July 16, 2016

Hurt, regretful but resolute, Pat Riley fights on. My new column; plus is Stephen Ross a good owner? Poll. Vote now!; also, D-Wade's ex after him again, HistoryMiami Museum's sports project, shame of Dani Mathers, your verdict of Brady/Fins impact & more

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

Nice1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 16. Our thoughts are with the people of Nice, France, a lovely town I have had the pleasure to visit, in the wake of the latest terrorist attack. The people committing these acts are the the biggest cowards in the history of mankind. If only our prayers were helping. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Brady suspension upheld with Dolphins poll, grading Marlins' All-Star performances, the ESPYS and NBA stars' anti-violence video, new MLB odds, Greg's Lobos news & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or thought 'em so great they merited another look: Dolphins On Own to Escape Rut, Reshape Image, the latest, on impact of Tom Brady's upheld suspension. The Strange Dissolution of Heat's Big 3, on rocky departures of LeBron and D-Wade followed by medical issues with Bosh. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, our farewell to Wade. These Marlins Deserve Support Despite the Owner, and that says it all. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on setting a template. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees.

MY NEW PAT RILEY COLUMN: A wistful but ultimately resolute Riley spoke at length today about his regrets concerning Dwyane Wade's departure, Chris Bosh's health and the Heat moving forward. Click on Riley Endures Tough Summer, Fights On for my new column, shipping to Sunday's inky pulp editions but online now. 

D-Wade's ugly divorce hasn't stopped being ugly: Dwyane Wade's divorce from childhood crush Siohvaughn Funchess ended in 2013 with a $5 million-pus settlement. Or, not. She is now asking the Cook County courts to dismiss her settlement agreement and is going after a cut of his new $47 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. Click here for the latest via the Chicago Tribune.

Updated World Series odds: As second half of MLB season starts, the Cubs (6-1) and Giants (13-2) now are virtual co-favorites to win the World Series, via sportsbettingdime.com, with the Rangers (9-1) and Nationals (10-1) next. The Marlins are a mid-pack 50-1, tied for 15th. Giancarlo Stanton is 8-1 to hit 50 homers, second only to Mark Trumbo at 4-1.

WHY DOLPHINS OWNER STEPHEN ROSS IS SMARTER (NOT TO MENTION RICHER) THAN US: You don't get to be worth $7 billion like Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is by making dumb business decisions. So when Ross, 76, decided to reach into his own deep pockets for some $400 million in massive, ongoing improvements to his and his team's stadium (including that Srossenormous canopy), he was justifiably given much credt for doing it himself rather than begging tax dollars from the public trough. It wasn't pure altruism, though. It was 42 Dolphinsbusiness. An investment in his own net wealth. And the latest Forbes ranking of the world's 50 most valuable sports franchises for 2016 verifies how smart Ross was in knowing he'd get his 400K back, and fast. The Miami Dolphins make the list as 33rd overall with a value of $1.85 billion. That is mid-pack (16th) among all NFL franchises, but represents a huge 42 percent increase over the previous year -- attributable largely to the stadium makeover. Only six of the 32 franchises more valauble than the Dolphins had a larger one-year spike in overall value. Twenty-seven of the 50 teams on the list are NFL clubs, by the way, led by the Dallas Cowboys, No. 1 overall valued at $4 billion. The remaining teams are from the NBA (8), international soccer (8) and MLB (7). The Miami Heat are just outside the Top 50. Bottom line? Give Ross enormous credit for paying for these stadium upgrades himself. Yes. But understand he knew very well it would be an investment that would pay for itself. And it already has, even as the construction workers and cranes continue to swarm over the stadium. Here's a poll on how you think Ross has been as Dolphins owner:

HISTORYMIAMI MUSEUM'S 'BEYOND THE GAME': "Beyond the Game: Sports and the Evolution of South Florida" premieres today/Saturday and runs through Jan. 15 at HistoryMiami Museum, 101 West Flagler Street. The Museum's own description: "Since the 1920s, sporting events and institutions have both mirrored and shaped the growth of South Florida. Miami Jai-Alai and Hialeah
Historymiamimuseum HistorymiamiPark two of the area’s earliest sporting attractions, lured northern tourists with, respectively, the spectacles of jai alai, an ancient Basque game imported from Cuba, and horse racing. Along with the annual collegiate Orange Bowl Game, these quickly became world-famous draws and by the mid-century were helping fuel the public fascination with South Florida as a locus of sun, fun, and leisure. It was an image that eventually would draw not only visitors, but transplants to the region. By the early 1960s, Miami-Dade’s population topped one million, including thousands of new arrivals from Cuba. One of these, a young architect, designed a venue for the distinctly South Florida sport of powerboat racing that captured the optimism and exuberance of the era: Miami Marine Stadium. At the same time, across the bay on Miami Beach, the Fifth Street Gym emerged, in the words of one observer, as “an island of democracy” amid the realities of Jim Crow segregation. It also made South Florida an epicenter of boxing. Professional sports franchises — and the rise of one very prominent college football team — followed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, cementing South Florida’s sporting legacy and acknowledging its status as a modern metropolis." Call the museum for more info or click here to register for Saturday's premiere. The project is ambitious, broad and sounds great. And made all the more timely by the recent death of Muhammad Ali, who made Fifth Street Gym what it was.

Poll result: Sorry, Dolphins fans, but most don't see Brady suspension toppling Patriots: We asked what you think will be the ultimate impact this season of Tom Brady's 4-game Deflategate suspension being upheld, and 58.8 percent said "negligible" vs. 41.2% who said "significant." (And that's a Miami-based poll, where an element of Dolfans' wishful thinking might reasonably be factored in).

Danishaming DanimathersTHE PATENT ABSURDITY OF A PLAYBOY MODEL BODY-SHAMING ANYBODY: So a Playboy "model" named Dani Mathers body-shamed somebody this week by posting on Snapchat a photo (pictured left) of an unclothed older, heavier women taken at a gym. Click here for the background story. The social-media backlash against Mathers was swift and righteously strong, to a point the tone-deaf model had to scurry and emit a round of lame clarifications and too-late/damage-done apologies. I hope Playboy fires her ass after somebody awakens Hef from his nap to tell him. More than that, I hope the poor woman whose privacy she invaded sues her in civil court. But here is the thing that is especially galling to me about this. Dani Mathers is pictured at right, on the job. This is who she has chosen to be: Somebody answering to the description "Playboy Bunny" and presenting herself as a vapid sex-object. And this is the person who dares make fun of any another woman!? The victim here, the woman whose privacy was breached, she may be a secretary, a homemaker, a retired teacher, a heart surgeon or homeless. Doesn't matter. No matter who or what she is, I believe I'd prefer her company to that of an egotistical, mean-spirited airhead in silk rabbit ears whose entire self-worth apparently is confined to what she's admiring in a mirror or the next compliment from a leering man.

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 24, 2016

Dolphins come to aid of Orlando victims; plus athletes posing nude: OK or narcissistic? Poll. Vote!; also, Cleveland, Cubs, Dolfans 'n hope; active Panthers, Top 5 undrafted Heat finds, your verdict on LeBron's future, R.I.P. Vinyl & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, JUNE 23. I always respected the British people as intelligent, but am rethinking that appraisal after UK's vote to leave European Union. 2) I'm thrilled to say Kennedy Center Honors announced today that Mavis Staples, one of my beyond-music heroes, will be among 2016 inductees. KCH described "unmatched gospel and rhythm and blues masterpieces span(ning) 60 years." So deserved! 3) I read that earlier this week it was "National Selfie Day." Isn't every day? I didn't think our ode to narcissism ever took a break! 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. soccer falls to Argentina, Dwyane Wade nude, LeBron's future with odds and poll, Canes out fast in Omaha, USGA's choke at Oakmont & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so great they deserved another look: Cavs, Cubs Offer Hope For Dolfans, the latest, musing on how Cleveland's championship and season Cubs are having proves even long-starving fans get fed eventually. Rooting For LeBron to Make History, on our treasonous hopes entering Game 7. Ichiro's Milestone is Huge Whether Rose Agrees Or Not, on Ichiro's achievement. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on Ali setting template for sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on PGA Tour leaving Doral.

Dolphins, NFL coming to aid of Orlando victims: The NFL Foundation and the league's three Florida teams including the Dolphins are donating $400,000 to the OneOrlando Fund to aid families and survivors of the recent Orlando nightclub tragedy in which 49 people were murdered. Said Dolphins owner Stephen Ross: "It's hard to find words to describe the emotions we all felt when news of this senseless tragedy broke." Visit OneOrlando.org for more info or to add your donation.

IT'S ABOUT FANS, AND HOPE: WHAT TIES TOGETHER CLEVELAND, THE CUBS AND DOLFANS: I tried something different with my latest column today. Not sure if it worked (click on Cavs, DolfansCubs Offer Hope For Dolfans) to read, but envelopes are made for pushing, right? It is a musing column that sees a common denominator among the city of Cleveland ending its 52-year championship drought, the Cubs (in town to face the Marlins) being favored to end that team's 108-year World Series title drought, and the Dolphins moving in on their 43rd season since last winning a Super Bowl. The column's theme is that sports is about the cities and the fans, first and always. Players, coaches and team owners come and go. Even stadiums, arenas and uniforms might change. It's the fans that are the lifeblood, generation after generation, decade after decade. So Wednesday's championship parade was about the city of Cleveland even as the national media made it about LeBron James. The Cubs finally winning again would not be about Jake Arrieta or Joe Maddon, but about that franchise's long-suffering fans. And if the Dolphins ever win a Super Bowl again? It won't be about Stephen Ross or Ryan Tannehill (or whomever is in place then). It'll be about Dolfans, generations of them, ever hopeful and waiting. My column in no way suggests the Dolphins may be poised to do what Cleveland just did or what the Cubs might. That seems such a longshot ... again. No, the column is about fans, and about faith. In sports' Year of the End of the Drought, we are reminded that sports feeds its most starving, eventually. We are reminded that hope is eternal, and that there's always next year.

WadenudeSELF-LOVING ATHLETES KEEP GETTING NAKED: Athletes love their bodies, and I get it. Most work very hard on their physiques. Their bodies and what those bodies can do is what makes them famous and rich. ESPN The Magazine tapped into that self-adulation several years ago in inaugurating its annual Body issue, in which a variety of athletes are photographed posing artfully nude. That means nothing pornographic or even NSFW, unless maybe you work in a church or elementary school. Still, they're naked! The next Body issue is forthcoming and athletes posing au natural include the Heat's Dwyane Wade (pictured). Giancarlo Stanton and Serena Williams have been other South Florida stars taking it all of for ... well, for what, exactly, other than ego? I'm no prude, and I see nothing at all wrong with athletes posing nude if they choose, but I'd also suggest the undeniable: It's blatant narcissism. Curious what you think. Take a dip in our poll and say which of the four options best reflects your opinion of the annual Body issue and athletes who participate.

YandleAGGRESSIVE PANTHERS KEEP MAKING NOISE: The Florida Panthers have been busy since their disappointing early playoff exit, and I don't mean the fluffery of a new uniform and logo. Yesterday, the same day Jaromir Jagr won the NHL's Masterton trophy best exemplifying "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication," the Cats made a big, costly and smart move in signing a quality defenseman in the prime of his career. Keith Yandle (pictured), 29, a two-time all-star, is aboard with a seven-year, $44 million deal. He was a pending free agent but Florida spent two lower draft picks (to the Rangers) for first rights to sign him. That's aggressive. It's also a smart move in that Cats were expecting to lose veteran defender Brian Campbell, and adding Yandle more than compensates. Yandle also will boost what last season was a mediocre power-play unit. The spending and willingness to part with draft picks indicates a club that thinks it is close and wants to win now. [Update: Panthers today acquired backup goaltender Reto Berra, 29, from Colorado, in exchange for forward Rocco Grimaldi].

HeatTHE LIST: HEAT UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS: The NBA Draft is tonight but the Miami Heat have no picks, so will be scouring the land for bargains, for undrafted free agents. Sometimes you get lucky. Here are the top five undrafted players signed right out of college by the Heat who have been the most successful, based on number of regular-season games played for Miami:

Player                  Games   Signed/College

Udonis Haslem    814       2003/Florida

Keith Askins        486       1990/Alabama

Joel Anthony       382       2007/UNLV

Voshon Lenard    249        1995/Minnesota

Anthony Carter   246        1999/Hawaii

Note: Haslem has played second-most games in Heat history, after Dwyane Wade, and remains with team.

AblemanANOTHER FEATHER FOR CANES DIVING: I'm not a huge fan of the sport of diving, and find synchronized diving a laughable appendage that I'd eliminate if I were paring the Olympics. Nevertheless! Congrats to former Miami Hurricane Sam Dorman for qualifying last night for Team USA and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in synchronized 3-meter diving along with Michael Hixon. Even more impressive: Dorman is the 12th Hurricane to make the Olympics under the wing of UM diving coach Randy Ableman (pictured), who just finished his 23rd season in Coral Gables.

Poll results: Relax, Cleveland. LeBron ain't goin' nowhere: We asked where pending free agent LeBron James would be playing next season, and 79.8 percent voted "still in Cleveland." Only 20.2% voted "somewhere else." (The majority percentage grew, but only by two or three points, after LeBron predictably told ESPN yesterday he had "no intentions" of leaving).

VinylFAREWELL, VINYL, WE HARDLY KNEW YE: HBO this week canceled Vinyl after one season, leaving my emotions mixed. I gave the show a big chance, watching most every week, because the subject was so in my wheelhouse. I grew up on '70s rock music so a series about that time, and the music industry, had me from hello. And when Martin Scorcese and Mick Jagger are the producers, you have high hopes. But the show itself let me down. The writing was pedestrian, the storylines not great, and I'm not sure Bobby Cannavale was not up to carrying the series (though I loved him in a lesser role in Boardwalk Empire). The sense, though, is that Vinyl was salvageable with a tweak or three, and may have deserved one more season.  

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 06, 2016

G2: Toronto 96, Heat 92 (OT): At 1-1, still liking Miami in 6; plus no-Bosh decision smart beyond health, good/bad news for Miami in '17 NFL Draft, Jose & Giancarlo (Part IX), appreciating Shula, disrespecting Richt, urgent Fins cheerleader news & more

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

Cincodemayo1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 6. Hope y'all had a happy Cinco de Mayo! As you know this date marked the Mexican Army's upset victory over French forces at the Battle of Pubela in 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. That's in Mexico. In the U.S. this date marked the latest excuse to get drunk. Like we need one! 2) Thanks to Tony Kornheiser for having us on his national radio show. And thank you, Mavis Staples, for a wonderful show on Wednesday! 3) Welcome back, Jaromir Jagr. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat beat Raptors in Game 1, LeBron wants Heat next, an appreciation of Mavis Staples, Fins/Marlins updated betting odds, ex-Heat/Dolphin on wasted-talent list, your verdict on Heat-Raptors & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Shula: A Renewed Appreciation, the new one, on his health scare at 86 inviting us to take stock of the coaching legend. Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, previewing Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory.

U.S. presidential odds: Today, six months before the election, via Bovada: Next president--Hillary Clinton 1-3, Donald Trump 2-1, Bernie Sanders 20-1. Republican VP--Chris Christie and John Kasich both 4-1. Democratic VP--Julian Castro 2-1, Elizabeth Warren 4-1.

G2: TORONTO 96, HEAT 92 (OT): TURNOVERS, COLD-SHOOTING LATE HAS SERIES TIED 1-1 HEADING BACK TO MIAMI: Miami outshot the Raptors 49-42% and led in rebounds but is hard to claim the Heat deserved to win last night on the road. Miami led 77-70 in the fourth quarter but soon after went on a field goal drought of 4:37 as Toronto forced a second straight overtime game. Then Miami started 0-for-5 in OT. Heat also self-destructed with 21 turnovers to offset the gift of 12 missed free throws by the Raptors. This Heat team had a chance to be the first in franchise history to lead a playoff series 2-0 with consecutive road wins. Instead it's 0-for-15 in such opportunities. The good news? A split in Toronto and heading home at 1-1 probably would have been OK with most Heat fans coming in. See you Saturday at 5 p.m. by the bay. Still like Heat in six. ..... Original post: All eyes will be on Heat-Raptors tonight -- the only game on the NBA  playoff schedule -- and it finds Miami with a chance to make some history. This is the 41st playoff series in Heat franchise annals. Fourteen of the previous 40 have begun with two games on the road, but none of those 14 -- G2
Heatatraptorszero
-- have ever resulted in a 2-0 Miami series lead. That can happen tonight for the first time if the Heat can manage to pile another win in Toronto onto that overtime survival in Game 1. (The Eastern semifinal series swings to Miami with Game 3 on Saturday). As a starting point Miami will win again if guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic continue to be clearly better than Toronto's tandem of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Lowry has been especially awful. "I know we won't advance if I don't play better," he admitted on Wednesday. Look for Toronto to try to get Lowry going tonight with early shots and foul-seeking drives into the paint. Miami can't count on being as good from 3-point range as it was (8-for-11) in Game 1, but Hassan Whiteside (17 rebounds) should continue to be a force om the boards. Miami needs more offense from Whiteside, though, which may come tonight. Toronto is a 4.5-point favorite tonight. Then again, the Raps were a 6.5-point fave in the series opener.

THE REASONS FOR SITTING BOSH REST OF PLAYOFFS GO BEYOND HEALTH: It was smart of the Heat and Chris Bosh to jointly announce yesterday (at the team's strong urging) that he would not return the rest of the playoffs. Not a surprise, but it needed to be said to defuse the growing distraction caused by his wife's #BringBoshBack social media flurry and also by the unecessary,
Chrisboshbutting-in involvement of the NBA Players Association. The group issued a pointless statement saying Bosh's health if the utmost concern. What, like it isn't for the Heat, too? Abundant caution on the part of the team is why Bosh is still sitting in the first place. But it may not be the only reason. This doesn't get talked about, but Bosh rejoining the active roster right now might not be best for the team from purely a basketball standpoint. Miami will be better with him back starting next season. But right now? Here's why not, beyond the blood clot-related health concerns: 1) He would not be in basketball condition, let alone playoff-intensity condition, after not playing since February. 2) His return in the midst of a playoff run would be a circus-y distraction. 3) The team is performing well without him, with most metrics indicating Miami has been better post-Bosh, especially offensively, with Luol Deng's increased role and the addition of Joe Johnson. The Heat eventually will be a better team with Bosh when Erik Spoelstra figures out how to reintegrate him to the team's advantage next season. But that's not an experimenting that should be starting now.

LeBron, Wade on looming faceoff: LeBron on whether he has thought of facing Miami in Eastern finals: "Of course. It'd be great to play against those guys in the postseason. I've always wanted to go against [Dwyane] Wade in a playoff series." Wade on same question: "That's something we always talked about. Obviously, you want to play against the best and we respect each other as being two of the best competitors. But right now, that's not something I'm focusing on." Funny. Despite that disclaimer at the end, Wade obviously is looking forward to facing LeBron as much as vice versa. Make it happen, fate! Even fans in Toronto and Atlanta would probably rather watch Heat-Cavs.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MIAMI IN FIRST '17 MOCK DRAFT: The outrageously early guesswork is out today via ESPN's Todd McShay. The good news for Miami is for The U. McShay has QB BradkaayaBrad Kaaya (pictured) as the No. 2 overall pick, after only Clemson QB DeShaun Watson. The bad for Miami is for the Dolphins. He has the Fins selecting fourth overall, which would indicate a really bad season. His choice for Miami isn't so bad, though: LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Others of Todd's first-round picks include Gators Jalen Rabor (CB) and Jarrad Davis (OLB) and Seminoles Roderick Johnson (OT) and Dalvin Cook (RB). Find McShay's full mock here. A Sports Illustrated '17 mock has Kaaya going first overall and the Dolphins selecting 10th and taking Alabama DE Jonathan Allen.

MARLINS: THE JOSE & GIANCARLO SHOW, PART IX: Jose Fernandez was the winning pitcher yesterday in the Marlins' ninth win in past 10 games, and Giancarlo Stanton homered. I wondered how often that has happened -- a Stanton HR the same game as a Fernandez W in the ultimate nexus of the team's two biggest stars. Answer: Nine times. But the pattern is interesting. It happened a lot in Jose's rookie season of 2013 (5 times, July 23-28, August 19, September 6-11). It happened only once in 2014 (April 29). It did not happen at all in 2015 largely because of staggered injuries to both. But it has already has happened three times in 2016, in all three of Jose's wins (April 18-28, May 4).

ShulaA RE-APPRECIATION OF SHULA: Whether it is a parent or grandparent or an iconic football coach who meant so much to your city, when an 86-year-old man is hospitalized, it is a good time to pray or give thanks or simply to appreciate that person. That is the spirit of today's latest column by me, an unabashed paean to Don Shula. We celebrate, again, all he meant and accomplished, and also marvel at yet another reminder of how distant the Dolphins' best days have grown from the present. Click on Shula: A Renewed Appreciation to read the column in full.

MarkrichtDISRESPECTING MARK RICHT: A panel of CBS Sports college football experts ranks all 65 Power 5 conference head coaches entering the 2016 season (click here) and the Hrricanes' Mark Richt (pictured) is ranked only 18th -- a tumble down from last year's 7th. Explains the synopsis: "Richt takes a big step back in the rankings, falling 11 spots. This is no doubt a result of a third straight season of failing to live up to high expectations at Georgia, especially in a season in which the SEC East was so very winnable. Now Richt has moved on to Miami where we'll see if a fresh start is enough to get him back into the top 10." The usual suspects -- Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Mayer -- are 1-2 atop the list. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is 6th. Florida's Jim McElwain is 27th.

FinscheerURGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS!: The Dolphins are giving fans a chance to attend this year's Dolphins Cheerleaders calendar shoot. Click here for details including how to enter. The club has chosen 40 young women for a seven-week boot camp from which the final 2016 squad will be selected. The camp will consist of workouts, etiquette training, team building, uniform fittings, look development and performance training. (Yes, I said "look development!") The 40 finalists were selected from among more than 800 hopefuls who auditioned at tryouts in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil in addition to South Florida. I really don't care about any of this. I just needed a vessel in order to gratuitously float the photo at right.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 12, 2016

Micky Arison in the crosshairs on Carnival cruises to Cuba: New poll. Vote now!; plus Ronda Rousey loves Dolphins, Heat and Panthers parlay similar blueprint to playoffs, Cats' Stanley Cup odds, Donald Trump porn parody & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 12. Ronda Rousey praises Dolphins. Click here for the video. 2) Thanks to all the listeners, viewers and Tweeters who liked our "Back In My Day" on today's LeBatard Show. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, The List (Dolphins), your verdicts on LeBron/Tiger & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Panthers' Stanley Cups odds: Out today via Bovada, Florida is tied for eighth at 16-1 odds, better than opponent Islanders' 25-1. Capitals are favorites at 4-1, followed by a knot of five teams at 8-1. Cats Roberto Luongo (30-1) and Jaromir Jagr (35-1) are team's most plausible betting longshots for playoffs MVP. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint, the latest, on two teams' similar philosophy. Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excusesoff Marlins Opening Night.

HEAT OWNER ARISON IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF CARNIVAL, CUBA AND POLITICS: Micky Arison's net worth is $7.7 billion, although it may have risen to $8 billion while you were reading this sentence. He is chairman of Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines, the world's largest. He also is principle owner of the Miami Heat. As such, his two primary interests and business ventures put Arisonhim in the crosshairs of the latest news regarding his cruiseships, Cuba and politics. We first tackled this subject in the blog last July when Carnival first won Carnivalapproval to begin cruises to Cuba. For Arison (pictured) and Carnival it could be great for business. But many South Florida Cubans who fled that island's Castro tyranny (and many of those are Heat fans) are angry over normalized U.S.-Cuba relations and also about Carnival ships docking there. We ran a poll here last July asking if Carnival planning trips to Cuba negatively impacts how you view Arison, and it was 79.9 percent "no" vs. only 16.8% "yes" and 3.3% "undecided. But I wonder if the view has changed now that the Carnival-Cuba startup is soon -- first ships are set to head south in May -- and now that we know this disturbing detail: the still-oppressive Cuban government controls what passengers may be aboard the cruiseships, and they do not include Cuban-born people, which of course includes Cuban exiles living in and around Miami. Carnival has asked the Cuban government to relent on that policy, but, if Carnival wishes to do business in Cuba, it has no choice but to agree to that one huge restriction, even though it is plain discrimination, of course. Imagine Carnival traveling to a country that insisted only white people be aboard the ship? Or banned Muslims? As I wrote last July, I am in favor of normalized U.S.-Cuba relations, which I think ultimately will benefit the Cuban economy and people. But clearly it is wrong for the Cuban government to not allow folks born in Cuba and exiles in Miami to be aboard those Carnival ships, as we discussed on yesterday's Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Dan was particularly passionate on the topic. And there protesters outside Carnival headquarters Tuesday. So, nine months after our first poll, let's repeat the question and compare the vote. Check back often to monitor evolving results.

TWO TEAMS, SIMILAR BLUEPRINT AS HEAT, PANTHERS FORGE PLAYOFF PATH: [Panthers Sasha Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, pictured left, and the Heat's Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade, right, personify each team's winning blend of experience and youth -- the blueprint that carries each to the playoffs. Click on Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint for the online version of the my latest column] Appreciate the rarity of this first. The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers are about to both enter the playoffs in the same season for only the fifth time since 1993, when hockey joined basketball down here. And South Florida is one of only five markets to have both its teams reach the 2016 postseason, along with Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and Oakland/San Jose. Even more notable is the similar blueprint the Heat and Panthers have shared to find success, with rosters that blend wise and wizened veterans and raw youth. For the Heat it’s a blueprint that is very different from the company norm, showcasing an unusual reliance on young players by a franchise that, from Pat Barkov Wade WinslowRiley on down, Jagrhas never quite trusted youth. For the Cats it’s a blueprint taken to extremes, bookended by 44-year-old leading scorer Jaromir Jagr and by 10 players not even born when Jagr first entered the NHL, such as rising stars Sasha Barkov, 20, and Aaron Ekblad, 19. Both teams’ uncommonly wide gulf between its oldest and youngest players was reflected perfectly Monday in the Panthers’ dressing room following a midday practice. Nick Bjugstad, the Cats center, is 23 but looks even younger. His hand kept drifting absent-mindedly to his chin and rubbing what was there, which isn’t much. He is trying, the poor kid. The NHL postseason is upon us, the fight for the Stanley Cup beginning, and in hockey, the playoff beard is a near-sacred tradition. A wisp of blond whiskers trying bravely to be a goatee and an even wispier sprout on his alabaster cheeks is all Bjugstad can claim for now. "I keep playing with it – it’s more than I’ve ever had!' he is saying after Monday’s midday practice. "It is what it is. But it’s kind of embarrassing." Elsewhere around the dressing room manly playoff beards are in full bloom. It looks like a casting call for a movie about lumberjacks. A media guy trying to be kind tells Bjugstad most of the full-bearded guys probably started growing their facial hair at least a month ago. "So did I," Nick had to admit. The beard thing is the perfect reflection of what the Panthers see when they look in the mirror: A blend of age and youth, of over-35 veterans like Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Willie Mitchell, offset by what is perhaps hockey’s premier core of players under 25. It was a risk that relies on aging players still having enough prime left and youthful guys proving ready. It was a chemistry experiment that has worked but might have blown up in the lab. "Our older guys have been so willing," as general manager Dale Tallon told me Monday. "It could have been a disaster." From the 45-minute jaunt from Sunrise down to Miami, from ice to hardwood, Heat veterans like Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and (even sidelined) Chris Bosh similarly mentor a youthful core led by rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, by second-year man Tyler Johnson and by Hassan Whiteside, who is 26 but still learning. "I’m just passing down knowledge," Wade describes the role that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. "All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped." It is a good time to be a fan of both teams, with each franchise locked in win-now mode but also boasting a blossoming young core that suggests a bridge to a promising future beyond the Hall of Fame-bound old guard led by Jagr and Wade. Both teams share justifiably high playoff hopes as the Panthers face the New York Islanders in the first round with Game 1 here Thursday night, while the Heat enter their final two regular-season games still unsure of their seeding, who’ll they’ll face or whether they’ll have home-court advantage. You’d think the Heat might be in happy-to-be-here mode, after missing the playoffs last year and with Bosh out. Yet there is the sense of a wide-open Eastern Conference, and of a real chance to reach the East finals, maybe head-to-head vs. old friend LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. You’d think the Panthers might really be in happy-to-be here mode. They last made the playoffs in 2012 and last won a playoff series in Year of the Rat 1996. Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant both admitted Monday they did not expect to win a division title this year. But hockey’s Eastern Conference also is wide open. An ESPN experts panel by a 9-0 vote picked the Panthers to advance past the Islanders. Washington was the only East team with an appreciably better record than Florida this season, but the Cats were 2-1 against the Capitals, outscoring them 10-5. The idea of a championship run by either the Panthers or especially the Heat is fanciful and not being discussed much in any sober conversation, but, in only their fifth playoffs at the same time, the idea of either team or both reaching their conference finals is tantalizingly plausible. And who knows? If that happens, by then, Nick Bjugstad’s patchwork of whiskers might even pass for a decent beard.

ThedonaldPERFECT! A DONALD TRUMP PORN PARODY!: How great and absolutely fantastic and terrific is this!? I'm so happy I feel like building a giant wall! Just when you think Larry Flynt might be dead, the Hustler impresario rises to produce something fun, like "The Donald," his new Donald Trump "porn parody" video. The photo at right surely whets your appetite and suggests the cinematic gravitas at play here. Click on Trump Porn Parody to read more. The video goes on sale to the public today/Tuesday, available to everyone including Muslims and Mexicans. Trump is the perfect target. I mean, who is more cocksure? Don't worry. Cocksure is a real word, not a dirty word, and describes Trump quite spot-on.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 24, 2016

Which Miami 25-&-under sports star will have greatest career? Poll too close to call. Last chance to vote!; plus Canes sartorially, Cote vs. Stugotz, Serena's pitch for Miami Open, Melania Trump, Fins on the cheap, your Cuba-trip verdict & more

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

Garagiola1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 24. Purim began at sundown last evening. Happy day to all our Jewish friends. 2) R.I.P. famed baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola, pictured, at age 90. His was the first TV voice I heard when I was falling love with baseball as a kid. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Other side of the cheering on Cuba visit with poll, disrespecting Canes, Marlins on Jose, Serena's selfie, NCAA bracket update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

"Rays beat Cuban National Team. Thank you, Tampa Bay, for denying the Castros the added propoganda." --Greg Cote

My latest 'Back In My Day': ICYMI on Tuesday's Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, here it is via ESPN Radio: Click Menus to listen and watch.

BrightfutureBRIGHT FUTURES: WHICH OF SOUTH FLORIDA'S 25-AND-UNDER PRO SPORTS STARS WILL HAVE THE GREATEST CAREER?: We made 25 the arbitrary line of demarcation here, and considered every current Heat, Dolphins, Marlins or Panthers player who was born in March 1991 or later. There were a lot, but we whittled it to a list of the 14 most prominent -- five Panthers and three from each of the other teams. Our poll list is alphabetical, and you may vote for your top three (3). It shouldn't be easy. For me, Jose Fernandez and Sasha Barkov were pretty easy, but the third was not. Jarvis Landry? Justise Winslow? Somebody else? Enough about me. Your turn. By the way, if you think anybody obvious is missing from the poll, I should mention as a preemptive strike that Giancarlo Stanton and Hassan Whiteside were born in 1989 and Ryan Tannehill in '88. They're still young, but too old for our 25U club. OK, ready? Remember, this is a brightest-future poll; try not to make it about which team or sport is your favorite. Vote now and check back frequently to monitor constantly evolving numbers. To decipher a three-vote ballot, triple the percentage of each player's total shown for an estimation of the percentage of ballots that include him in the top three. In other words, Winslow at 23.3 percent (when last I checked) was being included in about 70 percent of all top-threes.

Vote for your top 3:

UnisSWEET 16: NOT ALL AGREE THE HURRICANES ARE LOOKING GOOD: ESPN has one of those silly "Uni Watch" uniform rankings for the Sweet 16 teams, and the Miami Hurricanes's new Adidas duds are ranked only 14th. Ouch. The synopsis reads: "Green, orange and white are such a great color combination. Too bad they're used to such poor effect on the new March Madness uni set that Adidas prepared for the Hurricanes. It's hard to say which is worse -- the orange [or green] shoulder harness or the 'grass skirt' striping on the shorts. A real stinker." OK, then. A Thursday victory from Villanova away from their first Elite Eight appearance, we're thinking UM fans prefer their team continue to be athletically splendid even if its sartorial splendor may be somewhat dubious.

UH OH. IT'S COTE VS. STUGOTZ IN LOCAL MEDIA BRACKET'S FINAL FOUR: Website SliceMiami has been holding NCAA-style brackets in four 16-person "regions" including Media, and I -- the last Herald writer standing -- have vanquished two foes to reach the Final Four, where I will face my 790 The Ticket and ESPN Radio mate, the great Stugotz. The other semifinal will pit WQAM's Marc Hochman vs. his 560 stablemate Joe Rose. I think voting in the Final Four round is Thursday and Friday but we'll update you further.xx

SerenaSERENA STANDS UP ELOQUENTLY FOR THE MIAMI OPEN: We know Serena Williams is the best women's tennis player in the world, and has been for much of the past 15 years or so. She's a pretty good writer, too, it turns out. Williams this week penned a piece for the New York Times on why the Miami Open (running now through April 3 on Key Biscayne) is so dear to her and how she'd hate to see it leave, which it could related to a legal battle over improvements to the site. Good for you, Serena! Find her entire essay here.

DOLPHINS ON THE CHEAP: ESPN ranks all 32 teams in terms of current free-agent spending and your Dolphins slot in 22nd with only $11.9 million in guaranteed money given. Dough spent does Abdul-quddusnot always equate with winning, no, but it is a bit disconcerting that division-power New England has spent more than triple ($38.1 mill) what the Dolphins have to get better. ESPN's cynopsis of the Fins' FA expenditure so far: "For the first time in several years, the Dolphins elected to be judicious with their free-agent spending. They spent just $11.9 million in guaranteed money so far, with the biggest guarantee going to safety Isa Abdul-Quddus ($6 million). Big-ticket items haven't produced more victories, so Miami is trying the opposite approach." But just as spending big isn't always smart, being economical doesn't always mean smart spending. For example, Abdul-Quddus (pictured), the big get in terms of guaranteed money, has only 16 starts and two interceptions in 74 career NFL games. Hmm.

Poll result: Most oppose Obama and baseball's visit to Cuba: We asked your reaction and it was 25.3 percent "positive," 54.9% "negative" and 19.8% "mixed emotions or undecided." Interestingly, the negative vote was running only slightly higher (58.5%) in Florida, where a higher percentage of Cuban-Americans reside. Also interesting (at least to me): The "positive" vote enjoyed a plurality when the poll appeared only in my blog, before it hit a broader/different audience when picked up by MiamiHerald.com.

MelaniatrumpTHE MELANIA TRUMP AD: Nasty politics continue on the Republican side of the presidential race. A super-PAC supporting Ted Cruz ran the ad pictured, showing Donald Trump's wife Melania in a GQ photo shoot from 2000, back in her modeling days. The text reads, "Meet Melania Trump: Your Next First Lady. Or, You Could Support Ted Cruz On Tuesday."  The Donald responded on Twitter with a warning for Cruz to be careful or he'll "spill the beans" on Cruz's wife. Me? I have little doubt that Trump is privately not displeased at all with this ad -- with people being reminded how great he must be to have a wife this hot. But here's the bottom line: Will seeing Melania like this make anyone less likely to vote for Donald Trump? For many people, absolutely nothing could possibly make them less likely to vote for Trump.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 09, 2016

On Dolphins' dubious, rocky (and low-graded) start to free agency; plus Marlins' big problem, the week of Erin Andrews and Kim Kardashian, sympathy for Maria Sharapova, your verdict on Peyton Manning, Dollar Bill Murray & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9. Hope all y'all international women had a great International Women's Day. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Peyton's-place-in-history poll, the Wonder of Whiteside quantified, Dolphins trades, Hot Button Top 10, Trump vs. Kramden video & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Canes men on deck: Tonight's Florida State-Virginia Tech winner will face the Miami Hurricanes Thursday night in UM's debut in the ACC Tournament.

THE DOLPHINS' DUBIOUS START TO FREE AGENCY: These are the Miami Dolphins we're talking about, so, as disappointment-hardened Dolfans well know, nothing is easy, or simple. Most every move the team makes seems to come with an asterisk, or a "yeah, but." So it is with what has happened this week:

Mario1. Mario Williams for Olivier Vernon is not a smart swap: Williams, pictured, is an accomplished sacker, but he also is 31 and arrives with a reputation for quitting on his team when he feels like it and not being a great teammate. Miami is paying him star money ($17 million over two years) but it would not surprise to see him gone after one season. It would have seemed smarter -- more in keeping with a long-range vision -- to instead commit big bucks at the end position to the imminently departing Vernon, the gifted homegrown sackman and rising talent who's still only 25. /// ESPN's Bill Barnwell, in his free-agency report card, graded the Williams signing a C. He writes, in part: "It's hard to figure out the Dolphins, who seem to stick their finger into the socket, get shocked, and wonder how many of their other fingers can fit inside. Miami's top-heavy, stars-and-replacement talent roster philosophy hasn't worked for years, but instead of getting away from the tactic, the Dolphins are doubling down in 2016. The Dolphins didn't have many other options available, especially once Jason Pierre-Paul agreed to return to New York on a one-year deal, but Williams is 31 and was just run out of Buffalo amidst a cloud of anonymous sources saying derogatory things about his effort level. Would they have been better off locking up Vernon, who is just 25 and had 36 quarterback knockdowns to Williams's 11 in 2015? Or using the money saved by [possibly] cutting Cameron Wake to add much-needed depth around the roster? Do these sorts of questions ever even enter into Miami's thinking during the offseason? Williams should be better as a 4-3 defensive end than he was dropping off the line of scrimmage at times as a 3-4 outside linebacker for Rex Ryan last year, but this is another step in a tired, unsuccessful roster-building model for the Dolphins."

2. That "blockbuster" trade with Eagles is high-priced risk: The Dolphins move down from the No. 8 overall draft pick to No. 13 to acquire cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso from Philly. Hmm. A shoulder issue with Maxwell jeopardized the deal but he is now cleared physically. Still, Miami is adopting his six-year, $63 million contract, very pricey for a journeyman with eight interceptions in 61 games, one who has never made a Pro Bowl and was pretty awful last season. So let's not oversell him. He has yet to prove he is No. 1 corner-caliber. Alonso, only 25, may be worth the risk; he was great as a rookie in '13. "Yeah but": He missed all of 2014 after major knee surgery, and disappointed in his comeback last season. There was a reason both players were available. /// ESPN's Barnwell graded that deal a B+ for Phily and a C- for Miami. He wrote, in part: "It's shocking that the Eagles were able to get anything in a swap for Maxwell's onerous contract. The Dolphins will likely restructure Maxwell's $8.5 million base salary as a signing bonus to create more cap space and sign more free agents, but there's still little upside on this deal. Maxwell was erratic at best in his first year outside of the Seattle cocoon, and at $10 million per year going forward, he'll need to play like a No. 1 cornerback to justify his salary, even with the rising tide of cornerback contracts. Oddly, the Dolphins may get more out of Alonso, who will likely move back to play middle linebacker in a 4-3 after getting lost in Philly's 3-4 look. With one year remaining on Alonso's rookie deal, he offers the best chance of generating surplus value in this deal for Miami."

3. Lamar Miller gone to Houston: The starting running back will sign with the Texans and take handoffs from Brock Osweiler. Miller's departure is not a surprise, but suddenly Ryan Tannehill has nobody proven to hand-off to. Remember my recent column urging the Dolphins to consider signing available RB Matt Forte? Too late. The Stinkin' Jets got him.

Mario's big props to Ross: Dolphins introduced Mario Williams today and he gave big props to owner Stephen Ross when asked what attracted him to Miami. "The direction that the organization wants to go in from top to bottom was huge," he said. "Meeting with the owner, it was really shocking to me. I can say I’ve never been in the room with an NFL owner and it was like talking to somebody who is 30 years old. He was cool to interview with. I want to say he’s 75? I know it was something like that. But to be part of something with someone who has so much enthusiasm, so much energy and passion towards the team, and then it trickles straight down to the last guy."

 Kim ON ERIN ANDREWS AND KIM KARDASHIAN: It may be a first that these two disparate women are in the same sentence or headline -- I feel I may owe an apology for that, Erin -- but I couldn't help notice the jarring juxtaposition this week involving the prominent sports broadcaster Erin Andrews and the famous-for-being-famous Kim Kardashian. One, Andrews, was winning a $55 million jury verdict in her trial against the Nashville Marriott at which she was filmed nude through an altered peephole, the creep who did it then uploading the video to the Internet for millions to watch. She testified tearfully of the devastating, life-altering invasion of her privacy and modesty. The same day as that justified verdict was read, Kardashian, apparently abhorrent to privacy -- the queen of immodesty -- published the bathroom selfie we pass along at right. With Andrews, initially, there was false speculation she'd planned the stunt for publicity. Had Kardashian been the victim of the peephole video, suffice to say the idea would have been far easier to believe.

THE MARLINS' BIG PROBLEM: It's the farm system. The latest example: The rankings of under-21 talent by MiLB.com, the official arm of minor-league baseball. Miami is graded a D. The synopsis: "At first blush, it's a good sign for our purposes that both of the Marlins' top two prospects -- Tyler Kolek and Josh Naylor -- are so young and represent their last two first-rounders. Upon further review, neither is as impressive as he looks on paper. Kolek dropped out of the Top 100 after suffering control issues in his first full season and Naylor was a surprise pick at No. 12 last June. The latter could grow into a prodigious power hitter in time, but for now, that pick remains a head-scratcher. The rest of the system doesn't look like it has any impact Major Leaguers, even among the younger prospects." Elsewhere in the NL East the Braves are graded A-, the Phillies B+ and the Mets B. MiLB.com has only three other teams graded as low or worse than the Marlins for U-21 talent: Tigers also with a D, and Angels and Diamondbacks both with F's.

MariaI FEEL BAD FOR MARIA SHARAPOVA: Sharapova's biggest crime used to be she couldn't beast Serena Williams. Now she  is branded a cheater, a doper, because she tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium. Sponsors including Nike have dropped her. What an overreaction! The drug does not even enhance athletic performance, according to the Latvian scientist who invented it. But it does help protect athletes against heart problems related to extreme physical exercise. Meldonium is a heart medicine that improves blood flow, but was added to the banned-substances list by the World Anti-Doping Agency on Jan. 1. Sharapova said she had been legally using the drug for 10 years for various medical issues, but tested positive just days after it suddenly became illegal. She deserves sympathy or benefit of doubt, not indignant condemnation.

Poll result: Plurality think Manning greatest ever, but much disagreement: We've seldom run a more evenly split blogpoll than the one asking where Peyton Manning ranks among all-time top five greatest quarterbacks. Most, 22.3 percent, said he was No. 1, the best ever. But second-most voters, 19.0%, said he wasn't even in top five. Then it was 17.4% No. 3, 14.6% No. 5, 13.8% No. 2, and 12.9% No. 4.

IF BILL MURRAY HAD DELIVERED THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS: Please note I do not approve of the illegal defacing of U.S. currency. Although when the defacing involves Bill Murray's face I think I'm sort of OK with it: 

Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 24, 2016

Unexpectedly stuck aboard Gronk's Party Ship. Good thing or bad? New poll. Vote now!; plus Marlins poised for surprising 2016 as spring training unfurls; also, the legend of Snowflake Nelson, Joey Bats' demand, thank you Jeb Bush & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25. New blogpost coming soon! 2) Thanks to our latest wave of Twitter followers. I must say LeBatard Show Tuesdays are good for business. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, concern-level on Bosh verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

"Kimbo Slice is 42. Dada 5000 is 38. It was a Bellator production. And you were expecting a good fight why exactly!?" --Greg Cote

GronkshipQUESTION: IS INADVERTENTLY FINDING ONESELF ON GRONK'S PARTY SHIP A GOOD THING?: So overgrown frat-boy (and, time permitting, Patriots tight end) Rob Gronkowski, his family, friends and paying guests take a three-day Caribbean cruise out of Miami, aboard the Norwegian Pearl. Much drinking and debauchery ensues, as you'd expect. Anyway, there were about 700 on board for the Gronk party ship (see representative photo), among a total cruise-ship population of around 2,300. In other words, roughly two-thirds of those on board were tourists who had no idea what they were getting in for. Maybe some liked it. But we already have heard others have complained to Norwegian about being blindsided into being an unwitting party to all the Gronkness and ensuing silliness -- somewhat the antithesis of the relaxation many expect from a cruise. So I'm curious. Say you and the family were aboard the Pearl for your Caribbean cruise only to unexpectedly learn the ship's predominant client was a massive Gronk party. Good thing? Or bad thing? Feeling lucky? Or a bit annoyed. Take a dip in our poll.

FAITH IN MARLINS ALWAYS A CHALLENGE, BUT 2016 LOOKS PROMISING: Spent Monday up in Jupiter as the Marlins prepared for today's first full-squad work of spring. Click on Looking Up for the column in full. Here is a condensed version with my list of Ifs that must align if the Marlins are to surprise the analysts and bettors to become a playoff challenger: JosefernandezIf Don Mattingly turns out to be an inspired hire, the anti-Ozzie Guillen, who used to leave the practice field to watch bull fights in his office, failed spectacularly and, as the perfect Miami parting shot, praised Fidel Castro... If a healthy Giancarlo Stanton is bearing in on 50 home runs as the pennant races heat, his at-bats perhaps the most exciting minute in sports... If a healthy Jose Fernandez (pictured) is in the heart of the Cy Young conversation, his starts turned into events that fill Marlins Park... If Dee Gordon prove his spectacular 2015 was no fluke, and if Christian Yelich begins to make the move from potential star to budding superstar... If Barry Bonds seizes this chance to rebuild his steroids-dented image and enjoys great impact as the hitting coach. (Quick memo to the Marlins: Do you think giving Bonds a late-season at-bat or two as a pinch-hitter would get any attention? You’re welcome!)... If Miami is cheering Ichiro’s 3,000th major-league hit as it cheers a playoff chase... If Marcell Ozuna re-establishes himself with a comeback year, and if big farmboy Justin Bour blossoms into the team’s biggest slugger not named Stanton... And here’s a personal if, if I may: If Jeffrey Loria and David Samson would force themselves to keep a much lower profile, Marlins fans would be a happier bunch... All of that would leave one more if, maybe the biggest of all along with the health of Stanton and Fernandez: If Miami sees the emergence of two more starting pitchers to join the ace Fernandez, newly acquired Wei-Yin Chen and reliable innings-eater Tom Koehler. From among a half-dozen candidates the Marlins need a couple of volunteers to raise their hands — their arms — and capably join the rotation. Do you believe enough of the "ifs" might come true? February turning to March is the time for such leaps of faith, for hearts to control minds and for hope to win out. That is the beauty of baseball in springtime.

SnowflakeTHE LEGEND OF SNOWFLAKE NELSON: Heat fan and model Alyssa Nelson, a.k.a. Snowflake, got pretty excited watching the Heat beat Indiana last night, as pictured from a screengrab. Perhaps some of the fans watching Snowflake got pretty excited, too. Me? I got in a bit of trouble on the LeBatard Show today by suggesting Snowflake had invited the catcalls she was getting on social media by her choice of attire. This to me was not a mysogenist comment, but rather a practical one. If you want to jump up and down with that neckline showing that much cleavage, please do not feign surprise or disgust when you are, show we say, noticed. That's pretty much the point, is it not?

ON JOEY BATS: Blue Jay slugger Jose Bautista is demanding a $150 million, five-year deal from Toronto (or someone else in free agency), and suggesting his demand is non-negotiable. Dear Joey Bats: The market will determine that. As someone who'd be 36 as a free agent, you won't sit out a year, so your bargaining power is diminished. You have been underpaid, yes. But a demand of $30 million-per seems rich for the age bracket -- even for someone who hit 40 homers last year.

JebbushTHANKS, JEB BUSH: Been meaning to say, since he dropped out of the presidential derby, that I thought Jeb Bush ran a decent race, relative to the negativity and divisiveness surrounding him. He simply was too moderate, maybe too decent and unwilling to get down in the mud, to survive in 2016. I can tell you, as a registered Democrat, that I found Bush and John Kasich the two Republicans for whom I might have most considered voting. Bush spoke to issues and answers while Marco Rubio begins every answer to every question with a hyperbolic, rote attack on Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Alas, the polls told us which tactic worked best and who was Florida's favorite son. Jeb leaves in defeat, but with his honor intact.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2016

Should Dolphins look into suddenly available Matt Forte? Poll. Vote now!; plus here's how bad Heat 3-point shooting is; also Dwight Howard, Panthers' record pace, ex-Canes at Combine, Ted Cruz's porn star, Kanye West's heavenly video game & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13. ICYMI, click on Riley's Last Push for my column earlier this week on Pat Riley's drive to win another Heat championship. 2) Marlins pitchers and catchers report in six days to spring training in Jupiter. 3) In The Previous Blogpost: Heat players in Top 100 and how much they were ours, Dolphins two-round mock draft, Shaq verdict, Riley's imperative, The List (Marlins homers), chocolate bunny under siege & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Pats' owner throws shade on Mannings: Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a radio interview this week, referring to Archie Manning: "He has two sons who have won two Super Bowls [each]. But with all due respect, we've got one son who's won four."

ForteMATT FORTE TO THE DOLPHINS MAY BE WORTH EXPLORING: That's if Lamar Miller leaves and if Forte is affordable. That is the gist of my newest column; click on The Forte Factor to read. Matt Forte, the career-long Chicago Bears running back, announced yesterday the team would not re-sign him, meaning he will be a free agent free to sign with any team come March 9. Adam Gase, the Dolphins' new head coach, knows Forte as well as anyone, having been Chicago's offensive coordinator. And Miami may have a need at the position if, as expected, pending free agent Miller is not re-signed. At the least, Forte's sudden availability is worth exploring if the price is right. The downside: He just turned 30. The upside: Just about everything else. Forte has been durable, starting 120 of a possible 128 games in his career. He has averaged 1,075 rushing yards and 61 catches per season, and would offer the dual-threat Miami has rarely had. Also, because of his age alone, it could be a buyer's market; I suspect he'd be affordable -- the only circumstance under which this would make sense. I wonder what Dolfans think. Should Miami explore signing Forte or avoid him? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

BoshQUANTIFYING HOW BAD HEAT'S 3-POINT SHOOTING REALLY IS: At the All-Star Game break Miami's .323 accuracy on 3-point shots ranked third from the bottom in the NBA, ahead of only Minnesota and the L.A. Lakers. The Heat's 6.1 3's per game ranks fifth from the bottom. But I find more telling how this season ranks in Heat franchise history. Miami set a franchis erecord for 3-point accuracy at .396 just three seasons ago. Now? Here is the club's all-time bottom five in terms of 3-point accuracy. Chris Bosh (pictured) doesn't get enough help, especially with Tyler Johnson out injured. Note that three of the bottom-five lows happened in the franchise's first three seasons, when 3's were much less a part of the game and Miami had the excuse of being an awful expansion team. Bottom-five seasons for team 3-point percentage in Heat history:

Pct.    Season        Made-Atts.    Leader

.293   1989-90      88-300          Jon Sunvold, 44

.302   1990-91      140-464        Glen Rice, 71

.316   2003-04      348-1,100     Eddie Jones, 177

.323   2015-16      322-998        Chris Bosh, 81

.326   1988-89      97-298          Jon Sunvold, 48

DwighthowardDWIGHT HOWARD TRADED TO HEAT? WHAT ARE YOU, DRUNK?: There is speculation to that end as the Feb. 18 NBA trade deadline bears in and the Houston Rockets shop around a possible deal for Dwight Howard, 30, the 6-11 center. Certainly Miami would be an interesting landing spot if the the Heat feels it will need to replace Hassan Whiteside. Here is the problem. Howard has indicated his intention to become a free agent July 1, which severely limits trade interest in him unless the acquiring team can agree to a long-term deal rather just rent him for half a season. That's the same reason there is little chance the Heat could trade Whiteside before the deadline. Another problem: Would the Heat want to make Howard its big-money signing and effectively withdraw from the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes. Pat Riley loves big, bold moves and likely is doing his due diligence on Howard's availability. But call it unlikely that we'll be seeing for real the photoshop presented here. If Riley does make a pre-deadline deal, it'll more likely be for a quick-fix to the 3-point crisis.

ReillysmithFIRE ON ICE: THE PANTHERS' RECORD PACE: Florida not only is leading its NHL division but is on pace for the best regular season in franchise history. The top five seasons based on points percentage and points per game, noting that fifth place, '95-96, was the Stanley Cup Finals year. Current figures are updated through Friday's night's home loss to St. Louis:

Season        Pts.Pct.    PPG    Leading goal scorer

2015-16      .636        1.27    Reilly Smith, 18 (pictured)

1999-00      .598        1.20    Pavel Bure, 58

2011-12      .573        1.15    Tomas Fleischmann, 27

2008-09      .567        1.13    David Booth, 31

1995-96      .561        1.12    Scott Mellanby, 32

FIVE EX-CANES INVITED TO NFL SCOUTING COMBINE: It's Feb. 26-29 in Indianapolis, and former Miami Hurricanes footballers Artie Burns, Deon Bush, Ufomba Kamalu, Raphael Kirby and Rashawn Scott will be among the more than 300 draft prospects invited. It's a rather weak crop for UM. The cornerback Burns probably is the highest-regarded prospect, generally pegged as a likely third-round pick who could sneak into the low second round.

AmylindsayOOPS, SAYS THE TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: I love love love this story. Ted Cruz's Republican presidential campaign has scrambled to yank an ad released Thursday because it was reported an actress in the commercial formerly starred in soft-core porn. In the ad, the women refers to Marco Rubio as just a "pretty face." Well, that actress, Amy Lindsay, formerly appeared in such film titles as "Erotic Confessions," "Secrets Of a Chambermaid" and "Carnal Wishes." The controversial thespian is pictured at right. I'll say this in defense of the Cruz campaign. This does not make me like him less, because nothing could. I cannot confirm that Rubio criticized the ad ... and then repeated the criticism verbatim four more times.

KANYE WEST CREATES WORLD'S MOST DEPRESSING VIDEO GAME: Rap mogul and all-roound modest guy Kanye West has developed a video game called Only One, which centers around his mother (who passed away in 2007) and her path to heaven. He previewed a trailer Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, and we present it below. And, yes, it is every bit as strange as you might imagine:

 

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July 08, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rank Player                   WTF#  @70

1  Giancarlo Stanton      362.5    1

2  Dee Gordon                309.1    2

3  Adeiny Hechevarria   251.0   3

4  Marcell Ozuna            215.6   4

5  Martin Prado              201.5   5

6  Christian Yelich        194.3   7

7  Jacob Realmuto         178.5    6

8  Justin Bour                 165.9   9

9  Ichiro Suzuki              129.9   8

10  Michael Morse           91.6   10

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

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

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July 06, 2015

"Let's gooooo States!" The new Hot Button Top 10 (updated): U.S. wins World Cup, D.Wade, Jose, Serena, Fins, Chile, Aldridge, cycling, Cats and dogs; plus Marlins All-Stars, 'Body' nude, LeBatard & more

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

1aa1aflagme1) It is MONDAY, JULY 6. Hope y'all had a safe and fun Fourth of July and long holiday weekend. Happy 239th, America! Pictured is a photo I posted on Instagram of the flag in my yard as fireworks boomed over my neighborhood. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane vs. Jose poll, Confederate fag result & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

Random Evidence: The Sunday notes column: Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes column package.

"Let's gooooo States!" U.S. clubbed Japan 5-2 last night in Canada to convincingly win the Women's World Cup -- USA's third championship and first since 1999. Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and the Americans were favored and delivered, and of course as a ("U-S-A!") journalist I was a perfectly ("U-S-A!") neutral observer. "Let's gooooo States!"

1aa1agymnastESPN 'Body' issue: It's out in the magazine and online, ESPN's annual gratuitous platform allowing naturally narcissistic athletes to be even more narcissistic by showing us that their wonderful athleticism is a tribute to their even more wonderful bodies. Pictured right: Gymnast Aly Raisman, until my editors tell me to take the pic down, which I'm sure they wouldn't since it's, like, you know, all over ESPN.

Marlins All-Stars: All-Star Game starters based on fan voting were announced on ESPN last night, and as expected the Marlins' Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton made it, Gordon leading NL second basemen in voting and Stanton (though he's injured and won't play) finishing second among NL outfielders. The Marlins previously had only two players voted to start the ASG: Gary Sheffield (3B, 1993) and Hanley Ramirez (SS, 2008-10). Reserves will be announced tonight.

LeBatard cameo on 'Ballers': Dan LeBatard had a small speaking role on HBO's Miami-based Ballers series last night, seen wearing a 'Miami' cap, smoking a cigar and asking Dwyane Johnson what his end-game was. I loved his appearance, mostly because now so I can make fun of him on the radio Tuesday.

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

1. SOCCER: U.S. beats Japan, wins Women’s World Cup: Four years ago Japan beat the United States on penalty kicks in the championship match. Last night, the U.S. sought its revenge and resoundingly got it with a 5-2 rout in a WWC final rematch in Canada -- led by Carli Lloyd's three goals. This is where I’d drop in a quick Pearl Harbor reference, but that might be seen as politically incorrect so I'd better not.

1aa1ahotbutton2. HEAT: Wade re-signs with Miami, but for only one year: Huge week for Heat with Luol Deng staying, Goran Dragic signing long-term, Michael Beasley cut, Justise Winslow starring as Heat summer-league team opened play, plus that pointless pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. But of course the biggest new was Dwyane Wade re-upping. Call  it drama, delayed. Won’t the Heat and Wade be doing this same contract dance a year from now? That’s what a one-year deal gives you. No complaint, though. A starting lineup of Hassan Whiteside, Chris Bosh, Deng, Dragic and Wade can win. (Had better, anyway!)

3. MARLINS: Fernandez makes winning return after year’s absence: It had been more than a year — 419 days — since Jose Fernandez last pitched before his triumphant comeback Thursday. He improved to 13-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Marlins Park. Isn’t there some way to convince him that every time he pitches it’s a home game? Hypnosis, perhaps?

4. TENNIS: Serena survives scare as Wimbledon, faces sister next: Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams seem championship-bound as Wimbledon begins its second week. Serena survived an upset bid by Heather Watson on Friday but must now face sister Venus today/Monday. Meanwhile this was the fourth Wimbledon in a row in which Rafael Nadal has been ousted early and ingloriously. Might be time to bring back the Capri pants.

5. DOLPHINS: Fins set training camp schedule: The Dolphins announced their historic 50th anniversary season would begin July 30 with the official start of preseason training camp, two weeks of practices segueing into the first exhibition game. Anniversaries less impressive than the 50th include this being the 42nd season since their last Super Bowl.

6. SOCCER: Chile upset winner in Copa America: Beating Argentina on penalty kicks to win Copa America marked Chile's biggest international title ever. Finally, a message to Brazil and Argentina that South America has other teams, too.

7. NBA: LaMarcus Aldridge to Spurs: San Antonio bags NBA's No. 1 actually-might-leave-his team free agent with power forward Aldridge leaving Portland. Heat's Pat Riley had flown to L.A. to meet with Aldridge, the Godfather's biggest wasted trip since that meeting with LeBron James a year ago.

8. CYCLING: Tour de France gets underway: Still going despite all of its various doping scandals, the latest Tour de Fraud France has begun. It must be so difficult for those cyclists to peddle up mountains while simultaneously providing urine samples.

9. PANTHERS: Cats stage four-day developmental camp: It was for recent draftees and other first-year players and included “team building” activities such as a beach outing and a Marlins game. Hmm. I’d rather my team win but not get along than lose and sing Kumbaya.

10. HOT DOGS: Annual gorging contest held on Coney Island: Answer: I would sooner watch vultures disemboweling maggot-covered carrion in a roadside ditch. Question: Did you watch Saturday’s annual hot dog-eating contest? Dear "competitive eating" fad: You were cute for a while. Go away, please.

Missing the HB10 cut: Golf, Doral standing behind Donald Trump, for now. Dan LeBatard cameo on HBO's Ballers tonight. Strikers lose to Boca Juniors. Brett Favre, 45, says he could still play. ESPN Body issue out today/Monday as our most narcissistic athletes celebrate themselves.

Poll result: Dwyane edges Jose for biggest story: Admittedly it was an apples-and-oranges question that (predictably) caused a smallish response, but we asked it anyway, and Dwyane Wade re-upping with the Heat was judged a bigger story than Jose Fernandez's comeback game by 59.2 percent to 40.8%.

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