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3 posts from January 21, 2013

January 21, 2013

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sing, sort of (with video); plus Jeff Ireland's big plans, Bro Bowl v. Ray Lewis SB poll, the private Ron Fraser & more

1aa1fraserronRon Fraser: Great Coach, Better Man: Longtime former Hurricanes baseball coach, who passed away Sunday at 79, was known for 30 years of winning and for a promotional sense that changed his sport. But his family would like to give you a glimpse of the husband, father and grandfather. Click on Great Coach, Better Man for my latest column, a final tribute to Fraser. Funeral arrangements, events: Visitation will be Sunday Jan. 27 from 10 to 6 at Stanfill Funeral Home, 10545 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami. Funeral Mass will be Monday Jan. 28 at 10 a.m. at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 5601 S. Flamingo Rd., Southwest Ranches. Private burial will be in Fraser's hometown of Nutley, NJ. Celebration of the Life is scheduled Feb. 23 on campus; details to come. That night's baseball game will be in his honor, with proceeds to a fund to build a bronze statue of Fraser outside stadium. Click HERE to donate to fund. Email UM's Rick Remmert (r.remmert@mia.edu) for more info.

[1) It is WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23. New blogpost coming by midday today. Oh boy! 2) Marlins Park bypassed for 2015 All-Star Game. Gee, can't imagine why baseball wouldn't want to reward a sweet guy like Jeffrey Loria! 3) Fourth Dolphin, DT Randy Starks, added to Pro Bowl, following DT Cameron Wake, G Richie Incognito and long-snapper John Denney. Only Wake originally chosen. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1karaokeHEY! IT'S KARAOKE WITH LEBRON AND D-WADE!: This happened at Shane Battier's second annual "Battioke" fundraiser at the Eden Roc Monday night. Click RIGHT HERE for a video of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on-stage performing. A very rhythmic LeBron does a faithful and surprisingly passable version of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," then LBJ and Wade duet on a massacred rendition of Shai's "If I Ever Fall In Love," sung to a woman yanked from the crowd. Pictured: A headless LeBron in foreground, Wade with mic and woman who appears to be covering her ears but isn't -- though we wouldn't blame her. The video is 6 minutes. Seems longer. Enjoy!

DOLPHINS' IRELAND: WE WANT PLAYMAKERS, DISRUPTERS: Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland spoke with media yesterday from Senior Bowl in Alabama and made clear what the club's emphasis will be in the draft and free agency. "There's a gap between one and two in our division," he said. "We've got to find guys that are scoring touchdowns, and disrupt the passer on defense." Ireland did not rule out trading out of the No. 12 draft slot, admitted he was "polarizing" to many fans, and said of himself and coach Joe Philbin, "This is a big offseason for us. We understand that. We look forward to making some exciting new before too long."

49ERS-RAVENS SUPER BOWL: RAY LEWIS! BRO BOWL!: Every Super Bowl presents its obvious storylines that the national media will beat to death explore fully, but few SBs offer up two as distinct -- 1aa1lewisrayand legit -- 1aa1harbaughsas 49ers vs. Ravens. One is the historic "Bro Bowl" -- Har-Bowl? Super Baugh? -- between coaching brothers Jim and John Harbaugh. The other is the sure to be over-the-top emotion of a retiring Ray Lewis in the final game of his Hall of Fame career. These two stories probably are why most of you voted for Niners-Ravens as your preferred matchup from four choices in a recent poll of ours, with 47.3 percent. (That, or a simple dislike of the Patriots). But which is the bigger story? Bro Bowl? Or Lewis? That's for you to decide, right here. It's a close call nationally, I'd say. In Greater Miami I'd give the edge to Lewis because he's a former Hurricane and arguably The U's greatest alum ever to play in the NFL. But try to step back and make your pick from a national vantage. Which story interest you most? Or, put another way: Which story will America be most sick of after two weeks of incessant repetitive over-saturation? OK let's go. Vote and say why.

Super Bowl odds: Our friends at Bovada have set 49ers as 4-point favorites over Ravens but say about 60 percent of early action is falling to Baltimore, meaning the line likely will shrink a bit. MVP favorites are Colin Kaepernick 7-4, Joe Flacco 5-2, Ray Lewis 6-1 and Frank Gore 17-2.

PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION / MLK DAY: A thought-provoking juxtaposition this week as the second 1aa1mlkdayinauguration of President Barack Obama occured on the day the nation annually honored its greatest civil-rights icon. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and spoke and fought for basic equality, or at least some humane semblance of it. The election of our first black president always will stand as a symbol of America's progress toward that equality, and by extension as a victory for the cause to which King devoted his life. By the way, visit Memphis not for the barbecue or music or Graceland, but for the National Civil Rights Museum beside the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated in 1968. I toured the NCRM a few months ago was profoundly moved. It is worth the trip.

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

R.I.P., Ron Fraser: Legendary former Hurricanes baseball coach passes away after lengthy fight with Alzheimer's

[1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 20. Bro Bowl! 49ers oust Falcons, 28-24, then Ravens upset Patriots, 28-13, making it a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl. Find our NFL championship-Sunday playoff post in the blog directly below this. 2) Heat today signed Chris "Birdman" Andersen to a 10-day contract, news that seems irrelevant in the context of the loss in the UM family. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1fraserrWE SAY GOODBYE TO RON FRASER, A CANES AND SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS LEGEND: Fraser's passing was announced just before 1 p.m. today. A statement from a family spokesperson read: "It is with profound sorrow we announce the passing of Ron Fraser, husband, father, grandfather, uncle and coach. He was surrounded by his family, after a valiant and courageous battle with Alzheimer's. Arrangements are pending."

Fraser coached University of Miami baseball from 1963 through 1992, and won College World Series championships in 1982 and '85. He was 79. I had known of Ron's fight with Alzheimer's for years but did not write of it out of respect for the family's wishes.

Click here to watch the 5-minute video from Ron's 1995 induction into the UM Sports Hall of Fame.

My most recent column on Fraser was not quite a year ago, on Feb. 17, 2012. I reprint it here, only slightly edited, with great respect:

The concept of time flying surely requires no additional evidence, but I would offer this: The University of Miami is about to begin its 20th baseball season since the retirement of the program's iconic and great coach, Ron Fraser.

It seems like a proper time to reflect, and to appreciate.

Today's Hurricanes - many not born when the "Wizard of College Baseball" left -- are trying to get back to the College World Series after a three-year absence, and the fact a drought so modest weighs in as so unacceptable and nearly unheard of -- simply reflects the standard Fraser set.
UM opens its 2012 season in a stadium officially and elaborately called Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park.
The name is all wrong, of course.
It should be Ron Fraser Stadium. Just that.
George and Ethel Light were generous to donate in the 1970s to the creation of the ballpark and name it after their son Mark, who had died of muscular dystrophy, Miami's famed A-Rod more recently donated $3.9 million for major renovations.
With due respect to those donors, though, Fraser gave more than money to UM baseball. He donated his life, 30 years of it anyway, to rescue a program from the edge of being abolished and see it to the nation's top echelon of success. Along the way, he lifted an entire sport with his salesmanship and marketing sense as the single most important figure in college baseball history.
Fraser is Hurricanes baseball, for sure, and although the Light and Rodriguez names should continue to have their place at the park, the only name on the front of it should be that of the man without whom the stadium would not exist at all. There might be legal hurdles to such a change; they should be overcome.
At the very least, UM should build a statue of Fraser in front of the ballpark, a plan that has been in the talking stage for years and should be made to happen without more delay.
Fraser is 78 now and battling serious health issues; he was unable to be interviewed for this column. All the more reason for that reflection, and appreciation. And for that statue.
What Fraser resurrected, shaped and raised has become the greatest constant on South Florida's tumultuous sports landscape. Canes baseball wins. Relentlessly. The streak of consecutive winning seasons now stands at 54. The consecutive regional (playoff) appearances are a current 39 years, an NCAA record. The CWS national titles Fraser won in 1982 and '85 have been augmented by the two championships led by current coach Jim Morris in 1999 and 2001.
Trace all of it to Fraser arriving on campus in 1963, right around the time "Beatlemania" entered the lexicon. He took on a sinking program that had no money, no uniforms, no scholarships and was about to be erased as a failed experiment by the administration. A box of new baseballs was such an extravagance then that Ron once told me he used to dip scuffed, used baseballs in Pet milk to whiten them for re-use.
He departed in 1992 after 30 years and 30 winning seasons, his legacy one of success, marketing genius and a little gem of a stadium that exists only because he dreamed it.
Fraser is UM's Don Shula, a higher compliment I cannot find.
Morris, beginning his 19th season, was a wonderful choice to replace Fraser and has maintained the winning tradition, but he understands the footsteps and the shadow, too. Those exist almost two decades later. No one is more appreciative of Fraser than the man who inherited what he'd left -- the tradition and the burden as well.
"I remember telling Ron, 'Coach, this is like replacing Bear Bryant, ' " Morris recalled. "Coach Fraser is a father figure, and the most influential guy in my coaching career."
Morris reigns over a program now whose baseballs gleam pearly white inside stacks of boxes, no Pet milk needed anymore to give scuffed old baseballs a makeover.
The newest Hurricanes will run onto the home diamond as the ballpark fills, and it doesn't matter what the name on the outside might say, this is The House that Fraser Built, and always will be.
Twenty years later. Imagine that?
Thank you, Ron.


Live Blog Q&A/Chat No. 16 has ended; next chat Jan. 28

Welcome to Live Blog Chat No. 16: Chat has ended. Thanks to all. Click on 'Comments' below to read a transcript of today's palaver.