May 23, 2016

Dolfans optimistic? After all the changes, how many games will Dolphins win in 2016? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated), woman chooses death over Trump or Clinton, your verdict on ESPN & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 23. I'm back! Spent a long weekend in the Bahamas. More on that later. 2) Good story here by ESPN's Pablo S. Torre on the friendship between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Not sure I entirely buy the premise that the friendship is all that controversial. But an interesting read nonetheless. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Is-ESPN-in-trouble poll, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, proof Joe Public still hates Dolphins, your pessimism on Bosh's return, FA Cup champs list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins, the new one, on how Fins must earn back the faith and trust they've lost. Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason.

DolfanHOW OPTIMISTIC (OR NOT) ARE DOLPHINS FANS RIGHT NOW?: I won't know unless I ask, right? On one hand, there seem to be legitimate reasons for optimism, after an encouraging coaching hire in Adam Gase, a promising draft led by Laremy Tunsil and a free-agency period in which gains led by Mario Williams at least offset losses. Yet the disappointment and mistrust are ingrained now, yes? They have become part of the fabric of being a Dolfan. It is hard to expect this franchise to do right, or to be good, after 10 to 15 years of mostly letdowns. (Click on No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins for my latest column more fully exploring all of this). Mirroring the more doubtful/skeptical side, the new Las Vegas betting over/under on Dolphins wins (via Bovada) is a mere seven. That's one better than last year's dismal 6-10 season, but 7-9 isn't a playoff team and doesn't budge the club from its rut of mediocrity. Now, ESPN's offseason report card for each team weighs in with a D+ grade for Miami. Ouch. Betting lines mirror public perception, so that means Mr. Vegas with its over/under of 7 wins is surmising that gamblers football fans in general aren't sold on Miami being appreciably better. My question: Are Dolfans sold on the improvement? Is South Florida more optimistic? Are you? Only one way to find out: A poll! Take a dip in it. As always, I encourage you to vote as dispassionately as you can, not as a fan, but honestly, as if you were betting with mind (or money), not heart. Ready? Go! Vote, say why you feel as you do, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Riley unequivocal on Whiteside as team's offseason priority: The Silver Fox favored the media with his annual postseason State of the Heat address (the onset of Pat Riley Season) and left zero doubt that re-signing center Hassan Whiteside long-term is the club's No. 1 priority. Alas, he could not be as unequivocal on Chris Bosh's future, only saying the club is "trying to find a way" to get Bosh back on the court. That's hopeful. But a little ominous, too?

2. MARLINS: Miami need to pick up the pace: Fish, in a current five-game homestand, remain in playoff contention as year's second quarter began but are only 6-9 since that 11-1 streak. Slumping Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .211 and on pace for a club-record 237 strikeouts. The good news? The $325 Million Man gotta get hot soon ... right?

3. NBA: Cavaliers, Thunder up 2-1 entering Game 4s: Cleveland leads 2-1 in East finals over Toronto entering Game 4 tonight in Canada, while Oklahoma City is up 2-1 out West over Golden State entering Game 4 Tuesday in OKC. That "inevitable" LeBron James vs. Steph Curry finals is on hold for a bit.

4. DOLPHINS: Miami prepares for OTA practices: Fins will stage full practices this Tuesday though Thursday and again May 31 as new Vegas betting odds set the team's wins over/under at a modest seven. Meantime club this week bids to host three more Super Bowls, the next in 2019. How 'bout Miami spends less time on hosting a Super Bowl and more time on playing in one.

5. UM BASEBALL: Third-ranked UM begins postseason play: The regular season now done, Jim Morris' No. 3 Hurricanes prepare now for the ACC Tournament running this Tuesday though next Sunday, followed by an expected host's role in an NCAA Regionals. That in turn will lead to the College World Series ... or a very good Canes season will have been for naught.

6. HORSE RACING: Exaggerator denies Nyquist in Preakness: It was possible, after almost 30 years without a Triple Crown winner, the sport might now have had two in a row. That was the true entering Saturday's Preakness. It isn't now.

7. PANTHERS: Cats announce new logo and uniform unveiling: Florida announced it will reveal its new logo and look at its arena on June 2. That's good. Even better: Announce you're going to reveal a hockey team that can win a playoff series for the first time since 1996.

8. NHL: Tampa Bay can clinch spot in Finals on home ice: Tampa Bay leads Pittsburgh 3-2 in East semis and can clinch spot in Stanley Cup Finals on home ice Tuesday night, with St. Louis and San Jose tied 2-2 out West. Alas, not sure if any Finals matchup that arises of this will makes hearts race outside of the competing cities.

9. TENNIS: French Open, one of sports' majors, gets underway Sunday: Well, OK. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are the two big majors. They get together and make fun of the French and Australian Opens. But still.

10. SOCCER: Americans train in Miami for Copa America: Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. men are training in Miami for the Copa America being held in the U.S. in June. Meantime, Manchester United won Saturday's FA Cup final that riveted attention across Great Britain.

Missing the cut: I Googled the phrase ENOUGH ALREADY! and saw that Tom Brady is now appealing the reinstatement of his four-game suspension ..... The Pro Bowl reportedly is moving to Orlando in 2017. What a perfect destination for a Mickey Mouse event! ..... Dolphins will be back on WQAM-560 this season for first time since 2009. That's big news for the station. Also for the estimated nearly 1 percent of all people who don't own televisions ..... Miami Dolphins Foundation held its 20th annual golf-and-fishing Fins Weekend fundraiser ending Saturday. Hopefully funds will go toward fielding a winning football team for a change ..... Valued Heat assistant David Fizdale interviewed with Memphis. Miami would love him to get the opportunity (but not really!) ..... The NFL is returning to the government more than $723,000 its teams (including the Dolphins) received in "sponsored" military tributes. Hey, somebody gotta pay for those gigantic, football field-sized flags! ..... Second-worst golf week: Tiger Woods tried to demonstrate how close his game was to healthy by hitting three straight wedge shots in the water. Worst golf week: Phil Mickelson must pay back nearly $1 million in money he received via insider trading ..... Rangers 2B Rougned Odor was suspended eight games for landing a punch vs. Toronto. Wild guess: You grow up with the name "Odor," you get in your share of fights ..... UM women's tennis lost in the NCAA Sweet 16. Feeling nostalgic, Canes fans blamed Al Golden ..... Scotland's Muirfield Golf Club voted to continue its ban on women members, erasing itself from consideration to host the British Open. Club officials could not be reached, because they are all living in the previous century ..... Canes men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga, 66, said, "I'm going to coach until I'm dead." A foolproof way to avoid being fired, come to think of it ..... The 76ers won the NBA draft lottery and will have the first pick in June. They'll still be awful, but now will have one less good excuse ..... The Indianapolis 500 is next Sunday. Gentlemen, get ready to get ready to start your engines ..... And in other news, WNBA season is underway, and you continue to ignore it.

Poll result: ESPN diminished, but still the boss: We asked what best reflects your opinion of ESPN in light of recent departures from the network, and a plurality of 46.0 percent chose "diminished but still the leader." However, more than twice as many voted for "in decline" (36.9%) over "as big as ever" (17.1%).

ObitWHO SAYS THERE IS NO HUMOR IN DEATH?: Either the dearly departed or the bereaved she left behind had a sense of humor in writing the opening of this newspaper obituary. I must say Mary Anne Noland probably speaks for millions of Americans faced with what they perceive as a lesser-of-two-evils presidential decision in November. Although I'm guessing the vast majority of us will either choose the lesser evil or choose to abstain from voting rather than choose the great beyond as a preferred alternative.

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May 19, 2016

Is mighty ESPN in trouble? Poll. Vote now; plus Justise Winslow honor, proof Joe Public still doubts Dolphins, my column on Riley's state-of-Heat address, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, your pessimism on Bosh & more

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

Trumpovercomb1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 19. I found the mock-poster at right to be clever and funny. But it's OK, Republicans. I make fun of Hillary's pantsuits, too. 2) Justise Winslow of Heat makes NBA All-Rookie second team, 11th Miami rook to make 1st or 2nd team. 3) R.I.P., 60 Minutes' Morley Safer, gone at 84. R.I.P. as well to the victims of the Egypt Air crash. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Will Chris Bosh play again with poll, changes coming to LeBatard Show, your was-Heat-season-a-success verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, the new one, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason. Small Ball, Big Win, off Heat Game 6 home win over Toronto.

My new Pat Riley column from his State of the Heat address: Click on Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh to read my latest column in full.

"The Dolphins returning to WQAM for the first time since 2009 is big news for the station but inconsequential to Dolfans, who don't care what spot on the dial feeds them their games." --Greg Cote

DolphinsJOE PUBLIC STILL HATES THE DOLPHINS AND THINK THEY'LL STINK AGAIN: Hiring Adam Gase didn't do it. Neither did free agency. Or a highly regarded draft led by Laremy Tunsil. As you read here before it was anywhere else on MiamiHerald.com, new NFL over/unders on win totals via Bovada suggest the betting public still thinks  very little of your Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins over/under of 7 wins is last in the AFC East behind the Patriots at 10.5 and the Bills and Jets both at 8. New England is in a five-way tie for first at 10.5 with the Panthers, Packers, Seahawks and Steelers. Miami's 7 is tied for fourth from the bottom. The only lower O/U's are the 49ers and Titans both at 5.5 and the Browns at 4.5.

DogdaysNAVIGATING AND SURVIVING THE DOG DAYS OF SPORTS IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Down here the dog days on our sports calendar are that yawning patch of spring and summer from the time the Heat are done until August, when football thunders in subtle as a solar eclipse. This year, the Summer Olympics in Rio also begin Aug. 5. But what until then? What to watch before football other than the rest of the NBA and NHL playoffs? Well here is your primer (and it includes football). Here are highlights of the local and national sports calendar from now through July:

MARLINS: Homestands May 20-24, May 30-June 5, June 17-26, July 8-10, July 22-31 / Fish vs. Braves at Fort Bragg July 3 / All-Star Game July 12.

DOLPHINS: OTAs May 24-26, May 31, June 1-2, June 6-9. Mandatory minicamp June 14-16.

CANES BASEBALL: ACC tournament May 24-29, then NCAA regionals (schedule to be announced), then College World Series June 18-29.

SOCCER: Fort Lauderdale Strikers NASL home games May 21, 27; June 12; July 2, 10, 13, 23. Miami FC home May 28; June 4; July 9, 16, 30 / Colombia vs. Haiti May 29 at Marlins Park / FA Cup final May 21 / UEFA Champions League final May 28 / Copa America in U.S. June 3-26 / Euro '16 in France June 10-July 10.

HORSE RACING: The Preakness May 21 / Belmont Stakes June 11.

AUTO RACING: Indianapolis 500 May 29 / NASCAR at Daytona July 2.

GOLF: U.S. Open June 16-19 / British Open July 14-17.

TENNIS: French Open May 22-June 5 / Wimbledon June 27-July 10.  

MISCELLANEA: NHL Awards Show June 22 / NBA Draft June 23 / Tour de France cycling July 2-24 / WWE Smackdown wrestling June 28 in Miami.

EspnIS ESPN IN TROUBLE?: Skip Bayless. Mike Tirico. Bill Simmons. Colin Cowherd. Keith Olbermann. Jason Whitlock. These are some of the prominent on-air personalitiies who have recently or in the past year or so departed from ESPN. The question: Does it matter? There is a growing narrative that the run of departures, coupled with declining subscriber numbers, suggests the Disney-owned ESPN brand is taking a hit and losing its once-commanding tight grip as the industry leader. Take a dip in our poll and share your thoughts:

Poll result: Surprising pessimism on Bosh's Heat future: The word surprising is mine. Poll results here don't often surprise me. This one did. We asked what you think is most likely to happen with Chris Bosh, and a plurality of 44.1 percent voted that he'd resume playing but have more blood-clot issues that might then abort his career. Nearly as many (40.6%) thought he would be forced to retire without every playing again. Only 15.3% voted that Bosh would resume his Heat career with no recurrence of health problems.

THE LIST: FA CUP CHAMPIONS: This Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London will mark the 135th FA Cup final of English soccer as Manchester United faces Crystal Palace. Man U goes for a record-tying 12th FA Cup title and Crystal Palace seeks its first ever. Most FA Cup finals wins:

Team                    FA Cups    Most recent

Arsenal                     12         2015

Manchester United    11         2004

Tottenham Hotspur    8          1991

Chelsea                     7          2012

Liverpool                  7          2006

Aston Villa                7          1957

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

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April 21, 2016

History! Heat, Panthers win playoff games on same day for first time ever; plus R.I.P. Prince, 'White Ho,' Josh Norman, bigot Schilling fired, Marlins' awful start, NBA jersey ads (what Heat's might look like) & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 21. Seen leaving the Heat arena late last night ... what happens (pictured) when a letter in 'White Hot' mysteriously disappears. 2) Attention Miami Dolphins: Star Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is unexpectedly a free-agent now. Reportedly the 49ers are a frontrunner, though. 3) Hope you had a happy 4-20, National Weed Day. Yeah, like pot smokers need an annual holiday to enjoy their herb? 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Youth will served and serve back (Heat's rookie reliance), Luol Deng's good work off-court, bad golf joke & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

PrincePrince dead at 57: Oh my. David Bowie, now Prince. All artists are unique, if the word is taken literally, but few stood out as more so than Prince. What a talent. What a shame to lose him so soon. I had a chance to be in his company (briefly) a few days before he performed at halftime of the February 2007 Super Bowl here. How small of stature, but with an aura and mystique -- and sound -- that filled the biggest rooms. Prince was genre-bending and to a degree gender-bending, an exceptional guitarist with a magnetic stage presence. I am already missing every song he might have written but now won't. R.I.P. 

"Nobody in the sports world had a better Wednesday than Harriet Tubman." --Greg Cote

HISTORY!: Last night was the first time ever the Heat and Panthers both won a playoff game the same day.

The makeup of MLB Opening Day rosters: In case you wondered, it was 59.1 percent White (plus 0.3 from a year earlier); 28.5% Latino (minus 0.8); 8.3% African-American or Black (no change); and 1.7% Asian (plus 0.5). The totals add to 97.6%. Our source, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, does not explain who the 2.4% are.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, the new one, off last night's Heat win. Rook 1, Rook 2, on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. This Is the Upside, off Heat's impressive Game 1 win.

G2: HEATS HANDLES CHARLOTTE 115-103 FOR 2-0 SERIES LEAD AS WADE, OFFENSE STAR: Dwyane Wade 28 points and eight assists last night led the 115-103 downtown win over the Hornets. Plenty of help, though. Four others in double figures including Hassan Whiteside with 17 points and 13 rebounds on 8-for-8 shooting. Miami did not hit 115-plus points in consecutive games all season but has done it to open the playoffs. Click on For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East for my column off the Game 2 win. ..... Original post: Heat has won five straight over Charlotte in postseason dating to 2014, and the Hornets' 123-91 loss Dwadein Game 1 here offered little indication that streak will end tonight in Game 2. Of course, a leveling and a tighter came is certain. Miami was  near perfect to start the playoffs' first round, personified by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside shooting a combined 20-for-24. That won't happen again, and neither will Charlotte's shell-shocked, deer-in-headlights effort. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford is right in saying, "Whether you lose by 30 or one, it's 1-0." So is Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in saying, "We will see a response from [the Hornets]." Key for Miami will be to continue to defend Charlotte's 3-point shot and control the boards. It also figures to be a night when Miami needs more offense from Dwyane Wade (pictured) than the quiet 16 he gave in the opener. Miami has won 10 consecutive first-round games overall and 15 of past 16 at home vs. Charlotte, so I'd bet on Heat winning again tonight, though narrowly. Miami can put the hammer down with a 2-0 series lead tonight, or find itself 1-1 heading for two straight in Charlotte. This is the beauty of a best-of-seven. Every result changes the entire narrative. Historically, though, here is the significance of tonight's result for Miami. In its playoff history, the Heat is 13-0 in a series its leads 2-0, but 10-8 in a series that is 1-1. And that sounds about right as a frame for tonight: Miami either puts this thing away, or invites anxiety moving forward.  

JagrG4: PANTHERS 2, N.Y. ISLANDERS 1: HUGE CATS WIN EVENS SERIES: Goals by Teddy Purcell and Alex Petrovic and big goaltending by Roberto Luongo forged last night's 2-1 road win that has the playoff series 2-2 heading back to Sunrise for Game 5 Friday night. ..... Original post: I still think Florida's roster is superior to the Isles', but NYI's 2-1 series lead says otherwise. Florida blew a 3-1 lead in Game 3 thanks in part to some sketchy officiating; now we see the response in the crucial Game 4 tonight in Brooklyn. Cats either will bounce home feeling good at 2-2, or wallow desperately in a 3-1 hole. Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993 and Panthers since '96, so something's gotta give. Troubling for the Panthers is that goalie Roberto Luongo has given up nine goals in the two losses. He admitted he was "exhausted" after three playoff games in four nights. Cats will need better net-minding tonight from their main guy or from Al Montoya to get back in this series. They'll also need their frontline scorers to get going, starting with Jaromir Jagr (pictured), who has not tallied a point in the three games. He also has not scored a goal in 34 straight playoff games, an almost unfathomable streak whose end tonight would be hugely well-timed.

SAD I: WHY DOES CURT SCHILLING STILL HAVE JOB AT ESPN? HE DOESN'T ANYMORE: Update: ESPN canned Schilling late yesterday. Good for ESPN. Original post: Full transparency: I work for The Worldwide Leader parttime as a once-a-week studio co-host for ESPN Radio on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, as many of you know. Those checks from Disney are a welcome stipend to my day job with the Miami Herald. So because of my role with ESPN, minor though Curtschilling Curtschillingit is, I hesitated to write this and will tread carefully. I love free speech. I also know that employers have a right to expect those they pay to represent the company in a way that does not unduly offend customers. I'm not sure, if I owned the Buffalo Bills, how I'd feel about Rex Ryan introducing Donald Trump at a New York rally last week. I'd feel the same if he had introduced Hillary Clinton, although it is fair to say some of Trump's views are more controversial and polarizing, and yet now the face of an NFL team is on board with all of those views (on Muslims, on Mexicans) by association. The matter of Curt Schilling, the ESPN baseball analyst, is far more disturbing. He previously was suspended by ESPN and later demoted from Sunday Night Baseball after posting a meme that compared extremist Muslims to Nazis. Schilling, 49, also has said Clinton should be "buried under a jail." Now the latest: Schilling has shared on his Facebook page the cartoon pictured, with the comment, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic." The cartoon feeds the bigoted hysteria that surrounds the transgender bathroom issue that is news in several states, notably North Carolina, by suggesting it will mean predators attacking your daughters. Actually I think the cartoon might mean to lampoon the hysteria and mock the intolerant and small-minded like Schilling. In any case, Yahoo Sports reports an ESPN spokesman as saying, "We are taking this matter very seriously and are in the process of reviewing it." Schilling has responded to the outcry by blaming the media and those offended, writing on his website, "You know how I know you ‘offended’ people are full of crap? Because I’m not even close to any of the things you so desperately want me to be, so you can whine. You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for tolerance and acceptance while you refuse to do and be either. YOU’RE the ones making it the issue." Schilling notes the things he shares on Facebook or Twitter are his own opinions and have nothing to do with his employer, but this of course is where he is plainly wrong. His description now does not begin with "former pitcher," it begins with "ESPN Baseball analyst." That's the issue here. Schilling has every right to have whatever opinions he wishes and to share them. The thing is, ESPN also has every right to not want its on-air stars volunteering themselves into needless public controversies with stances not in line with what represents Disney or ESPN. Curt Schilling's name should conjure one word first: Baseball. Instead it has come to conjure another: Bigotry.

DonmattinglySAD II: ON MARLINS' NIGHTMARE START: We're an unlucky 13 games into The Longest Season and already the requisite wisecrack has started circulating. Surely anyone who follows the Marlins has said or heard some variation of this: "Has Loria fired Mattingly yet?" It speaks to both owner Jeffrey Loria's notorious impatience and to the the club's disappointing start under new manager Don Mattingly (pictured). "Nightmare" start might not be hyperbole. The 4-9 record is third-worst in MLB. The 1-7 home record is the worst. Five of eight position starters are batting .244 or under. The bullpen has been an Amtrak derailment. (Speaking of which: Why, Lord, is Chris Narveson still in the big leagues?) [UPDATE: Marlins today/Thursday demoted Narveson to the minors] Now the Marlins face one more at home today against the rotation-strong Washington Nationals and then set out on a daunting, season-long 10-game road trip. There is the potential for things to get really ugly. Loria wanted a fast start under Mattingly. The opposite has left the Fish buried on the local landscape under the Heat and Panthers' playoff runs and Dolphins draft talk. And any attention the Marlins are getting is mostly negative. As for that crack about "has Loria fired Mattingly yet," the way things have started -- and knowing this owner -- it might seem less and less like a preposterous joke as summer rolls in.

HeatadsjerseySAD III: IMAGINING HEAT'S AD JERSEY: I have fought my quiet fight against the encroachment of advertising in sports for years. Long-time and particularly observant readers know that I, for example, never refer in my columns to stadium and arena names that include a corporate sponsor. I'll make it a generic ""Heat's downtown bayside arena" rather than mention the airline in the official name. It's just my little line in the sand. Well, now advertising is coming to the front of NBA jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season, a business-smart but otherwise sad development. Stadium names being whorred out for revenue is bad enough, but now jersey fronts? What's next, franchise names? The Burger King Miami Dolphins? How about player names? "And now batting, brought to you by Pepsi-Cola ... Giancarlo Stanton!" ESPN.com today (click here) imagines what various NBA jerseys would look like in the ad age and logically has the Heat sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines, Heat owner Micky Arison's other company, headquartered in Doral. Bright side: As shown, the corporate logo is affixed to the jersey in a way somewhat less garish and intrusive than it could be, I suppose. It's still sad. I mean, it's one thing to pay good money to buy a Heat T-shirt because you support the team or the player whose number and name are on it. But now you're also a walking billboard for Carnival or some other company, like it or not. As for the notion the sponsor's name on the merchandise might result in a reduced cost? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! You are kidding, right?

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

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August 27, 2015

Who's the 2015 Athlete of the Year? 4 finalists. New poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins optimism, dissing Larry Csonka, latest NFL playoff odds, Ashley Madison and ESPN, Greg's Lobos news & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, AUGUST 27. R.I.P. to the TV reporter and cameraman murdered yesterday in Virginia. So awful and senseless. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Prediction Machine's rosy Dolphins outlook, my fantasy draft annual poll, Schnellenberger sabotage continues, note to anti-government crowd & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

Optimism surrounding Dolphins is well-founded: That is the theme of today's latest column by me. A new computer projection by PredictionMachine.com has Miami with a better than 50 percent likelihood to win 13 of its 16 games, further augmenting a sense of confidence among fans. Click on Dolphins, Rising to read the column in full. PredictionMachine's Paul Bessire elaborated to us today in an email: "The Dolphins currently rank fifth in our Power Rankings and are favored in 13 of 16 games. That’s the good -– if not great -– news for Dolphins fans. The most reasonable expectation, though, is a nine-win season and a wild card [playoff] berth with a better than 50 percent chance to make the playoffs. Given that the Dolphins play at a fast pace, tend to make critical mistakes and have so many young or new pieces, they are one of the most volatile teams in the league."

1aa1ashoeFunny joke: A friend thought I'd enjoy this recent Shoe comic strip. He was right. First woman: "So, tell me about this Shoe fellow you're dating." Second woman: "Well, he's a journalist. He's been married five times. He smokes, he's cheap, he's selfish, he uses foul language, he drinks way too much, and I'm not sure he's faithful." First woman: "Oh, you poor dear. He's a journalist?!"

FRAMING THE RACE FOR 2015 AMERICAN ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Our friend Christine Brennan, the very good USA Today columnist, inspires this poll with her latest column framing the 2015 Athlete of the Year race. (Click here to read). Her four finalists are hard to argue, probably all deserving, and an 1aa1aathleteyearinteresting mix of two individual-sport stars, a team and a horse. American Pharoah ended thoroughbred racing's 37-year Triple Crown drought. Golfer Jordan Spieth, at 21 turning 22, won two major championships and nearly won the other two. The U.S. women's soccer team won its first World Cup title since 1999. And tennis star Serena Williams is going for her fifth consecutive major and the sport's first calendar-year Grand Slam in 27 years as the U.S. Open begins on Monday. Brennan writes, "If Serena wins the Open, becoming the first woman or man to win the Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988, she would be my choice as sportsperson of the year. She would not only have won all four majors in the same year, she also would have tied Graf for the most Grand Slam titles won by a tennis player, male or female, in the Open era, with 22." I tend to agree. But I'm curious what the rest of you think right now. This has been a year when no major team-sport star (such as NBA MVP Steph Curry) has risen to the level of extraordinary accomplishment that these four have: Serena, dominating. Spieth, the phenom with the breakout year. Pharoah and U.S. women's soccer, both making history. Now pick just one. Hey, nobody said this was easy.

DEAR HBO AND BALLERS: SPELL-CHECK, PLEASE?: I watch HBO's Ballers, the Dwayne Johnson/football
vehicle that just ended its first season and got renewed, mainly because it is set in Miami and based 1aa1acsonka(without approval) on the Dolphins. There are cameos by guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Birdman Andersen, which is kind of neat. The acting is sort of lame and the writing cliched; I only watch because of the local angle. Anyway, Dolphins Hall of Famer Larry Csonka -- that's C-S-O-N-K-A -- has a recurring minor role as a gruff Dolphins assistant coach. Pictured right is a screen grab of the closing credits from the season finale. Dear HBO: How do you misspell the last name of a famous football player who stars in your own bleepin' show!? Jesus.

LATEST DOLPHINS/NFL PLAYOFF ODDS: Updated today, courtesy Bovada, with New England currently off-the-board due to Tom Brady suspension flux. Top five most likely playoff teams overall are Seahawks (1-8), Colts (1-6), Packers (2-11), Broncos (1-3) and Cowboys (4-7), though Pats would be in that group. AFC odds (including the Pats) find Miami tied for seventh at 6-5 in jockeying for six spots, meaning odds see Fins just past the far edge of being playoff-caliber. AFC East odds are Pats (off), Dolphins (6-5), Bills (7-4) and Jets (7-2).

ON ESPN AND THE HACK OF ASHLEY MADISON: The lovable muckrakers over at Deadspin report today that, of the millions of Ashley Madison users exposed when the infidelity website was hacked, at least 39
1aa1aashleymaccounts were registered with ESPN email addresses. (Click here for the story). No names are named. Yet. Deadspin reports around 100 ESPN employees may be involved (about 20 percent of them women) based on former or current ESPN-related IP addresses. Look for ESPN folks on the air today who seem to be unusually nervous, distracted or sweating profusely. Although in fairness Chris Berman tends to sweat profusely at all times, so that may not mean anything or be incriminating. I rule out LeBatard; he isn't married. In all seriousness, which is dumber: Needing the help of a website to cheat on your spouse? Doing it with a work email? Or doing it with a work email if you happen to be on TV and sort of famous? This story needs one of those triangular yellow road signs: EMBARRASSING FALLOUT AHEAD.

1aa1alobosGREG'S LOBOS -- THAT'S ME! -- WINS FANTASY POLL: I swear it wasn't rigged. It was a blind poll. You voted not knowing who ran what team; you voted simply based on each team's top four draft picks in our 10-team friends 'n family league. The results, with each team's top pick, and the owner:

 

12.2%:
 
5.1%: Team 1 ( 
 
 
2.4%: Team 5 (Antonio Brown). My older son, Christopher, who some may know as "Fat Chris" from the LeBatard Show even though he isn't fat.
 
1.7%: 
 
1.7%: 
 
1.0%: 

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

July 27, 2015

Harvard (yes, Harvard) says Dolphins will make Super Bowl; plus Zoran Dragic, latest Hot Button Top 10 with Fins, Marlins, Heat, Canes, Cooperstown, Froome, Cowherd, soccer, Pan Am; also Stanton-Tannehill and Cosby-O.J. verdicts & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JULY 27. Heat today reportedly have traded Zoran Dragic to Boston -- with the blessing of brother Goran. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Who's Next poll (Stanton vs. Tannehill), Al Golden's Kumbaya Manifesto, Dolphins among Top 100 players, Fall From Grace poll, U.S. men's shame, Weighing The Fish & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

Sunday at Cooperstown: It was one of baseball's most illustrious inductions days. ICYMI, click here to see the four plaques, hear the tribute videos and watch the induction speeches.

HARVARD STUDY FORECASTS DOLPHINS IN SUPER BOWL. NO, SERIOUSLY: OK, Dolfans. You wanted a foundation (I mean beyond the law of averages) for your optimism about this coming season? You got it. 1aa1asb50A study by the brainiacs at Harvard University forecasts a Seattle-Miami Super Bowl. This is via the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective, a student-run organization "dedicated to the quantitative analysis of sports strategy and management." In this study, researcher Kurt Bullard used Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value statistic, the site’s measure of comparing individual talent. Then Bullard, using ESPN’s NFL depth charts, aggregated each team’s per-game Approximate Value of what he judged the "core" makeup of a team: QB, RB, 2 WR, TE, top 2 OL, top 4 "front seven" defenders and top 2 players from secondary. Click here for details of the study and the complete list of how teams ranked. The study lists AFC East playoff likelihood as Dolphins 77 percent, Patriots 62%, Jets 56% and Bills 43%. Here are the study's projected eight AFC and NFC playoff teams based on overall ratings:

AFC: Dolphins 145 points, Chiefs 142, Patriots 141, Broncos 137, Jets 134, Colts 133, Bills 133, Steelers 132. NFC: Seahawks 166, Packers 154, Lions 136, Giants 126, Eagles 125, Cowboys 123, Falcons 120, Saints and Cardinals (tried) 119.

HOT BUTTON (UPDATED): TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Monday) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead: 

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins open training camp in three days: Team assembles on Wednesday and practices for first time on Thursday as lid lifts on club's 50th anniversary season. Joe Philbin will remind players they're there to win a championship. Um, yeah so will 31 other NFL head coaches. Question is whether Miami will be among the handful that actually might.

2. MARLINS: Fish return home (finally!) as trade deadline looms: Off a 3-7 road grind, Marlins are back Tuesday vs. Nationals with Jose Fernandez pitching, Miami's first home game in 16 days. Meantime team traded defrocked closer Steve Cishek to Cards for a minor-leaguer with more deals likely before July 31 deadline. In other words, there's 60-plus games left, but season is over,

3. HURRICANES: UM sees "accountability" as football nears: Al Golden is talking up intangibles like accountability and leadership as UM nears Aug. 6 start of practice. "One heartbeat," he says. Call it Camp Kumbaya. Now if Canes can just replace Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Denzel Perryman and four other NFL draftees, they might be OK.

4. BASEBALL: Pitchers lead incoming Hall of Fame class: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, who combined for 735 wins, joined Craig Biggio in the latest Hall of Fame induction class Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. Johnson stood out. The 10-time All-Star won 303 games, struck out 4,875 and is sport's all-time career leader in mullets.

5. HEAT: Miami trades Napier to Magic: Heat yesterday dealt second-year guard Shabazz Napier to Orlando Magic for a second-round draft pick. Miami would have much preferred Magic take Mario Chalmers (and his salary). Chalmers and/or Birdman Andersen may yet be traded. 

6. CYCLING: Froome zooms to Tour de France victory: Great Britain's Chris Froome won his second Tour de France in the 102nd running of the event beset by recent doping scandals. How boring. Why couldn't the upset winner have been some 9-year-old kid riding a beat-up Schwinn with baseball cards flapping in the spokes?

7. COLIN COWHERD: ESPN removes radio host over comments: ESPN booted radio host Colin Cowherd from its air after widespread criticism met his suggestion that Dominican baseball players lacked intelligence. Maybe Cowherd saw that making idiotic, insulting statements seemed to be working for Donald Trump and thought he’d give it a try, too!

8. BASEBALL: Hamels tosses no-hitter as pitchers steal season spotlight: Phillies' Cole Hamels no-hit the Cubs Saturday, surely boosting his trade value. Meantime Dodgers aces Zack Greinke (43 2/3) and Clayton Kershaw (29) entered the weekend with 72 2/3 combined shutout innings in a row, though Greinke's streak ended Sunday at 45 2/3. Batters, ya'll need some Viagra for those bats! (Well, except Alex Rodriguez, who hit three homers Saturday).

9. GOLF: It's 'The American Year' on PGA Tour: Zach Johnson's British Open win last Monday, following Jordan Spieth's Masters and U.S. Open triumphs, means 2015 could be the first year since 1982 that U.S. golfers win all four majors. Too bad this sport and its “Quiet Please” signs frown upon a good, loud “U.S.A!” chant.

10. SOCCER: No U.S., but there was Gold Cup final, anyway: Philadelphia hosted Mexico's 3-1 win over Jamaica in CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer final last night -- hardly the championship match expected. Jamaica stunned the U.S in one semifinal and Mexico lucked to beat Panama in the other thanks to outrageous penalty-kick calls.

Missing the HB10 cut: U.S. won medals count as Pan American Games ended Sunday in Toronto. Pan Am Games are best known for drinking heavily and undergoing years of therapy from being lost in shadow of the bigger, more prestigious Olympic Games. ..... Pro Football Hall of Fame, in apparent effort to make itself seem heartless and small, refuses to let Junior Seau's family speak at next month’s posthumous induction ..... Wednesday is “Writers Night” at Marlins Park, with contest-winning fans watching game in company of Miami Herald sportswriters. One person will then be chosen for Grand Prize: Getting to ditch the writers and return to his regular seat ..... Annual WNBA All-Star Game was Saturday and MLS all-stars play Wednesday. Still intact: My incredible personal record of having never watched a single second of either. ..... U.S. Department of Justice drops 10-year investigation of Barry Bonds with no ultimate conviction. Hmm. Why do people keep saying the government wastes so much money?

Poll result: Stanton beats Tannehill for top-tier potential: We asked whether Giancarlo Stanton or Ryan Tannehill was more likely, 10 years from now, to be considered in Dan Marino/Dwyane Wade territory as an all-time great, beloved Miami sports star, and the Marlins slugger beat the Dolphins quarterback by 54.7 percent to 45.3%.

Poll result: O.J. edges Cosby for biggest fall from grace: It was one of the closest results we've ever seen. We asked whether Bill Cosby or O.J. Simpson had the bigger, more notorious fall from grace, and the dubious "winner" was O.J. with 51.5 percent to Cosby's 48.5%.

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

July 19, 2015

What's our enthusiasm level for MLS soccer in Miami? Poll Vote now!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) with Beckham, Marlins, British Open, Canes unis, Heat, Gold Cup, Dolphins, urine; also Dwyane Wade wine, Big 5-optimism verdict & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JULY 20. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): MLS in Miami moves closer, Big 5 optimism poll, R.I.P. Bill Arnsparger, Dolphin's brush with homelessness, Marlins resume, ESPY review, UM's jersey policy, Heat-expectations verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope. (Our followers on Twitter get automatic Periscope alerts).

Royals new WS faves: Kansas City Royals are new World Series frontunners at 6-1 odds, via Bovada's latest line. Cardinals and Nationals are next at 8-1, then Dodgers at 17-2. Marlins' 150-1 odds are tied for fourth-longest.

1aa1awadewineDwyane Wade, vinter: Heat star Dwyane Wade now has his own wine label, as seen in the photo here of the reds he posted on Instagram. I do not yet have a proper review of the Wade wine. I'm guessing it has subtle notes and aroma of oak, blackberry and a late-career athlete trying to capitalize on his name while he still can. D.Wade also has his own signature fashion line of designer bowties and men's socks, of course. Diversifying one's business interests is key. Hopefully for Heat fans, the Wade portfolio also includes another season (or more) of elite play.

HOW ENTHUSIASTIC ARE WE ABOUT MLS SOCCER IN MIAMI?: Soccer tends to be a polarizing sport in
America, still. Millions embrace and love it; it has grown far beyond a curiosity or niche sport. Yet many 1aa1amiamlsothers steadfastly want little or nothing to do with it and see it as an acquired taste not for them. I think diverse Miami and South Florida are far more likely than most regions to embrace Major League Soccer, but I've been wrong before so I want to take the pulse. David Beckham's investment group and the city of Miami settling on a stadium site (the old Orange Bowl grounds near Marlins Park) makes it more likely than ever that Miami's MLS franchise is real and will begin play in 2018. So, how enthusiastic are we? Does the "Miami Is Ready" declarative in the illustration here need a question mark? Take a dip in our poll, express your feelings and drop us a comment to say why you feel as you do.

HOT BUTTON (UPDATED): TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead: 

1aa1ahotbutton1. SOCCER: Miami, Beckham agree on MLS stadium site: David Beckham's investment group once referred to the former Orange Bowl site near Marlins Park as "spiritually tainted." Now, apparently it's "realistically feasible" after attempts at a waterfront stadium proved fruitless. The two applicable to the new stadium that are most important to taxpayers: "Privately funded." 

2. MARLINS: Injury-wracked Fish resume (badly) on long road trip: The semi-Marlins -- still missing injured stars Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Henderson Alvarez -- are back from All-Star Game break and in midst of 10-game road trip, starting 0-3 at hapless Philly. Team is on season-long 16-day gap between home games, but, given the way this season has gone, that's probably not a bad thing. 

3. GOLF: Johnson wins British Open; Spieth just short: The year's third major will ended on a Monday for first time since 1988, with Zach Johnson winning and Jordan Spieth one stroke off making the three-man playoff. The British was missing its defending champion Rory McIlroy to injury, and its shot at history as the Grand Slam-seeking Masters and U.S. Open champ Spieth was denied. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods missed the cut. Or, did that go without saying? 

4. HURRICANES: (So what!) UM unveils new football uniforms: Adidas threw an invitation-only VIP party on South Beach Saturday night to unveil its new University of Miami football uniforms, and nobody cared except Adidas executives, UM accountants and that segment of Canes fans way too worried about sartorial splendor. "Looking good" means playing well, Canes, not what you wear.

5. HEAT: Team wraps up summer league, mulls trades: Heat's youth squad finished a combined 6-4 in Orlando and Las Vegas summer-league play as club mulled trading Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen in salary cap moves. Meantime Chris Bosh called retooled Miami "on the verge of being an elite team. (Um, a lot of that depends on an elite you, Mr. Bosh). 

6. SOCCER: U.S. pounds Cuba, reaches Gold Cup semis: U.S. men ripped Cuba 6-0 Saturday to reach semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament and next face Jamaica on Wednesday. No surprise. I don't wanna say Cuba's expectations in the tournament were modest, but the big aim was having more goals than political defectors.

7. DOLPHINS: Countdown 10 days 'til start of training camp: It is almost time, Dolfans. It is almost time for experience the encroaching gloom of past disappointments and begin anxiously second-guessing your fragile optimism.   

8. CYCLING: Tour de France down to final week: Leader Chris Froome said a spectator yelled "Doper!" before throwing a cup of urine on him. I apologize. I don't know what got into me.   

9. BILL ARNSPARGER: Dolphins coaching icon passes away: Arnsparger, architect of the Super Bowl-winning "No-Name " defense and later the "Killer B's," died at 88. Among all coaches only Don Shula himself had a greater impact on Dolphins history.

10. THE ESPYS: ESPN stages annual salute to itself: Highlight: Caitlyn Jenner's speech. Lowlight: LeBron James winning the "Best Championship Moment" ESPY even though he didn't win a championship. "Yeah that makes sense," said snubbed American Pharoah.

Missing the HB10 cut: ACC Football Kickoff, annual three-day media event, starts Sunday. All-Star Game draws record-low TV rating. Exodus of ESPN stars. Conor McGregor lights up UFC. Cooperstown prepares for Hall of Fame weekend. And UM to limit football jersey sales each year to only Nos. 1 and the year (15 this season), the worst idea since New Coke.

Poll result: Heat, Dolphins make biggest leap in fan optimism: We asked which of our Big 5 sports teams are earning the most fan optimism right now, and the Heat and Dolphins are the big winners. The results now compared to the same poll back in February:

Team               Now        Feb.        +/-

Heat               49.1%      24.5%      +24.6

Dolphins        32.3%      14.1%      +18.2

UM football     9.0%      13.1%      - 4.1

Panthers           7.0%        5.4%      + 1.6

Marlins            2.6%       42.9%      -40.3

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

July 18, 2015

MLS in Miami! Beckham, city agree on stadium site; plus which South Florida sports team is earning most fan optimism? (poll); also, a Dolphin's brush with homelessness, Bill Arnsparger, Marlins back, ESPYs, UM's dumb jersey policy & more

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


1aa1amacharper1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 18. I'm back up at Random Evidence Laboratories conjuring the Sunday notes column package. 2) At right, mom Jenny Harper (no relation) cleverly spoofs Bryce Harper's recent 'Body' cover by substituting her baby Mac. Cuuute! 3) I
n The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Riley's big summer with poll, Forbes most-valuable-teams list, LeBatard auction, baseball hits home run, Stanton's new PSA, pizza chicken wings & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too. (Our followers on Twitter get automatic Periscope alerts).

1aa1abilla
R.I.P., Bill Arnsparger:
The longtime Dolphins defensive coordinator, architect of the champion "No-Name" defense and later the "Killer B's" and a pioneer of the situational substitution, died today at 88. Don Shula said today, "
If there was a Hall of Fame for assistant coaches, he would be one of the very first inductees." One could make a strong argument (and I would) that, after only Shula himself, Arnsparger had the most impact of any coach in the franchise's history. 

Spieth and the solo charge: Been quite a year for stars in the major non-team sports. American Pharoah made history. Serena Williams and Jordan Spieth are chasing it. I write about Spieth and the year of the solo sports star in today's latest column. Click on Standing Alone, And Apart to read in full.

1aa1amiamls

1aa1abeckhamMAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER IN MIAMI JUST GOT CLOSER TO REAL:
The David Beckham/Sprint group and city of Miami this morning agreed to build a 25,000-seat, privately funded stadium at the old Orange Bowl site near Marlins Park. The capacity could be adjusted slightly. The University of Miami, a prospective partner to play football there, is not involved at this time. Beckham sought and fought for a stadium near the water, understandably preferring the Port of Miami site, but couldn't make it happen. The site chosen is fairly centrally located and not a bad one. My latest column is on this topic. Click on A Win For Soccer Fans -- And Taxpayers, Too to read in full.

 

A DOLPHIN'S BRUSH WITH HOMELESSNESS: Dolphins rookie safety Cedric Thompson (pictured), a fifth- 

1aa1acedrictround pick
out of Minnesota who probably is a longshot to make the team, has a new blog and his first post is about meeting a homeless man near a local Publix, and what happened next. An excerpt: "We’re standing at the deli counter and I ask him what he wants. He says he’d like two pieces of chicken. I was like, 'That’s all you want? Look man, if you want something to eat, you need to eat until you’re full. You’re a grown man, I don’t think two pieces of chicken are going to fill you up, so get what you want.'" Click here to visit Cedric's blog and read the whole story. Spoiler alert: He did the right thing.

PULSE-READ: WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA 'BIG 5' TEAM IS INSPIRING THE MOST OPTIMISM AT THE MOMENT?: Periodically I write sort of a State of the Union on Greater Miami's Big 5 sports teams, which I count as the pro-side Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers along with Hurricanes football on the 1aa1aoptimismcollege side. Click on State of the Big 5 to read our recent column in full. Now I invite your thoughts. We last took this same pulse-read in February and I'll be interested to compare results, because in five months much has changed since our February poll. The Dolphins signed Ndamukong Suh. The Heat missed the playoffs but retooled. The Marlins have disappointed (thus far) in an injury-marred season. The Panthers showed an NHL-best 25-point improvement. And the Hurricanes completed spring practice. So who's in the best shape moving forward and earning the most fan optimism in the Summer of '15? Please try to not make this a favorite-team poll. It isn't. (In other words, give the Panthers a fighting chance by at least considering them!) The intent here is to honestly gauge which of our most prominent teams has most earned our collective optimism. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

MARLINS RESUME WITH LONG ROAD TRIP: Marlins bounce off the All-Star break with a 10-game roadie starting tonight in Philadelpia, with Jose Fernandez on the mound. Dee Gordon will return from injury soon though perhaps not on this trip. Giancarlo Stanton's return also is getting close. And Henderson Alvarez could rejoin the rotation by late this month. All three teams on this trip (Phils, Arizona, San Diego) have losing records, so this is a chance for Miami -- 10 games back in the wild-card standings -- to rekindle a flicker of hope in what has been a depressing season thus far. 

ESPY REVIEW: LEBRON WINS BEST-CHAMPIONSHIP-MOMENT FOR NOT WINNING CHAMPIONSHIP: Almost felt bad for LeBron James winning that "Best Championship Moment" ESPY Wednesday night for his play in the NBA 1aa1acaitlyn
Finals, which Cleveland lost. He seemed a bit embarrassed, and understandably. Dear ESPN: Y'all might want to limit that category to athletes who actually won a championship. Just a thought. Click here for a complete list of winners. A few other observations: Glad U.S. women's soccer won Best Team ..... Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner, pictured, handled her Courage award speech with humor and grace, and makes a terrific rep for the transgender community ..... ESPN goes a bit overboard with the pathos, the tinkling-piano, emotional pieces, but does them well ..... Serena Williams should have won Best Female Athlete over Ronda Rousey ..... If ever an animal should win an ESPY, it was American Pharoah, which, alas, didn't ..... Most ridiculous of all, for me: Little League sensation Mo'ne Davis beating Jordan Spieth for Best Breakout Athlete. C'mon!

ON UM'S NEW, SELF-DEFEATING JERSEY-SALES POLICY: Starting this year the University Miami is offering only two football jersey numbers for retail sales to fans: No. 1 (to represent "We're No. 1!") and 1aa1abadideaNo. 15 (representing 2015, and changing every season to mark the year). They luck out this year because the team's biggest star, quarterback Brad Kaaya, happens to wear No. 15. Most years, the two numbers offered won't concide with a star player and sales will suffer. "To me," explains athletic director Blake James, "the right thing to do is not pick particular numbers of your stars." Yeah, that would make too much sense. It might promote the program too much. Grow the profile of the team too much. Blake says UM did not adopt its new, generic jersey sales policy in response to the landmark Ed O'Bannon litigation that would allow athletes to be paid for use of their likenesses or images (or names on a jersey). Clearly, though, from UM's vantage, limiting jersey sales is a hedge against that happening should the NCAA lose its appeal in the case.

Poll result: Whopping 80 percent think Heat will at least reach Eastern finals: We invited you to set the bar on Heat expectations in wake of Pat Riley's big summer, and 80 percent thought Miami would either win the East and reach NBA Finals (41.7%) or reach East finals but lose (38.3%). Another 16.8% thought Heat would advance in playoffs but fall short of finals, while 3.2% saw an early playoff exit.

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

July 15, 2015

Where Miami teams rank among world's 50 most valuable franchises; plus Heat-expectations poll, LeBatard auction, Giancarlo Stanton's new PSA, baseball hits home run with Derby, chicken wings 'n pizza have a baby & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JULY 15. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Good and bad on Tannehill ranking, Hot Button Top 10, Trump and Pierre-Paul verdicts & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too. Join us on Twitter for Periscope alerts. (We have a new 'Scope from yesterday's radio show. Watch soon. It disappears around 5:30 p.m. today).

'Peytom Branning': If Tom Brady and Peyton Manning morphed into each other: Click here for the gif.

Florida: "We're No. 10!": Recent national poll by market research group YouGov found Florida the 10th-most liked state in the U.S. (Are we bragging or complaining?) First: Hawaii. Dead last: New Jersey.

DOLPHINS BEAT HEAT ON MOST-VALUABLE-FRANCHISE LIST: List-mad Forbes has come out with its annual list of the world's Top 50 most valuable sports franchises for 2015, and two Miami clubs (the ones 1aa1amoneysportsyou'd expect) make it, albeit modestly. The Dolphins tie for 37th valued at $1.3 billion, and the Heat are 47th at $1.18 billion. The worldwide Top 10, with all figures in billions: 1. Real Madrid 3.26; 2. tie, Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees both 3.2; 4. Barcelona 3.16; 5. Manchester United 3.1; 6. tie, Los Angeles Lakers and New England Patriots both 2.6; 8. New York Knicks 2.5; 9. tie, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Redskins both 2.4. Rounding out the U.S. Top 10 after the Cowboys, Yankees, Lakers, Patriots, Knicks, Dodgers and Redskins are the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants (tied 12th at 2.1) and the Chicago Bulls and San Francisco Giants (tied 14th at 2.0).

MOTIVATED MAN: RILEY'S BIG SUMMER TURNS AROUND HEAT: A non-playoff team last season might now be the biggest NBA East challenger to LeBron James and Cleveland. That's what Pat Riley's big summer has 1aa1aheattwodone for the Miami Heat. Click on Motivated Man for our latest column. In a flurry the Heat drafted Duke's Justise Winslow, locked up point guard Goran Dragic for five years, kept Dwyane Wade, kept Luol Deng, and brought in big man Amar'e Stoudemire and 3-point guy Gerald Green at bargain rates. Mix in Chris Bosh' return to health, an ascending Hassan Whiteside and a healthy Josh McRoberts. That's an impressive nine-man depth. Riley has had is best offseason since 2010 and clearly is driven to topple LeBron James and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Will he? Now that the draft is past and free agency is (mostly) over, it's time to set the bar on Heat expectations for the coming season. Don't vote what you hope happens; vote what you honestly think most realistically will happen. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

LEBATARD/ESPN AUCTION: LAST DAY!: Today is last day to submit bids in ESPN's ESPY Auction 1aa1adanbenefiting The V Foundation for Cancer Research. An item that may be of special interest to South Floridians is a "Miami Heat Experience With Dan LeBatard and Stugotz." Winning bidder gets to watch an upcoming Heat game with Dan and Stu and also observe a taping of Highly Questionable and the radio show, along with other goodies. High bid was $4,110 when last I looked. Click here to access the auction (being done on eBay) and search Le Batard's name.

BASEBALL HITS A HOME RUN: Baseball got it right. Did it right. Monday's 30th annual Home Run Derby,
1aa1aderbyprecursor to last night's 86th All-Star Game, was pretty close to fantastic. I thought it upstaged the ASG, won 6-3 by the AL. After constant tinkering with the Derby format and an awful, boring show a year ago, MLB is preening and should be. Love the new format: eight players head-to-head, bracket style, with a time limit. The pace stayed fast, and guys were free-swinging, not worried about making outs. That the Reds' Todd Frazier won it, in Cincinnati, capped a storybook night. For an event that's all show and means nothing, really, it  was close to thrilling. The final eight suffered from the absence of the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (injured) and Nationals' Bryce Harper (choice) -- I think Stanton would have been the favorite -- but it was great stuff just the same.

Derby a hit with viewers: Via Nielsen, the Home Run Derby on ESPN drew a final 4.2 rating, up 24 percent from 2014, despite Chris Berman's hair. It was best HRD rating since 2009.

GIANCARLO STANTON'S NEW PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: MLB teamed up with the group Volunteers of America beginning in 2003 on an "Action Team" project, called a "national youth volunteer program." It is meant to encourage high-school age kids to get involved in helping those less fortunate in their communities. The latest public-service ad debuted during last night's All-Star Game, featuring the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton (another sign of his rising public profile) and Yankees pitcher Chris Capuano. Click on Volunteers of America for more info. Here is the full 60-second PSA:

   

Stanton in Cooperstown: Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's early-career trajectory suggests he might make the Hall of Fame someday -- if he stays healthy -- but did you know Stanton already is represented in Cooperstown with two artifacts in the Hall's permanent collection? They are: Batting helmet he wore Sept. 28, 2011 in Marlins’ final home game at Sun Life Stadium, and spikes worn Sept. 29, 2013 when Stanton scored the game's only run, on a wild pitch in bottom of ninth, to seal no-hitter of Henderson Alvarez.


1aa1achickenpizzaIF CHICKEN WINGS AND PIZZA HAD A BABY...:
They are calling it "Napoli Crispy Pizza Chicken" and it is currently being test-marketed at KFC locations in Hong Kong, which suggests the menu item may soon reach America if it goes over in the Kong. How could it not!? It's the marriage of chicken wings and pizza for God's sake! I just cold-called a random stranger in Kowloon to see how the dish is but he spoke Cantonese so I couldn't understand what he said. The Colonel would be proud. Or mortified, perhaps? 

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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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July 08, 2015

Carnival cruises to Cuba and impact on Heat owner Micky Arison: New poll. Vote now!; plus ESPN 'Body' issue poll, Fins seat sale, Pat Riley's motivation, new Dolphins 'n Canes betting odds, latest 'Weighing The Fish' & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JULY 8. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. women reign, ESPN's 'Body,' Marlins All-Stars, LeBatard on 'Ballers,' Hot Button Top 10, Dwyane vs. Jose verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too (with a new 'Scope vid from yesterday's radio show).

Fins seat auction is today: Dolphins today are offering limited number of assembled seats and seatbacks for purchase. Seats were removed during stadium reconstruction. Proceeds from auction will benefit Miami Dolphins Foundation. Single and double seats are available; visit Dolphins.com/seatback to bid or for more info. Seats will be sold to season-ticket holders first (limit two per account) beginning at 11 a.m., then to others starting at 2 p.m., subject to availability.

An ode to Serena Williams: U.S. women's soccer flares across the sky as newly minted champions and deserves the applause, but look to the very pinnacle of American women's sports and who you see is Serena Williams. Click on Miss America for my latest column.

HOW DO HEAT FANS FEEL ABOUT CARNIVAL CRUISING TO CUBA?: Three facts, and how they might collide: Fact 1--Carnival Cruise Lines has won U.S. government approval to begin excursions to Cuba, as 1aa1aarisondetailed in this Miami Herald story. Fact 2--Doral-based Carnival Corporation is chaired by and a huge part of Micky Arison's $7.1 billion net worth. Fact 3--Arison (pictured aboard one of his ships) also owns the Miami Heat, many of whose fans are Cubans who do not approve of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations because of their anti-Castro feelings. So, the question: Should the Heat owner's primary enterprise doing business with Cuba have a negative impact on how fans view him as a basketball team owner? I say no. I happen to support better relations with Cuba, and cruise traffic there was an inevitability, so Arison is doing smart business. Nor do I believe that all Cubans in South Florida might object; though some surely do. Let's get a rough idea how that breaks down with this pulse-read. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

NARCISSISM ON STEROIDS: ESPN'S ANNUAL 'BODY' ISSUE: Athletes love their bodies because their bodies are what make them rich and famous. Unless they are blowing up their hand misusing fireworks on the Fourth of July, athletes are famous for proudly taking care of their bods. Get all that. What I 1aa1awawrinka 1aa1acoughlindon't get is the comically outsized narcissism reflected in ESPN The Magazine's 'Body' issue, the seventh annual of which is out this week. Like, famous athletes don't get enough figurative exposure so they need the literal kind, too? Like, Bryce Harper doesn't have time to enter the Home Run Derby but he has time to get nekkid for ESPN? It's funny how the line has blurred. A top female athlete posing in Playboy would be lambasted for exploiting her sexuality and setting a bad example for young girls. But that same athlete going au naturale for ESPN is celebrated for being proud of her body. (Pictured left: Tennis player Stan Wawrinka. At right: Swimmer Natalie Coughlin). It's funny to me how ESPN fires a preemptive strike against any criticism that they are promoting only the perfect image of perfect bodies. They do this with the annual token inclusion of imperfect bodies. This year that includes three Colts linemen and a heavy female Olympian. Dear Athletes: Being proud of your bodies fully clothed would be just fine. A little modesty would be something to consider. But I may be wrong. Take a dip in our poll and share your overall view of ESPN's annual 'Body' issue.

RILEY'S REVENGE? HEAT PREZ IS COMING AFTER LEBRON: Last time it was to sign him. This time it's to 1aa1abig2beat him. That's a theory ESPN's Stephen A. Smith espoused on WQAM's Freeman & Fox Show, and it makes some sense. (Riley and LeBron are pictured in happier days). What follows is condensed, because Stephen A. is monumentally verbose: "Pat Riley I believe is coming for LeBron James. I believe Riley would have retired at the end of this [past] season had it not been for LeBron deciding to leave Miami. I think that has lit a fire under Riley we haven’t seen in some time. I think he is hell-bent on returning Miami to its glory and showing LeBron that [leaving was] not the way to go. I think Riley is going to do everything [he can to show] that LeBron made a mistake leaving the Heat. I think that’s a huge motivation." It is. That's why I wrote recently that getting to the Eastern Conference finals and beating Cleveland would be tantamount to an NBA Finals for Miami and almost parade-worthy for Riley and the Heat.

WEIGHING THE FISH (80 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this year 1aa1afishweighwe debuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games (or so) cumulative ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Ten qualify for our latest ranking. WTF factors six offensive categories, serving as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Here's WTF after 80 games (actually 83 at 35-48; oops again):

Rank Player                   WTF#  @70

1  Giancarlo Stanton      362.5    1

2  Dee Gordon                309.1    2

3  Adeiny Hechevarria   251.0   3

4  Marcell Ozuna            215.6   4

5  Martin Prado              201.5   5

6  Christian Yelich        194.3   7

7  Jacob Realmuto         178.5    6

8  Justin Bour                 165.9   9

9  Ichiro Suzuki              129.9   8

10  Michael Morse           91.6   10

Note: Season WTFs leader-count is now Stanton 5, Gordon 2.

UPDATED DOLPHINS, HURRICANES BETTING ODDS; KAAYA HONORED: From Bovada, the Packers 1aa1abkaayaare your new Super Bowl favorite at 6-1 odds, with Seahawks displaced to 13-2, followed by Colts 8-1 and Patriots 9-1. Dolphins sit at 33-1, tied for 12th. In college football, latest win over/unders have the Hurricanes at only 6, which I'd call surprisingly low and a bargain play at 'over'. (One reason I think that: QB Brad Kaaya, pictured, who yesterday was named to  the preseason Maxwell Award watch-list). Other state win over/unders: FSU 9.5, Florida 7.5, UCF 7, FIU 5.5, FAU 5 and South Florida 4.

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