAY 14: MOORE, DEFENSE LIFT MIAMI: Final: Ryan Tannehill was good, Matt Moore was better, Brady Quinn got his feet wet and the three Miami QBs combined for 26-for-37 for 280 yards tonight. Ground game sputtered (25-47) but offense was solid overall, with line allowing only one sack. Team also got 48- and 51-yard field goals from newly signed John Potter after a pregame groin strain by Caleb Sturgis. Dolphins' defense also was stout, limiting Bucs to 250 yards and recording five sacks. An all-round solid performance and improvement over last week as preseason reaches midway point. ..... Half: Matt Moore a sharp 10-for-14 including a 9-yard TD pass to Rishard Matthews. Ryan Tannehill also solid in half. Still wish first unit had played a bit longer. play ofhalf for Miami was Brent Grimes' strip near the goalline that turned a 42-yard Bucs scoring play into a touchback and Miami possession. Great hustle by the veteran corner. The huge negative in the half? The running game, or lack thereof. Dolphins had nine carries for minus-five yards. Embarrassing. ..... Original post: The Dolphins have a problem situation that is unique in the NFL, a situation that should make the rules for their preseason different from other 1aa1adolbucteams, and different from the typical August. Miami is the only team in the league with both a new offense and a whole new offensive line trying to learn it. That, for me, changes what coach Joe Philbin's mindset should be in these exhibitions. Usually the starters play increasingly in the first three exhibition games (but still not very much), and then maybe not at all in the final warmup game. In keeping with that norm, QB Ryan Tannehill and the first team basically played only the first series of last week's loss in Atlanta, looking very good, then disappearing. Expect a bit more first-unit action tonight upstate. I'd like to see a lot more. Next week, too. The new, coalescing line would greatly benefit. So would the new Bill Lazor offense in general. Sure, there would be increased injury risk open to second guessing. But this isn't a typical preseason for this team. Getting a longer look at the depth guys who'll be Nos. 45-53 on the roster is not as important as this new offense being totally in-synch and fully charged entering the regular season.

ONUS ON D'ONOFRIO'S DEFENSE AS CANES SEASON NEARS: Today was a "Football's Back In Case You Didn't Know It" day, as the Hurricanes held their annual Media Day event concurrently with the Dolphins 1aa1adonofriostaging their annual Kickoff Luncheon. At the UM interview-fest no assistant coach drew a bigger throng of inquisitors than defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio (pictured). I'd have referred to D'Onofrio as "embattled," except he and bossman Al Golden are close buds, so I'd doubt seriously if his defensive chief is in any jeopardy. They go way back to Penn State as teammates, and D'Onofrio also served on Golden's Temple staff. D'Onofrio I think is embattled, though, in terms of the way Canes fans view him -- and with reason. UM's defense has seemed in decline since his first season of 2011, when the opponent average of 20.1 points was solid. In 2012 that average shot to an unacceptbale 30.5. Last season it was 24.0, but included a gruesome stretch when the D allowed 41, 42 and 48 points in consecutive losses. UM enters this season talking improvement but boasting only one preseason All-ACC defender in linebacker Denzel Perryman. What is your degree of faith in D'Onofrio as the Sept. 1 opener nears? Vote and say why.

Poll result: Mostly cheers for LeBron's return, but lots of boos, too: We asked what reaction LeBron James deserves Dec. 25 when he returns to Miami for the first time (you may still vote), and 44.6 percent said "cheering," 24.4% said "booing" and 31.0% said a mix of both. We are officially conflicted, people.

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August 13, 2014

LeBron's return to Miami set: Cheer or boo? Poll. Vote!; plus top 10 Heat home games, Miss BumBum, football in China, Tony Stewart verdict & more

1aa1abeef1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 15. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association tells me yesterday was Filet Mignon Day. Is that a national holiday? Could I have taken the day off? 2) Honestly it does not get much better than one of my favorites artists performing, live, one of my favorite songs: Beck and "Loser". 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tony Stewart tragedy blame-poll, Robin Williams and suicide, Dolphins and Brady Quinn, projections for Heat and Fins, Stanton MVP bid, my 50-yard FG update & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

"Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's NL MVP chances improve with the season-ending injury to Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki. If Dodger Clayton Kershaw doesn't poach and sweep, the trophy should be Stanton's." --Greg Cote  

DATE FOR LEBRON'S FIRST RETURN IS SET. NOW, TO CHEER OR TO BOO -- THAT IS THE QUESTION: NBA's release of its 2014-15 season schedule this evening confirmed what had been rumored: LeBron James' highly anticipated first return to Miami will be Christmas Day as Heat host 1aa1aclevlebCleveland at 5 p.m. (See the complete schedule here). How Heat fans feel about LeBron and will respond to his introduction that day has been highly debated. Miami fans initially seemed understanding of his leaving. In a July 11 poll here 63.1 percent said they wished him well versus only 17.9% who said they were upset with him (the other 19.0% weren't sure or had mixed feelings). But has the pro-LeBron sentiment dissipated since? This new poll will help answer that. Some of the reaction Dec. 25 may depend on how the Heat frame his return. Will there be an appreciative, fond-memories, welcome-back video shown to encourage applause? Or will the conspicuous lack of one encourage the opposite? We'll see. For now, put yourself in the arena that day as LeBron is introduced. What should the reaction be? Today/Friday is final day to vote, so vote and say why.

Cote's Top 10 most interesting Heat home games: 1. Cavaliers December 25--Well, duh / 2. Cavaliers March 16--LeBron II / 3. Wizards October 29--season opener / 4. Spurs March 31--Finals rematch / 5. Bulls December 14--Rose 'n Noah / 6. Thunder January 20--Concert by Durant Durant / 7. Clippers November 20--L.A.'s best / 8. Lakers March 4--Ghost of Kobe, but still Kobe / 9. Nets January 4--Men in black / 10. Knicks February 9--Hey, it's still the Knicks.

Poll result: More blame victim than Stewart in racetrack tragedy: We asked where blame should go in the tragedy in which NASCAR star Tony Stewart struck and killed young driver Kevin Ward Jr. after he'd wandered onto the track trying to confront Stewart. "Mostly blame Ward" had 45.6 percent of the vote, while "mostly blame Stewart" had 18.9%. Nearly a quarter, 24.2%, said they should share blame. Another 7.9% were not sure, and 3.4% said neither should be blamed.

1aa1acaflAMERICAN (INDOOR) FOOTBALL GOES TO CHINA: It is being announced today that the China American Football League (CAFL) will launch in 2015.  Principles in the indoor league's startup include U.S. businessman Marty Judge, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski and former NFL coach Dick Vermeil. Each  team will have a combination of American and Chinese players.  The long-term vision is to have 30 teams throughout China,  and eventually throughout Asia and Australia. What does it mean? It means failed American football players -- marginal collegians who can't make the NFL, have flamed out of Canada or been rejected by the Arena league -- have a whole new vista opening up to possibly delay having to give up the dream and get a real job.

1aa1abumbumWHO'LL BE THE NEXT MISS BUMBUM?: In Brazil, where dare I say the female derriere is exalted, the hunt is on to determine who'll be the 2014 Miss BumBum, an annual contest/pageant to find what baby got back the best. Some of this year's contestants are shown turning the other cheek. Click here for the backstory. My favorite part is when the reigning champion describes how maintaining a perfect a-- is "a lot of work, a lot devotion." No doubt.

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August 12, 2014

Who's to blame in Tony Stewart race tragedy? Poll. Vote; plus Philbin firing odds, Robin Williams, Heat pegged 6th, Mighty Quinn, Stanton & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13. Happy 65th birthday to one of the greatest guitarists and a personal favorite, Mark Knopfler. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins computerized win percentages, Fins sign Brady Quinn, Wade needles LeBron, boxing promoter becomes woman, Facekini, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Christmas present: LeBron at Heat: NBA will release its regular season schedule this evening to reveal officially that Cleveland and LeBron James will visit Miami on Christmas Day. So you now have 134 more days to decide: Cheer or boo?


1aa1amanmannDolphins sign Brady Quinn:
 "When Quinn the Eskimo Quarterback gets here, everybody's gonna jump for joy." --"Mighty Quinn," Manfred Mann, 1968. (Click here to listen. It's trippy, baby!).
 

ASSESSING BLAME IN TONY STEWART'S ROLE IN ANOTHER DRIVER'S DEATH: I write in my latest column about the weekend tragedy in a sprint-car race on a dirt track in upstate New York, where NASCAR 1aa1astewart-wardsuperstar Tony Stewart struck and killed 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. (Ward, near left, and Stewart are pictured) You may click here to watch a video of the tragedy, although I caution that you may wish you had not. Click on The Culture of Racing to read my column in full. Many blame Ward for dangerously wandering onto a hot track during a race and attempting to confront Stewart. Others blame Stewart, even suggesting he could have avoided striking Ward. I see the gray in between, and fault the culture of auto racing that infects NASCAR and trickles down. The culture is one of confrontation and retaliation. It was just a matter of time before a tragedy like this occured. That's my opinion. Time for your's. Vote for the poll option that best represents how you feel, and say why. 

PROJECTIONS FOR DOLPHINS, TANNEHILL, PHILBIN, NFL: Miami has the NFL's 19th-best offense overall and No. 8 defense, according to new rankings by Pro Football Focus. The breakdown on O: QBs 1aa1ajoep9th, line 18th, receivers 19th and RBs 27th. On D: Edge rushers 5th, interior line 9th, secondary 13th and LBs 26th. Meanwhile here are Bovada's new betting odds in individual categories. Most passing yards--Drew Brees and Peyton Manning co-favorites to lead league at 11-4, with Ryan Tannehill tied for 16th at 100-1. Most rushing yards--Adrian Peterson the pick at 4-1, with no Dolphin at 100-1 or better. Receiving yards--Calvin Johnson favored at 13-5, with Mike Wallace tied for 26th at 66-1. Also of note,it's 33-1 against any team going 16-0. And Joe Philbin (pictured) is third at 7-1 in first-coach-to-be-fired odds, trailing only DAL's Jason Garrett (2-1) and OAK's Dennis Allen (4-1).

HEAT PICKED FOR 6TH IN CONFERENCE: ESPN's 219-person panel of NBA experts -- I think they have more experts than the NBA has players -- has put forth its Eastern Conference projected standings for the coming season. Their top eight (meaning playoff teams): 1. Cavaliers (56 wins), 2. Bulls (54), 3. Raptors (47), 4. Wizards (47), 5. Bobcats (45), 6. Heat (44), 7. Hawks (42), 8. Nets (39).

ON ROBIN WILLIAMS AND SUICIDE: Robin Williams' death shocked me and saddened me to the edge of tears. I heard my voice struggle as I reacted to the news. (I think the last celebrity death to affect 1aa1ameandrobinme in what felt like a personal way was that of Amy Winehouse). When the soon-after second wave of news said "reported suicide," the shock doubled. So did the sadness. I have since heard, and read on Twitter, a few unkind comments, as if the tragedy in such a loss is less because it came by the deceased's own hand. Somebody called Williams "selfish." For me, the tragedy in some ways is magnified by suicide because it speaks to such despair and hopelessness. Depression is a powerful, frightening thing. In Williams' case, none of his celebrity or wealth mattered; in the end, no one could help him. Millions adored and cheered for him; in the end, he was alone. So, so sad. I found Robin Williams to be a comic genius, a phrase overused that I use sparingly. It feels like America, not just the "entertainment industry," has lost someone truly special. Pictured is me in Williams' company a few years ago before a performance of his my wife and I saw at the Hard Rock in Hollywood. We were longtime big fans. We bought premium tickets for a pre-show meet-and-greet if I recall. The red lanyard holds my dorky VIP pass. I'd lost track of this photo before searching for it this morning. I think I'll keep track of it now. I recall being thrilled in a way I rarely am in the company of even the biggest sports stars. I can see it in my face here. Williams was kind in the short time we had with him.

GIANCARLO STANTON: "MVP! MVP!": The Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton has a big chance to become only 1aa1agstantonthe sixth player to win a league MVP award playing for a losing team (Miami is presently one game under .500). MondaY night was a wonderful advertisement: two home runs and a spectacular diving catch in right field. Stanton now leads the NL in homers (31) and RBIs (82) and is second in OPS (.960). His seven homers of 450-plus feet are more than everybody else's combined team total. At this point only Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw could beat Stanton, but most voters lean to the position player in a close call since the pitchers have their own award in the Cy Young. Even as the playoff chase slowly ebbs, Stanton is the reason to keep watching the Marlins.

50 YARDS TO GLORY: LATEST UPDATE: Here's what's new in our radio-bet quest to kick a 50-yard field 1aa1acotequadgoal. In a Saturday training session at St. Thomas Aquinas we did no better than 30 yards before straining a quad muscle. The injury -- depicted by a reader in the illustration shown -- will delay our planned on-air attempt today. In other news we have fired St. Thomas as our host over a controversial Tweet in which @STA_Football demeaned our dream of 50. I love that people are not quite sure if I'm serious about all this or not. I am! Sort of.

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August 10, 2014

Dolphins' predicted win %'s in every game; plus Brady Quinn, RIP Robin Williams, Wade's jab at LeBron, Hot Button Top 10, Le Batard & more

1aa1arobinw1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 11. R.I.P., Robin Williams, 63, one of our great comic actors, dead of an apparent suicide. Shocking. So, so sad. 2) Peyton and Eli Manning have a new hip-hop video (sort of) for DirecTV. It is splendidly awful. Click here to cringe or enjoy. In case you missed it, click here for my Saturday column on Alonzo Mourning's hall of fame induction. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tannehill sharp in preseaon-opener loss, Reshad Jones suspended, Dolphins-newcomer poll, Zo's big night, my 50 yards from glory & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1adwadejabD. Wade's gentle jab at LeBron?: Dwyane Wade's latest Instagram post today, unexplained, is this quotation: "Loyalty Is Rare, If You Find, Keep It." Interpret as you will.

Le Batard explains himself: Dan Le Batard reacts to his recent two-day ESPN suspension today in a new column for ESPN.com. Click here to read it.    

"Cleveland is ecstatic. Because of LeBron James and Johnny Manziel? Well, yeah, that too I suppose, now that you mention it. But I meant because the city is hosting the International Gay Games this week." --Greg Cote

HERE ARE WIN-LIKELIHOOD PERCENTAGES FOR EVERY DOLPHINS GAME: PredictionMachine.com computers replayed the 2014 season 50,000 times and spit out an average of 7.4 victories for the
1aa1apredictionDolphins -- foretelling the typical competitive-but-no-playoffs season. Miami is given a 12.2 percent chance to win the AFC East 1aa1adol0.4and a 13.9% shot at a wild card -- a combined postseason likelihood of 26.1%. The Dolphins are given a 0.4% chance -- less than half of 1 percent -- to win the Super Bowl. Here are game-by-game win percentages, from likeliest victory to unlikeliest: 60.2% vs. Bills (Game 10); 58.5% @ Jaguars (7); 55.0% vs. Jets (16); 54.2% @ Raiders (4); 54.1 @ Jets (12); 53.8% vs. Chiefs (3); 52.5% vs. Vikings (15); 50.8% @ Bills (2); 49.7% vs. Ravens (13); 43.7% vs. Chargers (8); 42.3% @ Bears (6); 39.3% vs. Packers (5); 38.5% vs. Patriots (1); 36.6% @ Lions (9); 29.3% @ Patriots (14); and 17.2% @ Broncos (11). PredictionMachine says the six AFC playoff teams in order will be Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Chargers and Texans. For the NFC it's Saints, Seahawks, Giants, Packers, 49ers and Eagles. Most likely Super Bowl champions are the Broncos (25.1%), Seahawks to repeat (22.1%), Saints (15.8%) and Patriots (8.8%).

The Dolphins recycle: Quinn tops Grossman, Skelton in QB audition: Dolphins worked out
1aa1abradybodyquarterbacks Rex Grossman, Brady Quinn (pictured lookin' all sexy) and John Skelton today, with Quinn signed. This was because team's QB situation after starter Ryan Tannehill seemed in flux, with backup Matt Moore and third-string Pat Devlin both sitting out preseason opener injured, and Moore a pricey backup with a $4 million salary. Quinn of course is the guy many Dolfans hoped team drafted in 2007 (instead of Ted Ginn), but he has done little in NFL. Coach Joe Philbin was typically say-nothing on the auditions today: "We’ve had workouts almost every single day and it’s no different. We’re always evaluating different people that are out there." To me it felt like flying in these guys was mostly a message to Moore and Devlin; now it seems Quinn will supplant Devlin as the No. 3. Hey, now let's start a Tim Tebow rumor and really make this fun. Wait. Vince Young!

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1aa1afrankmaloneyFAMED BOXING PROMOTER BECOMES WOMAN:
You don't see this every day. It turns out famed British boxing promoter and manager Frank Maloney, now 61, who shepherded Lennox Lewis to the heavweight title in the '90s, is now a woman named Kellie. Click here for the story out of the UK. Frank and his female transmogrification are pictured.

1aa1afacekiniFASHION TREND: THE 'FACEKINI': Beachgores in China have popularized a bizarre head-covering designed to both protect the face from the sun's harmful rays and also to scare the living s--- out of children imagining an alien attack. Click here for thre backstory. This is a blog, so I couldn't say it if it weren't true.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is an added Sunday feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition has been on summer hiatus, scheduled to return to the newspaper on Aug. 24. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Tannehill shines in preseason opener: Safety Reshad Jones was socked with four-game NFL suspension for PEDs. Better news: Ryan Tannehill was 6-for-6 on opening drive and new offense looked good early in 16-10 fake-game loss in Atanta.

2. UM football: Golden plays mind games: Coach Al Golden has his Hurricanes undergoing "mindfulness" sessions with neuroscientist Amishi Jha. UM fans hope that what players are most mindful of is blocking and tackling. 

3. Marlins: Huge homestand needed: Brad Penny won in first game back with Fish, but team is still 4.5 games back in wild-card chase entering Sunday. Miami will need a big showing in a nine-game homestand starting Monday to have a chance.

4. Dan Le Batard: LeBron prank leads to suspension: ESPN suspended Le Batard for two days from his TV and radio shows after he paid for billboards that read, "You're Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami," to coincide with James' Akron homecoming. The billboards: $5,000. The publicity: Priceless.

5. Alonzo Mourning: Zo joins hall of fame: The Heat's first big star was among 10 newest members of the basketball hall of fame Friday night in Springfield, Mass. To say the inductees spoke a little long would be understating it. I think Nolan Richardson might still be talking.

6. Heat: Riley's well-timed shot: speaks: Pat Riley's ill feelings about how LeBron left the Heat continue to seep through. On Friday, the same day Akron officially welcomed James home, Riley released to "Heat Lifers" a forward-looking video full of optimism. Meanwhile James assured Cavs fans, "I don't plan on going nowhere" -- and was suspended four games for a grammatical double-negative.

7. Golf: Rory leads PGA Championship: Red-hot Rory McIlroy took a one-shot lead into Sunday's final round of the season's fourth and final major. Tiger Woods missed the cut. Rory insists the"next Tiger" talk is premature. Win today and the insisting will be harder.

8. Biogenesis: Charges filed: One year after the story first broke, the feds arrested Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch and others connected to the Coral Gables steroids mill that implicated Alex Rodrguez and others in MLB. Just when you think baseball's "Steroids Era" is over, it isn't.

9. NASCAR: Stewart involved in tragedy: Tony Stewart withdrew from Sunday's NASCAR race after accidentally striking and killing another driver in a Saturday dirt-track race.

10. NCAA: O'Bannon ruling: NCAA said it will appeal after judge ruled against it in landmark case that would open door for college athletes to receive some of the money they generate in major college sports. The way the legal system works, I wonder if Ed O'Bannon, 41, will still be alive to someday collect.

1aa1ablazorPoll result: Lazor, Albert and Landry lead Dolphins newcomers: In the previous blogpost we gave you 12 choices for the Dolphins' top newcomer/biggest addition (you may still vote), and three men dominated: Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (pictured) with 27.4 percent, OT Branden Albert with 25.6% and WR Jarvis Landry with 22.2%. On a distant second tier were CB Cortland Finnegan (7.0%) and OT Ja'Wuan James (6.6%). Showing minor support were RB Knowshon Moreno (3.1%) and S Louis Delmas (2.9%). The five others mopped up with negligible votes.

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THE TICKET CAPITALIZES ON LE BATARD SUSPENSION:
Radio station 104.3 & 790 The Ticket bought this full-page ad in the Miami Herald on Sunday to welcome back Dan today/Monday following his two-day ESPN suspension for those tweaking-LeBron billboards in Akron. Nice touch to show the "offending" billboard on the bottom of the ad. Take that, ESPN!

50 YARDS FROM GLORY: THE LATEST: My bet with Le Batard that I can make a 50-yard field goal (an unadulterated radio-show gimmick) is not looking good. I worked out Saturday at St. Thomas Aquinas High with kicking coach Tim Conrad and did not top 30 yards before a strained quad muscle cut short the session. Stugotz was there; if only his moral support translated to added yardage. Have I given up? No. But the injury will force me to postpone my live-on-the-air attempt that had been planned for Tuesday. Meantime a video of me kicking on Saturday is posted on my Instagram account @ upsetbird. Updates to come.

1aa1adolcheercoverDOLPHIN CHEERLEADERS UPDATE: The Dolphins cheerleaders have revealed their 2015 calendar and the suspense has ended. Now, at long last, we can tell you that Monica (pictured) is the cover girl. Was she the betting favorite? Not sure. One more question. Why can't the Dolphins ever look as good on the field as the cheerleaders do in a calendar?

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August 08, 2014

Vote for top Dolphins newcomer/biggest addition in poll; plus Atlanta 16, Dolphins 10. Tannehill sharp early; also Zo's big night & more

1) It is SUNDAY, AUGUST 10. Marlins trade. Club trades P Jacob Turner to Cubs for two minor-league P's, Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer. 2) 'Raising Canes' is a series of videos from a bus tour in which UM football players get into the community and thank their season-ticket holders. It's a brilliant marketing campaign, and well executed. Click here for latest vid. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBatard's LeBron homecoming stunt and ESPN suspension, Oden arrest, Scott Mitchell at 366 pounds, Dolphins cheerleaders, unfriendly Miami & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1AA1AJONESRReshad Jones suspended: NFL suspended starting Dolphins safety Reshad Jones (pictured) for first four games of regular season without pay for performance-enhancing drugs. He may compete in preseason games, and played last night. Coach Joe Philbin called himself "very disappointed." Jones said he regretted taking a "supplement" he did not investigate carefully. This comes on heel of similar four-game ban for DE Dion Jordan and the injury that will shelve center Mike Pouncey at least six games.

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: The Dolfan Satisfaction Meter polls will return to our blog for a seventh year inviting you to voice your degree of satisfaction with team after every game. Watch for season debut of DSM Sunday, Sept. 7 following regular-season opener vs. New England.

PS1: ATLANTA 16, DOLPHINS 10: TANNEHILL SHARP EARLY IN EXHIBITION LOSS: I won't overanalyze a fake-game of limited meaning (leaving that to others), so let's say what stood out was Ryan Tannehill going 6-for-6 with a TD pass to Brandon Gibson in an impressive early showing. That first series spoke well of the potential for Miami's new offense. Some nice work on kickoff and punt returns also has to have the special-teams coach sleeping well. The first units did not play long enough to form many conclusions beyond that. Original post: NFL preseasons mean very little and exhibition openers especially are generally not very revealing, although Miami at Atlanta 1aa1adolpretonight has a little extra sizzle to it if only because HBO's Hard Knocks cameras are following the Falcons this month. (Quick aside: The Falcons are not very interesting and coming off a 4-12 season as HBO increasingly finds bigger, better teams turning it down. It may be time to retire the series). The reality-show cameras mean the Dolphins' performance will be unusually spot-lit for a preseason opener. Miami fans hope the cameras are documenting an exciting new offense. Beyond glimpses at practices and in a controlled scrimmage tonight will be the first real look at new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's up-tempo attack and how well Ryan Tannehill operates it. Even just a few series by the first-team offense will give us indications of what the Dolphins have here. Miami has not had a dynamic offense in a long time, as I document in today's latest column. Click on Points, Please to read the column. Miami has not had a top-10 NFL offense in points scored since 2001 and last finished in the top-10 in most yards in 1995 -- the second-longest droughts of any team in both categories. An offense that notably added Branden Albert, Ja'Wuan James, Knowshon Moreno and Jarvis Landry should be better -- especially if Tannehill proves ready to take the next step in his evolution. Tonight we'll be looking for signs.

POLL: DOLPHINS' TOP NEWCOMER/BIGGEST ADDITION? IT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL!: I did not fully appreciate how significantly the Dolphins have changed until assembling this (alphabetical) poll list of new additions. Scan it, vote for the three (3) men you think will have the biggest positive impact on this season, and say why. Remember, you may vote for three:

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ZO'S BIG NIGHT:
 Longtime Heat center Alonzo Mourning was among 10 inductees Friday night into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. He is pictured holding his Class of '14 Hall jersey. I spoke at length with Zo earlier this week an appreciation about him in today's latest column. For combined accomplishment and overcoming adversity, I don't know that South Florida ever has had a more remarkable athlete. Mourning was a Georgetown star, an Olympic gold medalist and helped Miami win its first NBA championship, but his triumphs off the court define the man better. Click on Zo And His Angels to read the column. (One sidenote from the induction ceremony. Everybody talked too long. I think Nolan Richardson, enchanted by his own voice, might still be talking). 

Riley's "video message" to Heat fans: Heat released it Friday; click HERE to watch and listen. In it, Pat Riley is very optimistic and forward-looking, as you'd expect. More interesting, to me, is that it was released on the day of LeBron James' homecoming celebration in Akron.

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50 YARDS FROM GLORY:
 Those listening to my appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz this past Tuesday may be aware that I was prodded into attempting a 50-yard field goal. It came up that, while in my 20s, I once won a bet by parlaying my then-youthful athleticism and active soccer skills to make a 50-yard field goal on a dare/bet. Three decades later, just for fun, I am trying to defy logic, time and distance and do it again. I'll make my attempt (with 25 tries) this coming Tuesday, to be documented on-air during Dan's show. Pictured at right is me at a Thursday practice session. Not sure I like my chances, but I hope to like them a little more after training today/Saturday with a kicking coach, Tim Conrad of St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Updates to come.

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August 07, 2014

LeBatard reacts to ESPN suspension for LeBron billboards; plus Oden's arrest, Scott Mitchell at 366 lbs, Dolphins calendar, unfriendly us & more

1aa1ame1) It is THURSDAY, AUGUST 7. If you doubt the Le Batard billboards are causing a big reaction, check out the screengrab at right. I'm not a "trending" kind of guy, but trended for a bit after I Tweeted out a link to the blog item below. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Al Golden's greatest challenge, Stanton MVP odds, emaciated Gap model and more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Coming soon: I Defy Logic, Time and Distance: I plan to kick a 50-yard field goal. I'll share details in the blog soon, so stay tuned.

ESPN SUSPENDS LE BATARD FOR TWO DAYS FOR LEBRON STUNT: [See item directly below for what led to suspension] ESPN today yanked Dan Le Batard off the air from his radio and television shows and will have him off again Friday as punishment for putting up billboards in Akron needling LeBron James. The ESPN statement: "Dan will be off the air for two days, returning Monday. His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN's standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance." Le Batard described the stunt as "fun anarchy" in comments exclusively in this blog yesterday. The two-day suspension, though a wrist-slap, is comically unnecessary. It's also this: Great publicity for Dan and his two ESPN platforms. I asked Dan for a comment. He just texted me: "I guess ESPN didn't find it all quite as funny as I did."

LEBATARD RADIO SHOW'S STEALTH ATTACK ON LEBRON'S AKRON HOMECOMING NOW UNDERWAY!: It is underway, and we had it first. Radio star Dan Le Batard of ESPN and Miami's The Ticket has today 1aa1adanbillbdbegun to unleash a good-natured advertising surprise on LeBron James as the Cavaliers celebrate his return to Cleveland with a homecoming in Akron on Friday. (Although "surprise" may be too strong a word considering he has yakked about it on-air as, in his words, an unabashed "attention grab disguised as a cause.") The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz initially considered full-page ads that pictured James' two championship rings won in Miami and read, "You're Welcome, LeBron" -- a gentle jab at LeBron not thanking Miami fans in his departure essay. When that idea was rejected by self-righteous Cleveland and Akron newspapers, LeBatard moved on to a no-longer secret Plan B now underway: Billboards! Pictured is what we think is the first of several to go up around Akron, the photo texted to me by a friend who lives just outside the city. Show producer Mike Ryan will be in Akron on Friday to give the show a live presence. There are rumors of an additional tier of the ad-assault that remains top secret, perhaps to be revealed on Friday. I pledged to not share more than I have at this time so that LeBron's "people" would not have enough advance notice or information to crush the plan. You especially don't (bleep) with Nike, which (not a lot of people know this) has its own CIA and military, including rumors of nuclear arms. Update: Dan just texted me his explanation for why he's doing this: "It's just fun anarchy. All meant in fun -- which, of course, will turn into Cleveland people getting filled with rage, poison and irrational hostility and want to use those billboards as a guillotine. Sports are so great, the more irrational the better. This is a publicity stunt disguised as a movement. Please don't tell anyone there is no actual movement."

Greg Oden arrested: TMZ reports Greg Oden has been arrested for beating his ex-girlfriend. Story here. Oden was iffy/doubtful to be back with Heat even before this. Now? Forget it.

SCOTT MITCHELL WEIGHS 366 POUNDS: I can now state, as a matter of fact, that I once wrote a 1aa1ascottmcolumn suggesting the Miami Dolphins trade Dan Marino for a man who weighs 366 pounds. Quick explainer: Back in the early '90s, I wrote that the Dolphins should look into trading Marino, who then still had much trade value, because Mitchell at the time was a young, hot QB coming off a big season for Miami after Marino's Achilles injury. Well, fast forward to now. The long-retired Mitchell weighs 366 pounds (pictured) and appears on the new season of TV's The Biggest Loser weight-loss show starting in September. I'll end the item with that because A) it isn't nice to make fun of fat people, and B) OK I may have been wrong on that trade-Marino column, in retrospect. There. Are you happy!?

1aa1adolswimURGENT DOLPHIN CHEERLEADERS UPDATE: Your Dolphin cheerleaders this Saturday will unveil their 2015 swimsuit calendar, the strongest evidence yet that there will be a 2015 despite scattered reports of impending Armageddon. A Dolphin cheerleader of undisclosed month is pictured, her smile and calm outward demeanor yet another reassurance that everything little t'ing gonna be alright.

"WE'RE NO. 10! WE'RE...!": The magazine Conde Nast Traveler emits its annual list of America's 10 friendliest and unfriendliest cities, and top rankings go to Charleston, S.C. for most welcoming and to Newark, N.J. for threatening to kill you. Two Florida cities earn a mention -- Key West tied for eighth most friendly, and our own Miami checking in as 10th unfriendliest. "[Bleep] that and [bleep] the [bleep-bleepers] in charge of the list," said the city of Miami in a prepared statement.

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August 05, 2014

Al Golden's new, greatest Canes challenge; plus Stanton's surprising MVP odds, UFC brawl, UM hoops, Gap model, your verdict on Rice & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6. Brawl breaks out at UFC Media Day in Las Vegas. Or, did that go without saying? Click here for the Jon Jones-Daniel Carmier brawl vid. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ray Rice punishment poll, Canton class of '14, Hot Button Top 10 and more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

"Manchester United and Liverpool drew 51,000 to Dolphins stadium last night. What was that you were saying about Miami being a lousy sports town?"  --Greg Cote

GOLDEN'S NEXT CHALLENGE: CLOSING HURRICANES' TALENT GAP WITH FSU: I smile at all the coverage of maturity-challenged Canes redshirt-freshman quarterback Kevin Olsen reportedly being suspended from the season 1aa1acanesfsuopener for a failed drug test. Miami football and coach 1aa1acanes renewedAl Golden have a far greater, broader problem and challenge, and that's making up the recruiting/talent shortfall they suffer compared to national champion Florida State, UM's ACC rival and roadblock. I tackle the topic in my latest column. Golden has spent three years admirably navigating UM through the off-field NCAA bog. Now that sky has cleared, and he must move the Canes forward on the field. Click on Solving The Noles to read the column. UM football won't totally be #Renewed (the latest marketing campaign) until he does. The most recent evidence of Miami's talent gap with Florida State is ESPN's ranking of the 100 best players in college football, voted by a panel of 32 experts. FSU places a nation-leading 11 on the list. UM has only two: RB Duke Johnson (tied for 24th) and LB Denzel Perryman (t35th). FSU's 11 are QB Jameis Winston (1st overall), TE Nick O'Leary (28th), DE Mario Edwards (29th), OL Tre Jackson (t31st), WR Rashad Greene (t31st), OT Cameron Erving (33rd), CB P.J. Williams (t39th), DB Jalen Ramsey (t52nd), RB Karlos Williams (t59th), CB Ronald Darby (t76th) and K Roberto Agauyo (85th). For those wondering the Gators, like UM, place two on the list: CB Vernon Hargreaves (13th) and DL Dante Fowler (t43rd).

Canes hoops opens at Florida: Jim Larranaga's hardwood UM men will visit Gainesville Nov. 17 to face the Gators at 7 p.m. as part of ESPN's 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. It'll be teams' first meeting since March 2009. Nice exposure for the Canes, who were better than expected last season and have nine newcomers on this year's team.

STANTON SECOND IN NL MVP RACE: Surprisingly, at least to me, Marlin Giancarlo Stanton has second-best odds at 7-4 to win the NL MVP award, trailing only clear favorite Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers pitcher, at 4-7. Other favorites: AL MVP--Angels' Mike Trout at 2-5; NL Cy Young--Kershaw at 2-7; and AL Cy--Mariners' Felix Hernandez at 9-4. Stanton is third-fave at 10-1 to lead MLB in home runs, after White Sox's Jose Abreu at 4-7 and Orioles' Nelson Cruz at 2-1.

Poll result: Rice punishment too lenient: We asked about the two-game NFL suspension of Ravens RB Ray Rice for domestic violence and most of you, 68. 3 percent, called it too lenient. Another 19.2% thought it was about right, 6.7% were not sure, and only 5.8% called it too severe.

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GAP'S CHOICE IN MODELS:
 Clothing store Gap -- is it just Gap, or is it The Gap? -- is under fire for using the too-skinny model pictured in one of its latest ads. Life is getting hard. It used to be that we just made fun of overweight people like myself. Now apparently we also ridicule people we deem as too thin. (I will admit the young woman pictured looks like a hiker who got lost in the mountains and has been rescued after six days alone eating only berries and wood bark. But why was she hiking in a Gap dress!?) I suppose making fun of thin folks is still somewhat more acceptable than making fun of the morbidly obese, in much the same way making fun of really tall people is less bad than needling the unusually short. Tough to know, though. It's getting to the point the unkind may require a guidebook.

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August 03, 2014

On Ray Rice's punishment. New poll. Vote now; plus latest Hot Button Top 10, Canton class, Canes edge Heat in next-champ race & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 4. Just looked up "excess" in the dictionary and saw a Dolphins scrimmage being covered as if it were a game or meant anything. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami Big 5 next-champion poll, Dolphins odds, Marlins screwed, MLB trade deadline, Riley's restraint, Sharknado & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

On evolution of sports media: Our latest column on Sunday uses the national debate over Ray Rice's crime and punishment (see related poll below) as a springboard to explore how athletes haven't changed, we're just watching more closely. Click on No Secrets Left to read.

ON RAY RICE'S CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: This poll is a bit tardy but still current because we keep 1aa1arricetalking about this. Ravens running back Ray Rice knocks out his then-fiance', captured on security video, and this week gets a two-game NFL suspension (plus a three-game fine) that many see at too lenient. Subsequently ESPN's Stephen A. Smith gets in trouble for his response, Ravens fans get criticized for cheering Rice at training camp, and anybody who defends the light punishment is shouted down as somehow condoning domestic violence. Crazy. I abhor the cowardice of spousal abuse but thought the punishment was fair considering Rice's previously clean record. I'd also note that missing two NFL games is the equivalent of a 20-game suspension in baseball. It isn't nothing. But that's just me. Your turn. Take a dip in our poll, vote and say why you feel as you do.

CANTON'S LACKLUSTER CLASS OF 2014: Seven new members paraded into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend, and (if I might rain on said parade) it isn't a class that excites all that much. Michael 1aa1acantonStrahan is the national star of the bunch, but his having played in New York and his post-career TV celebrity have as much do to with it as anything. Strahan had only two more career sacks than Jason Taylor, who is considered a likely but not certain Hall of Famer. Derrick Brooks and Walter Jones are the group's other Canton-quality incomers, but neither is a national star outside of his market, with Jones an offensive lineman and Brooks not resonating beyond Tampa/St. Pete. The remaining four guys are borderline inductees Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Andre Reed and Aeneas Williams.

Poll result: Epic! Canes edge Heat for next-champion: We asked which of Miami's Big 5 teams will next win a championship, and Hurricanes football winning a national title edged the Heat winning the NBA Finals by 39.4 percent to 37.5% in a two-way battle. It was a tight as any poll we have ever had until UM finally nudged ahead. Marlins winning a World Series got some love with 11.9%. A Dolphins Super Bowl drew only 8.4%, and a Panthers Stanley Cup 2.8%.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot 1aa1ahotbuttonButton is a newish feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on hiatus until later in August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Dolphins: Preseason opener: Fins fortified O-line by signing veteran center Samson Satele as they prepare for Friday's exhibition opener in Atlanta. You know how last night's scrimmage didn't tell us much? Friday night will tell us more, but barely.

2. UM football: Practice gets started: QB Kevin Olsen got suspended from the opener for a failed drug test. The Hurricanes players who are not knuckleheads and are not suspended will stage their first preseason practice on Tuesday.

3. Marlins: Reversal of fortunes: Fish had their ninth walkoff win of season last night to end three-game losing streak in a week marred by an egregious MLB home-plate replay reversal that cost Miami a win.

4. Team USA: Paul George injury: Pacers star Paul George suffered a gruesome broken leg as Team USA prepared for the World Cup in Spain. On the bright side, the season-ending injury helps the Heat. Ouch! (Too soon?)

5. Soccer: Guinness finale: The eight-team Guinness International Champions Cup is down to English powers Manchester United vs. Liverpool for Monday's title match at Dolphins stadium. Should be a good match, although a finale beyond the EPL would've been nice.

6. Heat: Riley speaks: Pat Riley, angry over the way LeBron James left, bit his tongue and played nice in a teleconference with reporters. Meantime Cleveland's "homecoming" party for James is planned for this Friday. Maybe it'll rain?

7. NFL: Rice wrist-slap: Many decried as too lenient the NFL's two-game suspension of Ravens RB Ray Rice for domestic violence. Rice responded by punching his critics.

8. MLB: Trade flurry: Jon Lester, David Price and Yoenis Cespedes were among the stars changing uniforms at the trade deadline. In the Bargain Division, the Marlins acquired Jarred Cosart.

9. Canton: Seven parade in: Michael Strahan, Walter Jones and Derrick Brooks headlined new seven-man class in Pro Football Hall of Fame, but highlight was Jim Kelly, fighting cancer, throwing a pass to old team and inductee Andre Reed.

10. Golf: PGA Championship: Season's fourth and final major finds Tiger Woods' the second favorite at 10-1 odds after Rory McIlroy's 7-1. Y'all do realize Tiger hasn't won a major since 2008, right?

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