July 10, 2015

Heat signs Stoudemire, new study says Dolphins fans worst in NFL; plus Jason Pierre-Paul privacy breach poll and Donald Trump poll; also, Luol Deng's special video, the wonder of Jose & more

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

1aa1acubanmark1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 11. Belated happy birthday to one of my heroes, Mavis Staples, who turned 76 yesterday. 2) DeAndre Jordan, after verbally agreeing to free-agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks, reverses field and re-signs with L.A. Clippers. Fun! Always a delight when Mark Cuban (pictured) is angry and helpless. 3) #BoycottArianaGrande. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Cuba cruises and Micky Arison poll, ESPN 'Body' poll, Pat Riley's revenge, Fins seat sale, ode to Serena, Weighing The Fish, Fins/Canes betting odds & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

DOLFANS CALLED WORST IN NFL: Hey don't blame the messenger. I'm just passing this along. A new study by Atlanta's Emory University rates NFL teams 1 through 32 in "fan equity rankings," and Miami is ranked 32nd. Emory calls it "a measure of brand equity that is based on fans' willingness to financially support their team ... based on the average Fan Equity score for the last three years." Dallas is ranked No. 1. Click here for the story including full rankings and methodology.

HEAT SIGNS AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE: Heat yesterday struck a bargain deal with former Knick Amar'e 1aa1aamaresStoudemire, just one day after signing guard Gerald Green, 29, a 6-8 "young veteran," to a one-year deal at the minimum $1.3 million -- another bargain for Miami. Green averaged 11.9 points for Phoenix last season including 35 percent from 3-point land. He'll likely back up Dwyane Wade (who officially re-signed, as expected) at shooting guard and offer the needed threat from 3ville. Adding Green also suggests the club may be looking at rookie swingman and No. 1 draft pick Justise Winslow more as a small forward than a guard, at least initially. In Stoudemire, 32, the Heat get a man five years or so past his best days, but a man who, if his knees stay sound, still has offensive punch and can be a valuable backup big man in the rotation, a 6-10 power forward/center.

Poll result: Cuba cruises don't hurt Arison's image: We asked if Carnival offering cruises to Cuba negatively impacts your opinion of Heat (and Carnival) owner Mark Cuban, and it was 79.6 percent no, 17.4% yes 3.0% undecided.

JASON PIERRE-PAUL WAS WRONGED. WHO'S TO BLAME: A Giants defensive end from Deerfield Beach is celebrating the Fourth of July in Miami, does something dangerous and careless with fireworks and ends 1aa1aadams
1aa1ajpp
1aa1ajacksonmemup hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Thursday it is reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter that Pierre-Paul has had his right index finger amputated. Schefter knows this because someone at Jackson (apparently) leaked the player's private medical records, which would violate laws, and Schefter posted those private records on Twitter, which, to me, skirts the line of journalistic ethics. Jackson is investigating on its end. Nothing yet from ESPN yet on Schefter's actions. I'm curious what you think. Is it no big deal because the info on the amputation would have come out eventually? Was Schefter just doing his job? For me the bottom line is, the law is the law and even a prominent NFL player has a right to medical privacy. Your turn. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

GOLF AND POLITICS: THE DONALD TRUMP MESS: I did it. I touched the lightning rod that is Donald Trump. As well as the lightning rod you often get when sports and politics mix. I did it with my latest column -- click on Golf Should Say No to Trump to read in full -- and the email reaction has been 1aa1agolftrumpvoluminous and largely vitriolic. A representative email from Vince F of Miami (last name withheld): "Hey ass-wipe, Trump is a Billionaire, you are still paying off mortgages." Then it got nasty. Vince, I was not aware great wealth made someone right and that relying on a paycheck made someone wrong. At least you're not materialistic or anything! (Quick aside: My mortgage happens to be paid off and I just paid cash for a brand new car. Does that make me a better person to you? More right?) I believe and wrote that the PGA Tour and other golf entities should disassociate themselves from Trump-owned golf courses because of his recent prejudicial, broad-swipe comments ("They're rapists...") about Mexican immigrants. NBC, Macy's, Univision and others already have done so. Unfortunately that would include the annual WGC/Doral tournament. Many emailers are on a tangent about immigration, as if what I wrote was about that topic. It wasn't, but as it happens I'm for strong borders. On very few topics am I more conservative. Anyway, the strong reaction to my column leads me to take a pulse here, too, with a blog poll. This poll is not about Trump's presidential bid. This is not about immigration. This is, specifically, about whether golf should continue to partner with a man who said what he did about Mexicans, and without regret. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.


1aa1ajosefJOSE STAYS MASTERFUL AT HOME: Jose Fernandez this week vs. the Reds made his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery, and his second strong, winning one. The Marlins had been losers of four straight and desperately needed him to continue his at-home perfection, and he delivered. Jose is now 14-0 with a 1.17 ERA pitching in Miami in his young MLB career. Astounding. Meanwhile:

Marlins record this year under fired manager Mike Redmond: 16-22, .421

Marlins record this year under his replacement Dan Jennings: 20-28, .417

Poll result: ESPN 'Body' issue is about narcissism: We asked your view of ESPN's annual 'Body' display of athletes nude but somewhat covered, and it was 49.0 percent negative (narcissism) vs. 35.5% positive (artfully done). The other 15.5% were undecided.

LUOL DENG'S SPECIAL VIDEO: The Heat forward thinks bigger than basketball. He was born in Sudan (now South Sudan) and cares deeply for his heritage. Four years after its independence, South Sudan suffers through violence, hunger and a collapsing economy. Luol's video is worth a minute of your time:

 

1aa1acroweagle"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's good but would be even better if occasionally you would show a picture of a crow hitching a ride on the back of an eagle. Would that be possible? Thank you." Dear Reader: No promises, but let me get right on that.

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May 14, 2015

An evolving newspaper industry redefines itself; plus Wizards' John Wall and gang signs, LeBatard radio show preps for TV, 'Miamians For LeBron,' Dee Train, Kiper's 2016 Big Board, Brady/Dolphins-impact verdict, assimilating bears & more

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

1aa1arock1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 14. Happy birthday to my youngest son. Love you, Michael! 2) Miami royalty: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson meets up with Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (pictured) the other night in L.A. after Stanton put one clean out of Dodger Stadium. 3) Patriots issue lengthy rebuttal to Wells Report. Click here for story and link to Pats' response. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Brady punishment with poll, Marlins bench closer, rooting for LeBron, updated Super Bowl odds & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dee Train: A new blog feature: Starting today, "Dee Train" will be a daily blog update on the Marlins' Dee Gordon as he bids to become baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. We'll do it as long as his average remains at .385 or higher. (Yes, people who believe in jinxes and superstitions will hate this). Gordon updated season: .426 (58-for-136) after 4-for-5 last night. Next: Friday vs. ATL. 

'Miamians For LeBron' bandwagon forming; good seats still available: In today's latest column, on how these NBA playoffs are refreshing and good for the league, I explore further the fractured relationship between Miami and LeBron James. I propose -- tongue in cheek, I'd remind those less discerning -- that continuing animus is unfounded. Click on Miamians For LeBron to read column in full.

AS AN EVOLVING NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY REDEFINES ITSELF: I offer below the 9-minute video "We Are McClatchy," released earlier today. McClatchy is the parent company of the Miami Herald among many other media entities, and the video describes ways in which the beleaguered newspaper industry is continuing to refashion itself in the digital age. I recommend the video to anyone who cares about the Miami Herald, past, present and future, and to anyone who cares about the American newspaper industry and where it is headed.

 

IS WIZARDS' JOHN WALL THROWING UP GANG SIGNS?: As a spokesman for the Old White Community I can tell you I don't know gang signs from Adam. Somebody says the word "gang" to me and I start 1aa1ajwallhumming Spanky And Our Gang's "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" from 1967. But I can tell you a lot of people much closer to street level than me are convinced Washington point guard John Wall (pictured) was throwing up a gang signs for the Bloods during last night's playoff game, augmented by shouting the phrase "Big B's." Google Wall's name and "gang sign" to see the stories, video and Twitter references. (Wall had been involved in a similar gang-sign controversy while at Kentucky). Should we care? I'd imagine the Wizards and the NBA office do. Here we are in the midst of a great playoffs, with all four conference semifinal series at 3-2 and multiple Game 7s maybe looming, and we're talking about a star player and possible gang affiliation. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this, whether it be an explanation from Wall, admonishment or discipline. I'd be surprised if something didn't.

1aa1alebatardfusionLEBATARD RADIO SHOW READY FOR TV DEBUT: You've lent him your ears. Now he'd like your eyes, too. ESPN Radio's Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz is preparing to make its television debut on the Fusion network this coming Tuesday May 19. The show began preparing/rehearsing for televised radio by broadcasting from its new studio at the Clevelander on South Beach earlier this week on 1aa1afusionTuesday, with Le Batard assuring listeners the content of the show would not change and making the distinction that it would be a radio show on television, not a TV show on radio. The logo for the new show is pictured. From Wade Beckett, Fusion’s chief programming officer: "Dan's smart-yet-irreverent take on sports and the stories making headlines perfectly aligns with Fusion’s desire to present this young, diverse generation with an array of dynamic voices that have an authentic point of view and, at the end of the day, are just are fun to watch." Says LeBatard: "We are pumped about unleashing the primitive Stugotz on a new and unsuspecting audience. And maybe we will talk some sports, too. Our goal is to not totally break Fusion. But the show will be better on the days we do." I'll continue to be a once-a-week guest on the show, unless Fusion convinces Dan to fire me. I'll be in the Tuesday slot although my on-TV debut will  be Thursday May 21.

NOTABLE FROM KIPER'S FIRST 2016 DRAFT 'BIG BOARD': Mel's first Double-B top-25 for ESPN.com 1aa1abosajoeylooking ahead to '16 NFL Draft starts off notably with Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (pictured) No. 1 overall -- notable because Bosa is from St. Thomas Aquinas High and is the son of John, the Dolphins' 1987 first-round pick. Also notable: No. 3--Florida State S Jalen Ramsey; No. 5--Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves; and No. 9--Cal QB Jared Goff, the highest quarterback ranked. Sorry, Canes. No UM'ers listed.

Poll result: Most think Brady punishment impact on Dolphins won't be major: We asked about the impact of Tom Brady's 4-game suspension on the Dolphins and it was a photo finish between "moderate" (46.1 percent) and "minor" (45.7%). Only 8.2% voted "major."

1aa1abearbar"DEAR GREG...": "I heard a TV report that in Alaska, and now spreading elsewhere across America, bears have begun assimilating and are now interacting with humans in ways never before thought possible. Can you explain, please?" Dear Reader: Sorry, but I have no idea what you're talking about.

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May 12, 2015

Dolphins Factor: How much does Brady suspension benefit Miami? Poll. Vote now!; plus adjusted Super Bowl odds, benching Cishek, rooting for LeBron, bacon roses & more

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

1aa1apats1) It is WEDNESDAY, MAY 13. New England Patriots today changed their Twitter avatar to what's pictured at right in a show of support for suspended QB Tom Brady. Click on image to see enlarged version. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Brady suspended and impact on Dplphins, new 'Weighing The Fish', Heat draft predix, Hot BUtton Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1abradygreg"Another embarrassment for the league. Terrible mixup. The NFL inadvertently suspended TV's Greg Brady instead." --Greg Cote

Marlins blow another one: Steve Cishek blew yet another save and game out in Los Angeles last night, Marlins fans waiting up 'til 1 a.m. only to endure another mound implosion. Time for a change. As we speak Mike Redmond is shopping the discount aisle at Closers 'R Us. [Update: Cischek demoted. For now, it's closer-by-committee].

Adjusted Super Bowl odds, post-Deflategate: New England, assuming Tom Brady's four-game suspension is upheld on appeal, is now a 10-1 pick via Bovada to repeat as Super Bowl champ, down from 15-2. Seattle at 11-2, Green Bay 7-1 and Indianapolis 8-1 now are above the Pats; Dallas also is 10-1. Miami is now 33-1, tied for 12th best, up from 40-1 because of the Brady suspension. Patriots remain AFC East favorites at 2-3, with Dolphins and Bills now both 17-4 and Jets 7-1.

BRADY PUNISHMENT IS FAIR, TURNS UP HEAT ON DOLPHINS, PHILBIN: NFL took a long time with the Wells Report investigation but then moved quickly in suspending QB Tom Brady four games,
1aa1abrady 1aa1adolphinsfining
the Patriots $1 million and making New England forfeit first-round (2016) and fourth-round ('17) draft picks. Click on Deflategate Penalties Inflate Dolphins Chances to read my latest column in full. My reaction to the vrerdict was two-fold: 1) The NFL got it right. The punishment is neither too lenient nor too harsh. The penalties would have been lighter based solely on the report's finding of "probable" guilt, but were increased because Brady lied and then did not cooperate fully with the investigation. 2) The impact on the Dolphins. It's a big chance, erasing your nemesis-team's star quarterback for a quarter of the season. It turns up the heat on Joe Philbin to make this a winning season and a playoff season. The AFC East title should be considered in play. I'm curious the weight you attach to a four-gamer Brady suspension in terms of its impact on the Dolphins this year. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

1aa1ajameslTHE BLASPHEMY OF ROOTING FOR LEBRON JAMES: Watching Sunday's Cavs-Bulls game at home with my son, I pumped a fist and smiled when LeBron James hit that buzzer-beating, winning shot. My kid looked at me like I'd just sold the family dog for crack cocaine. Is it alright for Heat fans or anyone living in South Florida to be rooting for LeBron this postseason, or does that expose one as a traitor? I explore today in an online-only column. Click on Miamians For LeBron Bandwagon to read the column in full. (Good seats still available...).

1aa1abaconroses"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's good, but I'd like it even better if occasionally you'd show a picture of a dozen roses made of bacon. Thank you." Dear Reader: If only they made such a thing.

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April 24, 2015

Who've been Dolphins' greatest late-round draft finds? 12 choices, you pick top 4. Poll's close. Vote now!; plus Fins 'Stonewall Day' update (uh oh Dion Jordan), new 'Back In My Day' audio, Fraser statue unveiled, Jose = 'Citizen K'ing' & more

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

1aa1aincognito1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 25. "Hi I'm Richie Incognito of the Buffalo Bills. What was that you were saying about how 'Bullygate' would ruin me?" 2) No Random Evidence notes column in print this Sunday, but we'll have its online brother, our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10, here on Sunday as usual. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why Dolphins schedule lays out favorably, Greg Jennings, Mike Redmond, Jose Fernandez, Bob Dylan concert review & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

The new 'Back In My Day': Armpits: My latest Back In My Day segment from the Dan LeBatard Show:

Back In My Day - Armpits - 4-23-15

WHO HAVE BEEN BEST OF DOLPHINS' LATE-ROUND 'FINDS'? 12 CHOICES, YOU PICK TOP 4: The NFL draft was 17 rounds for a long time before paring to seven rounds in 1994. So defining what "late rounds" 1aa1adoldraft 1aa1adolphinseven means is not easy. For the purpose of this poll I make it fifth round or later. I offer you a dozen 5-or-lower guys who worked out the best for the Dolphins, better than anyone could have expected, and invite you to vote for your top four (4) -- the Finest of the Finds. Factor the round number into your thinking if you'd like. For me there are two easy choices and a clear third, but the fourth spot should be interesting. The list is alphabetical. Vote, say why and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Deciphering four-vote results: The maximum vote for any one player would be 25 percent if everyone cast the max four votes. A percentage over 25 indicates some people have voted only for that player. Multiply a total times four for an idea of total percentage of ballots that are including that player.

THE WIZARD COMES HOME: STATUE COMPLETES FRASER'S LEGACY: Short of a College World Series game, the days don't get much bigger than Friday was for University of Miami baseball. The No. 13-ranked 1aa1afraser statueHurricanes host No. 12 Florida State to begin a three-game series between rivals both angling for the 1aa1afraszerACC crown and a CWS trip to Omaha. But the game itself isn't the half of it. UM unveiled a bronze statue of longtime former coach Ron Fraser, the program patriarch who saved UM baseball, whose imagination saw the stadium built, and who retired in 1992 as one of the most important figures in his sport -- the Wizard of College Baseball -- not just here. I only wish the statue, some four or five years in the planning, had been in place before Ron died, at age 79, in January 2013. Here is an excerpt from my column: "I have always regarded Fraser and the Dolphins’ Don Shula as two of a kind in South Florida sports history, by themselves on that top echelon of combined coaching longevity and excellence — each enriched by the company of the other. Shula and Fraser both became a part of our life’s timeline, a comforting constant. We grew up, or old, with them. They were champions of their sport, but they also championed us. Unblemished by anything but good, they did South Florida proud." Click on The Wizard Comes Home for the entire column.

THE TWO INTERESTING THINGS FROM DOLPHINS 'STONEWALL DAY' PRESS CONFERENCE: It was well-attended by the media (including 1aa1ahickey
1aa1atannebnbaumme) yesterday at Dolphins camp in Davie, even though it was, as expected, largely fruitless. It was the Dolphins' annual pre-draft press conference, at which Miami roster architects Mike Tannenbaum, Dennis Hickey and assistant GM Eric Stokes parried media questions to impart as little information as possible, secretively and painstakingly offering no real clue as to what the Fins are thinking or where they may be leaning with the 14th overall pick. (Tannenbaum and Hickey are pictured in a contest to see who can stare off into the distance most intently). However here were two things I found interesting:

1. Heart and Dion Jordan: Lots of talk about wanting heart and passion and love of football in a draftee, so the Fins execs were asked if Dion Jordan missing this week's voluntary conditioning sessions called into question his own heart. Awkward silence followed. So did an awkward glance between Tannenbaum and Hickey. "This is pre-draft," Hickey finally blurted, diverting the topic. Clearly the Dolphins are extremely disappointed in their third-year defensive end but not quite ready to go there publicly yet.

2. The Hickey/Tannenbaum relationship: Executive vice president of football operations Tannenbaum would seem to out-title general manager Hickey, but Hickey contractually has final say over the roster, and Tannenbaum confirmed that. Asked who ends the debate or breaks a tie if there is not a consensus on whom to draft, Tannenbaum answered, "Dennis does."

1aa1acitizenkane 1aa1aCITIZENJOSE
JOSE FERNANDEZ: CITIZEN K'ING:
Marlins young ace Jose Fernandez, Cuba-born and here since 2008, officially became a U.S. citizen Friday morning in a ceremony for 140 naturalized South Floridians in Kendall. My new nickname for him: Citizen K'ing (patent pending). Pronounced "kay-ing"; 'K' as in strikeout. Reads like King as in mound royalty. Plays off the 1941 Orson Welles film classic, Citizen Kane. You're welcome, Miami!

Moderation, please, on Marlins: When they were 3-11 owner Jeffrey Loria was panic-stricken and (reportedly) had to be talked out of prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond. Now they've won three in a row and it's happy-day-are-here-again? Moderation, please. Long, looong season. Even the good teams lose 60 to 70 games.

1aa1agoldpig 1aa1awoldporc"DEAR GREG...": "You blog's pretty good but would be even better if occasionally you would show photos of bizarre hybrid animals, such as either a half-wolf/half-porcupine or maybe  a half-golden retriever/half-pig. Thank you." Dear Reader: You may be certifiably insane.

 

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April 06, 2015

Another calamitous Opening Day for Marlins in rained-on loss; plus are Marlins a playoff team? New poll. Vote now; also Heat down in flames, why Duke wins, nattily dressed animals & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 6. Hope y'all had a Happy Easter in celebrartion of the original comeback king, Jesus. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hut Button Top 10, Duke-Wisconsin poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins and Jeffrey Loria: I visited with the controversial team owner for my column in Sunday's season-preview section. Many still dislike Loria, but will a big-spending offseason help his image? Click on Judging Jeffrey to read.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Reeling Heat lose yet again. Outlook entering MondayA daily blog feature as one team fights to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 10th place at 34-43 (L4) after last night's 112-89 loss at Indiana, 1 game from 8th, 0 games (tiebreaker) from 9th with 5 games left (next Tuesday vs. Charlotte). Heat playoff likelihood: 49.2% (down 11.3) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Eliminated. 2 games left (next Thursday vs. Boston).

Check us out on Twitter, Instagram and Vine for new pix and vids from today's Marlins Opening Day. 

OPENING DAY! MARLINS UNFURL 2015 SEASON: Update: Marlins lose opener 2-1 to Braves this evening. More calamity. Field rained on when retractable roof doesn't close in time, and soggy field partly blamed for loss. Watch for my column from Marlins Park posting online very soon. Original post: There are a few things the National Pastime still does better than the almighty NFL. The all-star game is one. Another is Opening Day. The start of football never seems special the way to opening of baseball does. So the red, white and blue bunting 1aa1agstanton 1aa1adayopeningwill be out at Marlins Park late this afternoon as the new-look, high-hope Marlins host the Braves. Miami has made the playoffs only two of 22 previous franchise seasons (albeit winning the World Sereis both times), yet optimism helps welcome this season. Countering that: Baseball remains the toughest playoff ticket in American sports, even with the addition of the wild-card games. Can the Marlins hang close enough to contention until Jose Fernandez's summer return from surgery? While we wait to see, at-bats by Giancarlo Stanton (pictured) will continue to be some of the best minute or two in all of sports. I'll be at the park today, on one of those days I like my job. Meantime, take in a dip in our poll and help set expectations for this Marlins season. Remember, not asking what you hope will happen, but what you honestly expect will. Vote and say why.

ILL-TIMED HEAT SWOON: Four straight losses now and seven of the past nine after last night's embarrassed showing at Indiana have the Heat now struggling to make the postseason (see Playoff Chase above). Miami may need a 4-1 finish to do it and has four home games left to feather the cause. That would be a a win Tuesday vs. playoff-chase rival Charlotte, a split of the following games vs. playoff-qualified Chicago and Toronto, then a regular-season-ending sweep of East bottom feeders Orlando and (at) Philadelphia. Little margin of error now. Want the playoffs, Heat? Act like it.

1aa1adukewisDUKE, WISCONSIN: GREAT CONTRASTS. COIN, PLEASE?: The unexpected elimination of toppled unbeaten Kentucky has left tonight's NCAA Tournament men's championship game without a clear or even agreed-upon favorite. Some etting odds have Wisconsin favored by one point, most have it dead-even. Duke seeks its fifth national title, following 1991, '92, 2001 and '10. Wisconsin's only previous national championship was in early-days 1941. Tonight's event misses the cheering for, or against, Kentucky to go 40-0, but it leaves us an intriguing contrast of a matchup. Duke's searing defense vs. Wisconsin's big-scoring O. Young Blue Devils led by freshman Jahlil Okafor vs. veteran Badgers led by senior Frank Kaminsky. Buttoned-down Duke vs. free-spirited Wisconsin. Badgers may have the greater incentive, aiming for a first modern-era title and losing to Duke at home in December and also in last year's NCAA semifinals. But give me Mike Krzyzewski and his terrific defense tonight.

Playoff result: Duke by narrowest of margins: We asked, and you voted 50.7 percent for a Duke championship and 49.3% for Wisconsin.

1aa1aanimals
"DEAR GREG...":
"Your blog's OK but would be even better if occasionally you would show a picture of what the world might look like if animals were of supreme intelligence, walked upright, and dressed even better than we humans do. Thank you." Dear Reader: What an oddball request!

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March 12, 2015

Suh Effect poll: Setting the bar on Dolphins expectations. Vote now!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, verdict on Whiteside, Heat/Panthers playoff-chase update, robot sportswriters & more

1aa1abryanb
1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 12. Congrats to my friend Bryan Baucom (pictured) for his 500th softball coaching victory with St. Thomas Aquinas High. He also is offensive coordinator for STA's vaunted football program -- one of South Florida's most successful prep coaches. 2) Feeling sexist or shallow? Click here for a video on hottest quarterback WAGs. (Yes, Lauren Tannehill gets a mention). 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dirty Town: On Suh and Whiteside with poll, Canes/FIU basketball, Marlins future, delights of Twitter & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details to come.

Postseason hoops: Canes tonight, FIU eliminated: Miami won its ACC Tournament opener last night over Virginia Tech, 59-49, in Greensboro, N.C., thanks to Sheldon McClellan's 16 points, strong defense and an awful opponent. But UM likely must beat a very good Notre Dame tonight at 9 to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. FIU also won yesterday, beating Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in the Conference USA Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., but the Golden Panthers were eliminated this afternoon by Texas-El Paso, 83-71, to finish their season 16-17. 

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Thursday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 29-35 (W1), 1/2 game from 7th and 1/2 game from 9th with 18 games left (next Friday at Toronto). Heat playoff likelihood: 40.4% (up 11.9) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 9th place at 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th and 1 point from 10th with 16 games left (next tonight vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.5% (up 0.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

SUH IMPACT: SETTING THE BAR ON DOLPHINS EXPECTATIONS: I attended Ndamukong Suh's Dolphins introduction yesterday and smiled when he was asked about the pressure one him. The question was
1aa1andammisdirected. The pressure is not on Suh. It is on (more than ever) coach Joe Philbin. As I write of the Suh signing in today's column -- love quoting myself! -- "It does not guarantee you will win or succeed. What it does is leave you out of excuses to explain why if you don't." So the question for you is how the Suh signing has impacted how you feel about the Dolphins and their chances this coming season. As I also note -- click on A Man Named Suh for the entire column -- the Pats are still the Pats and the active Bills and Jets both have improved, too. Factoring all of that, let's set an early bar on expectations for the 2015 Dolphins. Take a dip in our poll. Vote not for the option you hope for, but for the option you realistically expect, and say why.

1aa1adansuhPictorial: Behind-the-scenes photos from Ndamukong Suh's first day as a Dolphin: Click here to access around 50 behind-the-scenes photographs from Ndamukong Suh's first official day as a Miami Dolphin on Wednesday, courtesy the team. One of the photos, of Suh meeting Dan Marino, is pictured at left.

Poll result: There is concern for Whiteside's Heat future due to temper: We asked if you were very, somewhat or not concerned that Hassan Whiteside's temper and immaturity were imperiling his future with the Heat. It was close, with 38.5 percent voting "somewhat," 37.8 "very" and 23.7 "not." That's 76.3% expressing some concern.

1aa1arobotTHE SINISTER RISE OF ROBOT SPORTSWRITERS: Click here for the sad backstory. Well, probably it's more weird than sad. The robot actually is a software program that is fed data about, say, a game result, processes that information, and produces a news story based on the data provided. So, Big Brother is not only watching, now he's writing, too. I think my job is safe (for now), but who knows? Pretty soon there  might be an app for that.

WHEN SOMETHING SAD TURNS HEARTWARMING: Some fans at a middle-school basketball game in Kenosha, Wisc., were teasing a cheerleader who has Down Syndrome. Three players walked off the court to confront the bullies. Story here.

1aa1agronkbowl"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a picture of Rob Gronkowski holding a bowling pin. Thank you." Dear Reader: I'll try, but can't imagine where I'd get one. 

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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 04, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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August 19, 2014

4 ways Marlins can keep Stanton. Will they? Poll. Vote!; plus Mo'Ne Davis, Johnny Middle Finger, wax Beyonce, Ray Allen, Stitches & more

1aa1akanyepaul1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20. R.I.P., James Foley. 2) Former Dolphins great Jason Taylor will join Mike Florio's 'Pro Football Talk' show this season on NBCSN. Taylor will appear Mondays as well as other days. 3) Kanye West and Paul McCartney reportedly are collaborating on new songs. Hmm. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge video, Hot Button Top 10, unrest in Ferguson, verdict on D'Onofrio & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1amonedavisMo'Ne Davis doomed to life of spiraling decline: Sad to report that Little League World Series star Mo'Ne Davis appears on the cover the new Sports Illustrated, subjecting her to the infamous S.I. Jinx and a life of cascading woe.

Personal radio note: I have informed The Ticket (104.3 & 790) that I won't be back on the station's Dolphins pregame show this season. Have done it past three or four years and wanted change of pace. Also find that my increasing role with LeBatard show sufficiently sates my radio appetite.  

WHAT MARLINS MUST DO TO KEEP STANTON: In my latest column I make the case why Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton should be considered the frontrunner for the NL MVP award -- a case further bolstered by last night's game-winning hit. His nearest competitiors have fallen or are flawed. Mostly, he deserves it on his own merit, and his league-leading 1aa1agia132 homers and 88 RBIs are just the start. Click on G-Spot for the entire column. In it I touch on but want to explore further here what Miami must do to keep Stanton long-term. Many baseball experts continue to believe Stanton will be traded before he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season because the Marlins don't think he'll re-sign here long-term. I don't think that is as true as it once was, and I believe the Marlins also sense hope that wasn't there before. Stanton, for his part, has smartly remained shades of silent to vague on his future, which would be a big distraction if  he let it. I see four major factors in what I call the continuing, quiet courtship of Giancarlo Stanton: 1) MONEY. I put this first because it is most obvious, not neccesarily most 1aa1agia2important. Miami only has a chance to keep him if its offer is market-competitive, and that will soar above the $25 million-a-year mark, because so many big spenders (Dodgers, Red Sox, et al) will want him. The Marlins let Miguel Cabrera get away. It cannot happen again. The club for some time now has planned to make Stanton a long-term offer after this season. 2) TEAM. What's the roster surrounding Stanton as you bid to re-sign him? This season is encouraging. That Miami is still in the playoff hunt even without Jose Fernandez can't but please Stanton. The Marlins added pieces, got better. As manager Mike Redmond told me yesterday, "Last year was tough for him, it wasn't fair to him. We didn't have guys around him to help him out. Now we do. It has energized him. He's happier. He's smiling. He wants to be part of a winning team." 3) COMMITMENT. This has not been owner Jeffrey Loria's strongsuit but it is where he must step up. The talent-adding and improvement must continue; Stanton must feel like he has a chance to win a World Series here. How will Loria's commitment show itself moving forward? Free agents after this season will include Royals ace pitcher James Shields. Will Loria surrender to the high-payroll teams or will he make a serious run at him? You know Stanton will be watching. 4. FANS. It matters. The crowd and atmosphere at Marlins Park has its role in all this. Stanton is an L.A. guy. The Dodgers average 47,000 fans a night. Miami can't compete with that but can do much better than its current average of 21,575 ranking 27th of 30 teams. TV guy Tommy Hutton blasted Marlins fans Sunday night for not appreciating Stanton, who was taken out of a big win late in the game after a home run and four RBIs in the midst of an MVP season. It was the perfect spot for an ovation; there was none. Redmond and the team know what they have in Stanton. Fans need to know it ... and show it. SUMMARY: The Marlins' unique advantage is that they can (and will) offer Stanton a contract extension now, meaning after this season, two years ahead of when other teams could. Doesn't mean he'll take it; he may be determined to test free agency. But it might be awfully tough for him to turn down what would amount to a $50 million head start on whatever riches are in his future. Miami cannot force Stanton to re-up if he wants out; as club president David Samson says, "It takes two to make a deal." But the club will make every effort to sign him, first, or, failing that, to get a trade-windfall in return. They'd demand proven talent in trade such as Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers or Yoenis Cespedes from the Bosox. OK, now the poll. We aren't asking what you hope will happen but what you honestly think is most likely to. We asked this same question in January 2013 and will be interested to compare results. Vote and say why.


Cardiac Fish:
 Marlins lead MLB in walk-off wins (11), one-run wins (32) and wins in last at-bat (21), after adding to each catgeory last night.

ON JOHNNY MIDDLE FINGER: So Johnny Manziel is playing badly in the Browns' preseason loss to 1aa1afingerWashington Sunday night and the Redskins are chirping to get under his skin and it works and Manziel flips a bird at their bench. (I bring you the screen grab without pixilating the gesture because anybody who's driven on I-95 has seen it). Johnny Football leads the NFL in jersey sales, but, we are reminded again, not in leadership or maturity. He's just a rookie, but you get the feeling he'll be doing the same s--- when he's 35. "I can tell you what the statement was that set him off," Redskins safety Ryan Clark said this morning on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show. "[It] was, 'This isn't college anymore and these people are faster than you are.'" It's a valuable lesson for Browns' opponents: You needn't sack Manziel to get to him.

ON THE RAY ALLEN HOME CONTROVERSY: The trespassers in the former Heat player's Coral Gables 1aa1aallenhomehome (pictured; story here) is an interesting tale, and a quandary. To the cops who did not initially file charges against the seven teens (all 18 or 19), it was sort of dismissed as a harmless prank. No forced entry, nothing taken, end of story. But Allen, his family and lawyer are treating it like a traumatic home invasion and pressing the case, demanding justice. The State Attorney's Office is considering charges. I see Allen's point. Seven strangers, young adults with flashlights, are in his house uninvited at 2:30 in the morning, frightening his wife and young kids? Sorry, but that sounds like a crime to me. Dumbass kids who meant no harm? Maybe. You still don't do what they did. There also seem to be racial overtones in this. These were seven Hispanic teens from a wealthy neighborhood in a black man's home. I wonder if seven black teens in a white man's home would have been treated as such a harmless prank?


1aa1abeyonce"DEAR GREG...":
"...your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a photo of a wax Beyonce' standing with insouciance among a flock of disinterested wax geese from Madame Tussaud's in London. Thank you." Dear reader: I'll get right on it.

CATCHING UP WITH STITCHES: Remember Stitches, the local rapper who flared into 1aa1abrickpublic consciousness during the past NBA season when his song, "Brick In Yo Face," caught the attention of the Heat's lockerroom? (A scene from the video is pictured). I'd have imagined that Stitches' proverbial 15 minutes of fame would have expired by now, but his oddball cult celebrity is exhumed and rescussitated in a lengthy piece in the latest Broward New Times. Click here to read. It is everything you wanted to know about this guy, and probably much, much more.

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July 16, 2014

Dolphins vs. Heat vs. Canes poll extended through today only. Vote now!; plus ESPYs, World Cup in 245 seconds, Kate Upton & more

1aa1amandela1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 19. Thinking of the late, great Nelson Mandela (pictured), who would have turned 96 on Friday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Post-LeBron Heat outlook poll, Stanton/Jeter/All-Star break, Pouncey's latest woe, Hot Button Top 10, my ill-timed vacation & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Word of the day: balter: To dance gracelessly, without particular art or skill, but perhaps with some enjoyment.

WHOSE TOWN IS IT, ANYWAY? HAS LEBRON'S EXIT OPENED THE DOOR?: One of the little-considered 1aa1akingmiamibyproducts of LeBron James leaving Miami is the idea that, if this had become a "basketball town" over the past four years largely because of him ... is it still? (Was it ever?) Do the Dolphins now have a large opportunity to reclaim what once was theirs? I know this poll question is tough for some of you because many of us, me included, follow more than one local team closely and hate to choose. Still, you know your heart and gut feeling must start somewhere. The poll is limited to South Florida's four major pro teams plus UM football. Apologies to others, but this clearly is our Big 5 teams. And, apologies to the Marlins and Cats, but we imagine a three-team race for the crown. So, post-LeBron and moving forward, which of our biggest teams do you follow most closely or care about the most? King James is gone. In his wake, who's our King Team? Vote and say why.

Heat fans still optimistic in wake of LeBron departure: We asked in the previous blogpost, and 70.7 percent of you said you remain optimistic about Miami entering this coming NBA season, versus 15.9% who are pessimistic. The other 13.4% were undecided.

ESPN, NORMALLY LOATH TO SELF-PROMOTE, ROLLS OUT THE ESPYS: I've never fully embraced the ESPYS as necessary annual awards -- sports has too many already -- but here they came again last night, 1aa1aespyswith Drake (pictured) hosting. ESPN leads the league in self-promotion, and the ESPYS are the Worldwide Leader at its preening best. Not many Miami/South Florida athletes among finalists in this year's 34 categories. I wonder if LeBron James, up for best NBA player, would have thanked Miami fans if he'd won? New Heatnik Shabazz Napier was up for best championship performance while with UConn, Serena Williams from Palm Beach was up for best female tennis player; and IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, was up for best driver. Only Hunter-Reay won. An auction benefitting the V Foundation for cancer research was held, in conjunction with the ESPYS, and when last I checked the high bid among 258 items was $46,000 to watch a Mavs game with owner Mark Cuban. (I'd pay at least that much to not sit next to Cuban for two hours). Bargain: For a mere $3,050 you could watch a Heat game with Dan Le Batard, Papi and Stugotz, although I'd imagine Stugotz will scalp his ticket to a broker and miss the game. (For $1.99 you could smoke a cigar with me in my garage, if you bring the cigars).

THE ENTIRE WORLD CUP IN 245 SECONDS: Click here for a 4 minute 5 second video that summarizes the 2014 World Cup. For futbol aficionados, it may be emotional. For casual fans, it may further whet the appetite. For soccer agnostics, it may (hopefully) offer a glimpse of what they've been missing that so enthralls so much of the world.

1aa1akateupton"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but I feel like it has been a long time since you've had a gratuitously sexy photo of Kate Upton. Can this be remedied?" Dear Reader: That depends. Is there a gratuity in it for me?

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