April 22, 2017

Dolphins will consider offense for 1st-round pick. Here's why; plus Fins' 2017 season schedule with notes; also, Canes-Noles, defeats for Fernandez statue and Sherman trade, on Aaron Hernandez, Record Store Day, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more


Recordstore1) It is SATURDAY, April 22. The major holidays just keep comin'. A few days ago it was National High-Five Day. Then it was 420, or "Weed Day" (as if stoners only fire it up annually). Now, today, is National Record Store Day, the 10th annual celebration of the indie record store and the return of vinyl in the music industry. Swing by your local indie shop and check out the wax LPs both vintage and new! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them joy. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jose Fernandez statue and Richard Sherman trade polls, death of Aaron Hernandez & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Does Aaron Hernandez deserve an attempt at empathy?: He was his own final victim, for a promising life thrown away. Is there any room for empathy in regarding the former NFL player who died in his prison cell? I explore in this column: Click on An American Tragedy to read.

DdrAFTLATEST COLUMN: WHY YOU SHOULDN'T DISCOUNT OFFENSE FOR DOLPHINS' FIRST-ROUND PICK: They did it one year ago for Laremy Tunsil and they could do it again in next Thursday's NFL Draft first round. Don't be surprised if Miami goes for offense with 22nd overall pick -- Hurricanes tight end David Njoku, perhaps? -- if their top-graded available player is on that side of the scrimmage line. Click on Everyone's Shouting Defense, But... for my latest column, newly online and shipping to Friday's inky pulp editions.
COMPLETE DOLPHINS' 2017 REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE, WITH FOUR PRIME-TIME DATES: All the opponents have been known for months. Never quite got why the exact order was such a big deal, but, anyway, here 'tis. Notable: Four prime-time dates! When you're back in the playoffs, the NFL loves you again. At a quick glance, I see the usual postseason scramble for Miami, with an initial gut feeling in the 9-7 range and a shot at 10-6:
Date            Opponent                Time        Of note
Sept. 10       vs TAMPA BAY           1 pm        Season and home opener; my birthday
Sept. 17       @ L.A. Chargers       4 pm       Old opponent, new city
Sept. 24       @ N.Y. Jets              1  pm       First AFC East game
Oct. 1          vs NEW ORLEANS      9:30 am   "Home" game at Wembley, London
Oct. 8          vs. TENNESSEE         1 pm        Wow. Pretty soft sked to this point
Oct. 15        @ Atlanta                1 pm        Maybe toughest foe, on paper, yet
Oct. 22        vs N.Y. JETS             1 pm        2nd-most anticipated division home game
Oct. 26        @ Baltimore             8:25 pm   Finally some prime-time (Thursday) love
Nov. 5          vs OAKLAND             8:30 pm   Sunday night. At Home. Raiders. Delish!
Nov. 13        @ Carolina               8:30 pm   Monday nighter is 3rd straight in prime time
Nov. 19        Bye
Nov. 26        @ New England        1 pm        For the division lead?
Dec. 3         vs DENVER               1 pm        Recent power now beatable foe
Dec. 11       vs NEW ENGLAND      8:30 pm   4th prime-timer (MNF) is the biggest
Dec. 17       @ Buffalo                 1 pm        Bills twice in last three weeks
Dec. 24       @ Kansas City           1 pm        Christmas Eve in Missouri!
Dec. 31       vs. BUFFALO             1 pm        Playoff spot on the line?
UmfsuIT'S BEST LAST CHANCE FOR CANES BASEBALL TO SALVAGE SEASON: UM hosts ACC rival Florida State for three ballgames starting last night at The Light, a 6-3 UM loss. Both teams are in midst of strange seasons. FSU was ranked No. 1 in nation as recently as mid-March but for now is unranked with a 25-15 record. Miami opened the season top-10 but has struggled throughout and is now at 18-20, its record streak of NCAA postseason appearances in dire jeopardy. This weekend series is a yuuuge chance -- maybe the last, best one -- for UM to climb back in the playoff hunt. Miami wins today and Sunday could save the season. If Miami gets swept, fuhgeddaboutit.

POLL RESULTS: LITTLE SUPPORT FOR MARLINS' JOSE STATUE, EVEN LESS FOR DOLPHINS' SHERMAN TRADE: We asked how you feel about the Marlins' erecting a 10-foot statue honoring Jose Fernandez, and it was 66.1 percent against it as "inappropriate," versus only 21.7% who supported it as "appropriate." The other 12.2% were undecided. We also asked if you supported the Dolphins trading their No. 1 draft pick for Richard Sherman (suggested on ESPN.com), and it was 78.4 percent "no" versus 19.2% "yes," with 2.4% undecided.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 4-22-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at San Diego, 4:40 p.m.: Finally, a Fish game that won't keep you up 'til 2 a.m.

2. NBA playoffs, 3 p.m.: Two 1st-round Game 3s and two 4s, but nobody can clinch.

3. NHL playoffs, 3 p.m.: Three 1st-round Game 3s, and Blues, Rangers, Oilers all can clinch.

4. Florida State at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: ACC baseball rivals in second of three-game series.

5. National Record Store Day, all day: Visit an indie shop near you, reacquaint with vinyl!

Select other recent columns: History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), starring ridiculous ASG, Heat plans, Marlins weirdness, sizzling' Cats, Hurricanes, Dolphins; plus is he whale enough? (my Whiteside column), your verdict on Marlins expectations & more


Prezday1) It is MONDAY, February 20. It is the federal holiday Presidents Day, which of course can mean only one thing. That's right. "Not My Presidents Day" anti-Trump protests across America. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins open spring training with expectations poll, Kate Upton revealed, ode to the Monopoly thimble & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Heat, Whiteside: My new Sunday column: We're coming into Pat Riley Season: Trading deadline, then draft, then free agency. So, the question hovering over the Miami Heat at the all-star break: Is Hassan Whiteside "whale" enough for Riley? Good enough to be the centerpiece around which Riley can build another champion? Click on Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? to read in full.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (FEBRUARY 19): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: Ridiculous All-Star Games breaks scoring records: The West beat the East 192-182 in NBA's 66th All-Star Game on Sunday night (sans any Heat participants, alas) in New Orleans. That was a record for total points, as was MVP Anthony Davis' ASG-record 52 points. But league's biggest news Sunday was Pelicans acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Davis in frontcourt. Look out, Warriors?

2. HEAT: And what does Miami have in store post-break?: Heat resume play this coming Friday only two games off playoff pace after winning 14 of last 16 games before the All-Star break. But first, up next: What you got planned for that Feb. 23 (Thursday) trade deadline, Mr. Riley? Anything? Or will you stand Pat?

3. MARLINS: Full spring work underway as sale talk turns weird: Full-squad spring training got underway Friday up in Jupiter as talks to sell the club took a weird turn. I mean, what were the odds that Jeffrey Loria maybe becoming U.S. Ambassador to France might somehow cause the frontrunning buyer to back out?

4. PANTHERS: Sizzling Cats hovering around playoff pace: Florida on Saturday won its fourth straight and seventh of past eight to get on playoff pace but is one point off entering tonight's game in St. Louis. Meanwhile Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,900th career NHL point the day he turned 45. Who else gives middle age a good name like this dude?

5. HURRICANES: Big games in play for UM men, women as regular seasons ebb: Miami's 16th-ranked women's fell at No. 13 Duke on Sunday, now the Canes men play at No. 14 Virginia tonight as last few games of regular season help shape NCAA seeding for both. CBS featured Jim Larranaga Sunday in its "Men Of March" series.

6. UM BASEBALL: Diamond Canes fail to nail down sweep in season-opening series: Jim Morris' guys got clobbered on Sunday but still took two of three from Rutgers in their season-opening home series at the Light. Reaching Omaha the imperative as usual in Morris' next-to-last season.

7. DOLPHINS: Team extends Wake's contract: Cam Wake is 35, but last season proved he ain't done yet, and the Dolphins rewarded him on Saturday with a two-year, $19 million contract extension. Everybody's happy except opposing quarterbacks.

8. NASCAR: Elliott, Dale Jr. on Daytona front row: NASCAR season -- funneling to the title run in Homestead in November -- begins this coming Sunday with the Daytona 500, and qualifying runs yesterday found Chase Elliott winning the pole position and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joining him on the front row.

9. TENNIS: Delray Beach Open tennis gets going: Running through next Sunday, it's a second-tier pro event on the men's ATP tour. Low on starpower, but if watching Jack Sock play is your thing, then go for it.

10. BOATING: Miami International Boat Show ends today: Four-day event's 76th edition has drawn thousands to Miami Marine Stadium. But you know that it's like they say: You are never happier than the day you buy a boat … other than the day you finally unload that money-eating monster you hardly used.

Missing the HB10 cut: Unlike his predecessors, President Donald Trump declined to fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket. Like championship teams eager to visit the White House, it seems like another presidential tradition is dying ..... Nine ex-Hurricanes led by Brad Kaaya have been invited to the March 2-5 pre-draft NFL Scouting Combine. Let the meat market begin! ..... UConn women's team won its 100th straight game (streak is now 101), and it's sort of embarrassing. C'mon, women's basketball. A little parity, please? ..... Urgent reminder: the Sailing World Cup is now less than 100 days away ..... Major League Soccer season is almost upon us as David Beckham marks what feels like the 20th anniversary of his protracted, stalling efforts to see a team in Miami.

Poll result: Mild optimism for Marlins to contend, but not to make playoffs: We asked what you realistically expect of the Miami Marlins this season, and a plurality of 37.6 percent voted "mediocre team never really in the hunt. But another 36.1% voted "contending team that just misses playoffs," while 17.3% voted "the playoffs, finally!" The other 9.0% voted for "post-Jose, a bad season." Overall, that's 53.4% who see a contending team vs. 46.6% who do not.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 2-20-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Panthers at St. Louis, 8 p.m.: Hot Cats, now one point off playoff pace, seek fifth straight win.

2. Hurricanes at Virginia, 7 p.m.: UM men face ranked foes in three of last four games including No. 14 Cavaliers.

3. Delray Beach Open, 11 a.m.: Second-tier men's ATP event continues.

4. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show wraps up at Miami Marine Stadium.

Select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 03, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 72.6%; plus Miami 10-6 with 35-14 loss to Pats, opens playoffs at Pittsburgh Sunday; also, Kaaya goes pro, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), your pick for top national 2016 sports story & more


Happy171) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 2, 2017. I Tweeted out the likelihood yesterday, now it's official: Dolphins at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. Sunday. 2) Happy official New Years Day Observance day! May it be a wonderful day and year for you and your loved ones! 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas or Happy New Year gift for every Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Biggest national sporty story of 2016 poll, NFL Week 17 picks, FSU-Michigan Orange Bowl & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphins column from Sunday finale looking ahead to Pittsburgh: It's good Miami has ended its eight-year NFL playoff drought. Now it's time to erase that playoff victory drought stretching 16 years. Click on There's A Longer Drought to End Now for my column from Sunday's season-ending loss to New England. 

A year of loss, but one that left us smiling: We lost big when Dwyane Wade left. We lost bigger when Jose Fernandez died. But in the end 2016 left South Florida smiling because -- Hallelujah -- the Dolphins made the playoffs! Click on A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile for my year-in-review column.

Other select recent columns: An Orange Bowl Classic, from Friday's 33-32 Florida State victory over Michigan. Marino Led NFL Arms Race, on how No. 13 was so ahead of his time. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win, on why Hurricanes ending their bowl victory drought was so important. The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

Find our Dolphins-Pats in-game blog and postgame thoughts directly below the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER:72.6%: Results are certified in the latest (but not last) Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 72.6 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 35-14 loss vs. New DsmEngland putting Miami's final regular season record at 10-6. (We'll have our next poll following this week's playoff opener at Pittsburgh). The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

G16: 72.6% (following 35-14 loss vs. New England)

Next poll: Jan. 8 (following playoff game at Pittsburgh)

G16: NEW ENGLAND 35, DOLPHINS 14: PLAYOFFS AHEAD, TRIP TO PITTSBURGH ON DECK: Postgame thoughts: Well, Miami got handled today. Brady picked apart the defense, which couldn't get off the field. And the Fins offense, except in spurts, was ineffective. Miami gave itself a shot in drawing within 20-14, but the 35-14 final better conveyed the ass-kicking it actually was. Miami headed to Pittsburgh, as expected , but not with the desired momentum a win here would have generated ..... 4Q: Garoppolo in for Brady late in game ... Blount 1-yard TD after Williams fumble gives Pats commanding 35-14 lead after 2-point pass. Barring a miracle rally, Fins are headed to Pittsburgh for playoff opener ... Awful turnover by Williams on a 2nd-and-goal play from Pats 9. Ball returned 69 yards and has Pats in Miami red zone ... Pats have been controlling clock, Fins need 7 points pretty fast to give themselves a real chance ..... 3Q: NE up 27-24, regains control on Brady's 77-yard pass play to Edelman to snatch back the momentum Fins held for about a minute and a half ... Moore-Stills 25-yard scoring strike has MIA within 20-14 ..... Halftime thoughts: Somewhat incredible Miami is only down by two scores after being pretty thoroughly dominated all over the field. Fins defense has been passed- and run-over for 260 yards while the Miami offense has managed a tepid 105. Dolphins not out of it if they can score early in second half but looking very much at this point that Fins will keep No. 6 AFC seed and be headed to a playoff opener at Pittsburgh ..... 2Q: Pats miss a 52-yard FG try on half's final play ... MIA within 20-7 on Moore-Landxry 8-yard scoring pass 28 seconds before halftime. They're aliiive! ... Pats 20-0 now on 26-yard FG after 15-play, 8-minute drive. Fins defense just can't get off the field ... NE 17-0 on 40-yard FG ..... 1Q: NE 14-0 on Brady-Floyd 14-yard TD pass. Fins defense being dominated early ... Miami punt has its defense back on field much too soon ... NE 7-0 on Brady-Bennett 2-yard scoring pass. Impressive opening drive of 41 yards passing, 34 rushing and 3-for-3 on 3rd downs over 7:32. Pats ain't Super Bowl favorites for nuthin', folks ..... Pregame: Fins honoray pregame captains, all in Hall of Fame jackets: Marino, Griese, Csonka, Little, Stephenson, Warfield. Not bad ... Betting line, which opened with Pats favored by 7 1/2 and got as high as 10, has settled at 8 today ... Dolphins in all-aqua uniforms today, which beats the hell out of those hideous Creamsicle-orange unis they wore earlier this season ..... Original post: It's a great day to be a Dolphins fan. That is not a sentence written or said nearly enough the past several years. But today at 1 p.m. the 10-5 Dolphins host the rival 13-2 Patriots to close the regular season, and the club will see six of its Hall of Fame legends led by NeatmiaDan Marino honored at halftime. Then, of course, win or lose today, Miami's first playoff game since 2008 will be directly ahead. Fins will be the No. 6 AFC and open the postseason at Pittsburgh unless they can climb to No. 5 for a far more favorable opener at Houston. That will happen only if Miami beats New England today and if Kansas City loses at San Diego. Computer odds put the likelihood of that at 10.9 percent, meaning an 89.1% probability of "at Steelers" next week. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, the Patriots. Many readers have been kind enough to point out that I picked the Dolphins to lose both of past two games, and was wrong both times. Well, as a public service, I’m picking them to lose again! You’re welcome. But this time I mean it. Pats beat Miami early in season with Jimmy Garoppolo. Now I’m supposed to think they won’t with Tom Brady? The game is meaningful to NE, which would clinch home-field advantage throughout with a win here and a loss by Raiders, so we'll see the A-game Pats, not the resting-starters Pats. Yeah, I know: Brady has lost his past three starts in Miami. This I also know: New England’s defense has not allowed a touchdown in more than nine quarters. It is that balance and completeness at Bill Belichick’s command that makes Pats the Super Bowl favorite, not just Brady. Plus, Jay Ajayi has been limited this week by a sore shoulder. The betting line that opened at  7 1/2 ballooned to double digits — that’s too big. But if you’re looking at this game as the Litmus test for whether Miami finally has caught up to its AFC East nemesis, the answer is, "Not yet." My pick: New England, 24-20.

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Playoff at Pittsburgh looms as Dolphins drop finale to Patriots: The regular season wrapped at 10-6 with Sunday's 35-14 home loss to New England, but forget that. What matters now is that the phrase said this time of year takes on a new and literal meaning for long-suffering Dolfans as their team prepares for its first playoff game since 2008 on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Pittsburgh. Happy New Year!

2. HURRICANES: UM ends 10-year bowl drought, Kaaya goes pro: It was a long time coming, but after an 0-6 run in bowl games, the 31-14 win over West Virginia in Orlando marked UM's first postseason victory since 2006. An even bigger win for the program? Would have been QB Brad Kaaya deciding to stay. Alas, Monday night he revealed he'll be entering the NFL Draft.

3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: It's an Alabama-Clemson rematch for championship:  Crimson Tide and Tigers won their semifinals Saturday and will meet next week in College Football Playoff finale, with 'Bama an opening 6-point favorite. We keep rooting against Nick Saban, and it keeps not doing any good.

4. ORANGE BOWL: FSU-Michigan thriller an OB Classic: Orange Bowl had a heavyweight matchup in Florida State vs. Michigan. It also had one of the best games and thrilling finishes in its 83 years in FSU's 33-32 upset win. Started when Renegade bucked Chief Osceola, but got better for Noles.

5. HEAT: Miami hurtling toward worst season in nine years: Team is 10-25 with five straight losses and and eight of past nine as it heads out on six-game roadie cascading to franchise's worst season since 2007-08. “The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight”: A 1969 Jimmy Breslin novel turned into a movie, now finding its sequel in current Heat.

6. PANTHERS: Ice slowly melting on season of high hopes: A year ago Florida had best regular season in club history and Cats entered this season boldly thinking Stanley Cup. Then came the slow start, the coach firing, and the 5-11 record since that panicked move. Oops.

7. NFL: Final two playoff spots determined: Playoff schedule now set: In AFC it'll be Raiders-Texans Saturday at 4:30 and Dolphins-Steelers Sunday at 1, with Patriots and Chiefs enjoying first-round byes. In NFC it's Lions-Seahawks Saturday at 8:15 and Giants-Packers Sunday at 4:40, with byes to Falcons and Cowboys.

8. UM BASKETBALL: ACC play underway for Canes: No. 11 UM women lost their ACC opener to No. 7 Florida State, while the unranked-but-close UM men began conference play Saturday with a victory over North Carolina State. Conference play torques up interest, but, in this sport, it's still fast-forward-to-March, please.  

9. UFC: Rousey beaten badly in comeback: Ronda Rousey returned to the octagon this week, got battered badly and didn't make it past the first round. Thought her star wouldn't extinguish so soon, but, seems "UFC career" and "longevity" is an oxymoron.

10. HAPPY  NEW YEAR!: Welcome, 2017!: Please be better than 2016. Thank you.

Missing the HB10 cut: Missing the HB10 Cut is sleeping in this week. 

Poll result: Surprise! (Not). Cubs were 2016's top national sports story: We invited you to select 2016's biggest national sports story from among The Associated Press' top 10, giving you three votes, and your runaway winner with 35.5 percent was the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. Then it was LeBron James leading Cleveland to NBA title with 16.3% and the death of Muhammad Ali with 13.3%. Rounding out your top five: Broncos winning Super Bowl in Peyton Manning's last game (8.3%) and Phelps/Ledecky leading U.S. Olympic swimming (6.3%).

Coming tomorrow/Tuesday in the blog: Your vote for the No. 1 Greater Miami/South Florida sports story of 2016. 

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

Twitter @gregcote

December 31, 2016

What was 2016's biggest national sports story? Annual year-end poll. Last day to vote!; plus FSU 33, Michigan 32 in an Orange Bowl classic; also, Dolphins-Patriots pick (uh oh), how Marino was ahead of his time & more


Newyear Nyeve1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 31. Happy New Year's Eve, all! 2) The inventor of the red Solo cup has died. A toast, anyone? 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas or Happy New Year gift for every Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes beat West Virginia in bowl with season-ending CSM poll, your verdict on Dolphins playoff foe, Greg Cote bobblehead & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

FSU survives Michigan, 33-32: They stopped the calling the annual Orange Bowl game the Orange Bowl 'Classic' a while ago. They should have brought the word back just for last night. What a game! Click on An Orange Bowl Classic for my column from the stadium.

Vote for No. 1 Greater Miami/South Florida sports story of 2016 starting Tuesday: That poll will appear in a new, separate blogpost starting Tuesday morning. Watch for it and vote.

YOU PICK THE 2016 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-ending blog vote. The top 10 stories in this poll are not mine; they are from The Associated Goodbye2016Press official annual ranking for the calendar year. I list them alphabetically here, not in the order of The AP's selection, so as not to prejudice the jury. I want this to be your independent vote and not influenced by The AP's rank. I am purposely not including a synopsis of each story, because if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE and check back frequently to monitor evolving results. And remember, this is a national list, so please consider your vote in that broad context. I must say I am quite surprised the tragic death of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez did not make the national AP list used for this poll, but be assured that won't be omitted when, beginning Tuesday morning, I invite your vote on my choices for the top Greater Miami/South Florida sports stories of 2016. For now, let's go nationwide. Ready? Decide!

Vote for the top three (3) biggest stories:

FSU 33, MICHIGAN 32 (FINAL): AN ORANGE BOWL THAT FEELS (ALMOST) LIKE A PLAYOFF GAME: Click on An Orange Bowl Classic for my column from the stadium off the game. Original post: Tonight's 83rd Orange Bowl game (8 p.m., Hard Rock Stadium, ESPN) is not a tough sell. Some are. Remember Georgia Tech- ObMississippi State not that long ago? And how did Northern bleepin' Illinois get here!? But tonight we get No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State in a matchup that has (almost) the national heft of a College Football Playoff semifinal, and the local interest to match. It's Jim Harbaugh vs. Jimbo Fisher. It's Dalvin Cook vs. Jabrill Peppers. It's FSU's big offense vs. Michigan's really good defense. I also love this contrast: the host city knows one team very well and the other hardly at all. We see the Seminoles, the Miami Hurricanes' chief ACC rivals, all the time. So many of their players including Cook (Miami Central) are local guys. This will be Florida State's 10th OB appearance, third most of any school. Michigan, though, is a far-flung mystery. The Canes have played the other U-M since the '80s, and the Wolverines' most recent of only two OB appearance was following the 1999 season. Their quarterback then was some guy named Tom Brady, who'll be back in the same building Sunday pitching for the Patriots vs. the Dolphins. Click on A Matchup Worthy of OB Tradition to read my column previewing tonight's big game.

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 17: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS, REST OF NFL: Sixteen games, all Sunday, all division rivalries, with the final two of 12 playoff spots to be determined. FripixSounds like a big Week 17 for King Sport. We enter the regular-season finale a big 34 games over .500 against the spread in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald -- one of our best years ever. Click on Week 17 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Patriots, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and every other contest. (Grinch Cote has picked playoff-bound Miami to lose each of the past two games and been wrong both times, as many kind readers have pointed out. Well, I'm picking Miami to lose yet again. You're welcome!). We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with an ode to Dan Marino's ahead-of-his-time greatness as the Dolphins prepare to honor him on Sunday. Click on Marino Led NFL Arms Race to read.

Other select recent columns: Road Back Starts With Bowl Win, on why the Hurricanes ending their bowl victory drought was so important. The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 26, 2016

NFL Week 12 picks for Dolphins-49ers, others; plus annual Thanksgiving holiday video from me to you, your Shaq/retired number verdict; also, Fidel Castro finally dies & more


1) It is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25. Hope y'all had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving! 2) Miami Herald's new book on Dolphins' first half-century is now available, just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Retiring Shaq's number with poll, Jurgen Klinsmann fired, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 11 results, SOPY standings & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Fidel Castro dead at 90, Cuban Miami celebrates: Former Cuban president Fidel Castro died late last night at age 90, the news so many thousands in South Florida had long awaited, and are celebrating today. How the rest of America felt when the U.S. killed terrorist Osama bin Laden, this is how Cuban Miami feels about the demise of the Castro dictator, with many fervently believing he should burn in hell. My animus is not so personal, but, suffice to say, we'll attach no "R.I.P." here to this man's name. 

FripixIT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 12: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-49ERS, REST OF NFL: We rebounded like Hassan Whiteside last week, shedding our slump with a 12-2 week straight-up and 9-4-1 against the spread in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald. Began our Week 12 solidly, 2-1 both ways on Thanksgiving Day games; click Thursday Gems for those picks. For all of our latest selections click on Week 12 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-49ers, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and more. We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column that today leads with an analysis of the Dolphins' playoff chances. We have the math on why Miami must won four of its last six games and finish 10-6 to expect to get in for the first time since 2008. Click on Ten Wins Or Bust For Fins to read. 

Other select recent columns: Football Town Strikes Back, on Dolphins' and Canes' concurrent resurgence. Also: Surreal At 200 MPH. Doctor Speed. South Florida to Canton. Return Of WadeCanes In the History Book. Miami QBs: No Worries. There's Hope For Us All. A Needed Slap In Face. Jose Tragedy Couldn't Get Worse, But Then It Did.

Pilgrim16A SPECIAL THANKSGIVING VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: Everybody's busy this time of year, but I managed to get Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Heat center Hassan Whiteside, defrocked baseball Hall of Fame voter Dan LeBatard and president-elect Donald Trump to join me for this special holiday video. Hope you enjoy it. And thank you, on a serious note, to all of our longtime readers and listeners, near and far, for allowing me to  be a small part of your lives. I appreciate the support and will keep working to earn it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Click HERE to watch the special video starring the five of us...

Poll result: Mixed feelings, but ultimate thumbs-down on Heat retiring Shaq's number: Heat announced they're retiring Shaquille O'Neal's No. 32. We asked what you thought, and it was 33.5 percent "no way!", 27.1% "close call but nope," 24.7% "close call but yeah," and 14.8% "yes definitely!" Combined, the nays beat the yays, 60.6% to 39.4%. Sorry, Big Fella.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 12, 2016

Opposite season outlooks (and results) for Hurricanes men, women as college basketball tips off; plus Dolphins-Chargers and other NFL Week 10 predictions, R.I.P. Bill Stanfill & more


Vetsday1) It is SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 12. Happy Veterans Day, America! Yesterday we celebrated, honored and thanked all of those who have served in the U.S. military, past to present -- which we should do every day. Who sits in the White House changes, but our reliance on the world's greatest Armed Forces never does. 2) The Miami Herald's new book on Dolphins' first half century is now available, just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami return of Dwyane Wade, postscript on election, your Clinton-Trump verdict, The List (Wade) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Bill Stanfill, R.I.P.: Former Miami Dolphins defensive great Bill Stanfill has died in hospice care, at age 69, in Georgia. Click here for more. The Perfect Season defensive end still is No. 3 on the franchise's all-time career sacks list with 67 1/2, after only Jason Taylor and Cam Wake.

Wade3Welcome home, old friend: Click on Return Of Wade for my column from the arena on Thursday night's surreal but emotional Miami return of Dwyane Wade in a Bulls uniform. A few of our other recent columns: Miami QBs: No Worries (on why Tannehill is good enough and Kaaya will return). The Other Dolphins Would Have Lost This (from win over Jets). There's Hope For Us All (Cubs win World Series). A Needed Slap In Face (NFL's declining TV ratings). And Jose Tragedy Couldn't Get Worse, But Then It Did (Fernandez and cocaine).

OPENING NIGHT! OPPOSITE CHALLENGES FOR HURRICANES' MEN, WOMEN AS 2016-17 COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON BEGINS: Miami's tandem of men's coach Jim Larranaga and women's coach Katie Meier is as solid as any in the country (see The List Below), but they face far different challenges and outlooks as college basketball got bouncing Friday. Our overview outlook for each team as the season begins:

LarranagaUM men open with 92-43 home win over over Western Carolina: Canes had five players score between 11 and 14 points and seven play 23 to 25 minutes in expected easy win over lesser foe. Outlook: Miami's men were really good last season, finishing 27-8, 13-5 in the tough ACC and reaching the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, led by a terrific year from Sheldon McClellan. Well, McClellan, Angel Rodriguez and Tonye Jekiri are among that team's leaders who have departed, leaving behind a program Larranaga (pictured) is rebuilding. Expectations are modest; UM was pegged ninth of 15 conference teams in the preseason media poll. Canes will be infusing arriving talent and hoping for big seasons from returning guys such as as Davon Reed and Ja'Quan Newton. The outlook? Somewhere around .500 or just above and contention for an NIT bid seems reasonable. But never underestimate the first-rate motivator Larranaga as he sets out on his sixth UM season.

MotleyNo. 14 UM women open with 82-66 road loss at No. 19 Kentucky: No soft opener for the Canes women, who lost despite Adrienne Motley's 16 points as Wildcats ended on a 15-2 run. Outlook: Meier's 12th UM season opened big as her 14th-ranked Canes unveiled themselves at No. 19 Kentucky with a huge test out the gate -- the only Top 25 matchup in women's basketball as the season launched. Canes were 24-9 last season and 10-6 in the ACC before disappointingly losing their opener in the NCAA Tournament. They should be very good again, led by a genuine star in the senior guard Motley (pictured). No. 14 in the national polls as a starting point suggests big things are expected, as does being pegged fifth in the preseason ACC guesstimation. Unlike Larranaga, then, and despite the program's first season-opening loss since 1996, Meier faces the burden of tall expectations.

THE LIST: HURRICANES' WINNINGEST BASKETBALL COACHES: Where current coaches Jim Larranaga and Katie Meier ranked among all-time Hurricanes winningest basketball coaches entering their 2016-17 seasons:

UM men's basketball coaching victories

Coach                       Record      Pct.    Years

Bruce Hale                220-112    .663    1954-67

Leonard Hamilton     144-147    .495     1990-2000

Frank Haith              129-101    .561     2004-11

Hart Morris               119-82      .592    1938-42, '46-52

Jim Larranaga            91-49      .650    2011-present

UM women's basketball coaching victories

Ferne Labati             303-195    .608    1988-2005

Katie Meier               207-143    .591    2005-present

Lin Dunn                   149-119    .556    1978-87 

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 10: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-CHARGERS, REST OF NFL: We modestly regained a bit of misplaced mojo last week in Week 10 of our 26th season of Friday Page FripixNFL predictions in the Miami Herald, after a pratfall the week before. I'm not doing handsprings over an 8-5 record overall and 7-5-1 against the spread, but it was progress. We were a big 23 games over .500 ATS entering this week, but had a mixed start last night. Had Ravens winning, but misfired on thinking Browns would lose by less than 10. (Note to self: Henceforth, don't even bet on the Browns to run onto the field for pregame intros without stumbling). We move on. For all of our latest selections click on Week 10 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Chargers (sorry, Dolfans), our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and more. We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column today that leads with an appreciation of former Miami Hurricanes who represent on the NFL's all-time career leaders lists in so many categories. Click on Canes In the History Book to read.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 01, 2016

Dolphins need to quit giving up home games to London! Agreed or no? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus NFL Pix 'n Fantasy results, Andre Johnson and Canton, latest SOPY standings, Cubs' historic challenge & more


Pumpkins1) It is TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1. Happy new month, y'all! Hope you had a great and Happy Halloween. I have a personal animus against fake pumpkins. Pictured right are the three real ones I carved that were on display last night as trick-or-treaters come to our door. 2) See previous blogpost for latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter results. They ain't pretty. 3) Miami Herald's new book on Dolphins' first half century is now available -- just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes fall at Notre Dame with CSM poll, state Collball Week 9, Hot Button Top 10, Jose and cocaine, Heat poll results, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Jose Fernandez, Heat, Dolphins, World Series: Our most recent columns: Click on Jose Tragedy Couldn't Get Worse, But Then It Did, for our latest column. Also: The Whiteside Project (off Heat home opener). What Took You So Long? (Dolphins' running-game epiphany). Heat's System Reboot (season-preview column). The 200-Yard Man (Jay Ajayi). And The Perfect World Series (Cubs-Indians).

FinsukDOLFANS GET SCREWED OUT OF ANOTHER HOME GAME: In 2017, for the second time in three seasons, the Miami Dolphins will give up an actual regular-season home game to "host" a game in London. Last year Dolphins fans were robbed of seeing the hated rival Jets visit Miami. Next year you'll be missing out on a rare visit by Hall of Fame bound quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints. Miami and owner Stephen Ross are obliging an NFL codicil that states a team awarded host status for a Super Bowl (which Miami was, in 2020) must "host" an international game within five years. Dumb rule. At least Miami won't be charging fans for a home game beine played an eight-hour flight from home. In any case, I hate that the Dolphins giving up a home game -- let alone twice in three years. More than fans take a hit; the Dolphins yield home-field advantage for that game. This sport is different. There are only eight home games. They are precious. Giving up one of eight would be the equivalent of the Heat playing five of their 41 home games elsewhere, or the Marlins giving up 10 of their 81 home games. Here's a poll that invites your opinion on this matter:

AjohnsonANDRE JOHNSON AND CANTON: Titans wide receiver Andre Johnson, 35, the born-and-raised Miamian and ex-Hurricane, announced today he planned to retire on Monday. Is Johnson a Hall of Famer? I think so. Perhaps not a first-ballot, no-argument guy. But one who should get to Canton eventually. Here are Johnson's pertinent NFL career numbers compared to the three most recent wide receivers to be inducted, with 'PB' indicating Pro Bowls:

Player                           PB    Catches    Yards    Avg.    TDs

Andre Johnson               7    1,062        14,185  13.4    70

Tim Brown (2015)           9     1,094       14,934  13.7    100

Andre Reed (2014)          7        951       13,198  13.9     87

Cris Carter (2013)           8      1,101       13,899  12.6    130

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY WEEK 8 RESULTS: PIX IN A SLUMP, BUT LOBOS KEEP ROCKIN'!: Every week in the blog I update you on how we did the previous weekend with our NFL predictions and fantasy team. NFL pix: Lousy week, period. Went 6-6-1 overall (with the tie game) and embarrassing 3-9-1 against the spread (with the Jets pushing). We're still a very solid 21 games above .500 ATS for  the season, but need to shake this two-week lull pronto. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos rose to 5-3 in the LeBatard Show league with a 138-114 spanking of Dan. That ties us for first place. Enjoyed balanced scoring, with four guys over 19 points led by Mohammad Sanu's 23. With a roster ravaged by byes, we'd just signed Sanu as a free agent late in the week, so that made us look smart. Let's keep it rollin', 'Bos!

SOPY RANKINGS / 'STATE HEISMAN': CAN ANYONE SPOIL FLOWERS' GARDEN PARTY?: South Florida Bulls duel-threat QB Quinton Flowers (out of Miami Jackson High) has expanded his season Sopylead in the fifth year of our blog's SOPY rankings --State Offensive Player of the Year. Second place Dalvin Cook, the Florida state running back, has played one fewer game, but even with that factored in, Flowers' lead is huge. Our rankings are cumulative, so players whose team had a bye week take a temporary hit in the rankings that evens out over the course of a season. Our weekly rankings measure the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers for the state's seven FBS teams: Miami, Florida, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UCF and South Florida. The number of games played for each school is listed parenthetically below. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Here is the SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 10, followed by a new No. 1 in our updated 'Cote's State of the State' team rankings:


RK    LW    Player, Team-pos. (games)                 Wk9        Year

1      1      Quinton Flowers, SoFla-qb (9)            309.5      2,051

2      2      Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb (8)                      208        1,512

3      3      Deondre Francois, FSU-qb (8)             102        1,262

4      4      Alex McGough, FIU-qb (9)                  223.5     1,159.5

5      5      Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb (9)                  156          996

6      8      Alex Gardner, FIU-rb (9)                     123         937

7      7      Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb (8)                   115         936

8      6      Jason Driskel, FAU-qb (8)                    46          884

9      9      Mark Walton, Miami-rb (8)                  89          845 

10   10     Gregory Howell, FAU-rb (8)                 29          729

Bubble: Rodney Adams, SoFla-rec, 713. Other team leaders: McKenzie Milton, UCF-qb, 703.5 (8); and Luke Del Rio, Florida-qb, 594.5 (7). Week 9 best: Flowers, 309.5. Season best: Cook, 341, Week 4.

Cote's State of the State team rankings: 1. Florida (6-1); 2. Florida State (5-3); 3. South Florida (7-2); 4. Miami (4-4); 5. UCF (4-4); 6. FIU (3-6); 7. FAU (1-7).

THE LIST: TEAMS THAT HAVE DONE WHAT CUBS ARE TRYING TO DO: The Cubs trailed the Indians 3-1 before winning World Series game 5 last night. Should it win the next two in Cleveland, the Cubs would become only the fifth team ever to successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven WS. Teams that have done it:

Year    Team                                    Series MVP

1985    Royals vs. Cardinals               Royals P Bret Saberhagen

1968    Tigers vs. Cardinals               Tigers P Mickey Lolich

1958    Yankees vs. Milw. Braves        Yankees P Bob Turley

1925    Pirates vs. Senators               None chosen

Note: Tigers and Yankees won last two on road, the challenge now facing Chicago.

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

Twitter @gregcote

October 28, 2016

Opening Night! Heat lose home debut, 97-91. Post-Wade, who's now your favorite Heat player? And how good do you expect team to be? 2 polls. Last day to vote!; plus NFL Week 8 picks, Jose and alcohol, your Cubs-Indians verdict, The List (Dolphins) & more


1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28. Miami Herald's new book on Dolphins' first half century is now available -- just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Cubs-Indians rooting interest poll, Joe Public hates Miami Heat (quantified), NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 7 results, SOPY standings, World Series lists & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Heat, Dolphins, World Series: 3 recent columns of ours: Heat opened its new season victoriously; click on Heat's System Reboot for my season-preview column. Click The 200-Yard Man for Jay Ajayi column off Sunday's big Fins win. And click The Perfect World Series for me on Cubs-Indians.

OPENING NIGHT! MYSTERY TRAIN LEAVES MIAMI STATION AS NEW-ERA HEAT STAGE HOME OPENER: Update: Heat blow a 19-point lead, fall Friday night to Charlotte in home opener, 97-91. Whiteside leads way with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but his second-half foul trouble really hurt. ...... It was a  pretty impressive little 108-96 Miami win in Orlando Wednesday to open the 2016-17 NBA season. I say "little" because Orlando isn't very good. Still, Hassan Whiteside's 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks, and five others in double figures including three off bench, was encouraging. Not so much: Miami was only 4-for-16 on 3's. At any rate the competition is a little tougher tonight in the home opener, with the Charlotte Hornets generally seen as a playoff team above the Heat in the Eastern Conference pecking order. ..... Original post: Heat opens its 29th NBA season and first without Dwyane Wade since 2002. The Big 3 is a memory, with Wade and Chris Bosh following LeBron James into Miami's past. A youthful nucleus led by Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Heat1617Johnson carries the franchise forward. (Dragic, Winslow and Whiteside are pictured). Architect Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra reassuringly still steer this season, but where it ends up, nobody knows. Wouldn't surprise me if Miami surprised the media experts and made the playoffs. Wouldn't surprise me Mysterytrainif they were lottery-bad. But the bettor in me thinks a competitive fight for that eighth playoff seed is more likely. (Click on Heat's System Reboot for my full season-preview column). Riley always uses 20 games, a quarter of the regular-season schedule, as the barometer it takes to judge a team or its direction. That brings us into early December. But the first two games will be a reasonable early gauge this time, because, in the Magic Wednesday and then the Charlotte Hornets in Friday's home opener, Miami immediately faces two like teams in the East -- teams the Heat must be better than to reach the postseason. As an example, ESPN's Power Rankings for the East's eight playoff spots have Charlotte ranked seventh, Miami 10th and Orlando 12. The Heat's third game, vs. league and West power San Antonio, will be sexier but say less about Miami's playoff chances than the first two games. By the way, Chicago at Heat -- Wade's Miami homecoming -- is game No. 7, on Nov. 10. That's in 13 days, not that I'm counting. We offer two season-opening Heat polls here. The first one invites you to set the bar on Heat expectations for this season in terms of regular-season wins. As a guide, a common range of Las Vegas over/unders for Miami is 34.5 to 36.5 wins. Remember to vote how good you honestly think the team will be, not how good you hope it is. The second poll wonders who your favorite current, active Heat player is in the void left by Wade's departure and with Bosh seemingly having played his last game for the team. Names are listed alphabetically. Vote in both polls, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 8: OUR LATEST NFL PICKS: Let's get it on as Marvin Gaye would say. Let's get the roll back in Week 8 of our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the FripixMiami Herald -- and one of our best so far. We dipped to 9-5-1 overall and 7-8 against the spread last week, our first losing week ATS, but still we are a shiny 67-39-2 vs. the betting line after a proper start to our week last night. We called Titans covering 3 1/2 over Jaguars; click Thursday Gem for that pick. For all our latest selections click on Week 8 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and more. The Dolphins may be off, but the games chug on! We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column today that leads with the Dolphins, their suddenly blooming ground game and how a run-first tradition has deep roots in franchise lore. Click on What Took You So Long? to read.

ON JOSE FERNANDEZ'S BLOOD-ALCOHOL LEVEL THAT NIGHT: Inevitably results are trickling out on the physical condition of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and two others that might have led to last month's triple-fatal late night boating accident. Miami-Dade County authorities say a "strong odor of alcohol" was found on Fernandez and two friends, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the Miami Herald and released by the Miami-Dade state attorney. It states investigators found evidence that the boat's driver (presumed to be but not known to be Fernandez, the boat's owner) was speeding and driving with "recklessness" that was "exacerbated by the consumption of alcohol." Toxicology reports are complete but have not yet been released by the state as the investigation continues. Bottom line: No surprises in this development: It had been pretty clear from anecdotal evidence and witnesses that all three men had been drinking, and that alcohol and reckless speed contributed to the crash. It only makes the tragedy all the sadder -- the knowing it never should have happened. R.I.P., all three young men.

DolhallDOLPHINS COMMUNITY SERVICE: Every Tuesday the Dolphins organization does something nice in the community. Yesterday, the club bought Halloween costumes for a bunch of local kids. Pictured here, a Dolphins cheerleader with two lucky kids as the three of them set a world record for making the friendliest scary faces. (Photo is courtesy of the Dolphins; click on it see a larger version of the image). Most of what the team does on their Tuesday off-days involves doing good and philanthropy. The past two weeks the team's good works also have involved the uncommon bonus of an actual two-game winning streak.

Poll result: Unsurprisingly, you're rooting Cubs over Indians: We asked about your World Series rooting interest (before Cleveland won Game 1 last night), and it was Cubs 63.0 percent, Indians 27.6% and undecided 9.4%.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS TWO-GAME HOME WINNING STREAKS: A modest little streak, winning two games in a  row at home. But, for Miami, not as common as you might think. The five most recent times before now that the Fins have won consecutive games in Miami within a single season:

Year        Opponents beaten          Dates

2016        Steelers, Bills                Current

2012        Jaguars, Bills                Dec. 16 & 23

2011        Redskins, Bills              Nov. 13 & 20

2009        Bills, Jets                      Oct. 4 & 12

2008        Seahawks, Raiders        Nov. 9 & 16

2006        Chiefs, Vikings             Nov. 12 & 19

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

Twitter @gregcote

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


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

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


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