June 20, 2016

He's King James again! LeBron, Cavs win NBA title: Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring NBA Game 7, Ichiro, U.S. vs.Messi, UM stumble, golf, O.J., Fins, Strikers; plus your verdict on LeBron rooting interest & more

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

Fatherday1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 20. Hope it was a Happy Father's Day to all of my fellow padres and papis! I'm blessed that my wife gave us two wonderful boys who are now terrific young men. Also thinking of my own Dad, who is dearly remembered and loved. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): I root for LeBron in Game 7 with poll, Canes baseball debuts in Omaha, U.S. soccer braces for Messi, Florida teams on Twitter, R.I.P. Prince Be your Home Run Derby verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat. 

Six-pack: Selected recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Rooting For LeBron to Make History, the latest, on our treasonous hopes for Sunday's Game 7. Ichiro's Milestone is Huge Whether Rose Agrees Or Not, on Marlins' Ichiro's hits milestone. The Weight of Tradition, off Canes' Omaha-clinching baseball win. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Ali set template for individuality in 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.

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

Hotbutton1. NBA: LeBron, Cavs make history in Game 7 triumph: Cleveland became the first team ever to be champions after trailing 3-1 in an NBA Finals as they won 93-89 at Golden State Sunday night, denying a Warriors team seeking to cap its record-setting regular season with a second straight title. LeBron James, who thoroughly outplayed Stephen Curry, was named Finals MVP. No matter the result, basketball fans were getting a Game 7 for the ages and, as it turned out, an historic finish. (Click on Rooting For LeBron to Make History, for my latest column, distinctly a minority opinion in Miami).
 
2. MARLINS: Fish on playoff pace, Ichiro surpasses Rose in hits, sort of: Fish have won five of past six and surged into playoff pace while Ichiro is within 20 hits of 3,000 in MLB entering Monday play with Miami in midst of 10-game homestand that will include four-game visit by mighty Cubs. Ichiro last week surpassed Pete Rose's career total if you include his Japan hits, which nobody does. Especially grumpy Pete.
 
3. SOCCER: U.S. reaches semifinals in Copa America: While Euro '16 moves to its knockout stage in France, Copa America Centenario being played in the U.S. is down to its semifinals. The host Americans made it and face a Tuesday semifinal vs. Argentina after La Albiceleste won Saturday night as expected. That will mean a suspensions-depleted U.S. team will have to defend Argentina's brilliant goal machine Lionel Messi. Oy! 
 
4. HURRICANES: UM faces early must-win in College World Series: Coach Jim Morris' Canes are already feeling their backs to a wall after losing 5-1 to Arizona Saturday night in their opener of the double-elimination College World Series. Miami plays UC-Santa Barbara Monday afternoon in a fight for survival. Only the top-ranked Florida Gators arrived in Omaha with better odds to win the title than UM's 5-1.
 
5. GOLF: Johnson wins rain-ravaged U.S. Open: American Dustin Johnson won the weather-ravaged U.S. Open at Oakmont by three strokes -- luckily for the USGA, which penalized him one stroke for a dubious rules infraction and would have come under fire had that cost him the win. Rain wrecked the first round and the schedule so that Phil Mickelson and others had to play 36 holes on Friday. U.S Open is only major Phil hasn't won, unfortunately still the case as he missed the cut.

6. O.J. SIMPSON: 'Made in America' doc revisits infamous trial: ESPN has been airing its five-part, 7 1/2-hour 30 for 30 documentary and it has met with mostly rave reviews, though some see it as a laborious rehash of what anybody under 35 knows well and probably followed intently as it was happening in 1995. The trial itself, from jury selection to verdict, lasted almost 11 months. This documentary seemed longer.

7. DOLPHINS: Offseason done, now Fins on hiatus 'til camp: Miami completed its offseason work with this week's three-day mandatory minicamp, which Reshad Jones finally showed up at after skipping the first day in a contract dispute, and now Fins are off until start of full training camp in late July. Meantime NFL.com is counting down the NFL's Top 100 players and it includes Fins Jarvis Landry 98th, Jones 64th and Ndamukong Suh 40th, with the top 30 yet to be revealed.

8. NHL: Three Panthers among awards-show finalists: Annual NHL Awards Show is this Wednesday, and Panthers finalists are Gerard Gallant (Adams award/coach of year), Jaromir Jagr (Masterton/perseverance) and Aleksander Barkov (Lady Byng/sportsmanship). NHL needs to name an award for the late Gordie Howe, and I'll bet will by next year. 

9. STRIKERS: Fort Lauderdale still alive in U.S. Open Cup: Soccer's all-comers tournament is down to its final 16 teams, 14 of them from MLS. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers and New York Cosmos of the second-tier NASL are the others. FTL's round-of-16 match is June 29 at MLS' Orlando City.

10. FATHER'S DAY: Happy our day, fellow Dads: Sunday was Father's Day, and of course there are fathers on every team all across sports, although some of that is pending the outcome of paternity suits.

Missing the cut: FIU fires longtime baseball coach Turtle Thomas. Could be a good decision. Although it's just so tough imagining AD Pete Garcia making one of those ..... The NBA Draft is this Thursday, but the since the Miami Heat have no picks, it's dead to us ..... Daniel Suarez became first Mexican to win a NASCAR national-level race. Donald Trump announced plans to build a wall around his career ..... Dish drops NFL Network and NFL RedZone over a fee dispute. Not a problem. It isn't as if any of their subscribers watch football or anything (!) ..... "We won the offseason," said Rex Ryan, coach of a team that last made the playoffs in 1999 ..... It's 12 days 'til start of NBA free agency. In a weird coincidence, it's also 12 days 'til Hassan Whiteside buys something silly-expensive ..... That reminds me. Udonis Haslem said he'll be working out with Chris Bosh this summer. More pertinent: Will Bosh be back in uniform next season? ..... Fired Canes football coach Al Golden, now on the Lions staff, addressed his departure from UM but said so little it isn't worth repeating ..... Ravens waived tackle Eugene Monroe. They said it had nothing to do with his public advocacy of medical marijuana. "Yeah, right," said the entire country in unison ..... 'Too Much Information' redefined: When Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro were teammates in Seattle, as a pregame routine, Griffey would tickle Ichiro until he began sweating ..... Dear pitchers who want in on the Home Run Derby: the Derby is bad enough with real hitters in it. Stay in your lane ..... Answer: There reportedly will be a family fight over Muhammad Ali's $50 million estate. Question: Wait, isn't death supposed to bring people together? ..... Russia's entire track and field team has been banned from the Rio Olympics for doping. Too bad. If only they awarded a gold medal for cheating ..... Good for ESPN inviting leukemia-fighting Craig Sager to work the NBA Finals' Game 6 sideline ..... Jeremy Foley retiring after 25 years as Florida Gators athletic director -- and a good one ..... Countdown 8 days 'til Wimbledon ..... NHL is awarding an expansion team to Las Vegas. Like most who are new to Vegas, it figures to lose big right away ..... Two groups have bid around $4.1 billion to buy UFC. Still trying to find out who bid against me ..... The 24 Hours of Le Mans was Saturday. Let me find out who won so I can pretend to have heard of him ..... Dear Baylor athletic donors who want Art Briles rehired. Use some of that money to go buy a conscience ..... Answer: Cowboys RB Darren McFadden fractured an elbow trying to keep his iPhone from hitting the ground. Question: "What do you mean athletes sometimes injure themselves in stupid ways?" ..... Starting a new expression: "Man, you uglier than Steph Curry's Under Armor sneakers!"

Poll result: Most rooting against LeBron Sunday, but plenty of support, too: We asked if you'll be rooting for or against LeBron James in Sunday night's NBA Finals Game 7, and it was 60.2 percent "against" and 39.8% "for."

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 11, 2016

A brutal appraisal of Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill: Fair or out-of-bounds? Poll. Vote now!; plus quick hits (updated) on Sharapova, LeBron, Fish, Steeltown, MLB Draft; also, when Ali met Marino, Forbes' rich-athletes list, verdict on Ali v. Jordan & more

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

Alimarino1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 11. Headed down to Canes baseball today to see if UM can beat Boston College again and advance to the College World Series. 2) Miami sports icons: The Louisville memorial service for Muhammad Ali was yesterday. Pictured right: the time Ali and Dan Marino posed playfully as if about to fight. Based on appearance of both, I'd estimate the photo as late-'80s. Click on image to see it larger. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking Ali among century's greatest athletes poll, Cassius Clay music video, R.I.P. Kimbo Slice, D.Wade in bed, the wonder of Jose, Game of Thrones, Crisis of Character & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 5: My five most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals, the latest, on LeBron James angling to take back best-player crown from Steph Curry. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Ali set template for individuality in 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. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional.

"Oh. Well then. If former NBA career scrub Brian Scalabrine says he wouldn't be shocked if Kevin Durant signed with Miami, I guess we can start the party now!" --Greg Cote

RtannyCBS SPORTS' BRUTAL APPRAISAL OF TANNEHILL: FAIR OR OUT-OF-BOUNDS?: CBS Sports NFL writer Jason LaCanfora this week ranks all 32 starting quarterbacks and divides them into seven "tiers," with Miami's Ryan Tannehill's ranked in the sixth tier entitled, 'Good Luck With These Guys.' The seventh tier is an "incomplete" on the two rookie starters, so, in effect, Tannehill is lumped on the bottom rung of starters, along with the likes of Tyrod Taylor and Blaine Gabbert. Seems harsh to me. Clearly, you wouldn't place Tannehill in tiers 1 (Bona Fide Franchise QBs) or 2 (Top Pros, Proven Winners). But, arguably, he might have belonged somewhere in tiers 3 (Rising Stars) or 4 (Guys That Can be Winning QBs). Instead LaCanfora ranks Tannehill as no better than 25th of 32 starting QBs, and writes, "Not sure he is going to be Adam Gase's cup of tea. He doesn't make big-boy reads or throws and is very limited downfield. Still looks pretty rudimentary to me." (Click here to see LaCanfora's full story and list). Curious how you feel about the largely negative appraisal of Tannehill as he enters his fifth season, approaching age 28 and still looking for his first playoff berth. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do?

QUICK HITS: ON SHARAPOVA'S PUNISHMENT, NBA FINALS, MARLINS, STANLEY CUP, MLB DRAFT: Let's be fast with this, rat-a-tat-tat...

Sharapova: She's right. Her 2-year ban is harsh: No doubt it is the responsibility of athletes -- and their doctors -- to be aware of what substances are on a banned list that marks them as PEDs. But the punishers must put violations in context. In this case Maria Sharapova for many years was prescribed meldonium, a drug said to boost oxygen and blood flow, because of a family history of heart issues. It did not go on the banned-substance list (and become tennis-"illegal") until Jan. 1, after which she tested positive and immediately stopped using it. Sharapova, 29, is appealing the two-year suspension as "unfairly harsh." She's right. Six months or the next two majors seems closer to fair.

NBA Finals: Warriors still winning, but LeBron-Curry percolates: Golden State is up 3-1 after last night's win in Cleveland, with a chance to put it away at home Monday night. But the series within the series -- LeBron James vs. Steph Curry -- is closer, and has been fascinating, with King James seemingly determined to take back the crown (NBA's Best Player) snatched from him by Steph. James is averaging 24.8 points in the four games. Curry is at 21.5 after popping 38 last night. Click on LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals to read my latest column.

Marlins: Call to the bullpen means uh-oh: Fish won a second straight last night but bullpen has been off lately. It's weird, because closer A.J. Ramos has converted 28 consecutive save opportunities. It's everybody else who stinks. Giancarlo Stanton's funk is hurting Miami, but relief pitching is hurting more. Another thing: Miami's record this season against the two worst teams is the majors (Braves, Twins) is 2-7. (But Ichiro keeps hitting!)

Stanley Cup Finals: Rooting for a city, not a team: Pittsburgh leads San Jose 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday. Penguins can close out their fourth Cup title (1991, 1992, 2009), while San Jose is playing in its first Stanley Cup Finals in its 24th season. The latter fact would normally have me rooting for the Sharks, but I tend to root for cities when I don't care about either team, and in this case, my sensibilities are much closer to blue-collar Pittsburgh than to Silicon Valley San Jose. So, go Pens.

MLB Draft: Marlins take lefty, Canes' Zack Collins goes top-10: Baseball has never been able to package its draft to compete with the NFL's or even the NBA's for allure. Nevertheless! Marlins picked seventh overall and took Alabama high-school lefty pitcher Braxton Garrett. Hurricanes catcher Zack Collins went 10th overall to the White Sox.

FORBES' LATEST LIST OF PEOPLE MUCH RICHER THAN YOU AND I: Forbes' 2016 list of world's 100 highest-paid athletes in combined salary/winnings and endorsements finds soccer star Cristiano CristianoronaldoRonaldo (pictured) No. 1 at $88 million. Rounding out the top five: Lionel Messi 81.4M, LeBron James 77.2, Roger Federer 67.8 and Kevin Durant 56.2. Click here for full list. Heat's Dwyane Wade tops Miami athletes at No. 33 with $32 million. (Oddly, Wade, who wears No. 3, also was 33rd on ESPN's recent World Fame 100 list). Palm Beach's Serena Williams is 40th at 28.9M, Heat's Chris Bosh is 55th at 25.2 and (surprisingly) Heat's Joe Johnson is 77th at 22.9. Notable among the ex's on the list: Former Cane and Dolphin Olivier Vernon is 39th at $29 million, verifying the free-agent deal he got from the Giants makes him -- based on career accomplishment -- maybe pro sports' most overpaid athlete at the moment. Conspicuously absent from Forbes' list is Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton -- conspicuous considering he signed a 13-year, $325 million contract. Explanation: He is making "only" $9 million this season because his contract is heavily back-loaded, a reason cynics might imagine he'll be a Marlin for the next few bargain years of the deal and then perhaps be traded when the mega-bucks begin to kick in.

AliPoll result: Ali edges Jordan for greatest American athlete of 20th Century: We gave you 15 candidates (based on ESPN's SportsCentury list) and invited you to pick your top three. Based on that consensus Muhammad Ali (pictured) edged Michael Jordan for No. 1 overall by 23.06 percent to 22.12%. Those two dominated. A distant third was Babe Ruth with 8.85%, and rounding out your Mount Rushmore is Jackie Robinson with 6.84%. Also challenging for the top four with substantial support were Jim Brown (with 6.43%), Jim Thorpe (6.17%), Jesse Owens (6.03%) and Wayne Gretzky (5.63%). The next tier were Jack Nicklaus (3.08%), Willie Mays (2.68%) and Hank Aaron (2.55%). Pulling up the rear were Wilt Chamberlain (1.61%), Babe Zaharias (1.07%) and Carl Lewis and Joe Louis (both 0.94%). The remaining 2% voted "someone else."

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 06, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Muhammad Ali, NBA Finals, Doral, Jose, Copa America, UM baseball, French, Cats logo, Fins; plus new columns on Ali and Richard Bleier, the Everybody Sucks vote & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 6. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Muhammad Ali 1942-2016, your Panthers logo verdict & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

New columns on Muhammad Ali, Richard Bleier: The death of Ali, with so much of his history interwoven with Miami, is seismic. Overshadowed but still a sweet story worth your time: the struggles and rise of Richard Bleier. Links to both of my latest columns are immediately below.

"How did the world first learn that Muhammad Ali had died? America's most trusted news source: Marlins Park Jumbotron." --Greg Cote

The Last 5: My five most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, the latest, on how Ali set the template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, also new, on Richard Bleier's long climb to the Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on the PGA Tour leaving Doral. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional. The Under Pressure 12, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure.

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

Hotbutton1. MUHAMMAD ALI: Legendary boxing great passes away at 74: G.O.A.T. Greatest Of All Time. Ali might have been that in the ring. He definitely was that beyond boxing, a groundbreaking societal and cultural icon who probably was the most influential athlete of the 20th Century. R.I.P. to a true American original. Thank you, Champ. You said, "I am the greatest!" And you weren't lying.

2. NBA: Golden State in early command over LeBron, Cleveland: Warriors won NBA Finals Game 1 by 15 points despite Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shooting a combined 8-for-27, then won Game 2 last night 110-77 despite their two stars combining for a modest 35 points. Cleveland says it is still "Believeland," but, down 2-0 entering Wednesday's Game 3, it feels closer to "Grieveland." 

3. GOLF: PGA Tour leaves Doral, Miami after 55 years: A local tradition since 1962 died when Tour said it was leaving Donald Trump’s Doral course for Mexico City. Oh, the rich irony! But, hey, maybe Trump can get his wall built fast enough to keep the event from crossing the border!

4. MARLINS: Red-hot Jose stays en fuego on mound: Fish hit the road for nine games now after wrapping up their homestand Sunday against the Mets. Jose Fernandez, after going 6-0 in May with a 1.38 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 39 innings, matched a career-high 14 strikeouts Sunday in a 1-0 win. At this rate, if Miami stays in playoff chase, Fernandez will have Cy Young's attention.

5. HURRICANES: UM wins, advances to NCAA super-regional here: UM led Long Beach State 8-1 and hung on to win 9-8 last night here to win its NCAA Regional. The Hurricanes will now host Boston College in a super-regional this coming weekend in a best-oo-three series, with the winner advancing to the College World Series. More heavy stakes at The Light.

6. SOCCER: Host U.S. bows badly as Copa America gets underway: The 100th Copa America tournament finds favored Argentina debuting Monday night, led by Lionel Messi if his back issues and tax owes allow him. Meanwhile a very disappointing 2-0 opening loss to Colombia puts the American side in early trouble in the event it is hosting. A poor showing by the U.S. cojuld jeopardize the coaching future of Jurgen Klinsmann, according to a rumor I just started.

7. TENNIS: Serena falls in French Open final, Novak gets career Slam: Little-known Spaniard Garbine Muguruza denied Serena Williams her record-tying 22nd major in the French women's final. But in Sunday's men's final Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray to complete his personal career Grand Slam. Serena couldn't make history. Novak did.

8. PANTHERS: Cats unveil new logo to lukewarm response: Lukewarm is putting it generously. Nearly 70 percent preferred the old leaping-cat logo in our blog poll. The new shield design seems generic, right off the Logos 101 cookie-cutter. Then again, as long as you win, Panthers, nobody will much care.
 
9. NHL: Pittsburgh's Finals lead over San Jose cut to 2-1: Three one-goal games, two decided in overtime. Looks like Lord Stanley has himself a pretty good Finals after all. San Jose tries to tie it at home Monday night. Stanley Cup, do you know the way to San Jose? (Sorry).
 
10. DOLPHINS: Fins resume practices, move exhibition game: Miami stages four more OTA practices Monday through Thursday. Meanwhile team announced its exhibition home opener vs. Atlanta would be played in Orlando. And the preseason home finale could be played at FAU. They insist this has nothing to do with stadium renovation delays, but nobody believes them.

Missing the cut: Davie's Nova Southeastern won the NCAA Division II national championship in baseball. Top that, Hurricanes! ..... Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds admitted in an interview he'd been surly and acted stupid much of his career. Intended result: "Aw, he ain't so bad, after all!" thought Hall of Fame voters ..... Who in God's name is Michael Bisping? ..... We are two months from scheduled start of Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And other than the Zika virus threat, the bacteria-infested waters and the massive construction delays, everything looks good! ..... Heat announced its three preseasom home games, for those of you who like to plan four months in advance to attend games that don't matter ..... There are 75 names on the latest College Football Hall of Fame ballot and, egregiously, Howard Schnelleneberger still is not one of them ..... UM's Sinead Lohan reached final four of NCAA women's tennis singles before losing ..... ESPN  has a new 30 for 30 documentary on O.J. Simpson. Spoiler alert: He did it, but was acquitted ..... Disgraced and dethroned FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his regime took $80 million in bonuses on their way out. Blatter: The Gift That Keeps On Taking ..... Dwyane Wade was 33rd in ESPN's "World Fame 100" rankings, further proof ESPN will make a list about anything ..... This just in. Knicks boss Phil Jackson has announced he'll be taking credit for all of new coach Jeff Hornacek's wins.

EverybodysucksBIPARTISAN POLITICAL INSULT: I am aware that much of America considers the looming presidential election to be the lesser of two evils. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are untrusted and disliked by many. Tens of millions of votes will be cast mainly to keep the other person out. I personally find one candidate much more evil than the other, but, in the bipartisan spirit of hating both, I present a photo that I found funny and that, to many, is sadly accurate. The best part of the photo, to me? The gentleman's genial smile as he holds the placard declaring America is doomed. Also -- wait a second. Hey! Is that guy shooting a bird at us!?

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 03, 2016

U.S. Soccer: Confessions of a not-always-unbiased sports columnist; plus like Panthers' new logo? Poll. Vote!; also, Muhammad Ali, Jose Fernandez's monster May, locals in 'World Fame 100,' Doral-PGA divorce, your NBA Finals verdict & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, JUNE 3. I Tweeted out last night I think the Cavaliers will upset the Warriors and win the NBA Finals, but Game 1 did not feather that nest. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shoot a combined 8-for-27 and Golden State still sails, that's a bad sign for Cleveland. 2) Still cannot fathom that the Doral-PGA Tour divorce was not preventable. See link below for my column on the subject. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): PGA Tour dumps Doral, Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals polls, Tannehill 'wins' under-pressure vote, UM baseball & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 4: My four most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, the latest, on the PGA Tour leaving Doral. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional. The Under Pressure 12, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure. The Long and Extraordinary Life of Charley Winner, catching up with the longtime former Dolphins executive.

Is end near for Muhammad Ali?: The legendary boxer, 74, whose career bloomed in Miami's 5th Street Gym, is hospitalized and today reportedly on life support with respiratory issues. He has suffered from Parkinson's disease and been in unsteady health for years. We wish for the full recovery.of one of America's bigger-than-sports sports icons.

CONFESSIONS OF A NOT-QUITE-ALWAYS-UNBIASED SPORTS COLUMNIST: The U.S. men's soccer team begins play vs. Colombia tonight at 9:30 in the Copa America tournament being held in Ussoccer
Copaamericathis country throughout June. I have a rooting interest, because I am an American before I am a journalist. Call it jingoism; I call it patriotism. I love my country. In a mood, I can get emotional during the national anthem. I get emotional watching the American squad parade en masse during an Olympic opening ceremony. And when U.S. soccer (men or women) is in a World Cup game or a major tournament like the Copa America, yes, I root for "us." (It is nothing personal, Colombia. I love that your supporters are passionate, too). If it is my country playing, I don't even bother to feign the neutrality that is otherwise a part of my profession. I do maintain that neutral curtain when covering our local pro teams. Even though I grew up a Dolphins fan, for example, I cannot be the child-fan I was when covering that team. I am a journalist covering the Dolphins. I am an American first watching U.S. soccer. Can you understand that? I hope so. But if not, I'll still be at home tonight (hopefully) cheering that first U.S. goal, and unabashedly so.

FLORIDA PANTHERS LOGO CHANGE: SHIELD REPLACES LEAPING CAT. GOOD IDEA?: The Marlins and Dolphins have both made significant logo changes in recent years, and now the Florida Panthers have done the same, jettisoning the original 1993-minted leaping panther, the claws-out version seeming to come at you in 3D, in favor of the head of a panthers pictured in a shield

Panthersoldlogo
ORIGINAL LOGO
Panthersnewlogo
NEW LOGO

under the word Florida. The old and new logos are pictured here. A logo change can be good, invigorating, as well as a boon to merchandise sales. Cha-ching. A logo change can be, bad, too. It can mess with tradition; it might prove unpopular. I liked the old/original Panthers logo, but I also get the desire for change after 23 years. The new logo is sleek, hard to dislike. It is inspired by the U.S. Army 101st Airborne shield, although I must say it reads more like a soccer logo, with that sports prone to shields and crests. I also would note the new logo is closer to the Carolina Panthers' logo than the original one was. Bottom line, for me? I'd-a probably kept the old one. It was more original. Different. The new one reads as more generic. Logo 101. But I'm more interested in what you think. You needn't be a passionate or even casual Panthers or hockey fan to vote. You can come at it from an artistic vantage or simply vote which design you'd rather have on your chest on a jersey. Vote and say why, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

JosefJOSE SHOULD ENTER CY YOUNG CHATTER THANKS TO MONSTROUS MAY: The NL Cy Young race has two clear frontrunners in Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta. No denying that. Kershaw, who won in 2013-14, has 105 strikeouts and five walks. Arrieta, who won last year, is 9-0 for the best team in baseball. That's a tall climb for Jose Fernandez. But the Marlins ace had better have at least joined the conversation after an historically good month of May. He is only the third starting pitcher since 1893 to be 6-0 with at least 50 strikeouts in May. The others: Roger Clemens in 1997 and Pedro Martinez in 1999 -- both of whom won the Cy Young that year. That's Cooperstown-quality company. (See how those three months compare below). Fernandez is now 22-1 in his career at Marlins Park. His starts have become must-see; his next one scheduled is here Sunday vs. the Mets. Jose staying in the Cy Young race will depend on him hanging statistically with Kershaw and Arrieta, but it also will depend on the Marlins hanging in the playoff chase, as they are now, just 1 1/2 games back in the wild-card standings. If Jose keeps pitching like it's May and is seen as the main reason Miami could end a 13-year postseason drought, he'll have a fighter's shot at the Cy. Here are the three greatest months of May by starting pitchers in MLB history:

Player, Team (Year)                        Record      ERA    K-BB / IP      Opp BA

Roger Clemens, Blue Jays (1997)      6-0        1.96   51-13 / 46.0   .215

Pedro Martinez, Red Sox (1999)        6-0        1.84   69-9 / 44.0     .228

Jose Fernandez, Marlins (2016)         6-0        1.38    56-11 / 39.0   .200

THE LIST: MARLINS IN CY YOUNG VOTING: Eight Marlins pitchers have received votes for the NL Cy Young Award. They are listed in order of most voting points (VP):

Pitcher                     Year    VP (1st)    Finished

Dontrelle Willis        2005   112 (11)    2nd 

Kevin Brown            1996    88 (2)       2nd

Jose Fernandez        2013    62 (0)       3rd

Josh Johnson           2010    34 (0)       5th

Carl Pavano             2004    6 (0)        6th

Bryan Harvey           1993   1 (0)         T8th

Al Leiter                  1996    1 (0)        T9th

Henderson Alvarez   2014   1 (0)        12th

Worldfame100 SerenaSERENA, D-WADE, OTHER SOFLA ATHLETES IN ESPN'S 'WORLD FAME 100': ESPN loves lists and analytics and celebrates fame like a schoolgirl, so naturally it has an annual "world fame" ranking that factors salary, endorsements, social media following and Google search popularity. The top five on the new one: 1st Cristiano Ronaldo, 2nd LeBron James, 3rd Lionel Messi, 4th Neymar and 5th Roger Federer. (Click here for full list). South Florida athletes who make it are 25th Serena Williams (from Palm Beach, pictured), 33rd Dwyane Wade, 68th Chris Bosh, 74th Venus Williams and (surprisingly, to me) 79th Amar'e Stoudemire. One SoFla ex- on the list besides LeBron: 88th Miguel Cabrera.

Poll: Landslide, twice! You predict Golden State will win NBA Finals, and want Warriors to win, too: Sorry, LeBron. Not a lot of love emanating from Miami or, as your geography puts it, South Beach. We asked which team you wanted to win and it was Warriors 75.8 percent to Cavaliers 24.2%. We asked which team you predict will win and it was Warriors 79.8% to Cavaliers 20.2%. For our viewing pleasure starting with Game 1 tonight, may the series be closer than these polls!

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 30, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); plus who's feeling most heat in South Florida sports? 12 choices, you pick 3. Poll. Vote!; also, Memorial Day, long climb of Richard Bleier, extraordinary life of Charley Winner, your verdict on SB turf wars & more

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

Memorialday1) It is MONDAY, MAY 30. Remembering and honoring America's war dead on this Memorial Day. We are the land of the free because of the  brave, and these were the bravest. See our Memorial Day tribute video below. 2) Thoughts and best wishes to former Hurricanes receiver Brett Perriman on his recovery in Atlanta from a stroke. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Turf Wars on Super Bowl name with poll, rooting for LeBron, your preferred NBA Finals matchup & more. 4) 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: The Under Pressure 12, the new one, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure. The Long and Extraordinary Life of Charley Winner, catching up with the longtime former Dolphins executive. Whale Watching Expedition, on how Heat's best shot for a chance at Kevin Durant or LeBron James this summer is for Miami fans to hope LeBron wins the NBA title.

PressureUNDER PRESSURE: WHO'S FEELING THE HEAT IN SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS: My latest Sunday column (click The Under Pressure 12 to read in full) explores the topic of pressure and lists the dozen South Florida sports figures who are or should be feeling the most of it. The reason vary, starting with No. 1 on our list, Chris Bosh, whose medical situation puts him under a much different pressure than Ryan Tannehill, who must win, or Giancarlo Stanton, who must perform to the tune of $325 million. Everyone has his own definition of pressure in sports and their own thoughts on who's under it. I am curious what you think. Take a dip in our poll, the dozen choices listed alphabetically, and vote for the three (3) you think are or should be under the most pressure. Then check back often to monitor evolving results.

Vote for your top three (3):

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

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: NFL rewards Stephen Ross, names Dolphins stadium as 2020 SB host: Miami and a refurbished, canopied Dolphins stadium in 2020 will host its first Super Bowl since 2010, thanks to a vote of NFL owners this week. Your city hosting a Super Bowl? Good. Your city playing in one? Infinitely better.

2. NBA: LeBron awaits Oklahoma City-Golden State Game 7 winner tonight: Well, Heat fans are guaranteed at least four more games to cheer or boo. LeBron's in the Finals! The question is who Cleveland will face, with Oklahoma City going to a Game 7 at Golden State tonight. LeBron vs. Kevin Durant or LeBron vs. Steph Curry. Fans can't lose.

3. MARLINS: Jose en fuego; Fish finally figure out Braves: Miami is hanging within striking distance of playoff contention and one reason is ace Jose Fernandez, who in last four starts has allowed three runs with 43 strikeouts in 27 innings. Fish are back home this week and Jose pitches Tuesday. Meanwhile Miami finally figured out Atlanta. Before yesterday the Braves had been are 5-0 vs. Miami, 9-34 against everybody else.

4. SOCCER: Real Madrid reigns, now Copa America on deck: It was Real Madrid beating Atletico Madrid on penalties Saturday after a 1-1 game in the UEFA Champions League final. Now comes Copa America June 3-26 in 10 U.S. cities, with the U.S. team debuting this coming Friday vs. Colombia. A championship by the hosts? That’s the goooooaaaaalll!

5. NHL: It’s a Pittsburgh-San Jose Stanley Cup Finals: NHL begins to reveal its next champion with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. San Jose is making its first SCF appearance. Pittsburgh is in its fifth, including titles in 1991, 1992, 2009.

6. AUTO RACING: Rookie wins centennial Indianapolis 500: NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 ran, too, but the Indy 500 is the one day Indy-car racing owns the sport of auto racing. Especially when it happens to be the 100th running of "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing," won Sunday by rookie Alexander Rossi.

7. CANES BASEBALL: UM falls short in ACC, but named regional host: The No. 3-ranked and top-seeded Miami Hurricanes failed to reach Sunday's ACC Tournament championship game, but still were named an NCAA Regional host as expected. Today the Canes learn which other teams will be here. For UM, as always, the Regionals mean one thing. Omaha or bust.

8. TENNIS: Serena, Djokovic in line for milestones at midpoint of French Open: A title by Serena Williams would tie Steffi Graf's open-era record of 22 majors, while a French title is the only major that has eluded Novak Djokovic, whose path cleared when Rafael Nadal withdrew with a wrist injury.

9. DOLPHINS: Fins continue offseason OTA practices: The next ones are Tuesday through Thursday. OTA stands for "organized team activities," which always sounds to me like something that should involve arts and crafts, like making a log cabin out of popsicle sticks.

10. PANTHERS: Cats trade Gudbranson, plan unveiling: Florida continued to fix what wasn't broke, trading young defenseman Erik Gudbranson. This Thursday the club unveils its new logo and uniforms. Team will look different next season. Question is whether they'll look like a team ready to win a playoff series for first time since 1996.

Missing the cut: Canes football coach Mark Richt is donating $1 million toward the school's new indoor practice facility. Richt hasn't coached a game yet, but he keeps winning. ..... It took eight games but NASL  expansion team Miami FC earned its first victory, 1-0 over Edmonton. Congrats, I think ..... Chris Berman will step down from his current role at ESPN after this coming football season, meaning he won't be backbackbackbackback ..... Quick aside to Koa Misi: Nothing good ever happens outside a nightclub at 3:40 a.m. ..... Heat lost without playing as Erik Spoelstra's top assistant, David Fizdale, headed to Memphis ..... Scandal-plagued Baylor fired football coach Art Briles over his handling of sexual assault charge against players, and Ole Miss self-imposed sanctions for rules violations. The 'C' in NCAA stands for cheating, right? ..... Tom Brady is appealing his four-game Deflategate suspension. You get the feeling Brady will be retired and perhaps dead and this thing will still be going on in the courts ..... The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie, with one finalist stymied by the word "feldenkrais" and the other by "gesellschaft." I'm still trying to figure out how to spell "Krzyzewski" ..... Jose Mourinho is the new savior at Manchester United. Until he loses his first math ..... Colombia beat Haiti 3-1 yesterday at Marlins Park. I wonder if soccer fans booed Jeffrey Loria just on principle? ..... There is increasing media speculation that Tiger Woods may never play again, one more reason to hope he does ..... Sport Name of the Week: Last week's LPGA tournament runnerup, So Oh ..... Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity apologized for paying the rapper Ludacris $65,000 for a 13-minute performance at Bulldogs' spring game. Ludicrous! ..... Canada beat Finland 2-0 to win the world hockey championships in Moscow. "We'd rather have the Stanley Cup back," said Canada in unison ..... Miami Gun Show ended Sunday at Dade County Fairgrounds. Yes, because, if there is one thing we need more of in Miami, it's guns!

RICHARD BLEIER: A LONG CLIMB, BUT HE MADE IT: Richard Bleier, a local kid who played ball at South Plantation High, this week became a major-league rookie at age 29, after a career's climb through the minor leagues. He is wearing New York Yankees pinstripes this weekend as the team that called him up on Thursday plays in Tampa Bay. He did not pitch in that series; his MLB debut could come tonight in Toronto. BleierHis Dad, Lawrence, is from the Bronx and grew up a Mickey Mantle-era Yankees fans, so this is all as exciting for him as it for his son. "It's a dream come true," Lawrence told the Fort Myers News-Press. (Richard pitched in college for Florida Gulf Coast there). "He’s been very level-headed about everything. He’s excited, but he has anticipated this day for a long time. So here he is. How long he will be there, we don’t know. Whatever it is, he’ll be a major leaguer. It’ll be in the baseball encyclopedia." Richard said in a text, "It's an awesome feeling. I've worked my entire life to get here." Richard was a teammate of my son Christopher's at South Plantation High, where I announced the games from a purple-painted wood pressbox overlooking home plate. Richard was a lanky lefthanded pitcher, rather stoic, prone to being a bit too hard on himself. His father would sometimes come up into the press box and kibitz for an inning or two. Since those days Richard has spent the last 10 or 12 years climbing, pitching, dreaming. He will wear uniform No. 50, and pitch out of the bullpen for the Yankees. I hope his stay in the big leagues lasts as long as it took him to finally get there, but perseverance is its own reward. As his Dad noted, no matter how long his stay, his name will be in the baseball encyclopedia now. No matter how long his stay, he made it. Congratulations, Richard.

Poll result: 'Miami' swamps 'South Florida' when it comes to Super Bowl: We asked what is the best title for the 2020 NFL championship game awarded this week, and it was 75.7 percent for 'Miami Super Bowl' and 24.3% for 'South Florida Super Bowl.'

REMEMBERING AND HONORING AMERICA'S WAR DEAD: This video is called "50,000 Names Carved In the Wall," by country legend George Jones. It about about the Vietnam Memorial, but its message reaches across all generations, wars and all who made the ultimate sacrifice. If you can watch this video without tearing up, you are a stronger person than I. (For those in a sentimental or patriotic mood today, I also recommend "Ragged Old Flag," by Johnny Cash). 

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 23, 2016

Dolfans optimistic? After all the changes, how many games will Dolphins win in 2016? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated), woman chooses death over Trump or Clinton, your verdict on ESPN & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 23. I'm back! Spent a long weekend in the Bahamas. More on that later. 2) Good story here by ESPN's Pablo S. Torre on the friendship between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Not sure I entirely buy the premise that the friendship is all that controversial. But an interesting read nonetheless. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Is-ESPN-in-trouble poll, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, proof Joe Public still hates Dolphins, your pessimism on Bosh's return, FA Cup champs list & more. 4) 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: No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins, the new one, on how Fins must earn back the faith and trust they've lost. Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason.

DolfanHOW OPTIMISTIC (OR NOT) ARE DOLPHINS FANS RIGHT NOW?: I won't know unless I ask, right? On one hand, there seem to be legitimate reasons for optimism, after an encouraging coaching hire in Adam Gase, a promising draft led by Laremy Tunsil and a free-agency period in which gains led by Mario Williams at least offset losses. Yet the disappointment and mistrust are ingrained now, yes? They have become part of the fabric of being a Dolfan. It is hard to expect this franchise to do right, or to be good, after 10 to 15 years of mostly letdowns. (Click on No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins for my latest column more fully exploring all of this). Mirroring the more doubtful/skeptical side, the new Las Vegas betting over/under on Dolphins wins (via Bovada) is a mere seven. That's one better than last year's dismal 6-10 season, but 7-9 isn't a playoff team and doesn't budge the club from its rut of mediocrity. Now, ESPN's offseason report card for each team weighs in with a D+ grade for Miami. Ouch. Betting lines mirror public perception, so that means Mr. Vegas with its over/under of 7 wins is surmising that gamblers football fans in general aren't sold on Miami being appreciably better. My question: Are Dolfans sold on the improvement? Is South Florida more optimistic? Are you? Only one way to find out: A poll! Take a dip in it. As always, I encourage you to vote as dispassionately as you can, not as a fan, but honestly, as if you were betting with mind (or money), not heart. Ready? Go! Vote, say why you feel as you do, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Riley unequivocal on Whiteside as team's offseason priority: The Silver Fox favored the media with his annual postseason State of the Heat address (the onset of Pat Riley Season) and left zero doubt that re-signing center Hassan Whiteside long-term is the club's No. 1 priority. Alas, he could not be as unequivocal on Chris Bosh's future, only saying the club is "trying to find a way" to get Bosh back on the court. That's hopeful. But a little ominous, too?

2. MARLINS: Miami need to pick up the pace: Fish, in a current five-game homestand, remain in playoff contention as year's second quarter began but are only 6-9 since that 11-1 streak. Slumping Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .211 and on pace for a club-record 237 strikeouts. The good news? The $325 Million Man gotta get hot soon ... right?

3. NBA: Cavaliers, Thunder up 2-1 entering Game 4s: Cleveland leads 2-1 in East finals over Toronto entering Game 4 tonight in Canada, while Oklahoma City is up 2-1 out West over Golden State entering Game 4 Tuesday in OKC. That "inevitable" LeBron James vs. Steph Curry finals is on hold for a bit.

4. DOLPHINS: Miami prepares for OTA practices: Fins will stage full practices this Tuesday though Thursday and again May 31 as new Vegas betting odds set the team's wins over/under at a modest seven. Meantime club this week bids to host three more Super Bowls, the next in 2019. How 'bout Miami spends less time on hosting a Super Bowl and more time on playing in one.

5. UM BASEBALL: Third-ranked UM begins postseason play: The regular season now done, Jim Morris' No. 3 Hurricanes prepare now for the ACC Tournament running this Tuesday though next Sunday, followed by an expected host's role in an NCAA Regionals. That in turn will lead to the College World Series ... or a very good Canes season will have been for naught.

6. HORSE RACING: Exaggerator denies Nyquist in Preakness: It was possible, after almost 30 years without a Triple Crown winner, the sport might now have had two in a row. That was the true entering Saturday's Preakness. It isn't now.

7. PANTHERS: Cats announce new logo and uniform unveiling: Florida announced it will reveal its new logo and look at its arena on June 2. That's good. Even better: Announce you're going to reveal a hockey team that can win a playoff series for the first time since 1996.

8. NHL: Tampa Bay can clinch spot in Finals on home ice: Tampa Bay leads Pittsburgh 3-2 in East semis and can clinch spot in Stanley Cup Finals on home ice Tuesday night, with St. Louis and San Jose tied 2-2 out West. Alas, not sure if any Finals matchup that arises of this will makes hearts race outside of the competing cities.

9. TENNIS: French Open, one of sports' majors, gets underway Sunday: Well, OK. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are the two big majors. They get together and make fun of the French and Australian Opens. But still.

10. SOCCER: Americans train in Miami for Copa America: Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. men are training in Miami for the Copa America being held in the U.S. in June. Meantime, Manchester United won Saturday's FA Cup final that riveted attention across Great Britain.

Missing the cut: I Googled the phrase ENOUGH ALREADY! and saw that Tom Brady is now appealing the reinstatement of his four-game suspension ..... The Pro Bowl reportedly is moving to Orlando in 2017. What a perfect destination for a Mickey Mouse event! ..... Dolphins will be back on WQAM-560 this season for first time since 2009. That's big news for the station. Also for the estimated nearly 1 percent of all people who don't own televisions ..... Miami Dolphins Foundation held its 20th annual golf-and-fishing Fins Weekend fundraiser ending Saturday. Hopefully funds will go toward fielding a winning football team for a change ..... Valued Heat assistant David Fizdale interviewed with Memphis. Miami would love him to get the opportunity (but not really!) ..... The NFL is returning to the government more than $723,000 its teams (including the Dolphins) received in "sponsored" military tributes. Hey, somebody gotta pay for those gigantic, football field-sized flags! ..... Second-worst golf week: Tiger Woods tried to demonstrate how close his game was to healthy by hitting three straight wedge shots in the water. Worst golf week: Phil Mickelson must pay back nearly $1 million in money he received via insider trading ..... Rangers 2B Rougned Odor was suspended eight games for landing a punch vs. Toronto. Wild guess: You grow up with the name "Odor," you get in your share of fights ..... UM women's tennis lost in the NCAA Sweet 16. Feeling nostalgic, Canes fans blamed Al Golden ..... Scotland's Muirfield Golf Club voted to continue its ban on women members, erasing itself from consideration to host the British Open. Club officials could not be reached, because they are all living in the previous century ..... Canes men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga, 66, said, "I'm going to coach until I'm dead." A foolproof way to avoid being fired, come to think of it ..... The 76ers won the NBA draft lottery and will have the first pick in June. They'll still be awful, but now will have one less good excuse ..... The Indianapolis 500 is next Sunday. Gentlemen, get ready to get ready to start your engines ..... And in other news, WNBA season is underway, and you continue to ignore it.

Poll result: ESPN diminished, but still the boss: We asked what best reflects your opinion of ESPN in light of recent departures from the network, and a plurality of 46.0 percent chose "diminished but still the leader." However, more than twice as many voted for "in decline" (36.9%) over "as big as ever" (17.1%).

ObitWHO SAYS THERE IS NO HUMOR IN DEATH?: Either the dearly departed or the bereaved she left behind had a sense of humor in writing the opening of this newspaper obituary. I must say Mary Anne Noland probably speaks for millions of Americans faced with what they perceive as a lesser-of-two-evils presidential decision in November. Although I'm guessing the vast majority of us will either choose the lesser evil or choose to abstain from voting rather than choose the great beyond as a preferred alternative.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 16, 2016

Successful Heat season? Yes or no? New poll. Vote now!; plus Miami done 1 win shy of LeBron in 116-89 loss at Toronto; also, Winslow 6th in rookie vote, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), your NBA favorite (no duh), history of Heat G7s & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 16. Heat's Justise Winslow today finished 6th in NBA rookie of the year voting, won in a landslide by Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat win Game 6, NBA favorite poll, Heat playoff foes list & more. 3) 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: Small Ball, Big Win, the latest, off Friday's Heat Game 6 home win. Heat is America's Underdog, on how injuries and obstacles have cast Miami in an unaccustomed role. Be Careful What You Wish For, from Heat's Game 4 home win.

G7: TORONTO 117, HEAT 89: CLOBBERED! DONE. MIAMI'S SEASON ENDS ONE WIN SHY OF MEETING LEBRON: Clobbered. Out and done. Miami's injury-marred playoff run ended abruptly in Toronto Sunday in a decisive Game 7 loss to the Raptors in the NBA's Eastern semifinals -- the Heat falling one win short of meeting LeBron James and Cleveland in the next round. Heat lived by the small-ball to win Game 6 and died by it Sunday, outrebounded big, 50-30. Raptors also dominated in free throw attempts, 43-23. Toronto's aggressive defense kept any one Heat player from standing out, with Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade leading Miami with a modest 16 points each. Meanwhile Toronto's guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 63. This had been a tight, even series in every game. But not today. Hard to argue the better team did not advance. ..... Original post: This is why we love sports, right? Today. This. A winner-take-all Game 7. Loser gets an offseason. Winner gets LeBron James in an NBA Eastern finals starting Tuesday in Cleveland. Tipping off at 3:30 p.m. today up in Canada, the Raptors try to reach the East finals for the first time, Miator G7while the Heat try to be the first team ever to erase 3-2 deficits in two straight postseason series. "This is why we're in this business, to be challenged," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "And there is no greater challenge than a Game 7." The pressure is on the Raptors today, as the favored home team and higher seed -- magnified by Toronto's 2-6 record in elimination games. A big question is if Miami will continue to play the small-ball that won Game 6, featuring mostly guards and small forwards on the court. With Chris Bosh out and Hassan Whiteside still out, Udonis Haslem and Amar'e Stoudemire did not play at all in Game 6 and Josh McRoberts played only 19  minutes. I'd expect more of the same today. Why change? The Heat are 7-1 in their last eight elimination games and going for a fifth straight today. Somebody's season ends today. Somebody else moves on. America will be watching. And so will LeBron.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami falls at Toronto in Game 7, one win shy of LeBron: Heat and Raptors kept rest of NBA waiting but final four finally is now set with Sunday's Miami Game 7 loss in Toronto. Winner gets Cleveland, which has been waiting an extra long time after a four-game sweep. Raptors best hope now? That LeBron’s rest has turned to rust.

2. MARLINS: Fish trying to stay hot on the road: Miami has now won 15 of its past 21 games including two straight at Washington with another strong effort by Jose Fernandez (5-2) on Sunday in midst of a seven-game road trip. It was a seven-game road win streak in late April that began the turnaround. Considering team's recent paltry home crowds, Fish may be better off heading to the airport than to Marlins Park.

3. NBA: It's three-fourths a marquee final four: It'll be MVP Steph Curry's Golden State vs. Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City in the West finals starting tonight. East finals begin Tuesday, with LeBron James' Cleveland awaiting Toronto. How much did Dwyane Wade want to complete a starry final-four quartet? (Meantime San Antonio was eliminated but Gregg Popovich is still looking for a reporter to rudely yell at).

4. PANTHERS: Cats make odd staff changes including Tallon: Florida fired a club a vice president, its director of hockey and an assistant coach among others. But the oddest move was Tom Rowe being named general manager with GM Dale Tallon bumped up to president of hockey operations. Tallon has turned around the Cats since arriving in 2010. If he is losing power any in this move, it's a bad one.

5. NHL: Fight for Stanley Cup down to final four: Tampa Bay leads Pittsburgh 1-0 in the East finals and St. Louis leads San Jose 1-0 in the West finals. Time now for our northern neighbor's national anthem: No, Canada.

6. HORSE RACING: Gulfstream announces major new race: The second leg of Triple Crown, The Preakness, is in five days, but Gulfstream made headlines this week in announcing the inaugural Pegasus World Cup would be run in January with a $12 million payout -- five times that of Kentucky Derby. Who said horse racing’s dead?

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes moving closer to building indoor practice facility: This apparently is a big deal. Maybe UM will have better luck than the Dolphins, who built their indoor "bubble" facility in 2006 and have had one winning season in the 10 years since.

8. DOLPHINS: Officials insist renovated stadium will be done in time: Dolphins officials announced that massive stadium renovations currently underway are on schedule and would be done before the Aug. 25 home exhibition opener. Said anyone who has driven past the construction site lately: "Yeah, right."

9. WNBA: Women's league opens its 20th season: The WNBA's anniversary season opened Saturday but league still may not be entirely in the mainstream. Put it this way. If you know the defending champions are the Minnesota Lynx, chances are pretty good you live in Minnesota.

10. GOLF: Day dominates, wins The Players Championship: World No. 1 Jason Day was in charge with a wire-to-wire victory in the electrical storm-delayed Players Championship outside Jacksonville. They sometimes call this the "fifth major," although the four majors laugh to themselves at that.

Missing the cut: George Zimmerman continues to be a raging idiot. Updates as warranted ..... UM women's tennis is hosting first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and has reached Sweet 16 as Greg Cote continues a long-standing tradition of never having seen a single minute of college tennis played live ..... That reminds me, UM baseball season has flown, with Sunday the next-to-last regular season home game for the 3rd-ranked Canes ..... Rob Gronkowski will be on the cover of the Madden NFL 17 video game. They want the most realistic depiction possible, so I imagine he'll be shown holding a cocktail in one hand and a blond in the other ..... Peyton Manning secretly visited Dolphins HQ earlier this spring to counsel Ryan Tannehill. What, Dan Marino has been fired as ceremonial mentor? ..... The Dolphins signed ex-Lions DE Jason Jones, and nobody thought much of it ..... UFC 198 was Saturday. That's UFC CXCVIII to our Roman friends ..... Soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his man ponytail are leaving Paris Saint-Germain ..... The Cubs are off to the best start by any MLB team since 1984. Chicagoans are bracing for inevitable disappointment ..... Coral Springs' Lexi Thompson continues collecting LPGA wins at age 21. When Greg Cote was 21, he was the first on his block to own a Pet Rock ..... I Googled the phrase "match made in hell" and saw the Las Vegas Raiders ..... The expansion Miami FC was NASL's only winless team entering Saturday play. Welcome to the league! ..... Canyon Barry, son of Hurricanes basketball legend Rick Barry, chose to transfer to Florida over UM, begging the question, "Who names their son Canyon?!" ..... UM's Sheldon McClellan was a late invitee to the NBA Draft combine ending Sunday in Chicago. Sheldon -- now there's a real first name ..... That reminds me. FIFA appointed a woman, Fatma Samoura, as secretary general. How about it, ladies? Why has the name Fatma not caught on in America? ..... And in other news, the entire country of Russia has tested positive for doping.

Poll result: No duh. Warriors the favorite for NBA championship: We asked which of the first three teams through to the conference finals will win the NBA title and it was Golden State 82.4 percent, Cleveland 11.5% and Oklahoma City 6.1%.

THE LIST: HEAT GAME 7'S: Today will be the 10th Game 7 in Heat playoff history. Ranking all 10 in order of importance based on how deep into the postseason they ocurred:

Year    Round                    Result

2013   NBA Finals            W vs Spurs 95-88

2012   Eastern finals         W vs Celtics 101-88

2013   Eastern finals         W vs Pacers 99-76

2005   Eastern finals         L vs Pistons 88-82

1997   Conference semis   W vs Knicks 101-90

2000   Conference semis   L vs Knicks 83-82

2016   Conference semis   L @ Raptors 116-89

2004   First round             W vs NO Hornets 85-77

2009   First round             L @ Hawks 91-78

2016   First round             W vs CHA Hornets 106-73

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 14, 2016

G6: Heat 103, Toronto 91: Dragon power! Dragic's 30 lift Miami to a Sunday Game 7; plus who's favorite for NBA title? New poll. Vote now!; also, updated NBA/NHL betting odds, your verdict on Curry & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, MAY 14. Hope y'all had a happy Friday the 13th. Unless you are one of those inexplicably anxious paraskevidekatriaphobes, in which case that grand piano being lifted above your doorway on a fraying rope was about to drop and possibly kill you if you exited the house. 2) We all know it. And yet he continues to remind us, over and over again: George Zimmerman is an idiot. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat lose Game 5 in Toronto, is Steph Curry an all-time great poll, Canes/Brad Kaaya ranked, Mike Pouncey's next career, Dwyane Wade's playoff scoring & more. 4) 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: Small Ball, Big Win, the latest, off last night's Game 6 home win. Heat is America's Underdog, on how injuries and obstacles have cast Heat in an unaccustomed role. Be Careful What You Wish For, from Heat's Game 4 home win.

Updated NBA, NHL title odds: Warriors, Penguins favored: Out today via Bovada, in the NBA, it's Warriors a 5-8 favorite, Cavaliers 12-5, Thunder 6-1, Raptors 50-1 and Heat the longshot at 100-1. In the NHL, it's Penguins at 9-5, Blues 2-1, Sharks 4-1 and Lightning 17-4.

G6: HEAT 103, TORONTO 91: DRAGIC'S 30 CARRIES MIAMI TO A SUNDAY GAME 7: Goran Dragic's 30 points and Dwyane Wade's 22 lifted the Heat at home Friday night in a 103-91 win over Toronto, forcing as Game 7 back up there Sunday. "Tonight was his night," said coach Erik Spoelstra of Dragic. "It came at the right time." Click on Small Ball, Big Win for my column from the game, online now. ...... Original post: Miami trails this Toronto series 3-2 but is 2-0 this postseason in elimination games and 7-1 in its past eight overall. The Heat do "must win" pretty well, and are 4-point favorites tonight to send this thing back up to Toronto for a Sunday Game 7. Whether Miami survives tonight may
 Wethenorth Rapsatheatdepend on which team is the healthiest, or, in this case, the least unhealthy. Luol Deng (wrist) is expected to tough it out tonight, although Hassan Whiteside and G6of course Chris Bosh still are missing, increasing the likelihood Miami will play small-ball for extended spurts. For Toronto, DeMarre Carroll (wrist) is questionable, Jonas Valanciunas remains out Demar DeRozan is playing through a thumb injury. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed the injury factor, saying playoff basketball in general is meant "to push you and stress you and put you in uncomfortable situations. And that's what this series is doing right now." This is the last of four NBA series still undecided, meaning the Heat and Raptors are two of just five teams still standing. "Right now there's nobody totally healthy in this league," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "This is the time you play through it." A rested Cleveland awaits this series winner, and LeBron James' Cavs will be a heavy favorite over either. The Heat of course face a steeper climb to get there. In NBA history teams that lose Game 5 in a 2-2 series go on to win the series only 18 percent of the time -- the odds now against Miami. (Click on Heat Is America's Underdog for today's latest column by me). Dwyane Wade, with 88 points in his past three games, has been carrying the Heat but needs help. The Heat especially need to find their collective range on 3-point shots. Other than Wade, Miami is 10-for-57 on 3's since Game 1, a horrid 17.5 percent. Joe Johnson (1-for-17) in particular has gone cold from deep. Looking for somebody other than Wade to do some heavy lifting for Miami tonight. Any volunteers?

NAME THAT NBA FAVORITE: The Miami-Toronto survivor will be a prohibitive underdog, a distant fourth of the final four in terms of betting odds to win the NBA championship. As we wait for this series to finish, who among the first three teams through would you call the favorite to win it all? Teams are listed alphabetically in the poll. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

Poll result: Curry is an all-time great, though still much debate: We asked if Golden State's Stephen Curry, right now, should be included in conversation as an NBA all-time great, and it was 48.2 percent yes, 42.7% no and 9.1% undecided.

UNEARTHED BONUS PHOTO: TunsilWoman pushing baby stroller arrives for a party at Laremy Tunsil's house. 

THE LIST: HEAT'S EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: Cleveland, the team that awaits if Miami survives Toronto, is the only Eastern team the Heat has never faced in the club's postseason history. Most common East playoff foes based on total games played in postseason:

Opponent                Games

Chicago Bulls            31

New York Knicks      29

Indiana Pacers          25

Boston Celtics          17

Detroit Pistons         16

Others: Charlotte 14 games, Atlanta 12, New Jersey 9, New Orleans 7, Toronto 6 (including last night), Brooklyn 5, Orlando 5, Philadelphia 5, Milwaukee 4 and Washington 4.

Most common opponents by number of series: Chicago 7; New York 5; Indiana 4; Boston, Charlotte and Detroit 3 each; Atlanta and New Jersey 2 each; all others 1.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 18, 2016

This is the Heat team that can beat LeBron and Cavs. Miami 'perfect' in 123-91 Game 1 rout of Charlotte; plus Panthers fall in OT, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Hassan Whiteside and Jaromir Jagr named Heat/Panthers season MVPs & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 18. Heat's Hassan Whiteside finishes third in NBA Defensive Plahyer of Year vote; Spurs' Kawhi Leonard wins again. 2) ESPN's mock-draft picks for Dolphins selecting 13th are two Ohio State Buckeyes -- OLB Darron Lee (says Mel Kiper) and RB Ezekiel Elliott (via Todd McShay). So it won't be either, then. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Panthers tie Islanders series, Dolphins schedule, Heat-Hornets, Heat/Panthers MVP polls, history of Miami playoff games, your Warriors vs. Kobe verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

NEW COLUMN: On Heat's refreshing reliance on rookies Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson: Shipping to Tuesday's inky pulp editions but available to you now. Click on Rook 1, Rook 2 to read. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: This Is the Upside, off last night's hugely impressive Heat Game 1 win. Luongo Saves Day, And Maybe Season, off Friday night's necessary Panthers Game 2 win. Now We See About the Panthers, off the series-opening loss.

Cats give one away: The Florida Panthers aren't making it easy on themselves. They lose Game 1 at home. Then, last night, they lost Game 3 in Brooklyn, 4-3 in overtime, after leading 3-1. Florida nows trails their NHL first-round series to the Islanders 2-1, with Game 4 Wednesday night back up there.

G1: HEAT 123, CHARLOTTE 91: DENG, WHITESIDE LEAD 'PERFECT' GAME: As bad as the Heat were in that late collapse in Boston four nights earlier, the Heat were that good Sunday night in starting the playoffs with an impressive home bang. Miami set club playoff records for most points in a game (123) and quarter (41) and most field goals made (49). Goran Dragic called it "a perfect game on both ends." It was almost literally so for Luol Deng (31 points) and Hassan Whiteside (21), who combined for 20-of-24 shooting. Miami wasn't as bad it it looked in Boston last week and can't be as great as it looked Sunday, but we saw how good this team can be. And the team we saw Sunday night can beat anybody in the East, LeBron James and Cleveland included. Game 2 is back here Wednesday night. Click on This Is the Upside for my game column off last night's gem. ..... Original post: When last we saw the Heat on the court, they were Heathornetssundaysuffering a regular season-ending meltdown in Boston akin to Jordan Spieth's in The Masters. No time for a hangover effect now, with the first-round playoffs set to begin as No. 3 seed Miami hosts No. 6 Charlotte this evening in Game 1. Despite the seed disparity both teams were 48-34 in the season and split their series 2-2, so it's understandable that Charlotte is a trendy upset pick with some in the national media. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson will be a challenge, and it's a series where Chris Bosh's absence could be conspicuous after so many weeks of Miami seemingly not missing him. Charlotte has had the third-best record in the league since the all-star break and is 26-9 since Jan. 31. That's impressive. Miami is a narrow betting favorite in this series at 5-8 odds to Charlotte's 8-5, but must prove here that it is capable of playing all the way into the Eastern finals. Miami is one of only five of 122 franchises in the Big Four sports to make the playoffs at least 17 times and win at least three championships in the past 21 seasons, along with Lakers, Spurs, Red Wings and Yankees. The Heat have more playoff seasons than the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers combined since Miami became a four-sport city in 1993. But I see a serious early challenge here for the Heat. So does ESPN, which ranks this series No. 1 of the eight for upset potential, which it estimates at 46 percent. My pick: Heat in 6 games.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Wow! Miami saves its best game of season for playoff opener:  Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets were a trendy pick to upset the No. 3 Heat in this best-of-seven, but the Heat last night said, "I don't think so." And emphatically, in a 123-91 rout in the downtown bayside arena led by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside's combined 52 points on combined 20-for-24 shooting. If last night was the real Heat, then this team is capable of beating anybody in the East ... including that guy from Cleveland, whatshisname.

2. PANTHERS: Cats give one away in crucial Game 3 loss to Islanders: One game after Roberto Luongo saved the day for Florida, the Panthers last night blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads in a 4-3 overtime Game 3 loss in Brooklyn. Islanders now are up 2-1, with Game 4 back up in New York Wednesday night. Must win? Well, don't they all sort of feel like that in a best-of-seven playoffs?

3. DOLPHINS: Season schedule is out (uh oh) as Fins prepare for draft: Does new Dolphins coach Adam Gase have enemies? Apparently one — the guy who scheduled Miami to open the season at Seattle and at New England. Fins hope they fare better in the April 28-30 NFL Draft than they did with the schedule. I can't wait for the draft ..mainly because it puts a merciful end to the endless speculation of national mocks drafts and local flat-out guessing on what Miami might do.

4. MARLINS: Shh. Don’t tell anybody, but Fish in midst of homestand: Miami is in the midst of seven games in a row at Marlins Park. The question is, with the Heat and Panthers both in the playoffs and Dolphins’ draft soon, will South Florida even notice? The homestand may not be a good thing, considering it has opened with three straight losses to previously winless Braves, making Miami now 0-5 at home this year. Fish's early-season problem is clear. If your arm is loose, report immediately to the bullpen, please.

5. HURRICANES: UM’s spring game ends offseason football practice: Hurricanes’ annual Spring Game, the first under new coach Mark Richt, was Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, Green beating Orange 24-7 behind Brad Kaaya's 345 yards passing before some 14,000 fans at Lockhart Stadium. Want a sad fact? Canes baseball is ranked No. 1 in the nation, but more UM fans care about a glorified football practice taking place five months before season starts.

6. NBA: Big end to regular season segues to playoffs: Basketball's regular season ended with Golden State’s record-setting 73rd win and retiring Kobe Bryant’s 60 points in his final game. Top that, first round!

7. NHL: It's No, Canada! as Stanley Cup playoffs begin: Canada invented hockey. You wouldn't know it. A Canadian team hasn't lifted Lord Stanley's Cup since 1993, and now, for the first time since 1970, no Canadian team even made the playoffs.

8. NFL: Rams trade up for No. 1 pick in draft: Good offseason for Los Angeles. First the city gets the Rams back from St. Louis. Now, in first trade involving a top pick since 2004, the team gets the No. 1 draft pick from Tennessee. 

9. GOLF: Fans still abuzz over Spieth's Masters meltdown: It's been a week and golf fans still can't get over Jordan Spieth blowing The Masters and literally handing over the green jacket to Danny Willett. Then again, at least Jordan, who tied for second, had $880,000 to help dry his tears.

10. SAILING: Miamian wins Star-class world title: Miami and Coral Reef Yacht Club hosted the Star-class world sailing championships, which is of apparent tremendous interest to Star-class sailors. No, seriously, it's a big event, and Miamian Augie Diaz parlayed home-wind advantage to victory.

Missing the cut: Sidelined Chris Bosh addressed his Heat teammates and advised them to "savor the playoffs." Had he told them to take the playoffs for granted, now that woulda been newsworthy! ... Tyler Summitt (Pat's son) resigns in disgrace after impregnating one of his basketball players. Um, what were you thinking, Louisiana Tech, hiring a then 22-year-old as a head coach? ... Dolphins are conducting voluntary offseason workouts, meaning all players are expected to "volunteer" ... FIU's spring football game was canceled by bad weather. No, seriously ... A company called U-Glove makes protective disposable gloves to wear when pumping gas. Shouldn't The U demand a cut of the action? ... MLB going high-tech with iPads in dugouts for analytic research during games. Can an iPad pick up a bat or throw a slider? Then I'm not impressed ... Kyle Busch became first NASCAR driver in 25 years to win multiple races on consecutive weekends. America still doesn't like you, Kyle! ... It has come to our attention badminton is a high-school sport, begging the question, Why?

Jagr WhitesidePOLL RESULTS: HASSAN WHITESIDE, JAROMIR JAGR NAMED HEAT AND PANTHERS' REGULAR-SEASON MVPS: It was a fairly close two-man race on the basketball side, but you had Hassan Whiteside (left) as the Heat's 2015-16 season MVP over Dwyane Wade by 51.8 percent to 41.4%, with the other 6.8% voting for "someone else." Mild upset, or no? It was a landslide on the hockey end. Jaromir Jagr (right) at age 44 won with 62.9 percent of the vote, followed by Roberto Luongo (13.8%), Aleksander Barkov (11.1%) and Aaron Ekblad (also 11.1%), with "someone else" at only 1.1%.

THE LIST: HEAT'S MIAMI REIGN: How often the Miami Heat have made the playoffs relative to SoFla's other other big teams:

Team                Seasons    PO years    Pct.

Miami Heat            28        19           .679

Miami Dolphins     50        16           .320

Florida Panthers     22         5            .227

Miami Marlins       23         2            .087

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