March 25, 2017

An appreciation of Elton John on his 70th birthday; plus an unabashed ode to Venus Williams as she vaults de Milo, flytrap on 'Greatest Venus' list; also, my bracket update, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more

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

Eltonthen Eltonnow1) It is SATURDAY, March 25. A most happy 70th birthday to a lifelong favorite of mine, the one and only Elton John, pictured then and now. I have been a huge and continuing fan since the '70s, augmenting my love of his music with an admiration for his many philanthropic works that set the standard for the music industry. The word is grossly overused in entertainment but it fits this man: Superstar. So happy this milestone birthday finds him in a great place and the happiest he has ever been. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper's surprise Mock pick for Dolphins, Team USA wins WBC crown, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (70 games), Sweet 16 title odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My bracket update: I now stand tied for 10th among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends pool after Friday's results. Only four teams ahead of me still have their national champion standings; I still do with North Carolina. I have Kansas and Oregon both through to the Elite Eight and need a Kansas advance today. Needed wins by UNC and Kentucky last night and got both.

VenuswTHE UNDERAPPRECIATED WONDER OF VENUS WILLIAMS: [Update: Venus won her opening match in the Miami Open late last night, defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia, 6-4-,6-3] Original post: As Serena Williams skips this Miami Open tennis tournament on Key Biscayne with a knee injury, we take the occasion to give the credit that is due to the overshadowed, underappreciated career of older sister Venus Williams. Serena said recently of Venus: "There’s no way I’d be at 23 [Grand Slam titles] without her. There’s no way I’d be at one without her. There’s no way I’d be anything without her. She’s the only reason the Williams sisters exist." Serena says her drive to be better than her big sister is what drove her to greatness. But imagine all of the additional major title Venus might have won if her greatest rival hadn't been her own sister? Click on An Ode to the 'Other' for my column in tribute to Venus.

THE LIST: TOP 5 GREATEST VENUSES OF ALL-TIME: Our own order:

1. Venus (second planet from the sun)

2. Venus Williams (tennis player)

3. Venus de Milo (ancient Greek statue)

4. Venus Flytrap (carnivorous plant)

5. Venus (surprising humane 2006 Peter O'Toole film about aging)

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 3-25-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Elite Eight, 6 p.m.: It's Xavier-Gonzaga, then Oregon-Kansas in first two E-8 men's games.

2. Miami Open, 11 a.m.: Roger Federer, No. 1 seed Stan Wawrinka among those in action.

3. NCAA women, 11:30 a.m.: Four more Sweet 16 games including FSU-Oregon State at 6.

4. Chicago at Panthers, 7 p.m.: Cats all but dead in playoff water, but still with faint breath.

5. Marlins vs. St. Louis, 1 p.m.: Game in Jupiter as spring training winds down.

"WHERE TO NOW, ST. PETER?," ELTON JOHN, 1970: Tumbleweed Connection was the first Elton John album that really struck me, with its influences in country and Americana but also rock and even psychedelia. I had no idea then that the music of this man would become a lifelong friend...

Select other recent columns: Method to the Madness?, on the bizarre LaVarBall. Miami Open Is Battered, Not Beaten, previewing the tennis tournament. A Complicated Legacy, on developments in Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on NCAA Tournament. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing World Baseball Classic. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes/NCAAs, Fernandez saga, Heat down to 8, viva Team USA!, tennis, Cats, cricket; plus Cote says thanks, Chuck Berry, your Jose verdict, Hot Button Daily & more

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

Chuckberry1) It is MONDAY, March 20. R.I.P., Chuck Berry (pictured in his latter years), the influential rock 'n roll guitar icon, gone over the weekend at age 90. Rest in Peace, Johnny B. Goode. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): We name our March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Love & Regret/Jose Fernandez saga with poll, UM men fall in NCAAs & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

'Cote's Coterie' lifts us to final four!: A late surge of support Sunday carried us past Mike Ryan and into the final four of Slice Miami's annual sports media poll. I'm now up against Amber Wilson in the semifinals. Uh oh. Click on Slice Miami Final Four to vote.

My bracket update: Still solid: As the NCAA Tournament pauses and exhales I stand tied for ninth place among some 90 entries in a LeBatard & Friends pool. I have 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Is that pretty good? Or average? Took a hit though with Duke falling. I'd had the Devils reaching the (but not winning) the championship game. By the way, to this point, favorites (based on seeding) are 38-10, a 79.2 percent win rate. Once again, the Cinderella aspect of March Madness appears largely oversold.

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES / NCAA TOURNAMENT: Miami makes quick exit from March Madness: An unexpectedly good season ended so badly for Canes men in a very disappointing 78-58 opening loss to Michigan State Friday night in Tulsa. How is your bracket looking as we arrived Sunday at the Sweet 16? Mine is a sieve leaking a torrent of my own tears. (It isn't, really. But it's funnier to say that...)

2. JOSE FERNANDEZ: State says Jose at wheel, caused crash: The story that couldn't possibly get any worse keeps getting worse. The latest: A report confirming Fernandez was at the wheel and to blame for fatal boat crash. Isn't a tragedy worst when you know it should never have happened? (Click on A Complicated Legacy for my column on latest development in saga).

3. HEAT: Can we please start a “We're No. 8!” chant?: Heat fell from 7th to 8th seed with Sunday's home loss to portland -- only the team's sixth loss in past 29 games. Meantime Dwyane Wade is out for the rest of season in Chicago, another reminder Heat seems more and more right to have let Wade go.

4. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Stanton homers as Team USA wins, makes final four: Americans beat Dominican Republic late Saturday in San Diego, 6-3, led by Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's go-ahead home run. Winner-take-all game eliminated D.R. and lifted U.S. to WBC championship round at Dodger Stadium and a semifinal vs. Japan. Team USA has never won this event. "Can you believe it?" said a clearly annoyed Abner Doubleday. Let's gooooo States!

5. TENNIS: Miami Open begins on Key Biscayne: Andy Murray and especially Serena Williams are among major withdrawals with injuries for the two-week event starting Monday. I feel like Serena is so good she could at least reach the semifinals playing on crutches. Meantime, IMG, which owns the event, assures it will remain on Key Biscayne long-term. That means the Miami Open has won the Miami Open.

6. UM WOMEN: Canes win NCAA opener, carry banner for UM hoops: Miami survived upset-minded Florida Gulf Coast, 62-60, at home Saturday in its NCAA Tournament opener and will now face Quinnipiac Monday night 9, home again. What the Hurricanes men failed to do, the women did: Avoid a one-and-done.

7. PANTHERS: Don't write Cats off yet. Almost. But not yet: Florida is six points off NHL playoff pace with only 11 games left after getting spanked 4-0 Sunday in Pittsburgh. Somewhere between simply needing a lot of luck and needing a miracle rest the Panthers' chances.   

8. BOXING: Mayweather-McGregor penciled in for September: The hype has begun with Conor McGregor saying he's going to "shock the world" and win by boxing against heavily favored Floyd Mayweather in their mixed boxing/UFC bout rumored for September. Am I alone in wishing there were a way they both could lose?

9. NFL FREE AGENCY: Report: Teams awary of Kaepernick because of Trump: An AFC GM said teams are hesitant to sign available QB Colin Kaepernick for fear of a an onslaught of negative Tweets from Donald Trump. And in other free agency news, the Dolphins have done pretty good so far but not quite as good as the Patriots. Or did that go without saying?  

10. CRICKET: India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: "RANCHI, India (AP) -- A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday." Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?

Missing the HB10 cut: Congrats to our blog's March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Ken Whiteley of Chattanooga, Tennessee ..... Canes baseball fell to 8-13 Saturday. Sorry to place you below cricket, Jim Morris, but until you start winning, no Top 10 for you! ..... NASCAR runs today in Phoenix. It will be loud. I won't watch. 

Poll result: Shaky support for Marlins honoring Fernandez with uniform patch: We asked if, in light of this week's report putting Jose Fernandez behind the wheel of the fatal boat crash that killed him and two others, it still is appropriate that the Marlins this season to wear a uniform patch honoring Jose. The results: 39.2 percent "Yes. Because of all he meant to Miami and to the Marlins." "No. Not when he caused the tragedy that took two other lives"; and 28.0% "Not sure. I can see both sides." That's a plurality who still favor the patch, but roughly another 60% who are against it or have misgivings. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-20-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Quinnipiac at Hurricanes, 9:10 p.m.: UM women host 2nd-round game for spot in Sweep 16.

2. Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico, 9 p.m.: First World Baseball Classic semifinal game from L.A.

3. Miami Open tennis, 10 p.m.: Main draw starts Tuesday, but qualifying matches happening today.

4. Marlins vs. Braves, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game in Lake Buena Vista.

Select recent columns: A Complicated Legacy, the latest, on developments in the Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 18, 2017

Results of 2017 March Madness Haiku Challenge right here!; plus, with latest news, is it appropriate for Marlins to honor Jose Fernandez with uniform patch? Poll. Last day to vote!; also, Canes one-n-done, my bracket update, Hot Button Daily & more

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

Stpatricksday1) It is SATURDAY, March 18. Hope y'all had a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Like I need an excuse to drink!? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge with Canes-in-NCAAs poll, Miami snubbed on best-sports-colleges list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Hurricanes one-and-done in NCAA Tournament: A positive, surprising, better-than-expected season for UM men's basketball ended with a crash and a thud last night in Tulsa, in a 78-58 loss to Michigan State in Miami's first game of the NCAA Tournament. Canes led by a 12 early before the bottom fell out. Now the women carry the banner for UM hoops, with Katie Meier's crew debuting today at home vs. Florida Gulf Coast.

My bracket update: After round-of-64 play and entering Saturday's games I have 27 of 32 teams still alive and stand tied for sixth among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends men's NCAA Tournament pool. Offsetting my losses I have nailed four notable seed-upsets so far with 12-Middle Tennessee, 12-Rhode Island, 11-Xavier and 10-Wichita State.

IT'S 17 SYLLABLES OF MYSTICAL LOVE AS WE CROWN 2017 MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: Our blog's 10th annual Haiku Challenge enjoyed a great response with 141 entries --  121 of which were actual haikus and eligible. Thanks to all who played along! The ones we liked best:

Special mention: To Ryan Meyer, a poet/professor who adapted from the famous Japanese poet Basho to write: "An old silent pond / Past a field of sixty-eight / Splash! Taste the feeling."

HaikuHonorable mention: To Reuben Rubalcava, for: "The madness is here / Let's crack open some dark beers / The heartbreak is here."   To Elliott Gelfand, for: "Brackets call to us / We succumb to the madness / Buzzers will be beat."   To our 2016 champion John Flannery, for "Skipping out of work / Rooting hard for underdogs / Dear God please not Duke."   To Ronald Kinzel, for: "I enjoy haikus / But sometimes they don't make sense / Jim Larranaga."   And to Andrew McTague, for: "It's that time again / Perhaps a crying flute girl / Dick Vitale, baby."

Third place: To Justin Regas, for: "Forget the Plumlees / Coach K 'back' on his high horse / sweep the leg, Grayson."

Second place: To Ryan Rodenhauser, for: "Ups and downs this year / Like Larranaga's en'e / Canes will close on top."

FIRST PLACE: KEN WHITELEY, CHATTANOOGA, TN, for: "Fill out your bracket / Cheer for teams you've never seen / Cinderella dies."  

Congrats, Ken. The judges appreciated the 5-7-5 structure, the simplicity, and the underlying allusion to the inherent ludicrousness of investing so much emotion into teams we've never watched when, for 99 percent of us, our bracket ends if destruction and dnd death."

Ken, email me at the same address to which you submitted your entry and we'll come up with a prize suitable to you. Thanks again to all who played! Once again congratulations to Ken Whiteley, our 2017 俳句チャンピオン!

LATEST COLUMN: LOVE & REGRET: THE COMPLICATED LEGACY OF JOSE FERNANDEZ: Yesterday investigators revealed Fernandez was at the wheel of his boat, impaired by alcohol and cocaine Joseand speeding, the night of the fatal September crash that took three lives including his own. Click on A Complicated Legacy for my latest column on this. It is now clear and official that Fernandez's own recklessness primarily was responsible for this tragedy. Does it change the way you feel? Should it? The Marlins plan to go ahead with honoring Fernandez in various ways this coming season (though not on Opening Night, I am told) and with uniform patches with his number worn throughout the season. I have mixed emotions. The Marlins are honoring the life of a Miami hero, especially to Cuban-Americans, and of a star pitcher lost too soon. But can that be so neatly separated from the fact Jose's own illegal recklessness that night caused this tragedy that involved two other families? There are no easy answers here, and I do not claim to have the right one. But I did want to invite your opinion in light of Thursday's 46-page report implicating Fernandez as the cause of the tragedy.

Poll result: Canes must at least win tonight to call season a success: We asked what Miami Hurricanes men's team must do in NCAA Tournament to call this a successful season. The results: "Win at least one game to avoid fast exit," 46.3 percent; "Season already a success based on expectations," 31.2%; and "Win two games to at least reach Sweet 16," 22.5%.
 
HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 3-18-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Florida Gulf Coast at Hurricanes, 3:30 p.m.: UM women make NCAA Tournament debut at home.

2. Team USA vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic game could tell who reaches semis.

3. NCAA Tournament, 12:10 p.m.: Day's eight men's games include FSU at 6:10, Florida at 8:40.

4. Marlins vs. Detroit, 1:05 p.m.: Fish travel for spring game in Lakeland.

5. Hurricanes at North Carolina State, 6:30 p.m.: UM baseball in ACC game. 

Select other recent columns: A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 16, 2017

NCAA Tournament begins, last day to enter March Madness Haiku Challenge! Details here; plus Hurricanes-in-tourney poll (last day to vote), our NCAAs preview column, Eric Hosmer, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, March 16. Team USA's Eric Hosmer, born in Cooper City and from American Heritage High, hit the go-ahead 2-run homer in last night's huge 4-2 win over Venezuela in second round of World Baseball Classic. Local boy makes (really) good. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, onus on Team USA in WBC, Smokey Robinson review & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Happy 104th, Mae Riback!"

Column: Loving the Madness: I used to be a March Madness agnostic who made fun of Bracketheads, but I have slowly come around on why people love the NCAA Tournament so much. Click on A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness for my latest column. 

HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 12TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: We expect the entries to be pouring in like a tsunami, by which I mean we expect a few, or perhaps even several. We have done the Haiku Challenge for as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. I say unpopular because many of you are intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient VitaleJapanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select, chosen few who await the contest every year with relish. It's sort of like a restaurant menu that offers liver. Few like it, but the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem (not 16! not 18!) and that ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure. But we're loose with the structure. Rhyming? Fine, but not necessary.

Three simple but hard-fast rules:

1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, college hoops or the  Miami Hurricanes, it's a valid entry. (Tip: 'Larranaga' burns four syllables).

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: via email to gcote@miamiherald.com, or via Twitter @gregcote with the hashtag #Haiku. You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries will be accepted from now through 5 p.m. today/Thursday, with winner announced in the blog Friday morning. (We are getting an unusually big response this year so shutting entries down sooner than first expected).

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide or something equally crappy? We'll figure something out. Don't do it for the prize. Do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity and inner-Zen. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MIAMI SNUBBED ON 'BEST COLLEGES FOR SPORTS' LIST: Money magazine and Sports Illustrated together have come out with a Top 100 list of "Best Colleges for Sports Lovers." Top five are Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Duke and Virginia. Florida fares well at No. 7. Florida State at least makes it at No. 64. Miami Hurricanes? Nope. Nada. Click here for the complete Top 100 and methodology.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 3-16-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Tournament, 12:15: With first of day's 16 men's games including Gators at 3:10, 'Noles at 9:20.

2. Panthers at Columbus, 7 p.m.: Was 7-2 rout of Toronto start of late Cats surge?

3. Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic 2nd-round game from Diego.

Select other recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Starring Canes and Selection Sunday, Team USA collapse, white-hot Heat, ice-cold Cats, El Clasico; plus didn't we invent baseball?, concert review (Smokey Robinson), Lorde, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, March 13. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Thank you Mae Riback, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, Canes out in ACCs, ESPN analyst slams Dolphins for Stills/Branch deals, how/why 'The Ballad Of 1440' happened & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

NCAA title odds by conference: Via Bovada today, odds on which conference will produce the men's NCAA Tournament national champion: ACC 11-4, Pac-12 7-2, Big 12 19-4, Big East 6-1, SEC 19-2, Big Ten 22-1, field (any other conference) 19-2.

LordeMy sweet Lorde: Really like Lorde and like her new song, "Green Light," that she performed on SNL last night. Click here to see the song's official video. Side note: Lorde is 20. In the video, for reasons unknown and as pictured, she looks 40.

ICYMI: Thank you, Mae Riback: This was a recent short human-interest column about my finally meeting my oldest fan, and it has gotten an extraordinary outpouring of positive response. If you missed it, click on Thank you, Mae Riback to read. 

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

Hotbutton1. NCAA TOURNAMENT: Hurricanes to face Michigan State in opener: Selection Sunday set the 68-team men's NCAA Tournament field last evening, including a Miami Hurricanes vs. Michigan State first-round matchup Friday night at 9:20 p.m. in the Midwest regional in Tulsa. Canes, 8-seeds, have opened as 2-point favorites over the 9-seed Spartans. So. Ready? "Gentlemen (and ladies) ... start ... your ... brackets!"

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Team USA, Dominicans advance: Four-team round robin play at Marlins Park ended Sunday night with the U.S. and Dominican Republic advancing to the next round of the WBC. The D.R. is defending champion while underachieving Team USA has never won a WBC title or even medaled. Um, didn't we invent baseball!? Tick-tock, fellas. Represent, dammit!

3. HEAT: Miami still 1 back in playoff chase: Heat is on a 21-5 run even after losing at Indiana Sunday as it awaits a five-game homestand starting Wednesday, but still is 1 game back of the 8th seed and playoff pace. Meanwhile coach-of-the-year talk has begun for Erik Spoelstra. That's the plus side of starting 11-30. Nowhere to go but up.

4. SOCCER: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona confirmed for Miami: Months of rumors are now reality. “El Clasico,” the best rivalry in international club soccer, is coming to Hard Rock Stadium July 29. Major event? I'd liken it to a Super Bowl, but that might flatter the NFL. (Barcelona, by the way, just engineered the greatest comeback in Champions League history in overcoming a 4-0 hole to oust Paris St. Germain).

5. NFL: Dolphins busy as free agency underway: Miami spent big to keep S Reshad Jones and WR Kenny Stills as free agency began, and also signed former Pro Bowl LB Lawrence Timmons and reacquired TE Anthony Fasano. A team that made the playoffs for first time since 2008 is acting like it's serious about building something. Dolfans call that "a pleasant change."

6. PANTHERS: Reeling Cats sink from playoff race: Florida made it eight losses in past nine games in falling at Tampa Bay Saturday and now is seven points off NHL playoff pace. There is a phrase for chances Cats still make the postseason. It is, "Miracle on Ice." 
 
7. UM WOMEN: It's Selection Monday for Katie Meier's Canes: Women's NCAA field materializes this evening, and 16th-ranked Canes expect to be around a No. 5 regional seed. UM women have shaky history in NCAAs, so pressure will be on.
 
8. TONY ROMO: What's happening with poor Tony?: They're trading him. They're not trading him. What the Dallas Cowboys do with unseated veteran quarterback Tony Romo has become the biggest drama of NFL free agency.
 
9. NASCAR: Truex wins Las Vegas: Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday's NASCAR race. Gee, you think a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway had any bets placed on it? Now Vegas is getting the Oakland Raiders too as the line between gambling and sports fades to non-existence.
 
10. CANES BASEBALL: Sunday win eases rough start for UM: Once-ranked Miami is now 5-9 after beating Georgia Tech to take two of three in its ACC home series. That's still only 3-9 since a 2-0 start for Jim Morris' guys. Oy.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nothing personal, UFC, but are people really supposed to be excited by a "Belfort vs. Gastelum" fight? ..... Although at least they actually fought. It's still all talk on Mayweather vs. McGregor, and probably will be for months ..... Did you all spring forward one hour? Line of the day seen on Twitter but funny only to the anti-Trump crowd: "Can we please spring forward four years?"

"LET'S GOOOOOOOO STATES!" TIME FOR TEAM USA TO REMIND WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC WHO INVENTED THIS SPORT: [Update: After a blown-lead loss to the Dominican Republic the U.S. beat Canada on Sunday to advance in the WBC] Original post: This is the fourth World Baseball Classic going on, with first-round WbcmiamiMiami games at Marlins Park, as well as in Seoul, Tokyo and Jalisco, Mexico. The United States team has yet to win a WBC championship or even earn any sort of medal by finishing in the top three. It is a disappointment bordering on embarrassment. Team USA manager Jim Leyland (the former Marlins championship skipper) bristles at the topic, but it is real. How can the country that invented baseball watch Japan (in 2006 and '09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) win WBC titles when the American team always has so many more major-leaguers as a national-team talent pool? This is the subject of today's latest column by me. Click on Time For Team USA To Win This Thing to read. The U.S. (featuring Marlins Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich) rallied to beat Colombia last night 3-2 in 10 innings. Tonight at 6:30 comes the WBC's signature game for Miami: U.S. vs. defending champ Dominican Republic in a sold-out game. The Americans can secure an advance to the second round by winning. Crowd will be raucous and the stakes high. Supposedly the crowd will be pro-Dominican. We'll see. Can't wait.

CONCERT REVIEW: SMOKEY ROBINSON: A LOT TO LIKE, BUT...: Wife and I went to see Motown icon Smokey Robinson earlier this week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. I was Smokeynever a super-fan. My appreciation of what we used to call soul music from that era tended more towards the grittier sound of Stax/Memphis than the more polished stuff coming out of Motown/Detroit. I'll take the funk of Al Green and The Staple Singers, thanks. Still, I try to see legendary performers I have never seen, and wanted to check Smokey off that list. As a solo performer or with the Miracles, he's a Hall of Famer whose career I respect. The first half of the show did not disappoint. He performed all of the familiar hits, and very well, his distinctive voice still clear and strong. He engaged with the audience. I learned that a few famous songs by others, like "My Girl" by the Temptations, were written by Smokey. Also learned that his signature hit, "Tears Of a Clown," happened because Stevie Wonder had written the music and gave it to Smokey. Great stuff. Alas, the second half of the show dragged when Robinson got into a bunch of slow jams and morphed into romantic/sexy mode, complete with hip grinds. Umm, how to say this delicately? Smokey, sir, you're 77 now. Your voice and songs are enough.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Selection Monday, 7 p.m.: Women's turn as NCAA Tournament field set for Canes, others.

2. Marlins vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m.: Spring game in Port St. Lucie.

3. Manchester United vs. Chelsea, 3:30 p.m.: FA cup soccer match.

4. Netherlands vs. Israel, 6 a.m.: World Baseball Classic second-round game.

Select recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic last night. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

ICYMI: 'THE BALLAD OF 1440': A final spin of our new autobiographical song...

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 08, 2017

My new autobiographical song, "The Ballad Of 1440," is out. Watch video here!; plus The Dead We Forgot (a Ghost Tour addendum), revealing Canes basketball, Marlins betting odds, Jimmy Buffett's old-folks home, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, March 8. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your NFL Scouting Combine verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Marlins, NL East odds: This is further indication, new via Bovada, that Miami is seen as mid-pack in its division. Odds of winning the NL East this season: Nationals 5-7, Mets 8-5, Marlins 12-1, Braves 16-1 and Phillies 20-1.

My latest column: Now we see how good Canes basketball really is: The Miami Hurricanes' men's and women's basketball teams are having good seasons. But how good are they? How close to special? March knows, and tells all. Click on Now We Find Out About UM Hoops to read my latest column.

THIS IS 'THE BALLAD OF 1440': Been telling you for awhile we had an autobiographical song coming out. Well, we posted "The Ballad Of 1440" on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube late last night, and now here's the video in my blog. It's personal and it's serious, with opening and closing credits and boyhood photos interspersed. The reaction has been good. I hope you enjoy it:

THE DEAD WE FORGOT: AN ADDENDUM TO OUR 'GHOST TOUR' COLUMN: We got an unusually great reaction to our recent A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past column. Nostalgia is good. ManateesPeople love to reminisce. But dozens of e-mailers pointed out a few defunct Miami sports teams I hadn't mentioned. My meandering was never meant to be an A-to-Z, comprehensive list. Nevertheless, you took the time to write me, so I'm taking he time to pass along what you said. So: A toast, please... To the Miami Manatees, a still-born Canadian Football League team proposed to begin play at the Orange Bowl in 1996, until the CFL suspended its foray into U.S. markets that spring. To the Gold Coast Suns, managed by Earl Weaver and a charter member of the Miami-based Senior Professional Baseball League, which played a 1989-90 season and then folded midway through season two. To the Miami Tropics, which played in 1987-88 and 1991-93 in the USBL (United States Basketball League), and won championship in 1987 and '92-93. To the Miami Sun Sox, which won 1950 and '52 championships in baseball's Florida International League, and to the Miami Beach Flamingos of that league. And last but least (!), to the Miami Caliente, who undied their way through the 2009-10 season in the women's Lingerie Football League.

BuffettJIMMY BUFFETT'S OLD FOLKS' HOME: I saw this headline, laughed out loud, and it made perfect sense. "Jimmy Buffett to Open Margaritaville Retirement Communities." Of course he is. (Here for more). It's for people "55 and better," and the first oldies enclave is set to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. It is geared to his aging demographic of fans -- Parrotheads. In other words, everyone in the place will be wearing Hawaiiian shirts and flying Salt Life stickers. Give Jimmy credit. Under the laid-back facade is a land shark who knows how to make money.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 3-8-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Hurricanes vs. Syracuse, noon: UM men make ACC Tournament debut in Brooklyn.

2. Charlotte at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Hot Miami still is 1 1/2 games off playoff pace.

3. Hurricanes at FIU, 7 p.m.: Bad-starting baseball Canes (now 4-7) are close to desperate.

4. FAU vs. Marshall, 8 p.m.: Owls debut in men's CUSA Tournament (FIU did not qualify).

Select other recent columns: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame ClubNFL's Arrested DevelopmentThe Wonder of Coach LIt's What's Great About SportsThe Miracle of Liberty CityIs Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! Loria: The End Of An ErrorThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 06, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes hoops, WBC, non-LeBron, fading Cats, Gunnevera; plus our ghost tour of Miami's sports past, your NFL Combine verdict & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, March 6. Good day, folks! 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Saturday in SoFla sports, NFL Scouting Combine with poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My Sunday column: A ghost tour of Miami's sports graveyard: IA conversation with an eye-witness to Joe Namath's famous Super Bowl guarantee in Miami got me reminiscing about our sports past and all of the teams that have come and gone. Click on A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past to read.

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: UM men close season, prepare for ACC Tournament: No. 25 Canes men ended regular season Saturday with a loss at No. 15 Florida State. Now the real season season starts, with Canes' ACC Tournament opener (after a first-round bye) on Wednesday at noon vs. Syracuse in Brooklyn. Then it's Selection Sunday for NCAA Tournament in six days … and then … Madness!

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Games at Marlins Park on deck: We're already bored with spring training. The solution? Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and three other Fish will take a break to play in the WBC, with Marlins Park hosting U.S., Dominican Republic, Colombia and Canada for six games starting this Thursday.

3. HEAT: LeBron sits as Cavaliers get pounded: Is LeBron James returning with Cavaliers to play in Miami still a big deal? Not when he doesn't bleepin' play it isn't. Miami crushed Cavs 120-92 last night as both LeBron and Kyrie Irving sat out, leaving hot Heat still 1 1/2 games back in playoff chase. Teams meet again tonight in Cleveland. (Psst, I think LeBron will play).

4. PANTHERS: Cats deal at deadline, try to regain spark: Florida acquired scoring punch in Thomas Vanek at NHL trade deadline. They need it. They need something. Panthers have now lost five of past six after Saturday's home loss to Dallas, and are now two points off playoff pace. It's there for you, Cats. But you gotta go get it.

5. HORSE RACING: Gunnevera win Fountain of Youth: Gunnevera took Saturday's annual Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a major Kentucky Derby prep race. Now we see if the horse can live up the expectations for Churchill Downs that have been newly minted.

6. UM WOMEN: Team Katie falls to Duke in ACC semifinals: Nice little ACC tourney run ended in Conway S.C. yesterday as Canes women fell to Duke, 57-52, one win short of reaching today's championship game. Next stop: NCAA Tournament.

7. NFL: Dolphins scout, Canes audition as Combine nears end: NFL's weeklong pre-draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis ends Monday, with Dolphins figuring what to do with 22nd overall pick while nine Hurricanes have been auditioning. Think of the annual meat market as a beauty pageant for men.

8. GOLF: Doral too quit as an era ends: It should have been championship Sunday on Doral's Blue Monster as the PGA Tour played here for the 56th straight March. Instead, for the first time since 1961, no pros for us.

9. CANES BASEBALL: Ugh. UM's rough start continues It was rubber game of home series vs. Dartmouth Sunday and Canes got spanked 5-0. Now 4-6 after 10 games, this is not the rollicking start to the season that Jim Morris imagined or hoped for.

10. SOCCER: Major League Soccer season underway: The 22nd MLS season has begun. Maybe by the 23rd or 24th seasons roll around David Beckham will finally have realized that team in Miami. Dare we dream? Maybe by the 25th season...?

Missing the HB10 cut: Miami honored the late Herald giant Edwin Pope with a PopeFest celebration at The Clevelander at Marlins Park. It was hosted by Dan LeBatard and Greg Cote, yet was a huge success, anyway.

Poll result: Interest in NFL Scouting Combine is minimal: Teams love it as a major draft-preparation tool. Players love it for the chance to raise their stock. Fans don't love it. We asked what is your interest level in the NFL Scouting Combine, and it was 31.8 percent "non-existent," 30.1% "low," 27.3% "medium" and only 10.8% "high."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-6-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.: Gee, maybe LeBron will even play this time.

2. N.Y. Mets at Marlins, 1:05 p.m.: Fish welcome division rival to spring game in Jupiter.

3. NFL Scouting Combine, 9 a.m.: Pre-draft meat market ends in Indy. Finally!

Select other recent columns: A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club, NFL's Arrested Development, The Wonder of Coach L, It's What's Great About Sports, The Miracle of Liberty City, Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!Loria: The End Of An ErrorThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 11, 2017

As Heat win streak ends at 13 games tonight in Philly, two polls: Who is team's MVP so far? And has all this winning necessarily been a good thing? Vote now!; plus thank you Jeffrey Loria, Saturday's Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, February 11. Click on The Death Of Suspense for my latest Back In My Day video from this week's LeBatard Show. 2) Check out the new Herald Sports Facebook page HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greatest championship of historic past 12 months in sports, David Njoku to Dolphins?, Super Bowl win though local family's eyes & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Thank you, Jeffrey Loria: Immensely unpopular Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has finally figured out how to do something that will be unanimously cheered and make Marlins fans overjoyed. Sell the team. Reports are, he plans to do just that, and soon. Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for my latest column.

Heat win streak ends at 13 games tonight in Philadelphia: Click on Spoelstra Leads the Parade for my most recent Heat column.

HeatpollROLLICKING HEAT AT 13 STRAIGHT WINS: TWO POLLS. WHO HAS BEEN TEAM'S MVP TO THIS POINT? AND IS ALL THIS WINNING NECESSARILY A GOOD THING?: I'm not sure this poll will be close, or that it won't be a two-man race. But the only way to find out is to ask, right? So: As the Miami Heat and its fans celebrate a 12-game winning streak -- tied for longest in the league this season and longest in NBA history by a team with a losing record -- who do you think has been the Heat's Most Valuable Player to this point in the season? The photo chosen is not meant to prejudice the jury, although lawyers for the other three players might object, anyway. I purposely did not include an "other" category, became, c'mon, seriously. You only get one choice. Is it an easy one? In our second Heat poll: Is all this winning good? Better to keep winning and make playoffs as a low seed and first-round underdog? Or to get back to losing for lottery shot at top-three draft pick? I also think this poll result might be lopsided but, again, you don't know 'til you ask! Take a dip in both polls and vote now.

Poll result: Cubs, then Patriots, are top champions of amazing past 12 months in sports: We asked what from among six choices was the greatest championship performance in major American team sports over the past 12 months? Your results: Cubs win first World Series since 1908, 36.9 percent; Patriots furious rally win first OT Super Bowl, 28.6%; Clemson last-second TD beats Alabama for title, 15.3%; Cavaliers' rally beats Golden State for Cleveland's first NBA crown, 12.6%; Villanova buzzer-beater wins NCAA title, 5.9%; and UConn wins fourth straight women's championship, 0.8%.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 2-11-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.: Insanely hot Heat gunning for 14th straight win tonight.

2. Hurricanes at Louisville, 2 p.m.: UM men would surely crack Top 25 by upsetting No. 4 Cardinals.

3. Panthers at Nashville, 2 p.m.: Cats, four points off playoff pace, need to start a run.

4. Pro beach volleyball, 10:30 a.m.: Fort Lauderdale Major, with men's final starting at 4:30.

5. Golden State at Oklahoma City, 8:30 p.m.: Kevin Durant returns to likely  unwelcoming reception.

Select recent columns: Loria: The End Of An Error, my latest, on reported plans to sell the Marlins. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at wheel of this 13-game win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on LeBron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 01, 2017

If LeBron were any more thin-skinned we'd see his internal organs. New Barkley vs. James beef poll. Vote now!; plus latest Super Bowl With a Smirk, National Signing Day, blog debut of Hot Button Daily, new betting odds, latest Back In My Day video & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 1. Happy new month, all! 2) A new Miami Herald Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE to visit. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk worldwide premiere, Super Bowl poll results, The List (Canes on top) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

The hate/love of National Signing Day: I really dislike the overblown hype and excess of the way Your Friend the Media covers National Signing Day as a bunch of 17-year-olds making a college decision are treated like gods. But! If you love NSD, Miami Herald Sports' new Facebook page will feed the junkie in you all day, right HERE. 

DEBUT OF NEW BLOG FEATURE! HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-1-17: What on the Wednesday, Feb. 1 sports calendar interests South Florida fans most:

1. National Signing Day, all day: Hurricanes, FIU, nation's colleges collect football bounty.

2. Atlanta at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Scorching Miami after its ninth consecutive victory.

3. Florida State at Hurricanes, 8 p.m.: Beating No. 15 FSU could lift UM men to Top 25.

4. Minnesota at Cleveland, 7 p.m.: Imagining LeBron's postgame should Cavs lose again.

5. Baylor at Kansas, 9 p.m.: Men's No. 2 at No. 3 brings Final Four feel to February.

LebbarkLEBRON-BARKLEY BEEF: IF LEBRON WERE ANY MORE THIN-SKINNED WE'D SEE HIS INTERNAL ORGANS: I find interesting and amusing this week's LeBron James-Charles Barkley beef. TNT analyst Barkley called LeBron "whiny," a pretty mild term that I found pretty justified, considering the Cavaliers are reigning champions and second-favorite to win again but here's James at midseason publicly calling out his team's management and his teammates. James, ever thin-skinned and on the lookout for perceived disrespect, called Barkley a "hater" and spewed a very personal attack-response, saying, "I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying." Oy! My take: Barkley has a right in his role as analyst to call James "whiny," and LeBron overreacted. What do you think? Take a dip in our poll.

NEW 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK': ADS AT $167,000 PER SECOND, FAN IN DJIBOUTI, BRADY'S TEARS, TUNA EYEBALLSSmirk returns with second of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

SmirkAgain this year, the Super Bowl television commercials have been voted even more popular than the game itself in an annual poll of the American Society of Advertisers.

In-game ads for this Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl will cost a record average of $5 million per half-minute spot, or roughly $167,000 per second.

Sunday’s ads will include has-been comic actor Jon Lovitz for Mexican avocados, a woman having a sexual fantasy about cartoon hottie Mr. Clean, an Intel ad with Tom Brady, and a Miami Herald commercial promoting Greg Cote’s blog. (OK I made up that last one).

Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad will tell the heartwarming story of immigrant founder Adolphus Busch’s 1857 journey from Germany to St. Louis, unless President Trump signs an executive order banning the ad.

Super Bowl ads used to be highly anticipated before companies put them out days in advance on social media. There still is a bit of unpredictability, other than the two annual iron-clad certainties:

Donkey1. There will be a sentimental ad revolving around a dog befriending a bedraggled donkey in a straw hat.

2. We’ll all hate the GoDaddy spot.

(*) NFL reports Falcons-Pats will be seen in 188 countries, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and in more than 20 languages including Mandarin Chinese, Flemish and Hungarian. Right now, two bickering crones in Budapest stirring a pot of goulash are in agreement Falcons coach Dan Quinn may be “a feje folott” (in over his head).

(*) "What do they know of coaching!" cried a man in Djibouti.

(*) Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan briefly lost track of a backpack containing the team’s Sunday game plan. Cannot confirm witnesses said it had been taken by a scowling man wearing a gray hoodie.

(*) Still early, but Super Bowl Week has been too quiet and controversy-free. Can LeBron James and Charles Barkley both fly to Houston and start arguing please?

(*) Short of that, would some enterprising reporter at least please surreptitiously plant deer-antler spray on some linebacker?

7yrold(*) The question that nearly brought Tom Brady to tears talking about his father — "Who is your hero?" — was posed by a 7-year-old who won a contest to be a Super Bowl reporter. Great. Isn’t bad enough that newspapers are struggling. Now I have a second-grader after my job!

(*) Answer: Blonde/yellow is the betting favorite for the hair color of halftime performer Lady Gaga. Question: What do you mean there are too many ridiculous prop bets!?

(*) Notice how businesses refer to the "Big Game" in ads so they won’t get sued by the NFL? Smirk suggests "Stupor Bowl" or "Super Bore" instead.

(*) A team of Budweiser Clydesdales arrived in Houston Tuesday and were immediately signed to one-week contracts by Bill Belichick and trained to rush the passer.

(*) Only midweek, but already there are early indications the national media may be running out of story ideas. Trending: Experts in onomastics weigh in on the exact origin of Matt Ryan’s "Matty Ice" nickname.

(*) Wait. Smirk could swear he just saw Mercury Morris standing on an orange crate with a megaphone in downtown Houston loudly reminding passersby the ’72 Dolphins remain the only undefeated team.

Moose nose(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Want a few party foods sure to surprise and delight your guests? Eight words: Tuna eyeballs, crispy Cambodian tarantulas, jellied moose nose.

Click Smirk I for Tuesday's Smirk debut.

UPDATED BETTINGS ODDS FOR NBA, COLLEGE HOOPS, NHL: Not much good news here for SoFla teams in latest odds via Bovada. In the NBA: Warriors a strong title pick at 5-7 odds, followed by Cavaliers at 13-5, with Heat still off the board. James Harden is 10-11 for MVP, then Russell Westbrook close at 5-4. In men's college basketball: Kentucky is tops at 11-2 for the national title, then Gonzaga at 15-2. FSU is 20-1, Florida 50-1 and Miami 300-1. In the NHL, Capitals at 6-1 and Blackhawks at 7-1 top a very bunched field. Panthers are 21st at 50-1.

THE NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': From Tuesday's LeBatard Show:

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote