June 13, 2016

OMAHA! Canes ride Michelangeli's 2 HRs, 7 RBIs back to College World Series; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring NBA Finals, soccer, Fish, Canes Game 3, Ali, Fins, NHL, deaths, draft, horses; also, your verdict on criticism of Tannehill & more


1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 13. Thoughts with the 50-plus victims of the awful, senseless, hateful and cowardly mass murder at the Orlando nightclub. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ryan Tannehill poll, Maria Sharapova, NBA Finals, Marlins, Stanley Cup Finals, MLB Draft, Forbes rich-folks list, your verdict on century's greatest athlete & more. 3) Good to see others catching up to the Dwyane Wade-and-Gabby-in bed item we had first at MiamiHerald.com several days earlier. Wink, wink. :)  4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

CANES ADVANCE TO COLLEGE WORLD SERIES: Omaha! Miami is headed back to the College World Series. Edgar Michelangeli's two homers and seven RBIs carried Miami to a 9-4 NCAA Super Regional Game 3 win over Boston College on Sunday and onto UM's 25th CWS appearance. The Canes will open this coming weekend vs. University of Arizona. Click on The Weight of Tradition for my column from Sunday's game. Also on UM's side of bracket, Oklahoma State faces UC-Santa Barbara. In the other bracket, Texas Tech faces Texas Christian, and Coastal Carolina faces the winner of tonight's Florida-Florida State game in Gainesville. CWS appearances by school, based on most trips to Omaha:

Team: CWS apps. -- Titles (last)

Miami Hurricanes: 25th -- 4 (2001)

*-Florida State Seminoles: 21 -- 0

Oklahoma State Cowboys: 20th -- 1 (1959)

Arizona Wildcats: 17th -- 4 (2012)

*-Florida Gators: 9 -- 0

Texas Christian Horned Frogs: 4th -- 0

Texas Tech Red Raiders: 2nd -- 0

UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos: 1st -- 0

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: 1st -- 0

*-Gators and Noles play tonight in Gainesville for ticket to Omaha. FSU has the most appearances by any team that has not won a championship.

The Last 5: Five selected recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: The Weight of Tradition, the new one, off yesterday's Omaha-clinching Canes baseball win. LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals, on LeBron James angling to take back best-player crown from Steph Curry. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Muhammad 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, 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. NBA: Golden State in commanding control over Cleveland, LeBron: Warriors lead the NBA Finals 3-1 and can clinch their second straight championship in Game 5 at home tonight/Monday as LeBron James and Stephen Curry compete for the mythical title of league's best player. Golden State will be without suspended Draymond Green. Still, Curry is poised to once again win the crown LeBron wants most. His career epitaph as he fails to win a championship for Cleveland: But he couldn't beat Steph Curry.

2. SOCCER: Euro '16 underway in France, Copa America in U.S.: Outside of the World Cup, there is no bigger month for international soccer than this. As Copa America continued here (with host U.S. now 2-1 and onto the quarterfinals after beating Paraguay), Euro '16 began its month-long run in France. The host nation, Spain and Germany are among favorites, and Lionel Messi scored three goals off the bench in Argentina's opener. But the most impressive team at Euro '16 might be the massive security force girding across France against the threat of terrorism.

3. MARLINS: Eyes on Ichiro (and wincing at Stanton): As Fish continued in playoff chase in midst of road trip, star Giancarlo Stanton enters Monday's play batting .192 and on pace for all-time record 228 strikeouts. On the much brighter side, Ichiro has drawn within 24 hits of 3,000 in MLB, and within two of Pete Rose's record of 4,256 if you include Ichiro's Japanese hits. At 42, an ageless wonder!

4. HURRICANES: Work of art! Michelangeli's two homers, seven RBis carry UM to CWS: It came down to a winner-take-all, deciding Game 3 on Sunday, and Edgar Michelangeli's two homers and seven RBIs personified Mark Light Magic as the Canes beat Boston College 9-4 to win their NCAA Super Regional and make it back to Omaha and the College World Series for the 25th time. (Click on The Weight of Tradition for my column from the game). 

5. MUHAMMAD ALI: Nation, world say goodbye to a true legend:  Friday's funeral for Ali in his hometown of Louisville capped a week's mourning over the death of an American original. Farewell, Champ. Respect.

6. DOLPHINS: Fins prepare for mandatory mini-camp: No more OTAs, no more "voluntary" stuff. Miami stages a three-day mandatory mini-camp this Tuesday through Thursday, and attendance is required. Talking to you, safety Reshad Jones. You're holding out for more money, but you'll have less of it fines if you don't show.

7. NHL: Pittsburgh raises Stanley Cup for fourth time: Penguins beat San Jose 3-1 last night for a 4-2 victory in the Stanley Cup Finals and a fourth NHL championship. Sharks are still are seeking their first, so, to answer the rhetorical question asked in the song, no, Lord Stanley does not know the way to San Jose.

8. DEATHS: R.I.P., Gordie Howe, Kimbo Slice: "Mr. Hockey," Gordie Howe, died on Friday, the day they buried Ali, and it was a death comparably seismic in in the smaller realm of his sport. The passing of fighter Kimbo Slice, and also of longtime former Dolphins executive Bryan Wiedmeier, were personal for Miami. Farewell to them all.

9. BASEBALL: MLB Draft spotlights Marlins, Canes: The Marlins made Alabama left prep pitcher Braxton Garrett the seventh overall pick of the draft. Miami Hurricanes catcher Zack Collins went 10th to the White Sox. They haven't made the majors. But they've made the ladder that gives them a shot. 

10. HORSE RACING: Creator wins Belmont to end splintered Triple Crown series: Creator won Saturday to make it three different Triple Crown-race winners for the first time since 2013. And it has now been one year since a horse last won a Triple Crown.

Missing the cut: Florida Gators are renaming their football field as "Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium." Not word enough. Throw in a "Ball Coach" reference, too ..... NFL's Twitter site got hacked and it was reported commissioner Roger Goodell had died. Hmm. Does Tom Brady have an alibi? ..... Golf's U.S. Open starts Thursday, but without Tiger Woods, who continues to battle back ailments. Tiger hasn't played since August. At this point, shouldn't we just consider him retired unless he indicates otherwise? ..... Maria Sharapova is appealing her two-year tennis ban for PEDs. I've always thought of her as appealing ..... Florida Panthers made a minor trade. Cats lead the offseason NHL in wheelin' and are second in dealin' ..... NASCAR suspends four crew chiefs for rules violations. What do they think this is,college football? ..... Jake Arrieta win streak ends at 20. Finally, something goes wrong for the Cubs! ..... Twelve Canes made the NCAA outdoor track and field nationals in Oregon ..... Congrats to Jesse Holt on his 41st annual Northwest Express Track and Field Meet for local youth ..... ESPN's new 30 for 30 documentary series on O.J. Simpson is underway. Yeah, because we just don't know nearly enough about that story! ..... Will Power won last week's IndyCar race. Who was second? Dee Termination? ..... Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon with a left wrist injury. I trace his career decline to his abandonment of Capri pants ..... Steph Curry withdraws from Olympic team for supposed health reasons. Lame. If you can play in NBA Finals, you can play for your country ..... Cam Newton says he is retiring the Dab. Updates as warranted.

Poll result: Critical ranking of Tannehill was harsh, but also with some validity: We asked you about a recent CBS Sports ranking that had the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill no better than 25th of 32 NFL starting quarterbacks, and a plurality of 45.79 percent thought it "way too harsh, unfairly so." But another 34.20% voted "a bit harsh, but not unreasonably," and 20.01% said "that seems fair and about right."

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 23, 2016

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


1) It is MONDAY, MAY 23. I'm back! Spent a long weekend in the Bahamas. More on that later. 2) Good story here by ESPN's Pablo S. Torre on the friendship between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Not sure I entirely buy the premise that the friendship is all that controversial. But an interesting read nonetheless. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Is-ESPN-in-trouble poll, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, proof Joe Public still hates Dolphins, your pessimism on Bosh's return, FA Cup champs list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins, the new one, on how Fins must earn back the faith and trust they've lost. Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 19, 2016

Is mighty ESPN in trouble? Poll. Vote now; plus Justise Winslow honor, proof Joe Public still doubts Dolphins, my column on Riley's state-of-Heat address, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, your pessimism on Bosh & more


Trumpovercomb1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 19. I found the mock-poster at right to be clever and funny. But it's OK, Republicans. I make fun of Hillary's pantsuits, too. 2) Justise Winslow of Heat makes NBA All-Rookie second team, 11th Miami rook to make 1st or 2nd team. 3) R.I.P., 60 Minutes' Morley Safer, gone at 84. R.I.P. as well to the victims of the Egypt Air crash. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Will Chris Bosh play again with poll, changes coming to LeBatard Show, your was-Heat-season-a-success verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, the new one, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason. Small Ball, Big Win, off Heat Game 6 home win over Toronto.

My new Pat Riley column from his State of the Heat address: Click on Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh to read my latest column in full.

"The Dolphins returning to WQAM for the first time since 2009 is big news for the station but inconsequential to Dolfans, who don't care what spot on the dial feeds them their games." --Greg Cote

DolphinsJOE PUBLIC STILL HATES THE DOLPHINS AND THINK THEY'LL STINK AGAIN: Hiring Adam Gase didn't do it. Neither did free agency. Or a highly regarded draft led by Laremy Tunsil. As you read here before it was anywhere else on MiamiHerald.com, new NFL over/unders on win totals via Bovada suggest the betting public still thinks  very little of your Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins over/under of 7 wins is last in the AFC East behind the Patriots at 10.5 and the Bills and Jets both at 8. New England is in a five-way tie for first at 10.5 with the Panthers, Packers, Seahawks and Steelers. Miami's 7 is tied for fourth from the bottom. The only lower O/U's are the 49ers and Titans both at 5.5 and the Browns at 4.5.

DogdaysNAVIGATING AND SURVIVING THE DOG DAYS OF SPORTS IN SOUTH FLORIDA: Down here the dog days on our sports calendar are that yawning patch of spring and summer from the time the Heat are done until August, when football thunders in subtle as a solar eclipse. This year, the Summer Olympics in Rio also begin Aug. 5. But what until then? What to watch before football other than the rest of the NBA and NHL playoffs? Well here is your primer (and it includes football). Here are highlights of the local and national sports calendar from now through July:

MARLINS: Homestands May 20-24, May 30-June 5, June 17-26, July 8-10, July 22-31 / Fish vs. Braves at Fort Bragg July 3 / All-Star Game July 12.

DOLPHINS: OTAs May 24-26, May 31, June 1-2, June 6-9. Mandatory minicamp June 14-16.

CANES BASEBALL: ACC tournament May 24-29, then NCAA regionals (schedule to be announced), then College World Series June 18-29.

SOCCER: Fort Lauderdale Strikers NASL home games May 21, 27; June 12; July 2, 10, 13, 23. Miami FC home May 28; June 4; July 9, 16, 30 / Colombia vs. Haiti May 29 at Marlins Park / FA Cup final May 21 / UEFA Champions League final May 28 / Copa America in U.S. June 3-26 / Euro '16 in France June 10-July 10.

HORSE RACING: The Preakness May 21 / Belmont Stakes June 11.

AUTO RACING: Indianapolis 500 May 29 / NASCAR at Daytona July 2.

GOLF: U.S. Open June 16-19 / British Open July 14-17.

TENNIS: French Open May 22-June 5 / Wimbledon June 27-July 10.  

MISCELLANEA: NHL Awards Show June 22 / NBA Draft June 23 / Tour de France cycling July 2-24 / WWE Smackdown wrestling June 28 in Miami.

EspnIS ESPN IN TROUBLE?: Skip Bayless. Mike Tirico. Bill Simmons. Colin Cowherd. Keith Olbermann. Jason Whitlock. These are some of the prominent on-air personalitiies who have recently or in the past year or so departed from ESPN. The question: Does it matter? There is a growing narrative that the run of departures, coupled with declining subscriber numbers, suggests the Disney-owned ESPN brand is taking a hit and losing its once-commanding tight grip as the industry leader. Take a dip in our poll and share your thoughts:

Poll result: Surprising pessimism on Bosh's Heat future: The word surprising is mine. Poll results here don't often surprise me. This one did. We asked what you think is most likely to happen with Chris Bosh, and a plurality of 44.1 percent voted that he'd resume playing but have more blood-clot issues that might then abort his career. Nearly as many (40.6%) thought he would be forced to retire without every playing again. Only 15.3% voted that Bosh would resume his Heat career with no recurrence of health problems.

THE LIST: FA CUP CHAMPIONS: This Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London will mark the 135th FA Cup final of English soccer as Manchester United faces Crystal Palace. Man U goes for a record-tying 12th FA Cup title and Crystal Palace seeks its first ever. Most FA Cup finals wins:

Team                    FA Cups    Most recent

Arsenal                     12         2015

Manchester United    11         2004

Tottenham Hotspur    8          1991

Chelsea                     7          2012

Liverpool                  7          2006

Aston Villa                7          1957

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 16, 2016

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


1) It is MONDAY, MAY 16. Heat's Justise Winslow today finished 6th in NBA rookie of the year voting, won in a landslide by Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat win Game 6, NBA favorite poll, Heat playoff foes list & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Small Ball, Big Win, the latest, off Friday's Heat Game 6 home win. Heat is America's Underdog, on how injuries and obstacles have cast Miami in an unaccustomed role. Be Careful What You Wish For, from Heat's Game 4 home win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year    Round                    Result

2013   NBA Finals            W vs Spurs 95-88

2012   Eastern finals         W vs Celtics 101-88

2013   Eastern finals         W vs Pacers 99-76

2005   Eastern finals         L vs Pistons 88-82

1997   Conference semis   W vs Knicks 101-90

2000   Conference semis   L vs Knicks 83-82

2016   Conference semis   L @ Raptors 116-89

2004   First round             W vs NO Hornets 85-77

2009   First round             L @ Hawks 91-78

2016   First round             W vs CHA Hornets 106-73

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 10, 2016

G4: Heat 94, Toronto 87: Wade rescues Miami, ties series as Heat climb uphill to become 'America's Underdog'; plus Radio Tuesday, latest Hot Button Top 10, Wade dethrones Marino & more


1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 10. Hope you made it a happy Mother's Day! I was missing my own mother this year but so thankful for the wonderful mom of my two sons! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat lose Game 3 despite Wade's 38, Marino vs. Wade poll, Tunsil channels Kooch, history of Heat OT playoff games & more. 3) Heat's Pat Riley ties for 8th in NBA executive of year voting won by Spurs' R.C. Buford. 4) ESPN announces Sean McDonough will replace Mike Tirico in its  Monday Night Football booth. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and simulcasting on Fusion TV and ESPNU.

We'll have a brand new blogpost coming later today, post radio show. A college professor once insisted to me "brand new" was redundant. I never learn. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Be Careful What You Wish For, the latest, from last night's Heat Game 4 home win. Wade: A Little Help, Please?, off the Game 3 home loss. Shula: A Renewed Appreciation, on his health scare at 86 inviting us to take stock of the coaching legend.

G4: HEAT 94, TORONTO 87 (OT): WADE'S 30 CARRIES MIAMI TO 2-2 SERIES TIE AS HEAT BECOME AMERICA'S UNDERDOG: One-man-show Dwyane Wade hit 30 points as Miami escaped at home last night to tie this series 2-2 as it heads back to Toronto for Game 5 Wednesday night. Raptors still own the home-court edge and Heat must find a way to win at least one of two games in Toronto to advance and earn the dubious right to face a rested, hot LeBron and Cleveland in the next round. Be careful what you wish for, Miami. Click on Be Careful What You Wish For for my column from the Game 4 victory. What do I mean by "America's Underdogs"? Miami, already without Chris Bosh, loses Hassan Whiteside to a knee injury. They remain underdogs to survive Toronto. They would then be monumental underdogs vs. Cleveland. They would then be even greater longshots vs. (presumably) Golden State. The Miami Heat: America's Underdogs! ..... Original post: Canadian fans  are upset that Dwyane Wade kept into his warmup routine before Game 3 and was still taking shots during the start of O Canada. Heat fans are thinking, "If it helps him score 38 again, he can shoot through both national anthems." Of course
Heatrapsg4the fact Miami lost despite his 38 is why the home team is under the pressure it is tonight, trailing 2-1 in the series. Another loss would put Miami in the awful position of needing to win three G4straight games, two of them in Toronto. Even a win to level the series leaves the Heat still needing to figure a way to win one up in We The North territory. Both teams are now scrambling to replace their big men, with Miami's Hassan Whiteside (knee) officially "day to day" but ruled out for tonight and Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) out the rest of the series. Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri called the latter a "big, big, big, big, big blow for us." That's five bigs. Heat playing sans Whiteside is comparably big. Which coach and roster adjust best moving forward should be the team that takes the series and advances to meet a very rested LeBron James in the Eastern finals. Said Wade on Sunday: "It isn't always about who's the best team. It's about who's the healthiest team. It'll be a different game for us with Hassan out, but we have to figure out a game that's successful for us." I'd expect veteran Udonis Haslem to get most of Whiteside's minutes, with help from Josh McRoberts and Amar'e Stoudemire. The erasure of the two starting centers could be a bigger blow to the Raptors, as Valanciunas had generally outplayed Whiteside in this series, with a double-double in all three games. Toronto has been plus-41 (in scoring) with Valanciunas on the floor in the series; Miami has been plus-39 when he is on the bench. The Whiteside factor has been closer to negligible in terms of +/-, with Miami minus-7 with him in the game and plus-5 without him.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Wade the hero again as Miami wins Game 4, ties series: Dwyane Wade scores 30 points last night one game after scoring 38, and all at once Miami is tied 2-2 as the series heads back to Toronto for Game 5 Wednesday night. With Bosh already out, Hassan Whiteside now out, too, and Miami still the underdog againt Toronto, facing longer odds vs. Cleveland, then an impossible longshot vs. (likely) Golden State, the Heat has become America's Underdog. (Click on Be Careful What You Wish For for my column off the Game 4 overtime home win).

2. MARLINS: Hot Fish back on winning track as homestand continues: Marlins have now won 12 of their past 15 games after beating Milwaukee last night behind Jose Fernandez as nine-game homestand continues with two more vs. Brewers. Much more of this winning and contending and Jeffrey Loria may have little choice but to open the wallet and bolster the roster, especially the starting rotation. Two words: Tim Lincecum.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins re-sign Wake, conclude unusual rookie mini-camp on Sunday: Team signed Cam Wake to a two-year, $15 million extension. Meanwhile, Miami wrapped up a three-day rookie mini-camp. It was classroom stuff only, no uniforms or practices. So we’ll have to wait awhile longer to see No. 1 draft pick Laremy Tunsil behind a gas mask. Oops. Sorry! Freudian slip. I meant a facemask.

4. HORSE RACING: Nyquist wins Kentucky Derby as gates open on Triple Crown season: Nyquist showed why he was the betting favorite in Saturday’s 142nd Kentucky Derby. Still, most thoroughbred experts predict we likely won’t be seeing an end this year to the Triple Crown drought stretching all the way back to 2015.

5. NBA: LeBron's Cavs are first team through to conference finals: Cleveland completed a 4-0 sweep of the Hawks in Atlanta Sunday to become the first team through to the conference finals, with every other series competitive. Doubt him or not, LeBron is still LeBron. And now rested, too.

6. PANTHERS: Cats out of playoffs but still in news with Jagr, coach: As playoffs continued sans Florida -- Tampa Bay on Sunday became first team through to conference finals -- Panthers’ Gerard Gallant was named a coach of year finalist and Cats re-signed Jaromir Jagr for another year. I don’t wanna say Jagr is old, but he skied as an NHL rookie because ice hadn’t been invented yet.

7. DON SHULA: Coaching legend hospitalized but released: When you're 86, any health issue can be worrisome. It is reasonable more than macabre to wonder if Shula will live to see his Dolphins in another Super Bowl. That's reality, the tenuous state of the franchise.

8. SOCCER: Beckham stadium talks with Miami-Dade hit a snag: Took forever to find a site and settle on what was not his preference. Now there are more delays. I am beginning to wonder if David Beckham, 41, will ever live to see his dream of Major League Soccer in Miami come to fruition.

9. HURRICANES: Richt rallies the troops at fan meetings: New Canes football coach Mark Richt has been speaking to Hurricane Club rallies. At one he mentioned he wasn't big on players' demonstrative "swagger," saying, "If you want to dance, go to the club." Cannot confirm he quickly added: "But while you're at the club, don't drink, get in trouble or stay out too late!"

10. DION JORDAN: Dolphins draft bust seeks comeback: You could argue Miami trading up to third overall for Jordan in 2013 was among worst draft decisions in club history. With that in mind, I Googled the phrase "vested interest" and saw that Jordan's agent and trainer were predicting he'd be NFL comeback player of the year this season.

Missing the cut: Leicester City won the first EPL championship in its history against 5,000-to-1 odds. Coincidentally, those were the same odds against the Dolphins' No. 1 selection being pictured draft-night wearing a bong gas mask ..... Marlins' May 30-31 games vs. Pirates will not be played Puerto Rico as scheduled because of threat of Zika virus there. Instead the games will be played at Marlins Park, because of course we have no mosquitos in South Florida (!) ..... Phoenix Coyotes made John Chayka, 26, the youngest GM in NHL history. Chayka immediately traded a future first-round draft pick for four killer tickets to Pearl Jam ..... Canelo Alvarez beat Amir Khan in Vegas and I can't even fake interest ..... Yes, Pablo Sandoval played only three games for the Red Sox and was 0-for-6 before season-ending surgery. However, in that short time he did lead all AL batters in second helpings ..... Joe Paterno reportedly knew as early as the 1970s of Jerry Sandusky's pedophilia. R.I.P., Joe Pa. (Rest In Pieces).

Poll result: Wade dethrones Marino: It had to happen eventually. We asked who had the greater career for Miami, and it was the Heat's Dwyane Wade soundly defeating the Dolphin's Dan Marino by 49.8 percent to 37.6%. Another 10.6% voted "can't decide or too close to call," while 2.0% voted "someone else."

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 11, 2016

The new Hot Button Top 10, starring Heat, Cats, Fish, Masters, Warriors, Kobe, Miami FC, Fins, Pacquiao and Nyquist; plus Dolphins woes quantified, your verdicts on LeBron/Kobe & more


1) It is MONDAY, APRIL 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should Heat retire LeBron James' number poll, Kiper's latest Dolphins mock draft, Heat and Panthers playoff outlooks, does golf miss Tiger Woods poll, Dolphins preseason schedule, your Rock Hall verdict, mourning Merle Haggard & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

The Last 3: My three most recent general columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excuses, off Marlins Opening Night. Power and Porcelain, Marlins season preview.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami wins home finale, zeroes in on home court for playoffs: Heat whipped Orlando 118-96 in its home final Sunday but enters last three days of the regular season still unsure where it will finish or who its first-round opponent will be. Simplest scenario: Miami will have home-court advantaged if it finishes 2-0 by winning at Detroit Tuesday and at Boston Wednesday. That Boston game could be winner-take for the home court. Finish delicioso! Meantime Hassan Whiteside says he won’t campaign for the NBA defensive player of year award while casually mentioning he has more blocks than a Toys ‘R Us.

2. PANTHERS: Cats await Islanders in playoff Game 1 Thursday: Cats won their home finale Saturday (my column here) and now face the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series here Thursday night, with Game 2 here Friday night -- an odd postseason back-to-back. Cats dodged a bullet by not getting the tougher first-round draw vs. the Rangers. Either way, this was known: Florida -– unlike the entire country of Canada -– is competing for the Stanley Cup.

3. MARLINS: Fish trying to bounce back from rough early start: Has Jeffrey Loria fired Don Mattingly yet? Kidding, sort of, but an 0-2 start at home including the end of Jose Fernandez’ record 17-game Marlins Park winning streak wasn’t the season launch Miami hoped for, and now Miami is 1-3 in the midst of six straight road games vs. the division-power Nationals and Mets. One (very) early-season certainty: How much Marlins' TV broadcasts are missing Tommy Hutton.

4. GOLF: Spieth's collapse snatches green jacket from his hands: World’s No. 2 golfer and top American Jordan Spieth carried a 5-shot lead into the back nine of The Masters at Augusta on Sunday, then collapsed with a quadruple-boey 7 on the par 3 12th hole, and Danny Willett waltzed past him for the green jacket. Poor Danny. The 2016 Masters will be remembered not as the one he won, but as the one Spieth gave away.

5. NBA: Golden State's pursuit, Kobe's final game hog stage: Simple now for Golden State (72-9). Warriors must win at home vs. Memphis Wednesday night to break the Chicago Bulls' 1996 NBA record of 72 wins. On the Kobe Watch, Lakers are on road tonight, then Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA game at home on Wednesday -- same night Warriors go for the record. Has an NBA regular season ever finished bigger?

6. SOCCER: Miami FC makes inaugural home debut: Expansion team Miami FC tied Tampa Bay 1-1 in its home debut in the NASL Saturday night. More important, the new team drew more than 10,000 fans to FIU Stadium, decidedly more than most FIU football games draw. 

7. DOLPHINS: Ross names successor as draft nears: With the April 28 NFL Draft bearing in, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross named New York real estate mogul and longtime business partner Bruce Beal as the potential successor who'll have first rights to buy franchise when Ross, 75, sells or dies. Super Bowl or bust, Steve. Tick tock.

8. BOXING: Manny Pacquiao wins his (supposed) final fight: He beat Timothy Bradley in a unanimous decision last night in Las Vegas. Pacquiao therafter immediately announced he was retiring, which is boxspeak for, "Anticipation of my eventual comeback will hopefully stoke interest in the PPV bonanza of a Mayweather rematch."

9. HORSE RACING: Nyquist wins Florida Derby as Triple Crown season looms: Nyquist's impressive triumph in the Florida Derby positions the horse as an early favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 7. Surprising bloodline. Nyquist's sire, Nyquil, was best known for falling asleep in the starting gate.

10. HURRICANES: UM spring football wraps up in five days: Miami's annual intrasquad offense vs. defense Spring Game is this coming Saturday afternoon, April 16, at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. I'm betting big on the Hurricanes to win. And lose.

Missing the cut: Thousands will swarm Miami’s ocean sands Sunday for the finish of the Global Champions Tour of Olympic-style equestrian show jumping. I’m betting on Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, a Qatar royal, because I hear his family just bought Miami Beach, the ocean and the event to assure he’ll win ... R.I.P., former New Orleans Saint Will Smith, shot dead in a road-rage incident ... U.S. women's soccer has filed a lawsuit demanding equal pay to the men. That is so ridiculous. Based on performance, the women should make at least three times more ... Entering Sunday's MLB games only the Baltimore Orioles remain unbeaten. "Good luck with that," sneered the '72 Dolphins ... First time since 1970 no Canadian teams in Stanley Cup playoffs. New national anthem: No Canada! ... This just in. UConn women's basketball has been awarded the next six national championships in a time-saving measure ... Recently (I'm serious) the No. 75-ranked Hurricanes men's tennis team hosted No. 41 North Carolina State. Um, is it possible college tennis might wanna tap the brakes on how many teams it ranks? ... An unnamed MLB scout told us that an anonymously quoted rival scout is full of s--- ... Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open but Serena Williams did not. For once, women's tennis is less predictable ... The 24th-ranked men's tennis player is an American named Jack Sock. He's a shoe-in ... The Lakers' D'Angelo Russell was wired for sound the other game. Not for TV. To secretly record his teammates ... No. 2-ranked UM baseball was snowed out of its series at Notre Dame. Duh. Games shoulda been here like Jim Morris said ... Finally, Ernie Els 7-putted the first green at The Masters. There's a phrase for that in golf: "Greg Cote."

THE LIST: THE DOLPHINS: THE (SAD) COMPANY THEY KEEP: The Dolphins' last winning season (no, .500 doesn't count) was 2008. I wondered how many of the 122 franchises in the Big Four sports have a longer drought, including the current NBA and NHL seasons. Answer: Seven. Longest droughts since last winning season (LWS):

Team                                League    LWS

Oakland Raiders                NFL        2002

St. Louis (now L.A.) Rams  NFL        2003

Edmonton Oilers                NHL       2004

Minnesota Timberwolves    NBA        2005

Sacramento Kings              NBA        2006 

Cleveland Browns              NFL        2007

Jacksonville Jaguars          NFL        2007

Miami Dolphins                 NFL         2008

Note: Marlins' LWS was 2009, longest drought in MLB. Panthers' LWS had been 2000, worst in NHL, but that drought ended this season. 

Poll result: No! Most don't favor Heat retiring LeBron's jersey: We asked, and 58.0 percent of you said no. Much disagreement, though, with 34.6% saying yes and 7.4% undecided.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 05, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter (season final): 18.1%; plus Tannehill leads Miami past Patriots 20-10; also, Radio Tuesday!, Fins' 2016 schedule, '15's biggest-Miami-sports-story verdict, latest Hot Button & more


1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 5. Yes, you can still say Happy New Year! You get one full week. 2) Click on Week 17 Gems for all of yesterday's Dolphins/NFL picks. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami/South Florida sports story-of-the-year poll, Dolphins/NFL Week 17 picks, sports predictions for 2016 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and also televising on ESPNU and Fusion TV.

My Dolphins coach-search column, Fins' 2016 schedule: Click on No Training Wheels This Time for my latest column, suggesting the club try something different and hire a head coach who has done the job before in the NFL. Also. Miami's 2016 non-division games were made known yesterday. At home it'll be the Browns, Steelers, Titans, Cardinals and 49ers. Non-division roadies will be Ravens, Bengals, Chargers, Rams and Seahawks.

Live in-game blog and postgame thoughts: Find both beneath the new and final Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll of the season. Click Tannehill the Solution -- With the Right Coach, for my column from the game.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G16/SEASON FINAL: 18.1%: Results are certified in the latest -- and season-ending -- Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 18.1 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 20-10 home victory over New DsmEngland putting Miami's final season record at 6-10. The DSM, completing its eighth year, 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. Because this was the final poll, we suggested giving "season as a whole" added weight. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case we left the poll open a bit longer than usual and closed it at around 2:15 p.m. today/Tuesday.

2015 DSM Results

Game 1: 31.0% (following 17-10 victory at Washington)

Game 2: 1.7% (following 23-20 loss at Jacksonville)

Game 3: 18.0% (following 41-14 loss vs. Buffalo)

Game 4: 2.7% (following 27-14 loss vs. N.Y Jets in London)

Game 5: 92.0% (following 38-10 victory at Tennessee)

Game 6: 96.1% (following 44-26 victory vs. Houston)

Game 7: 32.4% (following 36-7 loss at New England)

Game 8: 4.8% (following 33-17 loss at  Buffalo)

Game 9: 44.6% (following 20-19 victory at Philadelphia)

Game 10: 3.8% (following 24-14 loss vs. Dallas)

Game 11: 3.7% (following 38-20 loss at N.Y. Jets)

Game 12: 17.3% (following 15-13 victory vs. Baltimore)

Game 13: 6.2% (following 31-24 loss  to N.Y. Giants)

Game 14: 5.4% (following 30-14 loss at San Diego)

Game 15: 6.0% (following 18-12 loss vs. Indianapolis)

Game 16/Season Final: 18.1% (following 20-10 victory vs. New England)

Yearly DSM Results

2015--18.1% (following 6-10 season); 2014--2.7% (8-8); 2013--4.2% (8-8); 2012--29.8% (7-9); 2011--34.9% (6-10); 2010--3.8% (7-9); 2009--31.2% (7-9); 2008--96.9% (11-5/playoff loss).

G17: NEW ENGLAND @ DOLPHINS: HOUSE-CLEANING FINS BEAT NEMESIS IN FINALE: Final: Tannehill 350 yards and two TDs and big defense carried Miami. The unexpected win cost Dolphins a few spots in the draft order, but cheering fans didn't seem to mind. Click on Tannehill the Solution -- With the Right Coach, for my column from the game. ..... Fourth Q: Miami 19-yard late FG makes the final score, 20-1 win. ..... Tannehill-Jordan Cameron 2-yard TD pass for a 17-10 Miami lead. A 46-yard strike to Parker fueled the series. ..... Third Q: Tannehill surpasses 4,000 passing yards for second straight season, first Dolphin to do that since Dan Marino went 4K X 3 in 1984-86. ... NE ties it 10-10. Brady comes out passing as we'd predicted, completes 68-yarder to James White to set up 3-yard TD run by the exhumed Steven Jackson. ..... Halftime: Are we seeing early signs of dementia in Bill Belichick? Last week he gave the other team the ball to begin overtime. Now he has Tom Brady throws five passes for 20 yards through the air in the first half at Miami. What? Huh? Expect a lot more Brady from here, presuming the Pats have an interest in winning. ..... Second Q: MIA 10-3 on Tannehill 15-yard TD strike to Devante Parker, after an earlier 31-yard completion to Greg Jennings. ... NE fails to take lead, misses 46-yard FG try. ... NE 3-3 on 34-yard FG. ... Andrew Franks' failed 46-yard FG try had the knuckling trajectory of a poorly struck 3-iron. ... First Q: Pats' first two possessions: 9 plays, 27 yards, 2 punts. ... Miami 3-0 on 38-yard FG in series fueled by Lamar Miller's 29-yard run. ... Swap of punts begins game. For Miami, a stalemate almost feels like a positive. ... As a seventh consecutive Dolphins season prepares to end too soon. ..... Pregame: Stadium filling up in a way that suggests a big crowd today, but that's largely because so many Patriots fans are here. Seeing as many 'Brady' jerseys as those of any other player on either team. ..... Original post: When you dump the head coach and both coordinators within one season you are running out of people to fire. But not quite! Yesterday the Dolphins "parted ways" with general manager Dennis Hickey, unsurprisingly, since he'd been rendered a glorified assistant by the arrival and takeover of personnel boss Mike Tannenbaum. Anyway, the 5-10 Fins host the 12-3 Patriots this afternoon, with Miami skidding to a halt at 4-7 under interim coach Dan Campbell. Ryan Tannehill enters Miami’s season finale banged up after being sacked six times last Patsfinsweek and then again during the week on that vicious blindside hit by Miko Grimes. The Patriots figure to offer little respite Sunday, their 48 sacks ranking second in the NFL. Too bad for the Fins this game means something for New England and, therefore, guys like Tom Brady won’t have the day off. Pats have sewn up a first-round bye but need to beat Miami (or hope for an unlikely Denver loss) to clinch the home field throughout. Pats are 2-3 since a 10-0 start, have lost their past two visits to Miami and might be quite vulnerable for an upset here. I won’t go that far. Brady is still Brady, and he still has Rob Gronkowski. Even if it’s just those two and nine bandaged mummies, that’s still a better offense than Miami usually shows. But I do see a much better game than Miami’s 36-7 collapse up there on Oct. 29. See this one close, in fact. That reminds me. Aside to Bill Belichick: If this one happens to go into overtime and you win the coin toss like last week, take the ball this time, dummy. My pick: New England, 27-20.

Poll result: UM firing Golden, hiring Richt named top Miami/South Florida sports story of 2015: We listed our Top 10 local stories of the past year, invited your vote on which was biggest, and the winner was UM firing Al Golden and hiring Mark Richt with 33.0 percent. Rounding out top five: Dolphins firing Joe Philbin amid seventh straight non-playoff season, 21.0%; Ndamukong Suh signing with Fins, 13.7%; Heat acquiring Goran Dragic, losing Chris Bosh to blood clots and missing playoffs, 8.1%; and Marlins' Dee Gordon becoming first since Jackie Robinson to lead NL in hitting and stolen bases, 6.0%.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (JAN. 3): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

1. PANTHERS: Jagr leads the hottest team on ice: Jaromir Jagr, 43, made the all-star team by leading the Atlantic division in fan voting as the go-Cats-go entered the new year the talk of the NHL. Florida last night won a franchise-record eighth straight game and 14th in the past 17 to roar onto playoff pace. And general manager Dale Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant found the reward of contract extensions in their Christmas stockings.

Hotbutton2. CFP: Clemson wins Orange, to meet Alabama for national championship: Clemson dominated Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and Alabama beat Michigan State even worse in the Cotton to reach the Jan. 11 College Football Playoff title game in Glendale, Ariz. title. Crimson Tide are an opening 6 1/2-point favorite despite the collective will of Miami football fans to see Nick Saban sad.

3. HEAT: Whiteside opens the new year right: Hassan Whiteside had season-highs of 25 points and 19 rebounds as the Heat won its first game of 2016 by a season-best 24-point margin over Dallas. Good: Miami stays in thick of a tightly bunched East playoff race. Better: Seeing Mark Cuban sad.

4. DOLPHINS: Fins host Patriots Sunday in season finale: Club "parted ways" with GM Dennis Hickey on Saturday; now Fins host New England in season finale. Pats' big sackers may pose a problem for Ryan Tannheill. The banged-up QB was sacked six times last week -- seven if you include the blindside Twitter hit by Miko Grimes. 

5. NFL: Sunday wraps the regular season, sets playoff field: The regular season wraps up with all 16 games being played Sunday, after which the first round of the playoffs will be set. The "playoffs." I wonder. Do younger Dolphins fans even know what that word means?

6. HURRICANES: UM hires defensive coordinator as Richt staff takes shape: So long, Mark D'onofrio. Miami's new defensive chief is Miami native Manny Diaz Jr., son of the former mayor, who held same job at Mississippi State. I don't wanna say Canes fans are tough but some already are calling for Diaz's firing. 

7. BOWLS: State's Big 3 bowled over, a rarity: This college football season marked only the second time ever (first was 2002) that the Hurricanes, Seminoles and Gators all ended their season with bowl losses.

8. UM HOOPS: Both Canes teams ranked as ACC play begins: UM's men beat Syracuse here in their ACC basketball opener Saturday. The Canes' men and women's teams are a combined 25-2 today, both ranked and thinking NCAA Tournament. And what were the odds that South Florida's sports excitement entering the new year would be centered on college basketball and hockey?

9. TENNIS: Miami Open, Miami-Dade at odds: Officials of the Miami Open major pro tennis tournament, the annual fixture on Key Biscayne, are threatening to move the event because the county, which owns the facility, won't OK expansion. Hey here's a wild thought: Compromise!

10. HORSE RACING: Gulfstream host big stakes races: Gulfstream held two stakes races Saturday that were an early prelude to the May 7 Kentucky Derby. But do we still care about horse racing with the end of the Triple Crown drought no longer the carrot before our nose?

Missing the cut: Happy new year! Happy, mostly, because we're done with the media's annoying year-end lists ... Jarvis Landry, Reshad Jones share Dolphins MVP award. That Ryan Tannehill or Ndamukong Suh didn't win says much about why Miami is 5-10 and looking for a new coach ... R.I.P., famous Harlem Gloebtrotter Meadowlark Lemon, 83. "Too bad," said Cleo Lemon. "There aren't many of us around." "Do I count?" said deceased actor Jack Lemmon ... UM cornerback Artie Burns is skipping his senior season for the draft. Call it Mark Richt's first loss as Canes coach ... Peyton Manning continues to deny a now-discredited report by Al Jazeera that he used human growth hormone. I'm not sure who Al is, but I think he owes Peyton an apology ... Junior Orange Bowl golf ended. I think I saw the winner use a toe wedge ... CFP semifinal TV ratings nosedived thanks to airing the games on New Year's Eve. "Bad Ideas In Programming" has a new clubhouse leader ... Want a good idea? NHL's annual outdoor Winter Classic ... Dear Marlins: Spring training is getting close. Either figure out a way to clone Jose Fernandez, or sign more starting pitchers, please.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 02, 2016

Our Top 10 Miami/South Florida sports stories of 2015, your choice for the biggest. Poll. Vote now!; plus biggest-national-story verdict, Dolphins/NFL Week 17 picks, sports predictions for 2016 & more


20161) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 2. Happy New Year! We're Sweet '16! Let's all make it a great one, OK? 2) Panthers have won seven straight hockey games entering the weekend. ICYMI, click on Surging Cats for my recent column. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Clemson swamps Oklahoma in CFP semifinal Orange Bowl, national sports story-of-the-year poll, Landry and Jones share Dolphins MVP award & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

My Orange Bowl column: Click on Clemson Turns Disrespect Into Orange Storm for my column from the stadium off Thursday's 37-17 Tigers win over Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal Orange Bowl.

Miami2015WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2015?: We do this every year. We asked you to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2015 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. (Did I omit one that needed to be here?). You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond the description phrase 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!

Vote for your top three (3):

Poll result: Horsepower! American Pharoah is your national sports story of the year: We invited you to name the 2015 national sports story of the year from among The Associated Press' top 10 list, and your top five were American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown with 28.6 percent, Deflategate shadowing the Patriots Super Bowl win at 17.1%, U.S. winning the Women's World Cup with 14.7%, FIFA corruption scandal at 9.8%, and Golden State winning NBA with 8.7%

UPSET BIRD DAY: DOLPHINS/NFL WEEK 17 PICKS: Regular season ends with 16 division games, all Sunday, and only two playoff spots still open. Click on Week 17 Gems for all of our latest picks Fripixand full prediction capsules. Highlights: Dolphins end miserable season with home loss to Patriots, Packers beat Vikings in winner-take-all game for division title, and Rex Ryan's Bills deny Jets in our Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"). Also, click on Name That Dolphins Coach for our latest weekly Friday Page NFL notes column. It leads with some thoughts on Miami's head-coach opening. The Fins' next coach should be an experienced, proven winner, not a gamble on a promoted assistant with training wheels. Sean Payton and Chip Kelly are a logical starting point in the search, but there are complications. One is the compensation that would be due the Saints to get Payton. Another is the roadblock of a strong personnel chief here in Mike Tannenbaum. And another is whether Ryan Tannehill and this roster will prove enticing to top coaches with other options.

CubsPREDICTING 2016 IN SPORTS...: Aol.com throws out a bunch of predictions for sports in 2016 (click here) and they include, chronologically: Arizona beats Denver in next month's Super Bowl; Michigan State beats North Carolina in men's March Madness finale; Florida Panthers make the NHL playoffs; Peyton Manning retires in May; Heat reach Eastern Conference finals but lose to Cavaliers; Golden State beats Cleveland again for NBA title; L.A. King beat Washington Capitals for NHL crown; Cooperstown inductees are Ken Griffey Jr., Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines; Marlins' Ichiro gets 3,000 hit on Aug. 29; Serena Williams wins tennis' Grand Slam; Marlins miss playoffs (again); and Cubs beat Astros for first World Series title in 107 years.

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

Twitter @gregcote

December 31, 2015

It's Clemson-'Bama! Tigers win big, Tide rolls. My postgame thoughts, Orange Bowl game column; plus here are 2015's Top 10 national sports stories. What was biggest? Poll. Vote now!; also, Landry, Jones share Dolphins MVP & more


1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31. Happy New Year's Eve, all. Make it a safe one. Lots of amateur drinkers out tonight. 2) Panthers have won seven straight hockey games. ICYMI, click on Surging Cats for my recent column. 3) Brent Grimes' "apology" for his wife slamming Ryan Tannehill was pretty tepid. And still no apology from Miko. 4) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Open letter to Miko Grimes, hot Panthers relevant again, NFL pix 'n Greg's Lobos Week 16 results & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Landry, Jones share Dolphins MVP award: Receiver/returner Jarvis Landry and strong safety Reshad Jones split Dolphins' MVP award announced today. Hate ties, but both are legit choices. That neither Ryan Tannehill nor Ndamukong Suh won says much about why Miami is 5-10 and looking for a new coach.

Orangebowl ClemsonoklahomaORANGE BOWL/CFP SEMIFINAL: CLEMSON 37, OKLAHOMA 17 (Final): Clemson proved it had no business being the betting underdog in this College Football Playoff semifinal, winning all over the field in a 37-17 domination of favored Oklahoma. The Tigers won where it gets physical, rushing for 312 yards and limiting OU to 67. The Sooners averaged 52 points its previous seven games but was shut out in the second half Thursday. Clemson impressed more than Oklahoma disappointed on this New year's Eve. Click on Clemson Turns Disrespect Into Orange Storm for my column from the stadium on tonight's game. ..... Original post: To the sport, it's a College Football Playoff semifinal in the new era's second year. To Miami, it's the 82nd Orange Bowl, the continuation of a tradition conceived in the 1930s to draw attention and boost tourism. To the No. 1 Clemson Tigers and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners, it's the win they need to reach the Jan. 11 championship game in Glandale, Ariz., vs. tonight's Alabama-Michigan State Cotton Bowl winner. Click on Miami Sets the Stage for my column previewing the game. Expect fireworks from two quarterbacks who combined for 65 touchdown passes this season. Clemson, though unbeaten and top-ranked, is a betting underdog; the buzz is that Oklahoma is right-now better. I don't buy it. My pick: Clemson 34-31.

2015YOU PICK THE 2015 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-ending blog vote. The top 10 stories in our poll are not mine; they are from The Associated Press official annual ranking for the calendar year. I list them alphabetically, not in order, 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, figuring that if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, chances are the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE and check back to monitor evolving results. And remember, this is a national list, so please consider your vote in that broad context. We'll ask your vote on the top 10 Greater Miami/South Florida sports stories of 2015 in the coming days. For now, let's go nationwide. Ready? Go!

Vote for the top three (3) biggest stories:

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

Twitter @gregcote

August 30, 2015

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) with Dolphins, Canes, Marlins, FIU, LLWS, tennis, horses, Scully; plus latest 'Weighing The Fish,' Fins fantasy ranks, escaping Cone of Doom & more


1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 31. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with onset of college football. 2) Backup Kirk Cousins reportedly will start for Redskins in Sept. 13 season opener vs. Dolphins. That doesn't help Miami. Such is the state of Robert Griffin III. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Twitter study finds Heat dominating local teams on social media, Gronkowskis = Kardashians, Serena wins pole position & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

1aa1afiuronturnerFIU football: Turner's tall task: I probably don't write about FIU enough but for me it's a chicken-or-egg thing; unless you're a Kardashian, you have to earn the attention you get. Anyway, in my latest column I write why FIU's Ron Turner (pictured) has the toughest coaching job in South Florida. Click on Attitude Adjustment, Culture Makeover to read.

1aa1afinsat50Herald's 'Fins at 50' special section: ICYMI, the Miami Herald's massive "Fins at 50"

coverage, commemorating
the Dolphins' upcoming 50th season, arrived in the Old Classic print version
yesterday and remains available online. Click FINS AT 50 to access entire project. My contributions: COACHING LEGEND, my main column on Don Shula. 50 GREATEST, my list of the 50 top figures (not just players!) in franchise history. ALL-TIME TEAM, my picks for that honor. And VIDEO INTERVIEWS, my conversations with Shula, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. I also have an added Shula-by-the-numbers column not in the original package; click TOP 10 NUMBERS to read.

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: Reminding you our Dolphins postgame DSM polls will be back in the blog again this year, but starting with the regular season on Sept. 13.

HOT BUTTON (UPDATED): TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated on 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:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Tannehill, starting D sharp again as Fins win preseason home debut: Miami is only 1-2 in exhibitions after Saturday's 13-9 win over Atlanta (game blog and postgame thoughts below), but the starting units look season-ready entering this coming Thursday's preseason finale vs. Tampa Bay. Based on August, Tannehill may be fast-climbing fantasy draft boards. (But the whisper remains: Can we trust August?)

2. HURRICANES: College football arrives! UM loses top RB with opener less than a week away: Coach Al Golden's Hurricanes, who open the season this coming Saturday vs. Bethune-Cookman, suffered a big blow with the news that expected starting running back Gus Edwards would miss the season with a foot injury. It's one more reason to doubt the Canes. If doubt is fuel, UM has a full tank in '15.

3. MARLINS: Stanton return from injury now on horizon: Fish have lost nine of past 12 to continue The Lost Season, but at least slugger Giancarlo Stanton is close. Marlins begin an extended homestand on Friday and Stanton figures to return sometime during it. Meantime, the club gives indications it might move the fences in next year. Giving Stanton shorter fences is like giving Bill Gates a raise.

4. FIU: Panthers open football season on road in three days: FIU begins its 14th season of football and third under coach Ron Turner on Thursday at UCF. Turner seems to be making progress in turning around the Panthers program. The question now is whether hair-trigger FIU athletic director Pete Garcia will give him time to finish the job.

5. LITTLE LEAGUE: Japan beats U.S. for world title: The U.S. champion (Pennsylvania) squandered a 10-2 lead and lost to Japan on Sunday in the International final of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. By the way, a boy named Alex Edmondson pitched two no-hitters during the LLWS but you probably didn’t hear about it because, unfortunately for him, his name wasn’t Mo’Ne Davis.

6. TENNIS: U.S. Open starts today with all eyes on Serena: For the first time ever the women’s final has sold out before the men’s as fans anticipate Serena Williams completing the sport’s first calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. Now Serena's path is even easier with the withdrawal of Maria Sharapova. It almost isn't unfair. They should make Serena use a badminton racket.

7. HORSES: American Pharoah shocking loser at Travers: Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, a 1-5 favorite, lost to longshot Keen Ice at the historic Travers at Saratoga on Saturday. (Note to most of America: Yes, there are horse races other than the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont). 

8. VIN SCULLY: Dodgers broadcaster says he isn't done yet: Scully, who'll be 88 in November, said he would return next season for a 67th and final year broadcasting the Dodgers games. Put it this way: When last somebody else called Dodgers games, the president was Franklin D. Roosevelt.  

9. LEBRON JAMES: Ex-Heater sells Coconut Grove home: LeBron sold his 12,178-square-foot Coconut Grove waterfront mansion (including a theater and wine cellar) for $13.4 million. The question now: Do I redecorate?

10. DARRYL DAWKINS: Beloved ex-NBA stars dies: R.I.P. to the dunk specialist they called "Chocolate Thunder," who died at 58. The good news? I won big. As soon as I heard the news, I immediately invested in lame media references to "dunking in heaven."

Missing the HB10 cut: Tropical storm Erika turned out to be no threat to South Florida, despite local meteorologists' best efforts to scare us into panic mode. ..... Refurbished Dolphins stadium debuts. It looks good. If only it weren't 11,000 seats smaller. ..... Lawyers for NFL and Tom Brady are due back Monday for latest round of arguments. If this “Deflategate” morass were any more ridiculous, they’d move it from federal court to Vaudeville. ..... Marlins honor Dontrelle Willis but he's a no-show. Club president David Samson calls himself "flummoxed," becoming first sports figure since 1959 to use word "flummoxed." ..... Southern Cal football coach Steve Sarkisian profanely addresses boosters and fans while drunk. ..... Cris Carter apologizes for telling players at NFL Rookie Symposium they should have a “fall guy” to help them avoid trouble. An alternate piece of advice he might have been: Stay out of trouble so you don’t need a “fall guy.” ..... Now-retired former Dolphins bullying victim Jonathan Martin revealed he has contemplated suicide, seriously impinging my ability to make fun of him.

DOLPHINS 13, ATLANTA 9 (FAUX-GAME 3): THIS ONE COUNTED! (OK, NOT REALLY. BUT SORT OF): FINAL: Encouragingly, this was the third game in a row Miami's offensive and defensive starters outplayed the other team and performed very well. These units look season-ready. This time a win resulted for a 1-2 exhibition record, but it's the play of the main units that should have Dolfans nearly giddy. Tannehill tonight was 15-for-19 for 145 yards and a TD, Jarvis Landry looked good, and the defense was terrific, including six sacks. All of ATL's points came off Miami miscues. More importantly, coach Joe Philbin indicated after the game he did not think center Mike Pouncey's knee injury was a concern. In terms of roster spots last tonight, rookie kicker Andrew Franks may have drawn even with Caleb Sturgis. And I'd no longer be surprised if Josh Freeman edged Matt Moore for the backup QB role. ..... Fourth Quarter: MIA fumble recovery with 1:21 left at own 18 preserves win. ... Four-point late lead on rookie Franks' 51-yard FG. ... MIA recovers fumble with 4:13 left. ... More rain; not many fans still at Joe's Place. ... Third-string QB Josh Freeman looking pretty good, at wheel for 10-9 lead finished by 32Y FG by rookie Andrew Franks with 7 minutes to play. Longshot Franks stays in the competition with incumbent Caleb Sturgis for the PK job. ... ATL up 9-7. All Falcons points have followed Dolphins miscues. ... Matt Moore intercepted and 43Y return have Falcons poised to take lead. ..... Third Quarter: Goalline stand by backup defense preserves lead in scoreless third. ... Looks like second half will be reserves. Once again, for third game preseason game in a row, starters performed wel. ..... Half: Modest 7-6 lead but Dolphins very impressive overall. Tannehill 15-19 for 145 yards and a TD before giving way to Moore, Jarvis Landry 6 catches for 84 yards, and defense keeping Falcons punter busy. ATL's only points set up by a muffed Miami punt snap and a turnover. ..... Second quarter: ATL within 7-6 on 50Y field goal after late turnover. ... Matt Moore replaces Tannehill late in half. ... Center Mike Pouncey out with knee injury but does not seem serious. Questionable return but doubt he does as a precaution. ... MIA 7-0 on Rishard Matthews short TD pass from Tannehill. ..... First Quarter: Jarvis Landry 45-yard catch and run wakes up crowd. ... Late 1Q but Miami already subbing on defense, several starters already out.  ... Falcs parlay field position into 43-yard FG and 3-0 lead, but Fins defense looking good. ... Rain starts. Bad snap leads to muffed Dolphins pun after a couple of dropped passes. ... Quick ATL punt. DT Earl Mitchell playing like, "Suh, who?" ... Miami punt to open game. ... Pregame: Sparse crowd. Stadium improvements look good but fans aren't dumb. It's still a glorified practice game ... Hullo? Is this mic on? We'll be live-blogging the game here tonight and then have a postgame mini-column. ..... Original post: Atlanta Falcons here tonight in Miami's third exhibition game and, yes, it matters a little bit. A few reasons why and 1aa1abigdealother thoughts entering tonight: 1) Home debut, like-new stadium: It's the 2015 home debut of a Dolphins team that has a buzz about it, and in a refurbished stadium that also will look and feel new. A fall-flat performance would be a letdown. Especially because... 2) Playing to win: After two earlier losses in which the starters played well, but briefly, Miami will actually play to win for the first time, in a "dress rehearsal" game that figures to see the starters play much more. Atlanta has been 4-12 and 6-10 the past two seasons, so, yes, a loss tonight to go 0-3 would hurt in a way the past two did not. 3) Can't play scared: They'll balance the want to win with staying healthy. Since Ryan Tannehill and most other starters likely won't even play in next week's preseason finale, a key injury tonight is the worst fear. However! Reject the scared notion that Tannehill shouldn't play at all because of that 1aa1ahelmet testfear. He needs the added work behind his line, with his mostly new receivers, and against a live defense. You don't approach a game with your tail between your legs. 4) The offensive line: Seeking progress from an offensive line in flux due to both injuries and the questions at guard. Tonight guard Dallas Thomas likely will start at left tackle ... so be alert and nimble, Tannehill! 5) Position battles: In addition to the guard play, Walt Aikens is the heir to injured Louis Delmas' safety job. Is he up to the task? We may see tonight, as the Falcons' Matt Ryan will offer the best passing attack Miami has yet faced. Kicker Caleb Sturgis also must button-down his role tonight or risk still losing it. Bonuses: Interesting piece on coach Joe Philbin this week on Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback site; click here to read). Finally, pictured left, apropos of nothing, a prototype football helmet being tested as the wearer heaves himself into a wall, circa 1912. Evidently no concussion concerns back then.

WEIGHING THE FISH (130 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this year 1aa1afishweighwe debuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games cumulative ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Eleven qualify for our latest ranking (we eliminated the departed Michael Morse but included Cole Gillespie even though he is one at-bat shy at 129). WTF factors six offensive categories, serving as an ongoing de facto team MVP race -- a race Stanton led comfortably before his injury absence. The numbers below might not mean much by themselves, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Here's the WTF after 130 games (at 52-78):

Rank Player                   WTF#  @120

1  Dee Gordon                  430.9    1

2  Giancarlo Stanton     362.5    2

3  Adeiny Hechevarria   358.0   3

4  Martin Prado              308.1    6

5  Christian Yelich         286.3   4

6  Jacob Realmuto         286.1   5

7  Marcell Ozuna            264.2   8

8  Justin Bour                 260.6    7

9  Ichiro Suzuki              228.6   9

10  Derek Dietrich          195.1   10

11  Cole Gillespie            140.1   --

Note: Season WTFs leader-count is now Stanton 8, Gordon 4.

1aa1alamarmillerDOLPHINS' IN FANTASY RANKINGS: ESPN.com's official and final Top 300 fantasy rankings (click here for full list) includes 11 Dolphins, though none are pegged higher than what would be the third round in most drafts. The Fins listed, in order: 29th--RB Lamar Miller (pictured); 65th--WR Jarvis Landry; 87th--TE Jordan Cameron; 113th--WR DeVante Parker; 136th--RB Jay Ajayi; 142nd--Dolphins defense; 148th--QB Ryan Tannehill; 181st--RB Damien Williams; 191st--PK Caleb Sturgis; 197th--WR Kenny Stills; and 232nd--WR Greg Jennings. Quick thought: I think Tannehill, the 11th-ranked QB, could be somebody's draft steal. 

METEROLOGISTS SECRETLY DOWNTRODDEN AS SOUTH FLORIDA EVADES ERIKA'S CONE OF DOOM: Erika, the tropical storm, evidently not only won't become a hurricane but will be downgraded to a depression, or perhaps even a stiff breeze. This is good 1aa1acanestvfor South Florida, but bad of course for the people who sell plywood, ice, batteries and such. It's also bad for local TV meteorologists, who sell panic and at every opportunity foment an anxiety that leads to comically premature preparation. We'll probably get some rain and maybe some barely strong winds late Sunday into Monday. That's it. Am I making fun of hurricanes or the preparation for them. No! Certainly not on the 10-year anniversary of Katrina. Real hurricanes must be taken seriously. I am making fun of local TV weather people over-dramatizing every threat. I am picturing disappointed meteorologists downtrodden today, likely drinking heavily as they wistfully picture themselves beachside filming heroically in front of wind-whipped Stop signs.

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