Is NBA right to pull '17 All-Star Game from Charlotte over anti-LGBT law? New poll. Vote now!; plus new NFL MVP odds, Canes' Richt at ACC Kickoff, ode to Original Strikers and Lockhart, your verdict on Ajayi vs. Foster & more
GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.
1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 23. Ichiro is at 2,996 hits after going 0-for-1 in last night's homestand-opening Marlins loss, and is not in starting lineup tonight. Now likely his milestone hit wouldn't come before Monday at earliest. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins sign Arian Foster with poll, Canes football on "surprise" list, LeBron James parties & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Periscope and Snapchat.
Six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or want a second look: Original Strikers Set Template for Beckham, the latest, an ode to the 1977 Strikers and Lockhart Stadium. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chases 3,000 hits. Riley Endures Tough Summer, Fights On, as Heat prez admits regrets over losing Wade. Dolphins On Own to Escape Rut, Reshape Image, on impact of Brady suspension being upheld. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, our farewell-Wade column. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that tagline says it all.
New NFL MVP odds: Via Bovada, Packers' Aaron Rodgers opens as betting favorite to win NFL MVP award at 4-1 odds, followed by Ben Roethlisberger 7-1, Cam Newton 15-2, Russell Wilson 8-1 and Tom Brady 9-1, the latter devalued because of four-game suspension. Top Dolphin Ryan Tannehill is 150-1, tied for 34th.
NBA LEADS WAY IN LEAGUES/ATHLETES DELVING INTO POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES: The NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver made good on a threat Thursday and removed the league's 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, N.C., because that state's refusal to repeal a law that critics say is anti-LGBTQ and encourages discrimination based on sex and gender. But, that same day, in that same Charlotte, the ACC Football Kickoff (including the Miami Hurricanes) was held. Clearly, sports is still feeling its way in terms of whether to act or not in decisions that are political or involve social issues. Also, clearly, the NBA is leading the way on action. Just last week, it was four NBA star who opened the ESPY Awards with powerful statements agsint gun violence and shooting by and of police. There still is uncertainty, though, as seen in the WNBA, which fined players from three teams for wearing T-shirts during warmups Thursday in protest of recent police-related violence, yet in a statement said, "We are proud of WNBA players' engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues." Hmm. What to do? Should leagues and athletes "stick to sports" and not blur the line on social activism? Or is it right that leagues and players, as role models, lead the way in weighing in on such stuff? I align with the latter view. We offer this poll as a microcosm or indication of how our readers feel on this broad question. I'll vote "yes," but it is your consensus that will paint the picture. Vote now, and check back often to monitor evolving results.
FAREWELL, LOCKHART STADIUM: AN ODE TO THE ORIGINAL STRIKERS: [Click on Original Strikers Set Template for Beckham for our latest column. An alternate blog-exclusive version follows here] This was circa 1977-83, pre-Major League Soccer, when the original North American Soccer League had earned a foothold in this country, and when the original Fort Lauderdale Strikers had done the same locally, winning a loyal and considerable following. Lockhart Stadium, off I-95 and Commercial, filled to near its 20,000- seat capacity for most home games. It was intimate, conveying a Fenway or Wrigley vibe for the lads in the bumblebee uniforms. Tailgating was huge. Fans showed up hours early. Strikers flags waved in the parking lots amid the rising smoke from cookout grills. This was pre-Heat, Marlins or Panthers. Other than Dolphins and Canes the Strikers were the biggest thing in town. Lockhart Stadium is where showman-coach Ron Newman once rose from a coffin at midfield to demonstrate his team's resilience. Where a young blond Brit named Ray Hudson (pictured) made the women swoon. Where European legends like Gerd Muller and Georgie Best played their career's winters. Where a Rotten to the Cor banner flew against Dutch coach Cor Van der Hart. I covered those early Strikers teams as a fulltime beat, my first big break and major assignment for the Miami Herald. Interest (and travel budgets) were high, so all of a sudden I'm a kid being sent to Vancouver to cover a team. It seemed like a big deal. And it was, for a time. Now fast forward almost 40 years, if you can believe that. MLS is futbol king in America now. The NASL is still around, but as a diminished, second-tier league. The Strikers are still around in their latest iteration, but a shell of their former selves. This week those Strikers, currently averaging a meager 1,310 fans per game, worst in the NASL, announced they are leaving Lockhart for Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill (starting Aug. 20), which is one-fourth the capacity. It may be because Lockhart is now old and decrepit. Or because developers want to turn that area into a water theme park. Or because the Strikers are waving a white towel and admitting a team playing to 85 percent empty seats presents a depressing tableau. It may be some of all of that. What it also is: A chapter ending for a small but not insignificant piece of South Florida sports history. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Lockhart Stadium -- the original version. There was a time when that marriage was strong and supported buoyantly, back in the day, before Greater Miami boomed into a major sports town, and it should remain the template as David Beckham continues trying to realize his dream for an MLS team in Miami. Strikers home games were an event, Lockhart was home, and in the teeming crowd it felt like you were surrounded by friends and neighbors. Farewell, Original Strikers at Lockhart. It didn't end right, but those halcyon days as the late '70s turned to early '80s contributed some special snapshots to the album of our sports history.
Poll result: Foster edges Ajayi for Dolphins RB in closest vote ever: We asked which running back you expect will have the bigger role in Dolphins' offense this season, and it was newly acquired Arian Foster edging young Jay Ajayi by 50.9 percent to 49.1% as we called it final. I cannot think of a closer either/or vote in all the years of our blog polls. The lead went back and forth. You truly were torn.
WHAT MARK RICHT SAID TO ACC MEDIA THAT REALLY MATTERED: University of Miami's time slot was this week at the ACC Football Kickoff and media days in Charlotte. We cull though the boring stuff and bring you what we found most notable from coach Mark Richt: On the season and immediate outlook: "If we do things right and don't do things to hurt ourselves, there's a great chance to have success. And then, once we get the ball rolling, I think people will say, 'Miami is back.' I don’t think people will say, 'Miami’s having a good year.' They'll say, 'Miami’s back.' You can say you’re back when you have the tradition of five national championships in the last 30 years." On his attitude with assistant coaches: "I got to cherry-pick guys that would really buy into how I like to do things. I told the coaches that I am coaching QBs again, I'm calling plays, I'm getting in the middle of this offense. I don't have time to baby-sit anybody. I tell them if I have to motivate you, we've got a problem. If I’ve got to motivate a staff member to do his job, I’m probably going to get another staff member." On his deep religious beliefs: "I happen to be a Christian. That's just what I am. I'm not using it. I think we need to be true to who we are, what we believe. I'm not trying to make anybody believe anything I believe. I just want to do things in a way that I think God would be pleased with me. That's my goal on a daily basis. I'm not trying to use anything. I'm just trying to be who I am." On recruiting and relationships: "The big thing is to make sure that the high school coaches know that they're welcome in our place, that we want to recruit their guys, we want the local guys to stay home, and we want to be honest with everybody and do our recruiting in a way that everybody appreciates." On his goal for UM in 2016: "Win the Coastal division. Get back to the ACC championship game." Pictured, apropos of nothing: Snoop (The U) Dogg.
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