« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »

18 posts from March 2013

March 31, 2013

Play ball! Marlins lose opener, fans weigh big decision; plus Final Four poll (vote now), Dolphins confirm logo, Heat-Spurs, Creepy Easter Bunnies & more

1aa1dolnew 1aa1dolnew

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 2. World's worst-kept secret confirmed: Dolphins made it official that this is the new logo. Had planned to reveal it coincidental with NFL Draft but it was out so why wait? 2) Sorry again about missing yesterday's live blog chat. We'll get back at it next Monday. 3) Hope y'all had a Happy Easter. See below for our special "Cavalcade of Creepy Bunnies." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes out/March Madness, Brent Grimes, Riley rips Ainge, Marlins odds, Doug Gottlieb, Bosh's camel. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

1aa1dawnrwGratuitous April Fool's Joke: Ricky Williams records song!: Well there's no point in trying to sell this as real, given the date, technology like Shazam and the fact anybody listening to music in the '90s may know the song. But I'll be damned if the voice and trippy lyrics in THIS SONG don't sound like something Ricky Williams might do. So pass this along to any gullible friends. Enjoy. 

PLAY BALL! MARLINS OPEN SEASON AT NATS: [Update: Marlins lose opener at Washington, 2-0, yesterday on a pair of Bryce Harper homers. Decent start by Ricky Nolasco but negligible offense against Stephen Strasburg]. The home opener isn't for a week, but Miami launches its 21st season at Washington, the new darling-favorite of the NL 1aa1bbodayEast and also seen as a stacked World Series contender. Quite a contrast to the young, low-payroll (again) Marlins. Click on They Make It Difficult for my Marlins season-preview column. Club president David Samson says he wishes Marlins fans would leave their anger behind and "just enjoy baseball again," as if the club's own actions with the latest fire-sale/payroll-slash hadn't fractured trust and made that so difficult. Having said that, spring is all about renewal (say the baseball poets), and Opening Day always sees the slate wiped, so let's try on a bit of optimism. Or at least benefit of doubt. Shall we? This is a time that challenges Marlins fans witha big decision: What does being a fan mean? My feeling always has been that a team is not its owner; a team is bigger. I think fans can think the worst of Jeffrey Loria and still support their team. I may be wrong. We'll see. For now, for better or worse, ready or not ... play ball!

FINAL FOUR SET! WHERE IS YOUR ROOTING INTEREST? VOTE NOW: Two by-seed upsets on Saturday and another in Sunday's first game left one Cinderella standing in the men's 1aa1finfourNCAA Tournament as it pared from eight teams to the Final Four. A synopsis of the Elite Eight games is below, but first, it's time to take sides. Which of the Final Four teams -- Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse or Wichita State -- will you be rooting for? Remember, this is not asking who you predict will win, but rather who you most want to win. Vote and say why:

Final Four odds: No surprises here. Courtesy Bovada, Louisville a prohibitive championship favorite at 2-3, followed by Michigan 3-1, Syracuse 17-4 and Wichita State 12-1.    

Elite Eight results:

* No. 4 Michigan d. No. 3 Florida, 79-59;in Arlington, Tex. Florida was favored by 3 points in game of keen interest in Miami area because of slew of Gators alum down here and also the left-over animus toward UF from old days when Canes-Gators was bitter rivalry. Gators trailed 11-0 out the gate and never recovered, with Michigan solving a very good UF defense despite an off-game by Tim Hardaway's kid.

* No. 1 Louisville d. No. 2 Duke, 85-63; in Indianapolis, Ind. Louisville was favored by 3 1/2 points. It was 1 vs. 2 and Coach K vs. Rick Pitino. Don't get much better! Canes fans would have strong feelings watching Duke, UM's biggest ACC rival, while Pitino's son now coaches FIU. Cardinals won despite losing Kevin Ware to an ugly broken leg. Louisville will meet Michigan in one semifinal next week.

* No. 4 Syracuse d. No. 3 Marquette, 55-39; Orangemen used suffocating defense to vanquish the team that vanquished the Hurricanes. Even many 'Cuse fans think Jim Boeheim is an a--hole, but the man can coach. Orange will face Wichita State in the other semifinal and be favored.

* No. 9 Wichita State d. No. 2 Ohio State, 70-66; Wichita State led by 20 then held on to play March Madness' Last Cinderella Standing. And what were the odds that the biggest surviving surprise team of the tournament would be nicknamed Shockers? I mean, seriously.

National championships represented by Final Four teams: 4 -- 2 by Louisville (1986-80); 1 each by Syracuse (2003) & Michigan (1977); 0 by Wichita State.

TAKE THAT, SPURS! LEBRON, WADE SIT, HEAT WIN ANYWAY: Miami sat LeBron James and Dwyane Wade vs. Spurs Sunday but Heat won anyway on a last second shot by Chris Bosh. Turnabout was fair play. Remember when San Antonio controversially sat its stars for the game in Miami? The 27-game win streak was great. 1aa1heatspursWon't retro-fit as meaningless just because it ended. But tonight felt like the game that would better indicate Miami's likelihood of repeating as champion. It's a very possible if not likely NBA Finals preview. It had been much anticipated. Heat had won three straight over Spurs so both teams would be looking to make a statement -- or so one might have thought. But Heat's lineup manuever changed everything. This makes that prospective NBA Finals matchup all the more interesting. 

Two words for Herald's 'Heat 25' poll: Sammy Schulman!?: He is a Heat front-office executive, a background guy. Nothing against him personally. No doubt he does a great job. But he is an example of the pitfall in picking a franchise's 25 most influential figures on its 25th anniversary, as the Miami Herald is now doing with the Heat. We offer 46 candidates. There are 12 to 15 at most who are clearly deserving of this honor. There are an equal number who have no business being on the ballot. The top 10 in early voting, in order, are: Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning, Erik Spoelstra, Micky Arison, Tim Hardaway, Udonis Haslem, Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Bosh. You can vote here. Let's stuff the ballot for Sammy Schulman!!!

THE THREE TENORS? HOW ABOUT THE THREE COLUMNS!: I hit a trey in Sunday's newspaper and online. That's a rarity. 1) The regular Sunday notes column (click Random Evidence) leading with NCAA hoops. 2) A live column (click Serena's Reign) off Saturday's women's tennis final on Key Biscayne. And 3) a Marlins/baseball preview section column (click The Oddest Season) on how Miami opens its 21st season Monday surrounded by so much fan anger. I need a rest. (Well, except for blogging of course).

EASTER SPECIAL: CAVALCADE OF CREEPY BUNNIES!: I know this was a serious, joyous holiday for believers because Jesus rose from the dead. But since this is a blog and not a church, I figured I'd mark the holiday by picturing a few of the creepiest looking Easter bunnies I could find. Click on the photos for a larger view. Warning: They may haunt your dreams.

1aa1bun1 1aa1bun2 1aa1bun3 1aa1bun4 1aa1bun5










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

March 28, 2013

Pat Riley to Ainge: "Shut the f--- up"; plus Sweet 16 morphs to Elite 8, Dolphins land CB Brent Grimes, Marlins' odds, Bosh's camel & more

1aa1mrt[1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 30. Headed down to Key Biscayne to columnize off women's tennis final. Quiet, please! 2) Pictured right: Mr. T playing hockey. Just because. 3) Thanks again to ESPN SportsCenter for having us on this week to discuss Heat streak and Canes' NCAA run. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat streak ends, Dolphins new logo/poll, Heat Big 5@70, Madness, Tiger Woods, men's tennis. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Dolphins sign CB Brent Grimes: He's 29, only 5-10 and coming off an injury, but if healthy Grimes, the ex-Falcon, is a starter-caliber guy capable of replacing departed Sean Smith. I see him  as Miami's third biggest free-agency get of this offseason after WR Mike Wallace and LB Dannell Ellerbe. Having said that, given his age and the fact he signed only a one-year contract, Grimes feels like a temporary mend at cornerback rather than a real answer.

Marlins' betting odds (they ain't good): Bovada's final preseason MLB odds find Marlins 200-1 to win the World Series; only Astros at 250-1 have longer odds. Favorites are Nationals at 7-1, Tigers/Blue Jays both 8-1, and Angels/Dodgers both 9-1. NL East odds are Nats 5-6, Braves 12-5, Phillies 3-1, Mets 15-1 and Marlins 40-1. Over/under on Miami wins: 63.5.

RILEY FIRES BACK AT LEBRON CRITICISM: Heat beat Hornets on road last night 108-89 to clinch top seed in Eastern Conference behind LeBron James' 36 points -- but that isn't the story. The story is Heat president Pat Riley firing back at Celtics prez Danny Ainge for calling it "embarrassing " that James complained abot officiating and hard fouls in the loss at Chicago. "Danny Ainge needs to shut the f--- up and manage his own team," Riley said in a statement. "He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing..." Think about that. Riley telling a contemporary to "shut the f--- up." In a statement released through the club. You go, boy!

CANES COLD EARLY, CAN'T RECOVER IN LOSS TO MARQUETTE IN SWEET 16: A really disappointing ending to the season last night in the Sweet 16 for the Hurricanes, in a 71-61 loss to Marquette. The final score flattered Miami, which came out cold and never could recover. Marquette couldn't miss, shot 54 percent from the field, while UM shot a clanky 35.5%. (Durand Scott, Trey McKinney-Jones and Rion Brown were a combined 8-for-35). Very tough to overcome a 16-point first half at this level, on this stage. Second-seeded Miami was a scant 5-point favorite in Washington, D.C. I liked the Canes and did not 1aa1canes16feel the knee-related absence of center Reggie Johnson, who had become a role player, would be a key factor. But cold shooting sure was. Congrats to Miami for only the second Sweet 16 run in school history, but this is not how, or when, a No. 2 seed envisions going out. ..... My bracket's wishes: Thursday night--Wanted wins by Miami, Ohio State and Indiana; did not have a dog in the Wichita State-LaSalle hunt. (If you did, bless you!) Last night--Needed wins by Louisville, Michigan, Duke and Florida. I have five teams left in the Elite Eight, but Indiana losing was the ultimate bracket killer for me; I'd hunched Hoosiers winning it all. I am forked.

Last night's Sweet 16 quartet:

* No. 1 Louisville d. No. 12 Oregon, 77-69; in Indianapolis, Ind. Louisville was favored by 11. Cardinals roll on, if not quite comfortably.

* No. 4 Michigan d. No. 1 Kansas, 87-85 (OT); in Arlington, Tex. Kansas was favored by 2. I liked Meechigan (that was for you, Mandich) in a slight upset and nailed it, if luckily, and late.

* No. 2 Duke d. No. 3 Michigan State, 71-61; in Indianapolis. Duke was favored by 2. The Diablo Azur and Coach K repping the ACC.

* No. 3 Florida d. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, 62-50; in Arlington. Florida was favored by 14. Like Gators to win but not cover. Cinderella FGCU, led by coach Andy Enfield's wife, Amanda Marcum, did not go dwn without a fight. Eagles led big early before fading.

Thursday night's results:

* No. 3 Marquette d. No. 2 Miami, 71-61; in Washington, D.C. Miami was favored by 5. Canes shoot 35.5%, pick a very bad time to be Ice Ice (Cold) Baby.

* No. 2 Ohio State d. No. 6 Arizona, 73-70; in Los Angeles. OSU was favored by 3 1/2. Buckeyes needed a 3-point basket with 2 seconds left to avoid overtime. 

* No. 4 Syracuse d. No. 1 Indiana, 61-50; in Washington. Indiana was favored by 5 1/2. Marquee game of night found Hoosiers following Canes path with early hole, poor shooting.

* No. 9 Wichita State d. No. 13 LaSalle, 72-58; in L.A. Wichita State was favored by 4. Mutt game of the night except to the involved schools.

Natonal championships represented by Thursday's four games: 10 -- 5 by Indiana (1987-81-76-53-40); 1 each by Syracuse (2003), Arizona (1997), Marquette (1977), Ohio State (1960) and LaSalle (1954); 0 by Miami and Wichita State.

National championships represented by Friday's four games: 15 -- 4 by Duke (2010-01-92-91); 3 by Kansas (2008-88-52); 2 each by Florida (2007-06), Michigan State (2000-79) and Louisville (86-80); 1 each by Michigan (1989) and Oregon (1939); 0 by Florida Gulf Coast.

Elite Eight matchups: Tonight--3-Marquette vs. 4-Syracuse and 2-Ohio State vs. 9-Wichita State. Sunday--1-Louisville vs. 2-Duke and 3-Florida vs. 4-Michigan.

DOUG GOTTLIEB'S AWKWARD WHITE MOMENT: CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb found himself on the set alongside four African-American gentlemen during last night's NCAA coverage and introduced himself 1aa1douggthusly: "I'm just here to bring diversity to the set. Give kind of the white man's perspective on things..." He is pictured here in the midst of burying himself. It was awkwardly received with what sounded like nervous, forced laughter. Gottlieb later apologized. With Twitter blowing up against Gottlieb, Charles Barkley, during the broadcast, defended Gottlieb by saying the panel was not offended, and that listeners should "get a life" and move on. As a spokesman for the White Community, I was not offended, either.

WHY STREAK ENDING IS GOOD THING FOR HEAT: Dwyane Wade after the loss in Chicago halted Miami's win streak at 27 games: "Now that's it over, I'm glad it's over. See you all in the playoffs." Wade is pictured right with that things-are-looking-up attitude. Perfect. It would be disengenuous to now claim the record (Lakers, 33) didn't matter to the Heat, but it 1aa1dwadechinever mattered most, or even close. As coach Erik Spoelstra said: "It has never been about the streak. We have a bigger goal in mind." Now the pressure of an historic streak disappears. The incessant questions about the 1972 Lakers cease. And the Heat can start focusing again on being the best/healthiest/most rested and ready team it can possibly be when the playoffs begin. Winning 34 games in a row to break a long-standing NBA streak record would have been special. But winning four games in the NBA Finals in June -- again -- would be better by a lot. As a bonus, Heat fans, too, can now return to their normal rhythm, which had been rudely interrupted by two months of perfection. Time to dust off our nit-picking nature, Miami, and wonder and worry anew whether the Heat has the rebounding necessary to repeat.

Quantifying interest that Heat streak generated: Sun Sports tells us that Miami-Fort Lauderdale ratings during the streak averaged 9.1, a 30 percent spike over the season average of 6.95 --itself a Miami-area record for Heat ratings. The highest-rated game was March 18 vs. Boston, drawing a 12.2. Last night's streak-ending loss at Chicago was the sixth straight game in which a Heat telecast on Sun (10.6) out-rated ESPN (6.6) head to head in the South Florida. 

1aa1boshcamelHOW THE RICH AND FAMOUS ARE DIFFERENT THAN YOU AND I (one in a series): When we have a birthday, maybe it's a quiet dinner out with a few friends or a Carvel ice-cream cake from Publix. When Chris Bosh of the Heat has a birthday, it's a "Moroccan-Style" bash at Miami's Briza on the Bay featuring belly 1aa1camelsdancers, fire breathers and a live camel named Henri. Oh, and it is "presented by Remy Martin V." Of course it is! The exotic soiree will April 3 as Chris turns 29. My rejected theme for the party: "No Drama -- Just Dromedary!" Bosh is pictured right in the official poster for the party (the parties of the rich and famous have official posters). At left, members of the camel community kvetch and snipe over why Henri (of all camels) seems to gets all the celebrity gigs.

1aa1dolhelPoll result: Mixed reviews for Dolphins' new logo: We asked in the previous blogpost if you prefer the new Dolphins' logo over the current one (you may still vote) and support for the new logo (47.4 percent) was lagging narrowly behind loyalty to the current one (52.6%). By the way, how would you like to be newly signed Dolphins guard Lance Louis? You make your big free-agent announcement yesterday but nobody is paying attention because everybody is talking about your new team's bleepin' LOGO!

SUPER BOWL SCAM TRACED TO BROWARD MAN: Oh, the shame! Oh, the sham! A Broward man, Robert Pham, 37, of Coral Springs, has been arrested as the culprit who bilked two 49ers fans out of $5,900 on Craigslist. Story here. Instead of mailing the fans two Super Bowl tickets Pham allegedly mailed them a taunting note that read, Go Ravens! LOL! Talk about mean-spiritedness.

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

March 27, 2013

Over at 27: Heat lose, streak finished; plus yay or nay on new Dolphins logo? (poll, vote now), Nike/Tiger ad, sad men of tennis & more

1aa1helmet[1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27. Dolphins today signed OG Lance Louis, the former Bear. 2) Tim McCarver announcing today he'll retire from Fox Sports after this year's World Series. 3) In the Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Herald building/stuff in my abandoned desk, Heat worry, Dolphins stadium vote, Madness, Marlins. 4) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

HEAT STREAK ENDS AT 27: Miami loses tonight at Chicago, 101-97, ending its 27-game winning streak, trailing only the Lakers' 33-game run in 1971-72. Not a bad thing, this loss. Shot at history is over, but so is the pressure. Now Heat can concentrate on readying for the playoffs. Meantime, predictionmachine.com had played that Lakers-Heat matchup 50,000 times and found the '72 Lakers beating this Heat team 54.4 percent of the time. Computer had given Miami a 17% percent chance to tie L.A.'s record and 15.1% chance to beat it, all a moot point now.

DOLPHINS' NEW LOGO: LIKE OR NO LIKE?: Back on March 18 this blog was the first at The Miami Herald to bring you the new Dolphins logo that had been leaked. (It will be officially revealed by the club during 1aa1dologo 1aa1dologoonext month's NFL Draft). Today my newspaper has a story about how the "buzz rises" over the new design. My first thought was to smile at the timing, at the idea that -- in the midst of a history-chasing Heat win streak and the Canes' historic run in March Madness -- it's the new logo that we as a 1aa1jaredosports community might be buzzing about. My second thought was to throw a blog poll up in here, because it's fine there is a new logo (it'll certainly spike merchandise sales), but the question is whether fans like it. Is it better? An improvement? The current and new logos are presented above right side by side here. (Sorry about the Mystery Thumb on the new logo; it belongs to whomever leaked the photo). Dolphin Jared Odrick seems shocked to be wearing the new logo, at left. The iconic starburst is a bit different but major change is that the new dolphin loses the helmet with the 'M' and is more stylized. Old dolphin appears to be standing on its tail; new one appears to be swimming. Compare the logos, vote for which you prefer and say why.

HEAT BIG 5 @ 70: Miami fell short in it bid for a 28th straight win tonight at Chicago. Meantime, the blog 1aa1heat5loves bells 'n whistles especially the nerdy-stat variety and so we started this one we are running throughout Heat season at five-game intervals (although we skipped 65). It's top-five cumulative ranking of Heat players having the biggest overall impact based on eight statistical categories. The numbers themselves might not mean much but the numbers relative to each other give an indication of the contribution players are making. The Big 5 @ 70 Games (56-14, entering tonight):

Rank (@60)   Player   Total

1 (1)   LeBron James   2,707.1

2 (2)   Dwyane Wade   1,869.6

3 (3)   Chris Bosh   1,601.8

4 (4)   Mario Chalmers   1,093.5

5 (5)   Ray Allen   1,027.3

Bubble: Shane Battier, 710.6

1aa1amandanewGRATUITOUS AMANDA MARCUM UPDATE: Our daily unabashedly sexist dose of Amanda Marcum, wife of Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield, while waiting for the Hurricanes to resume play (Thursday night) in the NCAA Tournament. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear the Tiger Woods photo just below keeps sneaking glances up at Amanda.

1aa1adtigerON NIKE'S NEW TIGER WOODS AD: The situation: Tiger Woods this week regains his world No. 1 ranking for first time since October 2010 and Nike whips out the ad pictured, using one of Tiger's own quotes. The controversy: Mr. Internet and Ms. Twitter seem to think the quote alludes dismissively to his past marital/infidelity woes and that the ad sends The Wrong Message. The truth: Get upset about something that matters. It's a bleepin' Nike ad. [And in an unrelated story, Tiger Woods Adds Celebration Where He Slowly Licks Shaft of Putter. Man, how I love The Onion!]

THE SAD MEN OF KEY BISCAYNE: Sony tennis moves toward this coming weekend's finals and the men's side is hurting. Roger Federer didn't enter this year, Rafael Nadal unexpectedly withdrew, and now world No. 1 Novak Djokovic has been ousted by German journeyman Tommy Haas -- at a week shy of 35 the oldest man in 30 years to defeat a top-ranked player. That leaves Andy Murray the only person left on the men's side who wiggles the interest meter.  

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

March 26, 2013

End of Miami Herald as we know it (weird stuff found in my long-abandoned desk); plus reason for Heat to worry, Reggie Johnson, Dolphins, Marlins & more

[1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 26. Reggie Johnson out. Canes big center will be sidelined by a knee ailment at least until the Final Four, if UM's run goes that far. That would have seemed a big loss, once. Now it doesn't. 2) Congrats to Tiger Woods for reclaiming the No. 1 ranking in golf. Now win The Masters, or it won't matter. 3) Didn't do my regular Tuesday in-studio radio spot today on 790/104.3 because LeBatard and Stugotz are on vacation the rest of this week. 4) In the Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes, Heat keep the roll on, Madness, face of Cinderella, Marlins. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Click on Hoopla: State of Basketball for today's latest column by me, on the Canes and Heat leading the bouncing ball's encroachment on what once was an uncontested football state.

THEY CALLED IT A TOAST. IT FELT LIKE A EULOGY: The other day hundreds of current and former Herald employees (me included) gathered at the doomed building at 1 Herald Plaza (pictured) for a 1aa1heraldproper farewell. The block-long, five-story landmark will soon be razed by the land's new owner, Genting, a Malaysian development corporation that plans to build a resort and (it hopes) a casino. Toasts were made as champagne glasses clinked, but the whole thing was sad. To me, The Herald selling its iconic bayside home and heading to smaller digs in Doral is a metaphor for the state of the newspaper industry. I cleaned out my desk while there, filling cardboards boxes with pieces of my past. It was not as emotional for me as I'd imagined because that was a building and a desk I'd visited less and less over the years. I was surprised by some of the stuff in those desk drawers that I boxed and brought home. Thought you might be interested in a random list...

1aa1desk2 1aa1deskStuff Found In a Sports Writer's Long-Abandoned Desk: This was the cubicle they had Le Batard and I share, so seldom were either of us actually there, let alone together. Here is a random list of a small portion of the stuff I unearthed from the clutter of my desk drawers...

* Tabloid-sized special section for Barcelona Olympics I covered, dated July 23, 1992.

1aa1brownj* Program from Jerome Brown's funeral in Brooksville, Fla., July 2, 1992.

* A 1967 issue of Miami Football, "The First Magazine to Cover Exclusively the University of Miami, Dolphins and Dade County High Schools."

* A Soccer Bowl/'80 special section, dated Sept. 20, 1980; Strikers vs. Cosmos.

* Program from Florida Panthers inaugural game, Miami Arena, Oct. 12, 1993.

1aa1exit* Dust-covered plastic 'Exit' sign. (Symbolism!)

1aa1plaque* Small third-place plaque for sports columns in 2006 from Florida Sports Writers Association. (Never knew about this. Probably just as well...)

1aa1jj* Personalized hand-written (undated) note from Jimmy Johnson thanking me for attending a UM roast. Including, "Thanks for being so nice to my parents."

* Hand-written letter from Ferdie Pacheco (8/29/97) praising me for something I'd written about Jake Scott.

* Golf ball bearing Oregon Ducks logo.

1aa1bowl2* Six-pack of 8-ounce Coca-Cola bottles with Super Bowl II logos, Orange Bowl, Jan. 14, 1968.

* Self-help book (Get a Grip On Your Dream) written by long-lost friend and former colleague, Peter Jeff.

* A baseball signed, "To Greg, All my best, Bruce Sutter HOF06." (Whom I've never met).

* Press pass No. 0523 from 1994 World Cup Opening Ceremony, July 17, Rose Bowl.

* Working Media clubhouse pass No. 00052 for Games 1-2-6-7 of 1997 World Series.

* And dozens of old media guides including, of note, the inaugural-season guides for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (1977), Florida Marlins (1993), Florida Panthers (1993-94) and Major League Soccer (1996).  

A REASON FOR HEAT FANS TO WORRY (YOU KNOW YOU WANT ONE...): A Heat-fan friend texted me last night that this was unnatural and felt weird. "I feel like I need something to 1aa1heatcardcomplain or worry about," he wrote. I get his point. This 27-game winning streak (next test: Wednesday at Chicago) finds Miami playing at such a high level that everything seems perfect. Too perfect? That's where I come in! Worry Point I: The Heat is Peaking Too Soon! Miami is so hell-bent on breaking the Lakers' 33-game streak and putting so much into it that they are spending mental and physical energy now that they could then be missing in the playoffs. Worry Point II: LeBron James Is Wearing Himself Out. He has been NBA player of the month in November, December, January and February (likely March, too). Better he should save that level of play for May and June. OK there's your starter kit. Now, ready, set ... worry!

THE DOLPHINS REALLY, REALLY WANT YOUR VOTE: The Dolphins are doing everything they can to win that upcoming referendum vote on almost $200 million in public funds for stadium improvements. They 1aa1dolphnewhave offered to pay the cost of the county-wide vote. Now they are offering to eventually repay what the county would put up, and also to pay penalties if they fail to deliver promised major events including at least four future Super Bowls. All of this is designed to position the Dolphins as square-shooters who are not out to urinate in the public trough. They might as well cut to the chase and just buy billboards that shout, WE'RE NOT JEFFREY LORIA! I expect that, next, the club will offer to have Dolphins players personally drive voters to the polls and have team cheerleaders on your lawn thanking you with Rockettes-style scissor kicks upon your return.

MARCH MADNESS UPDATE: FGCU COACH'S WIFE STILL A HOTTIE: Men's NCAA Tournament doesn't resume 1aa1amandamuntil Thursday and Friday with Sweet 16 games -- UM faces Georgetown Thursday night in Washington, D.C., all but a road game for the slightly favored Canes -- but on this break we'd like to report that Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield continues to have a wife who looks even better than his team plays. And FGCU is about to be eliminated by Florida, so I need to picture and praise Amanda Marcum while I can. It just occured to me that I have become Brent Musberger. This is sad. But not so sad that I would not find this photo to be a distinct blog enhancement.

DOWN-CELLAR WITH THE MARLINS: Sports Illustrated's new baseball preview issue is the latest to consign the Marlins to a predicted last-place finish in the NL East. SI has the Nationals over the Rays in the World Series. One bright spot: The mag projects Giancarlo Stanton as the NL home run leader with 43. (Those might be the only 43 times all season Stanton is not purposely walked).

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

March 24, 2013

Heat win 27th straight!; Canes, Heat having way too much fun (dueling videobombs); plus Cinderella FGCU, Gators, UM title odds & more

[1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 26. New blogpost coming later today. 2) Sorry we had to skip our live blog chat yesterday; we'll pick it back up next Monday. 3) Click on Random Evidence for my latest Sunday notes column. Leads with Heat/Hurricanes hoops mania. 4) In the Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes, Heat win; Madness, Serena, Haiku winner. 5) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Heat win 27th straight: A routine 108-94 win at Orlando last night for No. 27, moving ever closer to Lakers' 1971-72 NBA record of 33. LeBron James one rebound shy of a triple-double. Ho hum.  

Canes 4th-best odds for national title at 15-2: New from Bovada, it's Louisville favored at 3-1, then Florida 19-4, Indiana 5-1, and UM and Ohio State both 15-2. Florida Gulf Coast is 16th (last) at 75-1. 

1aa1heatbomb 1aa1gambleHEAT, CANES HAVING WAY TOO MUCH FUN: DUELING PHOTOBOMBS!: Chris Bosh, who leads the Heat in photobombs -- actually, videobombs -- struck again last night (left) as Dwyane Wade (who had the night off) interviewed LeBron James following Miami's 26th win in a row. Bosh crept in with a karate chop and then a Japanese-style bow. Click on Heatbomb to watch. Not long after, in Austin, Tex., UM's Julian Gamble (right) photo-bombed an interview with teammate Shane Larkin. Click on Canesbomb for the animated version. Edge to Gamble for the simplicity and the creepy grin. Let the good times roll!

SUPER BALL SUNDAY: HEAT STREAK, CANES SEASON ON LINE AGAIN AND STILL ALIVE: It was another sublime, heart-stopping doubleheader for Miami basketball junkies...

1aa1a16No. 2 Hurricanes d. No. 7 Illinois, 63-59 -- Sweet 16, anyone? Miami was a 7-point favorite to get there for only the second time in school history (2000), and did, if barely. Rion (The Lion) Brown's 21 points including two key late free throws led UM, along with Shane Larkin's huge 3 with a minute left. Miami will next face Marquette. NCAA Sunday had a distinct state flavor, of course, because:

Gators, FGCU also advance: No. 3 Florida Gators beat No. 11 Minnesota, 78-64, and feel-good No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (see below) beat No. 7 San Diego State, 81-71 -- the first 15-seed ever to reach the Sweet 16. Now FGCU will face Florida in next round. Oh my. Click on Dunk City for a tribute video to Florida Gulf Coast. (All of our state teams didn't win, alas. Also last night, No. 8 UM women were one-and-done in their NCAA bid, losing to No. 9 Iowa, 69-53).

1aa1a26Heat d. Charlotte Bobcats, 109-77 -- OK I didn't manufacture any fake drama here. The Bobcats suck. Truly reek. But a 25-game winning streak makes every game huge when you are after the NBA record of 33, so the onus was on Team LeBron to not stumble. And they didn't. It's 26 now. And all you need to know about the degree of rout is that late-game sightings for Miami included James Jones and, yes, Juwan Howard. Another minute and I'd have been looking for Rory Sparrow to tear off his warmups.

Poll result: UM run bigger than Heat streak right now (but barely): We asked what was bigger right now, the Canes' NCAA run as a No. 2 seed or the Heat's record-seeking winning streak (you may still vote, in blogpost directly below), and UM was winning with 54.3 percent.

MADNESS BY THE NUMBERS (through Sunday; entering Sweet 16): A daily tracking of upsets and my bracket in the men's NCAA Tournament. Upset watch: Total games played so far--48, excluding play-ins. Upsets by seeding--14 (29.2%). Biggest upsets by seed in round of 64: 15-Florida Gulf Coast d. 2-Georgetown, 14-Hahvahd I mean Harvard d. 3-New Mexico. Biggest upsets in round of 32: 9-Wichita State d. 1-Gonzaga, 12-Oregon d. 4-St. Louis, 15-Florida Gulf Coast d. 7-San Diego State. My bracket: Sweet 16 teams still alive: 10 (L'ville, Duke, Ariz, OSU, K-State, Mich, Fla, Ind, 'Cuse and Miami). Biggest loss so far--Gonzaga, which I had reaching Elite Eight. I'm in fair shape overall. Guaranteed to have at least three teams in final eight, and could have as many as seven.

1aa1amandaMEET CINDERELLA: No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast certifiably is this NCAA Tournament's official Cinderella -- every March Madness must have one -- and, this year, Cinderella has a face. It is pictured right. She is Amanda Marcum, the wife 1aa1amanda2of FGCU coach Andy Enfield. Granted, this is not a Disney Cinderella. This is a Cinderella from a 16-year-old boy's dreams. Nevertheless! She used to be a model and has posed for the cover of Maxim and others mags. Amanda is now all Mom'd up (see left), but it's OK. We know who she is underneath it all. And FGCU won again last night -- so Cinderella lives!

MARLINS' EXPECTED AWFULNESS NOW OFFICIAL: Courtesy ESPN The Magazine's new MLB preview issue, Miami's Marlins will finish last in the NL East with a projection range of 60 to 74 wins. Only the Astros (54) have a lower downside on victories. The season begins a week from Monday, assuming the Marlins don't just say screw it and skip the whole thing.

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

March 22, 2013

Breeze! Canes win big, Heat hit 25. What's bigger right now: UM in NCAAs or Heat streak? Poll. Vote; plus Haiku winner, Madness update, Serena & more

[1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 23. Ultra Music Festival continuing in downtown Miami. Like most genres of sound but admit electronic music not one of my favorites. Don't like a group needing a laptop in their performance. 2) Click on Duke Johnson for a 2-minute ESPN video interview with the Canes' running back. Around the 1:30 mark it sounds like the interviewer calls him Eric, but I may be wrong. 3) In the Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat miracle rally, my bracket, betting on Canes, Oreo cat. 4) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

OC Dolphin wins March Madness Haiku Challenge!: Congratulations to blog-community giant OC Dolphin for his champion haiku: "Miami, home of roundball * Heat, second to none * Canes, joining the fun." The judges overlooked a lack of classic 5-7-5 phrasing, charmed by simplicity and use of the word 'roundball.' Runnerup: I Am Kazaam (bandwagons). Honorable mention: Sean Millerick (three -ologys), Redsky (twisted testes) and Brian S (pots and pans). Thanks to all! Aside to OC Dolphin: Email me at gcote@miamiherald.com with your prize choice: 2012 Heat championship book, 2013 Dolphins media guide, or segment in-studio on Le Batard radio show on 790 the Ticket.

SEISMIC: TITLE-CHASING CANES WIN OPENER, RECORD-CHASING HEAT WIN AGAIN: Probably should have called yesterday Fantastic Friday, but wasn't in an alliterative mood. The Hurricanes opened play in the men's NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed (winning easily; see below), and later the Heat returned home in search of its 25th consecutive victory and got it -- moving ever closer to the Lakers' venerable 1971-72 NBA record of 33. It was the ultimate smorgasbord doubleheader for a Miami basketball junkie. And it's a close call (at least to me) which is the bigger story right now: the Canes' school-record high entry into March Madness, or the Heat's run at history? Let's set the table on each, after which we offer a poll for your vote:

1aa1hurricaneNo. 2 Hurricanes d. No. 15 Pacific, 78-49 -- Miami was a comfortable 12-point favorite, but two No. 15s won in this round a year ago, and yesterday No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast won. (They do call this Madness, remember). Having said that, I couldn't imagine UM losing, and they made it look easy with Durand Scott's 21 points leading the way in Austin, Tex. I eschewed homerism, but admitted my beleaguered bracket was rooting for a Canes win. Up next: UM vs. Illinois on Sunday. Pictured: Yesterday's official alert for the people of the Pacific region. (Our two other state teams also debuted, both last night: No. 3 Florida handled Northwestern State, 79-47, also in Austin; and Florida Gulf Coast stunned -- stunned-- Georgetown, 78-68, in Philadelphia).  

1aa1heat25Miami Heat d. Detroit Pistons, 103-89 -- Detroit stinks and had lost nine straight. Should have been a rout, but you know how that goes. Miami (and its fans) could have used one of those drama-free routs after recent coronary-inducing comeback wins at Boston and Cleveland. They sort of got that. Detroit led into the third quarter before the Heat took over, and convincingly. So the streak goes silver at 25, lending a new meaning to the club's (pictured) anniversary logo. Click HERE for my column off last night's latest win.

Now, the poll!: Remember this is not a favorite-team poll and not asking whether you'd prefer the Heat set the streak record or the Canes win a national title. This is asking which is the bigger story right now: Heat making the most serious run ever at a 41-year-old record some thought would never be broken? Or magical Canes season continuing as No. 2 seed in NCAAs? Vote and say why. (I know. It's apples 'n oranges and you hate having to choose, but, c'mon. It's just a blog poll!)

FLORIDA GULF COAST!?! MADNESS BY THE NUMBERS (entering Saturday play): A daily tracking of upsets and my bracket in the men's NCAA Tournament. Upset watch: Total games played so far--32, excluding play-ins. Upsets by seeding--9 (28.1%). Biggest upsets by seed: 15-Florida Gulf Coast d. 2-Georgetown, 14-Hahvahd I mean Harvard d. 3-New Mexico. My bracket: Teams eliminated so far--12. Ouch. Biggest losses--Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Georgetown, which I had all winning in next round, too. 

SERENA HAD IT RIGHT ALL ALONG: I was pleased to be down on Key Biscayne for tennis this week, and 1aa1serenaproduced this column off Serena Williams' opening match. Critics have hit Serena hard over the years (me included) for her outside interests that seemed to convey a lack of devotion to tennis. But those outside interests and the pace of her career are what have kept her fresh and elongated her prime. She won her 14th and 15th majors just last year. She has become the oldest women (at 31) to be ranked No. 1. She neither sought nor needed vindication, but has earned it anyway.

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

March 20, 2013

Surreality TV: Heat win 24th straight after trailing by 27; Jerry West on record pursuit; plus my NCAA bracket, big $ on Canes, Haiku update & more

1aa1osatan[1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 21. The History Channel miniseries, "The Bible," cast as Satan an actor, Mehdi Ouzaani, who, in costume (pictured) appears to resemble President Obama. The network is aghast that anyone would make that connection. Really, History Channel? Look at the effing picture! 2) A happy 68th birthday to Heat potentate Pat Riley. 3) In the Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge, Heat, Dolphins, Canes. 4) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Haiku Challenge announcement delayed (yet again): We'll name the winner Friday -- I promise! Have been working on having an expert guest judge; still trying. Finalists are OC Dolphin, Sean Millerick, Big Baby, Russell, Andrew, Redsky, I Am Kazaam, Ferrari and Brian.

THE TEAM THAT CANNOT LOSE! HEAT WIN 24TH STRAIGHT AFTER TRAILING BY 27: This is getting to be a bit unbelievable. Miami trails by 27 last night at Cleveland, mid-third quarter. Streak ending, right? Um ... no. Insane rally for a 98-95 win and a 24th straight triumph. And LeBron of course leading the way. (Or by now does that go without saying?) Prior to this latest win the Heat still were not a good bet to reach 34 and break the Lakers' 1971-72 NBA record. The odds, via Bovada, were 6-1. Over/under on the streak ending was 29 games. Odds to win out -- not lose again in the regular season with 16 (now 15) games left -- was 10-1. However, Miami was a prohibitive, near-even favorite to win a second straight NBA title, at 11-10. All those numbers will skew a shade better for the Heat after tonight. [Note: We missed our Heat Big 5@65 games feature. Sorry. The interval flew right past us. We'll pick it back up at 70 games.].

Jerry West likes Heat's shot at Lakers record: The iconic former Laker said today he thinks Miami has an "incredible chance" to break the Lakers' 1971-72 NBA record of 33 straight wins. Everyone's hedge: The March 31 game at San Antonio. 

MY NCAA BRACKET (INTERESTING TO NO ONE BUT ME, AND BARELY THEN): I have Indiana beating Louisville in championship game. I have Miami reaching Elite Eight before losing to Hoosiers. My first-round upset picks (based solely on seeds) are: Missouri over Colorado State; Cincinnati over Creighton; Minnesota over UCLA; and Oklahoma over San Diego State. Next-round upsets picks are: Oklahoma State over St. Louis; Memphis over Michigan State; Arizona over New Mexico; and Butler over Marquette. My upset picks beyond that are: Michigan over Kansas; Florida over Georgetown; Ohio State over Gonzaga; and Michigan over Florida.  

CANES MOST BET-ON TEAM IN NCAA TOURNAMENT: From Bovada sports book manager Kevin Bradley today: "Miami have seen the most volume of money so far, dropping them from 14-1 [championship odds] to 12-1." Hurrricanes are a 5-9 lock to reach the Sweet 16; Florida Gators are 1-3.

1aa1catoreo"DEAR GREG...": "...your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of a cat sculpted entirely of the cream filling from Oreo cookies. Thank you." Dear Reader, will try but cannot imagine any artist actually works in such a medium."

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

March 18, 2013

8th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge: Entries now closed. Winner announced later today; plus Heat, Dolphins, Canes, tennis & more

[1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20. No surprise that Jake Long is a former Dolphin, now a St. Louis Ram. A few seasons of living up to the No. 1 billing, then a pretty fast decline. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami's Basketpalooza! Canes win ACC title, Heat win 22nd straight, NCAA Selection Sunday. 3) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

* Heat streak at 23 after win in Boston: Enormously impressive 105-103 Miami win for 23rd straight, now alone for second-longest streak in NBA history, with LeBron James leading the way with 37. Trying to make it 24 tonight in Cleveland.

1aa1dologo* Dolphins' new logo?: Pictured is the likeliest evidence I have yet seen of the Dolphins' new logo to be unveiled next month. In other Dolphin news, Miami and Dallas will kick off 2013 NFL preseason Aug. 4 in annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, O. And club has been given extra 5th- and 7th-round compensatory draft picks for last year's free-agent departures of Chad Henne, Will Allen and Kendall Langford.

* Hurricanes 7th-best national-title odds: Miami is 14-to-1 to win NCAA national championship, says new Bovada odds. Favorite Louisville at 19-4. Florida Gators 7-1.

* UM women in Big Dance, too: No. 8 seed Miami opens Sunday vs. No. 9 Iowa in women's NCAA's.

* Tennis, anyone?: Annual ATP/WTA event on Key Biscayne has begun. Click on Paradise Found for my latest column, an ode to the Tennis Center of Crandon Park, the oasis on the island.


PRIZE-LIST REVEALED: Our new Haiku champion -- to be chosen on Wednesday -- will get his or her choice of the following three prizes: A Miami Herald commemorative coffee-table book celebrating the Heat's 2012 championship ..... a 2013 Dolphins media guide (available in August) ..... or an opportunity to sit in for a Tuesday radio segment on the air with Dan Le Batard, Stugotz and myself on 790 the Ticket/FM 104.3. Enter now! Time running out...


FREE YOUR INNER POET. ENTER HAIKU CHALLENGE NOW: This is the official entry point for our blog's eighth annual March Madness Haiku Challenge. The contest illogically endures despite sometimes tepid response owing to too few inspired souls able to see and appreciate the natural marriage of American 1aa1haikuchcollege basketball mania and Japanese short-form poetry. I call this a "boutique" contest due to most folks running scared 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? Very simple:

1aa1haiku131. 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 shown.

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.

There will be a prize for the best, most original or inventive haiku; see above for the three choices. Enter soon because we plan to shut off entries and announce a winner Wednesday.

The defending 2012 Haiku Challenge champion is Frydad4. Winning entry: "My bracket's busted * Like Sara in accounting * Who might win it all." The judges noted the 5-7-5 phrasing, enjoyed the cheeky yet ambiguous reference to Sara's bosom and also liked the nod to office pools.

1aa1haiku3 1aa1haikujapOur CHAMPIONS ROLL CALL: 2012--Frydad4; 2011--OC Dolphin; 2010--I Am Kazaam; 2009--r.duke; 2008--Tococane; 2007--Bruce and David Tucker (tie); and 2006--Kurt from Boca.

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

Miami's St. Patrick's Day Basketpalooza!: Canes win ACC title, earn No. 2 seed in NCAAs; Heat win 22nd straight; plus annual Haiku Challenge on deck

TODAY: LIVE BLOG CHAT, THEN HAIKU CHALLENGE!: Our Monday live blog chat / Q&A will be today from 1-2 p.m. Don't post questions here; a separate Chat post will magically appear at around 12:45 p.m. Then, after the Chat ends we'll launch our 2013 March Madness Haiku Challenge. Twitter limits you to 140 characters. I limit you to 17 syllables. Stay tuned.

1aa1daystp[1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 18. Hope you all has a fun, corn beefy St. Patrick's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for Sunday's latest wisea-- notes column from me, leading with Selection Sunday. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes reach ACC title game, Free agency Christmas for Tannehill, Heat hit 21, USA out in WBC, Jeff Gordon. 4) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

SUPER SUNDAY FOR BASKETBALL JUNKIES: And nobody in America has it better than Miami and South Florida, with the Hurricanes and Heat both preening on the national stage. It was a three-pronged Sunday festival of bouncing madness. Hope you hoisted a tankard of green beer, stuffed a corned beef on rye down your gaping maw, and enjoyed...

HURRICANES BEAT NORTH CAROLINA, WIN FIRST ACC CHAMPIONSHIP -- History was made by Miami as it won its first ACC championship in men's basketball, beating North Carolina and a partisan 1aa1acc13 1aa1larkinscrowd, 87-77, in Greensboro, N.C. A rematch with Duke might have had more sizzle, but the UNC Tar Heels were another storied program. UM handled North Carolina twice during the season and did again, led by 28 from Shane Larkin (pictured), Trey McKinney-Jones's six 3's and all-round solid play by Julian Gamble. This might have been the biggest win and best day in UM program history. It's also a wonderful springboard into the coming NCAA Tournament (see below). A truly magical season for coach Jim Larranaga and the Canes ... and the ride continues.

1aa1jameslHEAT EASY WIN IN TORONTO FOR 22ND IN A ROW -- It's 22 in a row now -- tied for the second-longest streak in NBA historty -- after Miami's 108-91 rout at Toronto. Dwyane Wade's 24 points and 22 from Lebron James (pictured) lifted the Heat; ex-Raptor Chris Bosh enjoyed a day off. A much tougher challenge to the streak comes next for the Heat: Tonight at rival Boston.

NCAA SELECTION SUNDAY: MIAMI OPENS FRIDAY VS. PACIFIC -- With dramatic, televised flair the NCAA men's basketball selection committee last evening revealed its at- 1aa1bkbsslarge bids and seeds, meaning the 68-team NCAA Tournament bracket is now set, and No. 2-seeded Miami will open Friday vs. 15th seed Pacific in the East Regional, in Austin, Tex. This tips off March Madness and launches a million office pools. If seedings hold the Hurricanes would eventually have to get past No. 1 East seed Indiana to reach the Final Four. Meanwhile, in the South Regional, the No. 3 seed Florida Gators will open Friday vs. 14th seed Northwestern State in Austin, and Fort Myers' Florida Gulf Coast (which upset Miami early in the season, remember?) is a 15th seed facing No. 2 Georgetown Friday in Philadelphia. It's Dick Vitale's favorite time of the year. Gentlemen, start your brackets!

Click back We'll be updating all three categories above throughout...

Live Blog Q&A/Chat No. 23 has ended; next chat March 25

Previous: Blogpost directly below includes Canes winning ACC, Heat winning 22nd straight, Selection Sunday. Up next: Post for our 8th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge will publish immediately following today's chat.

LIVE BLOG CHAT/Q&A NO. 23 HAS ENDED: Thanks to all. Click into 'Comments' below to read transcript of today's lively palaver. See you next Monday at 1.