January 23, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10: Show us the way, Edwin Pope, Falcons-Patriots SB, Women's March, Juan Pablo Montoya & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 23. There is a new Miami Herald Facebook page, debuting today. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- 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 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Remembering Edwin Pope, NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside battered in all-star voting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl!: Click on Championship Game Gems for yesterday's Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots NFC and AFC title-game picks, and on A Dramatic Final Four for my preview column.

Montoya wins historic Miami Race Of Champions: Historic? The 28th annual ROC had never before been held in the U.S. before Saturday's race in Miami, on a racetrack built inside Marlins Park. And Miami driver Juan Pablo Montoya won. Crazy, one-of-a kind day. Click on Home Run For Montoya, Miami for my column from the race.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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. EDWIN POPE: Herald sports icon dies at 88: If you are from South Florida, are aware life existed before ESPN SportsCenter or have ever held a newspaper in your hands, then you probably said or thought last week, “I grew up reading Edwin Pope.” Thank you, kind sir, friend, colleague and mentor. R.I.P. 

2. NFL: Championship Sunday gives us a Falcons-Pats Super Bowl: Atlanta walloped Green Bay and New England dispatched Pittsburgh on Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles to reach Super Bowl 51 Feb. 5 in Houston. The blowout games were decided by 23- and 19-point margins. The challenge? For the Super Bowl to be better. You know, an actual good game?

3. WOMEN'S MARCH: Women lead world's biggest protest march. Ever: Estimates are more than 4 million women worldwide including more than 500,000 in Washington, D.C. marched Saturday to protest Donald Trump and stand up for the freedoms and rights. Hmm. Impressive. But can't help but wonder: If that same passion and numbers had participated in the election, would there have been a need to march?

4. MOTORSPORTS: Montoya wins Race of Champions at Marlins Park: Most different, unique sporting event in Miami history? You could do worse than nominating NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One stars racing against each other inside a baseball stadium this weekend in the ROC series' first U.S. appearance. Miami won twice as hometown driver Juan Pablo Montoya won Saturday's main event.

5. HEAT: Three straight wins in a lost season as trade deadline looms: Good news? Miami has its first three-game win streak of season. Bad news? Everything else. Record is still only 14-30 and streak is unlikely to reach four as Heat host Golden State tonight. Be honest. The most compelling things left in this lost season are the two dates for the trade deadline and draft lottery.

6. MARLINS: Fish acquire quality starting pitcher: The latest aftershock of the Jose Fernandez tragedy: Miami dealt three prospects to Cincinnati for righty starter Dan Straily, who was 14-8 in 31 starts for Reds last year.

7. BASEBALL: Two ex-Marlins elected to Hall of Fame: Pudge Rodriguez, of course, had a starring role in helping Marlins win the 2003 World Series. But count yourself a real Fish fan if you also recall that, the year before, Tim Raines ended his 23-year career as a reserve here.

8. TENNIS: Both No. 1 seeds out as Australian Open enters final week: No. 1 seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber both were ousted the same day, the first time in the modern era the Australian Open has lost both No. 1s before the quarterfinals. An even bigger shock: Why wasn't Serena Williams No. 1?

9. PANTHERS: Three straight losses, but Florida still in playoff hunt: As NHL all-star break looms, Cats have cooled off with three straight losses but lurk only two points off playoff in Eastern Conference. Still, when you were talking Stanley Cup and are scrambling for an eighth seed -- that's a disappointing season.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Tough stretch for Canes men, women: Miami's No. 14-ranked women have lost three of past six. The men have dropped four of past five  after Saturday's loss at Duke. Better snap out of it fast, Team Larranaga. No. 9 North Carolina visits in five days.

Missing the HB10 cut: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich devoted seven minutes of a news conference Saturday to a pro-women's march, anti-Donald Trump soliloquy, pretty brave for a man who lives and works in Texas. It's enough to make me root for a Spurs championship just to see if he gets a White House invite, or goes ..... Former Marlins ace Josh Johnson retired at 32 from elbow issues, surprising analysts who thought he'd retired years ago ..... Prior to Bellator 170, Chael Sonnen talked trash. Tito Ortiz made his statement in the fight ..... A 25-year-old dunce from Boston was arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the Steelers hotel at 3 a.m. Put him in a room alone with James Harrison for 20 minutes ..... Saw the headline, 'Beagle scores in OT as Capitals beat Stars,' and thought, "Wow, what a great story!" But it turned out to be a guy named Jay Beagle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "Florida Panthers owner and Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army Vinnie Viola once was accused of punching a man in the face at a horse auction."

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 21, 2017

Remembering an epic life and personal hero: Edwin Pope, 1928-2017, R.I.P.; plus NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside collect further disrespect, Women's March, Race Of Champions & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- 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 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Edwin Pope dies, Kiper's mock draft for Dolphins, two ex-Marlins make Hall, cowardly Goodell, your Super Bowl preference, BIMD video (The Circus) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Women's March on Washington: Much respect to the hundreds of thousands participating today in the Women's March in D.C., a grass-roots stand-up for freedoms and rights. Proud to say my wife, and many others I know, are among them.

Race Of Champions: The ROC series is in the U.S. for first time today in Miami, with stars from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One all racing together inside Marlins Park. I like big events and am a curiosity seeker, so I'll be there columnizing.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, my latest column, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald legend. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

TO A MONUMENTAL CAREER, AN EPIC LIFE AND A CHERISHED MENTOR: THANK YOU, EDWIN POPE: [Blog note: I rarely do this. I link to columns of mine, but rarely reprint them in their entirety here in the blog. But the death of my great friend and mentor, last night at age 88, is too important to me to not share as broadly as I can. So here is my tribute column]:

Epope
The Edwin I first knew, circa mid-'70s

"I grew up reading Edwin Pope." How many generations in South Florida will be saying that, thinking it, feeling it today? I was coming of age as a sports fan who hadn’t yet discovered he was interested in writing when Pope was at the peak of his powers, and reading him kindled and sparked something in me.

What it did was give me a future, a passion, a career.

Thank you, Edwin. For your inspiration, your talent, your grace, your mentorship and your friendship.Thank you so much.

South Florida and the Miami Herald have lost a giant with the passing of Edwin Pope at age 88. Newspapering and sports journalism and the craft of putting words in just the right order have all lost a giant.

Edwin came to the Herald in 1956 in his late 20s. He was sports editor and main sports columnist from 1967 until he retired in 2003, though still writing occasionally the next several years until age and Alzheimer’s dictated otherwise. I loathe the frivolous overuse of words like "legend," but the superlative has not yet been invented that can properly describe the epic arc of Pope’s career chronicling Miami sports.

From the black and white days of Cassius Clay in the 5th Street Gym to the Heat drafting some kid named Dwyane Wade — and everything in between — Edwin was the eyes and ears for South Florida sports fans, the rhyme and the reason.

He reigned before ESPN "SportsCenter" and before the Internet changed everything, putting news and opinion everywhere, and right now, diminishing the influence of the local newspaper. He reigned when "the paper" thudded onto front lawns every morning, up and down your block, and you turned to the sports section first to see what Pope had to say.

Dan LeBatard and I tried to replace him when he left. We never had a chance. Voices are everywhere, but there is no replacing Sinatra. Pope ends an era.

I felt smarter, as a teenager, when I read Edwin. There might be a word (or three) in every column that sent me to the dictionary. I liked that. He never talked down to readers. It’s a concept that has informed my own writing.

Edwin wrote with poetic elan. He told stories. He could make the scene on a racetrack’s backstretch as interesting as the horse race itself. You smelled the hay. You closed your eyes and saw the groom mucking-out the stable.

Epope2
Edwin in his career's latter stage

Edwin also could be direct. When he wanted a column to throw a punch, it landed.

When Lou Saban abruptly left the University of Miami football team after only two years following the 1978 season to coach at West Point, the lead to Pope’s column was: "You wanted a deserter, Army? You got one."

Edwin didn’t tap-dance into a column or, in the parlance of a former editor of ours, "clear his throat." He got to it. He was concise. He didn’t overwrite, either in style or length. He valued his readers too much to waste their time.

He was like that off the page, too.

He was a gentle man, but one whose humor could be sharp, and bite.

He’d had a stormy relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, and once kidded the only thing wrong with the name of the stadium was that it wasn’t Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium. (At least I think he was kidding.)

Edwin commanded utmost respect in press boxes. He was the dean, the monarch, the legend. If the clatter got too noisy too close to deadline, Edwin eventually would raise a hand and loudly snap, "Quiet!" and the room would shut up. He didn’t have to say it twice.

You didn’t want to be a waiter who ignored Edwin once too often when he was fishing for another drink.

"What’s a man got to do to get another Heinekin around here!?!" he once stood and loudly squawked from our table in some far-flung city after some game, Southern drawl lifting into a high pitch.

Epopejoelouis
A favorite photo of his: A young Edwin Pope with boxer Joe Louis

Edwin was a drinker. May I say that? We had a good time on the many road trips we took together.

I was in the company of Edwin and more than one unnamed UM football coach as the two of them killed a 12-pack of beer hours before a game. You’d visit his hotel room and not be surprised to see a jug of red wine on ice in the bathroom sink. Once we closed down a bar in (I think) Indianapolis, stumbled out into the cold and were discussing how to go about getting a cab when it dawned on us our hotel was right in front of us.

I delighted to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics with Edwin in Barcelona, in a cramped, barracks-style dorm room we shared. After two weeks, the day before we flew out, we treated each other by taking a cab to the city’s famous nude beach to take in the sights. Why not!

Edwin was a wonderful colleague and road-trip companion of mine for 30 some years. Mostly he was a writing hero, somebody who was what I wanted to be. I have never stopped striving or falling short, or being grateful for his influence in my life and career.

His was a long, wonderful life well-led.

Thank you, Edwin. Always. Thank you.

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FripixPLAYOFFS: CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S SUNDAY AFC, NFC TITLE GAMES: Lots of football fans call this Sunday the single best day of the season, better even than the Super Bowl, and I expect Packers at Falcons and then Steelers at Patriots to live up to expectations. A great final four! Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and we're 6-0 in the postseason after rolling a perfect 4-0 last week. Click on Championship Game Gems for my latest picks on the AFC and NFC title games. I see one game going as expected and the other not. We also offer our accompanying NFL column that today quantifies how good this final four is, historically, and how it gets the attention back where it belongs, on the field, after a weird week of drama for the NFL. Click on A Dramatic Final Four to read.

THE LIST: THIS FINAL FOUR IN THE POSTSEASON: Historically, this NFL final four includes three league giants and one interloper, as this list verifies. The franchise, head coach and quarterback records of these four teams in the postseason, listed in order of most all-time postseason wins, with total NFL championships listed in parentheses:

Team                                Franchise            Head coach                   Quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers (6)       36-23, .610         Mike Tomlin, 8-5           Ben Roethlisberger, 13-6

Green Bay Packers (13)      34-21, .618        Mike McCarthy, 10-7       Aaron Rodgers, 9-6

New England Patriots (4)   30-19, .612         Bill Belichick, 24-10       Tom Brady, 23-9

Atlanta Falcons (0)             8-12, .400         Dan Quinn, 1-0              Matt Ryan, 2-4

HwhitesideHEAT BATTERED IN ALL-STAR VOTING, WHITESIDE SNUBBED: Hassan Whiteside collects perceived slights the way others of us collects stamps or coins, and he has added a big new one to his collection. He barely made the East frontcourt top 10 in NBA all-star voting, slotting in 10th overall after finishing eighth in the media vote, 11th by fans, and only 14th by players. Your colleagues don't respect you, bro! Get angry! Get even! No Goran Dragic in the East backcourt top 10. Starters were named Thursday. Reserves get added next week. I'd think Whiteside (pictured) will be included, but it sure isn't a given after his comeuppance in the triangular vote.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 18, 2016

NFL Week 11 picks for Dolphins-Rams, all games; plus NASCAR Sprint Cup final-four poll. Who do you hope wins? Vote now!; also, Patrick Staropoli, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, LeBron/Phil/posse poll & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18. Marlins' Christian Yelich tied for 19th in NL MVP voting with five points -- two 9th-place votes and one 10th. 2) The Miami Herald's new book on Dolphins' first half century is now available, just in time for the holidays! Click on Fins At 50 for more info or to order through Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Trump writes Hillary on Schnellenberger's behalf, on Butch Davis joining FIU, SOPY rankings, your verdict on Brad Kaaya stay-or-go, R.I.P. Gardnar Mulloy & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

A few of our select recent columns: Doctor Speed, on Harvard grad/UM medical student/NASCAR driver Patrick Staropoli. Also: Who Will Next Dolphins Hero Be? (on Fins' resourcefulness in four-game win streak. Return Of Wade (from Heat arena last week). Canes In the History Book (UM'ers among NFL career leaders). Miami QBs: No Worries (Tannehill is good enough, Kaaya will return). There's Hope For Us All (Cubs win World Series). A Needed Slap In Face (NFL's declining TV ratings). And Jose Tragedy Couldn't Get Worse, But Then It Did (Fernandez and cocaine).

FripixIT'S UPSET BIRD DAY / WEEK 11: OUR PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-RAMS, REST OF NFL: We endured our worst showing of the season last week in our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald, going an unmentionable 5-9 overall and 3-11 against the spread. I mean, seriously. Awful. But I'm bouncing back, and the bounce began last night. Won twice by predicting Carolina outright but N'Awlins with the points; click Thursday Gem for that pick. With last night we're now 16 games above .500 against the spread for the season; not bad. For all of our latest selections click on Week 11 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest predictions for Dolphins-Rams, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week and more. We also offer our accompanying NFL notes column today that leads with an analysis of four former NFL stars with local ties who made the semifinals for 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. Click on South Florida to Canton to read.

StaropoliTHE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN NASCAR: Harvard graduate. University of Miami medical student about to become a doctor of ophthalmology. Young man who became fascinated with medicine as a boy watching doctors save his father's life after a racecar crash. This man, Patrick Staropoli, 27, of Plantation, will make his NASCAR main-stage debut Friday night in the Truck Series race that kicks off Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He'll run his first race in that truck, and on that track, the morning of his race. There are far bigger stories down at Homestead, such as who wins the Sprint Cup title (see poll below), but I'm not sure there is a more interesting story than that of Staropoli. Click on Doctor Speed to read my latest column. The image pictured is by the great Herald photographer, Carl Juste.

LudditeUPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (10 GAMES): IT'S A ROUT!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 introduce a running, cumulative race for Heat team MVP. We'll bring you updated standings at five-game intervals, and the updated standings show a runaway for a certain big center, the guy who had 25 rebounds last night. With Miami now 2-8 after last night's loss to Atlanta, here's the Luddite's second installment, with 5-game rank in parentheses:

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (10 games):

Hassan Whiteside (1)       350

Tyler Johnson (4)             205

Goran Dragic (2)             182

Justise Winslow (3)          181

Dion Waiters (5)              179

Bubble: James Johnson 144. Others: Josh Richardson 86, Luke Babbitt 75, Rodney McGruder 70, Willie Reed 63, Derrick Williams 31, Josh McRoberts 17, Udonis Haslem 5.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY WEEK 10 RESULTS: PIX IN THE TANK, BUT LOBOS STAY EN FUEGO!: Every week in the blog I update you on how we did, for better or worse, the previous weekend with our NFL predictions and LeBatard Show fantasy team. NFL pix: Ugh. Embarrassing. Got beat up last week with s 5-9 record straight-up and (Dear God) 3-11 against the spread. I take some solace that we're still a pretty solid 14 games above .500 ATS, but we need to bounce back this week in the most desperate way. And will. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos pounded Charlie's team 135-97 in the radio show league and we're now a league-leading 7-3 with (like the Dolphins) four straight wins. Got 28 points from Allen Robinson last week, 27 from Delanie Walker and 21 from Drew "Money" Brees, who craps 20-point games. Keep it honkin', big rig. Keep it rollin', 'Bos!

PhillebronTHE WORD "POSSE" AND RACIAL OVERTONES: We spent a good bit of time chewing this over on the LeBatard Show yesterday. Cavaliers and former Heat star LeBron James took umbrage with Knicks president Phil Jackson, saying he's lost respect for him, because Phil referred to LeBron's "posse" to mean his close groups of friends, confidants and business associates led by Maverick Carter. Said LeBron: "If you go and read the definition of what the word 'posse' is, it's not what I've built over my career. It's not what I stand for, it's not what my family stands for. I believe the only reason he used that word is because he sees young African-Americans trying to make a difference." For what it's worth dictionary.com's informal definition of "posse" is simply, "a group of friends or associates," which is pretty neutral. I'm old enough to associate "posses" with old Westerns on TV. I thought in this case it was a fairly benign term to use, and thought LeBron may have been being a bit overly sensitive. Then again, if he was offended, who am I to say he shouldn't have been? I'm curious how you feel about this. So I invite you to tell me, here:

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

Twitter @gregcote

September 05, 2016

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 97.2%; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes' 70-3 rout, ready-or-else Dolphins, Collball Week 1, reeling Marlins & more

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

Fripix 41) It is MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5. Happy Labor Day, my fellow American wokers! 2) Countdown: 4 days 'til the Upset Bird! NFL Friday Page predictions return Sept. 9. 2) UM Sports Hall of Fame reminds us that this past weekend in 1994 the Canes beat Georgia Southern 56-0 to win a record-setting 58th consecutive home game. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins unveil Hard Rock Stadium, FIU opens with loss, Footballapalooza, Marlins fade, your Kaepernick verdict, 'LeBrone' & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Updated Dolphins best/worst odds: Bovada has new odds out on best and worst NFL records. "Best" picks are Packers at 5-1, Seahawks 13-2 and Patriots 15-2, with Dolphins tied for 21st at 75-1. "Worst" faves are are Browns at 4-1, 49ers 5-1 and TItans 9-1, with Miami tied for 12th at 20-1.

Recent columns, ICYMI or wanted another look: Awesome Vs. Awful, our latest, on UM's resounding season-opening victory over Florida A&M. Now Can Dolphins, UM Look as Good as the Place They Call Home? (Hard Rock unveiled). NFL Ranking (Best to worst teams, 1 through 32). Brad Kaaya (on UM's key player). She Never Quit (on FIU coach Ron Turner's inspiration). And Kaepernick's Protest Does Not Make Him Un-American (QB sits to take a stand).

1aa1csmCANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G1: 97.2%: Results are certified in the season-opening Canesfan Satisfaction Meter, and they show 97.2 percent overall satisfaction (combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes) in the wake of Saturday night's 70-3 victory over Florida A&M. This begins the eighth season of our blog's CSM postgame polls. The CSM is your invitation after every Hurricanes football game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Analyzing the G1 vote: Well, 97.2 percent is astounding -- about the optimum you'll see in any blog vote, any topic, anytime, anywhere. Because there are always straggling naysayers. I could ask in a poll, "Would like more money?" and the vote wouldn't be higher than this. Canes fans are ebullient right now, and should be.

2016 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 97.2% following 70-3 victory vs. Florida A&M

Next poll: Sept. 10 following game vs. Florida Atlantic

CSM year-by-year final season results: 2015--20.1% overall satisfaction (following 8-5 season); 2014--2.7% (6-7); 2013--16.1% (9-4); 2012--80.9% (7-5); 2011--22.1% (6-6); 2010--4.2% (7-6); 2009--41.7% (9-4).

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: Canes ace start of Richt Era with rout of Florida A&M: Call it a soft opening of the Mark Richt Era at UM. Florida A&M? The marching band is great. The football team, not so much. FAMU is Division 1-AA and went 1-10 last year, so if the Canes didn't win this game handily, then Richt just enjoyed the shortest honeymoon in the history of sports. No worries. I don't care how bad the opponent is. You win 70-3, that's crazy-impressive.

2. DOLPHINS: 6 Days 'til season opener at Seattle. Uh oh: Miami's refurbished, renamed stadium looks great. The team in a 2-2 preseason looked OK. The roster pared to a final 53 on Saturday with no surprises. But none of that matters now. All that does is "at Seattle" this coming Sunday to open the NFL regular season. The preseason didn't tell us much about the Fins, but we're about to find out fast.

3. MARLINS: Playoff hopes trying to survive awfully timed swoon: A 10-18 August record left Miami scrambling to hang in the NL wild-card chase, with team now 4 games off pace after eight losses in past nine games including yesterday's demoralizing walkoff defeat. Maybe a six-game homestand starting today/Monday will help, but there's little margin of error left. Fish need to start being as good in September as they were bad last month.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: 'Noles, other top-ranked team gets immediate test: The four top-ranked teams that began season on inside rail for College Football Playoff -- Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Florida State -- could hardly coast out the gate against tough opponents. Nick Saban's Tide rolled big over USC, but the Sooners lost to Houston and Tigers barely got by Auburn. Noles close Week 1 tonight vs. No. 11 Ole Miss. Ready? Better be.

5. HEAT: Bosh mystery continues as camp draws near: Chris Bosh said on social media, "Yes, I'm hooping." More accurately, after two seasons disrupted by blood-clot issues, he's still hoping to be hooping. Club remains noncommittal on his future even as Sept. 27 start of training bears down fast. C'mon, Heat. Tick tock. You owe fans, and especially Bosh, a clear answer and soon.

6. TENNIS: U.S. Open begins final week: Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams (who surpassed Martina Navratilova's women's modern-era record for most Grand Slam matches won) lead the march into the quarterfinals round that started Sunday. This is first U.S. Open since they put a roof on the place, so fans of rain delays are totally screwed now.

7. FIU: Panthers lose to Indiana to open season: FIU led its Big Ten foe 13-12 entering the fourth quarters before collapsing like a Ponzi scheme late at home. NCAA has denied school's subsequent petition to shorten games to three quarters.

8. COLIN KAEPERNICK: QB's controversial protest still making news: Now local police are threatening to refuse to work 49ers home games unless the team disciplines its quarterback for his refusal to stand for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice. I guess that "To Protect and Serve" motto has become, "To Protect and Serve Those We Like."

9. NASCAR: Dale Jr. to miss rest of season: Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss remainder of Sprint Cup season due to concussion issues, with just one race left now until the cut to the round of 16 drivers in the Chase for the Cup ending in Homestead. So at least Junior has a better excuse than usual this year for not winning the championship.

10. PAT RILEY: Heat boss says Shaq topped LeBron and Big 3: "Shaq's acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three." Hmm. Careful, Pat. Once you're in your 70s and you start talking like that, people may begin to wonder if the mind is going.

Missing the HB10 cut: Dolphins and Uber have entered a business partnership. Fins offense will now be using Uber to drive it into the end zone ..... Heat players Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson, both with recently signed mega-contracts, each have purchased huge mansions. Athletes used to be judged by their feet. Now it's their square feet .....  Canes lose two top defenders in a scandal related to luxury cars, and now a walk-on scout team QB gets arrested for cocaine. Jesus! Can't these college kids at least wait 'til they grow up to start making dumbass decisions!? .....  Sorry, Chris McCain, but when the Dolphins trade you for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, it means you weren't that good ..... Dwyane Wade, taking on the cause of Chicago gun violence, said he has "a bigger purpose than basketball." Bulls fans responded, "Yeah, but can you make basketball sort of the priority, please?" ..... Bleacher Report predicts UM men's basketball will finish 12th in the 15-team ACC. So the Canes quietly have canceled the upcoming season ..... Fantasy football: Where league members enjoy the camaraderie by all auto-selecting in an online draft ..... NFL stars James Harrison, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were exonerated by the league of a PEDs accusation in an Al Jazeera article. I don't know who this Al guy is, but he'd better get his facts straight ..... Tone-deaf Penn State plans to honor Joe Paterno Sept. 17 on 50th anniversary of his first game -- almost as if he wasn't fired in disgrace in 2011 amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal ..... Philadelphia will host the 2017 NFL Draft. Excited fans there already are preparing by practicing vociferous booing of anticipated picks ..... Tim Tebow had his baseball tryout and wasn't that impressive, but looked lovable and God-fearing anyway ..... Former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was released from jail after serving only three months for rape. The judge who gave that sentence should be jailed and serve longer ..... Joey Bosa finally ends holdout, signs with Chargers. How to Begin an NFL Career Badly 101 ..... Little League World Series continues rocked by over-age player scandals as two stars from winning team miss victory parade because their wives went into labor ..... World Series of Poker final table getting close, the annual popular gathering spot for egomaniacs wearing sunglasses indoors ..... Upcoming 23rd season of "Dancing With the Stars" will include Olympic clown Ryan Lochte, retired Lion Calvin Johnson, IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe and --why the hell not! -- Vanilla Ice ..... R.I.P., Gene Wilder.

G1: HURRICANES 70, FLORIDA A&M 3 (FINAL): LAUNCH OF RICHT ERA ENJOYS A SOFT BUT IMPRESSIVE OPENING:  Final: What to say about a 70-3 game? Hugely impressive for Miami, with 4 TD passes by Kaaya and 3 UM 100-yard rushers for the first time since 1987. And equally embarrassing for poor FAMU. Click on Awesome Vs. Awful for my column from the game. ..... 4Q: Mercifully, humanely, the scoring seems to have abated. ..... 3Q: UM 70-3 in last seconds of third on Gus Edwards' 74Y run. ... UM 63-3 on Rosier's 19Y run. ... Backup QB Malik Rosier in for Kaaya with 4 minutes left in third. Smart move. Also, sportsmanlike. ... And now an INT by UM's Adrian Colbert. I'm now officially embarrassed for FAMU. ... Braxton Berrios 41Y punt-return TD makes it 56-3. My fingers are tired form typing all these Canes TDs. ... Well it's now 4 TGD passes for Kaaya and a 49-3 score. Time to sit Kaaya and some other starters now. ... Kaaya's 3rd TD pass is 15Y to a very fast Ahmmon Richards. ... Mark Walton 37Y scoring run has Miami up 35-3. Gorgeous dash with a high-step finish. ..... Half: It's a weird 28-3 because FAMU leads in time of possession by a 2-to-1 margin and only trails in total yards 214-54. And yet the game is non-competitive. Not for a minute has mistake-prone A&M given the impression it might bet back in it. ..... 2Q: It's 28-3 now with A&M on board with 31Y FG. ... Now 28-0 Canes on a Yearby 64Y scoring run. ... Canes 21-0 on Kaaya 16Y scoring pass to Chris Herndon. ..... 1Q: Canes miss 33Y FG attempt. ... UM up 14-0 on Joe Yearby 1Y TD set up by Canes block of Rattlers punt. ... UM 7-0 on Brad Kaaya to Marquez Williams 4Y pass after Corn Elder interception for UM. ... FAMU players wearing white uniforms with white numbers that cannot be seen. Perfect. ... Let's go! ..... Original post: Curtain up! Miami Hurricanes open their 91st season of college football this evening -- no wise guys, I was not there for the 1926 opener -- at 6 p.m. in a massively renovated, newly renamed home stadium that should impress those seeing it for first time. The four gigantic video screens alone are a mind- Miafamublower. The game also marks the heralded debut of new head coach Mark Richt, whose arrival helped generate a spike of 12,500 additional season tickets. Richt was hired to lead UM back to the promised land -- a promise broken or delayed ever since Miami won its last of five national championships in 2001. You notice I'm not talking about the Game 1 opponent? It doesn't figure as a compelling or even competitive game. For UM's sake, it better not be! Miami is one spot outside the Top 25 and should whisper into the polls with a win, coupled with upsets elsewhere, while Florida A&M is, well, pretty awful. Great marching band, lousy football players. The Division 1-AA Rattlers were 1-10 last year and have lost nine straight to Miami (see The List below) by an average score of 49-6. You read that right. "Expert" expectations for Miami are modest elsewhere; ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit guesses a 7-6 season, for example. I think the Canes will be better, possibly even a 10-win team. Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz preaches that his guys play "in a very violent manner." If they do and if quarterback Brad Kaaya is as great as I think he'll be, it could be strong season out of Coral Gables. By the way, Kaaya is legal now. Turns 21 today. Gift to self: Five touchdown passes? Should launch smoothly tonight with a predictable yet impressive rout that won't be much of a gauge, but should be a party. My pick: Hurricanes 52-6.

Other FBS Week 1 football:

Indiana 34, FIU 13: Panthers led 13-12 entering fourth quarter before collapsing late at home Thursday night. Three interceptions and bad run defense ushered in coach Ron Turner's fourth season at The Int'l.

FAU 38, Southern Illinois 30: Owls of Boca were 3-9 last year but have recruited well and are seen as on rise. I gave 'em a big shot at home-opening win and was right. QB Jason Driskel was great.

No. 25 Florida 24, Massachusetts 7: Gators were favored by 36 1/2 points in The Swamp but narrowly led entering fourth. Unimpressive debut for UF.

No. 4 Florida State 45, No. 11 Ole Miss 34: Plenty of experts see Jimbo Fisher leading his Noles into the four-team College Football Playoff, but FSU was only a modest 5-point favorite in this prime-timer in Orlando that closed Week 1. Noles didn't look the part in trailing by 22, but did with the monster comeback behind a freshman quarterback. 

Other state FBS games: South Florida crushed Towson State 56-20 and UCF pounded and shut out South Carolina State 38-0.

National collball Week 1 overview: No soft opening for the Big 4 teams out the gate. Prior to FSU's challenging opener Monday night, on Saturday, No. 3 Oklahoma was an upset loser to No. 15 Houston by 33-23. No. 1 Alabama crushed No. 20 Southern Cal 52-6, but No. 2 Clemson had all it could handle, winning 19-13 at unranked but upset-capable Auburn.

SopySOPY'S BACK!: Our weekly State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings return for another season, comparing the offensive output of quarterbacks, receivers and running backs from our seven state FBS schools: Miami, FSU, Florida, FIU, FAU, South Florida and UCF. Because 'Noles play Monday this week, look for the first SOPY Top 10 in the blog Tuesday morning.

THE LIST: CANES' MOST LOPSIDED FOOTBALL SERIES: The opponents Miami has most dominated in its history, minimum 10 all-time meetings:

Opponent                    UM record         Last met

Rutgers                       1.000 (11-0)     2003

Temple                        .929 (13-1)      2005

Florida A&M              .909 (10-1)         2016

Cincinnati                   .846 (11-2)       2015

Duke                           .846 (11-2)      Play Nov. 26; prior 2015

West Virginia               .842 (16-3)      2003

Boston College            .828 (24-5)       2012

East Carolina              .818 (9-2)         2003

Louisville                   .750 (9-3-1)      2014

Wake Forest               .727 (8-3)         2013

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

Twitter @gregcote

August 29, 2016

Our fantasy draft: Who picked best team? (Was it Greg's Lobos?) New poll. Vote now!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes, Fins, Fish, tennis, Kaepernick, Marlins Park, Little League, Heat; plus Gase/Richt column & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 29. Dolphins and Uber announced a new partnership today. Go to my Facebook page to read team's press release in full. 2) R.I.P., Dick Assman, 82, the Canadian gas station owner propelled briefly to fame in 1995 when David Letterman, amused by his name, had Assman on as a recurring guest. 3) Yes, your dog's jaws are strong. An average 44-pound dog exerts a bite-pressure of 363 pounds. An average adult human's is 65 pounds. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins impress vs. Atlanta, Wade cousin killed, Fins talent vs. optimism, Canes heritage dissed, Marlins get Francoeur, Riley's Heat gloom confirmed, Rolling Stone joins our cause, your verdict on Dolfan optimism & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Twitter just told me, "Your Tweets earned 1,000,953 impressions over the last 28 days." Not exactly sure what that means, but I think it's my first time over 1 mill for a month. So, thank you, Twitter family!

Latest column: Hope for Dolphins, Canes starts with Gase, Richt: Miami's two flagship football teams have done a lot wrong most of this decade. What they've done right: Hire Adam Gase and Mark Richt. This is only the second time in 51 shared years the Fins and Canes both have begun a new season with a new head coach. Click on Gase, Richt and Hope for my latest column.

Column six-pack: Six other select recent columns, ICYMI: All The Things That Could Go Right (combating Dolfan pessimism). The Real Olympic Ideal (it isn't gold medals). Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter (on new-name Hard Rock). Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars. The Weight Has Just Begun (inside the office and expectations of new Canes coach Mark Richt). A Chance for Football to Retake Miami (on Wade's departure from Heat).

OUR 10-TEAM FANTASY DRAFT: VOTE WHO YOU THINK PICKED THE BEST TEAM: Greg's Lobos had our last of three fantasy drafts on Sunday. The Lobos will be competing 1) in a random league Fantasyfbthat won us in an ESPN V Foundation fundraising auction; 2) in the LeBatard Show's League of Lobos; and 3) in our own friends-n-family league. We had an earlier poll on our V Foundation team, and our LeBatard Show team is detailed at the end of this blogpost. Our friends-n-family league had its draft Sunday, and that's this poll. All of us gathered in person, not online. We did it old-school, with a giant draft board on the wall gradually populated with names. Afterward, of course, we stood around arguing who'd had the best draft, or worst. Whose teams looked strongest, or shakiest. Now I invite you to tell us. In this poll the teams are listed in draft order in case you wish to take that into consideration. We're a 10-team PPR league, and this was a standard snake draft. Our poll is based on each team's first four picks, because if we listed all 16 names for each team it'd be unwieldy. Peruse each team's top four and, based on that, vote which team you'd most want to have. Then check back often to monitor evolving results. Tomorrow we'll let you know who was behind the winning team and how your rated our Greg's Lobos.

 

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: College football is back! Canes suspend 2, open in 5 days: Week 1 locally features Hurricanes hosting Florida A&M on Saturday, two days after FIU debuts here vs. Indiana. UM on Saturday severed ties with two of its better defensive players in DE Al-Quadin Muhammad and LB Jermaine Grace after both were found guilty in a school probe of improper luxury-car rentals in violation of NCAA rules. This week signals official start of the Mark Richt era at UM. Hasn't played a gamed yet, but he's already won by keeping his program clean.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins beat Atlanta, prepare for stadium unveiling in preseason finale: After encouraging 17-6 win over Atlanta and roster cuts, Dolphins prepare for preseason finale on Thursday -- and public unveiling of refurbished, newly renamed Hard Rock Stadium. Place looks great. Will the team?

3. MARLINS: Playoff-chasing Fish add help, wrap homestand: Team is 1 1/2 games off playoff pace in a five-team wild-card scramble as it sets out today/Monday on seven-game road trip. Fish will be a part of the Tim Tebow audition after earlier trading for outfield help in Jeff Francoeur. Dear Jeff: Pretend like it's 2011, your last really good season.

4. TENNIS: U.S. Open, year's last major, set to begin: Starts today in New York with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams top seeds as usual. Tennis is predictable. Then again, defending women's champ Flavia Pennetta is a household name only in her own house.

5. MARLINS PARK: Stadium to host major auto race, World Baseball Classic: Good week for the Little Havana home of Marlins. First it's announced park will host Race of Champions on Jan. 21-22, annual event pitting Formula 1, NASCAR and IndyCar drivers. Then stadium landed first-round WBC games March 9-12 featuring U.S., Canada, Colombia and Dominican Republic. Now if only they'd add a few Marlins playoff games.

6. LITTLE LEAGUE: New York team wins annual youth World Series wraps up: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" The U.S. champion team from Endwell, N.Y. beat international champs from Seoul, South Korea on Sunday to make a U.S. team LLWS champions for first time since 2011. Was it fate? How could an American team from "End well" not have a happy ending?

7. OLYMPICS: Fallout from Rio controversy for Solo, Lochte: U.S. soccer suspended and cut ties with goalkeeper Hope Solo after she called victorious Sweden "cowards," and U.S. Swimming's Ryan Lochte saw several major sponsors including Speedo drop him over his gas-station episode in Rio. Good-looking athletes, but Ugly Americans.

8. HEAT: Riley's pronouncement of "bad summer" is affirmed: Pat Riley himself called it a "bad, bad summer" for the Heat, and evidence is rolling in. SI.com this week gave Miami a D+ in its offseason grades, and ESPN.com projected the Heat for a sub-.500 38.3 wins, 10th in the East. No LeBron, no D-Wade, no assurance yet on Bosh. No hope?

9. COLIN KAEPERNICK: QB protest by sitting for national anthem: The 49ers' embattled QB refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem to protest the country "oppression" of people of color. It's the latest chapter in his new autobiography, "How My Once-Promising Career Went Straight to Hell."

10. SOCCER: Group stage set for Champions League: Thirty-two teams in eight groups of four were drawn this week to begin play Sept. 13 in the Champions League to crown the king of European club football. Headlines went to Group C, where Manchester City was drawn with Barcelona -- meaning new Man City manager Pep Guardiola will face his longtime former club. You know you love you some international soccer when you drop a Pep Guardiola reference!

Missing the HB10 cut: Cousin of Dwyane Wade killed in Chicago shooting. "Enough is enough" Wade had said of gun violence. So sad. ..... Cricket! World cricket powers India and West Indies playing two weekend matches at Central Broward Stadium. Do cricket players have single  names like in soccer. Is the star named Jiminy? (Sorry) ..... Tony Romo got injured. Or, did that go without saying? ..... Florida Panthers dealt Dave Bolland's bloated contract and 2015 top draft pick Lawson Crouse to Arizona for second- and third-round picks. Preseason begins Sept. 27 to launch perhaps first season in club history in which winning Stanley Cup seems a legit possibility ...... Booker T. Washington beat St. Thomas Aquinas in duel of local prep football powerhouses. Circle the date. Aquinas losses come about as often as Halley's Comet ..... Only five schools in poll-era have won more national championships than Miami's five, but the Canes were ranked only 14th in an ESPN piece on college football royalty. Question: What do they mean by "fuzzy math"? ..... The Chicago White Sox, feeling the name U.S. Cellular Field wasn't awful enough, announced their stadium's new name will be Guaranteed Rate Field. No, seriously ..... Oakland Raiders have trademarked the name "Las Vegas Raiders." No, but they aren't leaving or anything! ..... Signs you may be a degenerate gambler: You bet big on Friday's Arizona Rattlers-Philadelphia Soul game in Arena Bowl 29 ..... Answer: KFC gives away tubes of "Extra Crispy Sunscreen" that smells like fried chicken. Question: What do you mean real life sometimes reads like something from The Onion? ..... Todd Marinovich was found wandering in somebody's backyard, naked and with drugs. Or, did that go without saying? ..... Congratulations, Chargers top draft pick Joey Bosa. All of San Diego hates you and you haven't even played a down yet ..... Farewell, daily fantasy sites Draft Kings and FanDuel. Sure will miss those nonstop TV ads ..... The Oakland A's traded pitcher Mike Rzepczynski, explaining, "We got tired of trying to spell and pronounce his name" ..... According to Brazilian media, 20-year-old Ingrid Oliveira and 17-year-old Giovanna Pedroso have ended their Olympic diving partnership after Oliveira kicked the teen from the room they shared at the Olympic Village in Rio so she could enjoy a night of sex with Brazilian canoeist Pedro Gonçalves. Um, is that a canoe, or are you just happy to see me?

INTRODUCING GREG'S LOBOS II, THE LEBATARD SHOW TEAM: We introduced you previously to the 2016 Greg's Lobos team that will be competing in the league that donated the most money Lobosto ESPN's V Foundation to have me as a member. Now I'd like you to meet the Greg's Lobos squad that will be competing in the LeBatard Show's League of Lobos this season, a PPR league. I'd imagine this is the team we'll be referencing most on the air. Mea culpa: We were last of 14 teams in the snake-draft order. Our players, by round: 1st--RB Devonta Freeman (reigning MVL; welcome back D-Free); 2nd--WR Allen Robinson; 3rd--QB Drew Brees; 4th--WR Randall Cobb; 5th--TE Delanie Walker; 6th--RB Melvin Gordon; 7th--WR Willie Snead; 8th--RB Theo Riddick; 9th--RB Tevin Coleman; 10th--Seahawks D/ST; 11th--WR Terrance Williams; 12th--TE Clive Walford; 13th--PK Chandler Catanzaro; and 14th--QB Teddy Bridgewater. Last season's 10-team league has grown to 14 teams with one dropout (Papi) and five expansion teams. Returning teams are Dan, Stugotz and myself along with Mike, Roy, Chris, Charlie, Guillermo and Allyson. The five newbies are Amin Elhassan, Randy Scott, Sarah Spain, Pablo Torre and (are you ready) WWE pro wrestler Tyler Breeze.

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

Twitter @gregcote

August 24, 2016

Dolfans, has preseason thus far left you feeling better or worse about team? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Marlins Park lands Race Of Champions, the 2 reasons it went to hell for Ryan Lochte, KFC Extra-Crispy Sunscreen & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24. Todd Marinovich found naked with drugs. Or, did that go without saying? Click here. 2) I'm not fascinated by celebrity; closer to the opposite. But I must admit I'd love to know the real reason why Simon & Garfunkel grew to hate each other. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your verdict on Greg's Lobos roster, grandma rapping & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Marlins' wild-card playoff game: Mark it on your calendar if you are feeling optimistic. The Marlins' wild-card playoff game would be on Wednesday, Oct. 5 if (currently 1 1/2 games off pace) they make it.

The Olympics are about the world, not the gold: That is the theme of my latest column. In a world rending and seeming to come apart, the Olympic Games give it a stage to come together, at least symbolically. Click on The Real Olympic Ideal to read in full.

Column six-pack: Six other select recent columns, ICYMI: Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter, on new-name Hard Rock Stadium. A-Rod to Fish Made Sense. Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars. The Weight Has Just Begun (inside the office and expectations of new Canes coach Mark Richt). A Chance for Football to Retake Miami (on Wade's departure from Heat). Ichiro!

MiadolHAVE FIRST TWO EXHIBITIONS LEFT DOLFANS FEELING BETTER OR WORSE?: Miami's preseason is half done after a win at the Giants and a loss at the Cowboys, with Thursday's dress rehearsal vs. Atlanta in Orlando up next, followed by a wind-down Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee at the new-ish Hard Rock Stadium. The question: Have the two games thus far, the totality of them -- good and bad all considered -- left Dolphins fans feeling better or worse about their team and season than they felt entering the preseason? I know, I know. Preseason doesn't matter yada yada. But it does offer hints and indications. It can move the needle on outlook. I know your opinion is subject to significant change. But I'm talking about right now. Take a dip in our poll and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Roc'RACE OF CHAMPIONS' COMING TO MARLINS PARK: It was announced yesterday the Race Of Champions, an annual event dating back more than 25 years, will be run inside Marlins Park this coming Jan. 21-22 -- its first time held in the U.S. The race pits drivers from various forms of racing competing in identical machines. See the trailer below. The first three drivers confirmed to compete are four-time Formula 1 world champion and reigning ROC champ Sebastian Vettel of Germany, NASCAR champion Kurt Busch and IndyCar champ and Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. Impressive field if that's just the start. And an interesting idea. Nice get for Marlins Park -- and for South Florida.

  THE TWO REAL REASONS IT GOT SO BAD FOR RYAN LOCHTE: Lochte always has come off a bit like the goofball/airhead who should always have a bit part waiting in a stoner movie. Now sponsors are dropping LochteAmerica's disgraced Olympic swimmer, including Speedo. It wasn't just that he wreaked vandalism in a gas-station bathroom in Rio. It wasn't even that he then panicked and made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint. Here are the two reasons it turned out so bad for Lochte: 1) The U.S. Olympic Committee initially tried to dismiss this as kids blowing off steam. No. Sorry. Lochte is 32. He is, literally, old enough to have known better. 2) His so-called apology was lame, made it worse. There was no real contrition, just a carefully worded mea culpa that never quite admitted regret for anything beyond the obvious lack of judgement. At 32 he was expected to be an elder statesmen for the U.S. team, not a buffoon with a middle-school mentality. And once his story unraveled, once he was caught, he needed a genuine,unequivocal apology, not the bulls--t he dished out. Played right, people would be feeling sorry for Lochte today over much ado about very little. Played the way it was, he's the jerk who is getting what he deserves. His swimming career has been spent in the shadow and wake of the legend, Michael Phelps. That has to have been tough. He might have played the role fate dealt him with grace. He fell short.

KfcKFC EXTRA-CRISPY SUNSCREEN. NO, SERIOUSLY: Not so rarely, there is something in the news that is real and actually happening, but feels instead like something you should be reading in the The Onion. Latest case in point: KFC Extra-Crispy Sunscreen. The fried-chicken giant yesterday introduced a 30SPF sunblocker that, yes, smells like fried chicken. Take that, scent of coconut! (Click here for the backgrounder). The chain gave away 3,000 free bottles yesterday in a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote its extra-crispy chicken. Don't worry, Coppertone. Colonel Sanders won't be elbowing your space on Walgreen's shelves. It's just a PR stunt. But a rather good one at that. I love the concept of someone on the beach tanning -- someone we imagine is lean and fit -- smelling like deep-fried thighs and wings. Come to think of it, this is somewhere in between real and The Onion. Good for the Colonel. I like where KFC is going with its advertising. Smart. Fresh. Fun.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 30, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated); plus who's feeling most heat in South Florida sports? 12 choices, you pick 3. Poll. Vote!; also, Memorial Day, long climb of Richard Bleier, extraordinary life of Charley Winner, your verdict on SB turf wars & more

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

Memorialday1) It is MONDAY, MAY 30. Remembering and honoring America's war dead on this Memorial Day. We are the land of the free because of the  brave, and these were the bravest. See our Memorial Day tribute video below. 2) Thoughts and best wishes to former Hurricanes receiver Brett Perriman on his recovery in Atlanta from a stroke. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Turf Wars on Super Bowl name with poll, rooting for LeBron, your preferred NBA Finals matchup & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: The Under Pressure 12, the new one, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure. The Long and Extraordinary Life of Charley Winner, catching up with the longtime former Dolphins executive. Whale Watching Expedition, on how Heat's best shot for a chance at Kevin Durant or LeBron James this summer is for Miami fans to hope LeBron wins the NBA title.

PressureUNDER PRESSURE: WHO'S FEELING THE HEAT IN SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS: My latest Sunday column (click The Under Pressure 12 to read in full) explores the topic of pressure and lists the dozen South Florida sports figures who are or should be feeling the most of it. The reason vary, starting with No. 1 on our list, Chris Bosh, whose medical situation puts him under a much different pressure than Ryan Tannehill, who must win, or Giancarlo Stanton, who must perform to the tune of $325 million. Everyone has his own definition of pressure in sports and their own thoughts on who's under it. I am curious what you think. Take a dip in our poll, the dozen choices listed alphabetically, and vote for the three (3) you think are or should be under the most pressure. Then check back often to monitor evolving results.

Vote for your top three (3):

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

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: NFL rewards Stephen Ross, names Dolphins stadium as 2020 SB host: Miami and a refurbished, canopied Dolphins stadium in 2020 will host its first Super Bowl since 2010, thanks to a vote of NFL owners this week. Your city hosting a Super Bowl? Good. Your city playing in one? Infinitely better.

2. NBA: LeBron awaits Oklahoma City-Golden State Game 7 winner tonight: Well, Heat fans are guaranteed at least four more games to cheer or boo. LeBron's in the Finals! The question is who Cleveland will face, with Oklahoma City going to a Game 7 at Golden State tonight. LeBron vs. Kevin Durant or LeBron vs. Steph Curry. Fans can't lose.

3. MARLINS: Jose en fuego; Fish finally figure out Braves: Miami is hanging within striking distance of playoff contention and one reason is ace Jose Fernandez, who in last four starts has allowed three runs with 43 strikeouts in 27 innings. Fish are back home this week and Jose pitches Tuesday. Meanwhile Miami finally figured out Atlanta. Before yesterday the Braves had been are 5-0 vs. Miami, 9-34 against everybody else.

4. SOCCER: Real Madrid reigns, now Copa America on deck: It was Real Madrid beating Atletico Madrid on penalties Saturday after a 1-1 game in the UEFA Champions League final. Now comes Copa America June 3-26 in 10 U.S. cities, with the U.S. team debuting this coming Friday vs. Colombia. A championship by the hosts? That’s the goooooaaaaalll!

5. NHL: It’s a Pittsburgh-San Jose Stanley Cup Finals: NHL begins to reveal its next champion with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. San Jose is making its first SCF appearance. Pittsburgh is in its fifth, including titles in 1991, 1992, 2009.

6. AUTO RACING: Rookie wins centennial Indianapolis 500: NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 ran, too, but the Indy 500 is the one day Indy-car racing owns the sport of auto racing. Especially when it happens to be the 100th running of "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing," won Sunday by rookie Alexander Rossi.

7. CANES BASEBALL: UM falls short in ACC, but named regional host: The No. 3-ranked and top-seeded Miami Hurricanes failed to reach Sunday's ACC Tournament championship game, but still were named an NCAA Regional host as expected. Today the Canes learn which other teams will be here. For UM, as always, the Regionals mean one thing. Omaha or bust.

8. TENNIS: Serena, Djokovic in line for milestones at midpoint of French Open: A title by Serena Williams would tie Steffi Graf's open-era record of 22 majors, while a French title is the only major that has eluded Novak Djokovic, whose path cleared when Rafael Nadal withdrew with a wrist injury.

9. DOLPHINS: Fins continue offseason OTA practices: The next ones are Tuesday through Thursday. OTA stands for "organized team activities," which always sounds to me like something that should involve arts and crafts, like making a log cabin out of popsicle sticks.

10. PANTHERS: Cats trade Gudbranson, plan unveiling: Florida continued to fix what wasn't broke, trading young defenseman Erik Gudbranson. This Thursday the club unveils its new logo and uniforms. Team will look different next season. Question is whether they'll look like a team ready to win a playoff series for first time since 1996.

Missing the cut: Canes football coach Mark Richt is donating $1 million toward the school's new indoor practice facility. Richt hasn't coached a game yet, but he keeps winning. ..... It took eight games but NASL  expansion team Miami FC earned its first victory, 1-0 over Edmonton. Congrats, I think ..... Chris Berman will step down from his current role at ESPN after this coming football season, meaning he won't be backbackbackbackback ..... Quick aside to Koa Misi: Nothing good ever happens outside a nightclub at 3:40 a.m. ..... Heat lost without playing as Erik Spoelstra's top assistant, David Fizdale, headed to Memphis ..... Scandal-plagued Baylor fired football coach Art Briles over his handling of sexual assault charge against players, and Ole Miss self-imposed sanctions for rules violations. The 'C' in NCAA stands for cheating, right? ..... Tom Brady is appealing his four-game Deflategate suspension. You get the feeling Brady will be retired and perhaps dead and this thing will still be going on in the courts ..... The Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie, with one finalist stymied by the word "feldenkrais" and the other by "gesellschaft." I'm still trying to figure out how to spell "Krzyzewski" ..... Jose Mourinho is the new savior at Manchester United. Until he loses his first math ..... Colombia beat Haiti 3-1 yesterday at Marlins Park. I wonder if soccer fans booed Jeffrey Loria just on principle? ..... There is increasing media speculation that Tiger Woods may never play again, one more reason to hope he does ..... Sport Name of the Week: Last week's LPGA tournament runnerup, So Oh ..... Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity apologized for paying the rapper Ludacris $65,000 for a 13-minute performance at Bulldogs' spring game. Ludicrous! ..... Canada beat Finland 2-0 to win the world hockey championships in Moscow. "We'd rather have the Stanley Cup back," said Canada in unison ..... Miami Gun Show ended Sunday at Dade County Fairgrounds. Yes, because, if there is one thing we need more of in Miami, it's guns!

RICHARD BLEIER: A LONG CLIMB, BUT HE MADE IT: Richard Bleier, a local kid who played ball at South Plantation High, this week became a major-league rookie at age 29, after a career's climb through the minor leagues. He is wearing New York Yankees pinstripes this weekend as the team that called him up on Thursday plays in Tampa Bay. He did not pitch in that series; his MLB debut could come tonight in Toronto. BleierHis Dad, Lawrence, is from the Bronx and grew up a Mickey Mantle-era Yankees fans, so this is all as exciting for him as it for his son. "It's a dream come true," Lawrence told the Fort Myers News-Press. (Richard pitched in college for Florida Gulf Coast there). "He’s been very level-headed about everything. He’s excited, but he has anticipated this day for a long time. So here he is. How long he will be there, we don’t know. Whatever it is, he’ll be a major leaguer. It’ll be in the baseball encyclopedia." Richard said in a text, "It's an awesome feeling. I've worked my entire life to get here." Richard was a teammate of my son Christopher's at South Plantation High, where I announced the games from a purple-painted wood pressbox overlooking home plate. Richard was a lanky lefthanded pitcher, rather stoic, prone to being a bit too hard on himself. His father would sometimes come up into the press box and kibitz for an inning or two. Since those days Richard has spent the last 10 or 12 years climbing, pitching, dreaming. He will wear uniform No. 50, and pitch out of the bullpen for the Yankees. I hope his stay in the big leagues lasts as long as it took him to finally get there, but perseverance is its own reward. As his Dad noted, no matter how long his stay, his name will be in the baseball encyclopedia now. No matter how long his stay, he made it. Congratulations, Richard.

Poll result: 'Miami' swamps 'South Florida' when it comes to Super Bowl: We asked what is the best title for the 2020 NFL championship game awarded this week, and it was 75.7 percent for 'Miami Super Bowl' and 24.3% for 'South Florida Super Bowl.'

REMEMBERING AND HONORING AMERICA'S WAR DEAD: This video is called "50,000 Names Carved In the Wall," by country legend George Jones. It about about the Vietnam Memorial, but its message reaches across all generations, wars and all who made the ultimate sacrifice. If you can watch this video without tearing up, you are a stronger person than I. (For those in a sentimental or patriotic mood today, I also recommend "Ragged Old Flag," by Johnny Cash). 

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

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May 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team                    FA Cups    Most recent

Arsenal                     12         2015

Manchester United    11         2004

Tottenham Hotspur    8          1991

Chelsea                     7          2012

Liverpool                  7          2006

Aston Villa                7          1957

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Twitter @gregcote

November 24, 2015

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 3.8%; plus Miami falls to Cowboys, new Hot Button Top 10 (uypdated), Kyle Busch wins NASCAR crown at Homestead, UM hoops' big win & more

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

JFK1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22. See previous blogpost for results of latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter poll. 2) Fifty-two years ago yesterday, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Pray for Paris and for peace on Earth, but remember JFK, too. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes host Georgia Tech with CSM poll, other state Collball, UM next-coach verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Hurricanes men's basketball rockets from unranked to No. 15 today in new Associated Press poll.

Gordon's career trumps Busch's crown at Homestead: Click on End of the Rainbow for my column from the racetrack on Jeff Gordon, who ran his final NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G10: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 3.8 percent overall satisfaction -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 24-14 home loss to Dallas putting Miami's season record at 4-6. 1aadsm
The DSM, in its eighth year, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:15 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2015 DSM Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next poll: Nov. 29 (following game at N.Y. Jets)

G10: DALLAS 24, DOLPHINS 14: NOT ENOUGH OFFENSE AS MIAMI PLAYOFF HOPES TAKE A HIT: Final thoughts: Miami falls to 4-6 and sees its wild-card hopes take a hit today because of a reason that has been common this season: Too little offense. Two touchdowns won't win many games, especially when your QB, Ryan Tannehill, gives the other team six free points on a pick-six interception. The result was fair. Miami was dominated in many ways, in total yards 386-210 and in first downs 22-9. The Fins converted only one of 10 third downs. A disappointing home loss in what had (in terms of betting odds) been a dead-even game going in. ..... Halftime: A mostly absymal first half by Miami in rainy Miami, but sunshine beamed in on the Fins late. Team doing nothing offensively until the final drive, when Ryan Tannehill's 47-yard strike to Jarvis Landry set up a 12-yard TD throw to Jordan Cameron. Defense doing OK. Only has given up one TD, considering Tanny's pick-six accounts for half of Dallas' points. ..... Note: I'm writing from NASCAR in Homestead today but will be updating Dolphins score live throughout today's game and be back with halftime and postgame thoughts prior to the posting of the new DSM poll. ..... Original post: Isn't often two teams with a combined record of 6-12 present a game as tasty as this one. Miami at 4-5 doesn't enjoy much margin of error, so call today a must-win for the Dolphins, realistically if not literally. The Dolcowopponent, despite its sorry record, arrives dangerously revitalized by the return from injury of its star, and brings with it the swagger of "America's Team" and its many fans. It will be very difficult today for the Dolphins to sack Tony Romo on account of that hero’s white steed he’s riding in on. They’ll have to tackle the horse, too, I guess. Dallas went a season-ruining 0-7 with their QB out with a broken collarbone but gets him back just in Romotantime for Miami. Romo has not shied from portraying himself in the savior’s robe, even knowing Dallas likely must finish on a 7-0 run for a playoff shot. This week he tweeted the scene from the movie Major League with the line, "Well, then I guess there’s only one thing left to do … win the whole [bleep]ing thing." A 2-7 team on the road with an even betting line further indicates Joe Public is buying into the Romo-savior myth. It won’t happen, though. Dallas won’t make the playoffs. I doubt they’ll win today, either. I see a pumped-up, sold-out crowd fomenting a palpable home-field advantage and inspiring a big, emotional effort from the Dolphins. Miami is the first NFL team since the 1970 merger to play in its home stadium only twice in the first 10 weeks. That and the marquee opponent should have Joe Robbie’s place rocking for Dallas’ first regular-season visit since 2007. These may be two teams with losing records, but it still feels like an "event" game. Adding to that: Don Shula, flanked by Bob Griese and Dan Marino, will be presented a special Hall of Fame ring in a halftime ceremony today. Key to the Fins winning will be much better pass defense than we’ve seen the past three games. A particular concern today is a depleted linebacking corps vs. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. But between Brent Grimes’ return and Romo’s rust, I see the big home crowd leaving happy. My pick: Dolphins, 27-23.

KYLE BUSCH WINS RACE, SEASON TITLE BUT IT'S JEFF GORDON'S DAY AT HOMESTEAD: Update: Kyle Busch wins NASCAR season Sprint Cup championship by finishing ahead of the three other qualifiers for the title. Busch won the race, with Kevin Harvick second, sentimental favorite Jeff Gordon sixth, and Martin Truex Jr. 12th. The night was about the season crown, and whether Gordon, in his last race, could write the perfect ending to his storied career. Original post: I'm down at Homestead-Miami Speedway today columnizing on NASCAR's Championship Sunday, because it is an event of greater national scope than the Dolphins-Cowboys game (and will draw a bigger crowd, too). It is bigger than even a typical Sprint Cup finale, because this one is Jeff Gordon's farewell ride before retiring to the TV booth. Gordon (pictured), defending series champ Kevin Harvick, bad-boy Kyle Busch and designated-underdog Martin Truex Jr. are the four drivers in the full field who'll be competing for the season title, a great mix. My preview column, online and in today's Miami Herald print editions, focuses on the 20th anniversary of the Homestead racetrack and how its origin helped lift a city from the ravages of Hurricane Andrew. Today's race is big. What this track meant and means to Homestead is bigger. Click on Saving A City to read the column in full. Race starts at 3, presuming good weather. Rain, rain, stay away. Vroooom!

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (NOV. 22): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Mondays) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins season crown, Gordon bids farewell at Homestead: Imagine. Jeff Gordon, set to retire, runs his final race and in it dramatically wins his fifth NASCAR title and first since 2001. If only. Kyle Busch won it all Sunday night to deny Gordon the perfect ending to his career.

2. DOLPHINS: Miami falls to Romo, Cowboys: Tony Romo played Sunday for first time since Sept. 20 as "America's Team" came to town in a rare visit — Dallas was last here in 2007. Lots of hoopla. Almost forgot. Fins needed to win to bolster fading playoff hopes. They did not, falling 24-14.

3. HEAT: Whiteside's Block Party highlights early season: Miami avoiding a loss to winless Philly Saturday allows us to spotlight sensation Hassan (Sultan of Swat) Whiteside, whose 58 blocked shots in 12 games are on pace to be NBA's highest per-game average since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989-90. 

4. HURRICANES: UM whips Georgia Tech in home finale: As UM searches for its next coach, there is plenty left to play for. Saturday's 38-21 win over Georgia Tech and this Friday at Pitt will determine whether Canes are invited to a bowl game you don't care about or one you barely care about.

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes win Puerto Rico tournament: Big week for UM hoops. The 2016 recruiting class added two big prizes, and Canes beat No. 22 Butler last night 85-75 in final of Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament after earlier beating No. 16 Utah 90-66. Canes now 5-0 and up to No. 15 in AP poll. Hey, can Jim Larrañaga coach the football team, too!?

6. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ohio State loss shakes up the CFP: College Football Playoff will have a new-look top four after Ohio State's loss Saturday. The national group, People Who Feel Sorry For Urban Meyer, is meeting tonight. Waffle House. Corner booth.

7. FAU: Almost as lowly Owls take Gators to OT: Top-ten Florida would prevail 20-14 in overtime Saturday but it was a Swamp scare from now 2-8 Florida Atlantic. I'm not big on moral victories/good losses, but this performance by Owls was bigger than any win in program history.

8. PANTHERS: Trying to keep the faith at the quarter mark: Roughly one-fourth into the NHL season, Florida has played 20 games and won eight entering Monday's date with the L.A. Kings here. Cats not currently on playoff pace. Or, by now, did that go without saying?

9. MARLINS: Jose Fernandez trade rumors swirling: Much media speculation lately about Marlins shopping ace Jose Fernandez, as well as reports he has an attitude problem. Of course it would make no sense to trade Fernandez for at least two more seasons. Then again, these are the Marlins.

10. SOCCER: Latest 'El Clasico' chapter a rout: Barcelona thumps Real Madrid 4-0 Saturday in an El Clasico rout being seen as exemplifying "team" triumphing over "individuals." The three times many Americans pay attention to soccer: World Cup, Olympics, Barca-Real.

Missing the cut: Miguel Cotto vs. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for middleweight title. Smart on that nickname. Fighters named Saul don't scare anybody ... Steph Curry and Golden State improve to 15-0 ... FIU loses finale, misses bowl eligibility ... Fort Lauderdale Strikers fire coach Gunter Kronsteiner. Again. Who owns that team? Jeffrey Loria? ... MLB post-season awards ... David Ortiz to retire after '16 season ... Florida Sports Hall of Fame inductees ... Track & Field governing body suspends Russia for doping. Shocker!

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

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November 19, 2015

UM's latest basketball recruiting gets a tribute to Larranaga's stewardship; plus Dolphins' playoff odds, David Beckham, cheetah picks NASCAR/Homestead winner, SOPY rankings, NFL Week 10 Pix 'n Greg's Lobos fantasy results & more

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

Paris1) It is THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19. PRAY FOR PARIS, AND FOR PEACE ON EARTH. 2) I'm back at Friday Page HQ today bringing forth my NFL Week 11 picks, girding loins for a better effort than last week. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's Titans-Jaguars pick. 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins win in Philly with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Dolphins' latest All-50'ers: Fins in random fives are announcing the club's all-time 50 greatest players. The latest wave: Bob Brudzinski, Norm Evans, Mike Pouncey, Patrick Surtain and Jason Taylor. Taylor is obvious. Evans and Surtain are expected. Brudzinksi for me is borderline but I'm OK with it. Surprised by Pouncey mainly for the lack of longevity.

 "BeckhamDavid Beckham has been named People's latest 'Sexiest Man Alive.' Too bad he hasn't been named 'Most Successful Man Alive at Closing an MLS Stadium Deal in Miami.'" --Greg Cote

On Canes' coach-search: This week's latest column from me is on the Hurricanes' search to replace fired football coach Al Golden and his interim fill-in Larry Scott. UM must find a great coach whose strength is recruiting and the ability to win back the South Florida talent-market. The priority should not be appeasing fans by necessarily hiring someone with Canes ties. Click on Recruiting The Best to read the column in full.

CANES' BIG RECRUITING GETS A TRIBUTE TO LARRANAGA'S STEWARDSHIP: UM basketball's 2016 recruiting class soared into the national top 10 rankings with the addition this week of Miami Norland 6- Larranaga10 power forward Dewan Huell and Massachusetts 6-4 shooting guard Bruce Brown. The biggest schools in the sport, like Louisville and Kansas, were after Huell. It's a tribute to coach Jim Larranaga and where he has the Canes program now and where it is headed under his stewardship. In Larranaga and women's coach Katie Meier, UM has one of the elite coaching duos in the entire country. Rock solid. South Florida is in good shape generally at the coach level at the moment among our top teams. The Heat's Erik Spoelstra is excellent, the Marlins made a promising managerial hire in Don Mattingly, and it seems the Panthers finally have a guy they can win with in Gerard Gallant. The questions are in football. Will Dan Campbell be a keeper for the Dolphins or will a postseason search open? That's to be determined. And the Canes job is wide open, of course. The U would do well to make a hire even approaching the quality of what basketball has in Larranaga and Meier.

DOLPHINS PLAYOFF CHANCES: A PULSE, BUT STILL A FAINT ONE: Winning in Philadelphia elevated the Dolphins' playoff chances from negligible to small. The computers of makenflplayoffs.com put Miami's playoff likelihood at 12.7 percent and numberfire.com has it at 7.2% entering this coming weekend -- both ranking the Fins 12th in the jockeying for six AFC postseason tickets. Patriots, Bengals and Broncos are the consensus definitely-in picks. The 4-5-6 seeds will be Steelers, Bills and Colts according to makenflplayoffs, and Steelers, Colts and Jets according to numberfire.

CheetahCHEETAH FORECASTS NASCAR/HOMESTEAD WINNER: Sorry, storybook-ending fans. Retiring Jeff Gordon won't be going out a champion in Sunday's season-ending race south of Miami. Koda, a 2-year-old cheetah and official Zoo Miami "wildlife prognosticator," chose Kevin Harvick from among the four miniature die-cast cars of the title-contending final four of Harvick, Gordon, Martin Truex and Kyle Busch. Koda is pictured ruminating over his decision. Zoo officials denied it was a publicity stunt.

SOPY: FLOWERS POWER! 'STATE HEISMAN' HAS A NEW LEADER: The fourth season of our blog's SOPY rankings --State Offensive Player of the Year -- is too close to call as we reach the final stretch. It's Sopynow South Florida QB Quinton Flowers narrowly ahead of Florida State RB Dalvin Cook. It's pretty much a two-man race because FIU QB Alex McGough has fallen to third place and has played one additional game than the players he must catch. Our weekly cumulative rankings measure the most productive QBs, running backs and receivers for the state's seven FBS teams: Miami, Florida, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UCF and South Florida. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The 2015 SOPY Top 10 entering Week 12:

2015 SOPY TOP 10 / WEEK 11

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                W11        Season

1 (t2)       Quinton Flowers, SoFla-qb   223         1,717

2 (t2)       Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb             167        1,661

3 (1)        Alex McGough, FIU-qb          37         1,543.5

4 (5)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb          153        1,236.5

5 (7)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb          290        1,206

6 (4)        Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             15         1,167

7 (6)        Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb       153        1,108

8 (9)         Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      139       956 

9 (10)       Kelvin Taylor, Florida-rb       126        929

10 (8)       Everett Golson, FSU-qb          26         889.5

Bubble: Will Grier, Florida-qb, 789. Other team leader: UCF--Justin Holman, qb, 713. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 290 (Wk11). Note: FIU has played 11 games; all others 10.

Cote's State of the State ranking: 1. Florida (9-1); 2. Florida State (8-2); 3. Miami (6-4); 4. South Florida (6-4); 5. FIU (5-6); 6. FAU (2-8); 7. UCF (0-10).

NFL PIX 'N GREG'S LOBOS FANTASY: WEEK 10: OH THE AWFULNESS! RECORD EMBARRASSMENT!: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our two Greg's Lobos fantasy teams, and, this week, the admission pains us: Pix: A record-worst week: This is our 25th 1aacote2
1lobosseason doing the Friday Page picks and we have never -- ever -- had worse week than last week's 2-12 record overall and 3-11 against the spread. I mean, there were some weird results and losing picks I'd probably make again. But still. No excuses. Just abysmal. Or, as the Upset Bird muttered: "Aaawwwkful!" Greg's Lobos / family league: Another loss: The original Lobos lost 125-112 to fall to 4-6, off playoff pace but still in it with four weeks left in our regular season. Rode Adrian Peterson for 31 big points, but five positions scoring in single-figures and only 12 points from Drew Brees killed us. Greg's Lobos / radio-show league: Big loss to open playoffs: The LeBatard Show Lobos fell 117.1 to 69.4 to Bills in the first round of our playoffs. It's a two-game opening series so I'm still alive but would need to rout Billy next week to have any chance. Ill-timed bye weeks ruined me this week. Just-signed Joe Flacco was our MVL with 20.1 points but we had two guys score zero. Miserable showing for the 'Bos. Embarrassing. But, yes, I do believe in miracles, so watch us next week.

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

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