June 22, 2015

Cote does Paris. A travelogue; plus Heat draft projection, new 'Weighing The Fish', latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), me Periscope, Dolphins still King & more

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

1aa1adad1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 23. No radio today. I'll be in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show on Friday this week instead. 2) Hope all my fellow padres had a great Father's Day. My wife and sons sure made it one for me! 3) Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, was off a second straight week but will return June 28. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Ultimate Favorite South Florida Sports Team poll. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

Heat draft projection: NBA Draft is Thursday night, Miami selects 10th overall, and Sports Illustrated's 1aa1adekkerlatest mock draft today predicts Heat will choose 6-9 Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker (pictured). SI's synopsis: "Dekker has shot well in recent workouts, including in Detroit and Sacramento, alleviating some of the concern about his perimeter game. Still, Dekker is one of the draft's biggest wild cards. He could go anywhere from 10-20. Miami will eventually need a small forward to supplant Luol Deng. Dekker — who has NBA size and athleticism — is the kind of player the Heat could groom." Meanwhile, newly out via Bovada, Miami is 33-1 to win the NBA title in 2016, tied for 10th best odds. Early favorites are Cleveland at 3-1, Golden State 5-1 and Oklahoma City 7-1.

Me on Periscope: I'm newly on Periscope @gregcote and posted my first video last evening. Join us if you'd like and we'll try to have some fun. 

COTE DOES PARIS, PARIS SURVIVES: We spent eight recent days in Paris. My wife had always wanted to go, so I finally took her. By that I mean it was her idea, and she did all the planning and organizing. I 1aa1acotemagfind the key to a successful marriage is me staying out of trouble and just being along for the ride. We had a suite at the boutique-y Hotel McMahon, a short walk from the Champs-Elysees (one of the world's great boulevards) and the Charles de Gaulle Metro stop. We rode the Metro a lot, and it was terrific. From our room we could see the Arc de Triomphe. Cote is a common surname in France and means "coast," so we saw it a lot in names of restaurants, shops and the magazine pictured. Cote Magazine. Weird. Now, a daily travelogue...

Day 1: After an overnight flight we arrived in Paris very early last Thursday morning and toured the city on Big Bus while waiting for our room to be ready. Got together with fellow Herald sports writer Michelle Kaufman, her husband Dave Barry and their daughter Sophie, who were a few days from leaving as we got there. Dined at Aux Anysetiers du Roy, and had the best beef bourguignon of my life. What a city for gastronomes!

Day 2: Spent hours at the Musee Rodin with Michelle et al and was surprised to find out so many of the 1aa1athinkermost noted sculptures -- including The Thinker -- are situated outdoors. That outdoor promenade of fine art was stunning. Stopped in local shops to buy wine, bread, cheeses and fruit for a picnic lunch against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Idyllic. Nourished, we climbed to La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmarie, a famed church that is the highest point of Paris. It is not a religious experience, but a carnival, with throngs of tourists and sometimes-aggressive vendors peddling cheap souvenirs. We dined at an magnificent Indian restaurant near the church.

Day 3: On our own after bidding adieu to our friends, we did The Louvre, probably the 1aa1amemonaworld's most famous museum, home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo among other priceless works. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa has a huge room all to itself, such are the crowds queuing for a look. Pictured left: Me taking a shameless selfie with Mona in the background. We also visited the less famous but exquisite Musee d'Orsay, which I preferred to The Louvre. D'Orsay is an Impressionist lover's paradise, with works by Renoir, Cezanne, Monet and more. Dined with balcony seating and thoroughly undeserved VIP treatment at the famed Moulin Rouge, where the 2001 Medoc Bourdeaux may have been the finest wine I have ever enjoyed.

Day 4: Took a river cruise along the Seine, which separates the heart of Paris from its 1aa1aarcLeft Bank. Lunched at Cafe Gustave. Went up in the Eiffel Tower (because tourists have to; it's practically the law) and had champagne overlooking the city. Visited the Arc de Triomphe, then ate Thai food. The Arc lit at night (pictured) is breathtaking, and worth the wait, considering it doesn't get dark in Paris until around 9:30 or 10 p.m.

Day 5: Monday now. Did the Musee L'Armee, the military museum that includes Napoleon's Tomb. Lunched at Ristorante Scala. Fun sidetrip to an out of the way local museum dedicated to chocolate. Visited the famed Notre Dame church (where again we observed a serious presence of police with military-grade weapons around major tourist areas, de rigeur security ever since the terrorist attacks on the city's Charlie Hedbo newspaper). Had dinner and champagne at Cafe de Deaville, then a stroll along the Champs-Elysees.

1aa1agardensmonetDay 6: Bused an hour outside Paris to Giverny, France and the home and gardens of Claude Monet until his death. The gardens pictured that inspired his art make it one of the loveliest acres on Earth. Had lunch with wine in Normandy at Le Moulin de Fourges, then bused to the famed Versailles, which (like The Louvre) lost points with me because of its popularity and crowds. Giverny was an absolute delight, though. Dinner at Caffe de Caesar.

Day 7: Took a three-hour guided, walking tour of Paris that was a delight because it delved off the beaten paths and into neighborhoods. Fell in love with the French cheese, Cantal, over lunch. Did a bunch of browsing and shopping. Dined at the funky La Petit Acacia.

1aa1aartfoodDay 8: In wind-down mode on our last full day in Paris, we visited Plaza de Bastille, enjoyed the best mussels I have ever eaten at the Belgian restaurant Leon, and later fine-dined at the upscale La Fermette Marbeuf just off the Champs-Elysees. This was the view from our table; you feel as if you are dining inside an art museum.

On the ninth day we flew home full of memories and thoroughly impressed by Paris, its people and sights. Highly recommend the visit. Postscript for the stereotype-inlcined: The entire time we were there, I think we saw two people wearing berets, and not a single street mime.

WEIGHING THE FISH (70 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this year we debuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games 1aa1afishweighcumulative ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Ten qualify for our latest ranking. WTF factors six offensive categories, serving as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Weighing The Fish skipped the 60-game edition because we were away on vacation. Here's WTF after 70 games (actually 71 at 30-41; oops again):

Rank Player                   WTF#  @50

1  Giancarlo Stanton      344.4    1

2  Dee Gordon                  272.3    2

3  Adeiny Hechevarria  218.3   3

4  Marcell Ozuna            209.6   5

5  Martin Prado              201.5   4

6  Jacob Realmuto         162.9    6

7  Christian Yelich        156.8   9

8  Ichiro Suzuki              130.4   8

9  Justin Bour                 129.0   7

10  Michael Morse            91.7   10

Note: Season WTFs leader-count is now Stanton 4, Gordon 2.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated), back after a week off on vacation, 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:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NBA: Golden State wins. More accurately, LeBron loses!: There were two winners in the NBA Finals: Golden State and Miami -- the Warriors for beating Cleveland, and jilted Heat fans because LeBron James lost. LeBron still hasn't won a title without Dwyane Wade. By the way.

2. SOCCER: U.S. advances in Women’s World Cup: The win-or-out matches started last night for the United States team, vs. Colombia, with a 2-0 USA win in the Women's World Cup in Canada. Unlike the American men, the U.S. women could actually win this thing, and have reached the quarterfinals. "Let's gooooo States!"

3. HEAT: NBA Draft, Wade decision on deck: The NBA Draft is Thursday night in Brooklyn, with Miami selecting 10th overall. More importantly, also coming up soon is Dwyane Wade's decision whether to opt-out and explore leaving the Heat. Say it ain't so, Dwyane. Heat fans mean that literally. Say it ain't so.

4. MARLINS: Fish prepare for long homestand: Fish open a nine-game homestand tonight with Jose Fernandez's return drawing nearer. Team has been about the same under Dan Jennings (14-19, .424) since he replaced Mike Redmond (16-22, .421), verifying that managers have very little do with a team's record. Season still a slogging disappointment, but at least we get to watch Giancarlo Stanton hit.

5. GOLF: Jordan Spieth wins U.S. Open: Jordan Spieth, 21, won the U.S. Open in Washington State after earlier winning the Masters. Meantime a former Spieth-like phenom named Tiger Woods (remember him?) fizzled and didn't even make the cut. It may be time to stop waiting for Tiger to find his old form and just assume he never will.

6. ALEX RODRIGUEZ: A-Rod records 3,000th hit: In storybook fashion, Yankee (and Miami-raised) Alex Rodriguez made a home run his 3,000th career hit in becoming the 29th player to reach that plateau. Unfortunately for A-Rod, steroids rewrote that storybook for all time.

7. PANTHERS: Cats prepare to host NHL Draft: As Chicago still celebrates its Stanley Cup win over Tampa Bay, the hockey draft is coming to Sunrise this Friday and Saturday. I suppose if Cats fans can't enjoy the playoffs, this at least is a consolation prize of sorts.

8. DOLPHINS: Now comes to wait until training camp: The OTA (Organized Team Activity) practice days are done. The three-day June mini-camp is finished. Now comes the wait as Dolfans look forward to the late-July start of Miami's full training camp, ready or not.  

9. HURRICANES: UM baseball disappoints at College World Series: Maybe getting to Omaha for first time since 2008 made it a good season for The U, but two lopsided losses to the Florida Gators, of all teams, wrote a sour ending for Jim Morris' Canes.

10. 'BALLERS': New HBO series premieres: Ballers is the Dwyane (The Rock) Johnson series that HBO describes as "centered around a group of football players and their families, friends, and handlers," and it premiered Sunday night. It involved scandals and misbehaving players getting trouble. True to life, in other words. Enjoyed the premiere. Show has promise. Had heard Master Thespian Dan Le Batard had a cameo, but it wasn't in the premiere.

Poll result: Dolphins still King of South Florida sports: We listed Greater Miami's biggest pro and college teams, asked which is your favorite, and the Dolphins reigned with 48.2 percent. Only the football Hurricanes were in the neighborhood at 34.7%, with the Heat a distant third with 8.0%. The Marlins (2.7%) and hockey Panthers (2.6%) rounded out the top five.

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May 26, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Fish, Fins, Finals, Canes baseball, Montoya, Letterman, hockey, soccer, tennis, Heat; plus 50,000 Names: Thank you, American heroes; also, UM/MLS stadium verdict & more

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

It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami and 4-7 on ESPN Radio and Fusion TV. Ears, and eyes, welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 26. Click on Random for our latest Sunday Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM/MLS stadium discussions with poll, King of Late Night and Kidgate poll results, proctology news & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON MAY 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (a day late this week but updated) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Stinking Fish make bizarre manager change, finally win: The slumping Marlins surprised baseball by prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond and then stunned baseball by replacing him with Dan Jennings, who was the general manager and began 0-5 in his new role before finally winning. Jennings last managed at the high school level in 1980s. No, seriously.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins lock up QB Tannehill with long-term deal: The Dolphins will pay quarterback Ryan Tannehill $96 million over the next six seasons in the hopes he makes them a perennial playoff team and even a Super Bowl contender. I think Dolfans are generally happy about the deal, but probably not nearly as happy as Tannehill’s wife, Lauren.

3. NBA: Golden State, Cleveland barreling toward Finals: All of America outside of Atlanta, Houston and Miami is rooting for the Golden State-Cleveland NBA Finals that now seems certain -- Steph Curry vs. LeBron James. Take solace, Heat fans. Even if that happens, it would be first time in five or six years that LeBron would enter a playoff series expected to lose.

4. UM BASEBALL: Canes to host NCAA regional: Miami failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament but stil was named a No. 5 national seed and will host an NCAA Regional at Ron Fraser Stadium. (Hey. It's my blog. I can call it whatever I want).

5. AUTO RACING: Miamian Montoya wins Indy 500: The 99th running of “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” is the one day IndyCars steal the spotlight from NASCAR, and Miami's Juan Pablo Montoya won Sunday. I was betting on Will Power. Not because I thought he'd win, but because I have a soft spot for guys with ridiculous names that sound like alter-ego pseudonyms of comic-book superheroes.

6. DAVID LETTERMAN: Late-night TV legend says farewell: Letterman didn’t supplant Johnny Carson as the all-time late-night king, never got to host “The Tonight Show” and didn’t often beat Jay Leno in ratings, yet wound up a legend. Proves you can be beloved even if you don’t win the ultimate prize. Just ask Dan Marino. Ouch! Too soon?

7. NHL: High drama in hockey semifinals: Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers are tied 2-2 in the Eastwern Conference and Anaheim and Chicago are knotted 2-2 in the West. Dear NBA: This is how you do drama.

8. SOCCER: Joint stadium for UM football and MLS soccer?: David Beckham wanted a Miami waterfront home for Major League Soccer but couldn’t get one. Miami Hurricanes need a campus football stadium but couldn’t get one. Now the sides are discussing sharing a new venue near Marlins Park. What will it be called? Consolation Stadium?

9. TENNIS: French Open is underway: Betting favorites in Paris are Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Sort of like in every other tournament anywhere else.

10. HEAT: Tough week for Heat fans: Watching LeBron James roll to another Finals. Pretending to be thrilled over keeping the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. Then seeing no Miami player make the All-NBA first, second or third team for the first time since 2008. Good news? Season's almost over.

Poll result: Cautious excitement over proposed UM/MLS stadium: We asked and 34.5 percent called it a great idea and 28.6% were intrigued enough to hear more. On the negative side, 15.1% were skeptical and 21.8% said "no!"

MEMORIAL DAY, 2015: THANK YOU, FALLEN SOLDIERS: On Memorial Day every year (that's today), America honors its war dead. As a proud, patriotic citizen I am honored to mark the occasion in my blog today. The Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and right through to today's fight against Islamic State, among many other battles distant and not, America's bravest fight and the casualties continue. Across decades and centuries, across the world, the price of freedom never lets up and never will. I hate that we use the word "heroes" so frivolously, especially to apply to something as inconsequential as sports. This is the day for real heroes. The video below is a song called "50,000 Names," by George Jones. It is about Vietnam and The Wall in Washington, D.C., but it speaks to all of America's war dead, and with appreciation to all of the loved ones they left behind. This is for them. Thank you, today and always!

 

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

May 11, 2015

Brady suspended 4 games, Pats forfeit 1st-round pick!; plus Dolphins now East favorites?; also Heat draft prediction, new 'Weighing The Fish', Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

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


1) It is MONDAY, MAY 11. Hope you good moms out there had a happy Mother's Day. Especially to my own mom in Vero Beach and to my wife and wonderful mother to our two sons. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Deflategate findings with poll, A-Rod's milestone with poll, Dolphins lose Collins, '16 mock draft & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

BREAKING NEWS: BRADY SUSPENDED 4 GAMES!: Tom Brady is suspended the first four games of the coming season and the Patriots are made to forfeit a first-round draft pick as NFL hands down "Deflate" punishment today. Club also fined $1 million and made to forfeit a fourth-round 2017 pick as well.

1aa1adekkerHeat draft prediction: Jeff Goodman's latest NBA mock draft for ESPN.com today predicts Miami will select Wisconson small forward Sam Dekker 10th overall. Dekker (pictured) is 6-9 and 230. Goodman's synopsis of the pick: "The Heat need to hit a home run here, and Dekker showed the potential with his play in the NCAA tournament. He's long, athletic and displayed a mental toughness with huge games on the sport's biggest stage. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng aren't spring chickens. This team needs some fresh legs to go along with Hassan Whiteside."

The heat in Redmond's seat: New first-manager-to-be-fired odds via sportsbettingdime.com show Miami's Mike Redmond tied for fourth in line at 6-1. Only shorter odds are Mariners' Lloyd McClendon at 7-2, and Indians' Terry Francona and White Sox's Robin Ventura both 4-1.

AFC EAST FAVORITES? DOLPHINS MAKING POST-DRAFT, DEFLATEGATE-RELATED LEAPS: The Dolphins leap four spots -- 19th to 15th -- in ESPN's latest post-draft NFL rankings out today, tied with Baltimore (11th to 7th) for the biggest jump. Elsewhere in the AFC East, Patriots hold steady at No. 2, Bills fall 1aa1adolphinleapingone spot to 18th and Jets bump up two spots to 25th. (Top five is Seahawks, Pats, Packers, Broncos and Colts). Of even greater interest, the respected ESPN partner website Football Outsiders is projecting/predicting both New England and Miami for 11-5 records and says Dolphins will be division favorites if imminent Deflategate penalties show a significant suspension for QB Tom Brady. Here is FB-O's take not even factoring in a Brady suspension: "Your hot sleeper Super Bowl contender for 2015 is the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots run away with the AFC East year after year, but our early projections suggest the defending champions will finally get some serious competition in their own division this year. We're high on the 2015 Dolphins because the 2014 Dolphins were essentially a good team dragged down to 8-8 by dismal special teams and a difficult schedule. However, special teams are less consistent from year to year than offense or defense, which means the Dolphins are likely to be a lot closer to average in that area in 2015. And like the rest of their division, the Dolphins also get an easier schedule this year."

WEIGHING THE FISH (30 GAMES): We throw the occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this 1aa1afishweigh 1aa1adeegyear we debuted a new feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Nine qualify for our third ranking. WTF is cumulative and factors six offensive categories. It serves as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best season or is hot/cold. Weighing The Fish after 30 games (actually 32, at 15-17, because we were asleep at the wheel), with current leader Dee Gordon pictured:

Rank Player                          WTF#      @20

1    Dee Gordon                         170.3      2

2    Giancarlo Stanton            163.1      1

3    Adeiny Hechevarria        140.4      3

4    Martin Prado                     124.7      4

5    Marcell Ozuna                   120.7      6

6    Ichiro Suzuki                      92.2      7

7    Michael Morse                    83.4      5

8    Jacob Realmuto                 75.4      8

9    Christian Yelich                 51.3      9

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

1aa1ahotbutton1. DEFLATEGATE: Pats, Brady await punishment after Wells Report: “Deflategate” probe found Patriots and QB Tom Brady bearing “probable” guilt related to under-inflated footballs in AFC title game. Don Shula this week noted, "We didn’t deflate any balls. We always tried to live by the rules." Every retiree needs a hobby. Shula's apparently is needling Bill Belichick.

2. MARLINS: Gordon-led Fish continue on 10-game trip: Miami moves on to L.A. now after last night's Steve Cishek blown save at San Fran. Story so far has been Dee Gordon leading majors with a .439 batting average — 62 points better than anyone else. Might he become baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941? Hey, somebody had to defy the jinx superstition and finally say it!

3. DOLPHINS: Busy week includes free-agent loss, rookies, celebration: Fins lost out on heavily wooed free-agent tackle La'el Collins, who signed with Dallas, then held a rookie minicamp that featured all seven recently drafted players. Miami also announced season-long plan related to club's 50th anniversary season. Dolfans need only one celebration: A bleepin' playoff win, please!

4. NBA: Cavaliers tie it as LeBron plays hero: Clippers seized a 3-1 series lead over Houston and Cavaliers tied Chicago 2-2 Sunday on LeBron James' last second-winning shot. No team still alive has won an NBA title since 1998 in what has been one of league’s most unpredictable seasons in years. Still liking Cleveland and Golden -- LeBron vs. Steph Curry -- as the most predictable Finals.

5. ALEX RODRIGUEZ: A-Rod passes Mays on career home run list: Alex Rodriguez’s 661st career homer Thursday night at Yankee Stadium passed Willie Mays for fourth on all-time list, an achievement diminished, of course, by A-Rod’s steroids history. Don’t mean to stigmatize him, but instead of the number 13, shouldn't the back of his uniform have a giant asterisk?

6. GOLF: Fowler wins TPC Sawgrass near Jacksonville: Rickie Fowler won in a playoff Sunday while Tiger Woods sputtered home tied for 69th. Tiger endured a recent breakup with girlfriend Lindsay Vonn but already seems over it. Just saw him walking into his favorite store, Blondes ’R Us.

7. ESPN: Network parting ways with Bill Simmons: ESPN said it won’t renew Bill Simmons' contract amid speculation a big reason is his continuing outspoken animus against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. I love the media saying what a major blow this will be to ESPN. "Um, I think we’ll get by," said the $51 billion network.

8. BOXING: Fallout from the big fight continues: The fallout from Floyd Mayweather's uninspiring win over Manny Pacquiao includes includes class-action lawsuits against Pacquiao for not disclosing his shoulder injury. Pac Man was hurting that night. But not as much as the suckers who spent $100 to watch the borefest on pay-per-view.

9. NHL: Conference semis reaching crescendo: Chicago and Anaheim are in, Tampa Bay can clinch Tuesday, and the Rangers host a Game 7 vs. Washington on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Canada is planning a candlelight vigil for the anticipated continuation of its Stanley Cup drought.

10. HORSE RACING: Countdown 5 days 'til Preakness Stakes: Meaning we have less than a week left to pretend that Kentucky Derby winner American Pharaoh will break horse racing’s near-40-year Triple Crown drought.

Poll result: You want Brady suspended minimum of four games: We asked what would be a fair Deflategate penalty for Tom Brady and a narrow majority of 50.4 percent said a suspension of four or more games. Then it was 17.2% for no suspension, 16.9% for two games, 8.4% for three games and 7.1% for one game.

Poll result: You'd have cheered A-Rod, but feelings are mixed: We asked if you'd have cheered or booed Alex Rodriguez's home run that passed Willie Mays, and it was 50.4 percent cheered, 34.3% booed and 15.3% undecided.

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

April 05, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Flying Fish, Kentucky's loss, reeling Heat, 7 others; plus who'll win NCAA final? New poll. Vote now!; also Loria, Serena & more

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


1aa1aeaster1) It is SUNDAY, APRIL 5. Happy Easter, believers, and congratulations, Jesus! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Marlins. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four, UM/NIT, Jordan tops poll, Heat/Panthers playoff chase, Josh Freeman, Cuban baseball, John Wolin & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins' Jeffrey Loria: I visit with the team owner for my column in today's season-preview section. Many don't like Loria, but will a big-spending offseason help his image? Click on Judging Jeffrey to read.

Serena's dominance: Serena Williams is The Tennis Terminator. She proved it again yesterday at the Miami Open. Click on Queen Serena for my column on Williams and her place in tennis history.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Double doom! Heat drop off pace, Panthers eliminated. Update entering SundayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 34-42 (L3) after last night's 99-98 loss at Detroit, 1/2 game from 8th, 1 game ahead of 10th with 6 games left (next tonight at Indiana). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.5% (down 9.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down (eliminated) in 10th place at 36-43 (L1) after last night's 4-0 loss vs. Tampa Bay, 8 points from 8th with 4 games left (next today vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.0% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

HOT BUTTON APR. 5: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Opening Day! High hopes as Fish debut Monday: Major League Baseball opens its season with Cardinals at Cubs tonight, but all other teams take the field Monday. Here is your pump-up music, South Florida: Only the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants have won more World Series since 1997 than the Marlins’ two.

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: It's Duke-Wisconsin for NCAA championship: Kentucky and Duke were five-point betting picks in Saturday’s Final Four semifinals but only one of them did their job. For the previously unbeaten Wildcats of John Calipari, that meant yesterday was one and done.

3. HEAT: Loss at Detroit knocks Miami off playoff pace: The blown-lead 99-98 loss at Detroit last night toppled Heat into ninth place in East with six games to play resuming tonight at Indiana. Miami has now lost three straight and six of past eight in a season that has proved to be exciting like hanging on to the edge of a cliff is exciting.

4. TENNIS: Serena wins, men on deck at Miami Open: Two weeks of tennis nirvana in Key Biscayne end with today's Novak Djokovic-Andy Murray men's final, after Serena Williams won Saturday's women's crown with such ease that we won't even mention her poor opponent's name.

5. PANTHERS: Cats eliminated from NHL playoff contention: Last night's 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay officially eliminated Florida from race. Panthers may have been most improved team in league this season. Unfortunately, Lord Stanley doesn't believe that close counts.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes lose heartbreaker in NIT title game: The bad news? UM, with two starters out injured, lost to Stanford 66-64 in overtime in the final of the NIT. The good news? We avoid having to cringe with a condescending smile while listening to coach Jim Larrañaga claim straight-faced that his team just won a national championship.

7. GOLF: Masters on deck with Tiger in it: Rory McIlroy is the betting favorite at The Masters this week at Augusta, but as much attention was being paid to Tiger Woods on whether he would play. He will. But it speaks to the shaky state of his game -- battling health issues, and after a long layoff -- that even his fans sort of wished he hadn't.

8. NFL DRAFT: UM Pro Day showcases Canes: NFL scouts raved about the Hurricanes’ talent at UM’s annual Pro Day, notably Phillip Dorsett, who ran a 4.25 40. I don’t wanna says he’s fast, but when Dorsett flips off the light switch in his bedroom he’s under the covers before the room goes dark. Seems the Canes will have a sizable impact on the NFL Draft’s early rounds. That sound you hear is one more excuse for a 6-7 season running away from Al Golden. 

9. DOLPHINS: Fins sign quarterback Josh Freeman: That was after the team gained a court order to exhume the remains of Freeman's career and conduct an autopsy for signs of life.

10. HORSES: Show-jumping competition ends on Miami Beach: A major show-jumping competition concluded Saturday on the sands of Miami Beach. I don’t wanna say those horses are pampered, but an "equine psychotherapist" was on hand. Seriously. Am picturing a typical session. Sad horse sighs as it lays on couch. Psychotherapist: “Why the long face?”

Poll result: You want different, better NCAA Tournament format: This surprised me a bit. I'd have guessed you'd go for the status quo. Instead, 70.3 percent said they'd prefer a tournament with the 64 best teams and no automatic bids for small-conference winners. Only 29.7% preferred it as is.

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

January 01, 2015

What was Miami/South Florida's biggest sports story of 2014? Poll. Last chance to vote!; plus Oregon hammers FSU, Ohio State stuns 'Bama & more

1aa1anew15
1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 1. Happy New Year, all! Let's make it a great one! 2) In The 
Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron and D-Wade plotting reunion?, Orange Bowl game interest poll, Cats sign Bjugstad, NFL Pix results & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

A message from me to you: To all our readers, print and online, to our Blog Family and radio listeners and to our followers and friends on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine ... thank you! You made it another great past year and make me look forward to 2015.

More Cowbell!: Click on More Cowbell for my column from last night's Orange Bowl game. I write how Georgia Tech was up to the big stage in its 49-34 win; Mississippi State was not.

1aa1amiami2014WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2014?: We do this every year. We asked you last week to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2014 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Your national sports story of year was...: We asked you to vote for the 2014 national sports story of the year from among The Associated Press' top 10, and LeBron James going home was your top choice with 22.2 percent, followed by Donald Sterling's NBA ouster (20.7%) and NFL domestic violence (18.9%).

O MY! OREGON, OHIO STATE REACH TITLE GAME: Ohio State upsets Alabama 42-35 in last night's late semifinal ending at 12:42 a.m. (which is ridiculous). Not sure if Urban Meyer winning feels any better than Nick Saban losing. In the first game Oregon hammers Florida State 59-20. Turnovers killed FSU as much as the Ducks did. Don't eviscerate the Noles too much, though. Champions; 29 straight. Great run. Respect. ..... Original post: What the Free World has clamored for so long -- a College Football Playoff -- bursts from concept to reality today with the two CFP semifinals: Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., then Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30. The doubleheader will do monstrous TV ratings nationally , and should even fly high in nonchalant South Florida. Here, the large FSU alumni fan base and our natural disdain for Nick Saban assures interest. (Then again, rooting against Nick means rooting for Urban Meyer. LIFE ISN'T FAIR! ESPN polled its 43 college football experts (which is about 38 too many, by the way), and the picks were Oregon over FSU by 31-12 and 'Bama over OSU by (ouch) 42-1. Eventual-champion votes were Alabama 21, Oregon 18, FSI 1 and Urban 0. The asterisk in the headline? Me. I agree with the consensus on the Tide rolling, but think the Seminoles -- undefeated yet maligned -- will upset the mighty Ducks. Can't wait! 

Poll result: Interest in Orange Bowl game was low: We asked your interest level in last night's Georgia Tech-Mississippi State Orange Bowl game, and most voted "non-existent" (49.2 percent) or "low" (23.4%). The rest voted "medium" (18.4%) or "high" (9.0%).

Check back often because we resolve to constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! Heat beat LeBron, Cavs 101-91; plus my holiday video to you (with some special guests), Cooperstown results & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25. Merry Christmas, celebrants! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Cooperstown poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Josh Smith, Miami Beach Bowl & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1axmas14MERRY CHRISTMAS! A HOLIDAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: A few friends took time from their busy holiday to join me to make this Chistmas video. They are the two coaches you love to hate and hate to love, the superstar who stayed, and the one who left. Pictured from left to right are LeBron James, Joe Philbin, myself, Giancarlo Stanton and Al Golden. Click HERE for the video. Enjoy. And happy holidays!

HEAT SPOIL LEBRON'S RETURN: You know I hate the NBA playing games on Christmas. But if you must have a game, it might as be LeBron James' first return to Miami since leaving for Cleveland. And a 101-91 Miami win led by Dwyane Wade's 31 points and Luol Deng's 25. LeBron had 30 for the Cavs on an amicable night that heard more cheers than boos for James. The fans' reaction to LeBron is what was most notable about today, although the result was unexpectedly exhilirating.

Poll result: Randy Johnson leads your parade to Cooperstown: We gave you a 22-player ballot and only four men received the equivalent of the 75 percent vote that would be necessary for induction. They were, in order, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and (barely) Barry Bonds.

Have a wonderful holiday!

December 19, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 16 picks: 0.725%; plus Fleetwood Mac, state bowl-game winners, Heat 'n Panthers morphing, Marlins-Yanks trade, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20. No Random EVidence this week. The Sunday notes-column package is off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA-on-Christmas poll, Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden verdict, U.S.-Cuba relations & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 16 PICKS: "0.725%": The percentage at left represents the less than 1-in-100 playoff likelihood for Miami right now as it hosts the Vikings on Sunday, according to computer estimations 1aa1afripixfrom makenflplayoffs.com. Miami has the second-worst odds of any of 21 teams still mathematically alive (ahead of only Cleveland). It'll be win-and-pray for the Dolphins and several other teams as the better clubs clinch remaining playoff spots. Click on Week 16 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules, which have a playoff-piocture theme. (Strong start to our week Thursday night with a near exacto. Jags beat Titans 21-13; I had it 20-13). Also, click on Overlooking Landry for my weekly Friday Page column. It posits that the Fins' Jarvis Landry is having a season that, most years, would merit offensive rookie-of-the-year consideration, but that, unfortunately for him, this is a particularly bounteous year for rookie wide receivers.

LET'S GO BOWLING: The glut of 39 bowls games begins Saturday. Astonishingly, 11 of the bowls (28%) either involve a Florida team or are played in our state. We rank those 11 by interest in South Florida, with state ties underlined, and with predictions by ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

1aa1adepend1. Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal): Oregon 42, Florida State 31. Jan. 1, 5 p.m., Pasadena, CA.

2. Duck Commander Independence: Miami 27, South Carolina 20. Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., Shreveport, LA.

3. Birmingham: East Carolina 27, Florida 23. Jan. 3, noon, Birmingham, AL.

4. Capital One Orange: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Dolphins stadium.

5. Miami Beach: Memphis 31, BYU 24. Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Marlins Park.

6. Boca Raton: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38. Dec. 23, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium.

7. Bitcoin St. Petersburg: North Carolina State 21, UCF 20. Dec. 26, 8 p.m., St. Pete.

8. Outback: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35. Jan. 1, noon, Tampa.

9. Russell Athletic: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20. Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., Orlando.

10. Citrus: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20. Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando.

11. Taxslayer: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17. Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., Jacksonville.

ON FLEETWOOD MAC: Saw the legendary band at the Sunrise arena last night and thought it was a great show. I've never been a huge FM fan beyond the obligatory heydays love of the Rumours LP, but as a huge pop music fan I am drawn to seeing all-time great perfomers I've not seen before. Thoughts: Lindsay Buckingham is a better guitar player live than is heard on records, but is rather insufferable as a frontman, his ego unhidden. Founding father Mick Fleetwood is terrific on drums and a delight to watch. Bassist John McVie gets too lost; he's too invisble, not musically, but onstage. Stevie Nicks is still playing the gypsy-poet. Not a huge fan of her voice but she is a commanding stage presence. The star, for me, is Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards. I don't think I would have gone to the show had she not rejoined the band.

 

1aa1ampradoMARLINS-YANKEES MAKE TRADE: Marlins today acquired infielder Martin Prado (pictured), pitcher David Phelps and cash from Yankees for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league pitcher Domingo German. I'd call it a medium trade, certainly not a big one. Prado, 31, who hit .282 with 26 doubles and 12 homers last year, will compete to start at third base. Phelps, 28, could emerge as a No. 5 starter.

HEAT, PANTHERS HAVE BECOME SAME TEAM: For years the Heat preened and reigned, and the Panthers were the forgotten and forlorn afterthought. Now the two teams have met in the middle: Mediocrity. They have morphed into the same team. The previous four seasons, the Heat's winning percentage was .718 and the Panthers' .381. This season:

Team        Record            Pos.    L10    Strk

Panthers    14-16, .467    T-7th   6-4    W2

Heat          12-14, .462     7th      3-7    L1 

Poll result: Most don't like NBA playing on Christmas: With the LeBron-at-Heat Christmas Day game looming, we asked what you thought of the NBA playing games on the holiday, and 61.2 percent were against versus 34.0% who were OK with it. The other 4.8% were undecided.

Check back often. We constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

November 28, 2014

Ray Rice available: Should Dolphins sign him? Poll. Vote now!; plus NFL Week 13 picks, Thanksgiving video, Al Golden verdict & more


1) It is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 28. Hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving, with special thanks to my longest-time readers and the most loyal of our blog family! 2)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Al Golden debate and poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adolriceRAY RICE REINSTATED. WANT HIM TO BE A DOLPHIN?: Former Ravens running back Ray Rice won an appeal on Friday meaning he is suddenly a reinstated free-agent NFL running back who may sign with any team. Would you like to see the Dolphins sign him? Weigh his talent, Miami's need at the position, and of course the baggage of the domestic abuse issue that got Rice suspended and cut by Baltimore ... and then vote and say why you feel as you do.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 13 PICKS: Miami will win Monday night but we're on high alert for a Jets upset. Click on Week 13 Gems for all of our latest NFL predictions, and on Now, The Real Pressure for my 1aa1afripixweekly Friday Page column. It leads with the playoff chase really starting now, and how the pressure is on the Dolphins even as they face a relatively soft closing schedule. By the way, you know what I'd be extra thankful for today? If the rest of my Week 13 was a lot better than my Thanksgiving Day effort. I went 1-2 overall and 0-3 against the spread. That's the prognosticating equivalent of the turkey being cremated in a flaming oven. At our house the first game started as the turkey was just beginning to brown, the second game was on as we gave thanks and ate, and the third game coincided with our attempts to wake Uncle Buddy, who by then was deep-dozing from a day-long conversation with Jack Daniel chased by an overload of Tryptophan. Click on Bird Day Gems for all three predix capsules, although, given the outcomes, I'd just as soon you didn't.

1aa1athanks14HAPPY THANKSGIVING! HOLIDAY VIDEO FROM ME TO YOU: I'd like to thank Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, enduring Heat star Dwyane Wade and newly enriched Marlin Giancarlo Stanton for joining me on this year's Thanksgiving video. Always heard Philbin resembled a pilgrim. Now we find out. Stanton's picking up the tab on dinner, by the way. Click on Bird Day '14 to watch the video.

Poll result: Support for Al Golden split but shaky: Apparently not all of you are thankful for Al Golden. We asked in previous blogpost, and "weak" or "no" support for the Hurricanes' football coach was 52.4 percent, edging "strong" or "medium" support at 47.6%. However, at the extremes, "no" swamped "strong," 36.9-15.6. I'd note (I pay attention) that support for Golden was running slightly favorable overall in the natural flow of votes until a late swarm of negative votes suggesting an orchestrated effort. Hey, free country. Power to the people!

Check back often becuase we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

September 01, 2014

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 6.7%; QB Kaaya shaky in 31-13 opening UM loss, our thoughts; also radio, U-Bird Countdown & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: We're back in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show today 3-7 on 104.3/790 The Ticket, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Dan's still off so it will be Stugotz and I co-hosting. Also my first time in the new South Beach studios, so I'll Vine out how they look.



1) It is TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2. Watch for our season-debut of the college SOPY (State Offensive Player of the Year) rankings in the blog on Wednesday. 2) Patriots sign former Dolphin Don Jones. Typical Bill Belichick chicanery. 3) Happy new month, and hope all my fellow American workers had a nice Labor Day. 4) In T
he Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Rate My Fantasy Draft poll, Hot Button Top 10, Upset Bird Countdown, FIU vs. Herald verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1awoodywoodpeckerUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 3 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL 1aa1abird3Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 3 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following UM's Sebastian the Ibis), we welcome Woody Woodpecker, born in 1940 into the cartoon genre of screwball characters whose template included Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

See our live game blog and analysis and commentary on tonight's Canes loss right below the poll...

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G1: Results are certified in the season's first Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 6.7 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Monday's 31-13 loss 1aa1acsmat Louisville. (A roiling majority of 75.8% called themselves "very dissatisfied'). The CSM polls, in their sixth season, are your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9:15 a.m. today/WednesdayWelcome back. Vote now!

2014 CSM results

G1: 6.7% (following 31-13 loss at Louisville)

Next poll: Sept. 6 following game vs. Florida A&M

CSM previous final season results: 2013--16.1% overall satisfaction (following 9-4 season); 2012--80.9% (7-5); 2011--22.1% (6-6); 2010--4.2% (7-6); 2009--41.7% (9-4).

G1: LOUISVILLE 31, HURRICANES 13 (4Q): Final: "FIRE GOLDEN! BENCH KAAYA!" (I'm just getting ready for fan hysterics on Miami sports-talk radio...) This was a winnable game for a long time but Miami let it slip with three turnovers, too many missed chances, and 17 unanswered Louisville points to end it. I thought the Canes defense was fairly solid much of the night in the 31-13 loss, allowing 336 total yards, and bearing in mind that one of Louisville's TDs came on a 97-yard kickoff return. Overall I'd say offensive coordinator James Coley has more to fix than defensive chief Mark D'Onofrio. True-freshman QB Brad Kaaya and the offense had a rough start, partly because the coaches were hesitant to let Kaaya let it fly. The play-calling was conservative. Duke Johnson fought for every yard (he was 20-for-90), but Kaaya completed only 17 of 29 for 174 yards and had two INTs offsetting one TD. UM's offense was a miserable 1-for-12 on third downs. Kaaya struggled enough that coach Al Golden will need to address early in the week if Kaaya is still his guy or if he might immediately switch to senior Jake Heaps. ..... 4Q: Kaaya interception ends game. ... Cards make it 31-13 with late TD pass. ... Kaaya-to-Duke Johnson 36-yard completion negated by ticky-tack illegal man downfield penalty. Huge call. Was a 1st and goal. Ended in a punt. ... Redbirds add short FG for 24-13 lead. ... A winnable game Miami is letting slide. So far. ..... 3Q: UM finally a 1st down on 3rd down after being 0-for-9. But Kaaya underthrow-INT on very next play. ... Cards up 21-13 after 15-yard scoring run. ... UM within 14-13 but settled for short FG after recovering fumble at L'ville 8. That could hurt. ..... Half: I don't mind the spot UM is in at 14-10 down. Miami's defense is looking pretty solid and Canes would be up but for two key plays: the lateral/turnover in the Louisville red zone, and giving up the long kick-return TD. ..... 2Q: L'ville up 14-10 as Canes gouged for 97-yard kickoff return. ... UM up 10-7 on 24-yard FG. ... Cards go for it, make it on 4th and 1 from own 22. Usually when Bobby Petrino makes a decision that dangerous and questionable he's on a motorcycle. ... Huge blown opportunity by UM. Sack/fumble recovery gives Canes a 1st and goal, but immediately give it back. ... Canes 7-7 on Kaaya 2-yard TD pass to Clive Walford, set up by their hookup for 31. ..... 1Q: Canes driving as quarter ends. ..... What UM did NOT want tonight: Brad Kaaya, in his first start, on the road, playing from an early deficit. ... Louisville 7-0 after 93-yard drive. D'Onofrio haters, start your engines! UM getting zero pressure from its 3-man rush. ... Mmm, I don't know about those metallic-green UM helmets. You like? ..... Original post: The Miami Hurricanes' 89th season of football launches tonight at Louisville before ESPN cameras at 8 p.m., marking the fourth season for coach Al Golden. The Canes and their fans hope tonight is a lot different than the way last 1aa1amialvilleseason ended: a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. Same teams, but much different -- notably at the most important position. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya takes over for Miami, while Louisville must replace departed star Teddy Bridgewater. We'll be looking for three things, mainly: 1) How does Kid Kaaya handle the pressure of a loud, hostile crowd and a national stage in his collegiate debut. He seems well-suited for the challenge; doesn't act like a kid just turning 19 on Wednesday. But you know the Cardinals' defense will be geared to pressure and disrupt him. 2) Running back star Duke Johnson in his return from last year's season-ending injury. Domination by the Duke of Gables will make Kaaya's job so much easier. And 3) UM's defense. It was awful at times last year and must be much better all-round. Looking for a star or two to step up other than senior linebacker Denzel Perryman. With no Bridgewater and Louisville also missing star receiver DeVante Parker, the Canes have no excuse for a poor showing. This is an ACC game right out the gate, and also huge because it's one of those swing games that define a season. Most college schedules have a few games that are gimmie wins and a few you can't count on winning, with most teetering in between. This is one of those for The U. Louisville is favored by 3 1/2 points, meaning it's about a tossup aside from the location. My pick: Upset. Miami, 27-23.

Poll result: It's official. You hated my fantasy draft: We had a blind poll inviting you to rank my family fantasy league's draft based on each team's top three picks, and I came in next-to-last. Ouch. Results: Team #2 (my brother/led by Jamaal Charles) 34.3 percent; Team #7 (older nephew/Peyton Manning) 27.9%; Team #3 (oldest son/LeSean McCoy) 11.9%; Team #6 (son's girlfriend/Eddie Lacy) 8.5%; Team #1 (youngest son/Adrian Peterson) 7.5%; Team #4 (wife/Matt Forte) 6.0%; Team #5 (me/Calvin Johnson) 4.0%; and Team #8 (younger nephew/Demaryius Thomas) 0.0%.

HEAT MAKE MINOR COACHING STAFF CHANGES: Movin' on up: David Fitzdale now will be the Heat's clear No. 2 behind head coach Erik Spoelstra. And Juwan Howard will be elevated to a full assistant coach. Demoted: Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo, who'll be invited to remain with the club but in lesser roles. Spoelstra is expected to add another assistant or perhaps elevate Dan Craig. (Is this the kind of story fans care about? I have a feeling a team's staff changes -- unless they involve a head coach or, in football, a coordinator -- are of media interest only).

1aa1asebastiantheibisUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 4 DAYS (from Monday): The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 4 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following the Aflac Duck), in honor of the Hurricanes' season opener we welcome UM football's venerable Sebastian the Ibis.

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

July 04, 2014

World Cup semifinals set: Heavyweight Four!; plus Heat free agency, Hurricanes' new helmet & more

1aa1afourthjuly1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 5. Hope you had a happy birthday, America! You look good for 238. My Boston butt on the Big Green Egg came out fabulous, by the way. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Garo's Biggest Fight, U.S. World Cup success poll, Dion Jordan's suspension, Tannehill's rank & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Heat free agency: We'll have a column on Heat free agency on Sunday and online late today. Despite the agent visits and everything else you hear, Heat remains very confident LeBron James will re-sign to complete the return of Big 3. Main free-agent targets are Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol or Luol Deng, but Pat Riley is asking significant financial sacrifice from each. First day to sign is Thursday the 10th.

1aa1auhelmet
Hurricanes' new helmet:
It depicts the state of Florida, the peninsula whose outline is as distinctive as any U.S. state, with the 'U' logo where it should be down south.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: GREAT EIGHT: THE QUARTERFINALS: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. Today concludes the quarterfinal round. The event might have been called off once the United States was eliminated but, somehow, was not. The four matchups, chronologically:

GERMANY (def. France, 1-0): Europe palpitated as mighty Germany and the

1aa1agermansurging French kicked off the quarters. France enjoyed a redeeming World Cup after a nightmare four years earlier, and had dispatched Nigeria 2-0 to get here, but the run ended. The Germans, who carry the European banner as (arguably) the best non-South American contender, struggled somewhat in getting here past Algeria, 2-1 in overtime, but made an early goal hold up here. I'd chanced an upset. I was wrong. My pick was: France, 2-1.

BRAZIL (def. Colombia, 2-1): The most anticipated of the four games, and not just because



the host
1aa1abrazilcountry would be swooning, but because of volatile, attacking football between the South American rivals. Brazil had yet to thrill its fans with optimum play, and needed luck to get here past Chile, 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Colombia had been as impressive as anyone in the tournament, at 4-0 with an 11-2 goals differential after getting here past Uruguay, 2-0. The favorites prevailed but at great cost, losing star Neymar to an injury. I had sensed an upset. I was wrong. (Again). My pick was: Colombia, 3-2.

ARGENTINA (def. Belgium, 1-0): Cross-continent duel found Argentina and the sublime Lionel



Messi 1aa1aragebtinsa(my picks to win it all) still seeking to find all of their cylinders offensively, after getting here past Switzerland by a modest 1-0 score. Belgium eliminated the United States 2-1 in overtime but put an impressive, constant barrage on American goalie Tim Howard. Argentina still wasn't amazing with the ball but one goal was all it took. My pick was: Argentina, 3-1.

NETHERLANDS (def. Costa Rica, PKs): Costa Rica gave the final eight its one true Cinderella but fell in 1aa1anetherlandspenalty kicks after a scoreless draw, the Dutch looking like geniuses for a daring goalkeeper change just before the PK shootout. Netherlands was stymied by Costa Rica's offside trap but prevailed when all was on the line. My pick was: Netherlands, 2-0. 

World Cup goal scoring entering the semifinals: 60 matches, 159 goals, 2.65 per.

Ensuing schedule: Semifinal Tuesday July 8--Germany vs. Brazil, 4 p.m. Semifinal Wednesday July 9--Argentina vs. Netherlands, 4 p.m. Third-place Saturday July 12--Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Championship Sunday july 13--Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.

Poll result: U.S. World Cup run (mostly) a success: We asked, and a plurality of 39.6 percent called it a success without question, while 36.5% called it a success but a "modest" one. Not a success but a decent show drew 16.5%, while only 7.4% called it "closer to a failure."

Click back often. We update and add to our latest blogposts a lot...