August 28, 2015

Twitter study: Heat dominating social media, Dolphins barely OK, Marlins and Panthers both rock-bottom embarrassing; plus meet the Gronkashians, Serena reigns & more


1) It is SATURDAY, AUGUST 29. I've been up at Random Evidence Laboratories birthing the Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Athlete of the year poll, Dolphins optimism, Ballers misspells Csonka in credits, NFL betting odds, ESPN and Ashley Madison, Greg's Lobos win fantasy vote & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

FIU football: Turner's tall task: In today's latest column I write why FIU's Ron Turner, five days from his season opener, has the toughest coaching job in all of South Florida. Click on Attitude Adjustment, Culture Makeover to read.

1aa1afinsat50Herald's 'Fins at 50': The Miami Herald's massive "Fins at 50" coverage, commemorating the Dolphins' upcoming 50th season, arrived in the Old Classic print version as a special section yesterday and remains available online. Click FINS AT 50 to access entire project. My contributions: COACHING LEGEND, my main column on Don Shula. 50 GREATEST, my list of the 50 top figures (not just players) in club history. ALL-TIME TEAM, my picks for that honor. And VIDEO INTERVIEWS, my conversations with Shula, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. Also have an added Shula-by-the-numbers column not in original package; click on TOP 10 NUMBERS.

1aa1aheatnationTWITTER POWER: HEAT DOMINATING SOCIAL MEDIA; OTHER MIAMI TEAMS LAGGING: I was curious about the Twitter reach of teams in America's Big Four sports so I checked all of the the official accounts, and one thing I discovered is that the Heat are enormously impressive, the Dolphins are just OK, and the Marlins and Panthers are, well, flatly embarrassing based on what their fellow teams are doing. I thought it was obvious, but maybe not based on some Twitter blowback I'm seeing, that this rankings is numbers/followers only. It doesn't speak to the quality of the sites. In this case, numbers don't lie, though. I like this barometer because it speaks of the engagement of local fans but also speaks to the national reach of a team beyond its home base. The results:

NBA TEAM                        FOLLOWERS

1. Los Angeles Lakers       4.46M

2. Miami Heat                  3.14M

3. Chicago Bulls                2.33M

4. Boston Celtics               1.75M

5. Orlando Magic              1.29M

Dead last of 30 teams: Milwaukee Bucks 363K.

MLB TEAM                        FOLLOWERS

1. New York Yankees        1.48M

2. Boston Red Sox             1.12M

3. Philadelphia Phillies      1.03M

4. Toronto Blue Jays          925K

5. San Francisco Giants      875K

Dead last of 30 teams: Miami Marlins 171K.

NFL TEAM                        FOLLOWERS

1. New England Patriots    1.43M

2. Dallas Cowboys             1.35M

3. Green Bay Packers        1.02M

4. Pittsburgh Steelers        1.01M

5. Seattle Seahawks          991K

Dead last of 32 teams: Arizona Cardinals 202K. Miami Dolphins 21st with 468K.

NHL TEAM                        FOLLOWERS

1. Chicago Blackhawks      1.09M

2. Toronto Maple Leafs      999K

3. Montreal Canadiens       875K

4. Boston Bruins                798K

5. Pittsburgh Penguins       693K

Dead last of 30 teams: Florida Panthers 160K.

TOP TEN / ALL 122 TEAMS: 1. Los Angeles Lakers, 2. Miami Heat, 3. Chicago Bulls, 4. Boston Celtics, 5. New York Yankees, 6. New England Patriots, 7. Dallas Cowboys, 8. Orlando Magic, 9. New York Knicks, 10. Boston Red Sox.

BOTTOM TEN / ALL 122 TEAMS: 122. Florida Panthers, 121. Miami Marlins, 120t. Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, 118. San Diego Padres, 117. Arizona Cardinals, 116. Colorado Rockies, 115. New York Islanders, 114. Nashville Predators, 113. Arizona Diamondbacks.

To follow click @MiamiHEAT / @MiamiDolphins / @Marlins / @FlaPanthers

Respectfully yours,


GRONKOWSKIS = KARDASHIANS OF SPORTS: The thought occurs as I read an feature today on the youngest Gronkowski, Glenn, a Kansas State fullback. (Read story here). The piece is accompanied 1aa1agronksby the photo at right showing all five Gronk bros, with Daddy Gronk second from left. The most famous Gronk, the Patriots' Rob, astonishing is the only one here wearing a shirt. I don't compare the Gronkowskis to the reality-TV Kardashians based on talent, of course. The Gronkowskis have some. They play football, at least. The Kardashians are famous mostly for being famous, for !@#$ing NBA players and for mastering the art of tabloid publicity. Both families, though, seem comfortable in the public display of intellect that would not have the folks from MENSA calling. Mostly, Gronkowskis + Kardashians = Gronkashians because the football family seems increasingly comfy fronting the partying, goofy frat-boy persona that is the perfect male ying to the female yang of the Kardashian women as shopping, sunbathing, red-carpeting paparazzi magnets. I don't care what anybody else tells you. America truly is a wondrous and wonderful place!

Poll result: Serena in pole position for athlete of year: We gave you four top contenders for 2015 athlete of the year and you anointed tennis star Serena Williams at 35.4 percent as she attempts to complete a calendar-year Grand Slam in U.S. Open starting Monday. You had Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at 23.2%, World Cup-winning U.S. women's soccer team at 21.9% and golf phenom Jordan Spieth at 19.5%.

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March 30, 2015

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


No radio today: My usual Tuesday in-studio gig on the Dan LeBatard Show will be Thursday this week.

1aa1abloodymary1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 31. 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 Derby & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Terrific TV Tuesday:

  • Hurricanes men vs. Temple, NIT semifinal, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Panthers at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. (FSFL)
  • San Antonio Spurs at Heat, 8 p.m. (TNT)

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat, Cats face huge games tonight. Update entering TuesdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-39 (W1), 1 1/2 games from 6th with 9 games left (next tonight vs. San Antonio). Heat playoff likelihood: 79.6% (up 1.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-41 (W1), 1 point from 9th and 4 points from 8th with 6 games left (next tonight at Boston). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.4% (up 0.1) per

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: Was a big Sunday for our two teams angling for the postseason (see Playoff Chase above for more), thanks to 40 points from Heat's Dwyane Wade in 1aa1adwade 1aa1ajjagrthe 109-102 win over Detroit and two goals from Panthers' Jaromir Jagr in the 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 climb to 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. Tonight's game at Boston is must-win in most every sense; Florida needs a two-point victory to give itself a realistic chance. Heat also face a big test tonight, here, vs. San Antonio.

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. AS CANESPLAY TONIGHT: A complete (minimally edited) transcript of Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga from yesterday's NIT press conference as UM prepared to face Temple in Tuesday's/tonight's semifinal game 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."

ON THE JUSTIN BIEBER ROAST: With no sports on TV that interested me and because making fun of the 1aa1abieberexceedingly mockable subject seemed like such a natural idea, I watched Comedy Central's The Roast Of Justin Bieber last night. A few random thoughts. It was funny, worth watching. (Click here if you missed it). Bieber was a good sport. Host Kevin Hart, at his career apex, was great. Still not sure who Jeff Ross is. Or why Martha Stewart was there, aside form the prison jokes. Also, can Hannibal Buress please fade immediately from public attention and never return? Favorite throwaway line: "Snoop Dogg looks like Shaq's skeleton."

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February 11, 2015

Marlins All-Star Game in historical context; plus LeBron's grand plan, Kiper's new Dolphins pick, bad news for Al Golden, Chicago's cheaters?, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, armed goats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot-Seat Index coaching poll, SI swimsuits, J-Law's snake, Marlins unis, 2015 college football rankings & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

LeBron's grand plan: LeBron James reveals in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter his grand plan including a future in movies and his dream of building a Hollywood empire. Click here for the story and related video. Must-read for LBJ fans. 

'Back In My Day': Many of you on Twitter and in emails ask for links to the "Back In My Day" segments I do Tuesdays on the Dan Le Batard Show. I have done 17. Click on BIMD Volume 1 for episodes 1 through 10 (which originally appeared in the blog on Dec. 11). I'll have a link to the most recent episodes soon.

"I liked Beck before it was cool." --Greg Cote

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS ALL-STAR GAME IS FIFTH FOR SOUTH FLORIDA: The Marlins will be hosting their first MLB All-Star Game in 2017, a direct result of the new stadium that so many complained about but that will prove a positive for generations to come. Getting this game is a big deal, and it's about time. Baseball's annual
showcase is far superior to the other sports'. Giancarlo Stanton in the Home-Run Derby seems a given. But Miami sports historians like myself know this Marlins first actually will be the fifth major (Big Four sport) professional all-star game in South Florida. The list, chronologically:

All-Star Game               Date                    Site

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 20, 1975       Orange Bowl

NBA All-Star Game        Feb. 11, 1990       Miami Arena

NHL All-Star Game        Feb. 2, 2003        Office Depot Center, Sunrise 

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 31, 2010       Sun Life Stadium, Miami

MLB All-Star Game        TBD, 2017            Marlins Park

KIPER APES MCSHAY ON FINS PICK: Dueling ESPN mock drafters Mel Kiper (pictured) and Todd McShay need to get together and fake some variety. Kiper in his new Mock 2.0 out today has Jameis Winston No. 1 1aa1akipermeloverall to Tampa Bay, Marcus Mariota No. 6 to the Stinkin' Jets and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes No. 14 to Miami -- just like McShay did last week. Kiper on Waynes: "Dolphins need to add some effective youth at cornerback, and Waynes is a well-coached cover man with the versatility to help in both man and zone and brings a physical presence. He's effective taking on big receivers and will also not shy away from tackling and setting the edge as a run-defender. If you're going on pure upside, Marcus Peters (Washington) could gain a slight edge, but Waynes gets the nod for reliability. The Combine can shift perceptions at this position, but I think Waynes is a safe bet to be one of the top two corners taken and it's a need area for the Dolphins, who need more playmakers in their secondary."

Poll result: It's Golden over Philbin for the coaching hot seat: We asked who among So Fla's Big Six coaches should lead the Hot-Seat Index, and UM football coach Al Golden swamped the Dolphins' Joe Philbin by 65.9 percent to 32.4%. We figured a two-man race and man was it! Heat's Erik Spolestra, Marlins' Mike Redmond, UM hoops' Jim Larranaga and Panthers' Gerard Gallant combined for a scant 1.7%.

ON BRIAN WILLIAMS, JON STEWART: NBC suspends Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months 1aa1abrianwmswithout pay for the truth-fudging that has spawned a million Internet lampoons like the photo pictured. I get the punishment. U.S. presidents and network news anchors -- aren't those the folks you sort of want to trust most? I wonder if in six months Williams will return as if nothing happened or just sort of fade into shamed retirement. Elsewhere on the dial, Jon Stewart is leaving Comedy Central's The Daily Show, a major loss for hilarious, razor-edgy political commentary. I think Stewart is brilliant, by which I mean he shares my take on just about everything arising from today's headlines.

LITTLE LEAGUE A LITTLE TOO LATE WITH ITS DISCIPLINE: So Little League Baseball strips the U.S. championship from the Chicago team (Jackie Robinson West) that won it in the 2014 LL World Series by, we now are told, supposedly fudging boundary lines to improperly build a superteam. Two adults involved have been supposed for actions that spoils the heart-warming story of the first African-American team to reign. Better late than never on the discipline, I suppose, but Little League's due diligence on boundaries and birth certificates needs to come before a tournament not afterward. This story bears further examination. As it was the Chicago team's triumph was overshadowed, anyway, by the Sports Illustrated cover-spawning mania over the Philadelphia girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis.

1aa1agoatswithguns"DEAR GREG...": "I have heard rumors that a sect of anti-government separatists in the Deep South has formed a militia made up entirely of armed goats trained to perform as soldiers. Can this possibly be true?" Dear Reader: I find that almost impossible to believe, but I'll check into it and get back to you.

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February 09, 2015

Hot-Seat Index: What Miami coach should be feeling most job pressure? New poll. Vote now!; plus early '15 college football rankings, Marlins uniforms, J-Law's snake & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. This will be my 50th national show, so I'm sure they have a nice surprise planned for me. Balloons? Cake? Stripper? Nothing at all? Ears welcome.

1aa1ahannahdavis1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10. Model, Derek Jeter squeeze and professional sexy person Hannah Davis is the cover girl for the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue now out. So there. 2) I'd like to brag tell you that I shot an 86 over the weekend at Sunrise, featuring seven pars. This, for me, is very good. Then again, my son Christopher shot 78. What a showoff! 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Ndamukong Suh poll result & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Thank you, Knicks: Click on Good Medicine for my column from the arena off last night's Heat victory.

1aa1ahotseatSix teams the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers on the pro side, plus the Miami Hurricanes in football and men's basketball. We offer a quick "State Of" and gauge the current job pressure on those six head coaches, listed by our estimation of most pressure to least:

1aa1ajoepJoe Philbin, Dolphins: High pressure -- Philbin, 53, approaches his fourth season with a three-year mark of 23-25 and no playoffs. Fans are restless and impatience is now justified. A 10-6 season with no playoffs or perhaps even a one-game improvement to 9-7 with no playoffs might spare Philbin, but chances are he must see Miami into the postseason in 2015 or see himself replaced.

1aa1aalgAl Golden, Hurricanes football: High pressure -- Golden, 45, approaches his fifth season with a four-year record of 28-22, including 16-16 in the ACC and 0-2 in bowl games. The NCAA cloud he inherited has bought Golden leeway with administrators, but much less so with an angry, vociferous fan base. Coming off a six-win season, it could take a bounce to 9-4 to save his job.

1aa1agerardgGerard Gallant, Panthers: Medium-high pressure: Gallant, 51, is in the midst of his first season, with Cats currently 23-28 (including 11 overtime losses) and six points off playoff pace. Gallant hadn't head-coached in NHL since 2006-07 before this season, and Florida thought it had a playoff team. Unless he gets there, it could be a quick hook.

1aa1amikerMike Redmond, Marlins: Medium pressure: Redmond, 43, is about to open spring training on his third season, with a two-year record of 139-185 and no playoffs. The team's 15-win improvement last year earned Redmond credit, but now a  much-improved roster (and a mercurial owner) means a playoff berth or a serious run at one will be expected or the hotseat could find Redmond.

1aa1aeriksErik Spoelstra, Heat: Low to no pressure: Spoelstra, 44, is in the midst of his (hard to believe) seventh season, with a mark of 336-191 including six playoffs and two NBA championships. Even at 22-29, fighting for a playoff spot and facing his first losing season, "Spo" continues to be seen as a long-term gem by loyal Pat Riley.

1aa1ajimlJim Larranaga, Hurricanes basketball: Low to no pressure: Larranaga, 65, is in midst of his fourth season with record of 81-44, including 36-26 in ACC. Has one NCAA appearance (Sweet Sixteen, 2013) and one NIT (second round, 2012). Winning ACC title in 2013 was huge, and Canes are now 15-8 and hoping for another March Madness ticket. It's Larranaga's job for as long as he wishes.

Clearly, to me, Philbin and Golden are under the most pressure. But which is under more? Or, you may feel somebody else should be seen as on a hotter seat. Hence, the poll, with our Big Six coaches listed alphabetically. Vote and say why.

1aa1ajlawANOTHER NAKED CELEBRITY ATTEMPTS TO BREAK INTERNET: I enjoy making fun of celebrity and the silly uses of it, such as the wont of so many female celebs to be naked. This time it is Jennifer Lawrence, 24, "J-Law," the actress from Hunger Games, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook et al. She is au natural but for the unnatural presence of a giant Colombian red-tail boa constrictor posed strategically across her body in the current Vanity Fair. Remember when showing this much skin was risque? Now it's like, yeah, so? I'll throw out a token, "Lucky snake!" and move on.

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS UNIFORMS RANKED 20TH: Bloguin via AOL ranks MLB uniforms 1-30, best to worst. Top three: Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies. Dead last: Padres. Marlins a sort of almost respectable 20th, with the look described as "love it or hate it." (I must say, for me, the Fish's South Beach-y colors took a while to get used to, but I like 'em now).

1aa1aespnsiCOLLEGE FOOTBALL RPI RANKINGS FOR 2015: ESPN Stats & Information does this each year and, before you dismiss it, consider that its top three-ranked teams last year -- FSU, Oregon, Alabama -- all made the initial College Football Playoff. They factor a team's offense, defense and special-teams from previous season, returning starters, head coach and recruiting ranking. The 2015 top three is Ohio State, Alabama and LSU. How state teams fare among 128 schools rated: FSU 21st, Florida 27th, Miami 29th, UCF 73rd, FIU 87th, South Florida 101st and FAU 108th.

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January 22, 2015

"Deflategate" latest hit for beleaguered NFL (with parody video); plus Drew Rosenhaus party-yacht drama is SO Miami!; also, LeBron's game-show, Heat value, Marlins' nemesis & more

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 22. Click here for a gratuitously sexy, totally unnecessary video of Kate Upton doing fun stuff. Just because. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Super Bowl prediction poll, Mariota vs. Winston & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adeflateNFL's Deflategate mess:
Even if you don't believe the Patriots deflating footballs is a big deal, it is because it's another image-hit for the beleaguered NFL and has hijacked the narrative leading to the Super Bowl. Click on Deflating for today's latest column by me. Postscript: Bill Belichick in a news conference this morning denies any knowledge of the issue, says he did not learn of it until Monday. I'd still expect a penalty (fine and/or forfeited draft pick) but nothing related to the Feb. 1 game vs. Seattle.


LeBron starting game show: Increasingly the former Heat star is becoming an entertainment mogul who plays basketball when time permits. I wish this game-show thing weren't true. But it is. Read about it here.

Sad news. Hassan Whiteside's media annointment as Heat savior, mayor of Miami and NBA It-Guy has been temporarily postponed by this week's ankle injury.

DREW AND LISA ROSENHAUS ARE SO MIAMI!: I love this story not because it involves marital discord -- I wish the couple well -- but because it involves the so-Miami trappings of celebrity, partying, police, a yacht and a 1aa1alisadanbfreeloading playboy millionaire named Dan Bilzerian. (I say freeloading because when your income source is "trust-fund beneficiary," you are mowing through money inherited, not earned). Short story: Bilzerian throws a party here last month during Art Basel, and the dozens of bikini'd young women 1aa1alisa2aboard include Lisa Thomson-Rosenhaus, 28, who had just marked her 1-year annivesary with Miami NFL mega-agent Drew Rosenhaus, 48. Drew and Lisa are pictured left in bliss-ier times. At right, Lisa is the one in the pink bikini at the elbow of the gesturing Bilzerian, who reposted the photo on his Instagram account. Speculation is that's why police were called to casa de Rosenhaus on Sunday in a domestic dispute. Rumors of a pending divorce now swirl. Three quick thoughts: 1) Amazing how money makes Bilzerian and his comical beard look sexy to women who would otherwise not give him the time of day. (Superficial much?) 2) Aside to Lisa: So, so sad, but it may be almost time to retire the Spring Break Party Girl persona. 3) Drew Rosenhaus has never shied from publicity, even the notorious kind, and this latest wave may actually be good for business. After all, this is precisely the kind of drama to which so many potential athlete clients can relate.

1aa1aarisonmHEAT FRANCHISE VALUE SKYROCKETS: Micky Arison is smiling and why not. New annual figures from Forbes estimate the Miami Heat franchise value is now $1.175 billion, ninth in the NBA and up a whopping 53 percent over last year. The caveat? Heat are barely above the league average of $1.1 billion, and below the average one-year increase of 74 percent fueled by new national and local TV deals.

NATIONALS TO MARLINS = PATS TO FINS: As baseball spring training looms, we lament the Marlins' new reality. No matter what they do or how much they improve, somebody in their division always seems to be better. A step ahead. The Dolphins and Dolfans can relate, after 10-plus years in the shadow of the New England Patriots. The Marlins' big-brother nemesis has become the Washington Nationals. Coming off a 96-win season the Nats are the new World Series favorites are 6-1 odds after landing premier free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer. 

Poll result: Patriots to win Super Bowl: We asked, you answered, and 54.6 percent said the Patriots would win the Super Bowl versus 45.4% who predicted a Seahawks repeat.

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November 17, 2014

NASCAR dodged a bullet at Homestead; plus Stanton agrees, Dolphins in (for now) amid NFL tumult, Gary Shelton, Kim Kardashian as a horse & more

1aa1akimk1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 17. Have you seen Kim Kardashian's nudies in Paper magazine? Click on image to see her equine version enlarged.  2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes fall to FSU,CSM poll, Stanton as Marlins' 'A Christmas Carol', Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Stanton deal finalized: CBS Sports reporting today (and the Herald verifying) that Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins have agreed upon the 13-year, $325 million extension that first splashed as national news on Friday. It is expected to become official at a news conference Wednesday.  

BIG DAY FOR HARVICK AND HOMESTEAD, BUT NASCAR DODGES A BULLET: It was a big day for Kevin Harvick in his No. 4 Chevrolet on Sunday but a bigger day for 1aa1aharvickNASCAR down at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
(Click on Perfect Finish for my full column from the track). NASCAR dodged a bullet, though, and even as it celebrated the end of its season with a worthy winner in Harvick, flaws in its new Chase for the Cup format were revealed. There was a real possibility that runnerup Ryan Newman might have emerged as NASCAR's season Sprint Cup champion without winning Sunday -- or winning a single race all year. That would have been a first in NACAR's 67-year history. Chairman Brian France said the new system is supposed to put an emphasis on winning races, not points-building consistency, yet two of the Final Four drivers eligible to win it all entered Sunday's race with either zero (Newman) or only one (Denny Hamlin) season win. So tweak the Chase format once again. The Cote Plan: Only drivers who haved won a race entering Homestead are eligible for the season crown. This year that would have meant 15 drivers: Brad KeselowskI (6 wins), Joey Logano (5), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (4), Jeff Gordon (4), Harvick (4), Jimmie Johnson (4), Carl Edwards (2), plus eight men with one win. Keep the new elimination format that whittles the field to an eventual Final Four, but start with only race winners.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: DOLPHINS IN (FOR NOW), NFL IN TUMULT: Miami as of this morning would be the 1aa1adol6sixth and final AFC playoff seed ITSET (if the season ended today). The Fins would edge San Diego and Baltimore (both also 6-4) on the tiebreaker for best conference winning percentage. Of more intrigue to me right now is the Super Bowl outlook after a crazy weekend in which SB favorite Denver and reigning champ Seattle both lost. Prediction: When the updated title odds come out Tuesday, the Patriots will be the new No. 1 and the Packers will be second, The formerly favored Broncos will now be third, with the Seahawks fourth and the (league-leading 9-1) Cardinals rounding out the top five.

GARY SHELTON'S NEW VENTURE: My sports-journalism colleague and friend Gary Shelton has left the
1aa1agsheltonTampa Bay Times after a stellar 25-year career; click here for his farewell column. He is now flying solo with a new venture: I invite you to check it out -- especially if you are from Tampa/St. Pete or interested in those teams, because Gary's is the voice of authority on sports in that area. Also, he's on Twitter @Gary_Shelton. Veteran Miami Herald readers may remember Gary from his time here in 1984-90, when his beats included the Dolphins. He was really good. Still is.

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March 26, 2014

Wed pm 3-26: Who is greatest Ralph of all-time? Urgent new poll. Vote now!; plus Heat lose at Pacers, Diddy's parenting, topless protest & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat panic poll, Bosh's birthday bash, Marlins' Samson acting, Madness takes a breather, Sweet 16 odds & more. 2) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

WHO IS THE GREATEST RALPH? VOTE NOW IN THIS IMPORTANT NEW POLL: Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died yesterday, and that got us thinking. Who is the greatest Ralph of all-time? I love the name Ralph. To me it sounds funny (ralf) and is a comedic name, yet its origin is nobly masculine ("wolf counsel") and it has identified some very accomplished people. I have winnowed the great Ralphs to 11 for this poll. Did I miss anybody? This is purely Ralphs, no Rafaels, but a special hometown shoutout to the late Rafael "Ralph" Sanchez, founder of Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is a Boutique Poll. By that I mean it may be unpopular and of interest mostly to me, because I'm weird. OK. Onto the poll: Who's the greatest Ralph and why? Let's get Ralphing!

HEAT FALL AT PACERS: Eastern Conference rivals split two games in December, now Grudge Tres on Wednesday night went  to host Indiana, 84-83, despite LeBron James' 38 points. It was must-watch TV, deliciously physical and acrimonious. (Click on Playoff Feel for today's Heat-Pacers preview column by me). This has turned into the best rivalry in the NBA, and tonight only furthered that. Heat was up 80-76 before faltering. Didn't help that with 2 minutes left Dwyane Wade went out with an apparent hamstring tweak, underlining the question, "Can the Heat count on Wade physically?"

Heat three-peat confidence eroding, but still there: We have asked three times now at spaced intervals: Will the Heat win a third straight NBA title -- yes or no? On Oct. 29 (preseason), it was 83.0 percent yes. On Dec. 12 (with a 16-6 record after a loss to Indiana), it was 70.4% yes. Now, in our latest blogpoll, it's down to 62.8% yes. Interesting trend.

ART OF SPOILING CHILDREN TAKEN TO NEW LEVEL: Sean "Diddy" Combs is planning a lavish Sweet 16 1aa1amaybachbirthday party for his son Christian and has hired a brand placement company to elicit swag to fill goodie bags in exchange for Facebook and Instagram mentions from Diddy. In 2010, dad gave son Justin a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. By my reckonming there is no way either Combs child will be able to avoid spiraling into a Bieberesque life of entitlement, drugs and arrests or, even worse, involvement with a Kardashian.

1aa1aspaintopTOPLESS PROTESTORS CRASH PRO-LIFE RALLY: I so seldom get to write a headline like that. To me it has a "headless body found in topless bar" vibe. Anyway, in Spain on Sunday, topless female protestors painted like skeletons crashed an anti-abortion rally. Presented is an arresting image. Literally.

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August 02, 2013

Heat land Oden for the oddest reason; plus we rank the '13 Canton class, how you feel about Johnny Manziel (with poll) & more

1aa1bobmagic1) It is SUNDAY, AUGUST 4. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest  Sunday notes column. 2) Pictured right: A Magic Johnson/Dodgers Bobblehead, just because. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mr. & Mrs. Tannehill are locked 'n loaded, UM in preseason poll, Riley Cooper's mess, Pro Bowl facelift, Dolphins vs. Canes result & more. 4) You are invited to join us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird) and Vine (Greg Cote).

Dolphins-Cowboys post coming later today: We'll have a new, separate post later today on tonight's Dolphins exhibition opner in Canton. Watch for it.  

UM tickets on sale Monday: Single-game Hurricanes football tickets go on sale Monday at 8:30 a.m. However, tickets to the Florida Gators game are available only as part of a season-ticket package.

HEAT LAND ODEN BECAUSE ... WELL, BECAUSE THEY DON'T NEED HIM RIGHT NOW: Some basketball experts surmised free-agent center Greg Oden would go elsewhere because the pressure in Miami would 1aa1godenbe too great, in the scalding spotlight of the two-time defending NBA champions. Instead, Oden agreed Friday night to join the Heat because the opposite was true. Both he and his agent said he liked that Miami would not rush him back, the team giving the impression it just wanted him fully healthy and ready by the end of the season, not the start. (Oden is not yet 100 percent and told ESPN he is "a work in progress.") I wrote on July 25 why Oden made sense for the Heat and vice versa, and neither my opinion nor the facts have changed. Click on The Smart Risk to read. Oden now has the best of both worlds. By joining the champions he gets the attention he craves after last playing in the league in 2009 (because of three knee surgeries), but not the pressure to contribute now. And the Heat have it good with this signing, too. Oden arrives for the $1 million minumum, which in the NBA is like getting somebody for loose coins under the sofa. But if he comes back fully and hits big? Miami then has a bona fide center to lend a major low-post presence and match up with guys like Indiana's Roy Hibbert. Strong signing for Miami, smart and full of upside. The rich get richer, and sometimes the best get better.

RANKING THE 2013 CANTON CLASS BY STARPOWER: Seven new inductees sweep into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tonight in Canton, O. (Carter, Parcells and Sapp, the three inductees with Miami ties, are pictured). Ranking them by national starpower:

1aa1car31. Bill Parcells, coach: Won championships in major markets, first man to coach four different teams into playoffs. Did little as Dolphins executive, but I guess we forgive him.

2. Warren Sapp, defensive tackle: Sixth former Hurricane to make the Hall, a Bucs fixture who made two NFL All-Decade teams.

3. Larry Allen, guard: Eleven Pro Bowls, two All-Decade teams, he was a Dallas fixture when Cowboys were still America's team.

4. Cris Carter, receiver: The mostly-Viking was second man to reach 1,000 catches. Late-career cameo with Dolphins in 2002.

5. Jonathan Ogden, tackle: Twelve-year Ravens fixture made Pro Bowl all but one season.

6. Curley Culp, defensive tackle: Led some very good Chiefs defenses in '70s.

7. Dave Robinson, linebacker: The consistent mostly-Packer was All-Decade in '60s.

MEDIA PSYCHOANALYSIS OF JOHNNY MANZIEL IS MISSING ONE SIMPLE POINT: The Miami Hurricanes open practice on Saturday, but the real reason I know that college football season is near is because the latest ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated both have lengthy pieces plumbing the depths of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who answers to "Johnny Football." Each opus is based on an exclusive interview (or, apparently not), and each strives to 

1aa1johnnyfootball 1aa1johnnymanzielbe a sociological study. (I love it when sports writers practice unlicensed psychiatry; it's so cute!) Unexplored by either piece is the real reason why Manziel is so overcovered and over-analzyed in the first piece: It is partly because he was the first-ever freshman Heisman winner. But it is mainly because he is such a convenient contrast to the sport's previous icon, Tim Tebow. Tebow was too good to be true, Bible-carrying and virginal. Manziel is the ying to Tebow's yang, unapologetically flawed, too real to be true, acting publicly like just what he is: a hard-partying rich kid on top of the world. (Johnny Football is pictured left; Johnny Manziel is pictured right). From Tebow's perfection and piety we have Manziel's partying and petulance. Both young men were/are disliked by many fans outside of Gainesville and College Station, but the dislike of Manziel is easier to explain, and to understand. Many in the self-loathing media blame media excess for creating whatever monster Manziel became (at least in perception), but that is wrong because it excuses Johnny Football's role in his own reputation. Everybody is missing one simple point, and so what ESPN and SI's dueling explorations fail to get across, I will, right here: If you are rooting for Manziel to fail, chances are it is simply because you think he's a jerk. And that is because he has offered so much anecdotal evidence to make you think that. He is from a rich Texas family -- rich because Daddy inherited Grandpa's oil fortune -- and he acts like it, even telling SI he thinks his haters are jealous of him because, "I'm doing everything they want to do." Johnny Football, 20, drinks lots of alcohol and has a bad temper. He leaves Peyton Manning's football camp early, blames an illness, and is seen in a bar later that day. His apologists blame his youth; I'd sooner blame his being a spoiled rich kid. His parents say they are worried about him -- the same parents who wanted to have vanity plates reading 'JFFMOM' and 'JFFDAD' -- for 'Johnny F---ing Football' -- until their teenage daughter suggested they not. Johnny is photographed with a bottle of Dom Perignon, and surrounded by cash in a casino, and with a lit sparkler in his teeth. He gets kicked out of a frat party at Texas in Austin and tweets, 'Last time I checked double digit win columns and championships are what matters.' He does a lot to leave the impression he just isn't a very nice guy, or particularly a smart guy, because he knows in the Social Media Age that everything he does will be magnified and very public, yet he continues to party hard and at once decry his lack of privacy. Even for a 20-year-old obviously light on maturity, that's naive. The ESPN piece blames a lot of Manziel's woes on the stress of his unique "fishbowl." Well, he is in a fishbowl of sorts, sure. But nobody said that he has to act like an idiot in it. That's on him. All of it.

UPDATED WORLD SERIES ODDS: Post-trade-deadline numbers out today via Bovada show Tigers the favorite at 6-1, followed by Braves and Dodgers both 7-1, Cardinals 15-2, Red Sox 8-1, Rays 17-2 and A's 9-1. In other words, wide open. Oh, and the Marlins are 5,000-to-1, for you longshot fans.

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February 25, 2013

Do you wish Loria would sell Marlins? Tell him. Poll. Vote!; plus 10 behind-scenes outtakes from Loria-Samson meeting, Canes, Heat, Oscars & more

Radio Tuesday!: Tuesday means I'm back in-studio today with Le Batard and Stugotz on 790 The Ticket/FM 104.3 starting at 3. Ears welcome.

1aa1fats[1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26. Happy 85th birthday to New Orleans legend Fats Domino (pictured). Chubby Checker tried to borrow his name and sound but there was and is only one Fats. Click HERE for his unmistakable signature song. 2) Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona  500 but Danica Patrick won much respect with her eighth-place finish off the pole position. She is a huge shot in the arm for NASCAR. 3) Speaking of women, I think I could beat up Ronda Rousey. Not really. I just like to annoy UFC fans. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On LeBron James maybe leaving next year, Canes lose, kvetching Perfectos, Marlins' young talent. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

"I'm a little worried about my weight. You know how Life of Pi was a big Oscar winner? I'll be starring in Life of Pie." -- Greg Cote

JEFFREY LORIA'S STUNNING LACK OF SELF-AWARENESS. (OR COULD IT BE THAT HE JUST DOESN'T GIVE A S--- WHAT FANS THINK?): On behalf of the newspaper industry I'd like to thank Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria for Sunday's full-page "Letter To Our Fans" ad that ran on page 21A of 1aa1jefflThe Miami Herald and also in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post. We all can use the revenue. As for the content of the letter? That was combative, found Loria blaming everyone but himself for his abysmal public image, and left most fans I've talked to or heard from just shaking their heads. Loria just doesn't get it. "Something needed to be done," he writes. OK, but did that mean gutting the roster? Did that mean paring the payroll back to embarrassing meagerness? "Acquiring high-profile players just didn't work," he writes. Because you didn't acquire the right ones, perhaps. So go out and get better ones, don't scrap the entire higher-payroll philosophy after one stinkin' year. That higher payroll, by the way, was an assurance Loria made in order to get that new ballpark built. It was a public trust he has broken. It was something unaddressed in that self-serving open letter. It was not unaddressed last evening when I and other media meet with Loria for the first time in months. Take our poll, and see more on last night's Loria meeting just below the poll.

LORIA AT THE DIAMOND CLUB: THE OUTTAKES: Jeffrey Loria, club president David Samson and a few other Marlins officials met with a select group of media including myself last evening at Marlins Park. Click on Owner In Denial for my latest column, filed following that meeting. Included is Loria's reaction to the poll results directly above. Here are some outtakes from the Loria-Samson meeting, things that 1aa1asteriskwouldn't fit or didn't belong in the column: 1. I asked Samson directly if it wasn't accurate that the stadium was built on the promise of higher payrolls. He called that "accurate with an asterisk," saying, "We miscalculated" the revenue. 2. Samson said paid attendance was 2.2 million in year one of the new park but that the actual turnstile count was 1.4 million. 3. Samson said 1aa1eiffelthe tone of Loria 's open letter, perceived as combative, was partly a reaction to the "constant personal pounding" his boss has taken. 4. Samson on Giancarlo Stanton's future: "It takes two people to sign a long-term deal." In other words, no amount of money will keep Stanton if he wants out. 5. Loria and Stanton were in Europe at the same time recently and the owner invited the player to dinner at the Eiffel Tower and said they had a wonderful time. I think it might take the Eiffel Tower to re-sign Stanton. 6. Loria's new PR 1aa1jeffreyfirm happens to be called Jeffrey Group, named after its founder, not Loria. The firm specializes in Latin America and U.S. Hispanics, an indication of markets the Marlins want to hit hard. 7. Loria labeled as a "smear campaign" the Dolphins' effort to win public funding for stadium improvements by putting the Marlins' ballpark deal in an unfavorable light. 8. Loria said Jose Reyes was "inaccurate" in saying Loria advised him 1aa1fusciato buy a home in Miami two days before he was traded. 9. Loria: "It's not a fire sale. It's called hit the restart button." 10. Finally, apropos of nothing, the fastidious Samson selects what to wear from a prearranged order of clothes. Monday evening his socks were a pinkish red. "Maybe fuscia," he said. I'm not sure Samson is a great club president. But he is an interesting person.

HEAT HITTING REPEAT-LEVEL STRIDE: Miami ran its victory streak to a season-best 11 games Sunday and 1aa1dwadeDwyane Wade lately is looking like the pre-LeBron dominator he was. We assume LeBron's nightly MVP-caliber output, but Wade showing he can still reach those elite levels is nourishing news. National media continue to harp on Heat's lack of size and insufficient rebounding, but I see a confident, championship team priming itself for a repeat run.

Poll result: Support for LeBron even if he left next year: I wrote an unpopular column on the likelihood from my view that LeBron James will return to Cleveland after next season, with a companion blog poll. I asked how you'd feel if that happened and 38.5 percent said they'd be positive and not begrudge him, vs. only 17.4% who said they'd see him as turning his back on the Heat. Another 25.7% said mixed feelings or didn't want to think about it yet, and 18.4% said the answer was to be determined by results this season and next.

HURRICANES FOOTBALL, MEN'S BASKETBALL: Football: UM completes its 2013 schedule. The seven home games are Aug. 30--FAU; Sep. 7--Florida; Sep. 21--Savannah State; Oct. 5--Georgia Tech; Oct. 26--Wake Forest; Nov. 9--Virginia Tech; and Nov. 23--Virginia. The five road games are Sep. 28--USF; Oct. 17--North Carolina; Nov. 2--FSU; Nov. 16--Duke; and Nov. 29--Pittsburgh. Men's basketball: Canes fall in polls: Miami dips from No. 2 to No. 5 in the latests Associated Press poll. The drop is to 7 in the USA Today coaches' poll and to 8 in the Power Rankings, all following the weekend loss at Wake Forest. The AP drop is pretty modest, and that's still the Big Daddy poll.

1aa1dresses"WHO ARE YOU WEARING!?": This one question, asked of an actress on a red carpet, embodies much of what the rest of the world both envies and hates about America. The excess and ostentatiousness. The celebrity-worship so absurdly out of control there actually might be avid interest in what designer made Janie Pretend's gown. What a hoot! That's what made last night's Oscars so much fun. Hollywood needsa big female superstar who won't play along, who when asked "Who are you wearing" answers "Target" and then rails against the question. Found it intersting that Argo won Best Picture. Just saw it. Liked it. Didn't love it, or think it was transcendental in the way you hope Oscar champs might be. Quick aside for my right-leaning readers always needling me about my (apparent) left-leaning tendencies: the late video intrusion of First Lady Michelle Obama was spectacularly unnecessary and quite ridiculous.

LATEST AWFUL IDEA FOR TV SHOW: CELEBRITY DIVING!: God I wish I were kidding, but ABC in March 1aa1greglwill premiere Splash, a new reality show in which ex-Olympian Greg Louganis (pictured) judges 10 celebrity divers. (No, seriously!) The show has a screwball chance because half of the contestants will be curvy young women in swimsuits, including Miss Alabama Katherine Webb. (At least we know Brent Musberger will be watching). Divers also will include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- Huh? Whu!? -- Ndamukong Suh and Louie Anderson. Counting on the latter two for cannonballs.

1aa1carrey"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of Jim Carrey wearing giant prosthetic feet to Elton John's Oscars party. Thank you." Hmm. No promises, but let me see what I can do.

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October 02, 2012

Diamond in rough season: Marlins MVP vote (w/ poll); plus Dolphins sign Jabar Gaffney, D-Wade changes shoes, Cabrera/Yaz, pix 'n fantasy, SOPY Top 10 & more

[1) It is TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2. Find results of our latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter -- a number surprisingly high -- in blogpost directly below this new one. 2) Visit or video channel at YouTube/TheGregCote and see our latest mini-commentary on Saturday's big day by QB Stephen Morris and the Canes. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

MARLINS MVP: FINDING THE DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: A miserable Marlins season expires with games tonight and Wednesday, and most disappointed fans are grateful for it to end. From the Ozzie Guillen/Fidel mess to the Hanley trade to the injuries to Heath Bell to all the losing -- what a bleepin' nightmare. I know that when I 1aa1miaminvite you to select a team Most Valuable Player the inclination might be to vacate the award in disgust and say nobody deserves it. But we'll be bigger than that. (Won't we?) I think three men have most stood out above the mess. Mark Buerhle has been the starting pitcher they thought they were getting: Solid, consistent, 13-13 despite poor run support, a team-leading 202 innings and 3.74 ERA. Shortstop Jose Reyes has lived up to expectations, too: .284 with 37 doubles, 11 triples and 38 stolen bases. And outfielder Mike Stanton, despite missing a month injured, hit .290 with 37 homers and 86 RBIs. Who is the diamond in the rough season? Vote for the Marlins' 2012 MVP and say why.

JABAR GAFFNEY AN UPGRADE FOR DOLPHINS: Farewell, Legadu Naanee. If only you had more catches than vowels. Dolphins upgraded today by replacing Naanee with veteran Jabar Gaffney, 31, the ex-Gator. Should slot in as a nifty third WR after Brian "Sudden Star" Hartline and Davone Bess. Gaffney's past two seasons (with Broncos and Redskins) were his best, totaling 133 catches for 1,822 yards (13.5 average) and seven TDs.

D-WADE DUMPS NIKE FOR LA-NING: Heat star Dwyane Wade has left the Nike Jordan brand in favor of Beijing-based La-Ning in terms of shoe and apparel endorsements. Change effective Oct. 1.

Heat ranks among ESPN Top 500 players: LeBron James No. 1, of course, Dwyane Wade No. 8 and Chris Bosh 18. Others ranked: Ray Allen 64, Mario Chalmers 104, Shane Battier 107, Udonis Haslem 129, Joel Anthony 209, Mike Miller 236, James Jones 252, Norris Cole 256 and Rashard Lewis 257. What jumps out is Lewis' low ranking. Guaranteed, Heat expects a healthy-again Lewis to perform like a top-100 guy. Wouldn't surprise me if he won the starting power-forward role.

Poll result: Three rings the magic number for Heat's Big 3: In a recent blogpost we asked how many NBA championships it will take for the Heat 's Big 3 era to be fully seen as a success, and a plurality of 46.6 percent said three. Two rings got 26.7%, four or more got 17.5%, and only 9.2% said the one title already achieved.

ON CABRERA, YAZ AND THE TRIPLE CROWN: Carl Yastrzemski, last man to win baseball's Triple Crown 1aa1cabmin 1967, was my first boyhood idol. I never particularly liked Miguel Cabrera, the ex-Marlin. Now the Tigers' Cabrera (pictured) is poised to win the Triple Crown. With two games left he is plus-4 in average, plus-1 in homers and comfortably up in RBIs. I have mixed emotions, but ultimately I think Cabrera would be a worthy successor. Among active players only Albert Pujols has had a start to his career better than Cabrera's, and even that is arguable. Cooperstown beckons. If only he'd remained a Marlin. If only.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: Had a bit of a bounceback with my picks, but my fantasy slump continued. NFL predix: I went 10-5 straight-up last week and 7-7-1 vs. the spread, a modest rebound both ways, but numbers to neither encourage boasting nor chagrin. You killed me with those five picks last night, Romo. Way to come up big on a big stage, you Gagmeister. Greg's Lobos: We lost, 149-122, not getting enough beyond Aaron Rodgers' 35 points. You're usually in trouble when your second-leading scorer is your defense (Houston, 23).

AMERICA'S RYDER CUP COLLAPSE: I love to play golf (badly), like it as a TV sport and was riveted by the weekend U.S. vs. Europe Ryder Cup even though the match-play can be confusing. How could the Americans blow a 4 1/2-point lead entering Sunday!? What a choke. Seriously. Captain Davis Love III, face of the team Tiger Woods and culprit/goats like Jim Furyk should all be embarrassed. Get outta my country!

1aa1lilwLIL WAYNE AND ELVIS: Rapper Lil Wayne has topped Elvis Presley's record for most charted songs on the Billboard Hot 100, with 109. However a large asterisk is required. Only 42 of Wayne's songs were essentially his; all the rest found him credited as contributing, often in a minor way. Pictured is Elvis. Nah. It's Lil.

BIRK: RHYMES WITH...: Ravens center Matt Birk has broadcast his narrow-mindedness by writing an anti-gay marriage editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, apparently in reaction to teammate Brendan Ayanbadejo's public comments in support of marriage equality. I remember the simpler days when teammates argued about play-calling, not politics. Birk argues his stance does not represent homophobia. I guess it only represents him thinking he is somehow better than or at least entitled to more rights than gay people. I leave you with the delightful irony of a man with Birk's views making his living, as a football center, with another man's hands constantly under his crotch.

SOPY RANKINGS (WEEK 5): CANES' MORRIS LEAPS TO NO. 2 OFF RECORD DAY: This college football season marks the blog debut of our weekly State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings, which I 1aa1bjdcall the "Sunshine State Heisman" until a Heisman lawyer tells me to stop. Our chart encompasses the most productive seasons of any quarterback, running back or receiver from the state's seven FBS teams: Miami, Florida and FSU, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. (Note: Rankings consider only passing, rushing and receiving, not returns). Our formula awards one point per offensive yard gained running or receiving and a half-point per yard passing, plus six bonus points for touchdowns thrown or scored. Because our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye week take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. After Week 5 it's B.J. Daniels of South Florida (pictured) on top for a third straight week, with UM's Stephen Morris leaping to second after his record-setting 566 yards passing. The SOPY Top 10 entering Week 6:

Rank (LW)     Player, Team-pos.     SOPY Pts. Week=Year

1 (1)     B.J. Daniels, South Florida-qb     155.5 = 985.5

2 (4)     Stephen Morris, Miami-qb     315 = 902.5

3 (2)     E.J. Manuel, FSU-qb     136 = 830.5   

4 (3)     Jake Medlock, FIU-qb     DNP = 616.5

5 (6)     Chris Thompson, FSU-rb     98 = 606

6 (7)     Duke Johnson, Miami-rb     69 = 542

7 (5)     Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb     BYE = 527

8 (9)     Blake Bortles, UCF-qb     145.5 = 521.5

9 (--)     Phillip Dorsett, Miami-wr     208 = 484

10 (--)     Graham Wilbert, FAU-qb     96 = 460.5 

Bubble: Mike Gillislee, Florida-rb, 446

State of the State rankings: 1. FSU (5-0); 2. Florida (4-0); 3. Miami (4-1); 4. UCF (2-2); 5. South Florida (2-3); 6. FIU (1-4); 7. FAU (1-4).

BIEBER VOMITS ON STAGE: Hours after the Dolphins left Arizona Justin Bieber performed in Glendale Sunday and vomited on stage. Click here if you dare. The teen- and preteen female audience didn't seem to mind. In fact I hear Bieber's expelled chunks are now selling on eBay.

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