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12 posts from March 2012

March 31, 2012

Who is "face" of Miami Marlins? Vote now (with poll); plus Panthers' momentous day, Kentucky reigns, uh-oh Heat, WrestleMania, Seinfeld, atheism & more

[1) It is Tuesday, April 3. Our yay-or-nay poll on WWE professional wrestling still welcomes your votes in the blogpost directly below this. 2) Ryan Leaf was arrested on burglary and drug possession charges in Montana. Headline: 'Draft Bust Busted.' 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

DOLPHINS ACQUIRE PEYTON MANNING FROM BRONCOS FOR TWO FIRST-ROUND PICKS!: OK that headline was my token April Fool's joke from Sunday. Obligation met. Moving on now...

THE "FACE" OF THE MIAMI MARLINS IS...: ESPN named the "face" of every MLB franchise and for the 1aa1face1 1aa1faceMarlins it was manager Ozzie Guillen. ("Sounds like a poll!," I thought to myself. The timing is right, with the Marlins hosting the Yankees Sunday and again last night at the new ballpark prior to Wednesday's historic Opening Day). I can see the choice of Guillen but for me the current face of the franchise probably is Hanley Ramirez. How about for you? Use your own definition of what the "face of a franchise" even means. Is it always the biggest star? Is it the person who best represents the team? Is longevity a factor? For me it is the person who comes to mind first when you think "Marlins." And for me the face of a franchise demands a national perspective, not just local. What would a baseball fan in New York or California say? Then again I'm more interested in what Marlins fans think. The list is alphabetical, and apologies for initially having "Mike" Stanton instead of Giancarlo. Old habits, ya know? Vote and say why.

Click on Play Ball, Already for my latest column, off Sunday's Marlins-Yankees game.

MOMENTOUS DAY LOOMS FOR PANTHERS: This could be it. Tonight's home game against Winnipeg could find the Panthers clinching an NHL playoff spot after an 10-season drought, finally ending the long suffering of local hockey fans. Florida clinches -- and wins its first division title ever -- by winning tonight. Florida also would clinch if Buffalo lost, or if the Cats and Sabres boht earn only one standings point. Panthers' presumptive first-round playoff opponent looks like the New Jersey Devils. Toughdraw. Whatever. Playoffs! We've missed you Lord Stanley. 

WRESTLEMANIA XVIII: CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN'?!: The Rock beat John Cena 1aa1dolwrestlein Sunday night's featured Wrestlemania match at Dolphins stadium. Imagine that? The local hometown hero winning in an upset? FLABBERGASTING! Wrestling: It keeps surpring you, doesn't it? WWE filled the stadium. I kid pro wrestling; not a huge fan. But I respect the business model and how the sport constantly evolves and stays fresh. The packaging and marketing are spot-on.    

SPECIAL K: KENTUCKY BEATS KANSAS IN NCAA FINAL: Can anybody stop Kentucky? Since you asked ... no. As coach John Calipari's nearly NBA-ready Cats proved again last night. The 67-59 margin over Kansas suggested a reasonably close game but it didn't feel that way. Felt like Kentcuky was in control throughout. I had Kentucky winning it all in my pool but was long-eliminated from the money pot so found myself rooting for underdog Kansas. That was the team of juniors and seniors against the one-and-done crowd from Kentucky. Credit where it's due, though. Youth was served.

1aa1beach2 1aa1beach1BIKINIS NOW OPTIONAL IN BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Beginning this summer the Olympics will make bikinis optional in women's beach volleyball. I got excited when I heard that because I thought it would be, like, a clothing-optional beach or something. Instead it means women can now dress more modestly in shorts and sleeved tops if they wish. I find this an outrage! A travesty!! Television ratings will plummet as a once-cheeky, titillating sport (yes I can say that in a blog) dresses up, tones down and becomes just another competition. The operative word here is "barely." That word used to describe why most men watched. Covered up, the word will describe most men's interest level.

1aa1mariasharapovaSHARAPOVA THE SHRIEKER LOSES, DJOKOVIC WINS: Maria "Shriekin'" Sharapova was favored but error-prone and lost Saturday to Agnieszka Radwanska in the women's tennis final down on Key Biscayne. Her loud grunt-squeals on every shot are annoying but when you play that well (except not this time) and look that good (see photo), such idiosyncracies are indulged. Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray as expected Sunday in the largely grunt-squeal-shriek-free men's final.

DWYANE WADE'S NEPHEW SHOT: A nephew of Dwyane Wade, nine years younger, was among six young men shot (one fatally) outside a store on Chicago's South Side late Thursday. Click here for the story. Wade said he expects his relative to recover and that he played with a "heavy heart" in last night's win in Toronto. Just days ago Heat players took a photo wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen killed by a neighborhood-watch guard. Now, for Wade, the gun violence that his foundation works to fight has hit closer to home.

Heat's uh-oh moment in Boston: The week needn't wait for Wednesday's visit by Oklahama City for its drama. Sunday's blowout loss at Boston found the Celtics hot, and a very possible first-round playoff opponent for Miami and a tough draw. Miami was anything but hot. Never I thought I'd see the Big 3 Heat score only 72 points. Celts are creaky-old but still find ways to win. Oprah had her a-ha moment. The Heat (on the road at least) keep giving us uh-oh moments.

1aa1atheistsHOW WOULD GOD FEEL ABOUT ATHEISTS?: Saw a thought-provoking bumper sticker today that declared, 'God Doesn't Believe In Atheists.' Now I'm no expert on theology, but I am led to think a God who is all about forgiveness would hold no animus against (and therefore, in effect, believe in) His non-believers.

MINI-REVIEW: JERRY SEINFELD LIVE: Saw Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up act at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts the other night. (Because when your wife buys two tickets, you don't complain about missing the NCAA basketball semifinals on TV. You say, "Thanks, dear.") I'm a fan of his but not one of those worshipping types who still watches Seinfeld re-runs for the 34th time and laughs all over again. Anyway, I thought his show was great. I mean great. Nothing ground-breaking, just observational humor about everyday stuff. (A schtick about nothing...) No jokes would even be LOL in print. It's all timing and delivery with this guy, and he's a master. Audience howling. Not a single reference to his long-running, iconic, eponymous sitcom, but no matter. Terrific performance.

THE LIST: THE FLORIDA DERBY: In honor of Saturday's 61st running of the Florida Derby at Gulfstream -- a Take Charge indy upset over favored Union Rags -- here are the 12 Fla-Derby winners who went on to win the Kentucky Derby:

Year   Horse

2008   Big Brown

2006   Barbaro

2001   Monarchos

1995   Thunder Gulch

1990   Unbridled

1984   Swale

1979   Spectacular Bid

1968   Forward Pass

1964   Northern Dancer

1961   Carry Back

1958   Tim Tam

1956   Needles

Click back. Will be updating and adding to this latest blogpost...

March 29, 2012

Vote: Like WWE pro wrestling? (with poll); plus LeBron sings Super Freak, Koa Misi, Nadal, Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, anti-Obama racism & more

[1) It is Saturday, March 31. Yesterday I paid $4.25.9 per gallon for premium gas. I don't believe I have ever paid more. #sadpersonalrecords. 2) Will the last American player eliminated from the Sony Ericcson Open on Key Biscayne please turn out the light? 3) Bill Parcells maybe coaching the Saints? "Sorry, Drew. We're a running team now." 4) Pope Benedict XVI wore a sombrero during a recent trip to Mexico. Glad that didn't become a papal trend as he flew to Cuba. The sight of the pope wearing a fake Fidel Castro beard might have pushed me right over the edge. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote] 

FANS OF WWE AND PRO WRESTLING NEED TO LIGHTEN UP: As Dolphins stadium prepares to host WrestleMania XXVIII, I have learned recently -- and find it deliciously ironic -- that fans of America's cartoon sport have very little sense of humor. That's based on the e-mail reaction 1aa1wweto my my Random Evidence notes column from this past Sunday. I referred to the stadium hosting "the biggest clowns in sports" and invited readers to wonder (briefly) if I was talking about the WWE show or the woe-stricken Dolphins. Wrestling fans were not amused and let me know it. Dear Wrestling Fans: Lighten up. Don't take yourself or your sport so seriously. The best thing to happen to this organization was when the World Wildlife Federation won legal rights to the acronym WWF and wrestling had to change its name to WWE -- E for Entertainment. That helped finally move it beyond the old narrative of whether wrestling was real or fake (I prefer "scripted") to simply accepting it for what it was: Entertainment, showmanship and fun. Its players -- The Rock and John Cena are pictured here -- are half-athletes, half-actors and that's fine. OK I admit "clowns" was pejorative on my part but when I say "cartoon sport" I mean it neutrally, descriptively. Pro wrestling to me is a comic book come to life. POW! BAM! That is not a criticism. Might even be a compliment. I respect the immensely popular business model that is WWE, and marvel that it can fill a football stadium for WrestleMania. There is marketing genius at work here. At the same time fans of pro wrestling and its absurd theater should develop thicker skin and not be quite so angry at those who might find the whole spectacle a shade closer to ridiculous than entertaining. What are your feelings about WWE? Take a dip in our poll...

1aa1lbjrickjamesLEBRON: SUPER FREAK, SUPER FREAK, HE'S SUPER FREAKY: Shane Battier's recent "Battioke" (karaoke) fundraiser on South Beach is represented here in this YouTube vid. Gets interesting at about the 1:45 mark when LeBron James (right) appears on stage channeling Rick James, in a wig and singing "Super Freak." Not badly, either. Very passable.

KOA MISI'S ARREST: Dolphin defender's arrest on a battery charge this morning in Broward stems from an altercation in California that occured more than a year ago. A club source expressed a belief the case likely will never be prosecuted.

FISH OUT OF WATER: [Rafael Nadal withdraws from Sony Ericcson Open with knee injury] Fish out of a water: An apt description of American tennis after Mardy Fish yesterday was the last U.S. player eliminated from the tennis event down on Key Biscayne. Click on Fish Out Of Water for my column on Fish's meek exit and how far American tennis (men and women) has fallen.  

Poll result: Fewer Heat Fans Have Faith This Will Be Championship Year: Call Miami's win at home over the Dallas Mavericks the other night a needed boost to fans' spirits. It is quantifiable: Fan confidence in a 2012 Heat title has diminished. "How confident are you on a scale of 1 to 10 the Heat will win the NBA championship this season?" We asked that in a blog poll in early February and again this week (poll remains open in post directly below) and the erosion of faith in the past seven weeks is notable. In early February 78.4 percent of fans called their confidence very high (47.5) or fairly strong (30.9), versus only 21.6 percent who said their confidence was moderate (15.2) or low (6.4). Now, 56.0 percent call their confidence very high (27.7) or fairly strong (28.3), compared to 44.0 percent who say their confidence is moderate (25.5) or low (18.5). Heat must do some faith-building. Maybe it started last night.

WOULD KENTUCKY BEAT THE NBA'S WORST TEAM?: This comes up now and again and has anew with former Maryland coach Gary Williams telling a D.C. radio station the Final Four-favorite Kentucky Wildcats could beat the NBA's 11-38 Washington Wizards in one game at Rupp Arena. No. No they couldn't. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: "Look, it's absurd. You could say, 'Oh, Kentucky has four [future] NBA players.' But the other team's got 13! It wouldn't be close."

THE DOLPHINS AND "REBUILDING": Dolphin media obsession with the world "rebuilding" foments a pointless, dead-end debate. "Rebuilding" is but a word, a semantical crutch for those looking for a too-easy description of the state of their team. Are the Dolphins rebuilding? Answer: Continually, until they get it right, I would hope. Two thoughts: 1) The only NFL team right now that admits it is rebuilding is the Colts, as a rationale for the letting go of Peyton Manning. 2) Most other teams including Miami are at some stage of metamorphosis but don't say "rebuilding" and won't because the word in league context means, "Fans, we'll be lousy for a while." Teams like Miami walk a tightrope, wishing to assure fans of a "win now" mindset while also softening expectations with the likes of owner Stephen Ross' recent recycling of "Rome wasn't built in a day." Miami was 6-10 last season but had enough close, shoulda-been wins that it was not far-fetched to think the team was not far from competing for a wild-card spot. Theoretically, then, if the front office did its job and improved the team via a coaching change, free agency and the draft, playoff contention should follow. So it would be bad p.r. but also disengenuous for Ross or GM Jeff Ireland to now lean on a "rebuilding" crutch. It would be an admission of failure to improve or regression, which in the NFL are the same.

ON RYAN TANNEHILL, REGGIE BUSH: Todd McShay's latest mock draft for ESPN, for what it's worth, has the Dolphins selecting Ryan Tannhill, the Texas A&M quarterback, 8th overall. That sounds reasonable, The bigger question is whether he'd be there at eight or require a trade-up. In other Dolphin non-news, Reggie Bush -- repping Miami as one of 32 players involved -- was eliminated by Eagles RB LeSean McCoy in national bracket-style first round voting to select the cover athlete for the Madden NFL '13 video game. (Cam Newton will win. Bank it).  

1aa1guillenozESPN: "FACE" OF MARLINS IS NOT A PLAYER: ESPN.com names the "face" of every MLB franchise and has manager Ozzie Guillen for the Marlins -- one of only four non-players selected along with Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and GMs Theo Epstein of the Cubs and Billy Beane of the A's. Think I might have had Hanley Ramirez but can't argue much on Guillen. Also think this could inspire a future series of blog polls: Who is the face of the Marlins, Dolphins and Heat? Close calls, every one.

MARLINS BETTING OVER/UNDERS ON STATS: From Bovada, statistical over/unders for several Marlins players: Jose Reyes .300 average, 100.5 runs, 39.5 stolen bases and 10.5 triples. Hanley Ramirez .290 AVG, 20.5 HR, 80.5 RBI and 29.5 SB. Giancarlo Stanton 35.5 HR and 95.5 RBI. Gaby Sanchez 19.5 HR. Emilio Bonifacio 32.5 SB. Logan Morrison 20.5 HR. Heath Bell 39.5 saves. For starting-pitcher victories: Josh Johnson 13, Mark Buerhle 12.5, Anibal Sanchez 12.5, Ricky Nolasco 10.5 and Carlos Zambrano 9.5.

LOVE AND FOOD: Carrabba's Italian Grill has on its takeout bags the slogan: "There is no love more sincere than the love of food." Can it possibly be? I will say this. Food requires no flowers or cards or thoughtful gestures. Food asks nothing in return but that you love it.

1aa1dontrenigRACIST ANTI-OBAMA BUMPER STICKER: A shockingly racist anti-Obama bumper sticker is available that reads, "Don't Re-Nig in 2012." Politics aside, this seriously crosses a line and in my mind tests the parameters of free expression. Who would have the gall to drive a vehicle bearing such a statement? Answer: Some Neanderthal jackass inviting a brick to be thrown through the window of his parked car. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

1aa1cleavageNATIONAL CLEAVAGE DAY: It has come to my attention that National Cleavage Day -- which began as a promotion by brassiere maker Wonderbra but has understandably caught on -- is either today or very soon. Why limit the celebration to one day, anyway?

Click back. Will be updating and adding to this latest blogpost...

March 27, 2012

Vote: Is confidence in Heat title fading? (with poll); plus Dolphins' Ross/Ireland/Philbin paint rosy picture, Marlins, Final Four, Tiger, UM & more

1aa1martint[1) It is Thursday, March 29. Sean Payton approaches Bill Parcells about coaching Saints this season. A second chance for Pat White? 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

IS FAITH IN HEAT CHAMPIONSHIP FALTERING? LET'S MEASURE FANS' CONFIDENCE: The Heat is a blase 8-6 since the all-star break after last night's loss in Indiana followed an even more significant 16-point loss at Oklahoma City. To me the OKC game was a 1aa1heattitlemicrocosm of this Miami NBA season, perhaps separating dreams and doubts. Hyperbole? Maybe. But there can be legitimate debate now on whether the Heat will win the championship in Year 2 of the Big 3. To me, those hopes teeter. Going through Chicago (as it now stands) to even reach the Finals wil be very tough. Then it's the Thunder of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the only duo that outscores LeBron and D-Wade. The OKC game was the anticipated Finals preview, and the declarative statement was by the Thunder, not the Heat. Time for a pulse-read on Heat fans' confidence. We ran this same poll back in early February. It will be intresting to compare results. How confident are you, right now, that the Heat will win the championship this season? Try to distinguish what you hope will happen from your honest degree of confidenc. And check back often to monitor evolving results in what is a very close vote.

DOLPHINS' ROSS, IRELAND DEFEND THEMSELVES: The club's embattled owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland defended themselves yesterday in a media session at the NFL owners meetings in Palm Beach. The gist: Ross said, "I'm very excited the way things are going" (no, he really did!); said the club wants to be "more responsive" to fans; said of the offseason, "It's not like we lost anything" (well, except Brandon Marshall and chances to upgrade at QB); and called criticism of 1aa1rossfingersIreland "unfair." Ireland said Peyton Manning was the only available QB who definitely would have started ahead of Matt Moore, and said new coach Joe Philbin will develop talent better better than predecessors (a shot at Tony Sparano). Previously, in an interesting stab at public relations, Ross arranged to speak by phone with longtime season-ticket holder Jason Lawrence, one of the disgruntled picketers outside club HQ last week. They reportedly spoke 27 minutes. Among the revelations: Ross said the team would have cut Marshall outright if the Bears hadn't come through with an offer; that there was no interest in Tim Tebow; and that Philbin wasn't high enough on Matt Flynn to justify the expenditure. Hmm. Are those things supposed to make a Dolfan feel better? No indication from the fan he telephoned whether Ross called collect. The owner is pictured at right, making a gesture with his fingers that seemed to indicate the degree of confidence Dolfans have in Ross and Ireland at the moment. 

1aa1marlins tagNEW MARLINS LICENSE PLATE: We have seen and offer to you a sneak peek at the new Miami marlins specialty license plate to be available from the state beginning next month.

1aa1todcCHANGE AT 790 THE TICKET: South Florida's sports-radio ratings leader 790 The Ticket introduced its staff to its new program director yesterday: Tod Castleberry, 51 (pictured), recently an executive for Redskins owner Dan Snyder's Red Zebra broadcasting operation. Castleberry replaces Marc Hochman, who elected to devote himself fulltime to producing Dan Le Batard's afternoon show.

MARLINS PARK: A PRIMER: In what surely must be a Norman Braman nightmare come to life, The Miami Herald on Sunday published a commemorative 12-page special section aggrandizing and detailing the new Marlins Park, "Jeffrey Loria's new masterpiece." I contribute a column; click Now Marlins Have a Fighting Chance to read. Part of the research for that included a personal guided tour of the park by Loria. Just him and me. Bear in my mind I supported the new stadium but also spent years lambasting Loria in print for his past frugality. He reads the paper. Our tour was awkward at times but ultimately beneficial in moving a strained relationship forward. I hope the column was fair.

MADNESS! FINAL FOUR: KENTUCKY-LOUISVILLE, KANSAS-OHIO STATE: When the highest seed in the Final Four is a No. 4, forget Cinderella, forget the attempt at a storyline about the heartwarming lil' 1aa1billyunderdog team. Ain't none this year as the Elite Eight winnowed to the Final Four. No. 1 Kentucky bopped 3-Baylor 82-70 and 2-Kansas beat 1-North Carolina 80-67 on Sunday, a day after No. 4 Louisville and No. 2 Ohio State advanced -- L'ville thanks to a big-time Florida Gator choke. UF blew an 11-point lead on a game-ending 23-8 Cardinal run. Pictured right: Gators coach Billy Donovan thinking, "How the hell did that happen!?" Everywhere you look now, only heavyweights remain. Some will miss the Glass Slipper element. I think it's looking like a splended Final Four. UPSET WATCH: One upset by seed in two games today, for 17 upsets in 60 tournament games thus far, or 28.3 percent. MY BRACKET: Kentucky is my lone horse left and I have them winning it all, but I'm way past having any shot to win my pool.

1aa1ultramfULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL: A belated nod to the three-day Ultra Music Festival at Bayfront Park that ended Sunday. I love a wide array of music but honestly electronic/dance ranks low on my list of preferred genres. I like some Fatboy Slim, own an LCD Soundsytem album, am aware of the hype around Skrillex and that about exhausts my ready knowledge. What an event, though. Too many arrests aside, an event that can sell 165,000 tickets and draw Madonna as a surprise guest is major and good for Miami. Negative: A pandering, trying-to-be-hip Madonna shouting to the crowd a reference to the drug ecstacy. C'mon, Madge.

RYAN WILLIAMS DAY IN CANES SPRING FOOTBALL: QB Ryan Williams completed 14 of 21 passes for 228 yards and four TDs in the weekend scrimmage. Get well soon, Stephen Morris. Your starting job may depend on it.

TENNIS NOSTALGIA ON KEY BISCAYNE: Veterans-on-the-comeback Serena Williams and Andy Roddick were among winners down at the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Saturday and you'd click Raising the American Flag for my column. By the way, that facility is the most scenic of any major sporting venue in South Florida, and the drive across Rickenbacker Causeway to get there reminds you why you live where you do. Just gorgeous.

TIGER (FINALLY) WINS!: Tiger Woods won by five strokes yesterday, his first PGA Tour triumph in 2 1/2 years. Bad day for Tiger-haters. Great day for those of us who root for his return to prominence. Update: Bovada now has Tiger a 7-2 pick favorite to win The Masters, faulting Rory McIlroy as the favorite. Original post: Upstate at the Bay Hill Tiger Woods entered today's final round in good shape for his first PGA Tour win in a couple of years -- a springboard to The Masters. At around 8:30 this morning my wife told me Tiger had a bogey after he hit the ball into somebody's yard when a woman screamed on his backswing because a kid had fainted at a concession stand. Either that's the weirdest bogey in golf history, or my wife is drunk awfully early today.

Click back. Will be updating and adding more to this latest blogpost...

March 23, 2012

Heat in hoodies: D-Wade, LeBron take stand on killing of teen Trayvon Martin; plus Ireland sets unpopularity mark, Madness update, Marlins, Serena as Hulk & more

1aa1etch[1) It is Saturday, March 24. Heading down to Key Biscayne tennis to see if a column blooms. 2) Hilarious that the Romney campaign is now scrambling to overcome a staffer's suggestion that everything would be re-set in a general election, like shaking an Etch A Sketch -- the controversy magnifying Mitt's chameleon rep for readjusting views to suit the need. Man, I love politics! 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

DOLPHINS' GM, OWNER HAMMERED IN POLL: More than 8,000 voters (and counting) have delivered a stunning verdict against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and especially general manager Jeff Ireland. I rarely portray results of our blog polls as newsworthy but I think this one is. I invited readers -- in the blogpost directly below this new one -- to vote "favorable" or "unfavorable" on both men, and a negative monsoon resulted. Ireland's unfavorable rating was 94.6 percent when last I checked, a blog-record landslide, and Ross' was 85.3. (You may still vote). I have never seen a consensus in any of my blog polls as strong as the anti-Ireland sentiment, a near-unanimity that is almost impossible on the Internet. I could ask, "Do you support peace and love?" and doubt it would get 94.6%. The message to both men and to the Dolphins organization is one of extreme and overwhelming dissatisfaction.

WADE, LEBRON GET POLITICAL: Through his Twitter account, Heat star Dwyane has Waded into 1aa1hoodiesthe controversy and outrage over the Sanford, Fla. killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin by a community-watch patrolman. Via @DwyaneWade he has been reTweeting TV analyst Roland Martin's updates on the issue including one exhorting people to sign a Change.org petition demanding justice -- a petition that had nearly 1.5 million supporters when last I checked. Yesterday a separate Tweet by Wade ended with "...we are #trayvonmartin." "As a father, this hits home," Wade said Friday. And teammate LeBron James Tweeted a photo (pictured) of Heat players wearing hoodies and with heads bowed in honor of Martin, who was wearing a hoodie when killed. You go, Dwyane and LeBron. Athletes have a voice and are entitled to use it. They are human beyond the superhumans we see on the courts and fields, and it's good when they feel it enough to show it. I'm glad to know the Trayvon Martin case has touched Wade and James as it has so many others. (Of course Wade has time for frivolity, too. Just lost a bet with Udonis Haslem over Florida-Marquette result and now must put a Gators plate on his car. Ouch. Wade and Heat set all that aside and go back to work now three roadies in four days: Won at Detroit last night, now it's Sunday at Oklahoma City and Monday at Indiana. OKC game a very possible NBA Finals preview).

1aa1giancarloMARLINS' STANTON NO. 2 PICK FOR HR TITLE: Bovada has Marlins' Giancarlo (nee Mike) Stanton (pictured) at 9-1 odds for baseball's overall 2012 home run title, tied for second with Alberto Pujols after favorite Jose Bautista at 13-2. Other individual betting picks: NL MVP--Joey Votto at 7-1; Stanton tied fourth at 10-1, Jose Reyes 7th at 15-1, Hanley Ramirez at 25-1. AL MVP--Pujols at 11-2. NL Cy Young--Clayton Kershaw at 9-2; Marlins' Josh Johnson tied 8th at 15-1. AL Cy--Justin Verlander at 9-2.  

1aa1serenahulkSERENA WILLIAMS TRANSFORMS INTO 'THE INCREDIBLE SHE-HULK' 

          KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. (Faked-Up News) -- Serena Williams, the zaftig tennis star always renowned for her outlandish outfits on the court, has outdone herself by appearing in her new persona as "The Incredible She-Hulk" at the Sony Ericcson championships event on Key Biscayne. Skin dyed green head to toe and wearing only a painted-on purple and white leotard, Serena won her opening match, 6-0, 6-0, in 23 minutes, after which her vanquished opponent, Ivetirinazula Azakovskarenkajicek-Muradovakovanova, complained, "Was little bit big distract, yes?"

1aa1leblonLEBRON, MEET LEBLON: The first time I saw the word "Leblon" I assumed that was the platinum-blond alter-ego of LeBron James. Instead it turns out Leblon is a brand of Braziliam rum (pictured). Is this not a LeBron endorsement deal waiting to happen? (You're welcome...)

MADNESS UPDATE: CINDERELLAS DENIED AS TOURNEY REACHES ELITE 8: March Madness winnowed from Sweet 16 to Elite 8 last night with four favorites winning: No. 3 Baylor over 10-Xavier, 1-Kentucky over 4-Indiana, 1-North Carolina over 13-Ohio (though in OT), and 2-Kansas over 11-North Carolina State. Today the first two teams reach the Final Four, with 4-Louisville vs. the 7th seed Florida Gators and 1-Syracuse vs. 2-Ohio State. Gators the highest seed left but hardly feeling like a true Cinderella.  UPSET WATCH: None yesterday (sorry, Ohio) and 15 upsets in 56  tournament games thus far, or 26.8 percent. MY BRACKET: Kentucky, Baylor and North Carolina are my horses left. Need KY and UNC to win on Sunday.

ALL THE 'AMERICAN IDOL' UPDATE YOU NEED: It's down to nine after Erika Van Pelt was eliminated last night because the unfortunate makeover to short black hair suggested to her by show stylists made her look like a 40-year-old Joan Jett impersonator. The next contestant out, here way too long as is, should be Heejun Han, whose marginal talent is exceeded only by a grating personality. Heejun Gone, please.

1aa1kimflourKIM KARDASHIAN FLOUR-BOMBED: Famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian was flour-bombed (pictured) by an onlooker while promoting a fragrance yesterday in Hollywood, Calif. They never caught me.

Click back. Will be updating and adding more to this latest blogpost...

March 21, 2012

Yay or nay on Dolphins' Ross, Ireland: Double polls, vote now!; plus Madness update, Tebow-Jets, Marlins, Heat, Payton, Clinton & more

[1) It is Friday, March 23. Latest to reject Dolphins: Ex-Pats OLB Mark Anderson, sought for pass-rush help, signed with Buffalo. 2) Thanks to all who tapped into our live Q&A chat this week. Do it every Wednesday 1-2 p.m. Click HERE to join us then or to post questions any time. 3) Justice for Trayvon Martin. Please? 4) join us on Twitter @gregcote].

A REFERENDUM ON STEPHEN ROSS AND JEFF IRELAND: Timing tends to be a big factor in our blog polls and I want to be up front that these two polls inviting your overall impressions of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross 1aa1irelandrossand general manager Jeff Ireland (pictured left to right) are coming at a rough time for them in terms of Dolfan unrest. I suspect results could be ugly. Then again I also think there may be plenty of Dolfans who either support Ross or Ireland, or who think the media or some fans have been unfair or too hard on the club's management, and these fans have equal right to be heard. You'll notice I have cut out the gray area here. No category for "mixed" or "undecided." No fence-sitting allowed, it's thumbs-up or down. I'll be interested to see if either of these men enjoys more support than the other, but I hope these polls are more than a pulse-read on Ross and Ireland. I hope they are a launchpoint for an open discussion -- civil, if possible -- on how the Dolphins are being run, what's good, what's bad, what could improve. Cast your vote in both polls, say why and check back often to see how results are evolving...

BILL CLINTON SPEAKS IN BROWARD: I was among the crowd listening to Bill Clinton speak Tuesday night at the 

1aa1billclintonBroward Center for the Performing Arts. I'm a Clinton fan (it's why I paid to hear him), but was somewhat disappointed. His talk, entitled "Embracing our Common Humanity," was a rather generic pitch for activism, education, human rights and so forth. And that was fine. But I'd have liked him to pepper in a bit of politics, too, something tailored to place and time, considering he was in an important electoral state in the midst of a presidential campaign. Also the post-speech Q&A was lame, with a few prepared questions read by a moderator. He should have taken questions from the audience. Then maybe Clinton would have been led to talk about what would have interested many in the crowd: His thoughts on Obama, the Republican field and this race. Nevertheless, it was an honor to be in the presence of a former president, no matter the party. [Aside to Commenters: If you're still making Monica references, you need new material. Seriously...]

1aa1jetstebowT-T-T-TEBOW AND THE JETS: "Hey kids, shake it loose together, the spotlight's hittin' somethin' that's been known to change the weather..." Tim Tebow is now in the AFC East running the 1aa1jetstebow2New York Stinkin' Jets' Wildcat under the guiding hand of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Well, the Dolphins-Jets rivalry just added another layer of intrigue. Also, the Gator Fan wing of Dolfan Nation just collected another reason to be angry and disappointed with Miami.

1aa1bbsiMAG SAYS MARLINS A PLAYOFF TEAM: Sports Illustrated's new baseball-preview issues forecasts Marlins for an 89-73 record and the first NL wild card ticket, though the mag has Miami then losing in the WC playoffs. World Series pick is the Angels (led by cover-man Albert Pujols, left) beating Giants in an all-Cali final.

HAMMER DOWN ON PAYTON, SAINTS: NFL suspends Saints coach Sean Payton for a full year without pay over the bounty scandal. Also a hefty fine, two forfeited second-round draft picks and other penalties. Predicted in a previous post that penalties would be very harsh. They are. Individual players may yet be disciplined, too.

1aa1ronnytHEAT ADD RONNY TURIAF: The Heat signed 6-10 free-agent journeyman center Ronny Turiaf (pictured looking rather maniacal). He's a career backup of modest stats (5.3 points, 3.8 rebounds) but will add depth and fortify Miami's interior defense in expected playoff series vs. teams like the Magic and Bulls. Meanwhile, haters, if you're going to criticize the Heat and especially LeBron James for not being clutch, for fading in fourth quarters et cetera, remember last night, too. Note that Miami erased a 4Q deficit with 17 unanswered points in a 99-95 win over visiting Phoenix. That's all.

BUSH REPS MIAMI IN MADDEN 13 COVER POLL: Reggie Bush is the Dolphins' representative in the bracket of 32 vying in an ESPN.com vote to be on the cover of the Madden 13 video game. Bush is a 12th seed facing 5th-seeded LeSean McCoy. No. 1 seeds are Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers. 

1aa1genesimmonsKISS/MOTLEY CRUE TOUR: KISS and the Crue announced a 2012 summer tour. In doing so Gene Simmons promised "no fake bulls---," blasting artists who use backup dancers and lip-synching. So let me get this straight. The frontman for the group famous for using costumes and makeup is promising "no fake bulls---." That about right?

ON BRITTNEY GRINER'S DUNK: Baylor's Brittney Griner had a 1-handed dunk in a win over Florida (click here to watch) in last night's women's NCAA Tournament. This is not a sign of advancement for women's college hoops. You know what will be? When no big deal is made over somebody who is 6-8 being able to dunk. 

HEADLINES YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D SEE...: Click here. My comment? Seems like one of the better reasons I've heard for the existence of Twitter. Click here for Headline II. My comment: If you're caught naked outside at 3:30 a.m., always try to involve a nuclear bomb in your reason why.

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost...

March 20, 2012

Garrard vs. Moore for Dolphins' start ... should Tebow be in play, too? Vote now (with poll); plus Heat, March Madness 'n Canes, Panthers & more

[1) It is Wednesday, March 21. Live Chat Wednesday, our weekly Q&A, returns for another round today 1-2 p.m. Click HERE to join us live then or to post questions now. 2) Hope Yeremiah Bell re-signs. A good safety and a better guy. 3) Thanks to Bonnie Gross for having us speak to her FAU multimedia journalism class. Enjoyed it. 4) Lady Gaga says here she won't do any more press interviews for a long time. The group, People Who Believe Her, would not fill a Kia. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote].

1aa1protest 1aa1finsprotest 1aa1jeffirelandOCCUPY DAVIE?: About 35 protestors (pictured) gathered across the street from Dolphins' HQ in Davie yesterday to protest the club's direction under owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland. Sign of the Day "FIRELAND!"

Click on Leading the League in Rejection for my latest column, on the Dolphins' offseason woes.

DOLPHINS SIGN QB DAVID GARRARD: Whirlwind times for the Dolphins. Last night they signed QB David Garrard (pictured right), the ex-Jaguar. Would think that effectively eliminates the hopes to get Alex 1aa1davidgarrardSmith, just as Peyton Manning choosing Denver will likely make available Tim Tebow (pictured left). The 49ers not landing Manning likely means they will now re-sign Smith,  erasing yet another option from the Dolphins. Will the last person to reject the Dolphins please turn out the light? This planned major quarterback upgrade is not coming easily for the Dolphins. It may not come at all. The winner in all this? Maybe Matt Moore, who is looking more and more like he'll keep his starting job. Doubt Garrard is better. 1aa1tebowtAnd neither is Tebow. With no Smith, I think Miami should and will end up sticking with Moore for another year and move to draft and develop Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. Then again, the way the Dolphins' luck is running, somebody else will draft Tannehill first and Moore will bust his ankle jet-skiing. Oh, and Chad Henne will make the Pro Bowl for Jacksonville. Do not think Tebow will be pursued. Isn't good enough. He would be a splash signing in terms of headlines and buzz, but don't count on it. Ross and Ireland need help, though. Should they pursue a trade for Tebow assuming the asking price is fair? Vote now and say why. Interesting, evolving results. Check back often to monitor... 

Flynn on Seattle over Miami: Matt Flynn on Seattle radio topday, about choosing the Seahawks over Dolphins despite his familiarty with Joe Philbin: "I felt it’s a program that’s really on the rise, doing the right thing, is being led by the right type of people." A veiled shot at Ireland et al?

Manning, Tebow bettling lines: Nobody puts up lines quicker than Bovada. They have Peyton Manning over/unders for Broncos as 4,000 passing yards and 28.5 TD passes. Tim Tebow's destination is Jaguars at 3-2, Broncos and Dolphins both 7-4, Patriots 7-1 and Browns 12-1. Revised Super Bowl odds have Packers 13-2, Patriots 15-2, Saints 10-1, and Texans and Broncos both 12-1 -- Denver up from 50-1 last month. Miami is 40-1 (mid-pack tie for 17th), from 35-1 last month.

HEAT'S COUNTDOWN TO OKLAHOMA CITY: Revenge upon Orlando completed with Miami's 13th straight home win, check. Impressive late rally to beat Phoenix last night for 14th straight home win, check. Now Heat fans' next red circle on the calendar should be this coming Sunday's visit to Oklahoma City in the teams' first meeting of the season -- and a likely or at least very possible NBA Finals preview. Meantime, with the regular season two-thirds finished, time to start paying attention to conference standings and likely playoff pairings. Miami, as it stands, would draw creaking Boston in the first round.

1aa1ozhouseIT'S GOOD BEING OZZIE GUILLEN: Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen posted on his website a picture of the shack he's living in up in Jupiter during spring training, and we pass it along for your edification.

MADNESS UPDATE / NATIONAL: REST TIME FOR THE SWEET 16: No. 11 seed North Carolina State would be Cinderella in the men's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 if not for 13th seed Ohio, and I wonder if a few 1aa1sweet16Miami Hurricanes fans have thought, "That should be us." N.C. State was the last ACC invite, bumping UM. Anyway, the Madness breathes and rests for a few days before Sweet 16 games start Thursday. UPSET WATCH: Through 48 games so far, the biggest upsets by seed have been by 15s Lehigh and Norfolk, by 13 Ohio and by 12s Virginia Commonwealth and South Florida. In all there have been 13 upsets in 48 games, or 27.1 percent. MY BRACKET: I'm alive with 10 of the 16 survivors. Could be worse, I guess. My bracket-killers have been Missouri and Florida State; I had both reaching the Final Four. Too much faith in the ex-Canes coaches, Frank Haith and Leonard Hamilton.

Updated Madness betting lines: From Bovada, Kentucky is a clear national-championship fave at 11-5, followed by Ohio State 5-1, Michigan State and North Carolina both 13-2, and Kansas 8-1. Glass slipper fits Ohio at 100-1. 

1aa1katiemeierMADNESS UPDATE / MIAMI: CANES WOMEN, MEN BOTH ELIMINATED: Tough night for The U in hoops last night. UM women were upset in round two of the NCAAs by Gonzaga on their home court in Spokane, after routing Idaho State in their tourney opener. Canes were again without suspended star Riquna Williams. Kudos to Katie Meier (pictured) for a righteous decision many coaches would not have had the nerve to make. The Miami men, trying to make the best of the NIT, hosted Minnesota but lost after beating Valparaiso in their opener.

ICE ON FIRE AS PANTHERS STAY HOT: Overshadowed by the Heat, the Dolphins' QB calamity and nationally by March Madness, the Florida Panthers last night won a fifth straight games, the club's best streak in four years to maintain a five-point division lead with 10 games left. Cats have lost as many games (36) as they've won and been outscored by 16 goals, but first is first is first. Especially for a club that last made the playoffs in 2000 and last won a playoff series in halcyon 1997.

BETHENNY FRANKEL UPDATE: Reality cougar Bethenny Frankel appeared on TV the other day, dropped for a pushup and flashed her nearly bare bottom. Click here if you don't believe it. I couldn't say it if it weren't true. This is a blog!

1aa1fenway100FOR RED SOX FANS: Most of the sports books I am sent sit unread. An exception is Fenway: A Fascinating First Century (Sports Illustrated Books, $32.95), which I'd recommend as a must-have for Boston Red Sox fans and which would also nicely grace the coffee table of anyone enamored of baseball history. Well, not counting Yankees fans. They should probably skip it.

THE LIST: HOME STADIUMS AND ARENAS: With Opening Day in 16 days, Marlins Park will become only the sixth different South Florida facility to be home to one of our Big Four pro teams. The stadiums and arenas...

DOLPHINS: Orange Bowl (1966-86); Dolphins stadium (1987-present).

HEAT: Miami Arena (1988-99); Downtown bayside arena (2000-present).

MARLINS: Dolphins stadium (1993-2011); Marlins Park (beginning 2012).

PANTHERS: Miami Arena (1993-97); Sunrise arena (1998-present).

Click back. Will be updating and adding more to this latest blogpost...

March 16, 2012

Dolphins lose Flynn to Seattle. What now? Alex Smith or bust?; plus my St. Patty's video to you, Madness, Heat, Marlins, Haiku & more

1aa1daypat 1aa1daypat[1) It is Sunday, March 18. Happy St. Patrick's Day Weekend! 2) In honor of my favorite TV show, Showtime's 'Shameless,' here is the theme song, The Luck You Got, by Detroit band The High Strung. 3) The Panthers are about end their endless NHL playoff drought. Kevin Dineen for mayor of Sunrise! 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1stpdayA ST. PATTY'S DAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: Try to bring you a little video treat every holiday and today's actors, pictured here left to right, are Dolphin-rejector Peyton Manning, Heat star LeBron James, me, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen and suspended UM women's basketball star Riquna Williams. Click HERE to watch. Enjoy.

FLYNN SIGNS WITH SEATTLE; DOLPHINS TURNING SIGHTS ON ALEX SMITH: [Update: Matt Flynn has signed a 3-year, $26 million deal with Seattle -- more than the Dolphins wanted to spend. Now it seems Miami will turn its sights on free agent 49ers QB Alex Smith (pictured), who was here interviewing today. Also reports now that ex-Jaguar David Garrard will be brought in. This begins to feel calamitous for the Dolphins, losing their top two choices in Peyton Manning and now Flynn] Original post: The Big 2 available quarterbacks got away. Peyton Manning, who didn't seem to ever seriously consider the Dolphins at all, 1aa1doors3will be a Titan or a Bronco. Robert Griffin III will 1aa1alexsbe a Redskin. Miami is running out of options. I now have three left after today's loss of Flynn. 1) Sign free agent Alex Smith. He is more proven than Flynn and coming off a pretty solid season. Had a 90.7 passer rating with 17 TDs and only five interceptions. And, turning 28 on May 7, Smith should be coming into his prime. 2) Draft Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. Issue here is he's seen as a lower-first-round guy who may not be worth the 8th overall pick, but if you trade down you could lose him. He's also a guy said to probably need a couple years of development. 3) Stick with incumbent Matt Moore, after all, and table the QB upgrade for a year. I think Miami will select one of these three options and not do a combo platter. In other words, if they sign Smith or stick with Moore, I doubt they would also spend their top draft pick on the position. Too many other needs. (If Garrad is seriously in play, we're all in trouble). Not pulling the high-cost trigger on a trade-up for Griffin and then flatly bombing out in the Manning Sweepstakes and now missing out on Flynn too has left the Dolphins in a very tough spot, with no clearly preferable option left. Smith is not top-tier. Tannehill is no sure thing. And the status quo of Moore would mean haven't upgraded the one position you most wanted to. So what do you hope the Dolphins do now? What is the smartest/safest/preferable/best remaining realistic option? Oy vey.

MADNESS UPDATE: NORFOLK? LEHIGH? WHAT THE---!: Friday was Upset Central with 15-Norfolk stunning Frank Haith's 2-Missouri and 15-Lehigh ousting Coach K and Duke. Oh my. In all there were eight upsets by seed, half of all the games played. ... Thursday in the first big day of full action I had it all wrong. Thought Florida might have a tough time with Virginia this afternoon, but The Gator rolled. Thought Florida State would crush St. Bonaventure, but the Noles rallied to escape 66-63. No. 1s North Carolina and Michigan State advanced. UPSET WATCH: Saturday's games, the biggest upsets by seed have been by 15s Lehigh and Norfolk, by 13 Ohio and by 12s Virginia Commonwealth and South Florida. In all there have been 10 upsets in 32 games, or 31.2 percent. MY BRACKET: Awful. I advanced only nine of 16 teams Friday and now have only 21 of the 32 left. Missouri was a bracket-killer for me because I had Haith reaching the Final Four. MADNESS BONUS: Click on Bracket Man for a delightfully awful parody song/vid to the tune of Elton John's Rocket Man.

HEAT'S POST-BREAK MALAISE: While the NBA obsessed whether Dwight Howard would leave Orlando by Thursday's trade deadline (he didn't), the Heat quietly have gone 5-4 since the all-star break despite terrific play by both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Anybody worried? Anybody concerned Miami is not clearly better than either Chicago or Oklahoma City? I'd bet this: Give Pat Riley truth serum right now and he'd tell you this Big 3 championship parade is not coming nearly as easily as he'd imagined back in the summer of '10.

'FRYDAD4' WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE: Congratulations to our 7th annual Haiku Challenge champion, 1aa1haikuchfrydad4. His winning haiku: "My bracket's busted * like Sara in accounting * who might win it all." The inebriated panel of judges appreciated the simplicity and 5-7-5 metric phrasing, enjoyed the ambiguity of the reference to Sara's bosom, and also liked the nod to office pools. (Frydad4, email me at gcote@miamiherald.com and once I match up ISP addresses to know it's you, we'll figure out a prize). Runnerup haiku is by defending champion OC Dolphin with: "Heels click Kansas home * Badgers, Tigers, Cats, oh my! * Wizard would approve." Third-place haiku is by Tuhle with: "Vegas and pick ems * Office pools, point spreads, side bets * / This is basketball?" Thanks to all who played. (As to the nefarious allegation in Comments that I stiffed OC Dolphin on his prize last year, can it possibly be true? If so email me, OC, and we'll get it right).

1aa1tunaTUNA VISITS MARLINS: Former Dolphins executive Bill "Tuna" Parcells is seen here chatting with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen this morning up at the Jupiter spring training facility (photo courtesy colleague Manny Navarro). I am not privy to what the two men were discussing. Nor can I confirm rumors that, shortly after this conversation, the Marlins inexplicably drafted Pat White.

Click back. More coming to this latest blogpost...

March 13, 2012

Flynn time! Manning rejects Dolphins; plus Marlins' new theme song, March Madness, Heat road woes, Newseum & more

1aa1dickvitale 1aa1cherryEntries have closed on our annual MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE contest in the blogpost directly below this. The winner will be announced on Friday, Good luck!

[1) It is Thursday, March 15, National Bracket Day, and two days before we all pretend to like corned beef and cabbage. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Bulletin: Peyton Manning late today, as expected, eliminated the Dolphins from his decision, meaning Miami will now turn sights on free agent QB Matt Flynn. 

1aa1dolphinpeytonD-DAY FOR MANNING? DOLPHINS BRACING FOR MANNING'S DECISION: Today we might find out if the awful photoshop of Peyton Manning's head on a dolphin's body will come to pass or be denied. A Denver Post report and a general consensus is that Manning leans to the Broncos or Titans over the Dolphins and Cardinals, but none of his Final Four was known to have been eliminated as of late Wednesday night. The Dolphins have seemed to recede as a candidate ever since being the consensus favorite out the gate. Meanwhile the sudden trade this week of wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Bears becomes somewhat more understandable in 1aa1brandonmlight of the New York Post report that Marshall (pictured) recently punched a woman at a NY nightclub. There are conflicting reports of Marshall's role; in any case Marshall's rep as a trouble magnet is underlined, with an exclamation point. The initial intrigue in the trade was whether the deal was made as a precursor to or a condition of signing Manning, amid speculation Manning did not 1aa1dolphorangewish to inherit the headache that can be the diva Marshall. If not tied to Manning, the trade seemed curious, and dubious. If tied to Manning -- if it meant getting him -- the trade would look brilliant. But that seemed less likely when WR Reggie Wayne, who theoretically might have accompanied Manning to Miami as Marshall's replacement, unexpectedly re-signed with Indy. Now it appears Miami is (likely) losing out on Manning in addition to no longer having a No. 1 receiver. And the multitude cried as a mournful chorus: "It isn't easy being a Dolfan!" Click Dolphins' Desperate Patience for today's latest column by me (and thanks for making it the most-read thing in Sports today on MiamiHerald.com). And, pictured lower right, apropos of nothing, a sneak look at the team's new Nike orange jersey.

MARLINS' NEW THEME SONG: It is called "We Are the Marlins" (appropriately enough) and it is generically bland and yet somewhat catchy, with a Caribbean, vaguely reggae feel. Not sure if Emilio Estefan wrote or produced it, but it bears his musical stamp. Click here to listen.

1aa1marchmadJUMP IN THE POOL, IT'S MARCH MADNESS!: Kentucky is favored to get coach John Calipari his first national title, and other No. 1 seeds are North Carolina, Michigan State and a Fab Melo-less Syracuse, but I'm taking a more parochial approach for my March Madness mini-preview, focusing on the four local or state schools that interest me most this postseason:

1. Miami (women's NCAAs) -- With key seniors departing, this is the year for coach Katie Meier's third-seeded Canes to prove (after a disappointing ACC tournamant) that they can go deep, perhaps even into Final Four territory. UM opens Saturday vs. 14th seed Idaho State in Spokane, Wash.

2. Florida State (men's NCAAs) -- I give Leonard Hamilton's guys a Sweet 16 shot. They beat North Carolina, beat Duke, won the ACC and play great defense. They're also easy to root for as a senior-laden team in a one-and-done sport that sees too many players bolt for the NBA after their freshman year. Noles open Friday vs. No. 14 St. Bonaventure in Nashville.

3. Florida (men's NCAAs) -- Seventh-seeded Gators live and die by 3-pointers so could surprise if their hand is hot from deep, but otherwise I don't see this squad advancing far, maybe not even beyond the first round. UF opens vs. 10th seed Virginia Friday in Omaha.

4. Miami (men's NIT) -- Disappointed to not get a Big Dance bid in Jim Larranaga's first season, but probably didn't deserve one, frankly. UM opened its NIT run last night be beating visiting Valparaiso despite the absence of Durand Scott. Canes next play Minnesota Monday night.

'72 DOLPHINS TOP-SEEDED IN NFL BRACKETOLOGY: NFL.com presents its own 64-team bracket of greatest teams of all time and invites fans to vote here. (First-round voting ends Thursday at 5 p.m.). The four No. 1 seeds are the 1972 Dolphins, 1978 Steelers, 1985 Bears and 1989 49ers. Miami's Perfectos face the 16th-seeded 2011 Packers in the first round. Better get out and vote, Dolfans, or Don Shula will not be happy. Two other Dolphin teams make the bracket: Seventh-seeded '73 Dolphins vs. 10th-seeded '98 Vikings, and 11th-seeded '84 Dolphins vs. sixth-seeded '97 Broncos.

1aa1dwighthDRAMA WEEK FOR HEAT: I guess every week is around here, but this one especially, with Miami losing in Orlando in OT in what could have been Dwight Howard's final home game as a Magician, and then losing last night at Chicago despite the Bulls missing Derrick Rose, in a likely Eastern Conference finals preview. Howard (pictured) is the big target as Today's/Thursday's NBA trade deadline looms. Speculation has him headed to the New Jersey-becoming-Brooklyn Nets, but Orlando desperately is pulling out all stops to convince him to sign a 1aa1ivankacontract extension. One scenario here even has Howard somehow going to the Heat after this season. I'd say the chances of that are roughly equal to those of me having an affair with Ivanka Trump (pictured). Still, interesting to imagine. (I mean Howard-to-Heat, not me and Ivanka). Meantime Miami has now lost four straight road games and just lost to the depleted Bulls, the very team it must beat for a return to the NBA Finals. Should we be worried?

1aa1kimkKARDASHIAN TELL-ALL WORRYING DOLPHINS' BUSH?: A rumored forthcoming tell-all book by Kim Kardashian reportedly will deal heavily with husband-for-a-minute Kris Humphries and with ex-boyfriend Reggie Bush of the Dolphins. Then again "reportedly" in this case means speculation in the celebrity-gossip press like this, so who knows? (More to the point, who cares?) Pictured: A photo of herself that the shy, publicity-avoiding Kim Tweeted last night.

LEBATARD SHOW SHAMELESS PLUG: A new CD, "15 Of The Not Worst Moments in LeBatard Show History," is available now right here and will be out next week on iTunes. This information is a Random Evidence Blog Exclusive (REBE), by which I mean Marc Hochman emailed me and asked for a plug.

THE NEWSEUM, WASHINGTON, D.C.: While visiting friends who live outside the District this past 1aa1newseumweekend we visited the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, a museum dedicated to media through history -- print, electronic and beyond. I expected a small, sparsely visited boutique museum but marveled at a crowded, seven-story mammoth we spent five hours touring. As a journalist I found the place in my wheelhouse but would recommend it to anyone. Click Newseum.org to learn more. It is a place to celebrate freedom.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS THIRD-ROUND DRAFT PICKS: This week Miami traded WR Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks. Through their history the Dolphins have drafted 49 players in that round and 42 have made the team, but only five have made a Pro Bowl with Miami. Dolphin third-round Pro Bowl'ers:

Player   Pos.   Year drafted

Dick Anderson   S   1968

Mercury Morris   RB   1969

Tim Foley   DB   1970

Nat Moore   WR   1974

Jason Taylor   DE   1997

Click back. Probably be further updating or adding to this latest blogpost....

It's our 7th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge! Winner to be announced Friday

[Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

HAIKU ENTRY DEADLINE IS PAST; WATCH FOR WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED FRIDAY.

FIND YOUR INNER POET. ENTER OUR MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE NOW!: This is the official entry point for our blog's seventh annual March Madness Haiku Challenge, the natural marriage of American college basketball and Japanese short-form poetry, a contest that illogically endures. I call this a "boutique" contest, meaning it isn't usually very popular because most people run from haiku as if it were a rabid dog chasing them. In other words your odds of winning aren't bad should you dare to delve. Contest rules? Simple:

1aa1haiku 1aa1haiku21. Haikus must in some way be about the NCAA Tournament or NIT (men's or women's, Miami-themed or national, serious or funny) and must be in haiku form, or 17 syllables. Classic 5-7-5 metrical phrasing preferred but not required, and rhyme-or-no-rhyme is your call, but only entries of exactly 17 syllables will be considered. An example of haiku is at left.

2. Enter as many times as you like in the Comments section here, but only one entry per comment, please! Haikus must be entered as a comment here in this blogpost to be considered. In the case of similar haikus, favored status goes to first posted.

1aa1haiku3There will be a prize for the best, most original or inventive haiku, but not sure what yet. (One year it was an Official NCAA Men's Final Four Records Book, another year a Dolphins media guide). Enter soon because we'll shut off entries and announce a winner within a couple of days.

The defending champion from 2011 is OC Dolphin with: "The world is crumbling - Barack's ratings are tumbling - Still have time for picks." Other Haiku Challenge champs have been I Am Kazaam (2010), r.duke (2009), Tococane (2008), Bruce and David Tucker (tie, 2007), and Kurt from Boca (2006).

Now, don't be scared. Have fun. Ready ... set ...haiku!

March 07, 2012

Fading hopes or new life?: Can Dolphins still land Peyton Manning? Vote now (with poll); plus Canes settle for NIT, Marlins' big-mouth prez, Doral, Heat & more

HAIKU MADNESS, our blog's annual NCAA Tournament contest, is coming today/Tuesday. Get those 17-syllable poems ready!

[1) It is Tuesday, March 13. Let the Madness begin! 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Click Miami Is Comeback Hub for my latest column on commonality between Tiger Woods, who played at Doral, and Peyton Manning, in the Dolphins' dreams. Click It's All About Peyton Now for my earlier column on Dolphins' interest. Signing him is all-in-or-bust for a Dolphins owner trying to not only win but to make a once-kingly franchise relevant again. I first thought Manning was Miami's to lose. Now it seems they could lose him. Vote in our poll below and share your thoughts.

MANNING IS SET FREE, DOLPHINS READY TO POUNCE: Update: Manning met last evening in Indianapolis with a Dolphins contingent led by coach Joe Philbin, suggesting Miami remains in a sweepstakes for which Denver and Arizona are now thought to be frontrunners. ..... Original post: An emotional day for Indianapolis sent waves rippling across the NFL as the Colts officially parted ways with Hall of Fame-bound QB Peyton Manning. Dolfans, it is time to forget the dream-like 1aa1gonepmtradeup to draft Robert Griffin III, time to forget free agent Matt Flynn, time to forget lower-drafting Ryan Tannehill and time to forget incumbent Matt Moore. On this date in history, 2012, Peyton Manning officially became a free agent -- maybe the greatest free agent in NFL history -- and the Dolphins' entire quarterback focus swivels hard now in that direction. I wrote recently Miami would do best to do what it took to ideally trade up for Griffin, but, make no mistake: a healthy Manning is the next best option, and an exciting one. In fact, AccuScore estimates Manning would mean 3.1 additional victories for Miami in 2012 -- from a projected 7.4 to 10.5. That's the difference between no playoffs and playoffs. Manning said at an early-afternoon news conference, "I haven't thought yet about where I'll play," adding, "I'm confident. I don't know what the next steps are. This is uncharted territory. We'll see where all that plays out." Manning has been medically cleared to play but is not yet 100 percent following multiple neck surgeries. Of his health he said, "Ive got some progress to make but I've come a long way. I feel closer and closer." The Dolphins are confident they can sign Manning. How confident are you? Whether you prefer Manning as the trageted option or not, what do you predict: Will Manning end up as a Dolphin in 2012 or not? Vote now and say why, then check back often to see how the voting evolves.

1aa1gopeytonHandicapping the Manning Sweepstakes: My updated rank of the most likely landing spots for Peyton Manning: 1) Broncos; 2) Cardinals; 3) Dolphins; 4) the field.

Manning-to-Miami the betting favorite: Original odds from Bovada have Dolphins favored at 2-1 to land Manning, followed by Redskins 13-4, Seahawks and Cardinals both 7-2, and Chiefs and Jets both 21-4.

DAVID SAMSON'S BIG MOUTH: Marlins president David Samson is reported by business publication Miami Today to have insulted the intelligence of Miamians during a Beacon Council breakfast this week. 1aa1davidsThose would be the same Miamians whose taxes built the new Marlins Park and whom the club is counting on to fill that park. Samson (pictured) says he was misquoted; however, TV did air him commenting on low voter turnout in Miami by speculating non-voters were "too lazy or watching Oprah." It's hard to know the truth here. Miami Today was a staunch new-stadium opponent and did not record Samson's comments. Then again Samson has an earned reputation as a foot-in-mouth guy and one whose flip manner can be both offputting and misconstrued. That reputation makes benefit of doubt to Samson a lot to ask.

TIGER, RORY AND A BUNCH OF OTHER GUYS AT DORAL: Resurgent Tiger Woods and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy lead the charge in the PGA Tour event at Doral's Blue Monster that began Thursday. Click on Golf's Renaissance for my column previewing the event. I write how the Rory-led new wave and the recent surge of elders like Woods and Phil Mickelson make this an exciting time for golf. By the way, colleague Linda Robertson has a very nice read on new Doral owner Donal Trump; click here to read.

HEAT'S NEXT BIG TEST: Most Heat games are perfunctory wins, let's be honest. The OT win over Indiana was a thriller, but the Heat's next big test will be back-to-backers at Orlando and Chicago next Tuesday and Wednesday. There isn't a reasonable soul on Earth who doesn't believe it'll be Heat-Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals.

UM MEN'S HOOPS SETTLE FOR NIT: The barely-on-the-bubble Hurricanes needed a big showing in the ACC Tournament for any shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. The opening victory over Georgia Tech was a necessary start but the loss then to Florida State wasa deal-breaker. Canes settle for NITville, and that frankly is where the team probably belongs this season.

NEW SLOGAN FOR REPUBLICAN RACE: "IT'S A CLUSTER[----]!": Super Tuesday did little to make a Republican or any of the four candidates feel particularly good. The day's winner was probably Barack Obama, who gets to sit back and watch the other party be divisive and fail to reach any consensus. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, hopeless to win the nomination, should of course drop out now. Then it would get interesting, because the Gingrich far-right'ers who would flock by default to Rick Santorum would outnumber the Ron Paul support that would gravitate to Mitt Romney. Most polls and common sense indicate Romney would have a much better chance to beat Obama than would Santorum, which is why Democrats will discreetly high-five one another when Gingrich finally concedes.

1aa1bassmasterADS COMING TO NBA JERSEYS?: League meets in April to consider adding prominent, permanent advertising to NBA game jerseys, a potential $31 million revenue stream. It would be an aesthetic abomination, of course, but hey ... money! Some lesser leagues such as the WNBA already pander with jersey ads. Let's hope the NBA stays above that.

TOP MLB ROOKIES FOR FANTASY: Baseball Prospectus has the top three as Mariners C Jesus Montero, Rangers P Yu Darvish and Rays P Matt Moore. (Rays have a Matt Moore and Bucs have a Josh Johnson. What's up with Tampa stealing our names?) Other notables on the list: A's OF Yoenis Cespedes, the might-have-been-Marlin, is 4th; and Padres 1B Yonder Alonso, the ex-Cane, is 8th. Only Marlins rook in the top-50 is setup-reliever Jose Ceda, 37th.

ON THE COLOMBIA-MEXICO NOTE: I wrote an item in my Random Evidence notes column Sunday that elicited angry emails, chatter on local Spanish-language radio and consternation among Herald editors. Reference was to the recent Colombia-Mexico soccer game and our lampoon of each country's reputation regarding drugs. Two points: 1) Random Evidence is a humor-oriented column that needles and jabs, so the item was in context of a well-established irreverent format. 2) I felt both countries' drug-related reputations were earned over many years and therefore fair subject for parody. Similarly, as an example, if I were writing in Random Evidence about a game involving North Korea and Iran I might have a punchline referencing a nuclear weapon. I intended a broad swipe at an unfortunately real aspect of two countries' reputations -- not a personal shot at good people of Colombian and Mexican descent who are understandably tired of negative stereotypes.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS' NO. 18'S: In honor of Peyton Manning's No. 18 jersey number being retired by the Colts, here are the relative few Dolphins who have worn 18, chronologically:

Player Pos. Seasons

Dick Wood QB 1966

Cliff Stoudt QB 1989

Sage Rosenfels QB 2002-05

Ernest Wilford WR 2008

Roberto Wallace WR 2010

Peyton Manning QB 2012???

Click back. Will be updating and adding to this latest blogpost...