March 26, 2017

The new Hot Button Top 10 starring NCAA winnowing to Final Four, Heat stretch run, tennis, Fish, Cats, horses; plus Kaepernick vs. Moore as Dolphins backup QB. New poll. Vote now!; also Elton John, Venus Williams, my bracket, Hot Button Daily (Sun) & more

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

Eltonthen Eltonnow1) It is SUNDAY, March 26. A most happy 70th birthday yesterday to a lifelong favorite of mine, 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 his milestone birthday found 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 Sunday column: The curious unemployment of Colin Kaepernick: I explore what could be the NFL blackballing of Colin Kaepernick in my latest Sunday column. Click on Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick? to read. Kaepernick threw 16 TDs vs. only four interceptions, topped a 90 rating and was second among NFL QBs in rushing yards last season. He'd make somebody an exciting backup option for the right price -- Dolphins included. Agree. Find a Kaepernick vs. Matt Moore poll here directly below the new Hot Button Top 10.

Bracket update: Ouch. I now stand tied for 27th among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends pool after Saturday's results. I need North Carolina (my national champ) to survive today. I also have Oregon sill alive on my otherwise smoldering bracket.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (MARCH 26): 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. NCAA ELITE EIGHT: Finally! Field narrows Sunday to Final Four: Gonzaga and Oregon punched Final Four tickets on Saturday. Now Sunday's last of the Elite Eight games will bring us (at last) to the Final Four teams in NCAA men's tourney. Are you still alive in your office pool? Or was that your bracket I saw smoldering in tatters on the side of the road this morning?

2. HEAT: 5th seed? No playoffs? Anything possible as stretch run begins: Ten games left starting in Boston Sunday and then a huge one Tuesday in Detroit could find Heat rising as high as the fifth playoff seed or missing postseason altogether. Who says NBA regular seasons don't matter?

3. TENNIS: Miami Open reaches midpoint on Key Biscayne: Not as much interest on the women's side in a field missing injured Serena Williams, but we'll gladly take a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer men's final next Sunday (please) as the annual fortnight ends at Crandon Park Tennis Center.

4. MARLINS: WBC stars rejoin team as spring winds down: Team USA's Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich rejoined Marlins from World Baseball Classic for final week of spring training. WBC champions to NL East also-rans. Hope Stanton and Yelich didn't get too used to all that winning.

5. PANTHERS: Cats win big but still need miracle on ice: Florida is down to eight games and still seven points off playoff pace even after last night's big 7-0 home win over Chicago. As a disappointing season ebbs do you remember how a big offseason had the Cats talking Stanley Cup? Yeah they'd probably rather that you'd forgotten.

6. HORSE RACING: Gulfstream hosts Florida Derby in six days: Gunnavera will try to solidify his status as a Kentucky Derby favorite in next Saturday's major prep race, the annual Florida Derby at Gulfstream. Always nice to see horses take back center stage at a horsetrack these days, albeit briefly.  

7. NCAA WOMEN: Sunday, Monday award Final Four tickets: Four games today and Monday will set the women's Final Four. Stanford-Notre Dame and Mississippi State-Baylor go at it today.

8. NFL/DOLPHINS: Looks like free agency came and went quietly: Um, is that all there is? Dolphins didn't make a big splash, and biggest questions that remain nationally involve the possible landing spots for QBs Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler and Jimmy Garoppolo. But the draft is getting close!

9. TIGER WOODS: Eldrick still hoping to be ready for The Masters: Year's first major is April 6-9 at Augusta, and Tiger Woods -- his long-awaited comeback from back ailmenbst forever delayed or aborted -- says he wants in. Do we believe him? Do we still care?

10. CANES BASEBALL: UM tries to avoid sweep today: Once-ranked Miami now is struggling at 10-13 and tries to avoid being swept today at No. 8 North Carolina. The season he dreamed of is a nightmare thus far for Jim Morris.

Missing the HB10 cut: Sorry, UM football. You don't have the courtesy to open your spring practices to the public, you don't get in the HB10 ..... The Lakers unveiled a 1,200-pound dunking statue of Shaquille O'Neal. So it's about life-sized, then ..... OK UCLA finally lost. Can we all stop interviewing LaVar Ball now please? ..... U.S. men's soccer crushed Honduras, 6-0, reminding us that Jurgen Klinsmann really did need to go ..... Ultra Music Festival ends today in Miami, the only event at which drugs not only are allowed, but are required.

POLL: COLIN KAEPERNICK VS. MATT MOORE AS DOLPHINS BACKUP QB?: Relax, people. It's just for fun...

VenuswTHE UNDERAPPRECIATED WONDER OF VENUS WILLIAMS: [Update: Venus won her opening match in the Miami Open, defeating Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4-,6-3, and plays again today] 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 / SUN 3-26-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Boston, 6 p.m.: Miami holding 8th seed with eye on moving up.

2. NCAA Elite Eight, 2 p.m.: Florida-South Carolina, then Kentucky-UNC play for spots in Final Four.

3. Miami Open, 11 a.m.: Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams among headliners on today's card.

4. NCAA women, noon: Two games for first two spots in women's Final Four.

5. Marlins vs. St. Louis, 1 p.m.: Teams that share Jupiter spring home go at it again.

"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 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

March 01, 2017

PopeFest: Thanks for making celebration of Edwin Pope a huge success! Sharing thoughts and videos; plus over/under on Marlins wins, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games), my NFL player-arrests column, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, March 1. Happy new month, all! 2) You a Dolfan? Know any? Buy our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, World OutGames Miami, your Tannehill vs. 3 options verdict, Seinfeld on his game & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Over/under on Marlins wins: MLB victory over/unders via Bovada find Cubs on top at 95.5. In NL East it's Nationals 90.5, Mets 88.5, Marlins 76.5, and Braves and Phillies both 73.5.

My latest column: NFL still all over map on arrested players: The NFL has banned certain player with arrest histories from this week's Scouting Combine, but will welcome those same into its draft. College and pro football could get serious on this if they chose, but it's easier (and self-serving) to just pretend to care. Click on NFL's Arrested Development for my latest column.

Popefest2'EDWIN POPE DAY' IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CRESCENDOS WITH CELEBRATION: Thanks to the hundreds who showed up last night for PopeFest at The Clevelander/Marlins Park -- a celebration of the life and career of the late, great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope. Dan LeBatard and I were pleased to co-host the event in honor of our great friend and mentor. Guests included championship football coach Howard Schnellenberger, Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, Miami-Dade School Board icon G. Holmes Braddock, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dave Barry, sports broadcasting's Hank Goldberg, ESPN's Amin Elhassan and king of Liberty City Luther (Uncle Luke) Campbell, in addition to Heat, Dolphins and Orange Bowl Committee officials. The crowd also includes readers, of course, folks who never met Edwin but felt like they knew him through his writing. Evening highlights included the proclamation of "Edwin Pope Day" by Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez. Here are couple of videos from last night.

Video 1: LeBatard, Cote and Hank Goldberg share thoughts and feelings about Edwin Pope:

Video 2: Cote welcomes the crowd, mayor proclaims "Edwin Pope Day":

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (60 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 27-33 after Monday night's 96-89 loss at Dallas, here's The Luddite's 12th installment, with 55-game rank in parentheses.

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,734

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,580

3. James Johnson (3)          1,120

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,107

5. Dion Waiters (5)               885

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      626

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         562

8. Willie Reed (9)                523

9. Josh Richardson (8)         495

10. Luke Babbitt (11)          370

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 120, Udonis Haslem 72.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 3-1-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Philadelphia at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami enters game 2 back of 8th place in playoff chase.

2. Marlins at Houston, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game vs. Astros in West Palm Beach.

3. Arkansas at Gators, 7 p.m.: No. 12 UF men in next-to-last regular season game.

4. ACC women's tournament, 1 p.m.: In Conway, S.C., with UM Hurricanes' first game Thursday.

5. NHL trade deadline, 3 p.m.: But no big Panthers deals expected.

Select other recent columns: The Wonder of Coach L, off Canes' win over Duke, on job Jim Larranaga has done this season. It's What's Great About Sports, on Heat and Panthers' concurrent surge. The Miracle of Liberty City, on how youth football there is about more than scoring TDs. Also: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! 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

February 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 18, 2017

How will Marlins do this season? Set the early bar on expectations. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Cam Wake, my Fish column, Edwin Pope news, what Kate Upton is (not) wearing, ode to the Monopoly thimble, new Hot Button Daily & more

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

Mepic1) It is SATURDAY, February 18. We're about to put out a new song, "The Ballad of 1440," an autobiographical tale of a little boy in Hollywood, Florida who grew up to have an unexpected life. Click on image at left to see larger version. Will post a video of song on social media later this month. Stay tuned. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Trump sticks nose in Marlins' sale, Branden Albert, Shane Battier, 3 Fins in PFF 101, Fish farm barren, your Villain Purge verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphins extend Cam Wake contract: Announced today, it's through the 2018 season.

My new Marlins column: From Jupiter and the team's first full-squad workday of spring training, I wrote of how nothing is ever simple for this team. Still getting over the Jose Fernandez grief, now the players deal with questions about the prospective sale of the team and other off-field stuff. Click on French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! to read.

Edwin Pope news: The Miami Herald longtime former sports columnist, who passed away earlier this year,  is being honored today in Okeechobee in a private celebration for family, friends and colleagues. There had been no public event planned. However, myself and Dan LeBatard are putting together a Miami event to honor Edwin that will be free and open to the public. Stay tuned for details. 

MattinglyWHAT IS YOUR OPTIMISM ON MARLINS SEASON AS TEAM STAGES FIRST FULL-SQUAD SPRING WORKOUT?: I'll be up in Jupiter for a column today as the Marlins stage their first full-squad workout of the spring. Much swirls around this team (as usual). The tragic offseason death of Jose Fernandez is a huge loss both from emotional and baseball standpoints. Now the team also deals with the distracting speculation about Jeffrey Loria selling the team and the White House-related Kushner family maybe buying and the possible offer to Loria of an ambassadorship to France (!) tossing a monkey wrench. But somewhere amid all of that there will be a baseball season, Miami's second under manager Don Mattingly (pictured). Most NL East estimations are that the Nationals are clear favorites and the Mets are next, with the Marlins in the middle -- better, at least, than the Braves and Phillies. The playoffs seem a longshot. Again. Although the Marlins toying around with .500 and contention seems plausible. We invite your thoughts on the matter. Take a dip in our poll and set the expectations bar on this Marlins season.

KateUptonNO, IT IS NOT SEXIST TO SHOW THIS COVER PHOTO IN MY BLOG BECAUSE IT'S FROM A SPORTS MAGAZINE AND SHE IS WEARING (HALF OF) WHAT COULD ALMOST BE A SWIMSUIT, SORT OF: Cover your eyes, Junior! And click on the image to see a larger version, Dad. The Sports Illustrated "swimsuit issue" continues as a sublime and ridiculous slice of Americana and an annual $$$-maker for SI. This year three models get the cover prize of this week's current issue, with Kate Upton pictured here, setting a record in the category, "Minimalist Swimwear." (Note to self: Consider an abrupt career change; apply to be a Sports Illustrated photographer. Unless, that is, SI's budget and staffing have gone the way of the newspaper, in which case the person taking this photo may have been the lone remaining SI editor, or perhaps one of the other models using a smartphone). Where was I ? Is this a swimsuit bottom or jewelry? How come on my occasional forays to the beach I see not a person who looks like this (un)dressed like this, but rather a matronly, waddling Canadian packed into a black one-piece like 20 pounds of potatoes crammed in a 10-pound sack? That's a rhetorical question. Keep doing the great work you do, Kate Upton!

ThimbleFAREWELL, THIMBLE. R.I.P.: The Monopoly board game is retiring its Thimble after 82 years. The Thimble, though never respected like the Dog or the Tophat, has stood sturdily across the generations, moving inexorably around the board, easing past the Iron, passing go, landing on Free Parking, staying out of jail, quietly making money for its owners. Farewell, great, humble Thimble, and a thumb's up to you. Gone ... but never forgotten.   

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 2-18-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Clemson at Hurricanes, noon: UM men playing for NCAA Tournament seeding in final regular games.

2. Panthers at Los Angeles, 10 p.m.: Playoff-chasing Cats have won three in row and five of past six.

3. NBA All-Star events, 8 p.m.: Including 3-Point and Slam-Dunk contests.

4. Kansas at Baylor, 1 p.m.: A men's Final Four feel with No. 3 at No. 4.

5. Rutgers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: Second of three in opening baseball series at The Light.

Select recent columns: French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, the new one, from the start of Marlins spring training. Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, on how Heat's recent run has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. 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 16, 2017

Trump keeps messing with Miami, but when he threatens to screw up Loria selling Marlins, he's gone TOO FAR!; plus Branden Albert, Shane Battier, 3 Dolphins honored, Fish farm barren, 'The Ballad of 1440,' your Villain Purge verdict & more

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

Mepic1) It is FRIDAY, February 17. We're about to put out a new song, "The Ballad of 1440" (pictured right), an autobiographical tale of a little boy in Hollywood, Florida who grew up to have an unexpected life. Click on image to see larger version. Will post a video of song on social media later this month. Stay tuned. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Villain purge: Loria-LeBron poll, Marlins World Series odds as spring training begins & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Branden Albert, Shane Battier: Weird: Media inaccurately reported Dolphins had waived veteran tackle Branden Albert. Or was it inaccurate? Evidently team decided to release Albert then changed its mind and will try to trade him. In any case, Laremy Tunsil will take over at left tackle. Congrats: Heat hire poplar ex-player Shane Battier as director of basketball development and analytics, and there is speculation he may be groomed as Pat Riley's eventual replacement.

HEY TRUMP, KEEP YOUR FINGERS OFF MIAMI SPORTS!: First Donald Trump's ownership of the golf course caused the controversy that was among the factors that imperiled the future of annual PGA Tour event at Doral. Then as president, Trump messed with the Florida Panthers' hierarchy by nominating Cats owner Vincent Viola to be Secretary of the Army. (Who knew there was a Secretary of the Army!?) Viola accepted, then later withdrew from consideration, citing business ties. Now, the Trump Administration reportedly is considering nominating Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to be U.S. Ambassador to France. Huh? Whu!? Is the qualification because Jeff once owned the Montreal Expos, and they speak a lot of French up there? Or maybe because The Donald can picture him wearing a beret? Or is it that Ambassador to France is the standard perk that comes with a $125,000 campaign contribution? In Franceany case, this is just Trump Loriabizarre. Think about it. The Kushner family -- which is directly tied to the White House because son Jared Kushner is Ivanka Trump's husband and thus the president's son-in-law -- is negotiating with Loria to buy the Marlins for a reported $1.6 billion. But now the family says it will cease efforts to buy the club if Loria is nominated for the ambassadorship. "Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned a AAA baseball team together," Joseph Meyer, Kushner's son-in-law, said in a statement. "Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time." Whoa now. Let us get this straight. A family with direct ties to Trump wants to buy the Marlins. But Trump possibly throwing this goofy little gift at Loria could screw up the whole deal. So strange. Does all of South Florida want Loria to sell the Marlins ASAP? Oui, oui! Hopefully this Ambassador to France story is short-lived, because it is ridiculous. I mean, are we to believe Loria is going to walk away from a potential $1.6 billion windfall because he'd rather be dealing with terrorism concerns in Paris? C'mon! Jeffrey, please put out the inevitable statement that says how flattered you are to be considered for the position yada yada yada but no thanks. Then get back to selling the Marlins so Trump can set up that direct hotline to Don Mattingly in the dugout to make executive orders on pitching changes.

Pff101THREE DOLPHINS, OTHER NOTABLE NAMES ON PFF'S LIST OF TOP 101 PLAYERS OF 2016: Pro Football Focus' Top 101 players of 2016 (because a Top 100 would be too ordinary) includes a trio of Dolphins in RB Jay Ajayi 31st, pass-rusher Cam Wake 45th and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh 52nd. In the AFC East only the Patriots (of course) have more -- five guys led by overall No. 1 Tom Brady. Bills and Jets have one each. Buffalo's guy is bully-guard Richie Incognito (98th), one of three ex-Dolphins to make it along with Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes (43rd) and Giants rusher Olivier Vernon (71st). Vernon is one of four ex-Hurricanes on the list along with Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (24th), Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (58th) and Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (92nd). Other notables: Chargers rusher and St. Thomas Aquinas alum Joey Bosa (32nd) and Colts receiver and ex-FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton (54th).

BraxtongarrettTHE FISH FARM IS BARREN: Trading away top prospects has withered the Miami Marlins' minor-league talent level -- the farm gone barren -- and the latest proof comes today with Baseball America's list of 2017 Top 100 Prospects. Check out the NL East. The Braves have eight on the list, ranked 3rd, 11th, 37th, 48th, 66th, 67th, 77th and 78th. The Phillies have four, ranked 12th, 17th, 41st and 80th. The Mets have three, ranked 8th, 71st and 100th. The Nationals have two, ranked 13th and 52nd. The Marlins? Only one. Lefty pitcher Braxton Garrett (pictured) is ranked 76th and not projected for MLB arrival until 2020. The home farm has empty rows and dry crops. Not good, Fish fans. Not good. 

Poll result: Villain purge: Loria selling tops beating LeBron: We asked which of these 2017 possibilities should please Miami sports fans more, and it was Jeffrey Loria finally selling the Marlins with 61.9 percent and LeBron James ousted from playoffs by Heat at 38.1%.

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

1. Marlins spring training, 1:15 p.m.: Full squad is on field for first time this spring up in Jupiter.

2. Panthers at Anaheim, 10 p.m.: Cats have won two straight as they chase that No. 8 East seed.

3. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show continues at Miami Marine Stadium.

4. That about does it. Another light day.

Select recent columns: Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, the latest, on how Heat's recent run has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. 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.

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Twitter @gregcote