June 19, 2017

Mayweather-McGregor: Will you watch? Poll. Last day to vote!: plus latest Hot Button Top 10. See what falls where; also, your next-Miami-champion verdict, HB Daily (Mon) & more

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

Hfd1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 19. Hope it was a Happy Father's Day to all my fellow padres out there except LaVar Ball. Hope y'all had a wonderful Sunday with loved ones! 2) We talked Heat, Dolphins and other stuff in our Miami Herald Facebook Live debut last week. If you missed it, click here to watch. Also ICYMI, check us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a pictorial of our recent 12-day day European vacation in Spain, Italy and France. 3) Know any Dolfans? Surprise them with our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami's next-champion poll, your verdict on Mount Rushmore-Plus of South Florida's biggest current sports stars & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

MaymcgMAYWEATHER-MCGREGOR: WILL YOU WATCH?: It's official for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. Boxing icon Floyd Mayweather vs. UFC star Conor McGregor (under boxing rules) in their much-awaited, long-delayed fight. It's a hybrid/oddity that has been criticized as a farce by some, especially with Mayweather a prohibitive betting favorite. It is the fight you hate to love and love to hate. I write about the polarizing nature of this event in my latest Sunday column; click on Make Fun of the Farce, But You'll Watch to read. There is speculation the event could break records for pay-per-view revenue, because it will draw boxing fans, UFC fans, spectacle junkies and curiosity seekers. Yet for some reason, interest in this fight is a guilty pleasure. I think far more are actually interested in watching this fight than might admit it. So let's find out with this poll. Vote honestly.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Draft, then free agency on deck for Miami: Heat select 14th overall in this coming Thursday's NBA Draft, team's third-highest pick since Dwyane Wade in 2003, and the free agency period soon follows. Miami and 28 other teams enter the summer all trying to figure out the same thing: How to close the wide gap with the champion Golden State Warriors?
 
2. MARLINS: Best homestand of season begins tonight: With Miami hosting All-Star Game in only three weeks, Marlins open their sexiest homestand of the season starting Monday vs. the NL East power Nationals, then reigning champion Cubs, then division-rival Mets. Fish have been 10-2 at Marlins Park since that nightmarish 1-8 homestand in May.
 
3. PANTHERS: Cats hire coach; Ovechkin on radar?: Florida hired Bob Boughner as a first-time NHL head coach amid rumors team may be among suitors for Washington scoring star Alex Ovechkin, who seems at crossroads with Capitals. Ovechkin, a seven-time 50-goal guy, would give Cats their most dynamic scorer since Pavel Bure in 1999-01.
 
4. GOLF: Former no-name Koepka U.S. Open: The 117th edition of season's second major got off to weird start in Erin, Wisc., with defending champ Dustin Johnson opening with 75, and an advertising blimp crashing near course. It ended with West Palm Beach native Brooks Koepka making the U.S. Open only his second win on the PGA Tour.
 
5. NBA: Major trade at top of draft: The Celtics and 76ers agreed to swap the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in Thursday's draft, with Philly now planning to select Washington guard Markelle Fultz. It doesn't change likelihood Lonzo Ball and his Dad will go No. 2 to Lakers, unfortunately.
 
6. BOXING: Mayweather-McGregor is official at last: Boxer Floyd Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor will fight under boxing rules Aug. 26 in Las Vegas, it was confirmed last week.BIg outcry it's a farce and will be lopsided, yet the oddity-bout is expected to set pay-per-view records. 
 
7. DOLPHINS: Fins end offseason work: A three-day minicamp wrapped up offseason work, and Dolphins won't assemble again until the late-July start of training camp. Miami players, coaches and fans all seem optimistic for another playoff year, but the Las Vegas over/under on Fins wins is only 7 ½. Hmm. Somebody's wrong here. But who?

8. SOCCER: Big week on two fronts for Miami: Miami FC won again to continue its advance in the U.S. Open Cup. Meanwhile David Beckham cleared another hurdle in his bid to secure stadium land and finally realize his oft-delayed, oft-impeded dream of Major League Soccer here.

9. COLLEGE BASEBALL: CWS underway in Omaha: Eight teams including Florida and Florida State have begun play in Omaha to see which two will reach the three-game championship round. With end of Canes' long NCAA streak, won't be en easy watch for Jim Morris.

10. HURRICANES: UM football No. 15 by one estimation: Mark Schlabach's post-spring Top 25 for ESPN.com has the Canes 15th, for what it's worth. I might share that optimism, if I knew who UM's quarterback will be or if he'll be any good.

Missing the HB10 cut: India and Pakistan are playing a big cricket match somwhere, and I don't understand a word of it ..... Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo may leave Real Madrid after being accused of tax evasion by Spanish authorities. Surprised Real Madrid fans haven't started a GoFundMe to pay what he owes ..... Jim Harbaugh has invited the Obamas to serve as honorary captains at a Michigan game this fall. Cannot confirm Trump has signed an executive order to make honorary captains illegal ..... Want the exact definition of 'your football career  is over'? Comeback-attempting Vince Young got cut by the Saskatchewan Roughriders ..... Sergey Kovalev will protest his eighth-round knockout loss to Andre Ward last night in Las Vegas, but nobody cares because it isn't Mayweather-McGregor ..... Roger Goodell said he does not believe unsigned Colin Kaepernick is being ostracized or blackballed, and everybody else brayed laughter ..... The Reds unveiled a Pete Rose statue depicting his iconic head-first slide. You can tell it's life-like, because there are betting tickets flying out of his rear uniform pocket.

POLL RESULT: MOST NEXT-CHAMPION FAITH GOES TO UM FOOTBALL: We asked which of South Florida's Big 5 sports teams is most likely to win a championship next, and Hurricanes football was your landslide winner with 60.6 percent. After that it was Dolphins with 17.2%, Panthers with 13.3% and, lagging way behind, Heat and Marlins with 4.4% each.

HOT BUTTON DAILY: MON 6-19-17: Today's sports events of most interest to SoFla fans:

1. Washington at Marlins, 7 p.m.: Fish open 10-game homestand vs. division rival.

2. College World Series, 2 p.m.: Two games including FSU in must-win to stay alive.

Select other recent columns: No Parade In Sight: None of our Big 5 teams seems close to a championship. A Fall From Greatness And From Grace: Latest in Tiger Woods saga. Harris Vs. Fins' Draft Drought: High hopes for top pick Charles Harris. What's Next, Marlins?: Easy to say blow up the Fish, but harder (and not smart) to do. Big Risk For Big Upside: On chance Heat could land Harry Giles in NBA Draft. NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. On The Team's Terms, Not His: What it would take for Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. The Kid From Pampa: Why Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Home Run For Miami: Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall: Tour of a little-known campus gem. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?: A curiously unemployed QB. Also: Thank You, Mae Riback, A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

June 13, 2017

Who is biggest current star in South Florida pro sports? It's biggest poll in history of blog. Today is last chance to vote!; plus Radio Tuesday, Warriors stake claim, Tiger Woods and your verdict, line on political discourse, Hot Button Special & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 13. We're back from our 12-day European holiday and happy to be back on the Dan leBatard Show With Stugotz today as usual. 2) Know any Dolfans? Surprise them with our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tiger Woods arrest with poll, Jeb Bush out of Marlins bidding, Canes baseball streak ends, firing of Terry Frei, World Fame 100 & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, and 10 to 1 nationally on ESPN Radio, with the national show also airing on ESPN television platforms.

Our most recent columns: Golden State stakes claim to history, Tiger Woods' fall: For the Warriors as a team or LeBron James as a player, this NBA Finals was going to leave one of them looking a lot like the best there ever was. And it's Golden State. Click on History Calling Warriors, LeBron for my column previewing an especially special Finals. On Tiger, sports has never seen an athlete so great and dominant fall so far and hard. Click on A Fall From Greatness And From Grace to read.

NOTE TO READERS: Our major best-of poll closes around 2 pm. today and soon our Mount Rushmore-Plus. We'll also share thoughts from our Euro vacation, and hope you followed our tour of Spain, France and Italy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

WHO IS THE BIGGEST CURRENT STAR IN OUR BIG FOUR PRO SPORTS? LAST CHANCE TO VOTE!: Dolphins. Heat. Marlins. Panthers. (That's alphabetical). Of all the current players on those BigfourBig Four pro teams, who is the biggest star or the face of South Florida sports -- by however you would choose to define that. It was an easy answer for years when Dan MiamisportsMarino reigned. It was easy again when the Heat had LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Now, though, with the Heat's Big 3 a thing of the past and Jose Fernandez tragically gone, the answer has stopped being simple. The answer also might depend whether you put more weight on a player's greatness right now or spanning a full career. Below is my alphabetical list of our Top 20 current players in overall stature. It turned out to be eight Dolphins and four each of the other three teams. YOU MAY VOTE FOR YOUR TOP FIVE (5), and please do use all five of your votes. Then check back often to monitor evolving results because we'll be leaving this poll up the whole time we're away, until announcing our winners on June 12. This is the biggest poll in the history of our blog, both in length of ballot and duration of voting. If you find it tough to narrow your ballot to only five names, we'll have succeeded. By the way, I know that's an old Panthers logo in the illustration at right. Sorry. And remember: Please don't be unduly influenced by which team or sport happens to be your favorite. Respect all four teams as impartially as possible, perhaps as you might if you were an outsider examining another city's stars. We'll announce the results Tuesday afternoon, post-radio show. OK. Ready? Vote!

Remember to vote for your top FIVE (5)!

Deciphering a five-vote ballot: The maximum vote share for any one individual in this poll would be 20 percent, if all voters cast the maximum five votes each. The percentages you see multiplied by five equates to the percentage of times that player is included in voters' top fives. In other words, a player at 12% is being included on 60% of overall ballots.

TRUMP AND THE LINE TO RESPECT IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE: In the spirit of transparency, I did not vote for Donald Trump, and his performance in office has consistently reminded me why. I believe his occupying the White House, made dubious by Russian influence now under investigation, is the worst electorate mistake America has made in my lifetime. But there are lines to respect even in objecting to the office-holder. For me, poking fun at Trump is fine. For example, I delighted to see an immediate Urban Dictionary entry on his apparent Twitter misspelling of the word coverage as "covfefe": (Noun) When you want to say "coverage" but your hands are too small to hit all the letters on your keyboard. Now that's funny. (At least to Democrats!) But the controversy embroiling comedian Kathy Griffin? Not funny. At all. She posted and immediately apologized for a photo of herself holding what appeared to be Trump's bloody, disembodied head. CNN quickly and justifiably fired her as even the most Trump-loathing liberals joined the outcry against the offensive, over-the-line image. Object politically as you wish. It's still a free country. But what do we have left if we abandon our most basic tenets of civility?

POLL RESULTS: SHARPLY DIVIDED FEELINGS ON WHETHER TO FEEL BAD FOR TIGER: We asked, in the wake of his DUI arrest this week, "Do you feel bad for Tiger Woods?" Results skewed slightly anti-Tiger but mostly were mixed. It was 48.6 percent no, 41.2% yes and 10.2% undecided.

HOT BUTTON SPECIAL: Top 10 events in SoFla sports happening before our return from vacation June 12:

1. NBA Finals: Golden State and Cleveland through June 18 if needed. 

2. Marlins: Home through June 4, then on road June 5-11.

3. Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh and Nashville through June 14 if needed.

4. French Open: Through June 11 in Paris.

5. UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid vs. Juventus in June 3 title match.

6. Dolphins OTA days: Next offseason practices are June 5-8.

7. MLB Draft: Happens June 12,with Marlins holding 13th pick.

8. WWE Summer Slam: Scheduled June 9 in Sunrise.

9. Belmont Stakes: Ends Triple Crown season June 10 in New York.

10. America's Cup sailing: Through June 27 in Bermuda.

Select other recent columns: Harris Vs. Fins' Draft Drought: High hopes for top pick Charles Harris. What's Next, Marlins?: Easy to say blow up the Fish, but harder (and not smart) to do. Awful Team Continues Marlins Curse: Fish fans deserve a medal. Big Risk For Big Upside: On chance Heat could land Harry Giles in NBA Draft. NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. LeBron And Steph To the Rescue: How a third straight Warriors-Cavs Finals will save a lopsided postseason. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. On The Team's Terms, Not His: What it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. Not In Our Stadium: N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa: Why Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons: Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami: Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall: Tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph: strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?: A curiously unemployed QB. Also: Thank You, Mae Riback, A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

May 31, 2017

Do you feel bad for Tiger Woods? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Jeb out as Marlins' buyer but Jeter bid lives on; also, 'World Fame 100,' UM baseball 44-year streak ends nobly, kneejerk reaction on Terry Frei, Hott Button Daily (Wed) & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, May 31. R.I.P., Frank Deford, famed sportswriter, gone at 78. Never met him, but much respect for who he was in this business. 2) Know any Dolfans? Surprise and delight them with our book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, UM baseball streak ends, Tiger Woods' arrested, 50,000 Names tribute video, The List (Dolphins draft), your most-wins verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

ICYMI, our latest Sunday column: Golden State, LeBron on history's doorstep: For the Warriors as a team or LeBron James as a player, this NBA Finals is going to leave one of them looking a lot like the best there ever was. Click on History Calling Warriors, LeBron for my new Sunday column.

Tigerhappy TigersadSTRANGE LATEST CHAPTER IN THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF AN ALL-TIME GREAT: DO YOU FEEL BAD FOR TIGER WOODS?: Tiger is pictured in better days and in this week's booking mugshot. You know the weird story by now. Found asleep in his running car. Taken into custody at 2:49 a.m. Monday, booked at 7:18, released on his own recognizance at 10:50, to be will be arraigned in Palm Beach County Court July 5. But the DUI charge turned out not  to involve alcohol. He blew a perfect 0.00 breath test for that. Turned out to be a mix of prescription drugs, including painkillers, blamed on recent back surgeries. Said Woods in a statement: "I understand the severity of what I did, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications. I didn't realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly." Woods recently announced he'd miss the remainder of the 2017 PGA Tour season. Since his initial back surgery in MArch 2014 Woods has played only 19 Tour events with zero top-10s, his career majors number long stuck on 14. I feel bad for Tiger. Do you?

REPORT: JEB BUSH OUT OF RUNNING TO BUY MARLINS: The Associated Press, citing unidentified sources, first reports today that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has withdrawn from a bid to buy the Miami Marlins. Bush fronted the group led by ex-Yankees great Derek Jeter, who may continue to explore a bid with other money men. No reason for Bush's withdrawal was reported. "Gov. Bush has great respect for Derek Jeter, and Derek remains a great friend," the AP quoted a source. "And he's looking forward to a great rest of the season for the Marlins." The apparent frontrunner to buy the club now would appear to be the group fronted by businessman Tagg Romney (Mitt's son) that includes ex-Braves star pitcher Tom Glavine -- but not so fast on that. Bush had very little capital in the investment group, so that group very much would remain in the running with Jeter -- still involved -- out front. Today's no-Bush news, in effect, might end up meaning very little. Both groups had been considered nearly even in the running to make the deal. Existing owner Jeffrey Loria has lowered his asking price from $1.8 billion to (as of now) about $1.3B. There are reports the deal will be completed in the next couple of month so change of ownership might be ratified at the next MLB owners meeting in August.

JmorrisUM'S BASEBALL STREAK ENDS, BUT CANES WIN ANYWAY: The longest NCAA postseason streak in any sport -- Miami Hurricanes baseball's 44-year run -- ended Monday when UM was passed over for an at-large regional bid. It was a mild surprise but not a shock. After a 31-27 record, it's hard to argue the Canes got screwed. The nature of the tournament is that, as in basketball, automatic bids got to small-conference winners to fill much of the 64-team field. UM did get unlucky, though,as the first team out. UM coach Jim Morris was admirably gracious, saying, "It's an honor and a privilege to be part of the 44. It's a streak that's unmatched in any sport in NCAA history, so to be part of that and be part of that with coach [Ron] Fraser is an honor." Morris could have complained, claimed to have been cheated, claimed the selection committee didn't show proper reverence for his program's pedigree, or blamed the team's many injuries. Instead, no excuses. He took the high road. Good for him.

TerryfreiOVERREACTION IN FIRING OF TERRY FREI: I don't know Frei, until this week a Denver Post sportswriter, so this opinion is uninfluenced by friendship. He Tweeted something ill-advised. But I'm not sure it was a firing offense, given his immediate explanation and contrition. Frei Tweeted he was "uncomfortable" with a Japanese driver winning the Indy 500 on Memorial Day, harking to Pearl Harbor. For me, that was outrageous. The equivalent would have been me writing on Twitter that the Marlins should have sat Ichiro on Sunday for the same reasoning. That's pretty crazy. But, again, given the extenuating circumstances (Frei' s father fought in the war), and his fast apology, I feel bad that one lapse in judgement cost the man his job and reputation. Frei is pictured. A regrettably uttered or written sentiment can happen to any of us in this fast-paced business. I wish him well.

ESPN'S SECOND ANNUAL 'WORLD FAME 100': Click here for the full list, or stay here to save time. The top 10, in order: Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, Phil Mickelson, Neymar, Usain Bolt, Kevin Durant, Rafael Nadal and Tiger Woods. Also notable: Serena Williams 19th, Tom Brady 21st and Dwyane Wade 24th. No current South Florida athlete made it. Thought maybe Jaromir Jagr and Ichiro had a chance to sneak in low.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 5-31-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Philadelphia at Marlins, 1:10 p.m: Fish have won 3 straight, are 4-1 in 10-game homestand.

2. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: Pittsburgh leads Nashville 1-0 and home for Game two of Stanley Cup Finals.

3. French Open, 11 a.m: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic among notable on today's schedule.

4. Dolphins OTA day: Second of this week's three closed-to-public offseason practices.

[Note: NBA Finals start Thursday June 1].

Select other recent columns: Harris Vs. Fins' Draft Drought: High hopes for top pick Charles Harris. What's Next, Marlins?: Easy to say blow up the Fish, but harder (and not smart) to do. Awful Team Continues Marlins Curse: Fish fans deserve a medal. Big Risk For Big Upside: On chance Heat could land Harry Giles in NBA Draft. NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. LeBron And Steph To the Rescue: How a third straight Warriors-Cavs Finals will save a lopsided postseason. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. On The Team's Terms, Not His: What it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. Not In Our Stadium: N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa: Why Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons: Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami: Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall: Tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph: strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?: A curiously unemployed QB. Also: Thank You, Mae Riback, A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 10, 2017

Heat survive! Playoff hopes still alive with OT win over Cleveland!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Dale Tallon, our Fins draft column, your Marlins next-owner verdict, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, April 10. Passover begins at sundown today for our Jewish friends. And a happy Seder to them! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins next-owner poll, updated Heat playoff odds, your verdict on Romo/Canton & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Panthers re-name Tallon GM: No, seriously. The Florida Panthers this morning announced Dale Tallon had been named general manager and president of hockey operations. In other words, he now has the power he once had before the club demoted him in a move boneheaded beyond description. That move in turn led to the premature coaching change that sacked Gerard Gallant and brought in unqualified Tom Rowe, which in turn led to one of the most disappointing seasons in the NHL. A good move handing control back to Tallon, but what a botched season by this franchise.

My latest column: Dolphins draft: I preview the fast-approaching NFL Draft in my latest Sunday column, and offer 10 names the Dolphins should be interested in for the 22nd overall pick of the first round. Eight of those names are on defense. Click on Dolphins Draft Wish List to read the column.

HugegameHEAT BEAT CAVALIERS IN A CRAZY-BIG GAME: [Update: Heat beat LeBron-less Cavaliers 124-121 in overtime last night to keep playoff hopes alive. Click on Miracle Season a Joy to Behold for my column from the arena] Original post: LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers are tied with Boston atop the NBA East standings with two games to play. Miami is currently the 9th seed because Chicago (with the same record) enjoys the tiebreaker edge for 8th, with Indiana 7th. None of the three played Sunday but all go tonight. ESPN's Basketball Power Index playoff odds give Miami only a 34.4 percent shot, compared to the Bulls' 84.7% and Pacers' 80.9%. Miami must finish with a better record than Chicago and at least the same record as Indiana. Bottom line: Miami should consider tonight a must-win. Heat, which could get Dion Waiters back,  would be eliminated with a loss tonight if Pacers and Bulls both win. Miami catches a big break because LeBron and Kyrie Irving, both with supposed injuries, won't play. Closing schedules for each, UPDATED through Monday night results:

7. Indiana Pacers 41-40: vs. Atlanta .525 Wednesday.

8. Chicago Bulls 40-41: vs. Brooklyn .250 Wednesday.

9. Miami Heat 40-41: vs. Washington .600 Wednesday.

Heat must win Wednesday and hope either Chicago or Indiana lose in order to make the playoffs.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Down to wire on mad scramble for playoffs: Miami sits at 39-41 in 9th place in East and just off playoff pace in a mad scrum with Pacers and Bulls. (More on the Heat playoff picture below HB10). It will come down to each team's final two games -- with Miami's at home vs. Cavaliers tonight and Wizards Wednesday. Man, mediocrity has never been so exciting!?

2. MARLINS: Fish open at home Tuesday amid Jeter talk: Marlins wrapped up a decent 3-3 season-opening road trip Sunday and now it's Opening Night at home Tuesday vs. Braves. Season unfurls amid reports that a group fronted by Derek Jeter is among those interested in buying the Marlins. Yes, please!

3. GOLF: Sergio Garcia in green as The Masters wraps up: Sergio Garcia finally won his elusive first major on Sunday at Augusta, slipping on that sartorially awful green jacket. Speaking of slipping, Masters began with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson's late withdrawal with sore back after he slipped on stairs. Or was he pushed!?!

4. DOLPHINS: Draft preparation shifts into high gear: NFL Draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia, with Dolphins weighing options for 22nd overall pick in first round. Miami's primary goal? To be closer on the sliding draft scale to a Laremy Tunsil gift than to a Dion Jordan gaffe. 

5. PANTHERS: Humane bullet ends disappointing season: Season that began with of Stanley Cup dreams ended out of playoffs with thud Sunday at Washington. Cats ended with two straight wins but at 35-47 overall. It was reported interim coach Tom Rowe would not return, which ranked with Barry Manilow's 'I'm-gay' revelation as week's least-surprising news.

6. TONY ROMO: Cowboys QB retires, gets sweet TV gig: Tony Romo left the NFL and immediately was hired by CBS Sports to replace Phil Simms as main NFL analyst alongside Jim Nantz. The sports media -- the same guys who railed for years about how awful and boring Simms was -- then trumpeted indignantly how unfair it was Simms was losing his job. 

7. HURRICANES: Former players donate big to indoor practice facility: As football spring practice continues on campus, 60 former Miami Hurricanes football players led by current coach Mark Richt donated $1.65 million to the Greg Cote Football Indoor Practice Facility. What. Oh, my bad. It's the Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility.

8. SOCCER: U.S. women, UEFA quarterfinals on stage: U.S. women's team walloped Russia 5-1 Sunday in a friendly in Houston, but the big news in international soccer will be UEFA Champions League quarterfinal matches Tuesday and Wednesday. Those won't be friendly.

9. FIU: Football stadium named for major donor: FIU Stadium officially became Riccardo Silva Stadium this week, named after a major athletic donor. People who will now call it Riccardo Silva Stadium: FIU, and Riccardo Silva. People who'll continue to call it FIU Stadium: Everybody else.

10. LAVAR BALL: Idiot-dad at it again with 'white guys' remark: Clown-dad father LaVar Ball now claims his son's UCLA team lost in the NCAA Tournament because of the slowness of "three white guys." Well, at least he didn't name them!

Missing the HB10 cut: Daniel Cormier defended his title belt in UFC 2010 last night in Buffalo, and we cannot even feign enough interest to go on ..... Denver won the NCAA men's ice hockey championship, surprising analysts who were unaware Denver was a college or that there was college hockey ..... Tony Romo will be "Maverick for a day" and sit in uniform on the Dallas bench. Given the Mavs' season, surprised Tony didn't say, "UM, uh, no thanks." ..... And in other news, the U.S. bombed Syria.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 4-10-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Cleveland at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami better consider this must-win in playoff race with two games left.

2. Heat rivals, 7 and 8 p.m.: Heat fans rooting against Indiana (7 @ PHI) and Chicago (8 vs. ORL).

3. Duke at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball wraps up ACC home series.

4. Los Angeles at Chicago, 8 p.m.: Dodgers-Cubs on national TV. Why not!?

Poll result: Strong support for Jeter to head next Marlins owners: We asked who you most support as potential next owner of the Miami Marlins, and the Derek Jeter-led investment group dominated with 73.7 percent. The Jeb Bush-led group said to be Citigroup-backed had fair support with 12.8%. Also-rans were the faceless group said to have backing of Goldman Sachs (5.8%), the Kushner family that first had handshake agreement (4.5%), and the hope that Jeffrey Loria changes his mind and keeps team (3.2%).

Select other recent columns: Federer and Nadal Deliver, on Miami Open men's final. Always Dreaming, from Florida Derby. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to catch Patriots. Missing Waiters, on his value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?Loria: The End Of An Error, Thank You, Edwin Pope.
 
Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 04, 2017

Playoffs? Bust? Set bar on Marlins expectations. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Fish, UNC, Heat, Always Dreaming, Federer, Dion Jordan; also, Radio Tuesday, Florida Derby/Marlins columns, Hot Button Daily (Tue) & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, April 4. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday with Final Four/Florida Derby/Miami Open, The List I-II, your NBA MVP verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and with the national show airing on ESPNU/ESPN2.

Florida Derby, Marlins preview columns: It was a double Sunday dose o' me as I weighed in with a column from Saturday's Florida Derby as well as a Marlins season preview column. Click on Always Dreaming for my Derbyizing on the winning horse and its owner, Vinnie Viola, the Florida Panthers owner. Click on Mourning And Celebration for my preview column on a Marlins season unlike any other.

My final bracket update: I finished 5th among some 90 entries in the LeBatard & Friends pool -- not bad -- topped by correctly having North Carolina as my national champion. 

Marlins odMARLINS OPENING DAY POLL: Yesterday began the Marlins' 25th season, and we're gauging how optimistic (or not) South Florida is about the team. Remove the rose-colored glasses and vote what you honestly expect will happen, please, not what you hope will. We ran this exact same poll in the blog in mid-February as spring training unfurled, so we'll be interested to compare results to detect any shifts. Ready? Play ball! Vote now...

THE LIST: MARLINS OPENING DAY STARTERS: Edinson Volquez became the 15th different Marlins Opening Day starting pitcher in the club's 25-year history. The eight pitchers with multiple Opening Day starts for the Fish:

Josh Beckett                  3    2003-05

Josh Johnson                  3    2010-12

Charlie Hough                2    1993-94 

Kevin Brown                   2    1996-97

Alex Fernandez              2    1999-00

Ryan Dempster               2    2001-02 

Dontrelle Willis              2    2006-07

Ricky Nolasco                 2    2009, '13

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

Hotbutton1. MARLINS: Play ball! Fish open 25th season on road today: MLB Opening Day was Sunday with three games, but Miami plays six straight away starting with Monday's loss at Washington before finally opening at home April 11. This could be the year unpopular owner Jeffrey Loria finally sells the team. Which pretty much already makes it a successful season!

2. NCAA TOURNAMENT: Finally! It's North Carolina: There were 351 teams, from which 68 made the men's NCAA Tournament. Then it was down to 32, then 16 to eight to four to two and now ... the final one. It was North Carolina for the national title last night in the long-awaited crescendo to March (into April) Madness.

3. HEAT: Playoff fight intensifies as Miami winds down season: Heat is down to five games left as it angles for a first-round playoff series vs. Boston or Cleveland. Miami's long climb back staggered with a Sunday home loss to Denver that left Heat hanging onto 8th and last playoff seed. Oy!

4. HORSE RACING: Always Dreaming wins 66th Florida Derby: Gunnevera was the betting favorite Saturday but the Florida Derby belonged to Always Dreaming, owned by Florida Panthers  owner Vinnie Viola. It was nice to see horse racing the star at Gulfstream again for at least a day, not the casino, poker, restaurants etc. Also nice to see that Viola's four-legged athlete runs better than his two-legged guys skate.

5. TENNIS: Federer beats Nadal in Miami Open men's final: Jo Konta beating Caroline Wozniacki wasn't exactly a dream women's final for the Miami Open on Saturday, but Sunday delivered just that on the men's side with Roger Federer beating Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in a heavyweight men's title match.

6. GOLF: The Masters arrives, but Tiger-less once more: Season's first golf major unfurls Thursday at Augusta as an absent Tiger Woods, still beset by back issues, continues one of the most epic slow fades in the history of sports.

7. DOLPHINS: Fins release all-time bust Dion Jordan: The quintessential NFL all-time draft bust might still be Ryan Leaf. But in the Miami division, Dion Jordan's dubious crown was affirmed this week as the Dolphins finally cut the guy they traded up for and never stopped regretting it. 

8. NCAA WOMEN: South Carolina reigns after UConn upset loss stuns women's Final Four: South Carolina beat Mississippi State in the finale Sunday night. But, no matter, dynastic UConn losing in Final Four, after 111 consecutive wins, already made it a refreshing victory for women's college basketball. 

9. PANTHERS: Cats eliminated from playoff chase as disappointing season ebbs: Florida is down to three games left after Monday home loss to Montreal, a going-through-the-motions phase to end a huge letdown of a season. Um how'd that coaching change work out, by the way? Boneheaded. 

10. PRO WRESTLING: Orlando hosts WrestleMania 33: Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton had big wins and The Undertaker lost in his final WWE match to highlight WrestleMania 33. Imagine. Sports' biggest cartoon event in a city that worships Mickey Mouse. Perfect. So right.

Missing the HB10 cut: NFL owners voted 31-1 to OK Oakland Raiders' move to Las Vegas, with Dolphins' Stephen Ross the lone dissenter. Ross has since been so heroically lauded in the media you'd think he'd rescued three nuns from a burning car ..... Hurricanes football held its annual Pro Day for NFL teams to analyze 15 UM players as the draft nears. Only one, TE David Njoku, figures as a first-rounder. And I'll say it again: Ya shoulda stayed, Brad Kaaya ..... When was the last time UM baseball entered April with a losing record? Holy Brad Kelly!

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 4-4-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. FIU at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m.: FIU baseball tops the marquee? Huh!?

2. Yes. Yes it is. It is the single slowest day of the entire sports year.

Select other recent columns: The Long Chase, on Dolphins' struggle to close gap on Patriots. Missing Waiters, on Dion Waiters' value to Heat. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Method to the Madness?, on bizarre LaVar Ball. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, on World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?Loria: The End Of An Error, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 27, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring NCAA Final Four, Heat stretch run, tennis, Fish, Cats, horses; plus Kaepernick vs. Moore as Dolphins backup QB. Poll. Vote now!; also Elton John, Venus Williams, my bracket, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more

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

Eltonthen Eltonnow1) It is MONDAY, March 27. A most happy 70th birthday Saturday to a lifelong favorite of mine, Elton John, pictured then and now. I have been a huge fan since the '70s, augmenting my love of his music with an admiration for his many philanthropic works that set the standard for the music industry. The word is grossly overused in entertainment but it fits this man: Superstar. So happy his milestone birthday found him in a great place and the happiest he has ever been. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper's surprise Mock pick for Dolphins, Team USA wins WBC crown, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (70 games), Sweet 16 title odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: The curious unemployment of Colin Kaepernick: I explore what could be the NFL blackballing of Colin Kaepernick in my latest Sunday column. Click on Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick? to read. Kaepernick threw 16 TDs vs. only four interceptions, topped a 90 rating and was second among NFL QBs in rushing yards last season. He'd make somebody an exciting backup option for the right price -- Dolphins included. Agree. Find a Kaepernick vs. Matt Moore poll here directly below the new Hot Button Top 10.

Bracket update: I stand tied for 14th among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends pool after Sunday's results set the Final Four. I have North Carolina (my national champ) and Oregon both still alive in my FF. Two out of four; not bad. ESPN says only 657 of 18,797,085 brackets correctly predicted all four Final Four teams. That is 0.00003495 percent.

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

Hotbutton1. NCAA ELITE EIGHT: Finally! The Final Four is set: It'll be 1-seed Gonzaga vs. 7-South Carolina and 1-North Carolina vs 3-Oregon in next week's Final Four semifinal games of the NCAA men's tourney as March Madness nears its crescendo. Are you still alive in your office pool? Or was that your bracket I saw smoldering in tatters on the side of the road this morning?

2. HEAT: Miami prepares for Pistons as stretch run continues: Loss in Boston Sunday didn't help, but nine games left starting with a huge one Tuesday in Detroit could find Heat rising as high as the fifth playoff seed or missing postseason altogether. Who says NBA regular seasons don't matter?

3. TENNIS: Miami Open reaches midpoint on Key Biscayne: Not as much interest on women's side in a field missing injured Serena Williams, but we'll gladly take a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer men's final next Sunday (please) as the annual fortnight ends at Crandon Park Tennis Center. Meanwhile Hard Rock Stadium is trying to poach the event from Key Biscayne, which at least beats it leaving altogether. 

4. MARLINS: WBC stars rejoin team as spring winds down: Team USA's Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich rejoined Marlins from World Baseball Classic for final week of spring training. WBC champions to NL East also-rans. Hope Stanton and Yelich didn't get too used to all that winning.

5. PANTHERS: Cats win big but still need miracle on ice: Florida is down to seven games and still seven points off playoff pace even after Saturday's big 7-0 home win over Chicago. As a disappointing season ebbs do you remember how a big offseason had the Cats talking Stanley Cup? Yeah they'd probably rather that you'd forgotten.

6. HORSE RACING: Gulfstream hosts Florida Derby in five days: Gunnavera will try to solidify his status as a Kentucky Derby favorite in next Saturday's major prep race, the annual Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Always nice to see horses take back center stage at a horse track these days, albeit briefly.  

7. NCAA WOMEN: Monday completes Final Four matchups: Stanford and Mississippi State are in. Today, Oregon-UConn and Florida State-South Carolina winners will join them in women's Final Four.

8. NFL/DOLPHINS: Looks like free agency came and went quietly: Um, is that all there is? Dolphins didn't make a big splash, and biggest questions that remain nationally involve the possible landing spots for QBs Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Jimmy Garoppolo. But the draft is getting close!

9. TIGER WOODS: Eldrick still hoping to be ready for The Masters: Year's first major is April 6-9 at Augusta, and Tiger Woods -- his long-awaited comeback from back ailmenbst forever delayed or aborted -- says he wants in. Do we believe him? Do we still care?

10. CANES BASEBALL: UM avoid sweep, at least: Once-ranked Miami now 11-13 after avoiding a sweep by winning Sunday at No. 8 North Carolina. The season he dreamed of is a nightmare thus far for Jim Morris.

Missing the HB10 cut: Sorry, UM football. You don't have the courtesy to open your spring practices to the public, you don't get in the HB10 ..... The Lakers unveiled a 1,200-pound dunking statue of Shaquille O'Neal. So it's about life-sized, then ..... OK UCLA finally lost. Can we all stop interviewing LaVar Ball now please? ..... U.S. men's soccer crushed Honduras, 6-0, reminding us that Jurgen Klinsmann really did need to go ..... Ultra Music Festival ends today in Miami, the only event at which drugs not only are allowed, but are required.

POLL: COLIN KAEPERNICK VS. MATT MOORE AS DOLPHINS BACKUP QB?: Relax, people. It's just for fun...

VenuswTHE UNDERAPPRECIATED WONDER OF VENUS WILLIAMS: [Update: Venus won her opening match in the Miami Open, defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4-,6-3, and plays again today] Original post: As Serena Williams skips this Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne with a knee injury, we take the occasion to give the credit that is due to the overshadowed, underappreciated career of older sister Venus Williams. Serena said recently of Venus: "There’s no way I’d be at 23 [Grand Slam titles] without her. There’s no way I’d be at one without her. There’s no way I’d be anything without her. She’s the only reason the Williams sisters exist." Serena says her drive to be better than her big sister is what drove her to greatness. But imagine all of the additional major title Venus might have won if her greatest rival hadn't been her own sister? Click on An Ode to the 'Other' for my column in tribute to Venus.

THE LIST: TOP 5 GREATEST VENUSES OF ALL-TIME: Our own order:

1. Venus (second planet from the sun)

2. Venus Williams (tennis player)

3. Venus de Milo (ancient Greek statue)

4. Venus Flytrap (carnivorous plant)

5. Venus (surprising humane 2006 Peter O'Toole film about aging)

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-27-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:
 
1. NCAA women, 7 p.m.: Oregon-UConn, then FSU-South Carolina compete to get into Final Four.

2. Miami Open, 11 am.: Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Venus Williams among stars in play today.

3. Panthers at Buffalo, 7 p.m.: Cats still alive, but barely, in playoff chase.

4. Marlins vs.N.Y. Mets, 1:05 p.m.: Fish in Jupiter as spring training winds down.

"WHERE TO NOW, ST. PETER?," ELTON JOHN, 1970: Tumbleweed Connection was the first Elton John album that really struck me, with its influences in country and Americana but also rock and even psychedelia. I had no idea then that the music of this man would become a lifelong friend...

Select other recent columns: Method to the Madness?, on the bizarre LaVarBall. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing the tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on developments in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 06, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes hoops, WBC, non-LeBron, fading Cats, Gunnevera; plus our ghost tour of Miami's sports past, your NFL Combine verdict & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, March 6. Good day, folks! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday in SoFla sports, NFL Scouting Combine with poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: A ghost tour of Miami's sports graveyard: IA conversation with an eye-witness to Joe Namath's famous Super Bowl guarantee in Miami got me reminiscing about our sports past and all of the teams that have come and gone. Click on A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past to read.

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: UM men close season, prepare for ACC Tournament: No. 25 Canes men ended regular season Saturday with a loss at No. 15 Florida State. Now the real season season starts, with Canes' ACC Tournament opener (after a first-round bye) on Wednesday at noon vs. Syracuse in Brooklyn. Then it's Selection Sunday for NCAA Tournament in six days … and then … Madness!

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Games at Marlins Park on deck: We're already bored with spring training. The solution? Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and three other Fish will take a break to play in the WBC, with Marlins Park hosting U.S., Dominican Republic, Colombia and Canada for six games starting this Thursday.

3. HEAT: LeBron sits as Cavaliers get pounded: Is LeBron James returning with Cavaliers to play in Miami still a big deal? Not when he doesn't bleepin' play it isn't. Miami crushed Cavs 120-92 last night as both LeBron and Kyrie Irving sat out, leaving hot Heat still 1 1/2 games back in playoff chase. Teams meet again tonight in Cleveland. (Psst, I think LeBron will play).

4. PANTHERS: Cats deal at deadline, try to regain spark: Florida acquired scoring punch in Thomas Vanek at NHL trade deadline. They need it. They need something. Panthers have now lost five of past six after Saturday's home loss to Dallas, and are now two points off playoff pace. It's there for you, Cats. But you gotta go get it.

5. HORSE RACING: Gunnevera win Fountain of Youth: Gunnevera took Saturday's annual Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a major Kentucky Derby prep race. Now we see if the horse can live up the expectations for Churchill Downs that have been newly minted.

6. UM WOMEN: Team Katie falls to Duke in ACC semifinals: Nice little ACC tourney run ended in Conway S.C. yesterday as Canes women fell to Duke, 57-52, one win short of reaching today's championship game. Next stop: NCAA Tournament.

7. NFL: Dolphins scout, Canes audition as Combine nears end: NFL's weeklong pre-draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis ends Monday, with Dolphins figuring what to do with 22nd overall pick while nine Hurricanes have been auditioning. Think of the annual meat market as a beauty pageant for men.

8. GOLF: Doral too quit as an era ends: It should have been championship Sunday on Doral's Blue Monster as the PGA Tour played here for the 56th straight March. Instead, for the first time since 1961, no pros for us.

9. CANES BASEBALL: Ugh. UM's rough start continues It was rubber game of home series vs. Dartmouth Sunday and Canes got spanked 5-0. Now 4-6 after 10 games, this is not the rollicking start to the season that Jim Morris imagined or hoped for.

10. SOCCER: Major League Soccer season underway: The 22nd MLS season has begun. Maybe by the 23rd or 24th seasons roll around David Beckham will finally have realized that team in Miami. Dare we dream? Maybe by the 25th season...?

Missing the HB10 cut: Miami honored the late Herald giant Edwin Pope with a PopeFest celebration at The Clevelander at Marlins Park. It was hosted by Dan LeBatard and Greg Cote, yet was a huge success, anyway.

Poll result: Interest in NFL Scouting Combine is minimal: Teams love it as a major draft-preparation tool. Players love it for the chance to raise their stock. Fans don't love it. We asked what is your interest level in the NFL Scouting Combine, and it was 31.8 percent "non-existent," 30.1% "low," 27.3% "medium" and only 10.8% "high."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-6-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.: Gee, maybe LeBron will even play this time.

2. N.Y. Mets at Marlins, 1:05 p.m.: Fish welcome division rival to spring game in Jupiter.

3. NFL Scouting Combine, 9 a.m.: Pre-draft meat market ends in Indy. Finally!

Select other recent columns: A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club, NFL's Arrested Development, The Wonder of Coach L, It's What's Great About Sports, The Miracle of Liberty City, Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!Loria: The End Of An ErrorThank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

March 04, 2017

I declare today Super Saturday in SoFla sports: LeBron-Heat, Canes X2, Cats and horses lead rollicking parade!; plus NFL Combine poll (last day to vote!), too-quiet Doral, Shame Club, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, March 4. Enough please with the pointless debate on whether Dwyane Wade should/will rejoin the Heat this summer. It isn't a debate. Won't happen. Zero chance. But only because less than zero isn't possible. 2) You a Dolfan? Know any? Buy our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): PopeFest a raging success with videos, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Heat's Erik Spoelstra named NBA Coach of the Month for February! So ridiculous. Why not have a Coach of the Week? Better yet, a Coach of the Day!" --Greg Cote

My latest columns: The sad quiet of Doral, and Amar'e Stoudemire: I visited a too-quiet Doral, where, for the first time since 1961 this week, a PGA Tour golf tournament is not happening. Click on A Tradition Ends In Silence to read that column. I also have a second, shorter, online-only column today on Amar'e Stoudemire's controversy over his anti-gay sentiments. Click on Amar'e Joins the Shame Club for that.

SUPER SATURDAY!: LEBRON VISIT, CANES X2, CATS AND HORSES OH MY!: It's rare I anoint a Super Saturday in South Florida sports, but today qualifies. It's one of those crowded-calendar Supersatsports days (see Hot Button Daily below) that makes you glad you live here. If you can't find something to watch today or tonight that engages you, check your pulse. LeBron James and the Cavaliers visit the Heat with Miami 1 1/2 back in the playoff chase -- so an upset of the ex we love to hate and hate to love would be doubly big. The Panthers have lost four of past five and need to shake their mini-funk as they host Dallas with the Cats two points behind that 8th seed and playoff pace. Hurricanes women's basketball faces rival Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. The UM men visit Florida State to close their regular season, with ACC tourney seeding in play. The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park is a major Kentucky Derby prep race in which Irish War Cry (5-2 odds), Practical Joke (3-1) and Gunnevera (7-2) are close to tri-favorites. Oh, and the Marlins play a spring game vs. the Braves in Lake Buena Vista. I mean, with all of that watch, there is absolutely no excuse today to be caught watching even a nano-second of the NFL Scouting Combine. Seriously.

CombineDO YOU CARE ABOUT THE NFL SCOUTING COMBINE?: It is happening all week in Indianapolis, the NFL's annual pre-draft meat market in which draft prospects (nine former Hurricanes are there) are measured, tested, interviewed and analyzed. It is a good and convenient thing for teams like the Dolphins -- one-stop shopping. It is good for players, though mostly for those expected lower picks who get a chance to stand and and improve their stock. But should fans care? ESPN and NFL Network are televising it and covering it as if fans do care. Share your thoughts on the Combine in this poll. I find it boring and wouldn't if you paid me, but I may be in the minority. Let's see.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 3-4-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Cleveland at Heat, 8 p.m.: Doesn't sizzle like before, but a visit by LeBron still stirs emotions.

2. Dallas at Panthers, 7 p.m.: A game Cats, 2 points off playoff pace, should win.

3. Hurricanes vs. Duke, 2:30 p.m.: 7th-seed UM women face 2-Duke in ACC Tournament semifinal.

4. Fountain of Youth, 5:30 p.m.: Stakes race at Gulfstream is major prep for Kentucky Derby.

5. Hurricanes at Florida State, 4 p.m.: 25th-ranked UM men vs. 15-Noles in regular season finale.

Select other recent columns: NFL's Arrested Development, on league's cluelessness on how to handle player arrests. The Wonder of Coach L, off Canes' win over Duke. It's What's Great About Sports, on Heat and Panthers' concurrent surge. The Miracle of Liberty City, on how youth football there is about more than scoring TDs. Also: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! Loria: The End Of An Error. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Heat back at it, Loria's decision, Cats in hunt and UM hoops lead way; plus The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings (55 games), "Spobama," disrespect for Whiteside in your Heat MVP verdict & more

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

Spobama1) It is MONDAY, February 13. Spobama, pictured right, a photo mashup of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and ex-prez Barack Obama. Saw this on Twitter @brassjazz, loved it and thought you might too. 2)Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (pictured) makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rollicking Heat with polls, your greatest-2016-champion verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Thank you, Jeffrey Loria: Looks like immensely unpopular Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has finally figured out how to do something that will be unanimously cheered and make Marlins fans overjoyed. Sell the team. Reports are, he plans to do just that, and soon. Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for my latest column.

Heat win streak ends at 13 games in loss at Philly: Click on Spoelstra Leads the Parade for my Heat column on season's second-half surge.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Hot Miami sees 13-game win streak end; back at it tonight: Scorchin' Heat had won 13 consecutive games before Saturday night's 117-109 loss in Philadelphia, and now returns home Monday night vs. Orlando. A Heat team once 11-30 is now only two games off playoff pace. But will Miami now lapse back into losing? Let's find out starting tonight.

2. MARLINS: Fish set for spring training as sale rumors fly: Team's weekend Fan Fest concluded Sunday, now players begin to report Tuesday for spring training in Jupiter. Meanwhile owner Jeffrey Loria reportedly has a "handshake agreement" to sell team. That sound you hear? Marlins fans cheering.

3. PANTHERS: Cats need solid road trip to stay in hunt: Florida won in Nashville 7-4 Saturday night to begin a five-game roadie and make it four wins in past five games. Team is only three points off playoff pace despite being in league's bottom five in goals scored. Saturday was a good sign, though. Remember Cats: Support Your Local Goaltender.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men fall at No. 4 Louisville: Hurricanes might have cracked Top 25 with big upset at Louisville Saturday but fell short, losing 71-66 after leading at halftime. A spectator entered the UM huddle in first half before being apprehended by security. I apologized. An NCAA Tournament bid is still very much still in play for Team Larranaga. Meanwhile No. 16 UM women routed visiting Clemson 81-57 on Sunday.

5. BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Brazilians dominate Fort Lauderdale tour stop: The Fort Lauderdale Major, an FIVB World Tour pro event, wrapped up Sunday with Brazil winning the women's gold medal match, after Brazil's men also had won. Which answers the question, "What? You mean beach volleyball is played more than once every four years at the Olympics?"

6. DOLPHINS: Annual charity bike ride draws thousands: Saturday's seventh annual Dolphins Cancer Challenge drew the largest crowd of participants in its history as thousands of riders raised funds to fight cancer. If only the Dolphins consistently did as well on the field as they do in the community.  

7. GOLF: McCarron wins Allianz Championship in Boca: Don't call it the Senior Tour anymore, but the PGA Tour's older division completed its event in Boca Raton on Sunday with Scott McCarron carding a one-shot victory. Must be nice: Still getting paid to not be as good as you used to be.

8. UM BASEBALL: Canes  season open in five days: Jim Morris' guys held their First Pitch Banquet on Friday and Fan Fest on Saturday. Now the season opens in four days with a Friday-through-Sunday home series vs. Rutgers at The Light. As always three words define this program's standard: Omaha Or Bust.

9. KEVIN DURANT: K.D. big winner in first return to Oklahoma City: Durant's response to the booing that OKC fans had saved up for him? Thirty-four points in a 130-114 rout by Golden State on Saturday.

10. UCONN WOMEN: Team seeks 100th straight win on Monday: And you thought the Heat's 13-game streak was impressive? Geno Auriemma's top-ranked UConn win seek their 100th win in a row tonight vs. No. 6 South Carolina. Streak is great for UConn. But for women's college basketball? Hmm.

Missing the HB10 cut: German tennis players were aghast prior to women's Fed Cup opening ceremony in Hawaii when an outdated version of German national anthem was performed -- one harking to Nazi/Hitler era. Supposedly it was an accident, but I blame Steve Bannon ..... Charles Oakley was booted from a Knicks game at the Garden. If the Knicks were any more dysfunctional, they'd be the Browns ..... Under Armour's president called Donald Trump an "asset" to the U.S. Under Armour spokesman Stephen Curry said that was accurate if you dropped the letters "et" from the end ..... Patriots Super Bowl parade was Tuesday. As further proof it wasn't a dream, Tom Brady woke up Sunday morning wearing five Super Bowls rings being spooned by Giselle Bundchen. Damn him! ..... At least six Patriots won't attend the White House honor in protest of Trump. Get the feeling that sports tradition may slowly wither over next four years? ..... No. 17 Gators men beat visiting Texas A&M 71-62 Saturday but No. 14 Seminoles fell at Notre Dame 84-72. One out of two ain't bad. For the Gators ..... Golfer Jordan Spieth got into ugly verbal altercation with what he called adult "professional autograph seekers." Good for Spieth! Anybody over the age of 12 asking for an autograph is probably a memorabilia cretin ..... Germaine de Randamie decisioned Holly Holm atop last night's UFC 208 card in Brooklyn. Germaine de Randamie sounds like a bottle of riesling ..... R.I.P., Fab Melo, who died unexpectedly in Brazil at 26. Never did much in NBA, but had an epic name.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (55 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 24-31 after Saturday's end to the 13-game winning streak, here's The Luddite's 11th installment, with 50-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,573

2. Goran Dragic (2)              1,439

3. James Johnson (4)          1,027

4. Tyler Johnson (3)            1,001

5. Dion Waiters (5)               740

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      566

7. Wayne Ellington (9)        518

8. Josh Richardson (7)        483

9. Willie Reed (8)                  482

10. Justise Winslow (10)      355

Others: Luke Babbitt 320, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 99, Udonis Haslem 72.

Poll results: Dragic is MVP in landslide, and winning trumps lottery: We had two Heat polls, and you had two clear verdicts. We asked who has been team's Most Valuable Player so far this season, and it was Goran Dragic with a commanding 72.7 percent. Then it was Hassan Whiteside a distant second at 12.5% followed by Dion Waiters 7.2%, James Johnson also 7.2% and Tyler Johnson 0.3%. We asked if it's better for Heat to keep winning and make playoffs as likely low-seed expected to lose in first round or to get back to losing for increased lottery shot at top-three draft pick, and "winning" won easily with 83.6 percent.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Orlando at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Its' 13-game win streak done, Miami tries to start another one tonight.

2. South Carolina at UConn, 9 p.m.: No. 1 UConn women go for 100th straight win, but SC is No. 6.

3. Texas at Florida State, 7 p.m.: FSU women are No. 5 and Texas is No. 11.

4. No, that'll about do it.

Select recent columns: Loria: The End Of An Error, my latest, on team's reported likely sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 06, 2017

Pats' monstrous Super Bowl rally tops updated Hot Button Top 10, also starring surging Heat, Jason Taylor, Canes; plus, debate "greatest," but not "winningest." Belichick will never surpass Shula for most career victories & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, February 6. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jason Taylor gets into Canton, predicting football Hall of Fame class, week's final Super Bowl With a Smirk & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Super Bowl to save a season: This has been a bad season for the NFL in general, but Falcons vs. Patriots in Super Bowl 51 is matchup capable of being spectacular and saving the season. Click on Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue to read my Sunday column previewing the game.

Patriots 31, Falcons 23: Click on Super Bowl Gem for my full prediction capsule on today's Super Bowl. (I got the score pretty close, If I do say so).

'GREATEST COACH' DEBATE MAY BE LOSING CAUSE, BUT SHULA HAS TWO DISTINCTIONS THAT REMAIN HIS ALONE: "Bill Belichick closing in on Don Shula!" somehow became a Donbillmanufactured subplot to this Super Bowl from a Miami perspective. I get it. It's easy. But it's also a false narrative, for two reasons. 1) "Greatest coach ever," alas, is a train that may have already left the station for Shula. The Dolphins' icon was 2-4 in Super Bowls. Belichick just won his fifth. I don't know that there are a lot of NFL scholars and historians who would not already give the greatest-ever nod to New England's guy. But! 2) The two great distinctions that will always keep Shula's name in the greatest-ever argument -- most career victories and only Perfect Season -- seem safely his. I laugh at the suggestion Belichick is a real threat to Shula's career mark of 347 overall victories. He would have to win at his current pace and still be coaching at age 72 to have a shot, and maintaining that current pace will be tougher indeed when Tom Brady (finally) retires presumably after one or two more years. The likelihood of Belichick winning and coaching long enough to surpass 347 wins seems roughly as likely as the odds another team will equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. Could happen, but wouldn't bet on it. History might already see Belichick as "greater," but the distinctions of "winningest" and perfection are safely with Shula.

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

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: Monstrous rally grows Patriots dynasty: Awful game much of the way, but Patriots made a thriller of Super Bowl 51, rallying from 21-0 and 28-3 holes to win in overtime, 34-28. Massive choke by the Falcons? Maybe. But Tom Brady had a little to do with that, no?

2. HEAT: Surging Miami seeks 11th straight tonight: Heat crushed visiting Philadelphia 125-102 Saturday night behind Hassan Whiteside's 30 points and 20 rebounds to win a 10th straight and now begins a four-game road trip tonight at Minnesota. Might disappoint lottery-minded fans, but eighth seed and playoffs are no longer out of reach for the way-hot Heat.

3. HURRICANES: UM football claims signing-day bounty: Miami loaded up on National Signing Day with a 24-man bounty that ESPN ranked as the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation. "We nailed it!" said Mark Richt … then again, so did every other college coach in America on signing day.

4. HALL OF FAME: Dolphins' Taylor among new inductees: LaDainian Tomlinson was a lock. Nobody else was. But ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor was among the seven who got in, along with Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen. Congrats, J.T. Now what about Zach Thomas.

5. PANTHERS: Barkov, Huberdeau back on the ice: Florida has reinforcements as it chases a playoff spot as young stars Sasha Barkov (out previous 15 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (out all out season) returned from injuries Friday to spark Cat's third straight win. That's two fewer excuses for Cats to miss the playoffs.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women outshining men: UM men were only 3-5 since Jan. 1 before winning Friday, but Canes women are 17-5 and ranked 16th entering Monday game at No. 6 Florida State. Coach Katie Meier got her 300th career win. Adding a few more in March would be nice.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men beat Jamaica in friendly: After a scoreless draw vs. Serbia in Bruce Arena's debut as coach, the U.S. men beat Jamaica 1-0 Saturday night in Chattanooga. Now, it's what's next on the team's calendar that matters and will judge Arena: World Cup qualifying.

8. GOLF: Comeback short-lived, Tiger out again: He's out a year and a half with various back ailments, he comes back, and he can't finish the tournament, withdrawing with back spasms. Hate to say, but it may be time for Tiger Woods to call it quits.

9. BARKLEY-LEBRON: Basketball beef gets personal: Broadcaster Charles Barkley called LeBron James "whiny." LeBron shot back with a litany of bad stuff Chuck has done in the past. C'mon, kids. Play nice!

10. BASEBALL: It's just about here, folks: Miami Marlins hold their annual stadium FanFest next Saturday and Sunday, the precursor to when players negin to report for spring training. Ready or not, almost time to play ball!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 2017 FIVB world beach volleyball tours opens with the Fort Lauderdale Major beginning Tuesday, a five-star men's and women's event featuring Kerry Walsh Jennings and a bunch of people I've never heard of ..... Falcons QB Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP Saturday night. Correctly had a feeling Tom Brady would be lifting the more coveted hardware Sunday ..... Five days until Kevin Durant makes his first return to Oklahoma City. Thunder fans already are practicing their booing in preparation ..... The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-6-17: What events on the Monday, Feb. 6 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Minnesota, 8 p.m.: Good shot at 11th straight win tonight at Timberwolves.

2. Hurricanes at Florida State, 7 p.m.: No. 16 UM women visit No. 6 Seminoles.

3. Um, pretty much nothing. Light post-Super Bowl Monday.

Select recent columns: Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, the latest, previewing today's Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote