September 10, 2016

Upset Bird Day in America! Our NFL Week 1 picks; plus Super Bowl poll. Vote now; also, FIU falls, study slams subsidies for sports facilities including Marlins Park, your verdict on biggest Heat acquisition & more

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

Wingicecream1) It is SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10. Pictured right, what stars in a Greg Cote sweet dream? Yes. Yes it is. It's Chicken Wing-flavored ice cream! 2) Marlins worth watching tonight: Jose Fernandez vs. Clayton Kershaw. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's biggest personnel move with poll, computer's gloomy prediction for Dolphins, debut of SOPY rankings, Arian Foster named starter, Canes crack Top 25, miserable Marlins & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

FIU falls hard: The now 0-2 FIU Panthers hosted and lost to Maryland 41-14 last night. The Int'l was only one of seven state FBS teams to open with loss last week, and followed that by allowing 477 yards oif offense to Terps in a blowout loss.

Recent columns, ICYMI or wanted another look: Awesome Vs. Awful, our most recent, on UM's resounding season-opening victory over Florida A&M. Now Can Dolphins, UM Look as Good as the Place They Call Home? (Hard Rock unveiled). NFL Ranking (Best to worst teams, 1 through 32). Brad Kaaya (on UM's key player). She Never Quit (on FIU coach Ron Turner's inspiration). And Kaepernick's Protest Does Not Make Him Un-American (QB sits to take a stand).

Heaviest-bet NFL team over/unders: Via Bovada: The heaviest-bet "overs" on win totals are Cardinals (84 percent on 9.5 wins), Patriots (79% on 10.5) and Panthers (72% on 10.5). Heaviest-bet "unders" are Eagles (82% on 7 wins), Colts (78% on 9.5) and Rams (74% on 7.5).

FripixIT'S UPSET BIRD DAY IN MIAMI. WAIT. NO. IN AMERICA!:It has arrived -- our historic 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald, today in the print edition and also online. A South Florida tradition that began in 1991 continues as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our 2016 Kickoff Weekend picks and prediction capsules for Dolphins-Seahawks, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week, Dog of the Week and every other matchup. Click on Week 1 Gems for all our picks and on Thursday Night Gem for tonight's pick. (We rolled to a big start last night, nailing Denver's upset of Carolina). We also have an accompanying NFL column with our division-by-division forecasts and projected won-lost records along with our Super Bowl pick. Click on Fearful Forecast to read.  We'll also be updating you every Tuesday here in the blog on how we fared the previous weekend with our picks, and with our Greg's Lobos fantasy teams.

Nfl Sb51KING SPORT AWAKENS! IT'S FOOTBALL DAY IN AMERICA!: The college game had a one-week head start. Now let the pros take over, kids. The NFL regular-season begins tonight -- click on Thursday Night Gem for our pick on the Panthers-Broncos game -- and so starts a continuous six-month blitzkrieg of America's immersion in fantasy football and gambling as 32 teams set out to reach and win a Super Bowl. Las Vegas betting odds and the public's reaction to those estimates suggest there are a consensus of six teams pretty clearly above the rest in terms of being likeliest to win it all. We're curious about your thoughts so we have listed all six current betting favorites in our new poll, and we added a seventh team, Denver, in the sentimental belief every reigning champion deserves at least that small nod of respect. No matter the team you cheer for, vote with head, not heart, as if you were given $100 to lay on one team only, straight up, to be this season's champ. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results.

NEW ECONOMIC STUDY SLAMS FEDERAL SUBSIDIES FOR SPORTS FACILITIES, INCLUDING MARLINS PARK: A new economic study by the respected Brookings BrookingsInstitute think tank says federal taxpayers have subsidized newly constructed or majorly renovated professional sports facilities at a cost of $3.2 billion since 2000, via tax-exempt federal municipal bonds. Because high-income bond holders receive that additional tax break for holding the bonds, the resulting loss in total revenue to the federal government is even larger at $3.7 billion. The Miami Marlins' new stadium is included in the study, and is shown to have received a $100 million tax subsidy at a lost-government-revenue pricetag of $132 million. The study looked at 48 stadiums and arenas in America's Big 4 sports. The Marlins received the 12th most in federal subsidy and caused the 10th most in lost revenue. Click on Brookings Study for the full story.

Poll result: Not LeBron, not Shaq, not Wade -- Riley is Heat's biggest acquisition: We asked what has been the Miami Heat's biggest personnel move or acquisition, and hiring executive Pat Riley was a runnaway winner with 50.3 percent. After that it was 24.7% for drafting Dwyane Wade, 16.9% for signing LeBron James/BIg Three, 6.7% for trading for Shaquille O'Neal, and 1.3% for trading for Alonzo Mourning.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

August 12, 2016

Ricky Williams stir-frying cannabis in butter and John Oliver's delicious take on American newspapers; plus complete 2016-17 Heat schedule with highlights, NFL/Dolphins betting odds, your verdict on the Summer Olympics & more

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

Meltdown1) It is THURSDAY, AUGUST 11. Pictured is Time magazine's latest cover, about the Donald Trump campaign, entitled 'Meltdown.' This is the most volatile, fascinating presidential election season of my lifetime, and I'm not sure there is a close second. 2) Single-game tickets to the Oct. 10 FSU at Hurricanes game have sold out. To go, you now must buy a UM season-ticket package. 3) R.I.P., ESPN broadcaster John Saunders, 61. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Favorite Summer Olympics sport poll, Tinder's favorite jobs, college football/Canes/Kaaya betting odds, your Marlins/A-Rod verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Emboldened Tannehill, new offense on stage as Dolphins open preseason: Click on Result Won't Matter, But How Tannehill Looks In New Offense Will for my new column in advance of Miami's Friday night exhibition opener at the Giants. 

Column six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI: The Weight Has Just Begun, the latest, inside the office and expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt. A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Wade's departure from Heat creating opening for Dolphins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chased 3,000 hits. Dolphins On Own to Escape Rut, Reshape Image, state of team as camp neared. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, farewell-Wade column. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that says it all.

Thank you, HBO: I am blatantly double-dipping into your product to float this latest blogpost. First comes my take on John Oliver's recent rant on journalism and newspapers, followed by Bill Simmons' interview last night with actor Seth Rogen and former Dolphin Ricky Williams discussing weed:

BULL'S-EYE: THANK YOU, JOHN OLIVER, FOR YOUR SPOTLIGHT ON THE VALUE OF, AND SAD STATE OF, THE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER: A bit belatedly (this first aired Sunday on HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver), I wanted to thank Oliver for his typically astute take, in this case on journalism in general and finacially struggling American newspapers in general. As Donald Trump wars with the media, calls reporters the most dishonest people in the world and creates a climate in which his supporters chant "lock them up!" at journalists, Oliver properly places in context the continuing value of local newspapers while also skedwering the direction in which they are headed in the digital age. Most fellow journalists like myself -- infantry at the ground level who haven't been laid off, yet -- found the piece brilliant. Most management-level newspaper bosses likely did not. The Newspaper Association of America did, not, either. Click here for the story why. I thought it was spot on in every, on both its overarching points: 1) Why local newspapers continue to be indispensable even as they struggle economically. And 2) how newspapers have been forced to make unfortunate decisions and go in dubious directions in an attempt to survive in the digital age. A thoughtful and thought-provoking piece here. [Note to self: You should have led this blogpost with something about the Dolphins or Canes. Would have gotten a lot more online clicks!]

 WEED CHAT: SETH 'N RICKY TALK POT WITH BILL SIMMONS: This was from last night's Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons on HBO. "High"light: Williams revealing he sautes marijuana in butter in order to stir-fry food in a cannabis flavoring. (I wonder if Malia Obama would enjoy that? OY!) Marijuana has officially been de-stigmatized when a popular actor, a prominent former NFL star and a major sports broadcaster sit around all talking about smoking pot, and doing it as casually as if they were discussing the Olympics. And, perhaps even more remarkably, when the reaction and attitude of an old sports columnist is far, far closer to nonchalant amusement than it is to outrage.

 DOLPHINS, NFL STAT-LEADER BETTING ODDS: Via Bovada today: Passing yards--Drew Brees is favorite at 5-1 odds, then Ben Roethlisberger 6-1 and Philip Rivers 15-2, with Dolphin Ryan Tannehill tied for 16th at 40-1. Receiving yards--Antonio Brown is fave at 2-1, then Julio Jones 3-1 and Odell Beckham 15-2, with Fins' Jarvis Landry tied for 20th at 66-1. Rushing yards--Adrian Peterson is the pick at 3-1, then Todd Gurley 5-1 and Doug Martin 10-1, with Miami's Jay Ajayi tied for 22nd at 50-1.  

COMPLETE 2016-17 HEAT REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE: Highlights include one visit by Dwyane Wade in a Bulls uniform, one visit by Kevin Durant and Golden State, two trips here for LeBron James' Cavaliers and (hallelujah!) no Christmas Day game: 

DATE DAY OPPONENT TIME TV

OCTOBER

26 Wed. @ Orlando 7:00 PM FSS

28 Fri. CHARLOTTE 8:00 PM FSS --- HOME OPENER

30 Sun. SAN ANTONIO 6:00 PM FSS

NOVEMBER

1 Tues. SACRAMENTO 7:30 PM FSS

4 Fri. @ Toronto 7:30 PM FSS

7 Mon. @ Oklahoma City 8:00 PM FSS

10 Thurs. CHICAGO 8:00 PM TNT --- DWYANE WADE'S 1ST AND ONLY VISIT

12 Sat. UTAH 8:00 PM FSS

14 Mon. @ San Antonio 8:30 PM FSS

15 Tues. ATLANTA 7:30 PM FSS

17 Thurs. MILWAUKEE 7:30 PM FSS

19 Sat. @ Washington 7:00 PM FSS

21 Mon. @ Philadelphia 7:00 PM FSS

23 Wed. @ Detroit 7:30 PM FSS

25 Fri. @ Memphis 8:00 PM FSS

26 Sat. MEMPHIS 8:00 PM FSS

28 Mon. BOSTON 7:30 PM FSS/NBA TV

30 Wed. @ Denver 9:00 PM FSS

DECEMBER

1 Thurs. @ Utah 9:00 PM FSS

3 Sat. @ Portland 10:00 PM FSS

6 Tues. NEW YORK 7:30 PM FSS

7 Wed. @ Atlanta 7:30 PM FSS

9 Fri. @ Cleveland 7:30 PM FSS

10 Sat. @ Chicago 8:00 PM FSS/NBA TV

12 Mon. WASHINGTON 7:30 PM FSS/NBA TV

14 Wed. INDIANA 7:00 PM FSS/ESPN

16 Fri. L.A. CLIPPERS 8:00 PM FSS

18 Sun. BOSTON 6:00 PM FSS

20 Tues. ORLANDO 7:30 PM FSS

22 Thurs. L.A. LAKERS 7:30 PM FSS

23 Fri. @ New Orleans 8:00 PM FSS

27 Tues. OKLAHOMA CITY 7:30 PM FSS/NBA TV

29 Thurs. @ Charlotte 7:00 PM FSS

30 Fri. @ Boston 7:30 PM FSS

JANUARY

1 Sun. DETROIT 6:00 PM FSS

3 Tues. @ Phoenix 9:00 PM FSS

4 Wed. @ Sacramento 10:30 PM FSS

6 Fri. @ L.A. Lakers 10:30 PM FSS

8 Sun. @ L.A. Clippers 3:30 PM FSS

10 Tues. @ Golden State 10:30 PM FSS/NBA TV

13 Fri. @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM FSS

17 Tues. HOUSTON 7:30 PM FSS/NBA TV

19 Thurs. DALLAS 7:30 PM FSS

21 Sat. MILWAUKEE 7:30 PM FSS

23 Mon GOLDEN STATE 7:30 PM FSS --- ONLY VISIT BY DURANT/WARRIORS

25 Wed. @ Brooklyn 7:30 PM FSS

27 Fri. @ Chicago 8:00 PM FSS/ESPN

28 Sat. DETROIT 7:30 PM FSS

30 Mon. BROOKLYN 7:30 PM FSS

FEBRUARY

1 Wed. ATLANTA 7:30 PM FSS

4 Sat. PHILADELPHIA 7:30 PM FSS

6 Mon. @ Minnesota 8:00 PM FSS

8 Wed. @ Milwaukee 8:00 PM FSS

10 Fri. @ Brooklyn 7:30 PM FSS

11 Sat. @ Philadelphia 7:30 PM FSS

13 Mon. ORLANDO 7:30 PM FSS

15 Wed. @ Houston 8:00 PM FSS

24 Fri. @ Atlanta 8:00 PM FSS

25 Sat. INDIANA 8:00 PM FSS

27 Mon. @ Dallas 9:30 PM TNT

MARCH

1 Wed. PHILADELPHIA 7:30 PM FSS

3 Fri. @ Orlando 7:00 PM FSS/ESPN

4 Sat. CLEVELAND 8:00 PM FSS --- 1ST OF 2 VISITS BY LEBRON

6 Mon. @ Cleveland 7:00 PM FSS

8 Wed. CHARLOTTE 7:30 PM FSS

11 Sat. TORONTO 8:00 PM FSS

12 Sun. @ Indiana 6:00 PM FSS/NBA TV

15 Wed. NEW ORLEANS 7:30 PM FSS

17 Fri. MINNESOTA 8:00 PM FSS

19 Sun. PORTLAND 6:00 PM FSS

21 Tues. PHOENIX 7:30 PM FSS

23 Thurs. TORONTO 7:30 PM FSS

26 Sun. @ Boston 6:00 PM FSS

28 Tues. @ Detroit 7:30 PM FSS

29 Wed. @ New York 7:30 PM FSS

31 Fri. NEW YORK 8:00 PM FSS

APRIL

2 Sun. DENVER 6:00 PM FSS/NBA TV

5 Wed @ Charlotte 7:00 PM FSS

7 Fri. @ Toronto 7:30 PM FSS

8 Sat. @ Washington 7:00 PM FSS

10 Mon. CLEVELAND 7:30 PM FSS --- 2ND OF 2 VISITS BY LEBRON

12 Wed. WASHINGTON 8:00 PM FSS

Poll result: Pool wins poll as swimming reigns in Summer Olympics: In an incredibly unpopular poll we asked what is your favorite sport to watch in the Summer Olympics and among five choices swimming led with 31.4 percent, followed by track & field 22.0%, gymnastics 18.7%, basketball 5.1% and soccer 4.2%. Another 18.6% voted "something else."

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day...

Twitter @gregcote

August 10, 2016

Other than canoe slalom and badminton, what's your favorite Olympic sport? New poll. Vote now!; plus new betting odds on Canes/Kaaya, Suey Awards/Back In My Day, Tinder's favorite jobs, your verdict on A-Rod and Marlins & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10. The Chicago Cubs lead in MLB in run differential with plus-186. The record, plus-411, was set by Joe Dimaggio and Red Ruffing's 1939 Yankees. 2) The pie chart on Ichiro's 3,000 MLB hits: 84.43 percent Mariners, 10.37% Yankees and 5.20% Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should Marlins sign Alex Rodriguez with poll, Hot Button Top 10, your verdict on Dolphins/Canes win totals & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Suey Awards/Back In My Day: The LeBatard Show's annual Suey Awards voting is underway, and there is a category to name the best of our Back In My Day segments. There are 12 finalists. Click here for a 9-minute audio highlighting each, or here to go directly to the poll. Surprisingly, to me, there is one clear leader. My personal pick (Research) isn't even in the top five.

Column six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or want a second look: The Weight Has Just Begun, the latest, inside the office and the expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt. A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Dwyane Wade's departure from Heat creating chance for Dolphins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chases 3,000 hits. Dolphins On Own to Escape Rut, Reshape Image, state of team as camp nears. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, our farewell-Wade column. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that says it all.

RioOTHER THAN CANOE SLALOM AND BADMINTON, WHAT SUMMER OLYMPICS SPORT INTERESTS YOU MOST?: Are you like me with the Summer Olympics? There are 39 sports, officially, and I don't pay attention to about 35 of them. Somewhere in Rio de Janeiro right now the U.S. could be going for the gold in canoe slalom. Whatever. Words never spoken: "You catch that South Korea-Australia badminton match last night?" I have identified and put to a poll vote what I'd call the five bell-cow sports that carry the Summer Games. I may be wrong. That's why God invented the "other" category. Take a dip in our poll, say which Rio Games sport most interests you, and check back often to monitor evolving results:

TinderTINDER SHOWS SOME LOVE FOR JOURNALISTS: Dating site Tinder just released its list of the most "right-swiped" jobs in Florida for men and women, the Tinder equivalent of approval or liking someone, and "Journalist" is No. 4 for men -- meaning that if my wife would allow me to date, I might have a shot. The esteem for my profession comes as a pleasant surprise, and in the wake of Donald Trump calling journalists "the most dishonest people in the world," which, as Ma used to say, is like the pot calling the kettle black. Notice that "CEO/Entrepreneur" also ranks high quite high on both lists. Hmm. If I ask someone what they do and they answer, "I'm an entrepreneur," the bulls--t bell goes off and I assume what they really mean is, "I'm currently unemployed, but I have a plan in place to become a billionaire."

KaayaUPDATED COLLEGE FOOTBALL ODDS FOR CANES, KAAYA: From Bovada today, not much love for the Miami Hurricanes, who now are 100-1 lonmgshots to win the national championship (tied for 28th), after being 66-1 immediately following last season. A huge reason is the high regard for ACC rivals and UM roadblocks Clemson and Florida State. Favorites nationally are Alabama at 6-1, LSU 7-1, Clemson 17-2, Michigan and Ohio State both 9-1, and Florida State 10-1. Heisman Trophy favorites are LSU RB Leonard Fournette at 4-1 and Clemson QB DeShaun Watson at 9-2. Canes QB Brad Kaaya (pictured) is tied for 16th at 33-1.

Poll result: Close call, but most think Marlins should sign A-Rod: We asked what best reflects your thoughts on whether the Marlins should sign a soon-to-be-available Alex Rodriguez, and it was 48.6 percent "Yes, yes. Do it!" and 44.9% "No. Please. No!" The other 6.5% were undecided.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day...

Twitter @gregcote

July 23, 2016

Is NBA right to pull '17 All-Star Game from Charlotte over anti-LGBT law? New poll. Vote now!; plus new NFL MVP odds, Canes' Richt at ACC Kickoff, ode to Original Strikers and Lockhart, your verdict on Ajayi vs. Foster & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 23. Ichiro is at 2,996 hits after going 0-for-1 in last night's homestand-opening Marlins loss, and is not in starting lineup tonight. Now likely his milestone hit wouldn't come before Monday at earliest. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins sign Arian Foster with poll, Canes football on "surprise" list, LeBron James parties & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or want a second look: Original Strikers Set Template for Beckham, the latest, an ode to the 1977 Strikers and Lockhart Stadium. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chases 3,000 hits. Riley Endures Tough Summer, Fights On, as Heat prez admits regrets over losing Wade. Dolphins On Own to Escape Rut, Reshape Image, on impact of Brady suspension being upheld. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, our farewell-Wade column. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that tagline says it all.

New NFL MVP odds: Via Bovada, Packers' Aaron Rodgers opens as betting favorite to win NFL MVP award at 4-1 odds, followed by Ben Roethlisberger 7-1, Cam Newton 15-2, Russell Wilson 8-1 and Tom Brady 9-1, the latter devalued because of four-game suspension. Top Dolphin Ryan Tannehill is 150-1, tied for 34th.

NBA LEADS WAY IN LEAGUES/ATHLETES DELVING INTO POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES: The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver made good on a threat Thursday and removed the league's 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, N.C., because that state's refusal to repeal a law that critics say is anti-LGBTQ and encourages discrimination based on sex and gender. But, that same day, Nbaasg17in that same Charlotte, the ACC Football Kickoff (including the Miami Hurricanes) was held. Clearly, sports is still feeling its way in terms of whether to act or not in decisions that are political or involve social issues. Also, clearly, the NBA is leading the way on action. Just last week, it was four NBA star who opened the ESPY Awards with powerful statements agsint gun violence and shooting by and of police. There still is uncertainty, though, as seen in the WNBA, which fined players from three teams for wearing T-shirts during warmups Thursday in protest of recent police-related violence, yet in a statement said, "We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues." Hmm. What to do? Should leagues and athletes "stick to sports" and not blur the line on social activism? Or is it right that leagues and players, as role models, lead the way in weighing in on such stuff? I align with the latter view. We offer this poll as a microcosm or indication of how our readers feel on this broad question. I'll vote "yes," but it is your consensus that will paint the picture. Vote now, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

FAREWELL, LOCKHART STADIUM: AN ODE TO THE ORIGINAL STRIKERS: [Click on Original Strikers Set Template for Beckham for our latest column. An alternate blog-exclusive version follows here] This was circa 1977-83, pre-Major League Soccer, when the original North American Soccer League had earned a foothold in this country, and when the original Fort FtlstrikersLauderdale Strikers had done the same locally, winning a loyal and considerable following. Lockhart Stadium, off I-95 and Commercial, filled to near its 20,000- Rayhudsonseat capacity for most home games. It was intimate, conveying a Fenway or Wrigley vibe for the lads in the bumblebee uniforms. Tailgating was huge. Fans showed up hours early. Strikers flags waved in the parking lots amid the rising smoke from cookout grills. This was pre-Heat, Marlins or Panthers. Other than Dolphins and Canes the Strikers  were the biggest thing in town. Lockhart Stadium is where showman-coach Ron Newman once rose from a coffin at midfield to demonstrate his team's resilience. Where a young blond Brit named Ray Hudson (pictured) made the women swoon. Where European legends like Gerd Muller and Georgie Best played their career's winters. Where a Rotten to the Cor banner flew against Dutch coach Cor Van der Hart. I covered those early Strikers teams as a fulltime beat, my first big break and major assignment for the Miami Herald. Interest (and travel budgets) were high, so all of a sudden I'm a kid being sent to Vancouver to cover a team. It seemed like a big deal. And it was, for a time. Now fast forward almost 40 years, if you can believe that. MLS is futbol king in America now. The NASL is still Ronnewmanaround, but as a diminished, second-tier league. The Strikers are still around in their latest iteration, but a shell of their former selves. This week those Strikers, currently averaging a meager 1,310 fans per game, worst in the NASL, announced they are leaving Lockhart for Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill (starting Aug. 20), which is one-fourth the capacity. It may be because Lockhart is now old and decrepit. Or because developers want to turn that area into a water theme park. Or because the Strikers are waving a white towel and admitting a team playing to 85 percent empty seats presents a depressing tableau. It may be some of all of that. What it also is: A chapter ending for a small but not insignificant piece of South Florida sports history. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Lockhart Stadium -- the original version. There was a time when that marriage was strong and supported buoyantly, back in the day, before Greater Miami boomed into a major sports town, and it should remain the template as David Beckham continues trying to realize his dream for an MLS team in Miami. Strikers home games were an event, Lockhart was home, and in the teeming crowd it felt like you were surrounded by friends and neighbors. Farewell, Original Strikers at Lockhart. It didn't end right, but those halcyon days as the late '70s turned to early '80s contributed some special snapshots to the album of our sports history.

Poll result: Foster edges Ajayi for Dolphins RB in closest vote ever: We asked which running back you expect will have the bigger role in Dolphins' offense this season, and it was newly acquired Arian Foster edging young Jay Ajayi by 50.9 percent to 49.1% as we called it final. I cannot think of a closer either/or vote in all the years of our blog polls. The lead went back and forth. You truly were torn.

WHAT MARK RICHT SAID TO ACC MEDIA THAT REALLY MATTERED: University of Miami's time slot was this week at the ACC Football Kickoff and media days in Charlotte. We cull though the boring stuff and bring you what we found most notable from coach Mark Richt: On the season and immediate outlook: "If we do things right and don't do things to hurt ourselves, there's a great chance to have Theusuccess. And then, once we get the ball rolling, I think people will say, 'Miami is back.' I don’t think people will say, 'Miami’s having a good year.' They'll say, 'Miami’s back.' You can say you’re back when you have the tradition of five national championships in the last 30 years." On his attitude with assistant coaches: "I got to cherry-pick guys that would really buy into how I like to do things. I told the coaches that I am coaching QBs again, I'm calling plays, I'm getting in the middle of this offense. I don't have time to baby-sit anybody. I tell them if I have to motivate you, we've got a problem. If I’ve got to motivate a staff member to do his job, I’m probably going to get another staff member." On his deep religious beliefs: "I happen to be a Christian. That's just what I am. I'm not using it. I think we need to be true to who we are, what we believe. I'm not trying to make anybody believe anything I believe. I just want to do things in a way that I think God would be pleased with me. That's my goal on a daily basis. I'm not trying to use anything. I'm just trying to be who I am." On recruiting and relationships: "The big thing is to make sure that the high school coaches know that they're welcome in our place, that we want to recruit their guys, we want the local guys to stay home, and we want to be honest with everybody and do our recruiting in a way that everybody appreciates." On his goal for UM in 2016: "Win the Coastal division. Get back to the ACC championship game." Pictured, apropos of nothing: Snoop (The U) Dogg.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day...

Twitter @gregcote

July 02, 2016

No way D-Wade really leaves the Heat ... right? Poll. Vote now!; plus Whiteside re-ups, Deng/Johnson depart; also, Dolphins playoff odds, Dan Jennings revisited, Mark Richt ranked, Greg Cote acting, your verdict on Heat getting Durant & more

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

Wilfork1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 2. Happy new month all! And here's Vince Wilfork naked on the cover of a national magazine, for no good reason whatsoever that is readily discernible. 2) Campusrush.com has a long read here on the Ole Miss NCAA problem with a large dose of Laremy Tunsil, the Dolphins No. 1 draft pick implicated in some of the allegations. Recommended reading. 3) Congratulations to the Dolphins and the Dolphins Cancer Challenge for raising $5.06 million for cancer research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, bringing the event’s six-year total beyond $16 million. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat getting Kevin Durant poll, Euro '16 quarterfinals, Summitt/Ryan deaths, new Back In My Day, your next-champion verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Somebody's Gotta Give In Wade v. Heat, the new one, on Wade's role as Miami nears NBA free agency. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that tagline says it all. Whale-Watching Riley Better Keep the Whale He Has, on Heat's imperative to keep Whiteside as it dreams of Duran. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on Ali setting template for sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on PGA Tour leaving Doral.

Still no love for poor Dolphins: New betting odds out today from Bovada on each NFL team's chances of making the playoffs, and Dolphins are 9-4 against, ranking 23rd. Miami also is last in AFC East by that gauge, with Patriots tied for first overall at 1-5 for, and Bills and Jets tied for 19th at 2-1 against.

HassanWHITESIDE STAYS WITH HEAT; DENG, JOHNSON DEPART: [Update: Luol Deng signs with Lakers, Joe Johnson with Jazz. Neither departure a surprise]. Original post: It's 2016 and so, naturally, the news that Hassan Whiteside will stay and re-sign with the Miami Heat came not via traditional media but on his Snapchat account, where he wrote simply, "#HeatNation it is." And in a brief, first-person bugling on the Rileygodfather
playerstribune.com that read:" I've p
layed on eight teams since college — from Reno to Sioux Falls to Sichuan, China. I am not ready for there to be a ninth. I have decided to re-sign with Miami. I just wanted to take this time to tell all the fans how much you mean to this team, and to me. Can’t wait to get back to work and try to bring another championship to Miami. #HeatNation." His Miami deal reportedly will be for four years and $98 million, max money. So much for all the speculation about the Heat not considering him max-dollars-worthy. Let's file that in the same garbage bin as last night's faulty reporting/speculation (reportulation?) across the Internet that Dallas and Mark Cuban had claimed the inside lane on Whiteside and that the Heat were "losing ground." Pat Riley wins again! Or, does he? The Heat just spent more than it wanted to, more than it thought the player was worth, to meet the market and keep Whiteside. Riley must now make spending all of that salary-cap dough on Whiteside jibe with how to also lure the whale Kevin Durant (they meet Sunday) and, hopefully, re-sign Dwyane Wade, too. Can it all work? Surely Whiteside's commitment makes Miami more attractive to Durant, but now all of the dollars must fit. Buckle up, kids. The ride has just begun.  

DwadeNO WAY DWYANE WADE MIGHT ACTUALLY LEAVE THE HEAT ... RIGHT?: Can the Heat beat tall odds and boat the whale Kevin Durant? Would they pay big to hang onto Hassan Whiteside? Those were two main questions as Miami entered NBA free agency at midnight Thursday, Whiteside answered with a resounding yes and Durant still TBD. But Dwyane Wade's future is right there next on the offseason marquee. I cannot envision Wade leaving the Heat after 13 seasons here. I doubt it'll happen. But the possibility cannot be discounted. He is reportedly talking with four teams and being offered a max contract by the Knicks and Bucks. If the Heat is hardballing/lowballing Wade to accept, say, $8-10 million for one year and some other team is offering double that, well, pride more than money could drive Wade's decision. That's the topic of my latest column; click on Somebody's Gotta Give In Wade v. Heat to read. I'm curious what you see as the likelihood Wade might actually leave. Take a dip in our poll and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Poll result: Low bar on Heat's chances with Durant: We asked you the realistic likelihood of Heat landing free-agent "whale" Kevin Durant, and a plurality of 42.5 percent put the chance at less than 10 percent. Then it was 16.7% at 20-29, 15.0% at 10-19, 9.8% at 30-39, 9.4% at 50-plus, and 6.7% at 40-49. That isn't much optimism, but there was some hope, with more than 25 percent giving Miami at least a one in three shot.

DAN JENNINGS ON MARLINS' CONTENTION: "I FULLY EXPECTED IT": Former manager Dan Jennings reached out to me after this week's column on how the 2016 Marlins have earned support no matter the animus against owner Jeffrey Loria. (Miami has lost two straight but remains on playoff pace). I wrote that the club's promotion of the general manager Jennings to Djenningsmanager after Mike Redmond was fired last year was an embarrassment and made the Marlins a laughingstock -- all true. But Jennings (pictured) wanted to make clear it wasn't his idea; that Loria's decision shocked him as much as anybody. Noted. What I wrote put that burden on the decision to promote a man who hadn't managed since high school; it was never on Jennings. Anyway, Jennings also wanted to note the '15 team ended on an the upbeat, finishing on a 19-12 run. I'd also mention (he didn't) that the winning percentage ended up better under Jennings (.444) than it had been under Redmond (.421). That doesn't justify Loria's nutty decision, but it verifies Jennings at least made the most of the tough spot he was put in. Last Oct. 3, after a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies on the next-to-last day of the season, players and staff gathered in a Philadelphia hotel ballroom for a year-end party and two prominent Marlins players stood up to speak in praise of Jennings and hope for his return. (I first heard this from a player, not from Jennings). By the end, Jennings had gradually won the respect of players who'd been very dubious and initially angry over the move. Much of the respect he earned was in playing Marcell Ozuna over the wishes of Loria, which played a part (I presume) in Jennings' eventual dismissal. Jennings is now assistant to the GM with the rival Washington Nationals but a piece of his heart remains in Miami. "Other than 19 times a year [when the two teams meet] I'm pulling for those guys," Jennings said of the Marlins. By late summer last year he'd sensed a young team jelling, and says of this year's turnaround, "I fully expected it." Bottom line: The Marlins promoting a GM to a manager's job he hadn't done since high school will forever be fair play when folks are lining up odd moves by Loria. But Jennings did the best he could, and, as it turned out, that wasn't bad.

RichtCANES' RICHT RANKED NO. 16 OF ALL FBS COACHES: There are 128 FBS (nee Division 1A) college football coaches. Miami's Mark Richt (pictured) is 16th in a new ranking by AthlonSports.com, which, to its credit, predates the internet in its coverage of college football. The predictable, usual suspects (Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh) are 1-2-3. Also of note, Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is ranked 7th and Florida's Jim McElwain 30th. FIU's Ron Turner (112th) and FAU's Charlie Partridge (113th) are lowly-rated, but there are positive signs for each. Turner's Panthers improved to 5-7 last year from 1-11 two seasons earlier, and Partridge's Owls, though 3-9 in both his seasons, seem on the ascent due to a foundation of solid recruiting. Oh, and Kirby Smart, who replaced Richt at Georgia, is ranked 54th.

GregcoteactorGREG COTE, THESPIAN: From today's Houston Chronicle review of the play "Ten Ways On a Gun" at the Landing Theatre: "Greg Cote is irresistible as Benji Kugel, a midlevel-manager type on the rise in the world of corporate rip-offs. In one sequence, the possession of the gun sends Cote into a dreamlike delirium. He sent the audience into stitches as he sang, danced and gesticulated to Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" while his castmates danced in Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts and coconut bras." Always weird when another Greg Cote, this one evidently a Houston-area actor, shows up in the news. We Greg Cotes are not as common as John Smiths, so it's fun to hear of another of any prominence. My alter-ego the actor is pictured.

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Twitter @gregcote

May 14, 2016

G6: Heat 103, Toronto 91: Dragon power! Dragic's 30 lift Miami to a Sunday Game 7; plus who's favorite for NBA title? New poll. Vote now!; also, updated NBA/NHL betting odds, your verdict on Curry & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, MAY 14. Hope y'all had a happy Friday the 13th. Unless you are one of those inexplicably anxious paraskevidekatriaphobes, in which case that grand piano being lifted above your doorway on a fraying rope was about to drop and possibly kill you if you exited the house. 2) We all know it. And yet he continues to remind us, over and over again: George Zimmerman is an idiot. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat lose Game 5 in Toronto, is Steph Curry an all-time great poll, Canes/Brad Kaaya ranked, Mike Pouncey's next career, Dwyane Wade's playoff scoring & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Small Ball, Big Win, the latest, off last night's Game 6 home win. Heat is America's Underdog, on how injuries and obstacles have cast Heat in an unaccustomed role. Be Careful What You Wish For, from Heat's Game 4 home win.

Updated NBA, NHL title odds: Warriors, Penguins favored: Out today via Bovada, in the NBA, it's Warriors a 5-8 favorite, Cavaliers 12-5, Thunder 6-1, Raptors 50-1 and Heat the longshot at 100-1. In the NHL, it's Penguins at 9-5, Blues 2-1, Sharks 4-1 and Lightning 17-4.

G6: HEAT 103, TORONTO 91: DRAGIC'S 30 CARRIES MIAMI TO A SUNDAY GAME 7: Goran Dragic's 30 points and Dwyane Wade's 22 lifted the Heat at home Friday night in a 103-91 win over Toronto, forcing as Game 7 back up there Sunday. "Tonight was his night," said coach Erik Spoelstra of Dragic. "It came at the right time." Click on Small Ball, Big Win for my column from the game, online now. ...... Original post: Miami trails this Toronto series 3-2 but is 2-0 this postseason in elimination games and 7-1 in its past eight overall. The Heat do "must win" pretty well, and are 4-point favorites tonight to send this thing back up to Toronto for a Sunday Game 7. Whether Miami survives tonight may
 Wethenorth Rapsatheatdepend on which team is the healthiest, or, in this case, the least unhealthy. Luol Deng (wrist) is expected to tough it out tonight, although Hassan Whiteside and G6of course Chris Bosh still are missing, increasing the likelihood Miami will play small-ball for extended spurts. For Toronto, DeMarre Carroll (wrist) is questionable, Jonas Valanciunas remains out Demar DeRozan is playing through a thumb injury. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the injury factor, saying playoff basketball in general is meant "to push you and stress you and put you in uncomfortable situations. And that's what this series is doing right now." This is the last of four NBA series still undecided, meaning the Heat and Raptors are two of just five teams still standing. "Right now there's nobody totally healthy in this league," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "This is the time you play through it." A rested Cleveland awaits this series winner, and LeBron James' Cavs will be a heavy favorite over either. The Heat of course face a steeper climb to get there. In NBA history teams that lose Game 5 in a 2-2 series go on to win the series only 18 percent of the time -- the odds now against Miami. (Click on Heat Is America's Underdog for today's latest column by me). Dwyane Wade, with 88 points in his past three games, has been carrying the Heat but needs help. The Heat especially need to find their collective range on 3-point shots. Other than Wade, Miami is 10-for-57 on 3's since Game 1, a horrid 17.5 percent. Joe Johnson (1-for-17) in particular has gone cold from deep. Looking for somebody other than Wade to do some heavy lifting for Miami tonight. Any volunteers?

NAME THAT NBA FAVORITE: The Miami-Toronto survivor will be a prohibitive underdog, a distant fourth of the final four in terms of betting odds to win the NBA championship. As we wait for this series to finish, who among the first three teams through would you call the favorite to win it all? Teams are listed alphabetically in the poll. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

Poll result: Curry is an all-time great, though still much debate: We asked if Golden State's Stephen Curry, right now, should be included in conversation as an NBA all-time great, and it was 48.2 percent yes, 42.7% no and 9.1% undecided.

UNEARTHED BONUS PHOTO: TunsilWoman pushing baby stroller arrives for a party at Laremy Tunsil's house. 

THE LIST: HEAT'S EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: Cleveland, the team that awaits if Miami survives Toronto, is the only Eastern team the Heat has never faced in the club's postseason history. Most common East playoff foes based on total games played in postseason:

Opponent                Games

Chicago Bulls            31

New York Knicks      29

Indiana Pacers          25

Boston Celtics          17

Detroit Pistons         16

Others: Charlotte 14 games, Atlanta 12, New Jersey 9, New Orleans 7, Toronto 6 (including last night), Brooklyn 5, Orlando 5, Philadelphia 5, Milwaukee 4 and Washington 4.

Most common opponents by number of series: Chicago 7; New York 5; Indiana 4; Boston, Charlotte and Detroit 3 each; Atlanta and New Jersey 2 each; all others 1.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

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May 03, 2016

Toronto favored? No way, eh. Nothing will stop a Miami-LeBron Eastern finals; plus your call Heat-Raptors (new poll; vote now!), Kiper/McShay's final word on Dolphins draft & more

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

Ichiro1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 3. Ichiro's legendary status in Japan and the way he gives the Marlins a large footprint there is a major reason beyond baseball why he is in Miami. At right, an adoring fan's artwork. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dragic leads to Heat to next round vs. Toronto, Hot Button Top 10, grading Dolphins draft with poll, your verdict on Tunsil pick, history of South Florida Game 7s & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting on Fusion TV and ESPNU.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, my latest, previewing the Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory. Curious Pick, Major Gamble, on Dolphins making Laremy Tunsil their No. 1 draft pick.

Coming later today: A new blogpost featuring our Heat-Raptors Game 1 preview and the incomparable Mavis Staples.

HeatraptorsMETRICS GIVE HEAT ONLY 1 IN 3 CHANCE TO BEAT TORONTO BUT THE METRICS ARE LIARS! NEXT STOP, LEBRON: Sure, the Toronto Raptors are a higher seed, had a better record, beat Miami 3-1 head to head this season, are an overall series favorite -- at 5-8 odds to Miami's 7-5, via Bovada today -- and are a 4.5-point favorite in Tuesday night's Game 1 in Toronto. ESPN's updated Basketball Power Index metric puts it at Toronto 66 percent vs. Miami's 34% in terms of likelihood of winning this second-round series and reaching the NBA's Eastern finals. The most likely outcomes, according to the BPI: Raptors in 5 -- 21%; Raptors in 7 -- 21%; Heat in 6 -- 15%; Raptors in 6 -- 15%; Heat in 7 -- 10%; Raptors in 4 -- 8%; Heat in 5 -- 6%; and Heat in 4 -- 3%. The same BPI has Cleveland a 68 percent favorite over Atlanta and San Antonio (up 1-0) an 84 percent favorite over Oklahoma City. No prediction is offered for Golden State-Portland (Warriors lead 1-0) because Steph Curry remains out and BPI does not factor injuries, but you'd figure GS would be a favorite of at least mid-'80s. Curious if you think the BPI is disrespecting Miami with that 34% shot or if that sounds about right. I think it's crazy. I think the series should be about even, only because of Raptors' home-court edge. I actually like Miami to win it, based on greater depth, more offensive pop and most importantly, more playoff experience. Then again, part of that may be wishful thinking, I admit. Click on Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals for my latest column. Now it's your turn. Take a dip in our poll and, as always, we encourage a dispassionate vote -- not who you hope wins, but who you'd bet would if given a hundred bucks to place straight-up on either team. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

KIPER, MCSHAY'S FINAL WORD ON DOLPHINS DRAFT: From Espn.com today. Mel Kiper Jr.'s overall analysis: "Bizarre circumstances, great player. Let's just go with that for the short version of how the Dolphins ended up with arguably the single-best prospect in the draft all the way down at No. 13. Laremy Tunsil has so many natural gifts for the tackle position, it's just now a Melkipermatter of where he plays. Left side? Right side? Either way, if he's on the field, Miami gets better. Not many people know Xavien Howard, but that's not much of a reach in Round 2 -- he was going to go there. From there, this was all about getting Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase more weapons. Kenyan Drake is Reggie Bush-lite, Leonte Carroo is a productive threat who can make catches down the field, and Jakeem Grant is a jitterbug who is electric in space if you can get him the ball. Thomas Duarte is one to watch, a hybrid wideout-tight end split who could develop. The Dolphins didn't do much for their defense, but they sure as heck tried to help their QB and ended up with a major steal early in the process. Todd McShay's favorite pick: "The Dolphins got the No. 2 player on my board with the 13th pick. Tunsil's draft-day slide was partially the result of a video that surfaced on his Twitter account right before the draft started, showing him smoking from a bong. I understand the risks, but it's one I would've taken at the same point in the draft. The Dolphins need to better protect QB Ryan Tannehill, and they landed the best pass-blocker in this class. RB Kenyan Drake is a good complement for Jay Ajayi, and WRs Leonte Carroo and Thomas Duarte are both underrated pass-catchers."

Poll result: (Fairly) strong overall approval of Dolphins draft: We asked in the previous blogpost how you'd grade how the Dolphins did in the 2016 draft (you may still vote) and it was 49.2 percent "B," 26.6% "C," 15.4% "A" and 8.8% "D." (We were too nice to offer an "F" option). That's 64.6% above average or better vs. 35.4% average or below. I call that strong but not quite overwhelming approval.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 12, 2016

Micky Arison in the crosshairs on Carnival cruises to Cuba: New poll. Vote now!; plus Ronda Rousey loves Dolphins, Heat and Panthers parlay similar blueprint to playoffs, Cats' Stanley Cup odds, Donald Trump porn parody & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 12. Ronda Rousey praises Dolphins. Click here for the video. 2) Thanks to all the listeners, viewers and Tweeters who liked our "Back In My Day" on today's LeBatard Show. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, The List (Dolphins), your verdicts on LeBron/Tiger & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Panthers' Stanley Cups odds: Out today via Bovada, Florida is tied for eighth at 16-1 odds, better than opponent Islanders' 25-1. Capitals are favorites at 4-1, followed by a knot of five teams at 8-1. Cats Roberto Luongo (30-1) and Jaromir Jagr (35-1) are team's most plausible betting longshots for playoffs MVP. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint, the latest, on two teams' similar philosophy. Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excusesoff Marlins Opening Night.

HEAT OWNER ARISON IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF CARNIVAL, CUBA AND POLITICS: Micky Arison's net worth is $7.7 billion, although it may have risen to $8 billion while you were reading this sentence. He is chairman of Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines, the world's largest. He also is principle owner of the Miami Heat. As such, his two primary interests and business ventures put Arisonhim in the crosshairs of the latest news regarding his cruiseships, Cuba and politics. We first tackled this subject in the blog last July when Carnival first won Carnivalapproval to begin cruises to Cuba. For Arison (pictured) and Carnival it could be great for business. But many South Florida Cubans who fled that island's Castro tyranny (and many of those are Heat fans) are angry over normalized U.S.-Cuba relations and also about Carnival ships docking there. We ran a poll here last July asking if Carnival planning trips to Cuba negatively impacts how you view Arison, and it was 79.9 percent "no" vs. only 16.8% "yes" and 3.3% "undecided. But I wonder if the view has changed now that the Carnival-Cuba startup is soon -- first ships are set to head south in May -- and now that we know this disturbing detail: the still-oppressive Cuban government controls what passengers may be aboard the cruiseships, and they do not include Cuban-born people, which of course includes Cuban exiles living in and around Miami. Carnival has asked the Cuban government to relent on that policy, but, if Carnival wishes to do business in Cuba, it has no choice but to agree to that one huge restriction, even though it is plain discrimination, of course. Imagine Carnival traveling to a country that insisted only white people be aboard the ship? Or banned Muslims? As I wrote last July, I am in favor of normalized U.S.-Cuba relations, which I think ultimately will benefit the Cuban economy and people. But clearly it is wrong for the Cuban government to not allow folks born in Cuba and exiles in Miami to be aboard those Carnival ships, as we discussed on yesterday's Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Dan was particularly passionate on the topic. And there protesters outside Carnival headquarters Tuesday. So, nine months after our first poll, let's repeat the question and compare the vote. Check back often to monitor evolving results.

TWO TEAMS, SIMILAR BLUEPRINT AS HEAT, PANTHERS FORGE PLAYOFF PATH: [Panthers Sasha Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, pictured left, and the Heat's Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade, right, personify each team's winning blend of experience and youth -- the blueprint that carries each to the playoffs. Click on Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint for the online version of the my latest column] Appreciate the rarity of this first. The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers are about to both enter the playoffs in the same season for only the fifth time since 1993, when hockey joined basketball down here. And South Florida is one of only five markets to have both its teams reach the 2016 postseason, along with Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and Oakland/San Jose. Even more notable is the similar blueprint the Heat and Panthers have shared to find success, with rosters that blend wise and wizened veterans and raw youth. For the Heat it’s a blueprint that is very different from the company norm, showcasing an unusual reliance on young players by a franchise that, from Pat Barkov Wade WinslowRiley on down, Jagrhas never quite trusted youth. For the Cats it’s a blueprint taken to extremes, bookended by 44-year-old leading scorer Jaromir Jagr and by 10 players not even born when Jagr first entered the NHL, such as rising stars Sasha Barkov, 20, and Aaron Ekblad, 19. Both teams’ uncommonly wide gulf between its oldest and youngest players was reflected perfectly Monday in the Panthers’ dressing room following a midday practice. Nick Bjugstad, the Cats center, is 23 but looks even younger. His hand kept drifting absent-mindedly to his chin and rubbing what was there, which isn’t much. He is trying, the poor kid. The NHL postseason is upon us, the fight for the Stanley Cup beginning, and in hockey, the playoff beard is a near-sacred tradition. A wisp of blond whiskers trying bravely to be a goatee and an even wispier sprout on his alabaster cheeks is all Bjugstad can claim for now. "I keep playing with it – it’s more than I’ve ever had!' he is saying after Monday’s midday practice. "It is what it is. But it’s kind of embarrassing." Elsewhere around the dressing room manly playoff beards are in full bloom. It looks like a casting call for a movie about lumberjacks. A media guy trying to be kind tells Bjugstad most of the full-bearded guys probably started growing their facial hair at least a month ago. "So did I," Nick had to admit. The beard thing is the perfect reflection of what the Panthers see when they look in the mirror: A blend of age and youth, of over-35 veterans like Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Willie Mitchell, offset by what is perhaps hockey’s premier core of players under 25. It was a risk that relies on aging players still having enough prime left and youthful guys proving ready. It was a chemistry experiment that has worked but might have blown up in the lab. "Our older guys have been so willing," as general manager Dale Tallon told me Monday. "It could have been a disaster." From the 45-minute jaunt from Sunrise down to Miami, from ice to hardwood, Heat veterans like Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and (even sidelined) Chris Bosh similarly mentor a youthful core led by rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, by second-year man Tyler Johnson and by Hassan Whiteside, who is 26 but still learning. "I’m just passing down knowledge," Wade describes the role that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. "All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped." It is a good time to be a fan of both teams, with each franchise locked in win-now mode but also boasting a blossoming young core that suggests a bridge to a promising future beyond the Hall of Fame-bound old guard led by Jagr and Wade. Both teams share justifiably high playoff hopes as the Panthers face the New York Islanders in the first round with Game 1 here Thursday night, while the Heat enter their final two regular-season games still unsure of their seeding, who’ll they’ll face or whether they’ll have home-court advantage. You’d think the Heat might be in happy-to-be-here mode, after missing the playoffs last year and with Bosh out. Yet there is the sense of a wide-open Eastern Conference, and of a real chance to reach the East finals, maybe head-to-head vs. old friend LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. You’d think the Panthers might really be in happy-to-be here mode. They last made the playoffs in 2012 and last won a playoff series in Year of the Rat 1996. Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant both admitted Monday they did not expect to win a division title this year. But hockey’s Eastern Conference also is wide open. An ESPN experts panel by a 9-0 vote picked the Panthers to advance past the Islanders. Washington was the only East team with an appreciably better record than Florida this season, but the Cats were 2-1 against the Capitals, outscoring them 10-5. The idea of a championship run by either the Panthers or especially the Heat is fanciful and not being discussed much in any sober conversation, but, in only their fifth playoffs at the same time, the idea of either team or both reaching their conference finals is tantalizingly plausible. And who knows? If that happens, by then, Nick Bjugstad’s patchwork of whiskers might even pass for a decent beard.

ThedonaldPERFECT! A DONALD TRUMP PORN PARODY!: How great and absolutely fantastic and terrific is this!? I'm so happy I feel like building a giant wall! Just when you think Larry Flynt might be dead, the Hustler impresario rises to produce something fun, like "The Donald," his new Donald Trump "porn parody" video. The photo at right surely whets your appetite and suggests the cinematic gravitas at play here. Click on Trump Porn Parody to read more. The video goes on sale to the public today/Tuesday, available to everyone including Muslims and Mexicans. Trump is the perfect target. I mean, who is more cocksure? Don't worry. Cocksure is a real word, not a dirty word, and describes Trump quite spot-on.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 06, 2016

Setting the bar on Marlins' season expectations. Poll. Vote now!; plus Villanova, '96 Bulls vs. '16 Warriors poll, Dolphins in Bogota, Monica Lewinsky the "innovator," spring football league comes to Florida & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6. A slightly belated bowed head for the recent anniversary, of the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. The great civil rights leader would have been 87 today had hatred not taken him. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your men's Final Four verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

It's Villanova in a classic finish: It was one for the ages. Kris Jenkins' 3-point basket at the buzzer averted overtime and lifted Villanova to the men's NCAA championship over North Carolina, 77-74. Based on our recent Final Four polls, most thought UNC would win (59.5 percent to Villanova's 28.9%), but more wanted 'Nova to win (38.7% to UNC's 32.4%). I had no rooting interest but was thrilled to see that basketball fans won. Anyone watching won. What a finish.

MARLINS LAUNCH 24TH SEASON WITH HOPES (SOMEWHAT) HIGH DESPITE LOSS ON OPENING DAY NIGHT: [Marlins fall to Detroit last night 8-7 in 11 innings, despite a Giancarlo Stanton home run and three extra-base hits by Dee Gordon. Click on Out Of Excuses for my column off the game] Original post: "If there is a fragile nature to Miami Marlins’ hopes for the 2016 season, it is embodied quite Marlins2016literally in the health of the team’s two biggest stars. One, Giancarlo Stanton, possesses a towering physique that drives baseballs over walls harder and faster than anybody else in the sport. The other, Jose Fernandez, throws fastballs so hard they all but leave a vapor trail and make catcher’s mitts Marlinssmoke. They are two players who rely on pure power, and yet there is a porcelain quality to their bodies, like thoroughbreds pounding a racetrack on legs that seem too slender for all of that weight. Few teams in Major League Baseball are more top-loaded with two young players as dynamic as Stanton, 26, and Fernandez, 23. A Stanton at-bat might be the most must-see minute in all of sports as outfielders can only turn and watch what in pre-technology days we would call a tape-measure home run. A start by Fernandez is served with a side dish of bravado, of infectious, fist-pumping fire. About both, though, there is the question mostly whispered, as if it were taboo. Can they stay healthy?" The preceding is the start to my Marlins season preview column; click on Power & Porcelain to read in full. Hard to judge expectations. Experts and bettors (see below) don't seem to expect much of Miami, but inside the clubhouse the team is genuinely hopeful with new manager Don Mattingly at the wheel, and the Marlins are a trendy they'll-surprise-you pick of some in the media. I'll be at the ballpark columnizing and social media-ing from Opening Day vs. the Detroit Tigers. For now, I invite you to help set the bar on Marlins expectations for 2016. What do you realistically expect of this season? Not what you hope might happen, but what you honestly think will. Take a dip in our poll.

Updated Marlins betting odds: Latest betting odds from Bovada show Marlins at 50-1 to win the World Series, holding steady since the previous odds were out in November. That's tied for 22nd-longest odds. NL East odds are Mets 10-11, Nationals 11-10, Marlins 6-1, Braves 25-1 and Phillies 50-1.x

BullswarriorsTHE ULTIMATE IMAGINARY NBA FINALS: '96 BULLS VS. '16 WARRIORS: What a great week to be a basketball fan! On the college level we get North Carolina vs. Villanova tonight for the men's NCAA championship, then UConn vs. Syracuse Tuesday night for the women's crown. And as the collegians are wrapping up the pros are just getting ready to start -- with the NBA regular season waning and the playoffs about to begin. But first there is the Golden State drama. Will the Warriors, 69-8 entering Tuesday's game, break the '96 Bull's 72-10 mark for most wins in a season? It's likely though hardly a ciunch, considering GS needs to win four of its last five games and two of those are vs. mighty rival San Antonio. Whether the Warriors  break the mark or not, though, our poll question is legit. Who'd win a sevn-game series: Michael Jordan's '96 Bulls or Stephen Curry's 2016 Warriors? There is no way of knowing, which makes the conjecture all the more interesting. Scottie Pippen says his '96 Bulls would not only beat but sweep the Warriors. Charles Barkley says, "That Bulls team would kill this little [Golden State] team." I'm sure many agree. But I'm also sure plenty think these Warriors' sport-changing barrage of 3's would get the best of even those great Bulls. Your opinion goes here.

BE INSPIRED BY ... MONICA LEWINSKY?: There is a conference April 18-19 in Miami (click here for details) that invites you to "be inspired by innovators," and lists a bevy of speakers that Monicaincludes statesman Colin Powell, skateboarding giant Tony Hawk and entertainer Pitbull. But in a Miami Herald ad for the event published today, the three faces out front are those of Powell, Hawk and (are you ready?) ... Monica Lewinsky! That's right, kids. Talk about an innovator! Be inspired by perhaps the only woman in U.S. history to be famous because she once engaged in a sordid-turned-public illicit relationship with an American president. I wonder. Is her talk entitled How I Blew Bill Clinton, or does she choose a somewhat more subtle heading for her address? Lewinsky, now 42, describes herself these days as a "social activist" and "public speaker." Give her credit, I guess. She evidently has managed to make a profitable cottage industry of parlaying the shame and notoriety of her name into some sort of career. God bless America! For me, though, this invites a most difficult question to answer, a real conundrum: Who is more gullible? The event that would pay Monica Lewinsky to speak? Or the people who would pay to hear her? 

BogataDOLPHINS TROT GLOBE IN SEARCH OF TALENTED ... CHEERLEADERS!: You thought the Dolphins were turning over every available stone only in search of talented players? No, sir. Or madam. Your Fins also are trotting the globe looking for talented cheerleaders. The club announced today it has chosen six young women from more than 100 applicants in a tryout in Bogota, Colombia. The NFL's first international cheerleader auditions included previous stops in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Mexico City. The Dolphins obviously want a more diverse Hispanic flavor to their cheer squad and apparently could not find enough diversity or Hispanic women in South Florida (!). Does it sound like a waste of money for the Dolphins to search abroad when there obviously is ample talent in So Fla? Yes I thought so, too. but then I saw the photo pictured left of Elianis, one of the six finalists from the Bogota audition, and thought to myself, "Why should young women such as this who have longed to lead cheers for a sport they know nothing about be denied their dream!?"

FloridafusionLATEST SPRING FOOTBALL LEAGUE DELAYS LAUNCH: These things are pretty much born to fail, but, for what it's worth, Major League Football, a new professional spring league listing Herm Edwards as a "senior adviser," has announced it will be in the "development" stage this year with plans to begin its inaugural season in March of 2017. MLFB has targeted eight of what it calls "underserved sports markets," and they include an Orlando-based team, the Florida Fusion (logo at right). Other planned league cities are Akron OH, Birmingham AL, Eugene OR, Little Rock AR, Norfolk VA, Salt Lake City UT and San Antonio TX.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 01, 2016

NCAA Final Four polls: Who will win? And who do you hope does? Vote now!; plus what Dwyane-Kobe rivalry always lacked, Marlins individual betting odds, Trump hires lawyer he "fired" on TV, your verdict on Arian Foster & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, APRL 1. Happy new month, all! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins and Arian Foster poll, Miami Open casualties & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

COTE ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT: I'll be retiring from the Miami Herald and from ESPN Radio, effectively immediately. April Fools!! "Damn," said South Florida in unison. "Thought we finally got rid of him!"  

FinalfourWHICH NCAA FINAL FOUR MEN'S TEAM WILL WIN? AND WHICH DO YOU WANT TO WIN?: Here are two polls, both with the Final Four teams listed alphabetically, but each asking a very different question. One is "Who do do you think will win?" This is your head answering. It's who you'd bet on if given 100 bucks to place on just one straight-up team to win it all. The other poll is asking "Who do you hope wins?" Your heart answers this one. Whether based on what's left of your bracket or other factors, what team has earned your rooting interest? Vote in both polls and we'll be interested to see how the results might differ.

IT WAS DWYANE VS. KOBE FOR FINAL TIME, BUT HERE'S WHAT FRIENDSHIP AND RIVALRY ALWAYS LACKED: [Update: Wade popped 26 points Wednesday night and Kobe scored only two in nine minutes in a 102-100 overtime loss by Heat in L.A. Bad loss as Miami squanders chance to take over third place in East] Original post: Kobe Bryant was questionable to play with a tender right shoulder Dwyanekobetonight as the absymal Lakers host the Heat. And Dwyane Wade had said that if Kobe didn't play, "Then I'm not playing either." So a highly anticipated matchup could have ended up a letdown. Instead the two future Hall of Famers played their 20th and last head-to-head meeting as Bryant is retiring after this season. That's a fair sample size, the equal of a quarter of a season, and we see in the comparative stats that the rivalry has tended to bring out the best in each other. Bryant averages 27.3 points and Wade 24.2 when they face each other, above the career averages for each. Kobe's high game in the series is 42 points (Christmas Day 2004) and Wade's is 40 (Christmas '06). The two also have faced off in All-Star games and played as USA Olympic teammates in a long friendship. But one thing is glaringly missing. Here is why Dwyane-Kobe is a far cry from Magic-Bird in terms of all-time NBA personal rivalries: Despite Heat-Lakers meriting the Christmas Day spotlight four times, Wade and Bryant have never met in the playoffs. Not once. Eight different seasons have found Heat and Lakers in the playoffs at the same time, but never have the teams intersected in the Wade-Bryant era. And no personal rivalry is full-fledged in this sport without championship implications or at least postseason stakes.

MARLINS INDIVIDUAL BETTING ODDS: Via Bovada today, Giancarlo Stanton's projected regular-season final numbers are a .280 average, 39.5 home runs and 105.5 RBIs. The HR figure is tied for the MLB high with Bryce Harper. Other select Marlins betting over/unders: Jose Fernandez 13.5 wins, 199.5 strikeouts, 2.75 ERA; Wei-Yin Chen 11.5 wins, 3.49 ERA; A.J. Ramos 30.5 saves; Dee Gordon .295 average, 50.5 steals; Justin Bour 23.5 homers; and Christian Yelich .290 average.

FUN FACT ABOUT TRUMP LAWYER IN CAMPAIGN-MANAGER SCANDAL: You know that Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been arrested for misdemeanor battery for his Bradcohenhandling of a treatment of a reporter, Michelle Fields, at a March 8 news conference at Trump National Golf Club in Palm Beach. And you may have heard Lewandowski's attorney, Brad Cohen, speaking on the NBC's Today show on Wednesday; click here for the story and video. Now, what you may not know: Bradford (Brad) Cohen, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, is the same Bradford Cohen who Trump "fired" early in the 2004 season of his TV show The Apprentice, forerunner of the later Celebrity Apprentice. Local attorneys who know Cohen tell me he delighted in the fleeting fame of his brief TV role and loved that Trump would refer to him on-air as "The Bradford." Trump called Cohen "stupid" in dismissing him. Twelve years later, Cohen (pictured), now 44, is smart enough to be one of the point-men Trump has brought in to help defuse the mini-scandal dogging his Republican presidential run.

LEBATARD SHOW INTENTIONALLY ABORTS 'BACK IN MY DAY' EPISODE: Tuesday the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz intentionally cut off the end of my very popular "Back In My Day" segment, a staple of my Tuesday in-studio co-host gig. I believe Dan purposely delayed the start of it and then attempted to distract and delay me throughout, evidently thinking it was better to have me miss the hard network out than to finish my piece. He quickly apologized on-air, and later off-air, but it's in my craw a day later to the degree I don't mind milking it for a blog item. Click here for yesterday's show podcast; BIMD starts around the 52:45 mark. #LeBaFraud #Disrespect. Of course I'm kidding. Probably.

Poll result: Dolfans unimpressed by interest in Arian Foster: I was not impressed; as told in this column. For me Arian Foster is an aging, damaged-goods running back, the one position that best exemplifies the Dolphins' offseason struggles in free agency. Well, y'all agreed. We asked how you felt about the Dolphins' interest in the free agent Foster, and by a better than 5-to-1 margin you said "skeptical/past prime" (72.9 percent) over "good/plenty left" (13.9%). The other 13.2% were undecided.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote