June 20, 2015

The ultimate "South Florida's Favorite Sports Team" poll. Last chance to vote!; plus we're back from vacation & more

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

I'm back!: The wife and I have returned to the Motherland after an eight-night stay in Paris. I'm back on the Herald clock Monday but will have a brand new blog post here tomorrow/Sunday morning, including a new Hot Button Top 10 and (unavoidably, I'm afraid) a synopsis of my week-plus in Paris including photos. 2) 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine, because we'll be posting stuff while away.

1aa1akingofmiamiLAST CHANCE TO VOTE IN THE ULTIMATE "SOUTH FLORIDA'S FAVORITE SPORTS TEAM" POLL: Baseball is in full bloom, basketball and hockey have just wrapped up their seasons and summer means football is getting close enough to
hear the pads popping. So this is as good a time as 1aa1akingofmiami2any to wonder what South Florida's favorite team is, and I invite you to answer that question in the poll below. We're focusing here on teams at the pro or college level in the Greater Miami market -- and you may only choose one. I know that's tough because, if you're like me and most, you follow multiple teams and certainly care about more than one. But you can only care about one the most, right? By whatever criteria you choose to use, name that team! (Hey, nobody said life was easy, or fair). With apologies to any teams left out, I had to keep the poll to a manageable length and make some tough calls, but included an "other" category for that. So think about which SoFla pro or college team you love best or follow most avidly -- the one that is simply the most important to you -- then take a dip in our poll and say why. Final results announced here Sunday so vote now!

Check back a lot to monitor evolving results above...

May 28, 2015

On Heat vs. Wade impasse: Who's right? Poll. Vote now!; plus UM beats FIU 6-2, Sepp Blatter, Dolphins' rank on NFL uniforms list, verdict on FIFA scandal & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, MAY 30. Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, is off this week. However, our blog-exclusive adjunct, the Hot Button Top 10, will appear here Sunday as always. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FIFA scandal with poll, LeBron facing Finals heat, Abbot & Costello Marlins, 'Fish In the Dark' & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Sepp Blatter being reelected as FIFA president on Friday is like Richard Nixon winning a second term in the midst of Watergate." --Greg Cote

Miami Beach Bowl: College football bowl game announced that the second annual Miami Beach Bowl will be played Monday, Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m., again at Marlins Park.

NBA delay: Don't go there: If you hear anybody whining about the long, week's delay before the start of the NBA Finals (and you have, or will), please tell them to shut up and complain about something that matters.  

WADE/HEAT CONTRACT IMPASSE IS COMPLICATED BY EMOTION: The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported citing anonymous sources that Dwyane Wade and the Heat are significantly apart in contract talks, 1aa1adwadeand that there is a chance Wade will opt out this summer, test free agency and possibly even leave Miami. I believe the chances of Wade actually leaving are remote, because I believe the Heat does not want Wade to leave, and that Dwyane wishes to spend his entire career in the city where he is a three-time champion and revered. This story is mostly about one side using an ever-willing media to get across its message. The story is interesting, though, because it involves cold reality vs. emotion, and it involves the value of loyalty. Wade sacrificed $10.6 million off what he was owed by agreeing to a reworked two-year, $31 million deal that is to pay him $16 million this coming season. It is believed he wants to recoup that money by getting a deal that would pay him around $20 million per season over the next three years. That gulf, to me, seems small enough to bridge, but it would require compromise. The cold reality: Wade, at his age (33) and with his injury history, probably should be happy with the $16 million. His All-Star days and max-contract days may be past. Not sure he'd do better on the open market, although you never know. (The rejoining-LeBron-in-Cleveland speculation already is out there). The emotional argument in all this: That the Heat owes Wade in every sense, and should be willing to over-spend to keep to keep him, and keep him happy. That's the value of loyalty. I have to believe Pat Riley will find a way here. Meantime, what would you do if you were Riley: Take a hard line and pay Wade what you think he is worth now? Or pay him more than you feel he is worth to make up for his earlier sacrifices, and out of respect. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

MIAMI BEATS FIU 6-2 AS FEUDIN' NEIGHBORS FINALLY MEET: Update: Miami beat FIU last night, 6-2. Click on Bigger Than a Feud for my column from the ballpark. Original post: UM and FIU meet in baseball tonight for the first time since 1aa1ajmorris
1aa1acgablesreg
1aa1atthomas2008, though not by choice, at 7 p.m. in the four-team NCAA regional The U is hosting in Coral Gables. It's an open secret that Canes coach Jim Morris and FIU's Turtle Thomas -- Morris' assistant for 12 seasons through 1999 --  had a falling out and don't especially like each other. Morris and Thomas are pictured. Thomas would count it a career highlight by beating Miami tonight, even if he'd never admit it. The pressure is on Miami, top-seeded in this regional and a No. 5 national seed, to beat its underdog city neighbor. Should be deliciously intense. I'll be down there columnizing tonight.

DOLPHINS' UNIFORMS RANKED MID-PACK IN NFL: AOL.com ranks all 32 NFL uniforms (click here) and the top five are Packers, Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys and Chiefs. AFC East teams are mid-pack with Jets 10th, Bills 16th, Dolphins 17th and Patriots 22nd. (Bulletin: New England finishes last in division!) Dead-last overall: Tampa Bay Bucs. 

Poll result: FIFA scandal a huge story: We asked about this week's soccer scandal and 58.9 percent called the FIFA corruption indictments a "huge" story, 20.2% called it "big," 4.8% "medium" and 16.1% "minor."

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

April 20, 2015

Trust Pat Riley ... except when he says he's made peace with LeBron. My new column; plus what should Dolphins target in draft? Poll. Vote now!; also Hot Button Top 10 (updated), 4/20, your pick for NBA title & more

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

1aa1aapril4201) It is MONDAY, APRIL 20. It's 4-20, the unofficial national holiday when marijuana devotees celebrate their love of cannabis by smoking weed ... just like they do every other day of the year, but with a tad more ceremony today. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA playoffs preview and poll, Weighing The Fish (10 games), Dolphins preseason & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

TRUST PAT RILEY ... EXCEPT WHEN HE SAYS HE'S MADE PEACE WITH THE WAY LEBRON LEFT: My column off today's Riley postseason State of the Heat news conference is now posted online and you'd click In Riley We Trust to read it there. We posted it in advance here in its entirety, including an interesting, barely disguised shot at LeBron James, a passage underlined for emphasis below. The photo is by me from the news conference:

1aa1arileyme      Pat Riley just turned 70. His hair has gone a natural silvery gray. He is at a point, in life and career, when a man begins to hear his mortality clock ever louder, to a point that reminders from elsewhere are neither required nor appreciated.

      "People always are trying to make me older than I am," he mused with a small smile Monday in his annual season-ending State of the Heat news conference. "They’re trying to ask me, ‘Why are trying to stay around this game?’ I love the game. I love competition. I love the challenge of building this team again."

      Riley is an NBA lifer in his 46th year in the league, and planning for his 21st season in Miami. He may be a newly minted septuagenarian, but he is convinced he has another championship ring -– at least one more -– in his future.

      Do you doubt him?

      We don’t trust much in South Florida sports or have a lot of faith right now, do we?

      We don’t trust Jeffrey Loria owning the Marlins.

      We have doubts about Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

      We see Panthers hockey forever trying our patience.

      We feel eroding confidence in Canes football coach Al Golden.

      There isn’t a lot at the top of our sports marquee that has earned our unequivocal trust.

      But Riley has.

      By his tenure and titles, by his track record, the wily Silver Fox has earned every confidence that the injury-marred, playoff-less season just past was a blip, an outlier. In the triumvirate of Riley, owner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstraa, the Heat continue to be the unrivaled model for Miami sports.

      "I challenge myself more than anybody else," he said, "to make sure what happened this year doesn’t happen again."

      Do you doubt he is up to the challenge?

      One year earlier, though in June, after Miami’s loss in the NBA Finals, Riley’s theme had been to pointedly challenge LeBron James to stay, saying, "You have to stay together if you got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it."

      Twenty-two days later James found the door marked ‘Cleveland’ and ran out of it.

      Monday, Riley obviously was alluding to James and the timing and manner of his departure when he referred to having "no more smiling faces with hidden agendas" to deal with this time. Pressed on that he attempted a fast back-track by saying he could have meant "anyone across the board," though it was obvious who he meant.

      I later asked Riley directly if he is at peace with the way James left.

      "Yes, absolutely," he said. "I’m at peace with it."

      I think he was being smarter than he was truthful. In any case Riley is wise to set aside if not bury the LeBron animus, at least publicly, and portray a man not lamenting, but looking forward.

      There is much to look forward to.

      Center Hassan Whiteside, forwards Chris Bosh and Luol Deng and guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic -– that is a starting five you can win with. With good health, and added depth including another 3-point shooter or two, that is a starting five you can contend with.

      "You would like to have seen that team intact for just one game," Riley said. "We didn’t get to see that. It was a real disappointing year in terms of setbacks."

      Riley portrayed being able to re-sign Dragic as a near-certainty.

      "If he doesn’t sign, my ass is going to be in that seat next year and I’ll be writing," he joked, pointing at reporters. "We’re in a very good position to offer him more than anybody else."

      Dragic and Bosh are all-star caliber. So, still, is Wade, who has shown an ability to offset advancing age with efficiency. Whiteside could become a powerhouse, what Riley called "a formidable presence in the offense." Deng is the selfless do-it-all guy every team needs. The return of Josh McRoberts to the rotation will be big. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem still fill a valuable role.

      There is little doubt that Miami –- even with all of the injuries and Bosh’s blood clots and the 30 different starting lineups -– still should have made the playoffs but for a late swoon.

      "I told Eric [Spoelstra] to go beat himself up for a week," Riley said, maybe half-kidding. "And if he didn’t want to, I’d help him."

      Riley remains a huge Spoelstra supporter and believer, but also an enormous asset.

      "I’ve been in that trench before," as Riley put it. "I see everything. He knows I see everything."

      The club’s president and architect has seen enough, and accomplished enough, that Heat fans should have little doubt he’ll see this franchise back into the playoffs next season, and soon back into championship contention.

      It is hard to not have doubts about many of our biggest South Florida sports teams right now.

      It is hard to trust and have faith in who is in charge and leading those teams.

      Pat Riley makes it easy.

1aa1adoldraftWHAT POSITION SHOULD DOLPHINS TARGET IN FIRST ROUND?: It's the night of April 30. Dolphins are on the clock at No. 14 in the first round. There are comparably talented and rated players available at the positions Miami has targeted. So, what to do? Wide receiver seems to be the position earmarked for Fins in a lot of early mock drafts and analysis. It's a glamour position -- though also won pretty well-stocked, by my eye. Would cornerback or linebacker be a smarter option? (Yes, guard also is a need, but no OG is seen as 1R-worthy this year). So you tell me. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Warriors, then Spurs your pick for NBA title: Golden State (37.3 percent) and San Antonio (31.6%) dominated third-place Cleveland (15.3%) when we asked who'd win the NBA championship. Hmm. Anti-LeBron bias, perhaps? Atlanta was a distant fourth with 6.2%.

HOT BUTTON APR. 19: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, newly updated. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NBA: No Heat, but NBA playoffs begin anyway: With Dwyane Wade and Miami on outside for first time since 2008, NBA playoffs began this weekend with LeBron James’ Cleveland and Steph Curry’s Golden State the betting co-favorites and both off to 1-0 series leads. Meantime, Miami somehow lost its playoff spot to Boston and Brooklyn even though it was 7-1 against them. "SMH," said Heat fans, shaking their heads.

2, MARLINS: Fish swept by Mets, rough start to season tests optimism: Dee Gordon is way-hot and Giancarlo Stanton set the club record for career homers, but little else has gone right in team's 3-10 after Sunday' loss and sweep by Mets. Miami doesn't play today. The ways things are going, Marlins will lose the off-day.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins ponder options as NFL Draft nears: Countdown is 10 days now until first round, with speculation growing that Miami likely will take a receiver or cornerback 14th overall. Then again, there also looms the anticlimactic possibility of a trade down.

4. LEGAL SYSTEM: Ex-Patriot Hernandez guilty of murder: Aaron Hernandez will serve life in prison, after jurors said they were “shocked” defense lawyer James Sultan admitted Hernandez witnessed the murder even though no testimony or evidence had placed him at the scene. Opposing defenses were seldom a problem for Hernandez, but apparently his own defense was.

5. NHL: Stanley Cup playoffs start without Cats (again): The hockey postseason is underway, and many experts see the New York Rangers as favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. That was one year after a team from Canada last won it all, a now-22-year drought for the birthplace of hockey. Modified national anthem to play at arenas during playoffs: Oh No, Canada.

6. BOSTON MARATHON: Iconic race is Monday, two years later: The 119th running will be today for the race struck by the 2013 terrorist bombing that killed three and wounded 264. The sentencing for convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins Tuesday. Is it too late to invent a sentence worse than death?

7. POLITICS: NBA visits Cuba this week: NBA will conduct a developmental camp in Cuba this Thursday through Sunday. That's against the Heat's wishes, on the face of it, although Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line would benefit greatly from an open port and tourism in Cuba.

8. GOLF: Next Tiger? Spieth wins Masters, electrifies sport: Jordan Spieth, 21, impressively won the Masters and immediately I saw a poll asking whether Spieth would shatter the record by surpassing 20 career major wins. Tap brakes, please. Talking 20 majors after No. 1 is like mentioning the Cy Young Award on Opening Day after the pitcher retires the side in the top of the first.

9. PANTHERS: Florida slotted for 11th pick: NHL draft lottery determined the Panthers will select 11th in the draft they will host in Sunrise on June 26, after the league rejected Florida's proposal that, this year only, the draft host gets the overall No.1 pick.

10. FIU: Golden Panthers wrap spring practice: FIU, seeking its first winning season since 2011, drew a couple of hundred fans for its Spring Game, which was only about 99,000 fewer than Ohio State.

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

April 12, 2015

All but done. Heat playoff chances now 1.7%; plus the new Hot Button Top 10 with Heat, zombie Marlins, Masters, Fins, Cuba, Cats, Canes, FIU & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 13. Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, took the day off but will return next week. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's plunging playoff fortunes, LeBron sabotaging Heat poll, Branden Albert boxing, NBA/Cuba verdict, Marlins off schneid, Kardashian-Free Zone & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Historical SadFact: With the Heat facing elimination today from contention for the NBA playoffs, this would be only the fifth time in 21 shared seasons that both Heat and NHL Panthers sat out the postseason. Previous occurrences were in 2008, 2003, 2002 and 1995.

PLAYOFF CHASE: MIAMI (ALL BUT) ELIMINATED: The latest home 1aa1adwadeloss, 107-104 to Toronto, was Miami's ninth in the past 12 games and pushed Heat to very edge of elimination from NBA playoff race. Dwyane Wade (pictured), who scored 30, displays an expression fitting the frustration of how Miami has blown it the past few weeks. Heat must now win its final two games and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2, after Boston beat the LeBron-less Cavs yesterday to (all but) eliminate the Heat. Four teams were jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. Playoff-likelihood percents are updated to reflect yesterday's developments. How it looks entering Monday's NBA action:

7. Boston: 38-42, W4. Playoff likelihood: 98.3% (up 10.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Tuesday vs. TOR, Wednesday @ MIL. Note: All but clinched.

8. Brooklyn: 37-43, L1. Playoff likelihood: 76.4% (down 12.5). Next: Tonight vs. CHI, Wednesday vs. ORL. Note: Last two games being at home helps cause.

9. Indiana: 37-43, W5. Playoff likelihood: 23.6 (up 2.8). Next: Tonight vs. WAS, Wednesday @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat.

10. Miami: 35-45, L2. Playoff likelihood: 1.7% (down 1.1). Next: Tonight vs. ORL, Wednesday @ PHI. Note: Heat makes playoffs only if it finishes 2-0 and Brooklyn and Indiana both finish 0-2.

HOT BUTTON APR. 12: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Miami playoff hopes now all but over: To make the playoffs now, Miami must finish 2-0 (starting tonight vs. Orlando in home finale) and hope Brooklyn and Indiana both end 0-2. That could happen. Yes, and I could hit the Lotto on the way to my blind date with Olivia Munn.

2. MARLINS: Fish staggering at 1-5 start: Team finally won Friday on a "Zombie Night" promotion as many fans arrived dressed as the living dead -- emulating their team's bats during the punchless five losses including yesterday's. More ominous yet: Henderson Alvarez may be out as Fish begin 10-game road trip.

3. GOLF: The Masters under Spieth's spell: Jordan Spieth, 21, became the second-youngest Masters winner (after Tiger Woods in 1997) in dominating Augusta. Tiger was a big story for playing credibly, which tells you how far his career has sunk.

4. DOLPHINS: Pouncey signs long-term deal: No rest. Team signs center Mike Pouncey long-term, auditions but doesn't sign WRs Wes Welker, Greg Jennings and Michael Crabtree, and prepares (17 days and counting) for the NFL Draft.

5. NBA: League to hold camp in Cuba: League blindsided and angered Heat by unilaterally announcing an April 23-26 developmental camp in Cuba. A heads-up might have been logical and nice for the one franchise affected by any relationship with the island.

6. PANTHERS: Hockey season quietly expires: Much improvement and lots to like under first-year coach Gerard Gallant, team MVP Roberto Luongo and late-arrival JaromirJagr in season that ended with Saturday win over Jersey. Bottom line, though: For 17th time in 21 franchise seasons, no playoffs.

7. HURRICANES: 10 more inducted in UM sports hall: I don't wanna say its inducts too many people each year, but if it were a country, the UM Sports Hall of Fame would be the 43rd most populous nation on Earth.

8. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Duke men, UConn women reign: Now if we can just get the two champions to play each other for the ultimate crown. Sure, it'd be ridiculous. But you'd watch, wouldn't you?

9. TENNIS: Novak, Serena win Miami Open: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams won titles on Key Biscayne last weekend. Or, given tennis' predictability ... did that go without saying?

10. FIU BASKETBALL: FIU hires new hoops coach: FIU introduced former Maryland assistant Marlin Chinn as head coach of its women's team. Which makes him the newest Miami Marlin, right?

Poll result: Most don't think LeBron is intentionally hurting Heat: We asked if you thought LeBron James resting or sitting out two straight games vs. Celtics might be to intentionally hurt Miami's playoff chances, and it was 51.4 percent no, 38.1% yes and 10.5% maybe/undecided.

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

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. 

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

January 25, 2015

Which is the best (or least bad) of sports' Big 4 All-Star Games? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10, verdict on D-Wade & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 25. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Is-Dwyane Wade-still-elite poll, Marlins sign Ichiro, Riley descends from mount, Marino dipped in wax, Bob Dylan & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

OUR LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL-STAR GAMES: The NFL and NHL play their annual all-star games today and the NBA's is soon so this is the right time to ask which of our Big Four sports' all-star games 1aa1anflpb 1aa1amlbasg 1aa1anhlasg 1aa1anbaasgyou think is the best -- or, perhaps, the least awful. They all are flawed, which is why the formats are always tinkered with. We spend a lot of time complaining about the selection process. The games don't draw great TV ratings. Each is decorated with surrounding events (home run derbies, slam-dunk contests) because the All-Star Game itself is not a great sell on its own. Nevertheless, chances are you think one if better than the rest. So which is it and why? Remember, this is not a favorite-sport poll. It is asking specifically which one has the best All-Star Game. Vote now.

Poll result: Mixed views (but doubts) on whether Wade still "elite": We asked in the previous blogpost if Heat star Dwyane Wade, at 33, remains an "elite" player by however you define that (you may still vote), and it was 51.6 percent "no," 40.1% "yes" and 8.3% "undecided."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: "Deflategate” dominates buildup to Super Bowl: It’ll be New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in the 49th Super Bowl, but the buildup has become an NFL nightmare with the Pats’ underinflated-footballs controversy. At least attention is diverted away from whether Marshawn Lynch will be fined again for grabbing his crotch. So from either angle, it's all about balls!

2. HEAT: Wade’s streak of All-Star Game starts ends: Forbes surprised many when its rank of best NBA fans had Miami No. 1. That was just before Heat fans allowed Dwyane Wade’s streak of nine All-Star Game starts in a row to end as a late flurry of votes by Toronto fans pushed Kyle Lowry ahead. No word on whether Forbes will now reconfigure its fan rankings.

3. MARLINS: Active offseason continues as Fish add Ichiro: With the Feb. 20 start of spring training looming, the Marlins continued an active and successful offseason by signing 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract as a fourth outfielder. Granted, Ichiro is 41 now and this signing would be more exciting if it were 2005, not ’15. But still!

4. ALL-STAR GAMES: NFL, NHL stars showcased Sunday: Hockey’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, and football's Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, have more in common than the fact both are being played Sunday and each has undergone format changes. For example, they are also alike in that the leagues act like they are big deals but fans don’t care all that much.

5. RUNNING: Annual Miami Marathon stampedes from downtown: OK, you got me. Nobody is talking about this except the runners themselves. But there were some 25,000 of those setting off early Sunday in the annual Miami Marathon & Half Marathon starting at 6:15 a.m. Too bad it’s not in South Beach so the runners could stampede over all the drunks leaving SoBe clubs at about that time.

6. DOLPHINS: Ross touts stadium renovations: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pimped a $350 million stadium renovation designed to attract Super Bowls and other biig events. Dear Steve: The only change in the stadium Dolfans care about is a winning team in it.

7. HURRICANES: Former player donates $1.6 million: UM men's basketball won a big game at Syracuse but a bigger story off-the-field was ex-Canes football star Calais Campbell donating $1.6 million to school's athletic department, biggest gift ever by a former UM athlete. Perpetually complaining, dissatified Hurricanes fans said it wasn't enough.

8. BASEBALL: Manfred takes over as MLB commissioner: Rob Manfred is on the job as of Sunday as Bud Selig retires. Selig had a great run other than the Steroids Era happening under his nose. Much as Nixon was a pretty great president other than Watergate. 

9. GOLF: Allenby, Woods in strange controversies: Robert Allenby claimed he was beaten, robbed and dumped in a park six miles from a bar, but his story unraveled. Tiger Woods claimed he lost a front tooth to a swinging TV camera but nobody seemed to believe that, either.

10. FIU: Veteran coach Russo retires: Cindy Russo retired after 36 years as FIU's women's basketball coach. Perspective? That's 10 years longer than that slacker Don Shula coached the Dolphins.

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December 04, 2014

Do you believe Jameis Winston? New poll. Vote!; plus Scintillating vs. Silly with UM fans, Duke Johnson wins 'state Heisman'; also 'Goodbye RGIII' video, Barkley is right, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4. I'm at Friday Page Headquarters today divining my Week 14 NFL predictions. Pray for me. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins edge Jets, DSM poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins catch a break: Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl run-stopper, today was suspended for the remainder of the regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. So he's erased from Sunday's Dolphins game here.

WINSTON DENIES RAPE ALLEGATION: I have no idea whether Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is guilty and lying or falsely accused and telling the truth. Neither, chances are, do you. It's he-said/she-said, the 1aa1ajwinstonissue is consent and it's risky to make assumptions. Winston's long-awaited two-day student conduct hearing over the rape allegation against him ended Wednesday with no decision yet reached. Winston declined to answer questions but did read from a five-page statement, declining any guilt. In part: "I did not rape or sexually assault [the accuser]," the statement reads. "I did not create a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment in the short period of time that we were together. [She] had the capacity to consent to having sex with me and she repeatedly did so by her conduct and her verbal expressions. I never used physical violence, threats, or other coercive means. I never endangered [hers] health, safety, or well-being." Click here for the story. Do you tend to believe Winston based on your knowledge of the case? Take a dip in our poll, and try to separate whether you are a Seminoles fan or hater from what you honestly think.

SCINTILLATING VS. SILLY AT UM: What's scintillating right now -- Hurricanes men's basketball -- isn't getting the full attention it deserves because of the distraction over what's silly: the pointless speculation over football coach Al Golden. Jim Larranaga's men's hoopers are now 8-0 and surely will 1aa1ajiml
1aa1aalgrise from their No. 15 poll ranking after Tuesday night's 70-61 home win over No. 24 Illinois. Yet the obsession these days of UM fans in general and of the media seems to be the job status of Golden following a disappointing 6-6 season. All of this was perfectly reflected last night at the arena when a "Fire Golden" chant briefly bloomed, only to be tamped out by annoyed fellow attendees directing attention to the basketball game, please. (Pictured left, the heroic Larranaga. Pictured right, Golden, being chased by an angry mob). The Golden chatter is silly because it's moot. Golden's job is not in jeopardy; UM is not considering a coaching change. Maybe we won't be able to say that a year from now, but it's ironclad-true today. Yet false rumors percolated yesterday about an imminent firing. One local radio host reported he'd been told by a source that Golden was getting the boot; then, when that proved false, the same host Tweeted, "I'm NOT a journalist!" Effing hilarious. Meanwhile, a few Board of Trustee members continue in the role of shadow snipers, anonymously criticizing Golden. The Trustees should stop with the cowardice, and the local media should cease and desist with what has become a far too common practice of using anyonymous sources. Well, at least that's what I was told by a "close associate" of a journalism professor who requested anonymity!

SOPY: CANES' DUKE JOHNSON WINS "STATE HEISMAN": Well, something went right for the Miami Hurricanes this year. Duke Johnson went right. UM's Duke of Gables comfortably beats Florida State's 1aa1asopy 1aa1adukejJameis Winston in our season-ending, blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings: the "State Heisman." The SOPY rankings end with the 12-game regular season and do not include conference title games or bowls, so every school is on even footing. This is a cumulative ranking of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Florida only played 11 games, not making up its lightning-canceled opener. UCF plays its final game Thursday night, but the result has no bearing on the overall lead so we present the final rankings now. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The final 2014 SOPY Top 25:

SOPY FINAL 2014

Rk      Player, team-pos.                LW     Season

1        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         111     1,968

2       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         90.5    1,844

3        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb     142.5   1,765

4        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            161     1,513

5        Justin Holman, UCF-qb           85     1,468.5

6        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            35      1,255

7        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        35      1,211

8       Alex McGough, FIU-qb            DNP   1,063.5

9        Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       47        958

10      Matt Jones, Florida-rb             29        924

11. Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb, 906; 12. Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 881; 13. Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec, 874; 14. DeMarcus Robinson, Florida-rec, 830; 15.Breshad Perriman, UCF-rec, 815; 16. Treon Harris, Florida-qb, 799; 17. Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb, 797; 18. Mike White, SoFla-qb, 782.5; 19. Jonnu Smith, FIU-rec, 768; 20. Clive Walford, Miami-rec, 718; 21. William Stanback, UCF-rb, 667; 22t. Andre Davis, SoFla-rec, 636; 22t. Alex Gardner, FIU-rb, 636; 24. Anthon Samuel, FIU-rb, 617; 25. Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb, 612.

SOPY Champions

2014    Duke Johnson, Miami-rb                1,968

2013    Jameis Winston, FSU-qb                2,107

2012    Stephen Morris, Miami-qb             1,900.5

Cote's State of the State ranking: 1. FSU (12-0); 2. UCF (8-3); 3. Florida (6-5); 4. Miami (6-6); 5. SoFla (4-8); 6. FIU (4-8); 7. FAU (3-9).

BARKLEY IS RIGHT ON FERGUSON RIOTERS: Race is a fascinating thing. If I (white as a linen napkin) call the folks rioting and looting in Ferguson, Mo. "scumbags" it comes off as racist. Black Charles 1aa1abarkleycBarkley can say it -- and did. It's still controversia, but not the way it would be if said by a white commentator. Barkley is right, by the way. "Scumbag" is an inflammatory word, but do people destroying property and looting merit much better? I hate that the looters claim an entitlement based on their outrage over the Michael Brown shooting and the police-shooter's non-indictment. Righteous protest and civil disobedience are wonderful things, part of the our freedom. Looting isn't. Not under any circumstance. Barkley sounds more like Rush Limbaugh in calling the police "the only thing in the ghetto between this place being the wild wild West," and saying, "There's a reason they racially profile us at times." But in lambasting the looters, I can't imagine he'd get much disagreement from anyone but the looters.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: WEEK 13 SEES PICKS UNEVEN, LOBOS PRAYING: We update you briefly every 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixweek on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: We went a fairly solid 11-5 overall but only 7-9 against the spread despite a pair of nice outright upset picks with Falcons over Cardinals ("Aawwk!") and Jaguars over Giants. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos won, 118-69, led by Calvin Johnson's big 38 Bird Day points, improving to 6-7 on the year. We're in a four-way tie for our league's final playoff spot entering the last week. However we stand fourth on the tiebreaker ladder, meaning we need a small mirale. Um, make that a large miracle.

GOODBYE, RGIII: A smart, expertly done ode to Robert Griffin III's downfall, to the tune of Elton John's Candle in the Wind:

 

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November 25, 2014

Ouch. Computers put Dolphins playoff shot at mere 19.7%; plus Canes' Duke nears "state Heisman," NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, (barely) remembering JFK, naughty names & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio on South Beach today with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. A new "Back In My Day" is prepped and ready. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolfan and Canesfan Satisfaction Meter polls. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS PICK A BAD YEAR TO BE PRETTY GOOD; PLAYOFF HOPES SLIM: Miami at 6-5 has a slightly less than 1 in 5 chance (19.7 percent) to reach the postseason, according to the computer analytics at a site I 1aa1adol19.7have come to respect: makenflplayoffs.com. Following last night's end of NFL Week 12 the three clear AFC frontrunners, all but in, are the Patriots (94.3%), Colts (92.0%) and Broncos (83.1%). Then it's a mad five-team scrum for the last three spots among the Bengals (61.9%), Chiefs (50.2%), Steelers (47.6%), Chargers (47.4%), Ravens (39.9%) and Browns (38.8%). Then comes Miami, 10th overall in the hunt for six AFC tickets. The Fins' path to the playoffs from here seems pretty clear: Beat the three teams you should (Jets, twice, and Vikings) and find a way to beat either the Ravens or Patriots. Doable. But daunting.

SOPY: UM'S DUKE WITH SAFE BUT NOT INSURMOUNTABLE LEAD ENTERING FINAL GAME: Miami's Duke Johnson leads Florida State's Jameis Winston by 103.5 points entering each player's final game in our 1aa1asopyblog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." That's a nice but not insurmountable lead. The SOPY rankings end with the 12-game regular season and do not include conference title games or bowls, so every school is on even footing. This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been Winston (in 2013 with 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (in 2012 with 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 14:

SOPY WEEK 13 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk13    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         132     1,857

2 (2)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         142.5   1,753.5

3 (3)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      223     1,622.5

4 (5)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           143     1,383.5

5 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb           104.5    1,352

6 (8)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb           165      1,220

7 (6)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       106      1,176

8 (7)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb              8       1,063.5

9 (10)     Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       131       911

10 (9)       Matt Jones, Florida-rb            27        895

Bubble: Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 839. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Florida and UCF have played 10 games; Miami, FSU, FAU and USF have played 11; and FIU has played 11.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (11-0); 2. UCF (7-3); 3. Miami (6-5); 4. Florida (6-4); 5. SoFla (4-7); 6. FIU (4-8); 7. FAU (3-8).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: PICKS, LOBOS BOTH SLIP IN WEEK 12: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team, 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixand this week's report ain't pretty. Pix: We went a mediocre 9-6 overall but only 6-9 against the spread -- breaking a season-long string of 11 straight weeks at no worse than .500 ATS. Had four 'dogs-with-points including Dolphins, but misfired badly on our Cards-over-Seahawks upset call, a bad pick. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos' three-game win streak ended with a mighty thud, 144-54. Never a good sign when your high scorer (Philip Rivers) has 13 points. The bigger issue was six guys in single-figures. Oy! The good news? At 5-7 I'm only one game off playoff pace (not counting tiebreakers) with two weeks left, so I'll have a shot if I can win out. Rally, Lobos!

REMEMBERING JFK (IF BARELY): This is what insidious time does. It fades even the most memorable of us. A year ago the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination was big news. The 51st 1aa1ajfkanniversary, this past Saturday, passed quietly. Do any of us even know when Abe Lincoln was assassinated? It was on an April 15, 149 years ago. So we may expect a proper media remembrance on the big-One-Five-Oh next spring, at least. JFK's murder is one of my faintest childhood memories. I vaguely recall us being sent home from school early and finding my mother weeping at the black-and-white TV set. On Saturday I was on a weekend cruise in the Bahamas and didn't give the date a fleeting thought. But I do now.

NAUGHTY 'N NICE NAMES: The Daily Mail of London reports a recent study of 63,000 (presumably British) school 1aa1anameschildren determined which kids tend to be naughty misbehavers and nice angels, based on first names. Ten nicest girls: Amy, Georgia, Emma, Charlotte, Grace, Sophie, Abigail, Hannah, Emily and Alice. Ten naughtiest girls: Ella, Bethany, Eleanor, Olivia, Laura, Holly, Courtney, Amber, Caitline and Jade. Ten nicest boys: Jacob, Daniel, Thomas, James, Adam, Harry, Samuel, Jack, Oliver and Ryan. Ten naughtiest boys: Joseph, Cameron, William, Jake, Joshua, Jamie, Lewis, Benjamin, Ethan and Luke. All I can say is, if Ella and Joe get together, watch out!

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November 22, 2014

G11: Virginia 30, Hurricanes 13: Playing for bowl position, and slipping; CSM coming Monday; plus FSU, Gators, FIU finale & more

1) It is SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 12 picks, Jeffrey Loria publicly slammed & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1acsmCSM change: It'll be Monday, not tonight!: The Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll will not appear immediately following tonight's game. With apologies, because of logistical issues, this time only, the latest CSM will appear in the blog Monday. The same issues will prevent us from updating here live during the game. Thanks for the understanding.

G11: VIRGINIA 30, HURRICANES 13: ALL ABOUT BOWL POSITION NOW: Beating Florida State last week would have been a season-maker for Miami, leaving UM ranked and still in the hunt for an ACC title, 1aa1acanesvaand shaking up the College Football Playoff top four. Instead, the Canes' fall-from-ahead 30-26 loss left Miami left to wonder only about its bowl destiny. Current speculated destinations are the Sun Bowl/El Paso or Music City Bowl/Nashville, but that stock could rise or fall depending on results Saturday at Virginia and in next week's finale at home vs. Pittsburgh. Clearly, the Hurricanes must not have a cavalier attitude (sorry) about Virginia. UM is only favored by 5 or 6 points, and it's understandable. Canes have lost two straight and three of past four trips to Charlottesville, the only win in OT. So this is an opponent not to look past. Having said that, Virginia has lost four in a row and should fall prey to The U's Brad Kaaya/Duke Johnson attack as long as Miami doesn't demonstrate the post-FSU blues and come out flat. My pick: Hurricanes, 30-27.

Other Collball Week 13 state FBS games:

Florida 52, Eastern Kentucky 3: Last week Gators you lost to Steve Spurrier and South Carolina in The Swamp to get coach Will Muschamp canned. Now all your attention is on upsetting rival Florida State next week. Better not look past second-tier EKY. They didn't.

Florida State 20, Boston College 17: On home stretch to berth in first College Football Playoff, Noles were a 17-point fave but had to beware Sandwich Effect. BC isn't terrible but would be easy to ignore, coming between last week's 30-26 rally at Miami and next week's traditional rivalry vs. Florida. Sure enough, a Noles escape.

North Texas 17, FIU 14: G-Panthers were a narrow 'dog in their season finale, hoping to end year on two-game win streak. But they lost narrowly to end a 4-8 season.

Middle Tennessee 35, FAU 34: Underdog Owls were in final roadie before ending season back home at Howard's House next Saturday vs, Old Dominion. 

Also: UCF def. Southern Methodist, 53-7; and Memphis def. South Florida, 31-20. Off this week: None.

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November 16, 2014

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 47.6%; plus UM falls late to FSU, Stanton deal, new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins wad Bills, DSM poll, NFL Week 11 picks & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Click on What Champions Do for my column from the stadium on last night's Canes-Noles game. I write that FSU deserves more credit than Miami does blame. Find our blog gamepost directly below the new CSM poll and latest Hot Button Top 10.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G10: Results are certified in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 47.6 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Saturday night's 30-26 home loss to Florida State putting UM's season 1aa1acsmrecord at 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. (That's easily UM's highest grade following a loss this season). The CSM, in its sixth season, is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

;

2014 CSM results

G1: 6.7% (following 31-13 loss at Louisville) 

G2: 35.9% (following 41-7 victory vs. Florida A&M)

G3: 71.8% (following 41-20 victory vs. Arkansas State)

G4: 11.6% (following 41-31 loss at Nebraska)

G5: 73.3% (following 22-10 victory vs. Duke)

G6: 3.3% (following 28-17 loss at Georgia Tech)

G7: 29.6% (following 55-34 victory vs. Cincinnati)

G8: 80.4% (following 30-6 victory at Virginia Tech)

G9: 92.9% (following 47-20 victory vs. North Carolina)

G10: 47.6% (following 30-26 loss vs. Florida State)

Next Poll: Nov. 22 (following game at Virginia)

HOT BUTTON NOV. 16: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, an expanded, updated Hot Button Top 10. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Hurricanes: UM falls short as Florida State hex continues: Miami led last night all game until 3 minutes remained, losing 30-26. FSU and Jameis Winston did what they do: Being doubted, looking less than great ... then winning. No power shift yet in the ACC. I said yet.

2. Dolphins: Spanking of Bills enlivens playoff hopes: Happy days are here again after Thursday's 22-9 home win over jinx Buffalo. I'd mention Peyton Manning is waiting on deck in Denver, but I'm not a rain-on-your-parade kind of guy.  

3. Marlins: Stanton reportedly close to record extension: Slugger Giancarlo Stanton, 25, is said to be close to signing a $325 million, 13-year extension. Be honest. Raise your hand if you thought Jeffrey Loria, who led the league in being disliked, would ever be the owner to set record for spending.

4. NASCAR: Season champion to be crowned today at Homestead: I'll be down there as Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick race for NASCAR season crown today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Any would be a first-time champ in latest incarnation of Chase for the Crown format. 

5. Heat: Still trying to decipher team in post-LeBron era: A 5-2 start, now two losses in a row entering today's home game vs. Milwaukee. What we know for sure about the Heat right now is that we don't know anything for sure.

6. College football: Alabama topples No. 1 Mississippi State: Nick Saban's home win, 25-20, will send the No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide leaping into the College Football Playoff ranking's coveted top four, and likely sending Mississippi State out of it. You get a chance to watch the game, Condoleezza Rice?

7. UM hoops: Canes men visit No. 7 Gators Monday: Jim Larranaga's UM men are 1-0 but get their first real test of the newborn college basketball season at top-10 Floirida Monday. Canes footballers just lost to a state rival. Let's see how the hoops guys fare.

8. Panthers: Cats begin four-game road swing: I keep reading how the season is on upswing. Hmm. When last I checked, Florida was 5-9, last in NHL in goals and 13th of 16 teams in conference. Can we raise the bar on "upswing," please?

9. FIU: Golden Panthers win home finale: FIU rallied to defeat Middle Tennessee 38-28 in their home finale to snap four-game losing streak. It was Senior Day. Based on reports, there may have been more Seniors being honored than fans in the stands. 

10. Soccer: Strikers fall short for NASL title: Fort Lauderdale lost at San Antonio last night 2-1 for NASL championship, Strikers' first time in Soccer Bowl since 1980 loss to N.Y. Cosmos in league's original incarnation. I may be only person in America both at the '80 game and aware of last night's.

G10: NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE 30, HURRICANES 26: No in-game live blog last night because of recurring online/connectivity problems from the stadium. ..... Original post: If No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama is today's collball Game of the Day, it's by a whisker over this one as unbeaten Florida State visits Miami at 1aa1acanesfsu8 p.m. in a nationally televised game that has FSU's 25-game winning streak and repeat-championship hopes in serious jeopardy. The Hurricanes are but narrow 2 1/2-point underdogs at Dolphins stadium, due to a combination of Jameis Winston and his Noles not being as dominant as last year, and UM playing its best ball of the season. The timing seems right for the homies. The U rides in on a three-game win streak and has won 13 of its past 14 home games as it tries to end a four-game FSU win streak in this ACC and state rivalry. Miami has not won at home over the Tally gang in 10 years. The sold-out stadium may be filled with nearly as many fans in garnet and gold as in orange or green, but there are reasons beyond the venue to like Miami. Brad Kaaya is having a better season, at least statistically, than Winston. Red-hot Duke Johnson is playing like a running back who means to make a late run at the Heisman Trophy. And UM's once-maligned defense has seemed to coalesce with more of an attacking style. Miami, the way it is playing right now, is a team that can keep pace with Winston in a shootout. And Lord knows FSU is overdue for a loss. I'll be at the game tonight columnizing. It's one of those "event" games that won't feel like work. Can't wait 'til kickoff! My pick was: Hurricanes, 31-27.

Other Collball Week 12 state FBS games:

South Carolina 23, Florida 20 (OT): Steve Spurrier back in The Swamp is always fun, even though this was an off-year meeting in which Spurrier's 'Cocks and his ex-Gators both are sloughing through disappointing seasons. Florida was a 7-point fave but game to me felt even, like no result would surprise. With good reason, apparently.

FIU 38, Middle Tennessee 28: FIU once was 3-3 and dreaming bowl but had spilled to four straight L's and was a 5-point 'dog here. But I rightly gave G-Panthers a decent upset shot in their home finale.

Also: USF def. Southern Methodist, 14-13, and UCF def. Tulsa, 31-17, Friday night. Off this week: FAU.

JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAYS, MARLINS' GIVE US THE GIFT OF STANTON: The Miami Marlins, of all teams. Jeffrey Loria, of all sports owners. That is what strikes you first when hearing that Giancarlo 1aa1agstantonStanton reportedly is about to sign the richest contract in the history not only of baseball, but of North American team sports: $325 million over 13 years. It isn’t that some team is offering him that. It’s that this team is. The Marlins, who are routinely among MLB's bottom-dwellers in player payroll. The Marlins, who have led the league in cost-cutting, fan-angering "fire sales." The Marlins, whose penurious business 1aa1adickens
operation has made Loria perhaps the most unpopular owner in South Florida sports history. This is astounding. Not less. It calls to mind (just in time for the holidays) Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge sees the light and transforms himself from a miser of cold heart to a man of admirable generosity. Scrooge, in the modern reenactment, is played by Loria. And convincingly, as hard as that is (still) for the mind to wrap around. Click on The Gift of Stanton for today's full column by me.

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