January 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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October 09, 2014

Poll: Chalmers or Cole? Pick a Heat point guard. Vote now!; plus Panthers hockey, Fins/Harbaugh verdict, defending MLB, Alan Cherry (R.I.P.) & more

1aa1ajlennon1) It is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9. Thinking of the late, great John Lennon today, on what would be his 74th birthday. 2) I'm holed up at Friday Page Headquarters today pulling forth my NFL Week 6 predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's pick. 3) BBC Music brings together dozens of great artists for a rendition of the Beach Boys classic, "God Only Knows." Trippy result worth a listen and watch here. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins/Harbaugh poll, college football upheaval, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, SOPY standings, toast to '72, Derrick Shelby, Cinder-AL-a & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1aflacatsCats on the ice: NHL starting. Hockey's back. Florida Panthers open tonight/Thursday in Tampa then at home Saturday vs. New Jersey. Click on Telling Season for my preview column. Club hasn't won a playoff series since 1996 and a sharp decline in attendance is expected. This has become a franchise that needs saving. Winning is the only start.

CHALMERS VS. COLE IN HEAT POINT-GUARD BATTLE: IT'S ON: The post-LeBron Heat are 0-2 in the preseason entering Saturday's game vs. Cleveland and James in Rio -- uh oh -- and even though the games don't matter you know that panic is setting in with some fans as 1aa1amarionorris"We really might be that bad" sweeps over them. Relax. It's a playoff team. But to distract you from your growing angst here's a poll. It's incumbent Mario Chalmers vs. challenger Norris Cole (pictured left to right) in what by all accounts is an open battle for starting point guard. And that role is magnified because LeBron James, who brought the ball up and handled it so much he was a de facto point guard, is no longer here. (He went somewhere. I forget where). Chalmers probably brings more offensive pop and swagger; Cole brings better defense and energy. Both have flaws. Is Cole better-suited to being the spark off the bench? What Heat point guard would you prefer to see start and get the most minutes? I exclude rookie Shabazz Napier from the question because he obviously isn't ready yet to be in the conversation. So take a dip in the poll and say why.

Poll result: Dolfan interest in Harbaugh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh should he become avaailable after the season, and 47.9 percent said yes without equivocation. However, 25.2% said only if Miami does not make the playoffs and another 18.7% voted "avoid him like the plague." The other 8.2% were undecided.

DEFENDING BASEBALL'S POSTSEASON, FINAL FOUR: The complainers are out. Not enough starpower! Not enough runs! Bad World Series ahead! I don't buy it. Yes, 10 of the 14 playoff games thus far (not 1aa1adavidandgcounting wild-cards) have been won with four runs or fewer. So what? Pitching is good. Steroids are outlawed. Deal with it. I think the Orioles-Royals ALCS (starting Friday) and the Cardinals-Giants NLCS (Game 1 Saturday) guarantees a World Series of interesting contrast. St. Louis and San Fran are recent champions from 2011 and '12, respectively, while Baltimore and Kansas City last won it all in 1983 and '85. Royals haven't even been in the postseason since then. There will be an AL-David vs. NL-Goliath element that I think America will find appealing. Besides, the fact all four division series ended either 3-0 or 3-1 indicates the vanquished teams were undeserving in some way. And there is no clear betting favorite among the four survivors; it's anybody's ring.

ALAN CHERRY, 1955-2014, R.I.P.: This is self-indulgent. Screw it. It's my blog. My oldest friend, Alan Cherry, died this week, at 59, and I miss him already. We met when we were 19, I think. Fate had us 1aa1aalancboth stumbling blind into journalism careers under the tutelage of Max Hall at BCC. I gravitated to sports. Alan ended up doing important stuff, for three decades a news reporter and editor for the Sun-Sentinel. Alan was a nonconformist both intellectually and visually. In a newsroom where men wore shirts and ties, clean-shaved faces and neat hair, you'd find Alan with long hair tucked under a ballcap and a full, straggly beard. (He was way ahead of the trend on that look. I think his wife Pat and son James deserve royalty checks from Duck Dynasty). Alan was also an accomplished songwriter. He wrote "Letting Go," which I was honored to record (click here to listen). A few years ago Alan was surprised and delighted to hear another of his songs, "House of Ghosts," played on an NPR program devoted to unsigned artists who merited attention. The song is below. Alan was a man of great talent, and greater integrity. Rest in peace, my unforgettable old friend.

 

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June 16, 2014

What's your faith in Dwyane Wade? Poll. Vote now; plus "U-S-A!" winning World Cup debut, Heat betting fave for '15 NBA title, Radio Tuesday & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my 24th national appearance on the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. 

1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 17. R.I.P., Tony Gwynn, the baseball star, taken by cancer at 54. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Heat-Spurs. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Spurs Game 5, Miami done, FUTBOL! World Cup and more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Links: Click on LeBron Or Bust for my column from San Antonio off season-ending Heat loss. Click on I Believe That We Will Win for a U.S. soccer video that will pump you up if you are breathing.

DO YOU STILL HAVE FAITH IN DWYANE WADE?: No, we are not putting this Finals loss on Dwyane Wade. San Antonio's 4-1 rout of Miami was too decisive and thorough to place it on any one 1aa1adwadeplayer or thing. Pat Riley bears his blame. I mean, how much did Greg Oden and Michael Beasley contribute, exactly? Erik Spoelstra bears his blame, too. The thin roster left him struggling for answers and seemingly out of them. Everybody not named LeBron James bears his blame. But Wade is a natural talking point after averaging only 15.2 points in the Finals including 10 and 11 points on 7-for-25 shooting in the last two games. That's not to mention the casual defense immortalized in a viral video. Heat fans have a right to wonder if Wade, at 32 and beset by health issues, is still an able No. 2 scorer capable of lessening the load on LeBron. If he's still an all-star worth a big contract. Where is Wade on his career timeline moving forward? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

DESPITE YOUR HAND-WRINGING, HEAT IS 2015 CHAMPIONSHIP BETTING FAVORITE: Via our friends at Bovada, Heat a 3-1 early betting favorite for the NBA championship, followed by Spurs and Thunder both 6-1, Clippers 9-1 and Bulls and Pacers both 9-1. In NHL, Chicago Blackhawks top a bunched pack for '15 Stanley Cup at 7-1.

Final Heat Postseason MVP StandingsWe name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Last night: 1. LeBron James, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. Dwyane Wade. Final standings through 20 playoff games: LeBron James 48 points, Dwyane Wade 26, Chris Bosh 23, Ray Allen 8, Rashard Lewis 7, Chris Andersen 3, James Jones 3, Norris Cole 2.

OUR HEAT-SPURS GAME 5 POSTGAME VIDEO: That'll be me on the right and Heat beat writer Joe Goodman on the left holding the world's tiniest microphone:

 

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! "U-S-A! U-S-A!" AMERICANS MAKE WINNING WORLD CUP DEBUT: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, offering continually updated daily news/summaries/miscellanea on the month-long soccer quadrennial in Brazil. (See earlier posts for earlier results and for group-by-group preview).

Day 6 / Today 6-17: Match of the Day: BRAZIL 0, MEXICO 0 (Group A): You know how in American football a tie is pretty much unsatisfying to both teams? not so in futbal. They are celebrating this draw in Mexico. They are mourning it in Brazil.

Belgium 2, Algeria 1 (Group H): Algerians led much of match on a penalty-kick goal but group favorite Belgium continued this Cup's run of comeback wins.

Korea Republic 1, Russia 1 (Group H): A better draw for the South Koreans than for Russia, the seen-as-better side.

Day 5 / 6-16: Match of Day: UNITED STATES 2, GHANA 1 (Group G): Ghana was the nemesis that knocked the Americans out of the past two World Cups, and 1aa1aamersoccerthe U.S. win here for three points is a huge step toward advancing out of group play into the round of 16. I'm a sports fan who gets paid for a living to not cheer, but I made no pretense here. I'm an American, and I was rooting for the U.S. side loudly, and proudly. Team USA scored in the very first minute on a left-footed shot just inside the right post by veteran Clint Dempsey. Ghana equalized late after enjoying the better of play and possession, but the U.S. fought back with a bouncing header goal in the 82nd minute by 21-year-old John  Brooks, a substitute. I hate that Jozy Altidore (from Boca Raton) was lost with what seemed like a Cup-ending hamstring strain, but that disappointment was drowned out by by cheering, coast to coast. Thrilling stuff, and a wonderful start to America's World Cup run. "U-S-A!"

Germany 4, Portugal 0 (Group G): The mighty Germans are considered the favorites in the Americans' 'Group of Death' and verified why today.

Iran 0, Nigeria 0: The first draw of the Cup, a better result for Iran than for the Africans.

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April 14, 2014

Tue pm 4-15: Why Heat preferred No. 2 seed (by a lot); plus Philbin on candid camera, All Apologies, Wade verdict, Bubba's Mastery, Pacquiao & more

It's Radio Tuesday Thursday!: I'm in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show again this week, but Thursday, not today.

1aa1abostonstrong1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 15. Remembering those killed, injured and otherwise affected on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the end (for now) of the Heat drama, Waiting on Dwyane. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane Wade poll, Wade shines in return, Heat-Pacers, Stephen Colbert, Dolphins cheerleaders & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

LeBron, Bosh sit in Heat loss: LeBron james and Chris Bosh sitting out last night's 114-93 loss at Atlanta verified (see item directly below) how little interest Miami had in the No. 1 seed at this point.

FIGHT FOR NO. 1 SEED WAS A FALLACY. HEAT BETTER OFF AS NO. 2: Miami's season-long chase with Indiana for the No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seed has been a fallacy. As the standings have set, it 1aa1ano2has become clear that the Heat much prefer being right where they're at, holding the No. 2  seed. Take the two reasons chronologically. The second seed means Miami's first-round playoff opponent is Charlotte, not Atlanta. Though Miami would be hugely favored over either and be threatened by neither, the Heat are 4-0 vs. the Bobcats this season, only 2-2 vs. the Hawks. But the second round is the big reason. The No. 2 seed in the second round would face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series, while the No. 1 seed would face the winner of Chicago-Brooklyn. Miami of course is 0-4 vs. the Nets, and only 2-2 vs. the Bulls and irritant Joakim Noah. The Heat are 4-0 vs. the Raptors, and 2-2 vs. the Wizards including last night's token effort. Bulls or Nets in the second round would be a real test for Miami, whereas Raptors or Wizards would be more of a waltz into the conference finals. The Heat won't ever say they preferred No. 2, but it's beyond logical why they would. (Oh, and Miami would still have that Eastern finals Game 7 at home if the opponent is anybody but Indiana, whch it very well could be with Brooklyn).

Poll result: Still concern over Wade's health: We asked how you feel about Dwyane Wade's health situation entering the playoffs, and a narrow plurality of 39.2 percent were confident he'd be healthy and a major contributor. But 38.9% were concerned about rust or reinjury, and another 21.9% were worried his contruibution would be limited.

1aa1ajoemoeBLOG EXCLUSIVE! JOE EATS AT MOE'S: A blog spy shot this picture over the weekend of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin having lunch alone at Moe's Southwestern Grill just north of Dolphins camp. Joe, an apparent fork southpaw, appears to be digging into a healthful salad. We thank our blog spy for passing this along. We'd thank them even more if it wasn't a bad photograph framed by giant cups in the foreground. The news value in this exclusive photo is that Philbin appears -- at least to me -- to be in deep thought mulling options as to what the Dolphins will do in the first round of next month's draft.

I WISH I WAS LIKE YOU, EASILY AMUSED...: At the recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions one of my favorite bands, Nirvana, performed one of my favorite songs, "All Apologies," with one of my favorite newer performers, Lorde, on lead vocals. Love it. You might, too. Or, not.

  

NHL PLAYOFF ODDS; CANADIAN MISERY CONTUNUES: Boston is a 7-2 favorite (via Bovada) to win the NHL's Stanley Cup as playoffs near, followed by St. Louis at 6-1, Pittsburgh 7-1 and Chicago 8-1. A Canadian team, Montreal, last won it all in 1993. Montreal is the only northern neighbor of 16 qualifiers this year, and is mid-pack 20-1. 

1aa1abubbawBUBBA THE PERFECT MASTERS WINNER: Bubba Watson's second Masters victory in three years must please the men who run Augusta. What better representative for an Old Boys Network that fought kicking and screaming to admit blacks and women as members than a champion named Bubba? In all seriousness, gotta love anybody who just pocketed a 1.6 million check and celebrates at a Waffle House. Mea culpa: Originally I referred to Bubba as Watkins, not Watson. OY! Sorry. Quick aside: Nobody -- with the possible exception of the grand marshal in a St. Patrick's Day parade -- looks good in a green jacket.

My own golf game: I am playing as well as I ever have, which I say modestly. My past two rounds, at Holywood Beach and Hillcrest, have both been scores of 92. One included seven pars, the other four pars and a birdie (on a 25-foot putt on a par 3). 

PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER?: Manny Pacquiao's decision over Timothy Bradley in their rematch in Vegas, avenging a controversial 2012 loss, did two things. 1) It made Heat coach Erik Spoelstra very happy. Spo is big fan of Pacquiao, a fellow Filipino. 2) It will mean a resumption of speculation about a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout. Such a fight would have been pay-per-view gold a couple of years ago. Interest is diminished because both fights are, but interest remains. Could still set PPV records with the right hype.

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January 17, 2014

It's NFL Champ Sunday! Who'll win? Poll. Vote!; plus Charlotte mocks Heat fans, LeBron's b-day words for Wade, IOC's 'anti-American' ruling & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 19. Marlins avoid arbitration with Giancarlo Stanton, sign him to one-year, $6.5 million deal. Smart for both sides. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins hire Lazor as OC with poll, Lauren Tannehill's gun, Heat lose 3rd straight as Oden debuts, LeBroning, Heat White House visit, Clark the Cub & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Click on Super Sunday Twice for today's column by me previewing the AFC and NFC Championship Games. Also click on Random Evidence for today's Sunday notes-column package leading with the Heat. 

UPSET BIRD DAY / NFL CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYOFF PIX: 2 GAMES, 2 UPSETS. OY!: The NFL delivers us Champ Sunday, the best day of football of all. Start with Patriots-Broncos and the 15th edition of Tom 1aa1fripix 1aa1afcnfccgBrady vs. Peyton Manning. Continue with 49ers-Seahawks and the best and most brutal rivalry in the sport. Delicious! Betting odds portend a Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl. But I'm predicting a 49ers-Patriots SB with road-'dog upets in both the AFC and NFC Championship Games. Click on Playoff Championship Gems for the expanded prediction capsules on both games. Our usual Friday Page NFL column previewing Sunday's games will appear this week in Sunday's paper (Saturday online). Meantime, I'm curious how many of you agree with me that both Sunday games will be upsets. (I doubt many). Tell me in this poll. This is not asking who you want to win but who you predict will. Vote, say why and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Niners-Seahawks preview from Taiwan: Click HERE for a short Taiwanese animation video on the NFC title game. Strangely, it all makes sense to me.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS MOCK HEAT FANS: Charlotte's arena played a scoreboard video mocking "bandwagon" Heat fans during last night's game, a Miami win. The club has since removed from YouTube the video that meant to embarrass the Heat but embarrassed the home team instead. Seriously, Charlotte? Really!? Yours is one of the worst franchises in sports history. You are in a position to mock no one about anything.

LEBRON'S BIRTHDAY MESSAGE TO D.WADE: Dwyane Wade turns 32 today and Heat teammate LeBron James posted a photo collage of the two of them on Instagram along with this message, shaded 1aa1heat2and verbatim: "Happy Bday to my running mate, homie, brother, and most of all straight up friend! The friendship we've created our rookie year at pre draft camp was pure and that's why we stuck together from that point on! Obviously didn't know we would eventually become teammates and do the things we've done so far. I came to Miami for 2 reasons. To play with U and to win championships and I can't thank u enough for the sacrifice you've made since I arrived homie! No matter what happens in the future we stuck together like brothers for life. And no matter what they say, u still a BAD Mutha-Shut-Yo-Mouth out there on that court! @dwyanewade. Oh almost forgot u old as dirt! Boy you look 40. Hahaha! #TreyBallBDay #YouASuckaOnYoBDay" That's not friendship you can fake. That's real. The chilling part for Heat fans: "No matter what happens in the future..." 

IN DEFENSE OF OLYMPICS' 'ANTI-AMERICAN' RULING: The International Olympic Committee told U.S. women's hockey goalie Jessie Vetter she can't wear her stylized helmet with the words 'We The People' (pictured) during the upcoming Sochi Games. The immediate reaction of any patriotic American might be 1aa1vetterhelmetrighteous indignation, but wait a second. The IOC has a rule against athletes engaging in all forms of "publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise," which makes sense and must be broadly applied to have any weight. Do I personally consider quoting from the preamble of the Consitution to be a play for publicity or to be propaganda? No and no. But it's a short leap from 'We the People' to 'In God We Trust' to 'Right to Bear Arms' to 'Viva Fidel' to 'Pro-Choice' to 'Support Gay Rights' to 'Run Hillary Run!' to 'Hi Mom' to 'Yankees Suck.' You get me? Better to not allow any sort of "statement," however benign, than to have to decide what's OK and isn't from a proliferation of them. Me, I think what it stands for makes 'We The People' one of the greatest phrases ever, but in the context of an international gathering, it is a poltical statement. I do think the Olympics can be a platform to espouse free expression. For example, I encourage U.S. Olympic athletes to criticize host Russia's anti-gay law in interviews if they are of a mind. But I can also see why literally wearing a message on one's sleeve (or hockey helmet) during competition might be prohibited.

Poll result: Broad support for Lazar as new Dolphins' O.C.: Call it Bill Lazor's first win as a Dolphin. We asked in the last blogpost and you answered overwhelmingly in support of Miami hiring Lazor as offensive coordinator. Approval topped 90 percent with 46.7% "leaning favorable" on the hire and 44.5% "very favorable." Only 5.7% (leaning) and 3.1% (very) were unfavorable.

FINDING JEFF GILLOOLY: With the Winter Olympics near and a new documentary out on Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding, reporter Amy K. Nelson tracked down Jeff Gillooly, who infamously masterminded the knee-capping of Kerrigan on Harding's behalf. Gillooly is now Jeff Stone, living in Oregon. Fascinating piece. Read it HERE.

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November 08, 2013

Dolphins' dilemma: What to do next with Incognito and Martin. Tell them. New poll. Vote!; plus NFL/Dolphins Week 10 pix, Cat Sack Fever & more

It is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8. I'm locked in the Random Evidence Laboratories conjuring Sunday's notes-column package. Even more fodder than usual. (Thank you, Dolphins!) 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): More on Dolphins' bullying mess including poll result, Heat's stumbling start, UM hall inductees & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter (gregcote), Instagram (Upsetbird), Vine (Greg Cote) and Facebook (Greg Cote).

DOLPHINS' BIG PROBLEM ISN'T JUST WHAT HAPPENED. IT'S WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: This Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin/bullying mess has swallowed the entire week and team (and to an extent this

1aa1jmartin2


1aa1jmartinblog) in a way the Dolphins haven't experienced since star running back Ricky Williams abruply quit in his prime on the eve of the 2004 season. The NFL independently investigates what happened that caused Incognito to be suspended from the team and Martin to take a leave under emotional duress, but what happened or why shouldn;t be the biggest issue concerning coach Joe Philbin right now. It's what happens next with the two principles in this scandal, and it's a no-win situation for the club. Players fervently want Incognito reinstated and have lobbied for that, but the herald alreday has reported he he "done" here, and to welcome him back might be a P.R. nightmare. Players do not want Martin back, but taking him back anyway might be likely if only from a legal/liability standpoint. What to do, what to do? Help the Dolphins decide. Vote in this new poll and say why.

UPSET BIRD DAY: WEEK 10 NFL PREDIX: DOLPHINS WOES CONTINUE IN TAMPA: After a chaotic, 1aa1fripixdistracted week spent answering nonstop questions about (of all things) bullying, I see the Dolphins ripe for an upset loss at winless Tampa Bay. (Reminding you, Dear Reader, that this isn't me hoping that, but merely predicting it. Click on Week 10 Gems for all of our latest NFL picks, and on The Dolphins' Dilemma for my Friday Page column. It's on the club's no-win choice moving forward on what do do with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, which we discuss more fully (and ask you about in a poll) directly above in this blogpost. My week got off to a great start last night. I picked Vikings to beat Redskins in an outright upset, and the Purples came through for me.

CAT SACK FEVER: PANTHERS FIRE DINEEN: Coach Kevin Dineen and assistants Gord Murphy and Craig 1aa1horachekRamsey are unemployed as of this morning, fired by our NHL Panthers, who are 3-9-4 and on a seven-game losing streak. Three wins in 16 games is a terrible start, but the sacking feels a tad premature on the part of the new ownership and GM Dale Tallon. This is a youthful team and a season of low expectations. I thought both things might have bought Dineen a bit more leeway and time. The new man on at least an interim basis is Peter Horachek (pictured), who'd been coaching the club's AHL affilitae in San Antonio. Good luck, Pete; you'll need all you can get.

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July 01, 2013

Will Marlins keep Stanton? Poll. Vote!; plus Fernandezmania, Greg Oden, Ray Hudson, Serena, Cats draft, Trayvon poll verdict & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JULY 3. Welcome old friend Dan Sileo back on the air at 640 AM, the Home For Wayward Sons. 2) Back in his Lakers days in 1989, Pat Riley secured legal rights to the phrase "Three-Peat," so it may not be used without his permission. Damn! I think I owe Pat money. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Trayvon Martin trial, Heat up for ESPY awards, NBA Draft, Marlins not stinking.

Join us on TWITTER @gregcote and INSTAGRAM @ upsetbird and VINE @ Greg Cote. Cost: Free. Return on investment: Commensurate with outlay.

PFT's Dolphins Mount Rushmore gets 3 outta 4 right: Pro Football Talk, of NBC Sports, selected Don Shula, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Larry Csonka to its Dolphins' Mount Rushmore. Our blog's own Dolphins/Rushmore poll, months earlier (your welcome), had Shula-Marino-Csonka 1-2-3 but the fourth was founding owner Joe Robbie. Then it was Bob Griese, then Taylor. Ours was better.

1aa1fernandezmaniaFernandezmania!: Marlins 20-year-old starter Jose Fernandez was dominant Monday night and leads the next wave of young Marlins who would make the future hopeful and bright if fans could trust they'll be kept long-term. I explore in Keep The Keepers, my latest column off last night's game.  

THE FUTURE OF GIANCARLO STANTON: The resurgent Marlins -- they are on a 17-11 run even with last night's loss in Atlanta -- seem very unlikely to deal 1aa1gstantonslugger Giancarlo Stanton before the July 31 trade deadline, but most experts continue to think it likely he'll be traded sometime before his contract expires at end of 2016 season. The reason isn't just the club's natural tendency to think low-payroll; the reason in this case is also a belief that Stanton would prefer to play on the West Coast. This poll seeks to gauge what fans think will happen. Now what they want to happen but what they honestly think will. Vote for the likeliest of the two possibilities and say why you think as you do.

HEAT'S FASCINATION WITH GREG ODEN: It sometimes seems like free agent Greg Oden has had more knee 1aa1godensurgeries than NBA games, but I get the ongoing interest in a man who last played on Christmas Day 2009. Oden is a 7-footer and still only 25. If healthy -- one of the biggest ifs in sports -- he'd be a low-cost, high-upside dice roll. The Spurs and Cavaliers are thought to be fronturnners for him, but Miami, the Celtics and Grizzlies also are hunting him. Heat offers him LeBron James and the best title shot. What the rest of y'all got? [Pictured: Oden, who looked 35 years old at 18 and now looks 48].

CALLING RAY HUDSON!: The NASL's Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the local pro team we don't talk about, fired longtime coach Daryl Shore and seek a replacement. Natural choice: Ray Hudson, the original 1aa1hudsonrStriker from way back in the day, later coach of the former MLS Miami Fusion and DC United, and currently a soccer analyst for the network beIN Sports. Hudson, pictured, has coaching experience but, as important, is an ambassador and salesman. If anyone could build excitement to better fill Lockhart Stadium and make this team relevant in a way it isn't, it's Hudson. I have my doubts he'd accept the job, but if it isn't offered they're nuts. [Update: Spoke today to Strikers president Tom Mulroy, who said, "I don't disagree! Ray was someone I thought about when I first took over the Strikers. However to the best of my knowledge he's in a great place with his current job."

SERENA BOUNCED FROM WIMBLEDON: No. 1-ranked five-time Wimbledon champ Serena Williams loses to somebody named Sabine Lisicki. Craziest fortnight I can recall. Now if we can get Novak Djokovic outta there it'll be complete mayhem.

NHL DRAFT: CATS SELECT EXPERIENCED VETERAN, 17: Only in the hockey draft might someone who 1aa1alekcan't legally sip a lager and who may not even shave yet be called a veteran, but that's the pitch on Aleksander (Sasha) Barkov, whom the Florida Panthers made the No. 2 overall pick Sunday. He is pictured 1aa1alek2right, at at left standing next to some other guy in front of a comically small car. Barkov is the coveted "big center" and at 17 -- I have socks older -- has already played two pro seasons in Finland and is said to be NHL-ready. That's good because Cats must sate their starving fans soon, not later. I also like that Florida eschewed defense for a more offense-minded pick. This kid alongside rookie-of-the-year left wing Jonathan Huberdeau is itself an exciting vision.

SOUTH KOREANS CONTINUE RUINATION OF AMERICAN WOMEN'S GOLF: Back in the day you didn't 1aa1inbeepfollow the LPGA just because it was boring. Now you don't follow the LPGA because you're sick of the South Korean takeover. Of course, by "you," I mean "me." South Korean Inbee Park won the U.S. Women's Open Sunday, her third straight major. In second and third place: I.K. Kim and So Yeon Ryu. I don't mind a healthy influx of foreign-born talent in any U.S. sport, but the LPGA is under seige. OK, I admit to being a jingoist; sue me. As for Inbee Park (pictured), I see more victories in her future, along with a possible NutriSysytem endorsement. WHOA! OUCH! Is that mean?

Poll results: Your call a Trayvon Martin a hung jury: I asked if, based on what you know of the case, you would find George Zimmerman guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and "no" led with 47.9 percent, while 40.3% voted "yes" and 11.8% were undecided/not sure. It was very even at first, then sentiment for acquittal gradually gained traction.

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June 25, 2013

Giancarlo Stanton gets nude!; plus let Heat enjoy this; also, Aaron Hernandez, still a football town?, Serena v. Maria, not-terrible Marlins & more

1aa1ljsi1) It is WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26. LeBron James is on cover of the newest Sports Illustrated, pictured. Heat today exercised team option to keep Mario Chalmers for next season. Smart move. 2) One of my musical heroes, Mavis Staples, has a new album out called One True Vine. Look forward to picking it up. (Yes, I sometimes still buy CDs!) Follow on Twitter @Mavis_Staples. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-among-our- greatest-sports-accomnplishments poll, Paula Deen mess.

Follow us on TWITTER @gregcote and INSTAGRAM @ upsetbird and VINE @ Greg Cote. New stuff from Heat celebration, 790 The Ticket.

Heat commemorative special section: It's out today in The Miami Herald and online, and my contribution is this column on how Dwyane Wade is the quiet cause of all this. It was Micky Arison's money, Pat Riley's gumption and LeBron James' talent ... but first it was Wade's willingness and sacrifice.

GREEK GOD-LIKE GIANCARLO STANTON GOES COMMANDO FOR ESPN 'BODY' ISSUE: It hits newsstands July 12 and athletes who'll be naked but artfully covered include Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton (pictured 1aa1gstantonright), 49ers QB Colin Kapernick, NBA'er John Wall, WNBA'er Swin Cash, tennis player John Isner, volleyballer Kerri Walsh-Jennings and (oh my) 77-year-old golfer Gary Player. Need to wrap my mind around that last one. I don't think even women married to 77-year-olds want to see them naked, 1aa1gstanton2but I may be wrong. Other athletes involved are NBA'er Kenneth Faried, the Mets' Matt Harvey, drag racer Courtney Force, 49er Vernon Davis, women's soccer's Sydney Leroux, golfer Carly Booth, NHL'er Joffrey Lupul, snowboarder Elena Hight, boxer Marlen Esparza, rock climbers Chris Sharma and Daila ojeda, UFC's Miesha Tate, motocross' Tarah Gieger and tennis player Agnieszka Radwanska. Stanton's spread might cause the most attention the Marlins have had all season. They should capitalize with a Stanton Night, in which the first 5,000 fans to show up nude get in free. Hopefully Stanton's photo shoot was a bit bit more creative and less ridiculous (if I can say that) than the previous Body Issue appearance of then-Marlin Hanley Ramirez. Although who among us hasn't ironed in the nude at some point?

ENOUGH! LET HEAT ENJOY WHAT THEY EARNED: Two recent slices of local media bothered me a little. The microscopic over-analysis was out even as South Florida threw itself a championship parade. Dan LeBatard on 790 The Ticket was playing psychologist by reading a newly defiant, angry, "how-do-you-like-me-now" attitude in the Heat in the wake of their second straight title. A jump-point was LeBron brandishing his championship trophy in one 1aa1jameslhand and Finals MVP trophy in the other in a showy manner. He also put out an Instagram video (click here) that showed him quite cocky. (Still from vid is pictured). I think we make too much of too little to see overriding arrogance here instead of guys just reveling. And, by the way, a bit of arrogance is probably justified, after all the turmoil and hatred this team went through in 2010-11. I have actually seen a fair amount of humility in this Heat team overall, especially in the way they lavished praise and respect upon the vanquished Spurs. In my own Miami Herald, there was a news story about LeBron being "noncommital" on his intentions beyond next season, when he'd be free to leave. The piece flew on this comment James made to CNN: "I don't know, because I haven't really even thought about it. So when that moment comes up, I will approach it like a professional  and we'll see what happens." How benign! What else should LeBron say? And yet the implication was that James being "noncommital" may bode darkly for Miami. Sure enough, LeBron came out a day later and said it would be the "ultimate finish" for the Big 3 to stay intact beyond next season. The over-analysis of this team takes no holiday.

Poll result: Hold on, Heat. Are we still a football town?: This gauge suggests so, anyway. I asked you to put the Heat's three championships including back-to-backers in context with Miami's other greatest team-sports feats, and you placed the Heat only third with 24.7 percent. The Dolphins' Perfect Season/1972-73 Super Bowls won with 40.3%, followed by UM's five football national championships with 31.3%. The Marlins' two World Series collected the remaining 3.7%.

WHILE WE WEREN'T WATCHING, THE MARLINS GOT PRETTY DECENT: The Fish still have the majors' worst record, yeah, but since May 31 (while we were all Heat-obsessed), they have been 13-9 to shower some of the stink and shame off themselves. They began a six-game homestand with a win last night, and with the local stage pretty much to themselves for a while, this would be a very good time to continue not stinking.

1aa1aaronhernPATRIOTS TIGHT END ARRESTED, LOSES BOTH ARMS: The arrested part is for sure. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, Dumbass Athlete, was taken into custody this morning and charged with murder. My speculation that Hernandez also has lost both arms is based entirely on this photographic evidence, which also indicates Aaron got fat. Oh, and the Pats just cut him. (Can you play tight end, Tebow? Just asking...)

Dumbass Athletes, continued: Mark Sanchez: I guess the phrase Nude Booty Dance about sums it up.

TENNIS CAT FIGHT!: I love this claws-out back and forth between tennis stars Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who are pictured here in more amiable days. This is a hell of 1aa1amiableas lot meatier than that little Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia tiff but with not nearly the attention. Serena makes clear in a magazine piece that Maria is dating one of her ex's, and Maria fires back -- in a post-match news conference! -- by stating that Serena had a relationship with a man "that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids." And all of this in the midst of Wimbledon! The British tabloids haven't been this happy since those topless pics of Kate Middleton materialized.

YOUR 2014 STANLEY CUP ODDS RIGHT HERE: The confetti hasn't even fallen in Chicago yet after Blackhawks' win last night and already Bovada has rushed out 2014 odds for Lord Stanley's chalice. Leaders are Pittsburgh at 13-2, champ Chicago at 15-2 and Boston at 9-1. Your lovable Florida Panthers? Thirtieth of 30 at 100-1.

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January 18, 2013

BRO BOWL! Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh! Ray Lewis! Ravens, 49ers in Super Bowl!; Ravens-Pats next; plus Panthers' big opening night, Jedd Fisch, Earl Weaver, Heat, Lance/Manti & more

1aa1earlw[1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 20. Click on Lance 'n Manti for my Sunday Random Evidence wiseass notes column, led by a skewering of this week's Liefest. 2) R.I.P., Earl Weaver (pictured), dead at 82. The colorful and cantankerous longtime former Orioles manager, who lived in Pembroke Pines, suffered a heart attack while on an O's fantasy cruise in Caribbean. Also, a farewell to the great Stan Musial. 3) WQAM rightly suspended Dan Sileo two days for cartoonishly sexist Tweets about Erin Andrews. C'mon, Sileo. Don't go so low with the shock-jock schtick. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Canes losing offensive coordinator: ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported that Hurricanes OC Jedd Fisch is leaving for the same post with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's a sizable loss. Be interesting to see what Al Golden does for a replacement, especially now that Mario Cristobal is on the staff.

NFL PREDIX: 49ERS, RAVENS MAKE IT A HAR-BOWL SUPER BOWL: OK, get ready , America, for the onslaught. More Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh than you can stomach. More Ray Lewis farewell than you can stand. Storyline overload! WHOOOOO! Original post: The possibility of a 49ers- 1aa1fripicksRavens Super Bowl -- Jim Harbaugh vs. John Harbaugh in the Bro Bowl -- is pretty good, but won't happen. John's Niners get in. Jim's Crows do not, which means the end of the line for Ray Lewis. Click on Championship Game Gems for full version of this week's latest NFL picks. And on First Family for my Friday NFL column. I write how the Harbaughs have (temporarily) unseated the Mannings atop league's geneological marquee, and on other stuff that makes this year's Final Four a good one no matter who advances. A synopsis of my picks:

1aa1afc-nNFC FINAL: 49ers 28, Falcons 24 -- Atalnta just isn't there yet. Almost blew it a week ago vs. Seattle, and today sqaundered a 17-0 second-quarter lead. Niners clearly the better team and proved it, though SF pushed against the spread. Original post: Home dogs always are so tempting in playoffs (especially with ATL 8-1 at home), but Niners are a more physical and better all-round team, and Falcons defense has had trouble defending the kind of dual-threat QB embodied by Colin Kaepernick. SF has too many weapons. My pick was: 49ers (-4), 24-17.

1aa1afcAFC FINAL: Ravens 28, Patriots 13 -- Pats were 67-0 when leading at halftime under Tom Brady ... until tonight. Give Ravens credit. Big defense and three TD passes by Joe Flacco. Original post: I like Baltimore getting nine points but not outright in the first AFC title-game rematch since 1986-87. Ravens usually defend Tom Brady comparatively well, but you just don't bet against Brady at home in winter-time, even missing Rob Gronkowski again. My pick was: Patriots (-9), 34-27.

HOCKEY'S BACK, EH! ROOKIE HUBERDEAU LEADS CATS' BIG IN OPENER: Panthers routed Carolina 5-1 last night here to launch the NHL season, with a goal and two assists from rookie Jonathan Huberdeau,

1aa1huberhatthe player of the game. Click on Earning the Ridiculous Red Hat for my column off the game. This season the Cats are having their guy voted player of the game wear a Three Musketeers-style hat in postgame interviews, and last night it looked more like a playful rookie hazing of the 19-year-old Huberdeau (pictured). Love it! Original post: Better late than never, Florida Panthers open their 19th NHL season tonight vs. Carolina in the Sunrise ice barn. I'll be there battling a deadline column. Cats won their first-ever division title last year to end a long playoff drought, and Carolina is one of the teams they'll have to beat to do that again so it's a big division test out the gate. Every game will seem a little bigger this season with the schedule truncated from 82 games to 48. Honestly I don't follow hockey intently but I do follow the Panthers closely. Love what GM Dale Tallon has done since arriving in 2010, second-year coach Kevin Dineen looks like the real deal, and I'm eager to see if young Jonathan Huberdeau will add needed scoring punch. Cats have a really good mix of veterans and rising talent. I had a nice long conversation with Dineen the other day and from that petri dish arose this preview column.

ALL IS WELL WITH HEAT AGAIN! (UNTIL NEXT LOSS...): Heat, off until Wednesday, ended a 3-3 western road swing on a high in L.A., 99-90 over the Lakers. Blearily I stayed up 'til 1:30 to watch LeBron James net 39 points, Dwyane Wade hit 27, and Kobe Bryant get hot too late. LeBron affirmed his BPE status (Best Player on Earth) for any doubters out there. Miami has struggled on the road and the Lakers are struggling, period, but this game still had an event/marquee feel and it was a nice win for the Heat. Lakers had the inside size to (theoretically) match up well with Miami, but tenacious D (pictured) and 

1aa1d-tenLeBron at his best were plenty. So it's official, then. All is well and Heat-repeat chances look good again. Until the next loss, of course. With this team, premature panic never quite disappears, right? It just lays dormant ... waiting.

Poll result: Manti Lie'o: We asked in the previous blogpost if you thought Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o was a liar or the victim of a hoax in the bizarre dead-girlfriend-who-never existed story. More than two-thirds, 68.4 percent, said liar, and only 6.7% said victim. Another 24.9% voted "not sure."

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January 04, 2013

NFL playoffs' boring first round: Seahawks, Ravens advance, join Texans, Packers. What's your rooting interest? Vote!; plus NHL ends lockout, Heat, 'Bama, FIU & more

[1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 6. I'm already tired of Rex Ryan's tattoo but this interests me. Sexy Sofia Vergara involved in Miami nightclub skirmish, falls to floor as breast pops out of dress. I couldn't say it if it werent true; this is a blog! Click here for more. 2) Heat waive guard Terrel Harris. 3) Am told Alabama as a team will see a private screening of 'Zero Dark Thirty' tonight to get pumped for Monday's game. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

1aa1catsNHL, players agree to end lockout: Happened early this morning. A 48-game (or perhaps 50) season is expected to begin no later than Jan. 18. Panthers fans, rejoice! The rest of you, go about your business as usual.

1aa1fripix1NFL PLAYOFFS: PREVIEW, PREDIX, POLL: Here I offer my predictions for this weekend's first round of the playoffs, which I dislike calling Wild-Card Weekend as the NFL does because half of the eight teams playing are not wild-card teams. Anyway, I like all four underdogs with the points and all four home teams, meaning one outright upset. Click on Playoff Round 1 Gems for the full version of our picks; here is a synopsis, chronologically:

FINAL: TEXANS d. BENGALS, 19-13 -- Arian Foster and big defense carry the day as Cincy held without offensive TD. Original post: Houston backing in, Cincy hotter, but Bengals last won a playoff in 1990, and Texans much more talented. Arian Foster runs big, J.J. Watt harrasses Andy Dalton. [My pick was: Texans (-4 1/2), 24-21. Playoff record: 1-0 outright; 0-1 vs. spread].

1aa1fripixFINAL: PACKERS d. VIKINGS, 24-10 -- Aaron Rodgers was great as expected, and Joe Webb in for injured Christian Ponder doomed Vikes' upset shot. Original post: Tough to beat Gee Bees twice in a year, let alone twice in two weeks. Return of Charles Woodson big for Pack defense, and Aaron Rodgers comes up huge. [My pick was: Packers (-7 1/2), 31-24. Playoff record: 2-0 outright, 0-2 vs. spread].

FINAL: RAVENS d. COLTS, 24-9 -- Vintage Baltimore defense reminiscent of past years and a big day by Anquan Boldin carries the Crows. Original post: Lots of emotion here, with Ray Lewis facing his final game and the Chuck Pagano story. I see Lewis' return from 10 games out and the home field carrying the day. [My pick was: Ravens (-6 1/2), 27-23. Playoff record: 3-0 outright, 0-3 vs. spread]

FINAL: SEAHAWKS d. REDSKINS, 24-14 -- Thought I was looking foof at 14-0, Skins. RG3's injury didn't help. Original post: Upset! Seattle has not been a very good road team (3-5) and I'll take Robert Griffin III at home in a rookie-QB duel that should make this the game of the weekend. [My pick was: Redskins (+3), 24-23. Playoff record: 3-1 outright; 0-4 vs. spread]

Click Logic Vs. Sentiment for my Friday Page column. I rank the playoff teams 1 through 12 based on best chance to win the Super Bowl (Logic) and also based on my own Independent Rooting Interest scale (Sentiment). The column also includes my six end-of-season league awards plus my Dolphins MVP.

OK, your turn. Which team do you most hope wins the Super Bowl? I know 20 of 32 teams aren't in the playoffs, so about 63 percent of all fans including Dolfans aren't as passionately drawn. But don't fans develop a rooting interest in the playoffs even when their team isn't in it? I bet yes. Remember, this poll is not asking who you predict will win the Super Bowl. It's asking who you hope does. You can even still vote for teams that have been eliminated, if you wish. Vote and say why.

FIU RECYCLES, HIRES RON TURNER: Last month FIU and athletics boss Pete Garcia prematurely and 1aa1fiuronunwisely fired bright young football coach Mario Cristobal. Now the school introduces his replacement, Ron Turner, 59 (pictured), a college and pro journeyman coach who is seen as an offensive specialist and quarterbacks guru. My concern is that Turner hasn't coached collegiately in almost a decade, since Illinois fired him after the 2004 season. He was 35-57 in eight years with the Illini. In 2001 he was 10-2 and lost in the Sugar Bowl but apart from that didn't do much. I wonder how a 60ish guy out of the college game so long will be as a recruiter. Turner signed a five-year contract but I doubt Garcia's patience will last that long. The upside? Ron has a more normal first name than his brother, Norv.     

HEAT BIG 5 @ 30: The blog loves bells 'n whistles especially of the nerdy-stat variety and so this season 1aa1heat5we started this new one we are running throughout Heat season at five-game intervals (except we skipped @25; oops). It's a top-five cumulative ranking of the players having the biggest overall impact this season based on eight statistical categories. We continue with The Big 5 @ 30 Games (22-8, before Friday night's loss to Bulls):

Rank (@20)   Player   Total

1 (1)   LeBron James   1,146.1

2 (2)   Chris Bosh   746.5

3 (3)   Dwyane Wade   703.5

4 (4)   Ray Allen   475.0

5 (5)   Mario Chalmers   447.7

Bubble: Shane Battier, 316.3

Poll result: Sorry, Nick. We still don't like you: I wrote this week that Dolfans should finally forgive Nick Saban, six years later, for the way he left Miami for Alabama, and asked in a poll if you agree. You didn't. Don't-forgive had 70.4 percent to only 21.5% who said forgive, with the other 8.1% undecided. So if you get booed Monday night, Nick, don't take it personally. Actually ... do take it personally.    

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