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Are Dolphins, Heat, Marlins or Panthers closest to title? (with poll); plus Brett Favre, Father Cutie & more

     [Join the following by clicking on Twitter.com/gregcote. It's fast, free, fun and the best known safeguard against Swine Flu].

     In a column off last night's Marlins game I explore -- to the degree exploration is possible under a withering deadline -- the idea that all four of South Florida's major pro teams are in a similar spot right now: Credible, pretty good, but not yet title contenders. (Click here for the column).

1riley 1parcells       Heat fans delighted by the team's rebound to playoff status were left by a first-round elimination to wonder how close that team is to playing in June again. Dolphins fans delighted by their team's resurgent return to the playoffs now hear cautious predictions for 2009 and wonder how near a run at a Super Bowl might be. Marlins fans still are wondering which the real team is: 1martin 1beinfest the one that started a scorching 11-1 or the one that has been 4-11 since? Panthers fans are entitled to join the debate despite their team's long playoff drought, after last season's improvement and near-miss. (Pictured are the primary team builders: L-R top, Heat's Pat Riley and Dolphins' Bill Parcells; L-R bottom, Marlins' Larry Beinfest and Panthers' Jacques Martin).

     (I confined the column, this blog post and its related poll below to our pro teams, although the Miami Hurricanes in football are right there in the same category: Pretty good, but seeming a ways from championship-contending).

     Which of our big teams do you feel is closest to a title and why? If my money goes on only one I'd probably say the Heat, given the Dwyane Wade/Michael Beasley starting point and the prospect of adding, say, Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. With the Dolphins so much depends on the huge variable of how QB Chris Henne turns out. All of the Marlins ifs and maybes I mention in the column. The inscrutable Panthers may be one or two major additions from surprising us.

     Take a dip in our poll. Remember, THIS IS NOT A WHO'S-YOUR-FAVORITE-TEAM POLL! Our aim is a nuetral-as-possible snapshot of which team you all think is best-positioned to contend soonest.

1favre      Brett Favre, the next episode: Looks like our boy from Kiln, Miss., is plotting yet another comeback, this with the once-nemesis Vikings. (Does that mean John Madden will come back, too?) I have a column on Favre's decision, online now and shipping to Thursday's paper, that you'd find by clicking on As the Brett Turns. I explore whether Favre coming back is great, pathetic or somewhere in between. What say ye?   

Aaa1cutie      Father Cutie booted for apparent womanizing: This fascinates me. The Herald headline: 'A celebrity priest's scandal in the sand.' It's about popular Miami priest Alberto Cutie being booted from his church after being photographed caressing a woman on a Florida beach, calling into some doubt his vow of celibacy. The reverend is pictured here administering communuion, perhaps while daydreaming of voluptuousness. Aside from the woman factor, there is something wrong with the phrase "celebrity priest." I don't want my clergyman to be a celebrity, thank you very much. Maybe it is the fate of a man called "Father Cutie." [Quick aside: Back in the (distant) day, one of my nicknames was Greg Cutie, as impossible as ravaging time makes that seem today...]

     Fantasy baseball update: Have gotten emails (OK, two to be exact) from readers reminding me I skipped my Monday blog update on Adler's Marlsox, my fantasy baseball team. Sorry. I am today in 4th place of 10 teams with 57 points. And I have only one question: How can a team with Ryan Howard and David Wright be dead-last in home runs? Let's go, big bats!