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18 posts from August 2013

August 30, 2013

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 82.9%; plus Duke leads 34-6 UM rout, Gators win, FIU loses, Upset Bird Countdown (6 days) & more

1aa1amshirt1) It is SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with UM-FAU. 2) Welcome to the COLLBALL WEEK 1 blogpost! 3) Pictured right is a new T-shirt popular at Texas A&M. What, they think Johnny Manziel's half-game suspension was too harsh!? His penalty for taunting yesterday makes you think this kid actually wants to be unpopular. We used to have a word for a a guy like Manziel: The word is "a--hole.: 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins wrap up preseason, why I published Nevin Shapiro letter, Stephen Morris tops Johnny Football, Upset Bird Countdown & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

Herald football sections: Here are links to my contributions. Dolphins column: No more excuses. Playoffs, now! NFL team rankings: I have Miami No. 12 and in playoffs. Seriously. Hurricanes column: "It's a Canes thing. You wouldn't understand." But Al Golden understands.

"Pats cut Tim Tebow. No Dolphins rumors please!" --Greg Cote


CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G1: 82.9%: Votes are certified in the season's first Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 82.9 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Friday night's season-opening 34-6 non-conference home win over Florida Atlantic. (Overall satisfaction is a combination of those who call themselves "very" or "somewhat" satisfied). This is the fifth year for CSM polls in our blog. These are your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction, and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Polls never close (you may still vote), but results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9:30 a.m. today/Sunday.

2013 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 82.9 percent (19.9% very, 63.0% someWHAT) following 34-6 victory vs. Florida Atlantic.

Next poll: Sept. 7 following game vs. Florida.

CSM History

Previous final season results:

2012: 80.9% overall satisfaction (following 7-5 season)

2011: 22.1% overall satisfaction (following 6-6 season)

2010: 4.2% overall satisfaction (following 7-6 season)

2009: 41.7% overall satisfaction (following 9-4 season)

G1: HURRICANES 34, FAU 6: NEVER IN DOUBT AS UM CRUISES -- [Click HERE for my column off the Canes' season-opening win]. ..... It was a systematic dismantling more than an overwhelming rout as Miami, likely glancing ahead to the Florida Gators' visit in a week, put a by-the-numbers 34-6 pasting on undermanned FAU. Miami's defense had its way, and sophomore star Duke Johnson rushed for a career high 186 yards. QB Stephen Morris was so-so but it hardly mattered. ..... Original post: So much going on tonight at Dolphins Hurricanes stadium as The U launches Year 3 of the Al Golden era. The 30th 1aa11 1aa1canesfauanniversary of the 1983 Miami national-championship team will be marked in a halftime ceremony, and this is the first-ever Canes meeting with northern neighbor Florida Atlantic. Both occasions have made this all but Howard Schnellenberger Week in So Fla, since he coached the '83 champs and birthed FAU's program from nothing. (Click HERE for my Schnellenberger column from earlier in the week). So much pageantry surrounds this game. Unfortunately the game itself figures to be an uncompelling rout, a "soft opener" for Miami before next week's mega-visit by the Florida Gators. FAU's Owls look to be bottom-feeders (keeping FIU company) in their new Conference USA 1aa1canesfau2home. The Canes, poised just outside the Top 25s, look to be very good, an ACC title contender, with Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson fronting a potent offense and with a much-improved defense, too. That pregnant NCAA cloud still looms over Miami -- shame on the NCAA for its interminable delay -- but we won't rehash that here. It's football time! Pick was: Miami, 45-10.

Other Week 1 state FBS games:

No. 10 Florida 24, Toledo 6 -- Gators missing five starters but didn't matter much as UF rolled to 24th straight season-opening win. Pick was: Florida, 41-10.

Maryland 43, FIU 10 -- Off-field turmoil set Ron Turner era off to a shaky start. Now the Panthers' problems turn to on-field. Pick was: Maryland, 34-13.

McNeese State 53, USF 21 -- Pick was : USF, 27-14.

1aa1jwinstonNo. 11 Florida State 41, Pittsburgh 13 -- Noles wrap up Week 1 schedule impressively. I could not have been more wrong in thinking a hostile climate would make it tough on freshman Noles QB Jameis Winston (pictured). He was spectacular. Pick was: FSU, 28-20.

UCF 38, Akron 7 -- Knights started us off with big home win Thursday night. Pick was: UCF, 37-16.

Week 1 national Top 25 matchups:

No. 8 Clemson 38, No. 5 Georgia 35 -- Game of the Week found Bulldogs loaded but I took Taj Boyd at home and nailed it. Pick was: Upset. Clemson, 30-27.

No. 12 LSU 37, No. 20 Texas Christian 27 -- Visiting Tigers lost ton of talent to NFL but had enough back. Pick was: LSU, 24-20.

My record: Week 1 and season, 7-1.

GATORS NO. 2 IN OVERALL INTEREST: Facebook has come out with the top 10 college sports programs on based on team pages. It lists them, in order, as Ohio State, Florida, Texas, Michigan, LSU, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oregon and Georgia. Guessing the list is football-driven except perhaps in the notable cases of hoops-mad NC and KY.

THE SOPY IS BACK!: Returning for a second season in the blog will be our State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings, a weekly Top 10 of the most productive quarterbacks, runners and receivers from the state's seven FBS schools. UM's Stephen Morris won the 2012 SOPY award, edging FSU's E.J. Manuel. Watch for the first 2013 rankings in the blog on Tuesday morning.


Our Upset Bird Countdown -- 5 Days will be coming later today... 

1aa1birdbowlUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 6 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdupages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown honoring outstanding notable birds. Today, at 6 days, we honor Miami's iconic Bird Bowl, located on (where else) Bird Road. I'll tell you how long Bird Bowl has been around: Since back when bowling was actually popular. The Upset Bird enjoys the cacaphony of bowling -- the shatter of pins aurally mindful of an aviary flock flushed suddenly from a tree -- but has personally been prevented from trying it by his unfortunate lack of hands, let alone fingers.

1aa1birdsUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 7 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdupages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown honoring outstanding notable birds. Yesterday, at 7 days, we featured The Birds, the classic 1963 film starring Tippi Hedren. As an Alfred Hitchcock aficionado, I cannot rule out the eerie physical similarity and possible link between the menacing crows that attacked Hedren and the ravenesque mascot of The Friday Page. Yes, there is a real possibility that my watching The Birds for the first time may have subliminally planted the dark seed that would grow, years later, into the Upset Bird.

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

August 29, 2013

PS5: Dolphins 24, New Orleans 21 (Final); plus more on Shapiro letter and reaction, LeBron's oops, Morris/Manziel, U-Bird Countdown (8 days) & more

1aa1mjackson1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 30. Michael Jackson would have turned 55 yesterday. 2) Will the last Miami-Dade County mayor to not be arrested please turn out the light? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM accuser Shapiro's letter from federal prison and my response, Schnellenberger poll result, Upset Bird Countdown & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

Coming Sept. 8: Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: Our sixth season of Dolfan Satisfaction Meter polls appear in the blog right after every Dolphins game, beginning with the Sept. 8 season opener at Cleveland.

Coming tonight!/Friday: Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: The fifth year of Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls starts tonight right after the UM-FAU opener ends. Watch for it!

"NCAA, Texas A&M decide half-game penalty is too harsh, instead rule that Johnny Manziel may not sit by window on team bus ride to stadium."  --Greg Cote

PS5: DOLPHINS 24, NEW ORLEANS 21 (FINAL): MIAMI ENDS PRESEASON 2-3: Final: Miami wins it on a 56-yard Pat Devlin-to-Marvin McNutt TD pass with 3 minutes left and then a late win-preserving INT by DeAndre Presley. (Don't know why but I love the name Marvin McNutt! Sounds like the alter-ego of a Marvel Comics superhero). Mostly scrubs last night; RG John Jerry was the only Dolphins starter to start. So no weight in the result. The question is what to make of this 2-3 preseason overall and what kind of shape the team is in entering the season. Despite the issues and questions, I think that shape is pretty solid. Nine-win/wild-card type of solid. But solid. Can't wait to find out. ..... Halftime: Our scrubs lead their scrubs. Whooo! Most interesting to me is an uneven dossiere on QB Pat Devlin, who is 13-for-23 for 142 yards withg a TD and a pick. Good enough to secure a No. 3 roster spot? My guess is yes. I'll be back with some postgame thoughts. ..... Original post: NFL preseasons are interminably 1aa1dolnawltedious even when four games. When five games, like Miami this year, the preseason seems to 1aa1ps5drag on longer than a continuous loop of Barry Manilow singing "Mandy." Tonight the Dolphins host New Orleans, with both teams expected to field junior-varsity squads and play the starters little if at all. If you are actually attending tonight's game, chances are you lost a bet, or your TV is broken. Tonight matters vitally only to Miami's bottom-feeders, because by Saturday the roster must slash from 75 players to a final 53, meaning that the players you have barely heard of are playing for their professional lives tonight. There is real human drama in that; it just isn't a drama that interests me much. Right guard and nickel corner are two positions that still need settling as exhibition play wraps up. Coach Joe Philbin -- who provides basic information as if it was a state secret with national security at stake -- has not formally named a starting running back, either, but if it isn't Lamar Miller I'll hitchhike to Cleveland waving a Terrible Towel. The real season can't get here fast enough.

WHY I PUBLISHED NEVIN SHAPIRO'S LETTER, AND THE REACTION: I know many of you dislike that I gave a forum to Shapiro (in the previous blogpost), but like it or not he is the central figure/accuser in the NCAA's long investigation of Miami. I also found some of what he wrote illuminating, such as his obvious bitterness toward former Canes players and others he felt abandoned him. This, as I state in my reply, calls into question his credibility as a witness. The reaction to the letter and to my publishing it has been fierce, and not just in the Comments section of that blogpost. Reaction also has poured in on Twitter and in emails to me, a slight majority of it negative. Here I share snippets of a very small, representative sampling of the Twitter and email reaction:

Negative: "It is reprehensible you would publish that letter." --Scott Ramsden / "You should have replied: STFU you human excrement." -- Francis Colls / "Scum shouldn't even be allowed computer or mail." --Jorge Morales / "He is delusional. Why print such crap?" -- George Kitchens / "Giving the felon attention. Way to go Cote you turd." --Cane Fan / "Giving that liar a public forum is morally wrong." --Tony Foley

Positive: "Great rebuttal letter to Shapiro." --Deval Patel / "Thanks for posting. More evidence of his lunacy." --Chris Avros / "Great read and response on your part." --Jeff LaBelle / "Through Shapiro's noise you nailed it. Well done!" --Jason Mizrachi / "Thanks for letting us who follow you see inside his mind." --Steve Petrie

It always amazes me how two people can read the same thing with such opposite reactions. (It also amazes me that some people still use the word "turd.") Thanks to the above readers and to the dozens of others on either side who cared enough to respond.

HERALD FOOTBALL SPECIAL SECTIONS: NFL, College and High-School special preview sections appear today/Friday in the old-school, inky pulp newspaper version of the Miami Herald, but they have been available the past two days online -- yet another of myriad ways the newspaper industry astonishingly defeats itself by unnecessarily giving readers another reason to not buy the paper. But enough of that. Here are links to my three contributions to the special sections:

  • Dolphins column: No more excuses, Dolphins. This is it. Been too long. Don't preach patience. 'Almost' won't cut it. Playoffs, now!
  • NFL team rankings: I list the teams 1 through 32 and have Miami surprisingly high at No. 12, and in the playoffs. No, seriously.
  • Hurricanes column: "It's a Canes thing. You wouldn't understand." Al Golden understands. After the NCAA cloud, Golden sunshine lay ahead.

1aa1carmenoLEBRON IN RUMOR MINI-MESS: Heat star LeBron James, who is engaged to be married next month, is rumored to be involved in some sort of friendship/relationship with "bikini model" Carmen Ortega, who is pictured here, well, bikini-modeling I guess. The report is courtesy popular rumor-monger Jose Lambiet; read it here. I take it for what it's worth, which may be nothing. My guess? The future Mrs. James' wedding ring just got bigger.

CANES' MORRIS TOPS MANZIEL ON PROSPECTS LIST: Sports Illustrated trots out a Top 40 prospects list 1aa1morrissfor the 2014 NFL draft, and what jumped out at me is that Miami quarterback Stephen Morris (pictured) -- at No. 31 the only Cane listed -- slots ahead of Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, who is 37th. Morris is the fifth QB listed, after Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (from Miami) at 2nd overall, Clemson's Taj Boyd 9th, UCLA's Brett Hundley 18th and Oregon's Marcus Mariota 22nd.

1aa1byrdsUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 8 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdupages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown honoring outstanding notable birds. Today, at 8 days, we spotlight The Byrds, seminal 1960s American folk-rock band out of L.A. The Byrds' 1965 version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," with its mesmerizing opening by Roger McGuinn on a 12-string Rickenbacker, was one of the first sounds to lure a then-very-young Greg Cote into the lifelong caress of music. This in turn would lead to the portal of serendipity in which, decades later, the Upset Bird was born.

UM-FAU / Collball Week 1 advisory: Note, our weekly in-season college football posts will debut here later today in the blog. Each week, I'll predict every game involving the seven state FBS teams and every national matchup of Top 25 teams. There was one state-school FBS game last night so I got on the record beforehand with my pick for that one: UCF 37, Akron 16. [UCF won, 38-7].

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

August 28, 2013

Exclusive: Inside the mind of Nevin Shapiro: A letter from federal prison; plus Schnellenberger poll result, Upset Bird Countdown (9 days) & more

1aa1mlk1) It is THURSDAY, AUGUST 29. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have A Dream" speech. Keep the dream alive! 2) Here's a hint of the breadth of my music tastes: Links to new songs from forthcoming albums by Eminem and Elton John. Click Berzerk for Em (warning, bad words) and Mexican Vacation for Elt. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The legacies of Howard Schnellenberger with poll, Dolphin roster cuts, Upset Bird Countdown & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

INSIDE THE MIND OF NEVIN SHAPIRO: A LETTER FROM FEDERAL PRISON: I wrote a blog item earlier this week blasting the NCAA for the length of its continuing investigation of Miami in the Nevin Shapiro 1aa1nevin2 1aa1nevincase, and Shapiro responded to me with a lengthy email from federal prison. I am sharing the email here because this is the central figure in the UM case, a former renegade booster now serving hard time on a Ponzi scheme conviction. Shapiro is pictured, along with a T-shirt reflecting how most Canes fans feel about him. I know some of you object (strongly) to my giving Shapiro this forum, but I simply offer a glimpse into his mind. Publishing what he says does not mean I endorse any of it. My reply speaks for how I feel. Whether you think what Shapiro writes here makes him seem delusional or anything else is for you to decide. The following is as close to verbatim as possible. I only edited/condensed slightly and softened profanity. Shapiro's letter has a background shade of gray. After that I offer brief thoughts of my own in a response that bears a background shade of light green.



This is Nevin Shapiro. Although you have dogged the s--- out of me for 24 months and 9 days to be exact as of the writing of this letter, I still feel as if I need to make you aware and educate you on the reality and truth behind your commentary regarding UM and this fraudulent operation known as the NCAA. I am mailing you an article from this past week's USA Today which discusses the USC probationary status for a parallel comparison. You can choose to not read it, as this is your right, but I recommend that you do for the mere fact of being fair to your loyal readers and giving them reality as opposed to fantasy. Let's be clear and I'll be respectful yet direct in this letter, which will lay out facts not hypotheses to you. USC got four years probation for what amounted to 2 individuals, Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. That is two players, and that investigation took approximately four years. Here is the math and it comes with an explanation. The University of Miami had 114 players involved, 72 of which were confirmed because of what the NCAA thought was used in the initial Yahoo Sports story, and the reason it wasn't 114 and "only" 72 I have no idea. That amount didn't even include walk-ons or maybe they just weren't scholarship players. There were 6 coaches involved,the entire equipment staff and 3 University Administrators and specifically 2 Athletic Directors, though they weren't completely guilty, just ignorant by selective amnesia. OK, so let's do the math: 2 players = four years of investigation and 4 years of probation. So what does 125 or so coaches, players and administrators deserve penalty-wise and how long should this have taken? Let's be realistic and practical. Forget my current criminal position and here are the reasons why. For one, nobody and I mean nobody outside of my internal camp realize or know yet what happened in my case, as I was victimized with my lender's money. That will come out shortly once my "guilty plea" is withdrawn. That is another matter for another time and will come to light eventually. Here is the second reason: 9 years worth of bank statements (cash & check deposits), credit card statements, deposed Federal Testimonies and FBI written interviews were presented as evidence. So, in fact, it wasn't my word, it was the documented evidence that subordinated this investigation. So how can you sell to your readers that this is ridiculous and taken too long? Maybe the NCAA is a sad oufit, I don't disagree. But this was also the worst case of violation of rules with no "institutional control" that has ever taken place, SMU included, though in a different era. What makes this matter even worse is this: It is still going on!!! Maybe not what I was doing because my access and network of power in South Florida was pretty strong and tight, but the agent/runner game is thriving and I know because I'm still involved from a distance. I realize the University of Miami is a big client of the Herald's and I realize that you are a hometown writer and respect that position that you must take, but let me share this with you and try to dispute it all that you want. If you were Yahoo Sports,USA Today, Sports Illustrated or just a media outlet from another venue outside of South Florida and were provided what they were all provided with, you would be trying to win a Pulitzer and wouldn't let this rest until you did. If this were a real criminal trial, which it isn't but if it were, the University of Miami would have been (a) indicted on fIrst look in front of a Grand Jury and (b) sentenced to life in prison and (c) possibly given the Death Penalty. That is exactly how gruesome and transparently blatant their charges would be and actually are in comparison to a University who operates within a structure of 1,000 or more other Universities. People are tired of this story just like A-Rod and his PED situation, as am I by now, but I ask these questions of you. Is it time to clean up the Collegiate game once and for all? Wouldn't you if you were a member of the enforcement division or even a University President just want to use this case as your barometer to remake and simplify all of these rules and lay it out in layman's terms? Or is it because it is too time consuming or maybe because you are a writer for the hometown team, let's just say "f--- it" and move on and hope that it doesn't happen again because this was more like a once-in-a-lifetime situation? I personally regret getting involved with this matter, as it took me out of Miami to serve my time while fighting and withdrawing my plea, from a very difficult situation within these walls because of how [this story] was and is portrayed. I read when you wrote about a year ago that "Is anyone else hoping that Nevin Shapiro is having a miserable time in prison?" I want to tell you how that made me feel. I have a mother and a father who have one child (me). I was raised properly, I was educated properly, I was the legal guardian of my two grandparents at the age of 22 years old (unprecedented by the family courts) and I gave time and millions of dollars (my money, not stolen) to many charitable functions and organizations but never wanted publicity for it. Even my $250K donation to a school that I never attended was done when my financial riches were new, legal and could have been used anywhere but I chose to give it to a passion of mine, the University of Miami football program, and this was way before any possible legal hurdles availed themselves. My point is that on the personal stuff, get the facts right because there are people that love and care for me who know what exactly was done to me that the public has not become aware of yet. But back to my point for writing this letter to you and here are some of my final points. You wrote one article earlier in the year about President Shalala making the whole investigation transparent so the public could wage their own opinion. Did that happen or did they (UM) just share what makes them look good in public perception? Did my attorney Maria do anything wrong? Did she? She followed the orders & direction given by a group of [NCAA] individuals that were supposedly the heads of their massive organization, Julie Roe & Ameen Najjar. Why would a billion-dollar entity such as the NCAA have incompetents running their organization and why would Maria be guilty of anything if they were in charge of their organization and she followed their protocol? She wouldn't be, that is the point. And who is to say that those persons mentioned were even incompetent? They weren't. [NCAA president] Mark Emmert is incompetent and needed a scapegoat and found them. Is there any wonder or coincidence that the two "main"investigators were fired before any of this stuff with Maria blew up? Richared Johanningmeir & Ameen Najjar, plus an additional 3 or 4 members either quit or were fired during this investigation. Aren't you curious as a media member as to why? Maybe those investigators who quit were just dumbfounded as to how their job revolves around the enforcement of rules, though the NCAA just stumbled on to the biggest scandal in recent history or in history period and yet they (NCAA) decided to just roll over and play dead? How would you feel if you were an investigator searching for and acquiring the truth and then your boss says "let's just make this go away"? You would be of a different mindset wouldn't you? Of course you would be and don't say anything contrary to that statement. I will not win this war anytime ever with the South Florida media or maybe anywhere else, all because of my currently pending criminal case but let the record show this: Miami gave themselves 2 years of probation voluntarily because they knew that they had to as a mercy plea to the COI [Committee on Infractions]. That's one, but this point is as large as that point. Of all the players mentioned in the initial Yahoo Sports reports, which subsequently was reported in multiple media outlets, none of these former players, most of which are worth in the millions dollar-wise, ever sued Yahoo or any other outlet for damages [for] slander, defamation or any other collectible damage-driven lawsuit. How come? Because they couldn't win a lawsuit. Why? Because to win a lawsuit you must prove that lies were prevalent, witnesses would have to testify and also there were criminal charges that most to all of these players would have walked into if they pressed their arrogant luck of being a professional athlete. Come on, Jon Vilma sued the NFL and they are equivalent to the Mob or maybe even the U.S. Gov't as big as they are, so he could easily pick a fight with Yahoo Sports or any other media outlet who slandered his name. Jose Canseco was a scumbag, no question about it, but he was also correct and proved it without even talking about it after the fact. Is my case different? The facts are the facts, yet the Unversity of Miami is the victim here now? Look, for the record, Greg, so you know: I loved that city and team more than any other thing in my life outside of my family. I love what they have done recruiting-wise to be mentioned in the possibility of reverence again, but let me share this with you: 47 former players were interviewed by the FBI and were prepared to testify against me in Federal Court. Furthermore, President Shalala owed me a great deal more respect than to piss right in my face at the time of my self surrender (April 21, 2010) without knowing anything that had truly taken place. I can't stomach when the UM logo and motto has always been "It's a Cane thing, you wouldn't understand." No, I understand perfectly clear. When you are supporting these guys/takers, pick a word, everything is fine, but when adversity stares you in the face, [they] run away from the subject, or in my case, [from] the guy that did a whole lot more than throw parties on yachts and in nightclubs. You don't know the personal stories involved between me and more than 20-30 of these guys, from Willie Williams to Devin Hester to Sean Taylor, Bryan Pata, Vince Wilfork, Tyrone Moss, Willis McGahee or the Antrell Rolle's of the world. It's not about money, buddy. It never was. It is about supposed family & loyalty, two descriptions opposite of what these former players, coaches and adminsitrators ever reciprocated or demonstrated to one of their own (me) at the the worst possible time of need. Please stop selling the UM Kool-Aid to the public, it's merely a myth just like the Loch Ness Monster. I copied your editor on this email/letter and if you wish to reply feel free to do so and if you wish to print this, feel free to do so as well. Miami is lucky to avoid losing their football program and if you think that they have been severely punished for what they not only allowed to happen within a 9-year period (2001-2010) but also were co-conspirators in these rules of engagement, then you are just in plain denial and don't want to be rational, realistic and perceptive, which I know you are because I read your column weekly.

Respectfully, Nevin Shapiro



I continue to believe the NCAA investigation of Miami has dragged on much too long, and that UM's significant self-imposed penalties thus far should greatly mitigate against further punishment being too severe. But I also think those volunteered penalties alone were obviously a pretty clear acknowledgment of years of lack of oversight, and of the truth of many of your allegations. Comparing yourself to Jose Canseco was apt. Even the dubious, unpopular messenger you don't want to believe can sometimes be telling the truth. On the other hand, the bitterness you harbor against former UM players and others for abandoning you in your time of need comes through clear in your letter, and that creates the sense you have an axe to grind, which in turn could leave some to think you are out to "get" the university. Your own damaged credibility and the NCAA's embarrassing internal issues in this probe are two other reasons -- along with Miami's self-imposed penalties -- why I think this two-sided mess needs to be put in the past with minimal additional sanctions. On a personal note, I admit some of the shots I have taken at you (especially in the Sunday notes column) have been harsh at times, and I have tried to be more professional in avoiding shots that seem personal. Bottom line? The Nevin Shapiros of the world would not exist if there were not willing athletes with their hands out, but you were the instigator who got Miami in trouble. You say you loved Canes football, and I don't doubt you did once. But you had a misguided way of showing it. You hurt the one you loved, badly. For that, no absolution awaits you.

Sincerely, Greg Cote

Now, on to a couple of quick unrelated blog items:

Poll result: Canes title is Schnellenberger's top legacy: I asked Howard in an interview for this column what he is proudest of, and he mentioned three accomplishments. He didn't rank them but you sure did, with 89.7 percent calling his Miami years most impressive, 8.6% opting for his building FAU football from scratch, and 1.7% citing his turnaround of Louiville. You may still vote.

UPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 9 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1birdu 1aa1birdladypages on Sept. 6, and we began a 10-day countdown that each day will honor outstanding notable birds. Today, at 9 days, we bring you Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson. Who? Lady Bird, of course! That's right, children. The United States of America once had a First Lady in the White House (1963-69) named Lady Bird. We have had eight First Ladies since, all bearing pedestrian names that bow to the great Lady Bird. No funkier moniker has ever graced a presidential spouse. ("Whoa! Hold on one darned second," says Mamie Eisenhower).

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

August 27, 2013

The legacies of Howard Schnellenberger: What's No. 1? Poll. Vote now; plus Dolphin cuts, Guandolo's slap, Upset Bird Countdown (10 days) & more

1) It is TUESDAY, AUGUST 27. The Dan Le Batard Show remains on vacation this week, but I'm told today's "best of" show (3 p.m., 790 & 104.3 the Ticket) will include heavy doses of me. So you've been warned! 2) No Dolphins among 13 NFL player featured in new version of Carrie Underwood's "Waiting All Day For Sunday NIght," debuting Sept. 8. But ex-Cane Jimmy Graham is included. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Foot-dragging NCAA holds UM hostage, Miley Cyrus at the VMAs, George Zimmerman at the gun factory & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), on Instagram (Upsetbird) and on Vine (Greg Cote).

HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER: THE MAN, THE LEGEND ... THE HERALD MISTAKE: I wrote a lengthy Howard Schnellenberger column I liked. The timing was perfect, with this week's season-opening UM-FAU game a 1aa1howardsfirst-ever meeting of two football programs that count him as so hugely influential. Just one problem: The column that was supposed to jump to page 3D in the print (newspaper) edition on Tuesday did not jump anywhere in what I'm told were about half of all papers. That's embarrassing. The good news? The Herald re-published the column in Wednesday's editions. Meantime (thank you, Internet), click on AN ARCHITECT OF LEGACIES for the piece in its entirety. I asked Howard in yesterday's interview what accomplishment makes him proudest and he mentioned three, chronologically: Making the Hurricanes national champions, completely turning around the Louisville program in his hometown, and building FAU football from ground zero. Now here's a poll to set the order on Howard's own big three, which are listed here chronologically. (I think this poll might see a landslide winner, but you never know until you know). Vote and say why. I'm also curious if Canes fans upon reflection think less of Schnellenberger because of the "terrible decision" (his words, now) to abruptly leave UM after the '83 title.

DOLPHINS TRIM TO 75: Guard Lance Louis and fullback Jorvorskie Lane were the biggest cuts today as club trimmed roster to 75 to meet NFL deadline. Others among the nine men cut were WRs Julius Pruitt, Jeff Fuller and Andrell Smith; LBs Michael Clay, Nathan Williams and David Hinds; and DE Emeka Onyenekwu. All teams must trim to a final 53 by Saturday.

ON GUANDOLO'S HELMET-SLAP: Cypress Bay football coach Mark Guandolo is suspended two weeks (one game) by the county because ESPN cameras caught him slapping the helmet of his quarterback, Lucas Tellefsen. I get it, I guess. It's discipline for appearance's sake. It's also pretty comical. Such a violent sport. That kid-QB better be prepared for bone-jarring blindside sacks, but if his coach gets a tad physical -- OH NO! Funny to me.

UPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 10 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I kick off our season of Friday NFL prediction 1aa1angry birds 1aa1birdupages on Sept. 6, and today we begin a 10-day countdown that each day will honor outstanding notable birds. We kick it off with Angry Birds, the video game franchise. [Never-before-told backstory: The Upset Bird, for reasons obvious, first thought the Angry Bird had usurped his name and considered legal action back in 2009 but was ultimately dissuaded by the Friday Page legal staff, which distracted and placated the Upset Bird with a plate of squirrel entrails].

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August 26, 2013

Dumb, dumber, dumbest: NCAA's torture of UM, Miley at the VMAs, Zimmerman at the gun factory & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 26. Click on Random Evidence for latest Sunday notes column, leading with onset of college football and Canes' opener. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose PS4 to Tampa Bay, The List & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), on Instagram (Upsetbird) and on Vine (Greg Cote).

Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: It's up to you which of these Three Things That Make Me Mad deserve which designation on the Dumb Scale. I just woke up Monday feeling all three needed me to dropkick them...

SHAME ON THE NCAA FOR ITS EGREGIOUS FOOT-DRAGGING: There are statutes of limitations in the United States. There are laws about double-jeopardy. There is the right to a speedy trial. These safeguards convey the general belief in America that the accused should not be punished by an 1aa1emmertncaaextraordinarily long process only to then be punished again. The NCAA of course is sadly beholden to none of these principles, and that is why the Miami Hurricanes still wait, three years later, for resolution of the Nevin Shapiro investigation. This is Hurricanes Week, with the football season opener vs. FAU on Friday night. We should be beyond NCAA matters by now and free to just enjoy football. Instead coach Al Golden and his program still deal with the enormous distraction of possible penalties yet to come. "We've done everything we can do," Golden said Monday. "It's felt like 50 First Dates, answering the same question [about the NCAA] all the time. I'm looking forward to that closure." Nobody formerly connected to the renegade/jailed booster Shapiro remains with the team. Everybody is ready to move on. Self-imposed penalties including two years of postseason bans already have been served. But the foot-dragging NCAA won't let this end, and with every day of further delay you get the uneasy sense that Mark Emmert's (pictured) corrupted, dysfunctional organization will levy additional penalties if only to justify the time and expense of its ponderous probe. Miami has paid its price and the paying continues. The shamed NCAA needs to wrap this case up with nothing beyond minor additional sanctions -- and wrap it up now.

MILEY CYRUS AT THE VMA'S: I assume Miley Cyrus, the pop singer, has a personal manager who steers her career and her professional choices. I assume said personal manager either should have been fired 1aa1cyrus3before this, or will be now. Miley once had a nice, role-model persona; sort of a Taylor Swift without the talent. Remember? Then somebody decided to turn her into a character of the type one might find on a street corner and rent for an hour. Like a brainless doll, she was re-dressed, re-made-up and paraded out as all sexy. Sunday night came an in-your-face reminder at the MTV Video Music Awards, when Miley, 20, stripped down to flesh-tone undies and turned the other cheek (see left) for Robin Thicke. I did not see the VMAs live, because the competing Dexter/Ray Donovan doubleheader had my attention. In missing Miley's twerkin' performance I feel like I made a good choice. Click HERE to watch her self-degradation, which includes some naughtiness with a foam finger. Constant readers know I am quite the opposite of a prude, but I'm embarrassed for this girl and what she has allowed herself to be turned into by the pimps in charge of her.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AT THE GUN PLANT: George, George, George. Seriously!? Last month George Zimmerman wins a controversial acquittal on charges he murdered unarmed teen Trayvon Martin while 1aa1georgegunserving as a neighborood watchman. Now Zimmerman is photographed touring the Kel-Tec firearms factory, the same Cocoa, Fla., manufacturer that made the semi-automatic handgun he used to kill Martin. Pictured via TMZ is the photo of Zimmerman all smiles with a Kel-Tec employee. This is pretty galling. This is an affront to Trayvon's family. Is this really who Zimmerman wants to be now? Mr. Vigilante? Mr. Gun Lobby Guy? I'm not sure if Kel-Tec makes bulletproof vests or not, but, with post-trial decisions such as this, I'd imagine George might want to consider such a purchase a wise investment.

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August 24, 2013

PS4: Tampa Bay 17, Dolphins 16 (Final): Four turnovers doom Miami in sloppy dress rehearsal, but Tannehill-led positives outweigh negatives

1) It is SUNDAY, AUGUST 25. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes column, leading with the onset of college football and the Canes' opener. 2) Rachel Ray turns 45 today. Is there is max age for acceptable perky? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins attendance surge, my White House visit, T.O. sues Drew, NFL award odds, Richie Incognito, coffee rage & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), on Instagram (Upsetbird) and on Vine (Greg Cote).

"Geno Smith three interceptions. Mark Sanchez hurt. I don't wanna say the Jets QB situation is pretty dire, but I just saw Joe Namath warming up."  --Greg Cote

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter note: We return for sixth season of Dolfan Satisfaction Meter polls appearing in the blog right after every Dolphins game. They begin with regular season, so watch for first DSM Sept. 8.

PS4: TAMPA BAY 17, DOLPHINS 16: FOUR TURNOVERS HAND GAME TO BUCS: FINAL: The good news? The Miami starters won the first half, the defense generally dominated and Tannehill looked pretty sharp. (Tanny has a 98.6 passer rating with zero picks in the preseason). The bad news? Much sloppiness from a team that has played one more exhibition game than other teams. Four turnovers were the difference, and five penalties and a handful of dropped passes didn't help. The offense stalling in the red zone also was an issue. I think this can be a playoff team, but Saturday's mistakes sinking the preseason mark to 1-3 does not feather those thoughts. That record isn't the concern; the turnovers are. Coach Joe Philbin was a bit harsh afterward, saying, "We didn’t play well enough at any phase of the game to win the game." Well, the starters did, so overall I'd give the performance a modest thumbs-up based on the first half when the real team was deployed. Share your own positives, negatives and overall thoughts coming out of the game. ..... 4Q: Devlin interception in closing seconds is fourth Miami interception and ends the loss. ... Dolphs give up lead with 1:03 remaining on 12-yard Mike Glennon to David Douglas scoring pass. The Gray fumble led to the score. DEMON TURNOVERS! ... Miami's third turnover of game is a Jonas Gray fumble returned 47 yards to Dolphins 25. ... Rookie Sturgis swings in a 28-yard FG for 16-10 lead after offense hits another stone wall in red zone. ..... 3Q: Uneventful third Q other than a couple of more defensive sacks and a long look at Devlin, who was 4-for-6 for 32 yards as team weighs whether to keep a third QB. ... Starters out, reserves in for Miami to start quarter, with Pat Devlin at QB aheda of backup Matt Moore. ..... Halftime: Miami's narrow lead does not reflect its dominance, with a 3-1 margin in total yards and all Tampa's points coming off two special-teams flubs. Tannehill a pretty sharp 17-for-27, with 12 of the strikes to primary wideouts Gibson/Hartline/Wallace. Clay only one short catch off six targets in his effort to mend the tight end position. Big story might be how Lamar Miller (8-35) seems to have seized the starting RB job over Daniel Thomas (7-3). Hope starters play at least a little into the third Q. ..... 2Q: Miami regains lead 13-10 just before half on Tanny 4-yard TD pass to Gibson. Play began near midfield with a fumble recovery by Derrick Shelby. ... Nice punt return isn't fully cashed in as Miami settles for 23-yard Sturguis FG and 10-6 score. Brandon Gibson dropped a shoulda-been TD pass in end zone. ... Olivier Vernon sack forces punt, Thigpen makes amends (somewhat) with 38-yard return. ... Charles Clay with a drop, Tanny takes a coverage sack, punt. ... Bucs 10-3 on Rian Lindell 38-yard FG, set up by Thigpen's goatdom. ... Again! Thigpen with a second turnover on a punt return. Dolphins defense is dominating but mistakes are steering the game. ... Jared Odrick sack and exultant Pee-Wee Dance forces punt. Score does not reflect Miami domination thus far. ..... 1Q: Tanny ends 7-for-10 in first Q. ... Just noticed Dolphins TV announcer Jesse Agler sometimes refers to regular seaseon as "the regular year." Stop that! It's Al Michael's phrase. ... Bucs 7-3 on a 1-yard Brian Leonard run, a score made easy by that muffed punt-return turnover. Turnovers are evil! ... Dolphs force punt but muff return and give it right back after botchery by Marcus Thigpen and blocker Nolan Carroll. ... Steady, impressive opening drive but it stalls in red zone and settles for 22-yard Sturgis FG and 3-0 lead. Ryan Tannehill 6-for-8, Mike Wallace 2 catches, Lamar Miller with a 20-yard run. ..... Original post: NFL teams call their next-to-last preseason game the dress rehearsal, in which starters play longer than usual, and so tonight's visit 

1aa1bucsdolsby the Buccaneers should give Miami fans their best look yet at the Dolphins, their best gauge yet. (It'll also 1aa1ps4be the first actual look, since this is the first home exhibition). Being the home debut and with the starters playing at least a full half, you can expect an emphasis on result (on winning) that you haven't necessarily seen in the first three fake games. Miami plays Tampa in the regular season, too (Nov. 11, there), so I wouldn't expect to see the full playbook, but winning will matter, especially against an opponent Miami should be better than. Individually I'll be looking at several key areas tonight and into next week as the preseason winds down: A continued growth of chemistry between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace. Charles Clay stepping up as the tight end heir to injured Dustin Keller. Performance at left tackle and stability at right guard. Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas showing something that demands they start at running back. And somebody besides Brent Grimes standing out at cornerback. Also waiting (patiently) for top draft pick Dion Jordan to get fully beyond his shoulder issues and be in a position to unleash that potential Miami thinks it saw.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS VS. STATE TEAMS: The Dolphins' won-lost records in their history vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, including last night's game:

Opponent            Season    Playoffs  Exhibitions

Buccaneers          5-4           0-0        16-12  

Jaguars                3-2            0-1        6-4

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August 22, 2013

Marlins attendance: Signs of life; plus Dolphin roster moves, T.O. sues Rosenhaus, my White House visit, NFL award odds, Mr. Incognito & more

1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 23. Dolphins cut five players today including LB Alonzo Highsmith. Others out the door: G Jeff Braun, G Chandler Burden, DT Chris Burnette and WR Kenny Stafford. 2) I'm back in the Random Evidence Dungeon midwifing the birth of this Sunday's notes-clumn package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Blog Exclusive: With the Dolphins at The White House. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), on Instagram (Upsetbird) and on Vine (Greg Cote).

MARLINS ATTENDANCE: SIGNS OF LIFE, AND HOPE: A while back in the blog I mentioned I sensed fan resentment against the Marlins on account of owner Jeffrey Loria might be easing, and it was as if I'd outlined plans to vacation in Egypt or Syria. I had to be crazy! But now look: Eight of the 10 biggest 1aa1josemarlinshome crowds of the season have come in August. That includes 103,422 for the just-ended four-game series with the Dodgers. Some of that is the opponent, but not all of it. Some of it is that, since an abysmal 13-41 start, the team has been competetive/respectable at 35-36. As much, I think there is a growing sense that maybe that controversial "fire sale" trade with Toronto wasn't so bad for Miami after all and that, in turn, maybe 1aa1lbjmarlinsLoria knew what he was doing. Don't get me wrong: Loria still needs to spend more, especially for veteran bats, for offense, as we look forward. That remains a public-trust obligation of the new ballpark. But the framework of a promising young team is here, and we are starting to see it in the fan response. Rookie phenom Jose Fernandez (pictured above right) has been the hub of growing interest, and should now be in the lead for NL Rookie of the Year after his domination of the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig. And when LeBron James attends a Marlins game (as he did Wednesday, pictured above left), you officially have earned a bit of buzz. The sharp uptick in August attendance is good news no matter what you think of Loria, because it proves the fans are here. Combine the promise of this team with an owner who spends -- and owner who simply manages to not make fans irate -- and fans will respond.

T.O. SUING ROSENHAUS: Former NFL receiver Terrell Owens is suing agent Drew Rosenhaus over the hiring of a financial adviser, faulting Rosenhaus for "steering Owens to hire an incompetent and unethical financial adviser with whom the defendant had a ... business relationship." The suit was filed last night in Miami-Dade Circuit Court by the Miami law firm Carlson & Lewittes.

MY WHITE HOUSE VISIT: I have what people tell me is an interesting job. I have covered Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, a Stanley Cup Finals, a World Cup, a Masters, an Olympics. I've been in the 1aa1housewhitecompany of sports figures from Muhammad Ali to Tiger Woods to LeBron James. I was there the night UM won the '83 national championship. But nothing I've covered connected with my work has struck me quite likely being in the White House for the ceremony honoring the 1972 Dolphins. It was an honor, a genuine thrill. I'm not a bucket-list guy, but if I were, I feel like I just crossed off a big one. When I wrote in criticism of the three former players who did not attend for political reasons, in objection to Obama's policies, I meant to convey that, to me, the White House is bigger than whomever the current occupant might be. Those three men have every right to stand on principle however they define it for themselves. For me, the White House is the most iconic symbol of the country I love, and it was an honor to walk those grounds, to attend an official press briefing, and to watch the president enter the East Room. I'll never forget it.     

DOLPHINS, NFL AWARDS ODDS: From Bovada, Peyton Manning at 5-1 odds is preseason pick for NFL MVP, followed by Aaron Rodgers 13-2, Colin Kaepernick and Drew Brees both 10-1, and Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady at 12-1. No Dolphin is among 39 men mentioned through 150-1 odds. Other categories: Passing yards--Brees the pick at 4-1; Ryan Tannehill tied for 21st at 50-1. Rushing yards--Peterson pick at 11-4; Lamar Miller tie-19th at 40-1. Receiving yards--Calvin Johnson pick at 11-4; Mike Wallace tie-19th at 40-1. Offensive rookie--Tavon Austin pick at 5-1; Mike Gillislee tie-16th at 33-1. And defensive rookie--Ezekiel Ansah pick at 6-1; Dion Jordan tie-11th at 18-1.

1aa1incognitoON RICHIE INCOGNITO: Couple of quick thoughts on reports this week that Dolphins guard Richie Incognito recently clocked a security guard outside LIV nightclub at the Fountainbleau. (This was just after that altercation involving him in the last preseason game). First, when a man reputed to be one of the NFL's dirtiest players -- or badass, if he's on your team -- gets in a fight, is that even news? Second, could there be a man less-suited to the surname "Incognito" than a 320-punt football player with a temper?

1aa1ddWHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?: I read this lead paragraph of a local story today and it made me sad. Here it is, verbatim: A Lauderhill couple assaulted and pistol-whipped an employee at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Tuesday for getting their coffee order wrong, police said. My comment: There is only one possible exception to this being an overreaction by the couple. That would be if they asked for vanilla or caramel in their coffee but instead got urine or arsenic.

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August 20, 2013

With the Perfect Season Dolphins at The White House

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose PS3 at Houston, AP preseason poll, LeBron's royal treatment, ESPN poll results & more.

With the '72 Dolphins in D.C.: Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote) for our Tweets, photos and videos from the '72 Dolphins' White House trip. Boatload of stuff.

1aa1gregwhDAY OF THE DOLPHINS IN D.C.: Hey that's me at right posing at the White House in a hokey, tourist-y photograph! Normally I don't reprint here in the blog what appears in print and online in The Miami Herald, but I make an exception for my two columns from D.C. on the '72 Dolphins' White House visit. The newest column, immediately below, is from Tuesday's ceremony with President Obama. The column right be,low that is from Monday as the old Perfectos gathered. Pictured within the latter column is Dick Anderson, the old safety, along with former receiver Paul Warfield and quarterback Bob Griese. I refer in the column to three other players who didn't make the trip for political reasons as "small minded." Some e-mailers are objecting strenuously to that, which is fair. The two columns follow in their entirety:


WASHINGTON -- You enter the vast East Room of the White House and veer left through a marbled reception area, past a Marine playing a waltz on a grand piano from the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency. You enter the ornate main room with its long, gold drapes and gilded frames, and you notice the gaze of a painting of George Washington from 1797, the oldest possession in America’s most historic place.

Suddenly that silver 1972 Super Bowl trophy shining on a table doesn’t seem so old. Suddenly the 41 years it took the Perfect Season Dolphins to get to this place seems worth the wait.

All at once Tuesday, Miami’s famed 17-0 season was elevated to a piece of Americana, and given a historical context beyond its place in football and sports.

“I can go no higher,” whispered Larry Little, the old Hall of Fame guard. “I’m on the White House grounds.”

The president of the United States almost always enters a public ceremony here by himself, introduced alone. Tuesday afternoon, though, it was as if Barack Obama felt he was in equal company. The man to whom the world defers was the one showing deference.

After the 31 players from that perfect team had filed in and stood on a three-level metal riser and the packed room had hushed again in anticipation, there came these words:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States accompanied by coach Shula.”

The shared entrance showed respect for Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, now 83 and in a motorized scooter due to back problems. A poignant moment came later when the president helped Shula up briefly so they could pose for a photo.

This 20-minute ceremony wouldn’t be all solemn or serious, though.

These two leaders — the most powerful man in the world and the former coach who seemed like that to Dolfans for so long — were here for a good time.

“I know some of these guys are a little hard to recognize,” the president joked of the former players behind him who all are in their late 60s and older now. “They don’t have the Afros, the muttonchops and the Fu Manchus.. . .”

Obama kidded that he only invited the ’72 team because, “I wanted to be the young guy up here for once.”

The president had just turned 11 when the Dolphins set out on the NFL’s only perfect season, before or since, but it’s well-known that Obama, from Chicago, grew up a Bears fan. When the president mentioned he had the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears to the White House a few years ago, a devious smile crawled onto Shula’s face.

“That Bears team lost only one game . . .” Obama began.

“Who beat ’em!?” Shula cut in, away from a microphone but loud enough to hear.

“I think it was the Miami Dolphins,” said the president, matching Shula’s grin.

The old coach wasn’t done feeling feisty.

Later, he handed Obama a No. 72 aqua Dolphins jersey with UNDEFEATED stitched on it, signed by all the players. Then Shula couldn’t resist saying, “Hopefully you can find a nice place somewhere in your office where you can look at it and think about the whipping we put on those ’85 Bears!”

(“I kidded him a little bit about those Bears,” Shula had to admit later, his continuing grin indicating little remorse.)

The Perfectos were given a private tour of the White House prior to the afternoon ceremony, and just before it enjoyed a brief meet-and-greet alone with the president, a big sports fan.

The demands on any president’s time are obvious, but a ready reminder came Tuesday in the juxtaposition of real life and the fun time of the Dolphins visit.

One minute, we media there for the Dolphins were in the crowded White House press briefing room as observers, listening to deputy press secretary Josh Earnest (fabulous name!) being grilled by Washington reporters on the day’s big news story: reports that the United States had cut off aid to Egypt.

The next minute, we were being escorted past a vintage grand piano into a room with a Super Bowl trophy in it.

The whole day had a strange, giddy feel. Half surreal, half time warp.

“Last time I came to Washington, D.C., I was 8 years old on a school outing,” said the old running back, Jim Kiick. “I didn’t get to meet the president that time.”

One ex-Dolphin, former receiver Otto Stowe, wore an Obama/Martin Luther King button on his lapel. Another noted a link between one sport’s only undefeated team and Obama being the country’s first African-American president.

“Unique team, unique president,” said Larry Csonka. “It fits.”

A few of the ’72 Dolphins did not attend for political reasons, but the loss was theirs. Current club owner Stephen Ross is a staunch Republican and was a major donor to Mitt Romney, but Ross attended, paid for the team’s trip and thanked the president.

This was a time to be bigger than one’s own politics. And to recognize the White House and what it symbolizes are bigger than the policies of any one current occupant.

I can admit to you on a personal level, as someone who is an American before he is a journalist, that this experience hit me and made me proud in a way that covering Super Bowls, Olympics, World Series and NBA Finals does not.

Every day, all day, you see dozens of people standing outside this place’s tall, wrought-iron gates, just quietly staring at the White House, some for hours. It can bring a tear to your eye, if you let it.

“We all had a smile on our face today,” said the team’s quarterback, Bob Griese, echoing the vast majority of players thrilled to attend. “We had a great day and the White House treated us greatly.”

Many members of that 17-0 team have let on over the years a sense that they lacked respect. Even Obama acknowledged that during the event, saying, “These Dolphins didn’t always get the credit they deserve.”

Tuesday, they did.

It took 41 years, but they got it.

“It’s a reward,” said Griese. “It’s the country officially receiving a team that accomplished something special.”

So there they stood, right in between a priceless oil painting of George Washington and the sitting president of the United States — the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

They were there because they were perfect, once.

They still are.


1aa1andersondWASHINGTON -- Bear hugs outnumbered handshakes and old nicknames flew around the room at this latest — and greatest — reunion of the 1972 Perfect Season Dolphins in a hotel ballroom here Monday night. It will reach the White House on Tuesday, at last. For now, there was laughter and the loud pitch of guys shouting each other down as old friends do.

And there was the smallest poignant whisper amid the frivolity.

“It just seems like yesterday to me,” Don Shula said. “But when you look at me you can tell it’s been 40 years.”

Miami’s great Hall of Fame coach uses a walker to be helped into a motorized scooter most times these days, including Monday, thanks to debilitating back issues. His hair has gone snow white. He is 83.

The smile has kept its vigor and his wisecracks are vintage — “You look slimmer,” he tells Mercury Morris. “You payin’ for your own food now?” — but a glance at Shula physically leaves no doubt how much time has passed, and why these get-togethers are more and more precious.

A glance at Shula now can punch at the heart a little bit.

His old players bent or kneeled to be photographed with him, like subjects at the foot of a king.

1aa1warfieldpYou’re damned right the ’72 Dolphins show up for these things. It isn’t just pride. It’s their own mortality ringing in their ears. When you meet at five-year intervals (and occasionally more, like this time), you see aging in time-lapse photography. You see your numbers thinning.

Shula and Howard Schnellenberger, 79, are the only Perfect Season coaches alive and able to travel now. Thirty-one players are here, which, less the eight who have died, is a solid number.

A few wanted to attend but could not. One was Jake Scott, who runs a charter fishing boat in Hawaii and had work obligations. Another, farmer Vern Den Herder, had crops that needed harvesting.

Three other old Perfectos are staying away for political reasons to varying degrees, in objection to President Barack Obama’s policies. They are Manny Fernandez, Bob Kuechenberg and Jim Langer.

They are cheating themselves. They are cheating the time they have left with Shula and their comrades who shared history with them.

The vast majority of the ’72 Dolphins understand a White House honor is a political thing only to the small-minded.

“It’s an honor I am going into the greatest house in the world, in the most giving country in the world,” as Garo Yepremian put it Monday night, prior to a private team dinner. “Especially for me.”

Yepremian was born in Cyprus to a family that had no indoor plumbing and cooked olive pits to make a fire for warmth. His family emigrated to the United States with young Garo having no knowledge of American football. But here he was, all these years later, celebrating perfection, success, history, life and friendship.

1aa1griesebSaid Bob Griese: “I don’t look at this as a political invitation. It’s the White House. It’s the representative of what this country stands for. It’s above politics.”

Nodding agreement came from Nick Buoniconti. “You put your politics behind you,” he said. “The president is asking you to come to his house? He’s going to honor you? I was thrilled. I’m humbled.”

The time it took to get this White House honor makes it that much more special. It resonates like a lifetime achievement award. Like a final, unequivocal stamp.

“The president himself was a kid when we were going on,” noted Larry Csonka.

People who are not from South Florida, or who are too young to have experienced the Perfect Season, sometimes have a problem with how others of us hold that accomplishment with such continuing reverence.

We hold it carefully and with pride like we would a precious family heirloom, because it is that.

The outsiders make fun. Say we’re “obsessed with the past.” They don’t get it.

See, those were the days. When Miami mattered nationally in sports for the first time.

We were kings for the first time.

Those were dark days in South Florida sports, and those Dolphins threw open all the curtains and let in all the light.

Think about that era. The Miami Floridians of the old ABA had folded in 1970, and the NBA and Heat would not arrive until 1988. The University of Miami would drop its basketball program for 14 years starting in 1971, and Hurricanes football would spend that entire decade not appearing in a single bowl game. The baseball Marlins and hockey Panthers, of course, were two decades away.

We didn’t have much, and what we did have bore the stink of loss, when Shula arrived and everything so quickly changed.

What that felt like, and how it brought us together as a community, was profound because we hadn’t done it before, hadn’t felt it.

We are infatuated now with the LeBron James and the Heat, but to those of us of a certain age, those of us raised by the Dolphins, we will always remember our first love.

Tuesday at the White House, the Perfect Season finally gets its historical stamp.

Monday night inside closed ballroom doors — that was for family, for old teammates. That was for old friends saying thanks, in their own way.

“How’s it feel to be responsible for all this!” Dick Anderson called out to the one man who was.

Seated but standing tall as ever, Don Shula let his smile answer for him.

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August 17, 2013

PS3: Houston 24, Dolphins 17: Biggest test yet. Tannehill to Wallace finally hits, but Keller injury is big!; plus AP preseason poll, LeBron, Fox Sports 1 result & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 19. Click on Random Evidence for my latest Sunday notes column. 2) Amused that Dwyane Wade says he is hopeful the Heat's Big 3 will stay together beyond this coming season. Ask yourself, though, "If the whole point is to defuse controversy and distraction, what else would he say in August?" 3) ESPN is close enough to a monopoly that I do not like Fox Sports 1's chances to make a big dent. Regis Philbin!? That's a joke, right? 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN girds for latest attack, Offerdahl on Honor Roll, college football predictions & more. 5) Join us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter returns: We'll be back with a sixth season of Dolfan Satisfaction Meter polls appearing in the blog right after every Dolphins game. But as always the polls begin with the regular season, not the preseason. Watch for the first DSM on Sept. 8.

PS3: HOUSTON 24, DOLPHINS 17: TANNEHILL-TO-WALLACE ENCOURAGING, BUT KELLER HURT: Miami was outgained 2-to-1 in total yards and the pass defense was shaky at best, so, the score was more competitive than the Dolphins were with one of the NFL's best teams. Encouraging signs, though, included a big one: Ryan Tannehill connecting three times for 58 yards to Mike Wallace, including a 33-yard strike and a 9-yard TD pass. Tannehill (10-15, 141 yards) looked sharp. Also, a Brent Grimes interception reflected his strong training camp. The injury that looks like it will shelve tight end Dustin Keller for the season is big, but let's not overdramatize it and retroactively make like Keller was a Pro Bowl dominator. If the Patriots can withstand the erasure of Aaron Hernandez and injury of Rob Gronkowski, let's not act like Miami's offense is now doomed by the absence of Keller. Overall, at 1-2 with two exhibitions to go we still have no real sense of how good Miami will be, but Tannehill-to-Wallace was a positive coming out of this one as much as the Keller injury was a negative. (Apologies for not being here during the game or updating immediately afterward. Out of town family obligations prevented the former, and connectivity issues the latter. ..... Original post: Tonight should be a better gauge than what we've had on how good the Dolphins are. The Hall of Fame Game was like an early walk-through even by preseason standards, and last week brought a really 1aa1dolhoubad opponent in Jacksonville. Tonight offers a strong foe in Houston, which is dreaming Super Bowl. And the third of five exhibitions is (hopefully) a time to start 1aa1dolps3polishing a bit and play starters more. Specifically, some game interaction between Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace would be nice (and encouraging), considering he missed PS1 and then wasn't even thrown to last week. A deep connection or TD pass to Wallace would be both meaningless but meaningful if you know what I mean. Dolfans are looking for tangible signs Wallace was worth the big money and Tanny is poised to make a big step. Also will be interested to see new kicker Caleb Sturgis tonight with a little weight on him for the first time. On the Houston side, LB Brian Cushing is expected to make his debut and play for the first time since a Game 5 season-ending injury last year. That dresses the night with a little more of an occasion-feel for the Texans. Finally, struggling Miami left tackle Jonathan Martin will see a supreme challenge, at least in small doses, in pass-batting J.J. Watt, who might be the best defensive player in the NFL. In sum, an impressive show by Miami tonight will be legitimately encouraging. (Note: I'm out of town this weekend but will make a Herculean effort to be here at least sporadically during the game and then offer postgame thoughts. Meanwhile, talk amongst yourselves. There's an open bar).

Poll result: Split feelings on ESPN vulnerability: With Fox Sports 1's hyped rollout today, we asked how vulernable you think ESPN is (you may still vote), and 51.5 percent said the "Worldwide Leader" should be concerned, when last we checked, versus 48.5% who said otherwise. That may be one of the closest votes we have ever had on an either/or question. (That means I think it is, but I'm too lazy to do the research).

CANES JUST MISS IN AP PRESEASON FOOTBALL POLL: The Associated Press college football poll still is 1aa1ap25the Granddaddy of 'em all, to me, and of course Alabama is a near-unanimous No. 1 in Saturday's preseason Top 25. (Aside the the one voter who chose Ohio State: Either Nick Saban stole your wife, or you're an idiot). Gators check in No. 10 and Seminoles No. 11. U-Miami is fourth in "others receiving votes," tantamount to a No. 29 ranking out the gate. An early-season game vs. Florida gives the Canes a big shot to leap high and fast up the rankings.

ROYALTY: LEBRON GETS POLICE ESCORT TO SHOW: LeBron James got special passage to last night's Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert at Dolphins stadium; click here for details. This is no surprise. LeBron is King. I'd have been only slightly less surprised if James had leaped on stage and grabbed a mic. Or if the concert had been moved to his house to avoid his needing to drive there in the first place.

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August 15, 2013

As Fox Sports 1 readies big launch, how vulnerable is ESPN? Poll. Close! Vote now; plus Offerdahl, UM set for 8.8 wins, Elvis 'n Woodstock, LeBron & more

1aa1woodstock 1aa1elvis1) It is SATURDAY, AUGUST 17. Our new Dolphins @ Houston blogpost will publish here today at 2 p.m. sharp. Watch for it. 2) Wanna feel old? Woodstock (right) was going on 44 years ago this week, and Elvis Presley (left) died 36 years ago yesterday. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron's-future poll, '72 Dolphins to White House, college football mascots, 2014 NFL draft & more. 4) Join us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote). 

Click on The Perfectos & The President for my latest column, on the upcoming White House visit by the 1972 Dolphins. I explore why, even 41 years late, the honor is due a team that did not get sufficient credit in its time, because that time was so different. 

"WORLDWIDE LEADER" ESPN GIRDS FOR ITS LATEST ATTACKER: Fox Sports 1, billing itself "America's New 24-Hour Sports Network," launched today at 6 a.m. as the latest major cable challenger to ESPN's throne. (NBC and CBS previously rolled out cable sports networks as well, in case you haven't noticed). The Fox challenge 1aa1foxvsespnseems better organized, or at least better promoted, and appears to have caught the attention of ESPN in a way the others did not. "We've always had competition," ESPN president John Skipper said recently of the 30-year-old mothership he steers. "But there's a little more overt strategy from our competitors to look a little more like ESPN than they have in the past." I am told that ESPN is taking the Fox threat seriously enough that it has planned several programming announcements for Saturday, including one involving Dan Le Batard's Miami-based radio show going national. Fox says its "pillar" sports will be college basketball and football, NFL, MLB (starting in 2014), NASCAR, soccer and UFC. The latter two may offer the best chance for Fox to distinguish itself. A nightly 11 p.m. "Fox Sports Live" show will be their version of ESPN SportsCenter. Andy Roddick will co-host Fox's news show. (Hmm. Let's wait and see on that one). Other programming will include a sports/entertainment show called Crowd Goes Wild hosted by Regis Philbin. (Hmm again. Not sure the wisdom of having a host who turns 82 this month if you're trying to be the hip new flavor). By pure numbers, ESPN is available in roughly 100 million homes and Fox projects a startup of about 90 million. NBC Sports Network is in roughly 80 million homes, but ratings have been very spotty. CBS has around 48 million homes. I'm not sure ESPN should be worried about any one threat, although it seems the aggregate challenge can't but eventually eat into the Worldwide Leader's audience and therefore its influence. Right? Give us a pulse-read on ESPN and how vulnerable you think it is, or isn't. Vote and say why.

ON OFFERDAHL JOINING DOLPHINS HONOR ROLL: Injuries limited linebacker John Offerdahl's Dolphins 1aa1johnocareer to eight years (1986-93), but in five of those seasons he made the Pro Bowl. He was Zach Thomas before Zach Thomas, only for not nearly as long. I'm glad to see Offerdahl, whom I covered, announced as the 26th member of the club's Honor Roll. He is not "first ballot" caliber on the Larry Csonka/Dan Marino/Jason Taylor echelon, no. But he is deserving.

Poll result: LeBron will stay, re-up with Heat: We asked what you predict LeBron James will do after this coming NBA season, and 81.98 percent said "re-sign with Miami" vs. only 18.02% voting "go elsewhere in free agency." We can't say how much of that is Heat fans' wishful-thinking, but we can tell you the "stay" vote spiked to 85.98% in Florida, vs. 78.01% everywhere else.

SPOILER ALERT! HERE'S HOW THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON WILL TURN OUT: PredictionMachine.com's computer played the coming college football season 50,000 times and here are 1aa1premachthe win totals forecast for the seven state FBS schools (all based on a 12-game regular season): Florida State 9.9 wins, Miami 8.8, Florida 8.3, UCF 7.4, South Florida 5.6, FIU 3.2 and FAU 2.6. SPOILER ALERT!: Alabama wins a third straight national title; FSU beats Miami in the ACC title game then beats Oklahoma State in the Orange Bowl; LSU beats Miami in the Chick-fil-A Bowl; Florida beats Michigan State in the Gator Bowl; and Maryland beats UCF in the Belk Bowl. I have two words: Belk Bowl!?

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