March 27, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring NCAA Final Four, Heat stretch run, tennis, Fish, Cats, horses; plus Kaepernick vs. Moore as Dolphins backup QB. Poll. Vote now!; also Elton John, Venus Williams, my bracket, Hot Button Daily (Mon) & more


Eltonthen Eltonnow1) It is MONDAY, March 27. A most happy 70th birthday Saturday to a lifelong favorite of mine, Elton John, pictured then and now. I have been a huge 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: I stand tied for 14th among 90 teams in a LeBatard & Friends pool after Sunday's results set the Final Four. I have North Carolina (my national champ) and Oregon both still alive in my FF. Two out of four; not bad. ESPN says only 657 of 18,797,085 brackets correctly predicted all four Final Four teams. That is 0.00003495 percent.

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. NCAA ELITE EIGHT: Finally! The Final Four is set: It'll be 1-seed Gonzaga vs. 7-South Carolina and 1-North Carolina vs 3-Oregon in next week's Final Four semifinal games of the NCAA men's tourney as March Madness nears its crescendo. 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: Miami prepares for Pistons as stretch run continues: Loss in Boston Sunday didn't help, but nine games left starting with 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 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. Meanwhile Hard Rock Stadium is trying to poach the event from Key Biscayne, which at least beats it leaving altogether. 

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 seven games and still seven points off playoff pace even after Saturday'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 five 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 horse track these days, albeit briefly.  

7. NCAA WOMEN: Monday completes Final Four matchups: Stanford and Mississippi State are in. Today, Oregon-UConn and Florida State-South Carolina winners will join them in women's Final Four.

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 avoid sweep, at least: Once-ranked Miami now 11-13 after avoiding a sweep by winning Sunday 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.


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.


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 / MON 3-27-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:
1. NCAA women, 7 p.m.: Oregon-UConn, then FSU-South Carolina compete to get into Final Four.

2. Miami Open, 11 am.: Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Venus Williams among stars in play today.

3. Panthers at Buffalo, 7 p.m.: Cats still alive, but barely, in playoff chase.

4. Marlins vs.N.Y. Mets, 1:05 p.m.: Fish in Jupiter as spring training winds down.

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 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


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 10, 2017

Thank you, Mae Riback. Story of how I (finally) met my oldest fan; plus Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP race, Canes await Selection Sunday, Dolphins bashed for Stills/Branch deals, background on why 'Ballad Of 1440' happened, Hot Button Daily & more


1) It is FRIDAY, March 10. Who is panicking more right now: the fading Panthers, losers of six of past seven and now six points back in NHL playoff chase? Or Jim Morris, whose baseball Canes are 2-8 since starting 2-0? 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): "The Ballad of 1440" video debut, the dead we forgot (Ghost Tour addendum), Jimmy Buffett's retirement communities, Marlins odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Canes blown out in ACC quarters, await Selection Sunday: UM lost Thursday 78-53 to top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. Nobody except super freshman Bruce Brown (21 points) scored in double figures for UM. Canes had beaten Syracuse 62-57 on Saturday led by two  men who know Brooklyn well in coach Jim Larranaga and senior forward Kamari Murphy. Click on At Home in Brooklyn for my column off Saturday's win. Next: Selection Sunday should find Miami a mid-seed for NCAA Tournament, with an 8 vs. 9 opener most likely.

THANK YOU, MAE RIBACK: There are no "average readers." The story of most every life is a tale worth telling, which brings us to Mae Riback of Hollywood. Next week she will turn 104 -- still alert, still reading the Miami Herald daily, still turning to the sports section first. She had written me a lovely letter in late 2015, kind words in appreciation of my writing. She said how she Tinyhad read me for decades, told me I should write a book. She apologized for tremors in her penmanship, noting she was then 102. Her letter sat in a cardboard box, unseen, for 18 months. I rarely visit my office, and almost never answer envelope mail, because readers reach me by email 95 percent of the time. But on a recent visit to our Doral building I went through old mail that had accumulated, tossing most of it but somehow drawn to open this one envelope. Guilt overrode me. Here this centenarian had taken time to write such a kind letter, and I had ignored it! Eighteen months later, as I finally wrote back, I dreaded I might be too late. I cannot tell you who was happier when she called me on the number I'd given. We met this week, at the Hollywood apartment she shares with a fulltime aide in the Hillcrest area. Her handshake was unexpectedly firm. She uses a walker and struggles to hear but is sharp, and looked 20 years younger than I'd imagined. I gave her a copy of my Herald book, "Fins At 50," which I'd signed. She has been a Dolphins fan for years. ("But they annoy me lately!" she said). Ms. Riback was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. but moved here in 1971 after a 25-year career teaching phys-ed. She loved tennis and golf, so retiring with her husband to South Florida was a dream. Her aide produces a Sept. 30, 1950 page from The Grossinger Times with Mae "Tiny" Riback in a headline for having won a tennis tournament. Only 0.02 percent of Americans live to be 100. I asked how she explains her longevity. "I played. I moved all the time," she said. "Tennis I was best at, but sports, to me, were No. 1." Her racket is retired now but she remains active. Plays bridge every week. Reads the Herald voraciously, devours CNN or CNBC to stay up on current events. We parted with another strong handshake, and this time she asked me to lean down so she might kiss my cheek. She was was delighted by our meeting, and said she'd tell everyone she knew all about it. Tiny, the pleasure and honor were mine. [Click on Thank You, Mae Riback to see the column as it appears online

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (65 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 31-34 after Wednesday night's home win over Charlotte, here's The Luddite's 13th installment, with 60-game rank in parentheses.

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (65 games):

Luddite1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,869

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,721

3. James Johnson (3)          1,207

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,189

5. Dion Waiters (5)               994

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      674

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         651

8. Josh Richardson (9)         561

9. Willie Reed (8)                558

10. Luke Babbitt (10)          421

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 154, Udonis Haslem 72.

ESPN ANALYST SLAMS DOLPHINS' RE-SIGNING OF STILLS, BRANCH: While some in the local media genuflect over the Dolphins re-signing their own free agents in receiver Kenny Stills (pictured) and defensive end Andre Branch, at least one prominent ESPN analyst slams the deals. Bill Barnwell grades each a "D+" (ouch) in this analysis of early free-agent activity. (Teams may begin signing others' unrestricted free agents beginning at 4 p.m. today). An excerpt/synopsis of Barnwell's criticism of the Stills deal: "Miami shelled out $20 million in guarantees as part of a four-year, $3e2 million deal to bring its third wideout back to South Florida. The Dolphins are bringing back a player coming off a nine-touchdown season, one that isn't Stillssupported by usage rate and is almost guaranteed to regress toward the mean. In terms of total production during his two seasons with the Dolphins, Stills is 77th in the league in receptions and 57th in receiving yards. Nobody's expecting him to catch a high percentage of his passes because he is thrown so many deep balls, but Stills has the fifth-worst catch rate in the league among guys with 100 or more targets the past two seasons, at 47.9 percent. Because it takes so many passes for him to hook up with his quarterback, the Dolphins generate only 8.1 yards per Stills target, which is 35th in the league. Unless the Dolphins target Stills more, he isn't going to offer much of a return on this deal. Where are those targets coming from? Jarvis Landry probably isn't going anywhere. DeVante Parker has at least two years left on his rookie deal and has looked brilliant when healthy. The Dolphins committed to a run-heavy approach once Jay Ajayi got the starting job last season. This is the same organization that traded three picks, including their third- and fourth-round selections in the 2017 draft, to move up and grab Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo in April. Carroo now has no path to a meaningful role in the offense one year after he was worth what amounted to a mid-second-round pick off draft capital. Carroo might very well be a bust, but it's both too early to judge and a horrible sign for Miami's ability to gauge talent if he's a sure-fire failure after one season. Mike Tannenbaum is paying for the player the Dolphins want Stills to be, which is something approximating DeSean Jackson. At 24, Stills could develop into that sort of player, but he hasn't been that guy yet in his career. This is a receiver who has one 100-yard game (and that was exactly 100 yards) in his time with the Dolphins, a wideout who did most of his damage against average-or-worse pass defenses, such as those of the Bills, Browns, Bengals, 49ers and Jets last season. That's a guy worth taking a shot on, but even in this inflated market, $20 million in guarantees is an exorbitant sum." Now, Barnwell's criticism of the Branch deal: "The Dolphins have one of the league's most expensive defensive lines, anchored by two elite players in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. They wanted a third pass-rusher last offseason and paid a premium for Mario Williams while quietly adding Branch, a former Jaguars bust, on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as a backup. Williams busted in spectacular (if predictable) fashion, while Branch was a useful reserve, racking up 5.5 sacks and 12 hits on 430 pass rush attempts. You would think that the Dolphins would figure that most players are going to look effective playing next to two Hall of Fame-caliber defenders and allow Branch to leave while signing the next buy-low opportunity to play alongside Suh and Wake. Instead, the Dolphins paid a hefty premium to keep Branch around, giving him $27 million over three years. Much depends on the structure of this deal, but in a draft exceedingly deep in pass-rushers, Miami likely overpaid to hold onto a player whom it could have replaced at a fraction of the cost." My take: Somewhere between the local fawning and Barnwell's harsh view is the truth. The Dolphins kept two very useful players in Stills and Branch ... but paid dearly, likely paid too much.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 3-10-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Minnesota at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Fading Cats have lost 6 of 7, now 6 points off NHL playoff pace.

2. United States vs. Colombia, 6 p.m.: U.S. opener in World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.

3. ACC Tournament semifinals, 7 p.m.: It's Duke-North Carolina and then Florida State-Notre Dame.

4. Florida vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.: No. 2-seed Gators men debut in SEC Tournament in Nashville.

5. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball, off to 4-8 start, hosts ACC opener.

'THE BALLAD OF 1440': HOW, WHY IT HAPPENED: "Greg, why are you standing in your very messy garage, appearing in a very homemade video and singing while wearing a suit and cowboy hat?" It is a reasonable question. Why the suit and hat is hard to answer. I guess I just felt like it, and wanted something that might stand out visually. The rest of it is easier to answer. I have 1440always enjoyed singing, which is not the same as claiming I have a good voice, which I do not. (I have an earnest voice that means well). "The Singing Sportswriter" used to be an alter-ego of mine on Dan LeBatard's radio show as I'd write what were meant to be humorous parodies related to sports. A few years ago I recorded a serious song, called "Letting Go," that my late friend Alan Cherry had written. This new song, "The Ballad Of 1440," was borne of nostalgia, wistfulness and gratitude. The newspaper business, socked hard, is working hard to reinvent itself. I have grown old enough to have retirement now on the back burner. My mentor, Edwin Pope, just died. These things together led me to reflect on growing up and falling into the career I did -- how unexpected that was, and how lucky I am. I happened to hear an old and obscure song called "Muswell Hillbilly" and though the structure would adapt well to autobiographical lyrics I could write. "1440" is the street address where I grew up in Hollywood, Florida, and the song is about how I'll always be that little barefoot, lower-middle-class kid who was the first in his family to go to college. The video, shot by my oldest son Christopher, includes opening and closing credits (with a dedication), and is interspersed with several old family photos of me when I was a boy. The song may be hard for some to take seriously -- it is, after all, me singing in a messy garage wearing a cowboy hat! -- but know that the sentiment behind it is genuine. This is meant as a thank-you to a lot of people who have helped me along the way, including our most loyal and longtime Miami Herald readers and radio listeners. I hope you enjoy it and in case you missed it,the video is below:

Select recent columns: Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. At Home in Brooklyn, on UM's win over Syracuse in ACC tourney. 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 Club.  NFL's Arrested Development.  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.

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


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

December 26, 2016

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 98.3% (season-high for playoff-bound Dolphins); plus Fins win at Buffalo, end 8-year postseason drought; also, our annual Christmas video from me to you, the new Hot Button Top 10 (updated), George Michael & more


Mc1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 26. R.I.P., singer George Michael. Never a huge fan, honestly, but respect his artistry and imprint on pop music. Loved his live duet on Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" (video at bottom of this post). 2) Hope my fellow Christians had a wonderful and Merry Christmas! Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late gift for any Dolfan on your list! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 16 picks, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (30 games), Heat honor Shaq with Whiteside poll, your players-skipping-bowls verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Xmas16OUR ANNUAL CHRISTMAS VIDEO, FROM ME TO YOU: This year's Christmas video was taken on a sledding trip that included myself, Dan LeBatard, Cam Wake, Pat Riley and Santa Claus. What a great time we five guys had! A picture from our trip is shown at left. To watch the brief video, click HERE.

Select recent columns: Haven't been as many lately, due to vacation time. Week 16 Gems, our latest NFL picks. Quit Rewarding Teams That Win Bad Divisions, our latest NFL notes column. The Gift Of Winning, on the Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: The Handoff Nobody Wanted. Just Make the Damned Playoffs For a Change. Missing Dwyane Wade. Football Town Strikes Back.

DOLPHINS IN PLAYOFFS, EARLY PROJECTION ON BETTING ODDS!: No, seriously. Miami is in the postseason. Fins likely will open the postseason Jan. 7 or 8 as the No. 6 seed at Pittsburgh. Miami would have a more favorable matchup as No. 5 seed at Houston only if Dolphins beat New England this coming week and the Chiefs lose at San Diego. A friend of mine in the business of setting betting lines early-estimates that Miami would be around a 6-8 point underdog at Pittsburgh but that a game at Houston would be close to even with perhaps the Dolphins opening as very slight favorites.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: 98.3%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show a season-high 98.3 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday's 34-31 overtime win at Buffalo putting DsmMiami's season record at 10-5 and helping qualify for the playoffs. The DSM 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 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

2016 DSM results

G1: 52.5% (following 12-10 loss at Seattle)

G2: 13.3% (following 31-24 loss at New England)

G3: 9.9% (following 30-24 OT victory vs. Cleveland)

G4: 3.0% (following 22-7 loss at Cincinnati)

G5: 3.2% (following 30-17 loss vs. Tennessee)

G6: 67.4% (following 30-15 victory vs. Pittsburgh)

G7: 90.9% (following 28-25 victory vs. Buffalo)

G8: 94.0% (following 27-23 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G9: 96.8% (following 31-24 victory at San Diego)

G10: 95.7% (following 14-10 victory at Los Angeles)

G11: 95.9% (following 31-24 victory vs. San Francisco)

G12: 34.8% (following 38-6 loss at Baltimore)

G13: 93.2% (following 26-23 victory vs. Arizona)

G14: 98.0% (following 34-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G15: 98.3% (following 34-31 OT victory at Buffalo)

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. DOLPHINS: Fins win in Buffalo, clinch playoffs Sunday: Well, Dolfans sure got what they wanted for Christmas. Miami in the playoffs. Feels weird, right? The Dolphins' 34-31 overtime victory at Buffalo Saturday and then Denver's loss Sunday night puts Fins in postseason for first time since 2008. There is a Santa Claus! There is a Santa Claus!

2. HURRICANES: Canes try to end long bowl drought this week: The Dolphins' playoff drought (now ending) gets all the attention, but UM is on an 0-6 bowl run dating to 2006. That's four coaches ago. And that is why Wednesday's game vs. West Virginia in Orlando matters so much to this UM program.

3. ORANGE BOWL: Michigan, Florida State tee it up Friday: Miami isn't hosting a College Football Playoff game this year (the semifinals are in six days), but the OB gets the next-best thing in No. 6 Michigan and No. 11 Florida State, two top-tier teams that began the season with national-championship hopes.

4. PANTHERS: Ageless Jagr vaults to second in NHL career points: Cats are a disappointing 15-20 and skating off playoff pace so far, but holiday cheer visited as Jaromir Jagr scored his 1,888th career point to move into second all-time behind only some guy named Wayne Gretzky. Even more impressive: Jagr turns 45 in February.

5. HEAT: Miami retires Shaquille O'Neal's jersey: Heat fans celebrated the Miami career of Shaq and recalled the 2006 NBA title he helped win as the franchise retired his No. 32. With the current Heat team mired with a record of 10-21 and hosting Oklahoma City Tuesday, celebrating anything felt good.

6. NFL: Chase for final playoff spots dominates league storyline: The Cleveland Browns won! The Cleveland Browns won! But the playoff picture is the big news, of course. Entering tonight's game 10 of the 12 playoff spots have been locked down, including the Dolphins, with the Lions and Packers frontrunners for the final two.

7. CHRISTMAS: Jesus! Sports have taken over holiday: To Christians, yesterday was first and foremost a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. To others, it was a day to open gifts and watch five NBA games and two NFL games in a nonstop, noon-to-midnight banquet of sports.

8. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women prepare for No. 7 FSU: UM's men (9-2 but unranked) are having a nice seasons. But the Canes' women are better so far, 11-1, ranked NO. 11 and hosting No. 7 Florida State this coming Thursday.

9. GOLF: Tiger, Trump play a round: President-elect Donald Trump and Tiger Woods (wearing a white billygoat goatee) played golf Friday at Trump's course in West Palm Beach. No word on who won. But if Woods won, I wonder if trump thought the result was rigged?

10. UFC: Rousey prepares for comeback: Ronda Rousey make her comeback this coming Friday by headlining UFC 207 in Las Vegas. Question, though: If you've barely been gone long enough to be missed ... is it really a comeback?

Missing the HB10 cut: Hurricanes left seven behind on the bowl trip to Orlando for not meeting program standards. Notable are Gerald Willis, a D-line contributor, and Micheal Irvin Jr. The capacity of college athletes to do something dumb never ceases to amaze ..... Baseball Hall of Fame ballots are due this week. Mine's already in. I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but I doubt again there were enough like me ..... Thank you, Mike Krzyzewski, for indefinitely suspending spoiled brat Grayson Allen for intentionally and repeatedly tripping opponents. Dear Grayson: America hates you ..... Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake were the Dolphins' only Pro Bowl choices. Some thought Jarvis Landry got snubbed. Um, he has three TD catches, not a Pro Bowl number ..... A developmental spring league unaffiliated with the NFL is to launch in April 2017 and, other than unemployed NFL free agents, nobody cares ..... Floyd Mayweather said he'd "slap the s---" out of Conor McGregor. America responded it would like to "slap the s---" out of Floyd Mayweather.

G15: DOLPHINS 34, BUFFALO 31 (FINAL/OT): HUGE ROAD WIN HAS MIAMI THISCLOSE TO PLAYOFFS!: Final thoughts: Miami's defense allowed 589 yards and twice blew 14-point leads but all that matters is a 34-31 win at Buffalo, a 10-5 record, and the driver's seat to end an eight-year playoff drought. Miami needs a loss by Denver Sunday night or a win vs. New England next week in Miami for its first postseason since 2008. Jay Ajayi's 206 yards on 32 carries lifted and carried Miami all day -- his third 200-yard game of the season .....  OT: Franks 27-yard FG wins it for MIA 34-31! ... BUF timeout as Miami set to try game-winning 27-yard FG with 51 seconds ... Ajayi has third 200-yard game of year, leaves game with banged up shoulder ... Ajayi 57-yard run (giving him almost 200 for day) has Dolphins in position for game-winning FG! ... Miami  forces Bills punt. With 4 minutes left, a no-decision tie game is a looming possibility ... Dolphins punting. Punting in OT is seldom a good thing, although Miami downs it at BUF 4 ... Still tied as BUF's Carpenter misses 45-yard FG try. What luck for Miami! ... Bison win coin toss and on the move. Uh oh ..... 4Q: Oh man. Franks career-long 55-yasrd FG ties it 31-31 with six seconds left, forces overtime ..... Wow. Buffalo take first lead at 31-28 with 1:20 left on Taylor 7-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Clay ... Bills trick-play completion to Woods off lateral back to QB ... Defense stiffens, holds BUF to 28-yard FG and it's now 28-24 ... Oh my. Twelve men on defense gives BUF first down on 4th and 1 play ... Franks 46-yard FG try bounces off goalpost no good ... 3Q: Turning into a shootout. BUF within 28-21 on Taylor 18-yard TD pass to ex-Fin Charles Clay ... Damien Williams 44-yard catch and run for Fins sets up 6-yard Moore to Stills TD pass; MIA up 28-14 ... BUF within 21-14 on McCoy 19-yard TD run ... Miami 21-7 on Moore 56-yard TD pass to Parker. I said they'd need more from Moore in second half. Done! ..... Halftime thoughts: Miami with nervous 14-7 lead. Will need more from Matt Moore in second half. He's 5-for-14 for 57 yards with one pick, a 19.0 passer rating. Bills outgaining Miami in total yards 212-183 ..... 2Q: Momentum swinging to Bills late in half as Moore intercepted in end zone ... BUF within 14-7 on gorgeous 38-yard scoring pass into end zone and Watkins' hands ... Big 4th and 1 defensive stop for Miami. All Fins so far ... Bills fans in a booing mood. Can you blame 'em? ... Drake busts 45-yard scoring for for 14-0 MIA lead. Play was bottled up to left; Drake reversed field and was untouched along sideline ..... 1Q: Dolfans thanking ex-Fin Carpenter as he pushes 46-yard FG try wide ... So dumb! Bills delay of game on 3rd and 5 at edge of FG range ... Good sign: Ajayi 43 yards, 6.1 per in first quarter ... MIA 7-0 on Ajayi 2-yard run ... Dolphins 3-and-out on their first series, too ... Miami opens with defensive 3-and-out ..... Original post: Maybe it's that the Dolphins are missing their starting quarterback and last week's big game by backup Matt Moore didn't convince everybody. Maybe it's that people can't imagine that a team from Miami (d.b.a "South Beach") won't wither and shrink in today's Buffalo weather -- temps in the 30s with a Miabufchance of sleety rain for the 1 p.m. kickoff. Or maybe it's simply that, despite the Fins superior record (9-5 to 7-7), folks just think the Bills are better. Whatever the reason, Buffalo opened as a 3 1/2-point betting favorite and that jacked up to today's 4 1/2 as money poured in on the Bills. The point is, the proving continues for Miami as it endeavors to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It could happen this Christmas Weekend. It isn't complicated: Miami ends its eight-season playoff drought if it beats the Bills today and if Denver loses Christmas night in Kansas City. But if Miami loses today, or if the Broncos win Sunday, it will come down to the final week of the season for the Fins' postseason fate to be known. The first part of the equation -- beating the Bills --  won’t be easy. The Dolphins haven’t won in Buffalo since 2011, freezing rain is forecast, and the Bills — with only infinitesimal, barely breathing playoff hopes — are in a classic spoiler’s role vs. their AFC East rivals. Fins beat Buffs 28-25 in Miami on Oct. 23 as Bison blew an 11-point lead entering fourth quarter. Jay Ajayi galloped for 214 yards that day but has only 205 yards in his past four games combined. LeSean McCoy is the hottest runner entering this game. Tyrod Taylor could be a handful, too. He has a 122.8 rating his past three games vs. MIA and leads all QBs with 520 yards rushing this season. I respect the 8-1 run Miami is on that has made playoff hopes real, but I consider Buffalo to be just as good and think the home-field edge in this weather will be large. Also, Moore will be facing a much better pass defense than the Jets’ version he scalpeled last week. Sorry, Dolfans, but Grinch Cote says no playoff-clinch this week. My pick: Buffalo, 23-20.

Poll result: Most see Whiteside as a Heat keeper, but many do not: Pat Riley says he'll "rebuild quick." We asked if you think Hassan Whiteside will be a centerpiece of the rebuild or be traded away, and it was 59.3 percent centerpiece and 40.7% traded away.

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

Twitter @gregcote

September 16, 2016

FIU moving on past AD Garcia in '18; plus NFL Week 2 predix, where Tannehill stands; also, are Canes fans worried about Appalachian State? (with poll), upcoming Dolphins book, your Bosh verdict, Brian Wilson review & more


1) It is FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On Dolphins opener and danger in 'moral victories,' Hot Button Top 10, updated SOPY rankings & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Recent columns, ICYMI or wanted another look: Timing Was Perfect, Not Wrong (on four Dolphins' 9/11 kneel-down). Week 1 Gems (our NFL picks) and Fearful Forecast (divisional and Super Bowl predictions). Awesome Vs. Awful (on UM's resounding season-opening victory). 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).

If the presidential race were a football game: The presidential forecast as of yesterday had Hillary Clinton with a 63.6 percent chance of beating Donald Trump. The ESPN NFL Week 2 Football Power Index had Bills beating the Jets last night at 63.2%. Does that mean the Jets just elected Trump?

IT'S UPSET BIRD DAY WEEK 2: OUR LATEST NFL PICKS: Bounced to a nice start on our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald by going 10-6 overall and a nifty 11-5
Fripixagainst the spread last week. Click on Week 2 Gems as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our latest picks and prediction capsules for Dolphins-Patriots, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week, Dog of the Week and every other matchup. Got off to a good start last night by accurately calling the Jets' win at Buffalo in a pick 'em game; click Thursday Gem to read. We also have an accompanying NFL column that leads with an analysis of all the quarterbacks who've been rookie starters -- Miami's Ryan Tannehill included -- since 2008, when began an ongoing nine-year streak of at least one per season, 19 in all. We rank Tannehill only 11th of the 17 entering this season, when two more joined the club. Click on Where Tannehill Falls to read the column plus NFL notes.

FIU SCHEDULES GARCIA'S EXIT AS ATHLETIC DIRECTOR: FIU president Mark Rosenberg today announced that executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia -- that's fancyspeak for Pgarciaathletic director -- would stay on through to July 31, 2018, and then depart. Said Garcia (pictured): "Leading FIU athletics has been one of my most rewarding and exciting experiences. However, after months of personal reflection, I believe it is important to explore new professional challenges." Garcia has led FIU sports since 2006, but not without controversy that left him unpopular with many. Today's announcement strikes us as a compromise: Officially a contract extension, but also a way to move past Garcia in the near future. Perhaps the decision was mutual, although it seems clear FIU was ready to move on, and rightly so.

UmappstIS A TRAP DOOR WAITING FOR CANES IN BOONE, N.C?: If walloping Florida A&M and then auto-piloting past Florida Atlantic didn't tell us much about the Miami Hurricanes, this Saturday should, in UM's first road test at Appalachian State. This isn't a major opponent; the Mountaineers are a Sun Belt team. But they're good. They nearly upset No. 9 Tennessee in the opener and are mere 3 1/2-point underdogs to No. 25-ranked Miami. Canes opened as a 5-point pick before betting dough started pouring in for App State. This is expected to be a sonic, school-record crowd and would be a seismic, season-making upset for the home team. I'm curious how concerned, fi at all, Hurricanes fan are approaching this game. Hence, the poll. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Finsat50DOLPHINS BOOK COMING: The Miami Herald is publishing Fins at 50, a book on the Dolphins' first half century, due out next week and available Sept. 20. Click on Fins at 50 for the book's Amazon page to see more or to pre-order now, at $24.95 or $14.99 on Kindle. It is  -- Shameless Plug Alert! -- the perfect holiday gift and must-have for all the Dolfans on your list! Runs the gamut of Dolphins history, from the expansion years to the Perfect Season to the Marino Era and right up to the hiring of Adam Gase and the current team. I had a lot to do with the book including an introductory essay and get author credit, but it's a collaborative effort, featuring hundreds of historic photographs as well as contributions from other Herald writers through the years including the legendary Edwin Pope. Soon, I'll be at Books & Books in Coral Gables discussing the book. Stay tuned for updates on that here or by following me on my Twitter.

NFL PICKS 'N FANTASY: DOUBLE THUMBS UP FOR WEEK 1: NFL picks: Had a solid Week 1 overall, going a decent 10-6 straight-up and a robust 11-5 against the spread. Bull's-eyed outright upsets by Broncos and Saints, nailed underdog Jets, Patriots, Lions and Jaguars with the points, and even had a rare exact-score for Green Bay's 27-23 win. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos rocked to 1-0 in the LeBatard Show league by beating Guillermo, 146.6-139.5. Got 31.4 points from Drew Brees -- expected. But while some of our big guns underperformed, we got the gift of 32.2 points from Willie Snead and 27.8 from Theo Riddick. Go 'Bos!

Poll result: Most think Bosh will be in Heat's opening night starting lineup: We asked for your best guess on that and it was 62.0 percent yes to 38.0 percent no.

ON THE BRIAN WILSON SHOW: Saw legendary Brian Wilson and his band Wednesday night at the Hard Rock, where the audience was surprisingly full and buoyant. He played about Bwilson1 hour 45 minutes and it was terrific. It was not a Beach Boys show per se, although it was hard to tell it wasn't, save for the rather pleasant absence of Mike Love in a Hawaiian shirt. Wilson was joiined by fellow original Beach Boy Al Jardine as well as longtime member Blondie Chaplin in a 10-piece band that was tighter than my belt when  I leave an all-you-can eat buffet. Wilson is 74 now, a bit unsteady on his feet and not daring a lot of high notes. He also is somewhat stiff and oddly peculiar as a frontman, more than once advising the standing, swaying crowd, "Please be seated." But you take him for what he is: a musical genius, and a survivor. Decades of drug abuse and mental health issues, the deaths of two brothers and bandmates, the acrimony with Love -- yet here he is, still performing. The show marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Pet Sounds album, which he played in its entirety in the middle. The show lagged there if all you were looking for was radio hits, but this was an audience that ate it all up. I have seen legendary artists so far past their prime in concert it was tough to watch (Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis), but Wilson remains inspiring to see still doing it. Great show.

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

Twitter @gregcote

August 22, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Olympics, Hard Rock, Fins, Fish, Canes, Heat, Lakatriona, UFC; plus hear grandma rapping, your verdict on Greg's Lobos roster & more


Yaz1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 22. A happy birthday today to my wife, the greatest person I know or have ever known! 2) Also, happy 77th birthday today to one of my boyhood heroes, Carl Yastrzemski (pictured). Congratulations, Yaz,and here's to many more! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins clobbered in Dallas, Greg's Lobos 2016 roster with poll, your verdict on Hard Rock Stadium name & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Column six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI: Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter, the latest, on the Hard Rock rechristening of It's Still Joe Robbie Stadium to Me. A-Rod to Fish Made Sense, on what might've been. Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars, on the Purgatory Four. The Weight Has Just Begun, inside the office and expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt.A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Wade's departure from Heat creating opening for Dolphins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chased 3,000 hits.

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. OLYMPICS: Sublime to ridiculous, Rio Games are over: The sublime? The Summer Olympics wrapped up last night in Rio de Janeiro with the U.S. easily winning the most overall and gold medals, led by swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, by Simone Biles-led women's gymnastics and with men's basketball taking the crown on Sunday. The ridiculous? Plenty of competition, but vandalizing, lying Ryan Lochte takes the Fool's Gold.

2. FACILITIES: Hard Rock Stadium new name for home of Dolphins, Canes: The music-themed conglomerate of casinos, hotels and restaurants is paying Dolphins owner Stephen Ross $14 million a year to have its Hard Rock name on his stadium. Given how the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes have fallen off the national stage the past 10-plus years, I wonder if "Rock And & Hard Place Stadium" or "Hard Luck Stadium" would be names more apt.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins' defense blows in Dallas, third exhibition is Thursday: Miami is 1-1 in the preseason after Friday' 41-14 loss in Dallas. Ryan Tannehill looked good, but the defense looked like it was nowhere close to ready for September. Dolphins face Atlanta in fake-game three this Thursday in Orlando. That Sept. 11 opener in Seattle is coming fast. Uh oh.

4. MARLINS: Fish stop the bleeding as return home nears: Marlins stopped their slump with a three-game sweep in Pittsburgh completed Sunday, but still are 1 1/2 games back in wild-card standings beginning a six-game homestand on Tuesday. The one upside to the recent slump? Opportunity to start blaming Jeffrey Loria for something again.

5. HURRICANES: UM turns sights on FAMU and season: Fall training camp wrapped up Saturday for the Canes, who will have a scrimmage game Wednesday geared specifically for Sept. 3 season-opening opponent Florida A&M. Miami led the "others receiving votes" category in AP's preseason Top 25, meaning Canes are as close to ranked as you can get without being ranked.

6. LAKATRIONA BRUNSON: Miami Jackson coach makes history: Congratulations to Brunson, 39, who became the first woman to coach a football game in Florida high-school history. Added bonus: Jackson won its opener, 36-0, over Coral Reef. 

7. HEAT: Coach's message to fans leaves somebody out: Erik Spoelstra's video message to fans on team's website mentioned excitement over the young "core four" of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. We pictured a forgotten Chris Bosh thinking, "Hey. Remember me!?"

8. UFC: McGregor edges Diaz in thriller: UFC 202 saw Conor McGregor decision Nate Diaz in a fight that had pay-per-view buyers getting their money's worth. After taking some hits recently, including the anticlimactic letdown of ballyhooed UFC 200, UFC needed this.

9. SOCCER: Strikers debut with win in new home: The NASL's Fort Laudderdale Strikers debuted in their new home of Central Broward Stadium last night with a 3-1 win over Ottawa led by a spectacular bicycle-kick goal from Italian forward Amauri. Sorry, though, but I miss Lockhart already.

10. LITTLE LEAGUE: Youth baseball World Series underway: The Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., pits 16 U.S. and international teams of kids ages 11 and 12 vying to reach next Sunday's championship. Past controversies have included overage players. The latest: Nine players suspended for performance-enhancing Happy Meals.

Missing the HB10 cut: Marlins Park will announce this week it is hosting a 2017 auto race involving NASCAR and IndyCar drivers. Racing at Marlins Park? Warning track becomes race track? Sounds interesting ..... Marlins' Jose Fernandez became second-fastest ever to 200 strikeouts in a season, doing it in 139 2/3 innings. If only the science of cloning had been perfected ..... A game-worn Stephen Curry mouthguard sold for $3,190 at an auction. Proving true the old P.T. Barnum adage, "There's a sucker with $3,190 born every minute ..... James Harrison called Roger Goodell crooked. Is Donald trump suing for copyright infringement? ..... Bad news: Florida Gators suspend two from season opener. Good news, they hope: Luke Del Rio, son of Raiders coach Jack, named starting QB ..... Countdown five days 'til Arena Bowl 29. I won't watch, but thank you at least for not using Roman numerals ..... Darren Sharper: Sports' Bill Cosby. Sad. No, pathetic!

Poll result: Most give a thumbs-up, "solid" rating to Greg's Lobos fantasy team: We invited you to rate Greg's Lobos fantasy draft and 2016 roster led by Todd Gurley and Ben Roethlisberger and a plurality of 34.7 percent voted "solid/pretty good." After that it was 27.7% "decent/not bad," 14.7% "strong/really good," 13.7% "mediocre/meh" and 9.1% "weak/really bad." Had the options been letter grades, the As/Bs would have beaten Ds/Fs by better than a 2-to-1 margin, 49.5% to 22.8%.

GRANDMA RAPS, AND IT ISN'T AWFUL: When we call ourselves a sports blog that likes to surprise you with other stuff, we ain't lyin'. Here, a 74-year-old woman raps about Jesus, and it isn't nearly as terrible as it could be. Kicks in strong around the 30-second mark. Listen: 

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August 19, 2016

PS2: Dallas 41, Dolphins 14: Tannehill solid but defense blows; plus Greg's Lobos announce fantasy roster, with rate-the-team poll. Vote now!; also, Lochte's apology, Neil Diamond, your verdict on Hard Rock Stadium name & more


Iamisaid1) It is SATURDAY, AUGUST 20. Click here to read Ryan Lochte's apology for his behavior and falsehoods while at the Rio Olympics. 2) I have rediscovered a 1971 song, Neil Diamond's "I Am, I Said." It's a shade melodramatic, as is Diamond's style, but really compelling and gorgeous in a way. Listen here. 3) Ohio man arrested for trying to have sex with parked van. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Newly named Hard Rock Stadium with poll, Hillary as Usain, fading Marlins, Joy Taylor, your verdict on MLB's Purgatory Four & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Column six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI: Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter, the latest, on the Hard Rock rechristening of It's Still Joe Robbie Stadium to Me. A-Rod to Fish Made Sense, on what might've been. Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars, on the Purgatory Four. The Weight Has Just Begun, inside the office and expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt. A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Wade's departure from Heat creating opening for Dolphins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chased 3,000 hits.

It's baa-aaack! Dolfan Satisfaction Meter to return: The DSM postgame blog polls will be back for another season this year, but they begin with the regular season, not in the preseason. Look for the first one the night of Sept. 11 immediately following the opener at Seattle.

PS2: DALLAS 41, DOLPHINS 14: TANNEHILL SHINES; DEFENSE, NOT SO MUCH: Postgame thoughts: NFL history made last night. Believed to be first game in league's 97 seasons that included quarterbacks named "Zac" and "Dak." Ryan Tannehill strong overall in an active evening, 12-for-20 for 162 yards and two TDs, a fat 119.2 passer rating. That'll work. And good they let him and the offense breathe a bit. Also, coach Adam Gase upgraded from last week's sideline T-shirt to an actual collared shirt. Progress! The rest? Not so good. Debut of Arian Foster an anticlimactic nothing: 2 carries, minus-5 yards. Ten Dolphins penalties. Defense? Awful. All over. Front to back. Especially against the pass. Awful. I saw in one fantasy draft ranking Miami's defense was ranked 28th. Thought that was low. Now I get it. I don't care if it's August or not. You don't give up 41 points. Work to do at 1-1 as the preseason pivots. Fake-game No. 3 -- fast, this Thursday vs. Atlanta in Orlando -- will be the full-ish dress rehearsal where the starters play a lot. Then will come the exhibition finale and only preseason home game at the newly refurbished and rebranded Hard Rock Stadium. Real season opener at Seattle chugging in hard. Uh oh. Original post: Last week Miami won its exhibition opener 27-10 at the Giants after trailing 10-0. In the real season that Doldalwould have been impressive with no yeah-buts. In fake-game context it was boring and proved little, mainly because Ryan Tannehill barely played (seven snaps, four Afosterpasses) and we saw little of Adam Gase's new offense. That should change tonight in Dallas as Tanny plays significantly more and we more substantively see what the quick-release/short-pass attack might actually be like. The preseason debut of RB Arian Foster (pictured) will also be a factor in tonight having more of a "this is the real offense" feel than last week. Foster, the former Pro Bowl star coming back from injuries at age 29 and obtained dirt-cheap, is a real wild card this season. He and young Jay Ajayi are fighting for the starting job and primary workload. Expectations for Foster may be modest, but there also is a big upside. Foster outranks Ajayi on most fantasy draft boards. Dolfans allowing themselves to dream big and imagine what has to go right for this to be a playoff season are surely including a bona fide return to form by Foster. If he can be who he was for most of 2010-14, or even close, the Dolphins will have a bargain, and a godsend. His skills catching passes out of the backfield, in addition to the ball carrying, dovetails with elements of the Gase offense. A first look at Foster, more Tannehill, and Tony Romo starting on the other side will give tonight a real-game feel -- however briefly.

GREG'S LOBOS REVEAL 2016 DRAFT RESULTS AND ROSTER: We had our fantasy draft Thursday night in the league that had the winning bid to have Greg's Lobos join this season. I was amazed how many leagues across the country bid for a good cause: ESPN's annual V Foundation fundraiser. I believe the winning  bid topped Lobos$2,000. There will be three Greg's Lobos this season: this team, the one in the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz league, and the original Lobos from our friends 'n family league. Last night we drew the overall No. 3 pick in a standard-league, 10-team snake draft. The Lobos draft, in order by round: 1st round--RB Todd Gurley; 2nd--RB Mark Ingram; 3rd--WR Jordy Nelson; 4th--RB Carlos Hyde; 5th--WR Jarvis Landry; 6th--QB Ben Roethlisberger; 7th; WE Donte Moncrief; 8th--RB DeAngelo Williams; 9th--TE Martellus Bennett; 10th--WR Kevin White; 11th--TE Julius Thomas; 12th--QB Jameis Winston; 13th--WR Travis Benjamin; 14th--RB Benjamin Cunningham; 15th--Vikings D/ST; 16th--PK Matt Prater. I am pinning my hopes on huge productivity from Big Ben, superstar breakout numbers from Gurley, and big stat seasons from Ingram/Nelson/Landry. (Click here for a video on Landry's training regimen). But the Lobos' secret weapon could be Hyde, who I see as poised to bust out as a top-tier back this season, especially in that Niners offense. I like my team. Do you? Let us know in the poll below. Here's the team based on projected starting lineup:

QB: Ben Roethlisberger

RB: Todd Gurley

RB: Carlos Hyde

WR: Jordy Nelson

WR: Jarvis Landry

TE: Martellus Bennett

FLEX: RB Mark Ingram

D/S: Vikings

PK: Matt Prater

Reserves: WRs Donte Moncrief, Kevin White and Travis Benjamin; RBs DeAngelo Williams and Benjamin Cunningham; TE Julius Thomas and QB Jameis Winston.

Poll result: A strong thumbs-up for the new Hard Rock Stadium name: We asked what best represents how you feel about "Hard Rock Stadium" as the new name for where the Dolphins and Hurricanes play. A plurality of 31.0 percent voted, "Whatever. It'll always be Joe Robbie Stadium to me." However, otherwise, the new name met with huge approval, with love/like swamping dislike/hate by a landslide 9-to-1 margin of 53.9% to 5.9%. The breakdown: Love 28.2%, Like 25.7%, Dislike 3.0% and Hate 2.8%. The remaining 9.3% chose the poll option, "

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Twitter @gregcote

August 16, 2016

Should MLB's 'Purgatory Mount Rushmore' be in Hall of Fame? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 starring Stanton out for year, US gold rush, Heat, Canes; also, Radio Tuesday, Fins PS1, 6 days in November & more


Jackandi1) It is TUESDAY, AUGUST 16. Are you a big Jack White fan as I am? Excited to hear he'll be releasing a career-spanning acoustic double album in September. Details here. Pictured right: Jack and I backstage at a concert several years ago. I know him (very casually) through occasional meetings related to our mutual friendship with Brendan Benson, Jack's buddy and Raconteurs bandmate. Not sure which is more astounding about this photo: Jack's creepy, pasty-white makeup, or my luxuriant head of hair. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): John Oliver on the American newspaper, Ricky Williams stir-fries cannabis in butter, complete 2016-17 Heat schedule, betting odds for Dolphins/NFL, your verdict on Summer Olympics & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz (minus the 'Gotz), 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio and simulcasting on ESPNU.  

A-Rod and Hall of Fame: Time for MLB to reconcile with its stars in purgatory: This is my latest Sunday column topic, and reaction to it -- good and bad, for an against -- is filling up my email inbox. I write that it is time for MLB to reconcile with what I call its Purgatory Mount Rushmore: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez. Click on Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars to read in full.

Column six-pack: Six other select recent columns, ICYMI: A-Rod to Fish Made Sense, today's latest, on what might have been. Result Won't Matter, But How Tannehill Looks In New Offense Will, as Dolphins opened preseason. The Weight Has Just Begun, inside the office and expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt. A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Wade's departure from Heat creating opening for Fins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chased 3,000 hits. Mission Accomplished, Legacy Secure, farewell-Wade column.

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

1. MARLINS: Stanton out for season; playoff hopes imperiled: Fish are in intense fight for second NL wild-card spot as team set out Monday on seven-game road trip with a second straight win. But big news is that slugger Giancarlo Stanton's groin injury will shelve him the remainder of the regular season -- a huge blow to postseason hopes. This marks fourth time in past six years Stanton has missed a big chunk of season injured. Then again, Miami is now 12-3 without Stanton this season, so hope breathes.

Hotbutton2. DOLPHINS: Miami wins at Giants in preseason opener: The franchise's 51st season launched with a fake-game win Friday, 27-10, in East Rutherford, and fake-game two is this Friday in Dallas. Be happy, Dolfans, sure. But moderation, too, please. I’d remind you the 2007 Cam-powered Dolphins who went 1-15 won their preseason opener, too.

2. OLYMPICS: Swimming, gymnastics lead way for U.S.: Usain Bolt glided to the 100-meters gold, but the story of the Summer Olympics at its midpoint in Rio has been Team USA kicking ass looking good in the medal count, led by gymnast Simone Biles and that really tall swimmer who won his record 23rd career gold medal. Mike Phillips? No, wait. Oh yeah: Michael Phelps!

4. ALEX RODRIGUEZ: Miami’s A-Rod plays last game for Yanks, won't join Marlins: Rodriguez’s last game in pinstripes came Friday. So he is now retired ... unless of course the Marlins signed him because they decided that what their playoff run is lacking was a little circus-y distraction. But that won't happen, by mutual agreement. Too bad. Click on on A-Rod to Fish Made Sense for today's latest column on what might have been. 

5. HEAT: Four marquee visits highlight 2016-17 schedule: Miami's newly released season schedule features a Nov. 10 return by Dwyane Wade in Bulls uniform, one visit by Kevin Durant’s Warriors, and two late-season visits by the champion Cavaliers and their top player, Whatshisname.

6. HURRICANES: UM holds Canesfest as season draws nearer: With school's Sept. 3 football opener vs. Florida A&M now only 18 days away, Canesfest fan event was held Saturday in the basketball arena. Good news: Hurricanes under new coach Mark Richt should be good. Bad news: ACC mates/roadblocks Florida State and Clemson are, like, great

7. TIM TEBOW: Former quarterback plots future in baseball: Tim Tebow, major league outfielder? The former Florida Gators star and NFL QB has informed MLB teams he'll avail himself for a tryout? Alrighty then!

8. LEBRON JAMES: King signs three-year, $100 million extension: Cleveland is smiling, and that supposed possible eventual return to Miami has gotten less likely. James eschewed free agency next summer to sign an extension whose $31 million salary next season will make him NBA's highest-paid player for first time in his career.

9. SOCCER: English Premier Leagues gets underway: The English Premier League season is underway, a soccer league followed more and more in America. Out of the blue Saturday, somewhere in your neighborhood, somebody was arguing about the talent level of Everton's back line.

10. TEAM USA BASKETBALL: No given for an American gold?: U.S. men have had two close calls in Rio, leading some analysts to speculate that the Kevin Durant-led, NBA star-driven Americans might not win gold, after all. "Yeah, right!" laughed all of America in unison.

Missing the HB10 cut: Gloves worn by Muhammad Ali in his 'Fight of the Century' vs. Joe Frazier in 1971 sold at auction for $606,375. If I'm paying that much for two used gloves, each one better be holding a blank check for about $300,000 ..... Heat owner Micky Arison wrote an open letter thanking fans, acknowledging the club's rough summer and pledging renewed dedication to winning. How about an open letter assuring Chris Bosh will be back? How 'bout that!? ..... The NASL Fort Lauderdale Strikers are six days from their debut at new home at Lauderhill's Central Broward Stadium. The Lauderhill Strikers? 

PS1: DOLPHINS 27, @ N.Y. GIANTS 10: CURTAIN LIFTS ON DRESS REHEARSAL WITH TANNEHILL (BARELY) IN SPOTLIGHT: OK, say this. Winning your fake-game debut on the road 27-10 after trailing 10-0 is pretty impressive/encouraging. Miami has not opened a season with a more impressive exhibition-opening win, based on point differential, since 1984. So there's that. But what jumps out about this meaningless result is new coach Adam Gase's weird quarterback rotation. Starter Ryan Tannehill played only the first series (2-for-4 for 8 yards) and did not return. That's brief, especially when Gase was on record saying the first-team offense may need a bit more work. Crazy-early for either a second guess on that or for a "great start!" enthusiasm, but let's say the lack of Tannehill is the  most notable takeaway from fake-game No. 1. By the way, Gase and staff wore gray T-shirts. Must be saving the sideline look for the real season. More dissecting of tonight's weather-delayed fake-game No. 1 is not needed because, well, because it was fake-game No. 1 ..... Original post: Preemptive strike: Yeah, yeah. I know. Preseason games don't matter, especially the first one. So whether the Dolphins beat the Giants in PS1 tonight in East Rutherford or don't, who carese? OK. But! The next month very much does matter for DolnygMiami even if it doesn't count. And how the team looks Friday night very much does matter, too, even if the result does not. For the rut-stuck Dolphins, more than for most teams, August is going to set a tone. It is going to indicate whether naysaying oddsmakers are right and Miami is still around a Fortune .500 team unlikely for the playoffs -- or whether Dolfans can muster the bravery to believe things are (finally) different. League powers have nothing to prove in August, and awful teams can't change perceptions in one preseason. It is teams in that fragile in-between, like Miami, that have the chance to reshape themselves in August, changing the confidence level that comes out of the lockerroom and that is reflected in the way fans feel. This is especially true of franchises whose head-coaching change has broadcast a new direction. And doubly so if that coach, Adam Gase, got hired because his skill set was particularly suited to extract the dormant potential from fifth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. No matter who wins or loses tonight or the final score, how Tannehill and Gase's new offense look and perform will be the most obvious takeaway from this preseason opener. Click on Result Won't Matter, But How Tannehill Looks In New Offense Will for my latest, full column previewing the Dolphins' season launch.

OLYMPIC MOMENTS THAT BRING GREG COTE TO TEARS, AND WHY: I sat and watched hours of the Rio Oympics last night for the first time in these Summer Games, enjoying the continuation of Simone manuelAmerica's big run in swimming and women's gymnastics. I'm a patriot, if not an outright jingoist, and I get emotional cheering for Team USA. I teared up (I'll admit) watching Simone Biles win women's all-around gymnastics gold, watching Aly Raisman's triumphant silver in the same event, watching Simone Manuel (pictured) become the first African-American woman to win individual gold in swimming (100 freestyle) and of course watching G.O.A.T. Michael Phelps win his 22nd gold. And hearing the national anthem at those medal ceremonies! Good stuff. Also enjoy seeing the parents in the stands. As a father who coached and cheered two sons in youth sports, I can almost imagine how it must feel to see your child at their sport's pinnacle, on this stage, and cast the memory back to when they were 6 and just getting started. Such emotion the Olympics can draw forth -- all of it compounded by the fact these athletes work their entire lives and have trained the past four years for these moments, for a minute or even seconds that will determine whether their dream comes true or is shattered. Thank you, Olympians.

HEAT SCHEDULE POINTLESSLY DISSECTED: ESPN, with too much time on its hands, uses a complicated formula (excruciating details here) to rank which NBA teams have the hardest to easiest Heat047schedules, and what that projects to mean. It estimated Brooklyn's most-difficult schedule will translate to 5.32 extra losses, and at the other end Boston's easiest schedule will equate to 3.34 extra losses. The Miami Heat schedule is ranked 12th-most difficult of 30 teams, yet translates to 0.47 extra wins. Awriiight! ESPN's synopsis on the Heat: "Considering the Heat are stuck way down in South Florida, their travel looks pretty favorable. However, Miami has a league-high 33 games against teams that will be more rested." My synopsis on this ESPN ranking: "Sounds like filling space in the dead of the offseason."

SIX DAYS IN NOVEMBER: Circle Nov. 5-10, a Saturday through Thursday, on your calendar. It's almost three months away, but worth anticipating, because here's what we get within that six-days span: Nov. 5 is Pitt at Hurricanes, the appetizer. Nov. 6 is Jets at Dolphins. Nov. 8? Oh, yeah. Presidential election day. Then Nov. 10: Dwyane Wade's return to Miami in a Chicago Bulls uniform. It could be one of the most memorable, enjoyable one-week spans we've seen. But only if my candidate wins, of course.

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June 18, 2016

Will you be rooting for or against LeBron James in Sunday's Game 7? Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes start badly in Omaha, U.S. on collision course with Messi, R.I.P. Prince Be, who's winning/losing Florida sports' Twitter war, your verdict on HR Derby & more


1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ichiro surpasses Rose's hit total, Reshad Jones gets smart, Al Golden speaks, pitchers-in-Home Run Derby poll, Richie Incognito app, Richard Bleier update, Larry David brings back Curb & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat. 

Six-pack: Six selected recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Rooting For LeBron to Make History, the latest, on our treasonous hopes for Sunday's Game 7. Ichiro's Milestone is Huge Whether Rose Agrees Or Not, on Marlins' Ichiro's hits milestone. The Weight of Tradition, off Canes' Omaha-clinching baseball win. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Muhammad Ali set template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on PGA Tour leaving Doral.

CwsCANES OPEN IN OMAHA WITH 5-1 LOSS: [Update: Oy. Canes open with 5-1 loss. Bad start. Backs to the wall immediately] The Florida Gators are waiting. I know, I know. Miami's Hurricanes need to do some winning to get to them, starting tonight at 8 p.m. vs. Arizona (ESPN2) in UM's 2016 College World Series debut. But the overarching theme of this double- Ubbelimination CWS for Miami is that it seeks another shot at its upstate nemesis. Canes and Gators are luckily in opposite brackets in Omaha, meaning they could only meet in a best-of-three series for the championship ... and it feels like a collision course toward that. Top-ranked Florida is the overall favorite at 9-5 betting odds per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, and Miami is tied for second (with Oklahoma State) at 5-1 odds. Florida has been the pebble in Jim Morris' shoe, the clear nemesis. UM is 6-21 vs. the Gators since 2010, and three of those season it was Florida that ousted Miami from the playoffs. That includes last year in Omaha, when both of UM's losses were to Florida. A shot at revenge ahead? Canes must get there first. And that starts tonight.

TREASONOUS? I'LL BE ROOTING FOR LEBRON AND CAVS ON SUNDAY, AND YOU SHOULD, TOO: [Poll is immediately below] Basketball devotees in and around Oakland, California wouldn't agree, of course. Neither would the many folks in South Florida who with martyrs' pride bear the grudge of animus for having been jilted by LeBron James. Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat followers are the Lebron Finalsoutliers here, though. The Flat Earthers. Those two fandoms couldn't be much farther apart geographically, or more separated from the rest of America in the way they see the NBA Finals now hurtling to a magical Game 7 on Sunday night. To most of the rest of us, surely it is has become clear beyond argument or doubt: We'll be cheering for history to be made, for the underdog to beat the impossible odds. We'll be cheering for the best story, the kind where sports plays out like a fairy tale, astonishes us, wrenches emotion. We'll be cheering for LeBron to fulfill his promise and deliver Cleveland its first major-sport championship since the Browns wore the NFL crown in pre-Super Bowl 1964. Miami fans may hate that I'm writing this. It might sound treasonous. But I wish those who think that would choose to appreciate the four years, four straight Finals appearances and two championships LeBron helped give us, rather than hang onto the anger over the admittedly shabby way he left us. I mean, if you aren't a Warriors fan or a card-carrying LeBron Hater, how can you not root for the Cavaliers to do what has never been done even once in the NBA's 70-year history? It's a bona fide feel-good story. So let yourself feel good. No team has been down 3-1 in a Finals and won the championship. Count to 32. It'll take a while. That's how many times a team has trailed 3-1, and those teams are 0-for-32 in overcoming the odds against them. Now all the the Cavs must do to break that forever-spell and make history is beat the reigning champions on their own floor Sunday. Beat the league MVP. Beat the team they lost to in last year's Finals. Beat a team that had the best regular season (73-9) of all time. And beat a team whose record at home including this postseason is 50-4. That's all. That it has never been done, that it would be LeBron doing it, that it would be champion-MVP Stephen Curry on the other end, that it would be title-starved Cleveland celebrating -- this would not be less than one of the greatest stories in the history of sports if the Cavaliers can somehow pull it off. Of course few outside of northeast Ohio probably think it has more than a prayer of actually happening. All the better! The feeling might be different had Golden State not won it all last season, the franchise's first championship since Rick Barry's 1975. Had that drought continued it's hard to say who'd hold the underdog card or be the sentimental favorite on Sunday. But now? Cleveland is that underdog in every connotation of the word, and Golden State suddenly has become the easy-to-dislike favorite -- especially after Thursday night. Curry, who looks like he's 17 and rarely is caught in any controversy, fouled out with 4:22 left in Game 6 and in frustration threw his plastic mouthguard. His wife Ayesha then went all Miko Grimes on Twitter, blasting the officiating with conspiracy-theory Tweets she quickly deleted. Later, Warriors coach Steve Kerr invited a league fine in saying Curry was upset with good reason. "He should be upset," said an angry Kerr. "If they're going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their cuts and then you're going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him out, I don't agree with that." That is the look and sound of a coach, an MVP and a team feeling all of the pressure now. Since leading these Finals 2-0 the Warriors have lost three of the past four games to the Cavs -- and by a combined 59 points. And, in the delicious duel atop this series' marquee, LeBron has plainly outperformed Curry, as if staking his claim to win back the best-player honorarium given by gradual consensus to the smaller man. LeBron has outscored Curry in five of the six games and, fueled by back-to-back 41-point games, is averaging 30.2 points in the Finals to Curry's 23.5. This has been an odd postseason for the NBA, lopsided, with 62.4 percent of all playoff games this year (53 of 85) decided by double-digit margins. That includes all six Finals games, which, defying logic and explanation, have been have been decided by an average margin of 19.7 points. It's been sort of a lousy playoffs, in other words. Until now. Cleveland fighting back to unexpectedly force a winner-take-all Game 7 -- ratcheting the stakes as high as stakes can go -- erases two months of bad postseason. Makes everything better. Sports fans regard Game 7s as a special gift with reason. They are not common. This will be the 19th Finals Game 7 in the 70-year history of the NBA and the first since the Heat went the distance to beat the Spurs in 2013. This will be only the seventh since 1978, an incidence of 18.4 percent since then or fewer than one every five years. There have not been more than three Finals Game 7s in any one decade since the 1960s. So they all seem special, these ultimate games. Like the biggest and the best. Except this one actually could be. If LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers can do what no NBA team ever has -- if they can leave fans in Oakland stunned silent and those in Miami shaking their heads in disbelief -- it will be an historic comeback that makes Sunday a Game 7 for the ages.

Usmnt"U-S-A! U-S-A!" MEN WIN AGAIN IN SOCCER, GET LIONEL MESSI NEXT (PROBABLY): I was juggling NBA Finals Game 6 and U.S.-Ecuador in the Copa America match from Seattle. Team America won 2-1 to become the first team to advance to the semifinals. U.S. will next face the winner of Saturday's Argentina-Venezuela match, which very likely will be Argentina led by the incomparable Lionel Messi. Delicioso!
THE LIST: MAJOR FLORIDA PRO TEAMS ON TWITTER: The state of Florida has nine franchises in the Big Four sports of NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Here's how the teams rank based on most Twitter followers as of this week:

Team                          Followers

Miami Heat                 3.40M  @MiamiHEAT

Orlando Magic            1.35M  @OrlandoMagic

Miami Dolphins           613K  @MiamiDolphins

Tampa Bay Bucs          438K  @TBBuccaneers

Tampa Bay Lightning  398K  @TBLightning

Jacksonville Jaguars    338K  @Jaguars

Tampa Bay Rays          332K  @RaysBaseball

Florida Panthers          229K  @FlaPanthers 

Miami Marlins             201K  @Marlins

Poll result: No pitchers in Home Run Derby, please: Low-interest question + predictable result = bad poll. And this one was. Nevertheless! We asked if you'd like to see pitchers included in MLB's Home Run Derby, and it was 60.6 percent no, 34.5% yes and 4.9% undecided.

R.I.P., ATTRELL CORDES (PRINCE BE): Attrell Cordes, "Prince Be," frontman of the 1990s hip-hop duo P.M. Dawn, passed away yesterday of diabetes and kidney disease at age 46. (Click here for more, from Rolling Stone). P.M. Dawn was successful in the early to mid '90s, helping to pioneer what would become known as "cloud rap," a form of hip-hop that featured an ethereal vibe, dreamlike beats and harmonizing. A favorite P.M. Dawn song of mine below, "Looking Through Patient Eyes," is a good example of the genre. Thank you for your talent and music, Prince Be.

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