March 19, 2015

NCAAs a foregone conclusion? Most boring March Madness ever? Poll. Vote now!; plus Charles Clay, Ron Fraser, Haiku Challenge news, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Loria reimaging, Pounceys, D&G & more

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 19. Corned beef. The meat I really enjoy one day a year, then never think of again. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge, Wade beats LeBron, UM men denied NCAAs, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. (New stuff from yesterday's LeBatard Show).

Georgia State coach falls off chair during game: Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, on a courtside office chair due to an injury, falls from chair in closing minutes of his 14th-seeded team's upset of No. 3 Baylor today. Funny! Click here to watch.

Charles Clay to Bills: Dolphins today decline to match contract offer by Buffalo, meaning tight end Clay is headed to Bills. For him it's a smart financial move, dubious football move, awful lifestyle move. 

Ron Fraser statue dedication: The Miami Hurricanes will have a ceremony unveiling a new Rom Fraser statue on April 24 at 4 p.m. outside Mark Light Field. Fraser, the two-time national champion baseball coach, passed Away in at age 79 in 2013.  

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat soaring, Panthers nearly done. Update entering Thursday/today: A daily blog feature as two teams (one barely) fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 31-36 (W2), after last night's big 108-104 home win over Portland led by Dwyane Wade's 32 points. Miami is now 2 1/2 games from 6th with 15 games left (next Friday vs. Denver). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.0% (up 13.6) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-39 (L2), 3 points from 9th and 7 points from 8th with 12 games left (next tonight vs. Detroit). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.6% (unchanged) per

ARE WE STARING DOWN THE BARREL OF THE MOST BORING MARCH MADNESS EVER?: You could make the argument that we are if the feel of "foregone conclusion" is a barometer. Think about it. Kentucky is 1aa1amarchmad34-0, a unanimous No. 1 and a huge favorite (near even-odds) to win the men's NCAA Tournament. On the women's side, UConn is 32-1, also a unanimous No. 1 and perhaps an ever bigger favorite. I'd feel very good if you gave me Kentucky and UConn and you took the field. I get the two favorites; you get everybody else. I cannot recall a previous year in which the two overall No. 1s were such prohibitive favorites. Doesn't mean brackets will be filled out any less or that office pools will be smaller, but, for me, at least, the seeming inevitability of Kentucky's men and UConn's women reigning makes this March Madness feel like we know the ending even as the story is just starting.

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: DEADLINE EXTENDED!: Due to unpopular demand we are extending the deadline to enter our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge into next week. (As an 1aa1ahaikuemailer put it, "Why end the contest just as the tournament is beginning, you moron!" Fair comment). So you still have time to get those 17-syllable poems in. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries here in the blog's 'Comments' section below (preferred) OR email them to 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. We'll give you some warning on the new deadline but enter now just to be safe. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of 1aa1adickievMarch * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the double entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Contest prize? The grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, rev your creative mind. Ready, set ... haiku!

JEFFREY LORIA: BIG SPENDER: Still getting used to the re-imaging of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, erstwhile notorious tightwad. First, the huge contract for Giancarlo Stanton, Now, the private team jet.
1aa1aboeing767200The Marlins have rented a Boeing 767-200 (the model pictured) for the season and it includes 84 oversized luxury seats, a massage table and card tables. The outside of the jet will bear the Marlins logo. Miami also has expanded its overall payroll as well as its scouting, player development, marketing and sales departments. Did I mention the executive chefs to prepare meals for home games? Many Marlins fans still think negatively of Loria and maybe always will, but give him this. He's trying. And spending.

ON THE POUNCEYS' SNIPES AT WALLACE: Oh, those Pouncey brothers! Cue the ghost of Ronald Reagan 1aa1apounceysshaking his head with a smirk and saying, "Well, there they go again..." So Dolphin Mike Pouncey and his bro Maurkice (pictured) pretty much say in an interview "good riddance" to departed Mike Wallace. Maurkice drops the hot-potato word "coward," assuring media (over-)attention. To me this isn't a big deal because the Pounceys by now are established loose cannons and Wallace is a ship sailing fast from Finland. (Mike who?)

THE SLOW SUICIDE OF DOLCE & GABBANA: It's above my pay grade and sartorial splendor, but Dolce & Gabbana is an Italian luxury fashion line in the category Armani, Gucci and Versace. It is only important to 1aa1ad&gnote that founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana both are gay because of the controversy now embroiling them. Celebrities led by Elton John have condemned the  brand and promoted a boycott of D&G because of the founders' saying in an interview that gay adoption is unnatural and referring to babies born via in-vitro fertilization as "synthetic children." The LGBT community, non-gays who have benefited from IVF and many others inclined toward tolerance are sympathetic to the boycott, which seems to be growing. Many others agree with D&G's opinions or align on the side of freedom of speech in the social media age. What's interesting to me is that it feels like such business-suicide for a high-end fashion house to be perceived as anti-gay or anti-same sex parents. I am generalizing here, but feel safe in thinking D&G's customer base is gay or OK with same-sex adoption to a far greater extent than it would include supporters of D&G's stance on the matter. #BoycottDolceGabbana

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January 06, 2015

Dolphins hire Tannenbaum; plus my Hall of Fame ballot and, yes, it includes Bonds and Clemens. Would your's? New poll. Vote now!; also gay marriage, fake Beach Boys & more


It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today after a two-week holiday hiatus, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. A new "Back In My Day" segment is in hand. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 6. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package after a two-week holiday hiatus. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-draft-needs poll, happy birthday Shula, R.I.P. Stuart Scott, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS HIRE TANNENBAUM AS DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL OPS: The Dolphins today hired Mike Tannenbaum, formerly of the Jets, as executive vice president of pro football operations -- the old Bill Parcells role. He reportedly will oversee (and have firing power over) GM Dennis Hickey but not over coach Joe Philbin. Hickey can't be happy, although he reportedly maintains final say over the 53-man roster. What this means: Owner Stephen Ross doesn't quite trust Philbin or Hickey. Dolphins in flux. Again.

On Heat, Panthers: Click on Falling, Rising for today's column by me. It's on how the Heat and Panthers both are headed for a fight just to make the playoffs, and how that's an indignity for one club but a triumph for the other.

MY HALL OF FAME BALLOT INCLUDES BONDS, CLEMENS THIS YEAR: Update: Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio elected. I voted for all four. Update 30 minutes before vote announced: The website, based on a screening of voters, projects the five inductees today will be, in order of support: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio and (narrowly) Mike Piazza. Original post: The latest inductees into Cooperstown are to be announced today at 2 p.m. I became a Baseball Hall of Fame voter for the first time a year ago, and did not include any "Steroids Era" guys on my ballot. It was personal. I felt my first- 1aa1abondsclemsnsever ballot should be as "clean" as the sport aspires to be. This year, however, I voted for both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (pictured). My 10 votes in all went to, alphabetically: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz. For the record I think Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz will get in. I think Sheffield has a good chance. I think Carlos Delgado and Mike Piazza have a shot. I do not think a sufficient 75 percent of my BBWAA brethren are ready yet to join me on Bonds and Clemens. My thinking on those two: Their career numbers are so extraordinary, so enormous, that they would have been Cooperstown-worthy even without PEDs. (I am much less sure on Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and others). I also believe the Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Sainthood. I further believe that guys like Bonds and Clemens (yes, and Pete Rose) have been punished enough by their previous barring from Cooperstown and by their public shaming. Of course all of that is moot as I fully expect both men to fall well short of the Hall again today. I respect my colleagues who continue take the highest moral ground on this. Hopefully they in turn respect those of us who have come to think otherwise -- at least on Bonds and Clemens. Here's a poll inviting your thoughts on this. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Guard, linebacker top Dolphin draft needs: We asked what position the Dolphins should target with the top pick in next NFL Draft, and among eight choice offensive guard (34.9 percent) and linebacker (27.0%) dominated. Defensive tackle (15.9%) and cornerback (12.6%) were next.

1aa1agaymarriageIT'S ABOUT TIME, FLORIDA: Congratulations to my home state for stepping gingerly into the 21st Century in becoming the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage. And to Floridian gay couples for finally gaining their equal rights. Who are you, I or the government to tell any loving couple they are second-class citizens? Of course, with gay marriages inevitably will come gay divorces and the spawn of gay-divorce lawyers as a specialty practice. Oh how I wish I were kidding.     

BOYCOTT THE SEMI-BEACH BOYS!: The Beach Boys (sort of) play Thursday night in West Palm Beach, but, if you have tickets, beware. You are getting half the product. I'd ask for my money back. This is the version 1aa1amloveof the Beach Boys hijacked by frontman Mike Love (pictured), who unfortunately owns the group name. He is touring with only one other original Beach Boy, Bruce Johnstone. The group toured last year with all its original living members -- including Al Jardine, David Marks and, of course, the irreplacable Brian Wilson -- but Love essentially fired the other three. Boycott Mike Love. Boycott the fake, sort of, semi-Beach Boys. (Or at least smuggle in a 'WE WANT BRIAN WILSON!' sign).

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July 26, 2014

What's your faith in Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10, Joe Philbin, Morgan Freeman does LeBron & more

1aa1amick1) It is MONDAY, JULY 28. Just learned our recent column headlined "LeBron James' departure leaves Miami Heat fans divided" was the most-read thing locally and nationally on last week. Thanks, readers. 2) Mick Jagger turned 71. Rock on and roll on, Mick! 3) Frank Caliendo as Morgan Freeman as LeBron James reading his back-home essay is hilarious. Click HERE if you haven't heard it, or to enjoy it again. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Welcome back football/Dolphins expectations poll, college football betting odds, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1ajoepPhilbin on hot seat: I write in my latest column that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin must get Dolphins into playoffs this season or see his job in peril. Click Impatience = Imperative to read. For other recent columns click A Distraction to Embrace (Michael Sam) and Opportunity and Responsibility (Football Town).

Dolphins, NFL victory over/unders: New from Bovada, latest NFL over/unders on wins show Dolphins at 7.5, not a playoff number but still second in AFC East after Patriots (11) but ahead of Jets (7) and Bills (6.5). Joining Pats in double-digit club: Broncos at 11.5, Seahawks at 11, 49ers and Packers both 10.5, and Saints 10.

"Are you rooting for LeBron to win at least one championship with the Cavaliers?": ESPN SportsNation asked, and 63 percent overall say yes. The only state answering no: Oklahoma at 57%. The closest with only 52% yes: Florida and Illinois.

WHAT IS OUR FAITH IN RYAN TANNEHILL ENTERING HIS CRITICAL YEAR 3?: NFL quarterbacks are said to make their biggest advance entering Year 3, such as Ryan Tannehill is right now. That is only one of many 1aa1artannyfactors putting pressure on Tannehill to have a big season and end the Dolphins' playoff drought. Others include the team bolstering its offensive line with Brandon Albert and Ja'Wuan James, adding Jarvis Landry to an already solid receiving corps, beefing up the 1aa1alaurentground game with Knowshon Moreno and hiring a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor. All of these things remove the excuses that have protected Tannehill and put the onus on him to show us how good he can be. Click on Tannehill Under Pressure to read our column discussing all of this, off tghe opening of training camp. But enough of my opinion. I want yours. I know you wholeheartedly approve of hottie-wife Mrs. Lauren Tannehill, gratuitously pictured at left, but I'm asking here how you feel about her husband. We had this same poll question last year, and I'll find it interesting to compare results, gauge the level of faith in Tannehill, and see if it is trending upward or not. So take a dip in our poll. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Dolfan expectations modest to low: We asked in the previous blogpost if you expected -- not hoped, but expected -- the Dolphins to make the playoffs, and it was 38.7 percent yes for a breakthrough and 61.3% no for more disappointment. "No" votes were actually a bit higher (62.6%) in Florida, where a greater concentration of Dolfans might be assumed.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button 1aa1ahotbuttonis a newish feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on hiatus until August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Dolphins: The heat is on: Curiously, Ryan Tannehill said, "the pressure's off" as Miami opened training camp. Funny, but I would think that, for a QB and a head coach trying to establish themselves and a franchise seeking its first playoff win since 2000, the pressure might be closer to on.

2. Marlins: Signs of life: Erratic Fish surfed strong pitching to win six of past seven games entering today's game. Playoff contention is back on the horizon, although binoculars still are required.

3. Cooperstown: Big six: Baseball Hall of Fame inductions today include slugger Frank Thomas, aces Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and mega-managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. And other than LaRusss'a blind eye to Mark McGwire, not a whiff of steroids!

4. UM football: Preparations begin: It is 35 days until the Canes' Sept. 1 season opener at Louisville. Do you know who your starting quarterback is? (Neither does Al Golden). UM has two players, RB Duke Johnson and LB Denzel Perryman, on preseason All-ACC team. That bad news? FSU has nine.

5. Soccer: Guinness on: The eight-team Guinness International Champions Cup is undereway with the title match Aug. 4 at Dolphins stadium. The World Cup just ended. Remind yourself you love soccer, right?

6. Tour de France: All Nibali: Italy's Vincenzo Nibali seemed a cinch to win cycling's signature event ending today in Paris, pending post-race urinalysis results. 

7. Heat: All quiet: Quiet, non-newsy week for the Heat. But they still make our top 10 because I don't want them to think that, post-LeBron, we stopped caring.

8. Outdoors: Lobster time: South Florida's annual two-day lobster miniseason is Wednesday and Thursday. You can fight the crowds and fish your own spiny delights out of the sea. Or you can quit being so cheap and go to Publix like me.

9. British Open: All Rory: Rory McIlroy won golf's latest major wire-to-wire. That reminds me. Whatever happened to Tiger Woods? Does he still play?

10. Panthers: Big Cubano: Cats have a new backup goaltender, Al Montoya, nicknamed "Big Cubano." I'd call that pandering or smart PR if I thought there was such thing as Cuban hockey fans.

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February 10, 2014

Put Tannehill on "short leash"? Poll. Vote!; plus topless Olympian, Michael Sam, Beatles, LeBron dunk show, Puig's dogs, Dumb Starbucks & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show today for my landmark 11th national appearance. It's 3-7 on 790 & 104.3 the Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN National. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11. LeBron James says he'd win the All-Star dunk contest if he entered. Well, no duh. Click LeBron Dunk Show for proof; this was after yesterday's Heat practice in Phoenix. 2) Bruce Springsteen playing Sunrise arena on April 29. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Olympics poll, Dolphins draft, Canes QB's actress mom, Marlins projection & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

The Michael Sam column: Click HERE for today's latest column by me, on Michael Sam, the Missouri All-American defensive lineman who revealed his homosexuality and thus is likely to become the NFL's first openly gay player.

ON RYAN TANNEHILL'S (SUPPOSEDLY) SHAKY GROUND: We find ourselves in a time when the vessel for major news being broken might be a 140-character Tweet, perhaps from someone little-known. Even the definition of "news" evolves as competing outlets fight to be first first, and accurate second. Increasingly the sources for "news" are anonymous, a troubling, credibility-corrupting trend. I see it everywhere, including in my own newspaper. It is in this context that I read a recent online column by 1aa1atannphilCBSSports' NFL writer Jason La Canfora. It was an overview of the tough challenges awaiting new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey, but buried within was a nugget implying that coach Joe Philbin's patience with QB Ryan Tannehill might be fragile. The ever-popular Anonymous Source said that Philbin told potential GM candidates as much in recent interviews. The suggestion is that if Tannehill falters, there might be little hesitation in a move to backup Matt Moore. This is was rather vague speculation standing on the balsa-wood legs of anonymity, yet, of course, it was regurgitated as news, as with this ensuing headline on Report: Tannehill on shorter leash in 2014. Yes, so now it becomes an "issue," real or not. It becomes a question for Tannehill and Philbin to deal with as the season approaches. Two thoughts. First, if this is true, and I don't assume it is, Philbin was unwise to undermine his starting quarterback to job-seekers from other teams. That's needlessly creating controversy. Second, true or not, coming into this season as all but a declared lame-duck coach puts Philbin in a tough spot. It'll be playoffs-or-bust for him to keep his job (a perception/assumption hardening to fact) and that could lead Philbin to make decisions that are short-sighted, with his own derriere in mind, more than with the club's best long-term interests in mind. There would be no greater example than at QB, where benching Tannehill for Moore might seem smart to win a particular game but might not be smart if you understand that Tannehill, not Moore, is the better long-term solution. For me, Tannehill showed enough progress in Year 2 to not enter Year 3 feeling any "short leash" tightening around his neck. Your thoughts are invited. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

 I'm sorry but I love a topless-Olympian scandal. Always have. Topless photos of Lebanese skier Jackie Chamoun have turned up (see right), which does qualify as a scandal in conservative Lebanon. An investigation has ensued!

ME AND THE BEATLES: Yes, I was alive when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago. I was too young to recall watching, although I've seen the video so many times I think it has
1aa1abeatlewigtransmogrified over time into an adopted memory. Soon after that I'd cajoled my folks into buying me a Beatles wig (pictured) and Beatles boots, both the rage back then. The first singles (45s) I remember buying were the Beatles' "She Loves You," along with "Mr. Tambourine Man" (Byrds), "Dance Dance Dance" (Beach Boys) and "The Locomotion" (Little Eva). The Beatles, Rolling Stones and early Motown populated my early life's soundtrack, but it was the hysteria surrounding the Beatles coming to America that first caught my fascination. I have a vague memory of my mother listening to Elvis Presley music in our house, but it just never hit me the way the Beatles' sound did. I'll always credit the Fab Four for igniting in me what would become a lifelong passion for music. Now I ask you: For those who also love music, who was the artist or group that first caught your ear in a meaningful way, and why? Do you remember the first 45, LP, 8-track, cassette or CD you ever bought?

Poll result: Summer Olympics kick Winter's a--: We asked in the last blogpost how you feel about the Olympics (you may still vote), and you preferred the Summer over the Winter by an almost 6-1 margin, 37.9 percent to 6.4%. Another 30.8% said they liked both, and 24.9% said they don't follow either.

Like many professional athletes young Dodgers star Yasiel Puig lives in the Miami area. He just bought a home in upscale Gables by the Sea, where he is seen walking his two bulldogs and posing with three Columbus High ballplayers. The young athletes obviously were very excited for the opportunity to be photographed standing next to such handsome dogs.

1aa1adumbstar"HEY LET'S GO GET A CARAMEL FLAN LATTE AT DUMB STARBUCKS":  Dig this because the Starbucks lawyers will make sure it doesn't last. There is a newly opened coffee shop in Los Feliz, Cal., outside L.A., called Dumb Starbucks, a self-described "work of parody art" that uses the Starbucks logo. At least until the restraining order kicks in. Every menu item includes the word, as in Dumb Caramel Flan Latte. As a man of the people -- a Dunkin Donuts guy who finds that Starbucks is a bit high-brow and (in the words of Peter Griffin) "insists upon itself" -- I find this parody to be rather brilliant, if undoubtedly short-lived.

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December 19, 2013

Dolphins/NFL Week 16 predictions; plus Heat states its case, Duck Dynasty fracas, 'Free the Nipple' movement & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21. Bowl glut begins! Today are the first four of 35 bowl games, and it'd take a court order to make me watch any of them. 2) To the e-mailers asking: I have bunch of back-loaded vacation days I need to use before end of year. That's why I have had fewer columns lately. 3)  In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Shame and opportunity in Sochi Olympics, first Mock Draft, Google search stats, Dolphins' playoff chances, George Zimmerman's art, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

Dolphins' Christmas greeting: Click HERE for the official Dolphins' Happy Holidays video. In case you weren't sure who the team considers its biggest stars, the players greeting you are (in order) Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Cam Wake and Ryan Tannehill.

UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 16 NFL PREDIX: WITH DIFFICULTY, DOLPHINS KEEP ROLLING: Dolphins at Buffalo in December with Miami playoff hopes in play. Like Ringo said, you know it don't come easy. 1aa1fripixTwo things worry me. One, the Bills' NFL-leading sackers as much as the elements making it tough on Ryan Tannehill. Two, just this gut feeling that after three straight emotional wins -- vs. the hated Jets, in snowy Pittsburgh, then over the nemesis Pats -- the Dolphins are due a letdown/stumble/return-to-Earth performance. Still like Miami, 23-20, but that's logic talking me out of that gut feeling of an upset. Click on Week 16 Gems for all of our complete prediction capsules, and on Holiday Cheer for my Friday Page NFL notes column, leading with a rose-colored take on why Miami, once in the playoffs, can beat anybody.

1aa1dwadedrivingHEAT SAY HOLD ON YOUNG PACERS, NOT YET, SON: Click HERE for my column from Wednesday night's 97-94 Heat win over the visiting Pacers. In the NBA the challengers, the wanna-be's, seek to make statements in December. The champions make theirs in June. But fans and Your Friend the Media love the concept of "statement games," and so contained in last night's win was the reminder Miami will not cede the East easily, or quietly. The fight for the best record and No. 1 seed is on. Bring it. The inevitable Miami-Indiana Eastern finals will be brutally delicious. And there was this, too, arising from the bayside arena last night: If that Dwyane Wade, healthy and soaring to a season-high 32 points, is the one we see in the playoffs, the Heat can three-peat. Wade is shown driving last night in a shot by staff photog Hector Gabino. That is the Dwyane Wade who drew LeBron James here in the first place, and who might convince him to re-up.

DUCK DYNASTY: PHENOMENON AND FRACAS: [Update: The Duck Dynasty family has produced the T-shirt pictured left to support their suspended brethren. Comeback for the word "Yuppie" is offically launched!] The phenomenon: A ratings-gold A&E reality show about a long-bearded Louisiana family that got rich making duck callers for hunters. Like the pet rock or 1aa1ddphilthat Gangnam Style 1aa1philshirtsinger, Duck Dynasty is one of those things that flare brightly and briefly across the American landscape, loved, then forgotten. It's the Warhol "15 Minutes of Fame" idea. And the clock is now ticking on Duck Dynasty because of ... The Fracas: Family patriarch Phil Robertson (pictured) ranting anti-gay in a GQ interview, calling homosexuality immoral and likening it to bestiality. A&E has now suspended Phil indefinitely; click HERE for the story. Meanwhile Phil met the predictable backlash by explaining he's an old hippie who got over drugs by embracing God, and that the Bible says man should be with woman. OK, whatever. That's in no way an apology, but it's a free country with free speech. The man is entitled to his beliefs. The thing is, folks like Phil always seem surprised by the consequences of those beliefs, surprised to learn that most Americans are intolerant of intolerance, and that using ancient Scriptures to justify modern-day bigotry doesn't fly with the grace of, say, a duck.

ON THE 'FREE THE NIPPLE' MOVEMENT: Yes, there is such a thing, and it went from obscure to talked-about when Miley Cyrus recently Tweeted in support of it. Talk about advertising! If your cause is 1aa1freeniptoplessness and Miley supports you, that's like owning a restaurant and having Bobby Flay rave about it. Gold! Anyway, Free the Nipple is the name of a documovie in the making (scene from shooting pictured left) by L.A. filmmaker and political activist Lina Esco, 28. It posits that women should be allowed to be topless whenever and wherever they wish as an equality issue, because men can, and because society should be concerned with violence, not nipples. I can already hear a national chorus of Red-Blooded Males shouting "WHOOO!" in lusty support of the movement. I would add two thoughts: First, being real here, there are legions of perverts and would-be rapists whose addled minds surely would take widespread female toplessness as an invitation for their creepdom. Second, rather than toplessness being OK for either 1aa1fatsex, I'd just as soon it be banned for both. That way the hairy-chested, morbidly obese man who jogs shirtless through my neighborhood would be made to throw on a tent shirt. I cannot honestly say that seeing a woman I don't know topless would outweigh the delight in not seeing the man pictured at right in all his shirtless glory. Nipples of either gender are not obscene, no. But neither is modesty a dirty word.

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December 17, 2013

Sochi Olympics: Shame and opportunity; plus Heat, Dolphins star in 2013 Google searches; '14 Mock Draft, Fins' playoff shot, Zimmerman art & more

It's Radio Wednesday!: They haven't fired me yet,  so I'm back in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show today from 3 to 7 p.m. on 790 and 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN national radio.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 18. Click on Random Evidence for the latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Pacers II. 2) To the several e-mailers who are asking: I have bunch of back-loaded vacation days I need to use before end of year. That's why I have had fewer columns lately. 3)  In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins beat Patriots, DSM poll, Incognito news & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

LeBron questionable for Pacers game Wednesday: James missed yesterday's light Heat practice with a sore ankle and is questionable for the game vs. Indiana here tonight.

Dolphins will clinch a playoff spot this coming Sunday if...: ...Miami wins at Buffalo, Baltimore loses to New England, and Cincinnati loses to Minnesota. All three must happen.

SOCHI OLYMPICS: THE SHAME AND OPPORTUNITY: [Update: U.S. Olympic delegation at Opening and Closing ceremonies will include gay athletes, Billie Jean King among them]. The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are less than two months away. By degrees the world's sporting eyes will turn there, and what will be seen won't be all

1aa1sochi 1aa1sochi1pleasant, despite the Russian government's wishes and attempts at propaganda. Click HERE for a story about the Sochi governent's recent crackdown and harrassment of local activists protesting the Olympics' negative impact on the environment. The group Human Rights Watch has become involved to condemn the actions and accuse the government of treating activists like terrorists. Of course, the broader spotlight the Olympics will shine on Russia will help expose the country's human rights violations when it comes to gays. Pictured: The official Sochi Games logo, and a protest poster. Vladimir Putin sign into law a ban on "homosexual propaganda," seen as an umbrella law tantamount to criminalizing gays. Elton John, performing in Moscow this month despite protests, dedicated his concert to a young Russian who had been murdered because he was gay, and John spoke out from the stage against the law, calling it "inhumane." President Obama does not plan to attend the Olympics; the presidents of Germany and France already have said they will not. Soon Olympic athletes can make a statement of their own, one more literal. An Olympic torch of sorts will be handed to them. Skier Bode Miller already has called Russia's anti-gay law "absolutely embarrassing." Olympic athletes from here will have a unique worldwide platform, voice and opportunity to speak up for human rights. Perhaps it is generally impolite to criticize one's hosts, but if there is an exception to that, a Winter Olympics in Russia may be it.

THE FIRST 2014 MOCK DRAFT!: It begins. ESPN's Todd McShay beats the crowd with his 1.0 Mock today, and it has UM bowl foe Teddy Bridgewater, the Louisville QB, going No. 1 overall. Also notable: UCF's Blake Bortles No. 3, Johnny Manziel No. 4, Florida D-lineman Dominique Easley 21st, FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan 22nd -- the the Dolphins -- FSU receiver Kelvin Benjamin 27th and Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson 29th. No Canes pegged 1R. As for the Dolphins top-picking a defensive tackle? Doubt it. A lot.

HEAT TITLE, DOLPHINS' BULLYGATE DRIVE 2013 SEARCHES: Google released its annual info on 2013 searches, with some interesting stuff from a Miami vantage. No surprise that LeBron James was the most-searched NBA player or that the double-champion Heat were the most-search NBA team. But the usually under-the-radar Dolphins are the third-most-searched NFL team, with Bullygate the obvious impetus. You want further proof? Richie Incognito turns up No. 7 among overall top athlete searches. Top searches by category:

1aa1ahernTop overall athlete searches: 1. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots accused murderer (pictured); 2. Adrian Peterson, Vikings; 3. Kevin Ware, Louisville guard who broke leg in NCAA Tournament ; 4. Jason Collins, NBA player who came out as gay; 5. Oscar Pistorius, "Blade Runner" charged with murder; 6. Lamar Odom, Kardashian-involved basketball player; 7. Incognito, Dolphins' accused bully; 8. Ray Lewis, Ravens champion; 9. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers; and 10. Lindsey Vonn, skiier and Tiger Woods' squeeze.

Top NFL searches: Players--Lewis, Peterson, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Kaepernick. Team--Ravens, Seahawks, Dolphins, 49ers, Falcons. Top NBA searches: Players--LeBron, Jeremy Lin, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard. Teams--Heat, Pelicans, Warriors, Spurs, Rockets. Top MLB searches: Players--Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Derek Jeter. Teams--Red Sox, Pirates, Braves, Indians, Rays.     

DOLPHINS' PLAYOFFS CHANCES PUT AT 56 PERCENT, BUT...: That's the good news. computers say Miami has a 56.39 percent likelihood to make the playoffs. The bad news? That still ranks seventh in the jockeying for six AFC spots. Colts, Broncos and Chiefs already have clinched, then it's Patriots 98.46%, Bengals 79.78, Ravens 63.21 -- after last night's win -- then Dolphins. Miami clinches by winning its last two games, but that eventually hardly is a slam dunk.

1aa1artzimGEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ARTIST: Multi-talented George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin to death, has an original painting (pictured) for sale on eBay, and it mortifies and saddens me to say the bidding is around $100,000.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY / WEEK 15: STAYING HOT ON PICKS, TOO LITTLE TOO LATE IN FANTASY: Cut to 1aa1fripixthe chase... NFL predix: I went 10-6 overall this past week and a buoyant 9-6-1 against the spread (with one game off the board when I picked it). Nailed the Dolphins' upset win. Also bull's-eyed my Upset of the Week with Steelers over Bengals. "Aaawwwk!" Fantasy: Greg's Lobos won big in our consolation-round playoffs, 157-81, fueled by Dez Bryant and the Seahawks defense. That 157 was more than anybody in our championship round scored. Which is what losers say, I know.

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May 04, 2013

Who's the idiot? LeBron 1 vote shy of unanimous for MVP; plus new NBA playoff odds, Dolphins' big loss, Tyson Clabo, Sad-O-Meter retired & more

1aa1cinco1) It is SUNDAY, MAY 5. Happy Cinco de Mayo! 2) NCAA refuses to dismiss UM case in advance of June hearing. "No duh," says rest of America. 3) Click on Random Evidence for today's Sunday notes column, leading with Heat playoffs. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The building and branding of Dion Jordan, Bulls-or-Nets Heat poll, Susannah Collins, Tim Tebow prank. 5Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

LEBRON MVP VOTE: NEW PROOF THAT 1 OF EVERY 121 PEOPLE IS A MORON: Heat's LeBron James got 120 of 121 frst-place votes for league MVP today, denying him the first unanimous vote in NBA history even though he was deserving. A funny Internet rumor spread that my colleague Dan Le Batard cast the lone vote for Carmelo Anthony. It wasn't true. That didn't stop it. "Probably a writer out fo New York," surmised LeBron, likely more accurately. LeBatard, sensing Twitter gold, didn't deny the initial speculation, merely re-Tweeted it. Deadspin said it was so. One of life's small pleasures is watching self-important Deadspin say, "Ah, um, uhh, oops. My bad!" Anyway, the mystery lunatic-voter is still out there. Oh he WILL be found!

HEAT-BULLS ON DECK; NBA NEXT-ROUND PLAYOFF ODDS: Second-round pairings and betting odds via Bovada, by conference, entering second-round play: Eastern: Miami over Chicago: Heat a prohibitive overall favorite at 2-11 to win East, 4-9 to repeat league title. Bulls are 40-1 to win East, 75-1 overall. There are no early indications Derrick Rose will play vs. Miami, but the fact he might will be an intriguing cloud hanging over this series. New York over Indiana: Knicks are 6-1 to win East and 14-1 to win league. Pacers are 12-1 and 25-1. Western: San Antonio over Golden State: Spurs are a big 5-7 pick to win West and 11-2 to win it all. Warriors are 9-1 in conference, 40-1 in league. Oklahoma City over Memphis: Thunder is 3-1 in West, 9-1 in league. Grizzlies are 5-1 to win West, 14-1 to win it all.

A WORD TO ROSS AND TO NFL IN WAKE OF DOLPHINS' LEGISLATIVE DEFEAT: Although it sounds as if Florida House speaker Will Weatherford (the smug-looking guy on the far right) may have done a bit of backstabbing up there in Tally, I can't get as worked up or disappointed as I'm sure Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is over the sudden collapse of his plan for 1aa1willw 1aa1dolrossmassive stadium renovations. That's partly because the plan faced a likely defeat in a Miami-Dade referendum vote even if the Legislature had let it get that far. A quick word to Ross (near right), and to the NFL. To Ross: Understand that most Dolphins fans think the stadium is fine as is (and it is), and are hugely more concerned about the Dolphins getting in the Super Bowl than they are about the stadium hosting Super Bowls. As long as your emphasis is on a winning team, you'll be fine with Dolfans even if there is no canopy to shade them. To the NFL: Threatening to withhhold future Super Bowls if this renovation didn't pass sounded a bit like extortion to folks down here, and that didn't play well. Miami -- even with Dolphins stadium as is -- should continue as a main-rotation factor in the awarding of Super Bowls. This is a destination city. That won't change. Also, a league that just awarded an outdoor Super Bowl to New Jersey -- where snow is very possible and freezing temps all but assured -- ought not wring hands over the idea a Miami Super Bowl might face the threat of rain. If the NFL wants to do what's best for the league and for fans, it should swallow its pride over this legislative defeat and get back to realizing Miami was, and is, a Super Bowl-caliber host.

Dolphins sign Clabo: That's Tyson Clabo, the long-time ex-Falcons right tackle, 31, a one-time Pro Bowl guy (2010) who'll help the blocking front. Good signing.

1aa1howardORB TAKES KENTUCKY DERBY: Orb, third-to-last early, saves energy for a brilliant finish and comfy win. Smartly run race. Good to see the Florida Derby as the springboard here. Pictured: A familiar former FAU football coach, Mr. Howard Schnellenberger, takes in the race today with his properly be-hatted wife Beverlee. Original post: The 139th running is today to launch racing's Triple Crown season, and my rooting interest probably is the betting favorite, Orb. I always root for our Florida Derby winner to represent. I have a funny feeling, though, that 5-1 shot Goldencents may carry the day. It's Rick Pitino's year, and he's part-owner. I always put more stock in gut feelings and supersition in horse racing than in other types of betting. Is that weird? Doubt that'll change until the horses start talking.

1aa1chrgayDOES MEDIA HAVE PRO-GAY, ANTI-CHRISTIAN BIAS?: A reader passed this political cartoon along to me, and I found it thought-provoking enough to post in the blog. I don't know that Christian vs. gay is a parallel discussion. Christian vs. atheist or gay vs. straight would be parallel. I'd also point out that something very unusual is more newsworthy than something common, and so Tebow's religious beliefs are much more common than Collins' ground-breaking revelation. Nevertheless, the cartoon makes its point very well.

1aa1bbsadUPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER" IN HIBERNATION: We have had this new blog feature we updated as long as Marlins' winning percentage was under .300. The New York Mets' 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the worst season in modern MLB history and Marlins had been on pace to threaten for awhile. But Miami is now at 10-22 (.313) after today's win, so our Sad-O-Meter is on indefinite hiatus.

Poll result: No contest. Bulls tougher next foe than Nets: We asked, and by an 84.8 percent landslide you said Chicago would be a tougher next playoff opponent for the Heat than Brooklyn. (They meet in Game 7 tonight in the Kings County borough for the right to face Miami).

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May 01, 2013

Good news on Heat's preference for next round; plus Dolphins' biggest need (with poll), Tebow rumor, Broussard, Sad-O-Meter, glowing sheep & more

1aa1king1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 2. Happy dos de Mayo! 2) Always been a big Snoop Dogg fan. Now here is the reincarnated, reggae-fied Snoop Lion: Here Comes The King. 3) Panthers not making the NHL postseason? Unfortunate. Me not having to feign interest in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Priceless! 4) Click on Weatherman Battles Hiccups on Air for funny vid. 5) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA's gay player, Dolphins' SB odds, Ed DuBois, Sad-O-Meter. 5bJoin us on Twitter @agregcote.

Dolphins/Tebow rumor: How'd it start? I mean beyond ther usual Internet nonsense? Agent Drew Rosenhaus said on WQAM this week he "wouldn't be shocked" if Miami showed interest in free agent QB Tim Tebow. That's how. Drew was doing what good agents do: Trying to drum up business. Tying to create the illusion of smoke so there appears to be fire. Most who follow the team closely would be far more shocked than Rosenhaus if Miami showed any interest. Bet against it. Big.

HEAT (AND FANS) SHOULD HAVE CLEAR PREFERENCE IN BULLS-NETS SERIES: [Update: Nets beat Bulls tonight to tie series 3-3, with Game 7 in Brooklyn]. What opponent should Heat players and fans most want to face in the second round starting Monday in Miami? Players would never say it because to do so would build confidence in the team they'd least like to play or incentive in the one they'd prefer. (Also, the confident Heat "fears" no team; Miami instills fear in others). But there is no doubt the Heat matches up better with Brooklyn than 1aa1aheadChicago and should hope the Nets -- who tied the series tonight and now host Game 7 -- can win one more. Miami was 3-0 vs. Brooklyn this season by an average margin of 18 points, but only 2-2 vs. Chicago, which ended Miami's 27-game win streak. But it's more than that, and more than the possibility (however remote) that Bulls star Derrick Rose could make his lonnnnng-awaited return in the next round. It is that Chicago defends Miami's strength better than any team in the NBA. LeBron James driving and then kicking it out for an open corner-3 (Ray Allen's moneymaker) is a huge part of the Heat's game. Miami shot 44 corner 3's in swamping Milwaukee in the first round, or 11 per game. But Chicago's defense this season allowed an NBA-low 3.6 corner-3 attempts per game. statwonk Tom Haberstroh has more on this here. Defensively the Bulls were better than the Nets this season in most categories, but it is their denying the corner-3 that would most challenge the Heat. Also worth noting, Chicago outrebounded Miami by 36 (175-139) in the four season meetings, and limited the Heat to 30 percent on 3-point shots (21-for-70), versus Miami's 41% on 3's against everybody else. Don't get me wrong. Miami still would be a heavy favorite to beat the Bulls, and deservedly. But the challenge would be a stark contrast to the playoffs' "soft opening" in that sweep of the Bucks.

DOLPHINS' BIGGEST REMAINING HOLES, POST-DRAFT: Left tackle seems to be getting most of the current attention and tryout calls (which must make Jonathan Martin feel like crap), and I can 1aa1helpunderstand that. But for me there are other roster soft spots of some concern. They include cornerback, where starters Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall would hardly count among the NFL's best tandems; tight end, where Dustin Keller is a marginal upgrade over departed Anthony Fasano; and perhaps running back, where Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas leave Miami lacking proof. Also wonder if we might add linebacker, where Koa Misi and newcomers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler have much to prove in an overhauled unit. What do you think is the Dolphins' biggest remaining area of concern and why?

Poll note: One choice above is garnering roughly two-thirds of all the votes. There is a phrase in the business for something like that. The phrase is, "Lousy poll idea."

PETITION TO SUSPEND BROUSSARD CIRCULATING: ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard is under fire for calling out-of-the-closet NBA player Jason Collins a sinner and saying his homosexuality is an 1aa1fa"open rebellion to God and Jesus Christ." The faith-based group Faithful America (click for the petition) is collecting online signatures calling for ESPN to suspend Broussard for what the group's executive director Michael Sherrard called allowing Broussard to "mischaracterize our faith and use the teachings of Jesus as the basis for gay-bashing." Faithful America's slogan is, "Love thy neighbor. No Exceptions."

MARLINS "SAD-O-METER" LIVES ON: We have this new blog feature 1aa1bbsadwe're updating as long as the Marlins' winning percentage is under .300. The New York Mets' 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the single worst season in modern MLB history and the Marlins had been on pace to threaten that ignominy. A recent three-game win streak almost tipped the Fish up over .300 to at least temporarily shut down our Sad-O-Meter, but tonight in Philly made it two losses in a row. So: MARLINS SAD-O-METER: Current record, 8-21 (.276). Updated season pace, 44.69 wins, 117.31 losses.

1aa1glowsheepSOUNDS LIKE A BAA-AAAD IDEA: Scientists in Uruguay have engineered a "genetically modified" sheep that glows in the dark. (And you became a scientist for what exactly!?) WWMT? [What Would (Ron) Magill Think?] Click here for the story. Remember. This is a blog. I couldn't say it if it weren't true.

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April 29, 2013

Significance of NBA's first gay player (and the reaction); plus Nets stay alive to face Heat, Dolphins' new SB odds, Ed DuBois & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MAY 1. Another year, another Greg Cote snub in the Tony nominations. 2) "I am no better, and neither are you." --Sly Stone, 1968. This for the intolerant: Everyday People. 3) Played golf Sunday at Jacaranda for a great cause in the Angela Kramer-White Memorial Tournament. I played lousy; however, I did win closest-to-the-beer. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Grading Dolphins draft, Canes avert shuout, Heat sweep Bucks, Shane Larkin, Marlins Sad-O-Meter. 5Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Nets stay alive to face Heat guillotine: Brooklyn beats Chicago 110-91 at home to shave Bulls' series lead to 3-2. Winner faces Miami. Game 6 Thursday night in Chitown.

Click on The First Steps Forward for my latest column, on the bravery of Jason Collins and why this is important for pro sports and for the cause of equal rights.

1aa1collinsWIZARDS CENTER: "I'M GAY": Free agent 7-foot center Jason Collins, who finished this season with the Washington Wizards, reveals himself as the cover subject (pictured) of the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated newly available. His story begins: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." Click here for the whole story; it is as compelling as you'd imagine. Collins has seldom been an important player on the court. He last started in the 2006-07 season and has become an end-of-the-bench journeyman. His career scoring average is 3.6 points. But he has become an important player now, near the end of that career, by becoming the first active, openly gay athlete in one fo America's big-four team sports. Does this have the same impact as if a rising star had come out? No. But it still is a significant watershed in that a door that always has been shut has now been nudged ajar. Somebody had to be the first. Good for Jason Collins. Update: There has been widespread praise and support for Collins on Twitter and then there as this from Dolphin Mike Wallace: 'All of them beautiful women in the world and guys want to mess with other guys ... I just don't understand.' Wallace soon deleted the Tweet and quickly apologized. Hey you're not all alone, Mike. Chris Broussard today on ESPN called being gay "an open rebellion to God." What century is this again!?

DOLPHINS' SUPER BOWL ODDS: Courtesy the good folks at Bovada, updated post-draft Super Bowl betting favorites are 49ers at 6-1, Broncos 15-2, Patriots 8-1 and Seahawks 9-1, with Miami a modest 40-1 (tied for 18th). Pats/Dolphins are 1-2 in AFC East well ahead of Jets at 75-1 and Bills at 100-1.

Dolphins' pre-training camp dates announced: Rookie minicamp will be May 3-5. OTA offseason workouts will be May 21-23, May 29-31 and June 3-6. And mandatory minicamp will be June 11-13.

Poll result: Dolfans pleased if not quite thrilled with draft: We asked for grades, almost 3,000 of you and counting have responded and a plurality of 48.4 percent gave Miami's draft a "B." "A" (26.1%) outpolled "C" (21.3%), while only 4.2% voted "D." So roughly three-quarters voted A or B. Is that fairly interpreted as pleased-but-not-quite-thrilled overall?

1aa1pain&gain 1aa1eddubTHE REMARKABLE ED DUBOIS: I met Ed (pictured) several years ago researching a 50-years-later column on a Miami team that won the 1958 Little League World Series. Ed was a member of that team who went on to a colorful career as a private investigator whose work in the 1990s partly inspired the new Mark Wahlberg/Dwayne Johnson film, Pain & Gain. Actor Ed Harris portrays the role of DuBois in the movie. DuBois, also a songwriter, has a new country-rock feel song called Pain & Gain. Click on the title to download.

UPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER": We have a new feature we'll update in the blog throughout the season as long as the Marlins' winning percentage is under .300. The New York Mets' 1aa1bbsad1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is widely regarded as the nadir in its class -- the single worst season in modern MLB history. Now, your Marlins are threatening that ignominy, despite a season-best two-game winning streak. (The sad face is now for Giancarlo Stanton getting injured yet again). Marlins Sad-O-Meter: Current record after last night's win, 7-19 (.269). Updated season pace, 43.62 wins, 118.38 losses.

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April 18, 2013

Dolphins' schedule: Here's early call on won-lost record; plus NBA 1R playoffs odds and my picks, Branden Albert, Heat MVOG, Brittney Griner & more

1aa1rsd1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 20. It is Record Store Day! Unshackle yourself from the chains, go find a local indie shop and hunt for some great vinyl. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat MVOG poll, Heat-Bucks, Kiper plays Ireland, Marlins odds, Shane Larkin, reflections on Boston. 3) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

That ol' Peyton Magic?: Bovada tells us the Super Bowl champion Ravens will be a 7 1/2-point underdog at Denver in the 2013 NFL season opener, the first time in at least eight years the defending champ has been an opening 'dog.

DOLPHINS SCHEDULE IS READY FOR PRIME TIME: NFL schedules were finalized, and Miami will be under the lights thrice: Sept. 30 at New Orleans (a Monday), Oct. 31 here vs. Cincinnati (a Thursday), 1aa1dol13logoand Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay (a Monday). Dolphins open with two straight on road, Sept. 8 at Cleveland and Sept. 15 at Cleveland, with the home opener Sept. 22 at 4:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta. Bye week is Oct. 13. The full schedule:

September: 8--at Cleveland, 1 p.m.; 15--at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.; 22--vs. Atlanta, 4:05 p.m.; 30--at New Orleans, 8:40 p.m. October: 6--vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m.; 13--Bye; 20--vs. Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 27--at New England, 1 p.m.; 31--vs. Cincinnati, 8:25 p.m. November: 11--at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:40 p.m.; 17--vs. San Diego, 1 p.m.; 24--vs. Carolina, 1 p.m. December: 1--at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.; 8--at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.; 15--vs. New England, 1 p.m.; 22--at Buffalo, 1 p.m.; 29--vs. N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

The quickie analysis: Six games clear favorites, four clear 'dogs, six in-between. Seeing 10-6 / playoffs as a legitimate early possibility. Not a great home schedule, beyond Patriots and champion Ravens. Although I guess we still include the Stinkin' Jets, even though they actually do stink now.

NBA FIRST-ROUND PLAYOFF ODDS, OUR PICKS: The 16 most deserving teams have made the playoffs that start this weekend. Or, as i like to say it: The 15 most deserving teams plus the Milwaukee Bucks. Our opening-round synopses and picks, starting with the East of course:

1aa1buckNo. 1 seed Miami Heat vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks: Must we even go through the pretense that the losing-record Bucks will be anything other than ease-into-it fodder for the revving defending champions? No, we must not go through that pretense. Miami vs. Milwaukee in the first round is like the U.S. vs. Barbados in a war. Bovada betting title odds: Heat 2-3, Bucks 500-1. My pick: Heat in 4 games. [Click on Must Win for today's latest column from me on the Heat as it segues from regular season to playoffs]. 

No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and wise Doc Rivers have enough left to make this interesting. Surely the recent Boston bombings will be an emotional factor. NYK and Carmelo bring too much, though. Title odds: Knicks 16-1, Celtics 66-1. My pick: Knicks in 7.

No. 3 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 6 Atlanta Hawks: Indy brings the annoying, cocky, defensive brats Miami wouldn't mind avoiding en route to the Finals. I give Hawks a better chance than most seem to but do not see an outright upset. Title odds: Pacers 25-1, Hawks 150-1. My pick: Pacers in 6.

No. 4 Brooklyn Nets vs. No. 5 Chicago Bulls: By seed and betting odds an even series. Tough to side against Deron Williams, but I like Chitown rising up even without Derrick Rose. Title odds: Nets 60-1, Bulls 60-1. My pick: Feels like an upset even if it isn't. Bulls in 7.

No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets: James Harden vs. his former team makes the easy storyline, but Jim is surrounded by enough talent o top his ex's. No hiccup here to the inevitable OKC-Heat Finals rematch. Title odds: Thunder 17-4, Rockets 100-1. My pick: Thunder in 6.

No. 2 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have been on the court together without Kobe Bryant five minutes all season. Five minutes! Just a gut feeling on this one. Title odds: Spurs 10-1, Lakers 40-1. My pick: Upset! Lakers in 7.  

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Golden State Warriors: Denver has hardly seemed to miss Danilo Gallinari. I give Golden State less a first-round shot than any team not named Milwaukee. Title odds: Nuggets 25-1, Warriors 100-1. My pick: Nuggets in 5.

No. 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies: I think a strong Memphis defense will slow LAC into a haf-court mode and take away the Clips' run-and-lob preferences. Title odds: Clippers 25-1, Grizzlies 40-1. My pick: Upset! Grizzlies in 6.

NOT SURE BRANDEN ALBERT IS WORTH IT: The Dolphins are negotiating to agree to terms with 1aa1albertband then trade for Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert -- even though coach Andy Reid later told KC media his team had not granted Miami permission for such discussions. Hmm. Anyway, the issue to me is whether Albert (pictured) is worth the second-round pick being talked about. He is 28, a pretty solid starter but nothing more. Has not made a Pro Bowl in five seasons. Has had sporadic back issues. He'll be wanting Jake Long money, but is he worth it? Is he that much better than Jonathan Martin to spend that much and also yield a high pick? I'd be more inclined to make the deal if it was for the lower (54th overall) of Miami's two 2R picks; the other is 42nd overall.

Poll result: Battier, Birdman lead Heat 'MVOG' vote: Who is the Heat's Most Valuable Other Guy? (Meaning non-Big 3). We asked, and you anointed Shane Battier (40.4 percent) and Chris "Birdman" Andersen (30.3%) as your clear picks. Results surprised me a bit. I thought starter Mario Chalmers (12.7%) and star-reserve Ray Allen (11.3%) would fare much better. The other four guys on the ballot (Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis) had negligible support.

GOOD FOR BRITTNEY GRINER: The Baylor star-turned-No. 1 pick in the recent WNBA draft has revealed 1aa1brittneyshe is gay. She didn't "announce" it. She mentioned it casually. She was not defensive, flip or ambiguous. It was as if she was discussing the weather. Perfect. America has been waiting for a prominent, active professional team-sports star to come out. We have one  now. It isn't the headline maker it would be if it were an NFL or NBA star -- far from it. But that's OK. Griner's honesty (and to a degree bravery) makes it that much easier for her male counterparts to someday prove themselves as strong. You're out there, guys. We're waiting...

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