March 30, 2015

Finally, the Four! Who'll win the NCAA semifinals? New polls. Vote now!; plus Larranaga today from NIT, Dolphins draft update, ageless wonders Wade, Jagr carry Heat, Panthers & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1aa1abloodymary1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 30. Pictured right, a bloody mary you can buy at Minnesota Twins games that includes a slice of cold pepperoni pizza in it. Just because. 2) Click on Materiality's Burden for my latest column, from Saturday's Florida Derby. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, more Madness, Florida Debry & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat win big, Cats win bigger. Update entering MondayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 34-39 (W1) after Sunday's 109-102 win over Detroit, 2 games from 6th with 9 games left (next Tuesday vs. San Antonio). Heat playoff likelihood: 77.8% (up 8.6) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending up in 10th place at 35-41 (W1) after Sunday's 4-2 win at Ottawa, 1 point from 9th and 4 points from 8th with 6 games left (next Tuesday at Boston). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.3% (up 2.7) per sportsclubstats.com.

FINALLY, THE FOUR! WHO WINS THE NCAA TOURNAMENT SEMIFINALS?: It's No. 1 Kentucky  vs. No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 1 Duke vs. No. 7 Michigan State this coming Saturday in the men's NCAA Tournament 1aa1afinalfourFinal Four. Kentucky and Duke both are 5-point early favorites. Kentucky is now a prohibitive 5-6 favorite to win it all, with Duke and Wisconsin both 7-2 and Michigan State 7-1. This is the 17th Final Four for Kentcucky, 15th for Duke, ninth for Michigan State and third for Wisconsin. It's a heavyweight Final Four. There are no Cinderellas here, not with Michigan State's pedigree, despite its seeding. (By the way, an oddsmaker friend tells me that, if the semis go as expected, Kentucky would likely open as a 4 1/2-point pick over Duke in the title match. But that's getting ahead of ourselves). Who do you predict will win the two semifinal games? Not who you want to win, but who you'd bet to win if you had $100 to place straight-up on either game. Vote and say why.

AGELESS WONDERS WADE, JAGR LIFT HEAT, PANTHERS: A big Sunday for our two teams angling for the postseason (see Playoff Chase above for more), thanks to 40 points from the Heat's Dwyane Wade in 1aa1adwade 1aa1ajjagra 109-102 win over Detroit and two goals from the Panthers' Jaromir Jagr in a big 4-2 win at Ottawa. Wade, at 33, in his 12th NBA and Miami season, continues to verify he still is in his prime, albeit the far side of it. Jagr, 43, in his 21st NHL season, has proven an excellent playoff-push spark since Florida signed him in late February. The Heat, a current seventh seed, tries to make up two games' ground and finish No. 6 in the East for a more favorable first-round matchup  vs. (likely) Chicago. Miami would draw LeBron and Cleveland by staying seventh or top-seeded Atlanta by slipping to eighth. The Panthers still must make up four points to the Bruins to climb up  to eighth. Tuesday's game at Boston is must-win in most every sense. Florida needs a two-point victory to give titself a realistic chance.

LATEST MOCK-DRAFT GUESS FOR DOLPHINS: Wide receiver certainly is emerging as the position of choice for Miami by most notable mock drafters. The new Mock 4.0 by ESPN's Todd McShay has Fins 1aa1abreshadpselecting Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman (pictured), 6-2 and 212 pounds, the son of longtime NFL wideout and former UM Hurricane Brett Perriman. Here is McShay's analysis: "We haven't had Perriman going this early in our previous mocks, but we've seen two promising signs from him as we've gone through the evaluation process. 1) His ball skills, which were something of a concern on his early-season tape, appeared to get better as the year wore on. His performance in UCF's bowl game against NC State was the best we've seen from him in terms of catching the ball. 2) He verified the speed he flashes on tape with 4.24 and 4.27 40 times at his pro day last week. Miami could use him to replace Mike Wallace as its deep threat opposite fellow newcomers Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron, giving QB Ryan Tannehill some talented weapons to work with." Perriman is the fourth wideout going in McShay's latest mock. He has Louisville's DaVante Parker, a popular choice for Miami at 14th overall, going 10th to St. Louis.

LARRANAGA FROM THE N.I.T. TODAY: A complete (minimally edited) transcript of Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga from today's NIT press conference in advance of Tuesday's semifinal game vs. Temple at Madison Square Garden:

"The first question I was asked by the media after we beat Richmond was, 'You know you're going back to New York. What's your favorite restaurant?' I said there is only two places I absolutely go to eat when I'm in New York. The first is I get a dirty-water dog off the street vendor and I get a slice of pizza. So if you haven't done either of those you need to do that because that's the best eating you're going to find. This is a thrill for me. My first experience in the NIT was actually when I was 9 or 10 years old. My brother Bob played at St. John's University. He was a scholarship athlete, played for Joe Lapchick and he brought me to Madison Square Garden for the Holiday Festival. I had a chance to watch St. John’s play and he took me down to the lockerroom afterward and I met the St. John's players and from that moment, I wanted to be a college basketball player. I wanted to play in Madison Square Garden. It’ s a little different now because that was the old Garden and it was smoke filled. You guys remember what it was like? I didn’t know, I thought that was what Madison Square Garden looked like. So, when they built a new Garden, I said, 'Where’s all the smoke?'."

"In New York is there's no place you want to play other than Madison Square Garden. My first experience as a player was in 1969. Joe Mullaney brought our Providence College team to the Holiday Festival. We played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his UCLA team. I thought we outplayed them, really, but they snuck away with the victory. Then eventually in my my senior year we did lose to the great Carolina team under Dean Smith and they won the NIT 1971."

"So I have great memories of New York City, the NIT and Madison Square Garden. And in particular my last experience in the NIT and in Madison Square Garden was with Jeff Jones who absolutely destroyed a great UNLV team in the semifinals. I don't remember all the number of assists. I'm guessing he does. It was like 14 or 15 assists. He led our team to the NIT championship, and he carried Ralph Sampson and Jeff Lamp along with him."

"I'm very fortunate to be here. We were down 18 against Richmond and I have no idea how we came back and won that game but we're very excited. My players are very excited to be in New York, my wife is very excited to be here in New York. She made me promise to take her to New York before the Richmond game and I said you have to talk to my players about that. I talked to my players about that and sure enough they delivered."

"This is a great group of guys. I recruited Johnny Dawkins. I tried to coach Jeff Jones. He was really uncoachable at that time. And Fran and I are contemporaries. We were both guards who never passed the ball. But I will say this about our game tomorrow night against Temple. John Chaney wrote the book on how to not turn the ball over, play great defense and have your guards just dominate a game and Fran and his team are doing the same thing. [They are an] absolutely incredible defensive team. They don't turn the ball over. I think it's going to be a great ball game."

"I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship. A memory they will have for lifetime. So thank you very much."

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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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March 08, 2015

What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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February 27, 2015

In-out door spinning: On Hartline, Jagr, Beasley; plus what Miami team inspiring most optimism? (poll; vote!); also Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 1. Happy new month! 2) Our Sunday Random Evidence notes column and our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 are taking today off. 3) Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. 4) Here is the latest 'Back In My Day' segment from the Dan LeBatard Show: Back_in_my_Day-_Baseball's_Rule_Changes-_2-24-15 (2)

"Will the last ESPN on-air personality to not be suspended please turn out the lights?" --Greg Cote

HARTLINE OUT, BEASLEY, JAGR IN. HUH? WHA!?: OK I leave for a long weekend's holiday in Austin, Tex. and all hell breaks loose back in South Florida. Man I can't leave you people alone for a minute! Just since I left early Thursday, the Heat bring back Michael Beasley with a 10-day contract, the Panthers acquire aging star Jaromir Jar, and the Dolphins release receiver Brian Hartline (and also Brandon Gibson). Quick thoughts on each: Heat/Beasley -- Makes sense. With Chris Bosh out the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts out all year, Miami needed power-forward help, and Beasley is still young enough and with enough upside to risk a trial run. Panthers/Jagr -- Well, Jaromir is 43 now. Can he still provide the scoring punch Florida needs to lock down a playoff spot? As when the Marlins signed Ichiro, this signing is exciting for the remaining big-name value but may not have huge impact. Dolphins/Hartline -- It's a clear salary purge to erase a one-time prominent WR of diminishing results. The question now is if eliminating Hartline and Gibson means it'll be more likely that Mike Wallace stays. (I doubt it). Interesting times for all of these teams. And getting more interesting all the time.

WHAT MIAMI TEAM HAS MOST EARNED YOUR OPTIMISM?: Blind hope is one thing, but I'm talking here
about optimism rooted in reason. What is the local Big 5 team most headed the right way? Current or 1aa1aoptimismmost recent won-lost record should be factored, but maybe not as much as the overall direction -- the sense of how well the team is positioned to win big and soon. This is not asking your favorite team or sport. It's asking who among Dolphins, Heat, UM football, Marlins and Panthers fans should feel the most optimistic right now? Purposely I did not include a "none of them!" option in the poll, because like the guy to the right staring up at you says, if you can't find optimism somewhere, you're dead. This, I know, is a tough poll question that may scare away discourage many potential voters because the answer can't be quantified and because it's hard to compare different sports. Plus, you may think it's a close call between a couple of teams. Nevertheless! You are challenged: Take a dip in our poll and drop a Comment saying why you feel as you do.

1aa1agiancarlosiSTANTON'S BURGEONING STAR-POWER AFFIRMED ... IN BODY PAINT: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton adorns the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, and SI say it's the first time any athlete has been on its cover in body paint. (Um, don't some things go without saying?) This is the latest indication of Stanton's burgeoning journey from local star en route to national superstar. A $325 million contract will start that process, along with the expectation of 40-plus home runs. Being built like somebody sculpted in marble doesn't hurt. And the human interest angle -- coming back from an awful, face-smashing beaning -- just adds another layer.

On Marlins' two top prospects: One you may see soon, the other will take awhile. The Marlins 1aa1ajtrealplace righty pitcher Tyler Kolek (ranked No. 34) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (No. 72) among ESPN's Top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Kolek, who just turned 19, will need a few years to marinate and refine, although he's a 6-6, 270-pound behemoth with a mid-90s fastball and the club thinks he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Realmuto (pictured) turns 24 in March and has a chance this spring that he's ready to stick with the big club.

1aa1albjmcdHE'S LOVIN' IT! (OR SO HE CLAIMS): In a Tuesday interview about diet and fitness LeBron James seemed to briefly forget that McDonald's pays him millions to pimp its products. He said, "I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice. It didn't matter. I was 18, I could do whatever I wanted to." Nice recovery, though. When later asked how often he eats McDonald's nowadays he said, "Every day! Every day, every day, every day, every day, every day. I just had it this morning!"

BETTING PUBLIC HAS LITTLE FAITH IN TIGER TURNAROUND: It was the opposite once. The wagering 1aa1atwoodspublic loved Tiger Woods. Back in his reign, as a major neared, people actually debated if Tiger vs. the field was a decent bet. I remember the conversations. Now? New odds from our friends at Bovada have Tiger winning zero majors this year as a prohibitive 1-7 likelihood, and he's now a 14-1 longshot to surpass Jack Nicklaus' career majors record. The bright side? If you see Tiger with a big comeback left in him, it's a buyer's market.

NEWS STORY / MY COMMENT: News story: Three British teens arrive in Syria to join terrorists. My comment: Oh, how unfathomably idiotic!

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February 04, 2015

The ones that got away define UM's recruiting class, keep heat on Golden; plus is National Signing Day big or overblown? New poll. Vote!; also, updated bet-odds for Heat, Canes and Cats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl review and poll, betting outlook for Dolphins and Canes & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

CANES CLASS NOT BAD, BUT LOW RANKINGS KEEP THE HEAT ON GOLDEN: I think UM's 2015 recruiting class is being underestimated on this National Signing Day, but the perception-is-reality thing -- its low rankings -- keeps the heat on coach Al Golden. Miami's class is ranked 24th by ESPN, 26th by Rivals and by 247Sports, and 34th by Scout, thanks to 14 de-commitments that left Golden scrambling. Click on The Ones That Got Away for my National Signing Day column, newly online and shipping to Thursday's inky pulp editions.

THIS IS NOT YOUR 'NATIONAL SIGNING DAY' HEADQUARTERS: I rebel against the NSD mania that engulfs college football fans, ESPN and other media today. Don't get me wrong. The sport's equivalent of the NFL's 1aa1aNSDdraft and free agency is important -- an essential annual influx and replenishing. What I reject as absurd is the over-analysis and over-coverage of it. Hurricanes fans and others around the country will instantly choose elation or disappointment today based on the signing of a couple of dozen players they've mostly never heard of or seen play. Based on what? On the analysis and assigning of a star rating by self-anointed website experts such as Rivals.com, Scout.com and others whose opinions are regurgitated as gospel. It's mostly guesswork that usually takes a couple or three of years to fairly judge, yet by the end of the day today every college's recruiting class will be ranked, poll-style. One year ago ESPN ranked UM's class No. 10 in the nation. Which means ... who knows? The Canes had  the nation's No. 1-ranked incoming class in 2008. And it meant nothing, really. In the 2010-11 seasons, when that glorious class should have been blossoming to greatness, UM was a combined 13-12. Anyway, enough of my rant. Tell us what you think of National Signing Day and why.

BETTING UPDATES ON HEAT, CANES, PANTHERS: Courtesy Bovada, Golden State (7-2) and up-trending Cleveland (15-2) are now nearly tied as faves to win the NBA title, with Heat now 100-1 (was 75-1). In the NHL, Anaheim and Chicago are co-faves at 6-1, with the Panthers now 100-1 (was 75-1). In men's NCAA hoops, Kentucky is even-odds to win it all, with Hurricanes at 200-1 (was 100-1). Best bet for a local player to win an individual honor: Cats' Aaron Ekblad stands third in NHL rookie of year odds at 3-1.

Poll result: Huge majority loved Super Bowl: We asked how this Super Bowl compared to most and 82.8 percent called it "better than average." Another 10.3% called it about the same, and 6.9% -- presumably Seahawks fans and losing bettors -- called it below average.

1aa1acreepy photo"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a creepy family portrait in which the Dad looks almost like a ventriloquist's dummy. Thank you!" Dear Reader: Hmm. Tough request, but let me see what I can do. 

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February 03, 2015

On Super Bowl: Criticism of The Call, halftime and commercials; plus you rate this Super Bowl (poll; vote now!); also, Warren Sapp, betting odds for next season on Dolphins, Canes & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my regular Tuesday gig with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Have a new "Back In My Day" in hand. Ears welcome.


1aa1agronk1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3. Pictured right, it's just Gronk Being Gronk in a club around 4 a.m. after winning the Super Bowl. Lesson: It is good to be Gronk. 2) In case you missed it: Click on Bouncing Off the Shield for my Sunday Super Bowl special-section column on how the NFL's massive popularity withstands all manner of scandal and controversy that come its way, and on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 3) 
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl MVP poll, Hot Button Top 10, Canton selections & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On the Patriots' complicated legacy: Today's latest column by me extols one of the greatest Super Bowls ever but explores the complicated issue of how history will judge the Patriots' four Super Bowl wins of the Belichick-Brady era. The success should be mentioned first, but the rules-breaking controversies must be noted, too. Click on Excellence and Ethics to read.

Sapp arrested: Former Hurricanes star Warren Sapp reportedly was arrested in Phoenix yesterday for solicitation and assault (story here) and quickly fired by the NFL Network. Because of previous episodes Sapp was in danger of dumbing himself out of his TV career, and I think this has done it. Sad.

A QUICK SUPER BOWL RECAP: The game, halftime, party, commercials. What else is there? (Rhetorical question. There's also a poll below here inviting you to rate this Super Bowl):

The game: I picked the Patriots to win 27-23. They won 28-24. But enough about me! Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is getting too much flak for his "terrible" call that gave New England the win. People are playing the result. Yes, handing off to Marshawn Lynch would have been the safe call. But Carroll would be getting lauded today as the unpredictable, daring genius had Russell Wilson completed that quick- slant pass rather than thrown an interception. Tom Brady and the Pats got lucky with that, but deserved to win. 

1aa1akatypThe halftime show: It feels strange saying it but I thought Katy Perry was great, from the opening entrance on the giant mechanical tiger and straight on through. She is very talented and has the palatable, NFL-friendly sex appeal that others (Miley Cyrus) are lacking, and her opening number, the anthemic "Roar," was perfect for a Super Bowl.

The party: I hosted my annual SB party for 12 or 15 family and friends, with pulled pork sliders (Boston butt, foretelling the Patriots' victory) and gumbo atop the menu. I also happened to win big in our two betting pools (squares, props) which made me an unpopular but smiling host.

1aa1alostpuppyThe commercials: Click on Ad-Meter to watch and see USA Today's Ad-Meter ranking of all 61 Super Bowl commercials. No. 1: Budweiser / "Lost Dog," because heroes Clydesdales saving an adorable lost puppy's life is irresistible and makes me want to drink beer to celebrate. Dead last: UCool / "Heroes Charge," because I don't remember the ad and have no idea what UCool is.

HOW DO YOU RATE THIS SUPER BOWL COMPARED TO MOST: Rate the game on overall interest, watchability and excitement -- not on whether your team won, not on whether you hit on your bet:

VEGAS OUTLOOK FOR DOLPHINS, CANES: Odds for next season's Super Bowl already are out (sportsbooks waste no time) and the Dolphins are at 40-1, tied for 14th. Seahawks are favored at 5-1, then Patriots 7-1 and Packers 8-1. On the college side,Ohio State is a favorite to repeat at 5-1. The Miami Hurricanes are 75-1, tied for 29th.

Poll result: Brady was your MVP favorite: We asked who you thought would be Super Bowl MVP and, of six choices, Patriots QB Tom Brady (who ended up winning) was the top choice with 52.0 percent.

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Twitter @gregcote

January 10, 2015

Canton calling: Your football Hall of Fame ballot. 15 finalists, you pick 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Rex Ryan to Bills, new Hot Button Top 10 & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 11. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Two Super Bowl polls, NFL Divisional Round picks, Shula and Beli-cheat, Canes' big win, Rob Konrad, Bosh the actor, mouthy relatives & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

My NFL Divisional Round pix: Saturday: Patriots, 27-23, and Seahawks, 21-13. Sunday: Broncos, 34-24, and Packers, 31-24. (I was 3-1 overall, 1-3 vs. the spread). Click Divisional Gems for the full predix capsules.

"Rex Ryan to Buffalo as head coach? Not sure if the Bills just got better, but I am sure they just got noisier." --Greg Cote

YOU SELECT WHO GETS INTO PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Baseball voters who decide entry into 1aa1acantgonCooperstown (I'm one of them) come under annual criticism largely because the Steroids Era-factor makes the vote so polarizing and complicated. Football voters who decide entry into Canton have no such issues, and rarely if ever seem to have their choices scrutinized or slammed. (I'd mention the basketball and hockey halls, but nobody really cares). Anyway,the Pro Football Hall of Fame has winnowed its 2015 nominees to 15 modern-era finalists, who I present alphabetically in this poll. A maximum of five will be elected, so I invite you to vote for as many as five (5) here. Three or four seem obvious to me, but that's just me. I'll tell you my five later.

READING LEBRON'S MIND: The Cavaliers are 19-18, have lost four straight and are presently the sixth seed. The Heat are 15-21, have lost five of six and are slotted eighth. Somewhere, there is telepathy between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and it sounds something like this: "We should-a left it alone."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 11: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: Patriots, Seahawks advance; two more today: Patriots (narrowly) and Seahawks (comfortably) won Divisional Round games Saturday, now Colts-Broncos and Cowboys-Packers on Sunday will complete the AFC and NFC title-game matchups. Conpsiracy theorists are ready in case Dallas wins on another lucky call.

2. College football: Oregon, Ohio State in first playoff title game Monday: Fair to say Oregon will have rooting interest of much of country outside of Ohio, because every game needs a villain. America doesn't have Jameis Winston to taunt or Nick Saban to hate, but Urban Meyer is an acceptable substitute.

3. Dolphins: Team adds ex-Jets GM Tannebaum to front office: Mike Tannenbaum becoming VP of football operations was met with knee-jerking derision from many Dolfans and media, who clamored for change but evidently not this change.

4. Heat: Slumping team carries tailspin to west coast: Heat star Chris Bosh stars in Funny or Die's new short comedy viedo, Tall Justice 2. Is it just me, or do Heat players' various side projects tend to be much more amusing when the team is headed to another NBA Finals than when it has lost five of six and is 15-21?

5. Baseball: Hall of Fame adds four to Cooperstown: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected, the largest class since 1955. Could that be because those were only players left untarnished by steroid use or rumors? (Benefit of doubt to Biggio on that...)

6. Panthers: Luongo named to NHL all-star team: Florida had only one player named to the all-star team so it's fitting it is goalie Roberto Luongo, who has team in the playoff chase despite the Cats being one of the lowest-scoring teams in NHL.

7. Hurricanes: Women's basketball stuns No. 4 Notre Dame: UM ended Notre Dame's 30-game road winning streak as the Canes were led by Adrienne Motley's 32 points. Is there even a slight chance the Canes should not now be nicknamed Motley Crew?

8. Rob Konrad: Ex-Dolphin heroically saves own life: Fishing alone, boat on autopilot, Konrad falls overboard, swims nine miles to safety through rough Atlantic waters in dead of night. Man, some guys'll do anything for attention!

9. Stuart Scott: ESPN anchors succumbs to cancer: Polarizing in life but lauded in death, Stuart Scott left us at 49 after a battle with cancer. "Boo-ya's!" at half-mast, please.

10. Don Shula: Icon calls Belichick "Beli-cheat": Turning 85, Shula in an interview called Bill Belichick "Beli-cheat," a reference to the 2007 "Spygate" incident that brought Belichick a $500,000 fine and cost Pats a first-round pick. Shula got criticized, bt what's that they say abiout truth being the best defense?

Poll result: Thinking Seahawks win Super Bowl, hoping Packers: We asked in separate polls who think think will win the Super Bowl and who you want to win from among the final eight. The top three in each category: Predict will win--Seahawks 34.1 percent, Patriots 23.9%, Packers 21.2%. Want to win--Packers 24.9 percent, Broncos 22.8%, Panthers 12.4%.

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October 31, 2014

NFL Week 9 pix: 2 streaks end in Miami; plus LeBron's delightful homecoming fizzle, Noles demand respect & more

1aa1ahalloween1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31. Happy Halloween, kids of all ages! 2) I'm on the grounds of Random Evidence Laboratories today creating Sunday's notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FSU and LeBron debut make for big TV night, LeBron cheer-boo result, World Series & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Already? 2015 World Series odds: Bovada has L.A. Dodgers and Washington Nationals co-favorites to win it all next fall at 15-2 odds, followed by Tigers and Angels both 10-1. Marlins are 50-1, tied for 23rd of 30 clubs.

NFL WEEK 9 PIX: SORRY DOLPHINS, BUT STREAK STOPS HERE: Miami has won two games in a row, the 1aa1afripixbaby of streaks but a streak nonetheless. And San Diego has lost seven games in a row in Miami since famously last winning that 41-38 overtime playoff game on Jan. 2, 1982. (I was there at the Orange Bowl, cub reporting). I wish I believed that both streaks would continue here Sunday. I don't. Click on Week 9 Gems for all our latest NFL predictions. (Good start on our week last night; correctly had Saints covering at Panthers). Also, Click on Air Show for our Friday Page NFL column. It leads with Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning and includes our King Sport Halftime Awards.

1aa1ahomecomingMIAMI HOWLS WITH DELIGHT AS LEBRON FIZZLES IN HOMECOMING DEBUT: Evidently God belongs to Heat Nation. South Florida watched (though not admitting it) as estranged hero LeBron James scored only 17 points and was awful doing it, shooting 5-for-15 with eight turnovers, in a Cleveland loss to the Knicks in LBJ's homecoming debut. The way LeBron left Miami rankles many Heat fans. The torrent of these sappy homecoming ads annoys many of the rest of us. I am especially already sick of the one with the heartfelt voiceover by mother of the year Gloria and the churchy "Amen" vocal background. Gawd.

PROPS TO THE NOLES: I'm no Florida State fan but I am a Floridian who tends to wish our state teams 1aa1agraywell, so (sorry, Canes fans) I was watching and rooting a little last night as Jameis Winston and the Seminoles shut up that Louisville crowd little by little. Those people with a 21-0 early lead were acting like they'd never seen Winston before and didn't know who they were playing. (By the way, those gray Louisville uniforms are beyond awful). No, FSU isn't as good as last season's champions, but this unbeaten No. 2-ranked team deserves more respect than it gets. Having said that I am already looking forward to UM hosting FSU on Nov. 15. I think the Canes have a big chance at an upset.

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October 16, 2014

Should Jameis Winston be suspended? New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL odds, Rick Scott & The Fan, Heat still reign locally & more

1) It is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16. I'm ensconsed in Friday Page Headquarters creating this week's NFL predictions. Pray for me. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Big 5 who-do-you-trust poll, Heat betting odds, SOPY rankings, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"My reaction to Brandon Marshall criticizing Chad Henne's time as Dolphins quarterback? Get in line, pal." --Greg Cote

WHAT TO DO WITH JAMEIS WINSTON: Florida State and coach Jimbo Fisher move forward as if there's no doubt QB Jameis Winston will play Saturday when No. 2 FSU hosts No. 5 Notre Dame. But Las Vegas 1aa1ajameishad enough doubts that the game was yanked off betting boards yesterday over the uncertainty. Plenty think Winston should be suspended over a cumulative effect of several off-field controversies. Click on Jimbo's Dilemma for today's latest column by me. The 2012 sexual-assault allegation against Winston has not gone away amid recent reports of collusion between the Tallahassee Police Department and the FSU athletic department. Now the school plans a disciplinary board hearing with Winston, which could lead to a decision he violated the student code of conduct. Beyond the overriding rape cloud there is this week news that he signed some 950 items of memorabilia, which would violate NCAA rules if he was paid. Jameis says he wasn't; Jimbo believes him. We won't even get into the stolen crab legs or the shouted mysoginist vulgarity that got him suspended from the Clemson game. The question is whether Jameis Winston -- all things considered -- should still be out there as the face of FSU on Saturday and beyond? It isn't an easy question with a clear answer. Your opinion is nonetheless invited.

UPDATED NFL ODDS: Broncos are reinstalled as Super Bowl favorites (via Bovada) at 4-1, but Seahawks are still second at 6-1. Then it's Chargers/49ers both 9-1, Packers/Patriots both 11-1 and Cowboys 12-1. Dallas RB DeMarco Murray is slight MVP pick at 7-2, over Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers both 4-1.

RICK SCOTT AND THE FAN: The start of last night's Charlie Crist-Rick Scott guberatorial debate at Broward College played out like a Saturday NIght Live skit. The audience murmered and tittered awkwardly like 1aa1adebatethey weren't sure if this was a joke or not. If only it were. Click HERE to see what I mean. Gov. Rick Scott refused to take the stage, delaying the debate for seven minutes, because opponent Crist had a small fan at the bottom of his podium to cool him. Evidently "no electronics" was part of the rules. The presumption is that meant impportant things like teleprompters. But a fan!? Scott came off like a persnickety kid holding his breath to get his way. He turned himself into a national laughingstock in a way that even four years in office could not. Scott has been the worst Florida governor of my lifetime IMHO, and has taken negative campaigning to new depths in this race. I'm not a Crist fan, either. This state deserves a better choice. But the feeling of Crist as the lesser of two evils bobbed once again to the surface as Scott let something so small and silly be what people are talking about today.

Poll result: In Heat's leadership we trust. In everything else, not so much: Lebron James left but Heat remain our model franchise in terms of which Big 5 team's leadership you most trust. We asked in the previous blogpost and Heat led with 70.7 percent -- roughly six times more than runnerup UM football's 11.9%. Then it was Marlins 7.9%, Dolphins 6.1% and Panthers 3.4%.

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Which Miami team's leadership do you most trust (or not)? Poll. Vote!; plus latest NBA odds, two Canes top new SOPY ranking, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15. See results of the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in blogpost directly below this one. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins fall to Green Bay, DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

The State of The Big 5: Dolphins. Heat. Canes football. Marlins. Panthers hockey. Those are Greater Miami's Big 5 teams. I provide a state-of report and prognosis for each in today's latest column, which is a companion to the poll directly below. Click on The Big 5 to read.

WHO DO YOU TRUST: WHICH OF OUR BIG 5 TEAMS IS IN THE BEST HANDS MOVING FORWARD?: I think this poll is well-timed for two reasons. First, October is the only time of year when football, baseball, basketball and hockey are all going on. Second, these are strange times for South Florida teams, with 1aa1atrustthe Heat sans LeBron, Dolphins and Canes fans less than happy, the Marlins (though improved) continuing their playoff drought and the Panthers off to a bad start in hockey. I am asking whose current leadership you have faith in, and you may vote for as many or as few as you like. I purposely didn't include "None" as an option because I'm after a realistic view, not morose pessimism. If you honestly don't have faith in anybody, vote for the team and leadership that come closest for you. When I say "leadership" I'm generally thinking owner/GM/coach, as in: Dolphins--Stephen Ross, Dennis Hickey, Joe Philbin. Heat--Micky Arison, Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra. Marlins--Jeffrey Loria, Michael Hill, Mike Redmond. Panthers--Vincent Viola, Dale Tallon, Gerard Gallant. With Hurricanes football I guess I pretty much mean Al Golden. Vote for one team, all five or any number in between. Your call.

LEBRON-GONE EFFECT SHOWS IN HEAT BETTING ODDS: New NBA individual betting odds from Bovada: MVP--Cavs' LeBron James the favorite at 5-6; Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade tied for 18th at 100-1. Rookie--Bucks' Jabari Parker fave at 5-2; Heat's Shabazz Napier tie-11th at 30-1. Coach--Spurs' Gregg Popovich fave at 3-1; Erik Spoelstra tie-15th at 35-1. Scoring leader--Thunder's Kevin Durant pick at 3-2; Bosh/Wade tie-16th at 100-1. Rebounds--Pistons' Andre Drummond pick at 9-5; no Heat player listed; Assists--Clippers' Chris Paul pick at 2-3; no Heater listed.

SOPY: TWO CANES, JAMEIS 1-2-3 IN STATE COLLBALL RANKINGS: Canes Duke Johnson and Brad Kaaya and FSU's Jameis Winston are a clear 1-2-3 in our latest blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the 1aa1asopyYear (SOPY) rankings --"the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college football teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 8:

SOPY WEEK 7 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk7    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         184     1,010

2 (2)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            154      923

3 (3)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        173.5    919.5

4 (4)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      BYE    741 

5 (5)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       107      699

6 (8)        Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb          174.5    671

7 (--)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           207     665.5 

8 (6)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb             67      653

9 (7)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb            87.5     626

10 (--)     Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec       155       580

Bubble: Alex Gardner, FIU-rb, 535. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: UCF and Florida have played 5 games; FAU, FSU and USF have played 6; Miami and FIU have played 7.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 8: 1. FSU (6-0); 2. Miami (4-3);  3. Florida (3-2); 4. UCF (3-2); 5. SoFla (2-4); 6. FIU (3-4); 7. FAU (2-4).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: DOWN AND FROWN FOR WEEK 6: We update you briefly every Tuesday 1aa1alobos 1aa1afripixon how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy-league team. Pix: That I had Dolphins in my Upset of the Week pretty  much summarizes my fortunes. Went 7-7-1 overall but at least 1aa1agorelsalvaged 8-7 against the spread thanks to four 'dogs-with-points (including Miami). Fantasy: Greg's Lobos fell to 2-4 with a 112-95 loss, getting 26 from Philip Rivers, 21 from DeSean Jackson and not enough else. Had a shot Monday night but needed a big game from Frank Gore, who didn't come through. Lesley Gore (pictured left) would have helped me as much.

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