October 23, 2015

Dolphins/NFL Week 7 picks and The Interim Kings; plus as Mattingly enters fray, who would you like as Marlins' next manager? Poll. Vote now!; also Chris Bosh reigns, new Elton & more


1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23: IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Best-Heat-player poll, MLB in Cuba, Dolphins, UM hoops hype video, SOPY standings & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

UPSET BIRD DAY / NFL WEEK 7: Had a bit of a dip last week with our picks but weathered it OK at 9-5 Fripixoverall and 6-7-1 against the spread. Our Week 7 got off to a double-barreled start last night as we rightly had Seattle both winning and covering. Click on Week 7 Gems for all of our latest picks and full prediction capsules. There's good news for FisherDolphins fans, who figure to be nervous Sunday but ultimately happy. Also click on The Interim Kings for my latest weekly Friday page NFL notes column. I set the bar for Fins interim coach Dan Campbell by listing the top 10 most successful interim coaches of the modern era (since the 1970 merger). One stands above all the rest. Do you know who he is? Your clue is pictured at left.

MarlinsPICK THE MARLINS' NEXT MANAGER AS MATTINGLY ENTERS THE FRAY: The Marlins will replace interim manager Dan Jennings for the 2016 season and five candidates already have interviewed for the job: Manny Acta, Larry Bowa, Alex Cora, Phil Nevin and Bo Porter. Late yesterday a sixth candidate emerged when the Dodgers and Don Mattingly mutually agreed to part ways. Mattingly is thought to be on Miami's radar, although the Fish might have competition for him from three (or more) other teams. It's early, but we invite you to weigh in on these six potential next managers currently at the forefront. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Bosh dethrones Wade as Heat's best player: We asked as the start of the NBA season nears, and you had it Chris Bosh as the Heat's best player over Dwyane Wade by 44.3 percent to 30.1%. After that it was 11.0% for Goran Dragic and 10.5% for Hassan Whiteside.

NEW ELTON SINGLE: Elton John issues his 33rd studio album in February and the first single from it, called "Looking Up," was released today. Here it is. Nice to hear an older pop star still rocking pretty good.


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

Twitter @gregcote

October 11, 2015

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 59.6%; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) with UM loss, Cats big win, FIU, Gators, baseball, Heat & more


1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 12: IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The odds against Dan Campbell reviving Dolphins but why he might, NFL Week 5 picks, World Series poll, my MLB postseason picks and Rootability Scale, Philbin-firing verdict & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G5: 59.6%: Results are certified in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 59.6 percent overrall satisfaction (the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes) in the wake of Saturday's 29-24 loss at Florida State putting UM's season record at 3-2 1aa1acsmoverall and 0-1 in the ACC. The CSM, in its seventh season, is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, this season as a whole, 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 a.m. today/Monday.

2015 CSM Results

Game 1: 62.3% (following 45-0 victory vs. Bethune-Cookman)

Game 2: 34.2% (following 44-20 victory at Florida Atlantic)

Game 3: 35.9% (following 36-33 OT victory vs. Nebraska)

Game 4: 4.6% (following 34-23 loss at Cincinnati)

Game 5: 59.6% (following 29-24 loss at Florida State)

Next poll: Oct. 17 (following game vs. Virginia Tech)

Interpreting the latest vote: Honestly, I have no idea what's going on here -- a sharp spike in "satisfied" votes despite a big loss at Florida State. Could be a bunch of FSU fans voting . Could be UM fans not displeased to narrowly lose a road game to a ranked opponent. More likely, it's the anti-Al Golden crowd imagining this result moves them one step closer to a coaching change. One would assume a low satisfaction number would serve that purpose much better, but that's just me being logical.

G5: FLORIDA STATE29, HURRICANES 24: NOT TIME FOR AL GOLDEN'S SIGNATURE WIN: Final: UM loses 29-24, despite 405 yards passing and three TDs by Brad Kaaya. Miami could not stop FSU's Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 222 yards and scored three times. UM coach Al Golden now is 0-5 vs. Florida State and still seeking his first victory (0-13) against teams that finish ranked. An upset win tonight, which I had predicted, would have taken a ton of heat off Golden. This will just turn the temperature higher. ..... Fourth Q: UM 4th-down pass batted down inside of a minute left. Canes will lose. ... Cook 23-yard run and FSU has lead back 29-24 after missed 2-point attempt. Cook now with 206 yards rushing. ... UM with its first lead, 24-23, with 10 minutes left on Kaaya's scoring pass to Coley. ... FSU 25-yard FG and 23-17 lead with just under 12 minute left. Tracy Howard costly pass-interference penalty had given FSU 1st-and-goal. ..... Third Q: Another big stop by the UM defense. ... We got a game! UM within 20-17 on Kaaya quick 1-yard flip to Joe Yearby. ... Dumb dumb dumb personal foul against Stacy Coley. UM not good enough to have that. ... Promising defensive stop by UM to open half. ..... Halftime: Miami may be fortunate to only be down 20-10. Key stat: Seminoles lead in rushing yards, 167-2. UM's defense hasn't been able to contain Dalvin Cook. I still don't rule out Miami's chances, but a defensive turnaround is required. ..... Second Q: Noles miss 49-yard FG in final seconds, a big break. ... FSU up 20-10 on short FG nearing 2-minute warning. ... Huge defensive stop for Miami in red zone, get ball back on downs. ... UM within 17-10 on Rashawn Scott 58-yard pass play from Kaaya. ... FSU adds short FG fro 17-3 lead. ..... First Q: FSU 14-3 on Cook's second big TD play, this a 36-yard pass play. UM defense abysmal so far. ... Canes within 7-3 on 30-yard FG but it's a downer. Had 1st-and-goal; red zone offense keeps letting Miami down. ... UM catches a break with FSU player ejected for helmet hit on Brad Kaaya. ... Stacy Coley, partying like it's 2013. ... FSU 7-0 on Dalvin Cook 72-yard run with option pitch. Guess his hamstring's fine. ... OK I'm on record: Canes, 27-24. Let's go see! ..... Original post: It's 3-1 Miami at No. 12-ranked and 4-0 Florida State tonight at 8 in Tally, and the Canes are this victory away from being back up in the polls -- and from coach Al Golden taking a huge step to start winning back support from 1aa1acanesfsuan agitated fan base. FSU is favored by 8 1/2 points but I don't know about that. I'm sensing a not so major upset in Miami's ACC opener. Noles star running back Dalvin Cook (from Miami) is hobbled by a tender left hamstring that likely won't keep him out but likely will limit him. And FSU's offense beyond Cook has not been special; transfer QB Everett Golson has been closer to OK than great. Brad Kaaya and Joe Yearby give UM just as much offensive pop if not more. They key will be the Canes' defense ruining FSU's clean slate of zero turnovers. Miami has much to overcome to make my upset call come true. FSU has won five straight in this traditional series and conference rivalry entering its 60th meeting. Golden is 0-4 vs. the Seminoles and 0-12 with UM vs. teams that finished a season ranked. That makes valid the criticism that Golden hasn't won big games and doesn't yet have a signature win. Tonight will change all that -- or only underline the truth of it. My pick: Hurricanes 27-24.

College Week 6 state FBS games (in chronology; all games Saturday):

FIU 52, Texas-El Paso 12: FIU level at 3-3 with a home bopping leading one to wonder why the UTEP Miners bother fielding a team.

Rice 27, FAU 26: Bad blown-lead home loss for Owls, now 1-4.

South Florida 45, Syracuse 24: Nice win for Bulls, now 2-3, over Power Five conference visitor.

Connecticut 40, UCF 13: Now 0-6. Knights, who were a slim favorite, may be one of worst teams in nation.

No. 11 Florida 21, Missouri 3: Defense-strong Gators rocketed 14 spots up the polls after Swamping No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 last week, and now are 6-0 with today's big road win. UF coach Jim Elwain referenced a somewhat obscure American pop band called The Cyrkle and its 1966 hit "Red Rubber Ball" in challenging his Gators to not be a one-hit wonder. That song was huge, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts; however The Cyrkle actually was a two-hit wonder, as its followup single, "Turn-Down Day," peaked at No. 16. Maybe sneaky McElwain knew that and was counting Missouri as that second big hit?


PANTHERS OPEN 22ND SEASON WITH 7-1 WIN!: Overshadowed though it is on the larger SoFla sports plate by Miami-FSU football tonight, the Florida Panthers opened 1aa1aflacatstheir 22nd NHL season at home vs. the Philly Flyers and won big, 7-1. That's typical Cats luck: Not even the star in town on their Opening Night. Florida has made the Stanley Cup playoffs only four times -- in 1996 '97, 2000 and '12. Doing it this season will be tough in a dense Eastern Conference, but optimism is founded coming off last season's league-leading 25-point standings improvement under first-year coach Gerard Gallant. The future seems bright. The Panthers are ascending, led by young blades like Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, as well as veterans like Jaromir Jagr (who scored twice tonight) and goalie Roberto Luongo. A healthy Luongo could see the Cats in the playoffs. The stakes for this franchise are not just on the ice, of course. Florida was dead-last in NHL attendance last season, averaging only 11,265 fans per game and 66.1 percent capacity in the Sunrise arena. Rumors about the team relocating to Quebec City (or elsewhere) will only amplify if we don't see a playoff-caliber team that begins to spark a rebirth in interest reflected in noticeably bigger crowds.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (OCT. 11): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Monday) 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. Click on Hot Button for today's abbreviated print-only version:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HURRICANES: Golden denied signature win in Tally: Saturday night’s 29-24 Miami loss at Florida State means the Canes under Al Golden are now 0-5 against the Seminoles and 0-13 against teams that finished a season ranked. For UM’s embattled fifth-year coach, the search for the elusive Big Win goes on. But is the time to find it growing short?

2. DOLPHINS: Fins undergo major coaching upheaval during bye: The bye week was goodbye week for coach Joe Philbin and defensive chief Kevin Coyle, both fired and replaced internally. Philbin had 52 games to prove he wasn’t anything special. New interim coach Dan Campbell gets 12 games, starting next Sunday at Tennessee, to prove that he is.

3. PANTHERS: Cats open 22nd season with huge win: The NHL season opened at home for Florida on Saturday with a 7-1 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers. Ageless star Jaromir Jagr (who scored two goals) says he won’t cut his hair until the Cats make the playoffs. Given this club’s track record, I’m picturing Jagr as Troy Polamalu.

4. BASEBALL: Division playoffs on; Miami searches for manager: The NL and AL division series are under way. Aside to Marlins fans: To refresh your memory, the “postseason,” which Miami has experienced twice in 23 seasons and not for 12 years, involves only teams good enough to not be looking for yet another new manager.

5. GATORS: Florida keeps the big hits coming: UF was No. 11 and 5-0 before winning 21-3 at Missouri on Saturday. Coach Jim McElwain said he didn’t want UF to be a one-hit wonder like The Cyrkle with “Red Rubber Ball” in 1966. (Should we tell McElwain they had a second hit? Or that none of his players got the reference?)

6. HEAT: San Antonio here for exhibition Monday: With Oct. 28 NBA season opener drawing near, Miami hosts the Spurs in their third preseason game tonight. Pretend it's a big game, if you must.

7. NASCAR: Johnson eliminated in Chase: Jimmie Johnson is out in his big for a seventh NASCAR season championship. Raise your hand if you're clear on the new Chase format. Yeah, me neither.
8. FANTASY SPORTS: DraftKings, FanDuel under scrutiny: It's obviously gambling. Worse, there are now suggestions of insider trading. Remember when you followed sports for fun and watched games for enjoyment?
9. FIU: Panthers roll up 52 points: FIU evened its record at 3-3 with a 52-12 rout of Texas-El Paso. Isn't that reason enough for UTEP to re-think fielding a football team?
10. GOLF: U.S. wins Presidents Cup: Phil Mickelson played the wrong ball and cost the U.S. team a two-hole penalty in the Presidents Cup, but the U.S. overcame the blunder and won it anyway Sunday. Which would be a big deal if I knew or cared about the Presidents Cup.
Missing the cut: WNBA Finals ... Brazil wins pro beach volleyball in Fort Lauderdale ... Sepp Blatter's 90-day suspension ... Willis McGahee leads UM's latest Hall of Fame class.

THE HOT LIST: DOLPHIN CENTERS OF ATTENTION: Current Dolphin Mike Pouncey joined an exclusive list last week. Players in franchise history who have started at least 50 regular-season games at the center position:

Center                    Starts    Years

Tim Ruddy                140      1994-03

Jim Langer               109      1970-79

Dwight Stephenson     87       1980-87

Jeff Uhlenhake          59       1989-93

Tom Goode               55       1966-69

Mike Pouncey            50       2011-current

Poll result: "Let's Go Cubs!": We are all Cubs, apparently. In the previous blogpost I asked who you're rooting for to win the World Series among the final eight teams, and the Chicago Cubs had 46.9 percent, with no other team closer than 10.5%.

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

Twitter @gregcote

September 30, 2015

Set the bar on Heat expectations. Poll. Vote now!; plus Philbin firing/Heat title odds, 'Marlins Man' takes on anti-Golden air force, NFL Pix 'n Greg's Lobos Fantasy results, updated SOPY rankings; also, hear Pope Francis' new song (seriously) & more


1) IT IS WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30: Welcome back to the Herald our new Heat and NBA insider, Ethan Skolnick. 2) Season over for Giancarlo Stanton. No surprise, and a smart call. 3) The latest five members of the Dolphins' all-time team announced by the club: Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Mandich and Dan Marino. How the hell did Marino get in there!?! 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins collapse vs. Buffalo with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, Anti-Golden flyovers verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Philbin now most likely to be fired: New Bovada odds today have Dolphins coach Joe Philbin the likeliest NFL coach to be fired during the season at 9-4 odds. (Next hottest seats belong to Lions' Jim Caldwell 4-1, Colts' Chuck Pagano 7-1 and Browns' Mike Pettine 15-2). I doubt Philbin keeps his job after this year but doubt he'll be fired in-season.

Wade leads Heat in 13th year: Click The Great Unknown for my latest column off Heat media day as team opens preseason camp at FAU. The unknown: Miami relying on starting five that hasn't been on court together at all. What you can count on? Dwyane Wade. Again. 

SETTING THE BAR ON HEAT EXPECTATIONS: The Heat has accrued such trust as a franchise that we accept last season's non-playoff year as an aberration that won't be repeated. We assume the playoffs. We assume
1aa1aheat 1aa1adragicwadewinning -- it's just a matter of how much. We assume the postseason -- it's just a matter of how far. So: How far? What are your thoughts for the Heat as Miami opens training camp today at FAU? For me, an NBA title is too much to expect but a place in the Eastern finals (presumably vs . LeBron's Cavaliers) might not be. For me that's the high side, the optimum that's in the realm of realistic. A top-four seed? Realistic. Then again I've also read and heard the Heat forecast as a likelier lower East seed, maybe sixth or seventh. I'm curious what your realistic expectations are at this point -- not what you hope, but what you'd bet is most probably -- with a starting lineup of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic (pictured), Chris Bosh and Luol Deng and center Hassan Whiteside, plus added depth. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

Heat, NBA championship odds: Via Bovada today, Cleveland is updated NBA title favorite at 11-4 odds, followed by San Antonio at 3-1 and Golden State at 5-1. Miami and Chicago are tied for second in the East and seventh overall at 20-1.

'MARLINS MAN' (YEAH, THAT GUY) COMING TO AL GOLDEN'S DEFENSE: 'Marlins Man' Laurence Leavy 1aa1amarlinsman(pictured), the Fort Lauderdale lawyer who seems to spend a lot more time being a sports fan than being a lawyer, is renting a plane to fly a pro-Al Golden banner over the Miami Hurricanes' next home game Oct. 17 vs. Virginia Tech. The banner is to read, "Keep Golden -- He's Class, Not Trash." Leavy is fed up with the anti-Golden flyovers haunting the skies above UM games and wanted to counter that air force with one of his own. Interesting. AIR WARS!

NFL PIX 'N GREG'S LOBOS FANTASY: WEEK 3: 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 1aa1afripix 1aa1alobosfantasy teams. Pix: I am man, hear me roar!: Great bounce-back week for us at 13-3 overall and 10-6 against the spread. Nailed outright upset wins by Bills and Eagles and had Raiders-plus-points. Greg's Lobos / family league: Big loss: The original Lobos got buried 176-133 to fall to 1-2. Had Adrian Peterson, Seahawks defense and Odell Beckham all score in the 20s, but my opponent got 90 combined from A.J. Green and Steve Smith. Greg's Lobos / radio-show league: Yes! Off the schneid!: The new Lobos crushed Papi, 164-59.3, making us 1-2. Got a big 42.3 points from game MVL (Most Valuable Lobo) Devonta Freeman. I decided to start him 10 minutes before kickoff. I choose to call that great coaching.

SOPY: FIU'S McGOUGH MAINTAINS NO. 1 AS BYES KICK IN: The fourth season of our blog's SOPY 1aa1asopyrankings -- State Offensive Player of the Year -- find FIU quarterback Alex McGough maintaining his lead after Week 4. 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. Because they are cumulative, players on a bye week (starting this past week) take a temporary hit that evens out over the course of season. The 2015 SOPY Top 10 entering Week 5:

2015 SOPY TOP 10 / WEEK 4

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                W4        Season

1 (1)          Alex McGough, FIU-qb         150.5     687

2 (6)         Will Grier, Florida-qb            153.5     523.5 

3 (2)          Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb             BYE      522

4 (3)          Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb    BYE     445

5 (4)          Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb          BYE     434.5

6 (7)          Greg Howell, FAU-rb             82        420

7 (8t)        Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             99        417

8 (5)          Quinton Flowers, SoFla-qb  BYE     391

9 (--)         Thomas Owens, FIU-wr         50       354

10 (--)       Kelvin Taylor, Florida-rb       110      336

Bubble: Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb, 327. Other team leader: Tre'Quan Smith, UCF-wr, 245. Season's best week: Cook, FSU-rb, 284 (Wk2). Note: Miami, FSU and South Florida 3 games each; all others 4.

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

1aa1afrancismusicHEAR POPE FRANCIS' NEW SINGLE. NO, SERIOUSLY: Fresh off his successful tour of the U.S., Pope Francis plans to release a musical album called Wake Up! (pictured) on Nov. 27. (This is a blog. I couldn't say it if it weren't true?) The album features the pontiff's speeches set to orchestral rock and pop music as well as to Gregorian chants, and proceeds will benefit a support fund for refugees. The first released single is called "Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!" (The pope loves exclamation points!). Click HERE for a Rolling Stone piece on the album, and to hear the single, a 5 minute 12 second opus in which the Pope is not heard until the 2:00 mark. And, yes ... yes it is about as strange as you might imagine. Francis will support the album with a winter tour featuring opening act Miley Cyrus. OK I made up that last part.

Join us on Twitter @gregcote and revisit the blog frequently because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

July 24, 2015

Who's Next: Stanton or Tannehill? New poll. Vote now!; plus Grantland on Dolphins, Al Golden's Kumbaya Manifesto, Kaaya and ex-Cane honored, Cosby or O.J?, Marino-Wade/Riley-Shula verdicts, U.S. men's shame, 'Weighing The Fish' & more


1aa1ariquna1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 25. Nice honors for a Hurricane and ex-Cane: Brad Kaaya is one of 30 named to preseason Manning Award watch list for nation's top college QB. And Riquna Williams (of Tulsa Shock, pictured) becomes first Cane ever named to WNBA All-Star Game. 2) Dolphins announced undrafted rookie offensive tackle Mickey Baucus out of Arizona will retire. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miami's Greatest polls: Marino vs. Wade and Riley vs. Shula, experts analyze/rate Tannehill, Golden speaks, MLS-in-Miami enthusiasm verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

"Martin Van Buren died 153 years ago yesterday. Wasn't a great U.S. president, but is credited with popularizing the word OK, also spelled O.K. or okay."  --Greg Cote

1aa1adandonPoll results: Shula beats Riley, Marino edges Wade: In the ultimate Miami Greatness heavyweight bouts, we asked who has had the greater career in South Florida, and the two Dolphins stalwarts withstood the two Heat challengers. Dan Marino edged Dwyane Wade for greatest Miami athlete by 52.7 percent to 47.3%, while Don Shula beat Pat Riley more easily for best coach/executive, 59.9% to 40.1%. Wade and Riley led early in voting but could not sustain that momentum.

WHO'S NEXT: STANTON OR TANNEHILL: In my latest column I propose that Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton and Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill stand out among current Miami pro athletes 1aa1adolmarlwith the best chance to someday reach the Dan Marino/Dwyane Wade echelon of all-time great and beloved South Florida sports stars. No that they will; that they have a shot. Click on Race For The Mountaintop to read the full column. Stanton can do it with sheer home-run power and awesome individual skills. Tannehill's path is to end a four-decades-plus drought and deliver to Dolfans another Super Bowl championship. Am curious which of these two rising stars you think -- 10 years from now -- has a better chance to be judged in that Marino/Wade company. You'll note the poll includes no option for "Neither" or "Somebody else," because we're simply wondering which of these two leading candidates has the better chance. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Advice for Marlins, Dolphins: Click on Right Time To Be Smart Sellers for this week's earlier column on the Marlins at the trade deadline, and on Get The Missing Piece for our call for the Dolphins to sign free agent guard Evan Mathis.

THREE DOLPHINS MAKE GRANTLAND'S TOP 100 PLAYERS: ESPN's respected Grantland offshoot names its Top 100 current NFL players, and Dolphins on it are DT Ndamukong Suh (26th), CB Brent Grimes (67th) and DE Cam Wake (86th). Thought Suh might be a bit higher. In the rest of the AFC East: the three Patriots to make it are QB Tom Brady (4th), TE Rob Gronkowski (14th) and S Devin McCourty (46th). The three Jets are CB Darrelle Revis (12th), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (38th) and DL Sheldon Richardson (71st). Four Bills make it: DT Marcell Dareus (39th), DLs Kyle Williams (74th) and Mario Williams (85th) and RB LeSean McCoy (90th). Top five overall are Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, J.J. Watt, Brady and Peyton Manning.

ON AL GOLDEN's 'KUMBAYA MANIFESTO': Miami Hurricanes football, around the corner now, is coming off a 6-7 season, lost seven top players to the NFL Draft and is forecast for another six-win-type season 1aa1aalgoldenbased on Vegas over/unders. Reasons for encouragement? Quarterback Brad Kaaya, for one. Also, a
wide-open (read: winnable) ACC Coastal Division, and an experienced defense despite the attrition. I think UM could be a pleasant surprise. Coach Al Golden's preseason mantra interests me, though. He's all about the intangibles, embodied by his saying, "We have one heartbeat now." I coin the phrase "Kumbaya Manifesto" because Golden boasts of a "very team-oriented group," mentions "a lot of trust" and "a bond." Stresses stuff like "focus" and "accountability." (Many may know that Kumbaya is an old spiritual song that has come to stand, somewhat cynically, for a 
naively optimistic view of a situation or of human nature). Golden, pictured at 17, showed a predilection for touchy/feely in his high-school yearbook quote: "Each dream in your heart lies within reach if you just believe in yourself." There have been implications that last year's 6-7 Canes disappointment was due at least partly to a team not believing in itself, a team suffering from selfishness and a lack of leadership -- and Golden has sought to make clear that such cancers have been eradicated. We'll see how important that is. A tight lockerroom and a team singing Kumbaya in harmony is good. Adequately replacing Duke Johnson, Phillip Dorsett and Denzel Perryman is even better.


FALL FROM GRACE POLL: COSBY OR O.J?: We were debating this on the radio show Tuesday, with fair argument on either side. Has celebrated football star O.J. Simpson or beloved actor Bill Cosby had the bigger, more notorious fall from grace? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

1aa1ajkU.S. MEN EMBARRASS AMERICA: Just a couple of weeks after Americans celebrated the U.S. triumph in the
Women's World Cup, the U.S. men's team shamed itself and American soccer fans Wednesday night in a 2-1 Gold Cup semifinal loss to underdog Jamaica. The squad of coach Jurgen Klinsmann, pictured, had the home field advantage (game was in Atlanta), a near flawless history vs. the "Reggae Boyz" and allegedly the better team -- all for naught. U.S. men had slipped to No. 34 in the FIFA World Ranking even before last night. The notion they might duplicate the women's international success anytime soon seems ludicrous today, alas. (Mexico beat Panama in the other Gold Cup semi, thanks to an outrageous Call of God penalty-kick gift).

WEIGHING THE FISH (90 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this 1aa1afishweighyear we debuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games (or so) cumulative ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Ten qualify for our latest ranking. WTF factors six offensive categories, serving as an ongoing de facto team MVP race -- a race drawn somewhat closer by the Stanton and Gordon injuries. The numbers below might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Here's the WTF after 90 games (actually 95 at 40-55; oops yet again):

Rank Player                   WTF#  @80

1  Giancarlo Stanton      362.5    1

2  Dee Gordon                324.7    2

3  Adeiny Hechevarria   279.6   3

4  Christian Yelich        228.2   6

5  Jacob Realmuto         222.1    7

6  Martin Prado              216.1   5

7  Marcell Ozuna            215.6   4

8  Justin Bour                 191.1   8

9  Ichiro Suzuki              157.5   9

10  Michael Morse          112.4   10

Note: Season WTFs leader-count is now Stanton 6, Gordon 2.

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May 16, 2015

Garo Yepremian, R.I.P.; plus do we really care if South Florida hosts a Super Bowl? (poll); also LeBatard ranked No. 11, Canes football news, Brady steals Ted Wells' mustache, LeBron waltzes on, Cote on $2 bill, B.B. King & more


1aa1abbking1) It is SATURDAY, MAY 16. Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King (pictured) has died at age 89. R.I.P. Scroll down for video at end of this blogpost. 2) Random Evidence, our Sunday notes column, has this week off. However our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 will be here as usual on Sunday. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Evolving newspapers, John Wall's gang signs, LeBatard radio show preps for TV, Dee Train debut, Kiper's 2016 Big Board, assimilating bears & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

LeBatard ranked 11th: Miami-based TV and radio personality Dan LeBatard is No. 11 on TheBigLead.com's new list of 25 most powerful people in sports media. (List here). Bill Simmons, newly fired by ESPN, tops the list. Keith Olbermann, we presume, is ready to sue somebody for not being on it. Also omitted: Greg Cote, despite there supposedly being a move to put Cote's face on the $2 bill.

Hurricanes football schedule news: UM announced starting time or TV info for four of its games. Canes will host Bethune-Cookman Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. on ESPN3. On Sept. 19 UM will host Nebraska at 3:30 p.m. on either ABC or ESPN. Miami's game at Cincinnati will be in prime time at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. And the Canes' regular-season finale at Pittsburgh will air on ABC or ESPN, time to be determined.

Dee Train: A new blog feature on Marlins' Dee Gordon as he bids to become baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. We'll do this as long as his average remains at .385 or higher. Updated season: .433 (61-for-141). Last game: 3-for-5 vs. ATL last night. Next: Tonight vs. ATL.

GARO YEPREMIAN, R.I.P.: Dolphins great Garo Yepremian passed away last night from brain cancer after fighting the disease for more than a year. Click here for a 2014 column I wrote on Garo's health struggle, and click on Garo: The One And Only for my latest column on his death that went online late last night. Here is the column in its entirety:

1aa1agaro    So few names in the Miami Dolphins’ 50-year history have elevated above the playing field into franchise folklore. So few players could be described with only a first name, a single word, and that would be plenty.


    With greatness and whimsy, he was a part of the team’s biggest days.

    Garabed Sarkis Yepremian, the little kicker from Cyprus, died Friday evening at age 70 after battling adrenal cancer that had led to a brain tumor. His wife Maritza said he passed away at a hospital in Media, Pa., near their Philadelphia home.

    I had written about the fight of his life last summer.
    His latest round of chemotherapy had just ended.
    “It’s a gorgeous day,” he said.
    Yepremian, a Dolphin from 1970 through 1978, always will be most known for his faux pas in the 1972 Perfect Season Super Bowl – a lapse remembered with a smile, because Miami won.
     “I honestly thought my life was over,” he told me.
     It happened on Jan. 14, 1973. A field-goal attempt was botched, and Yepremian tried to throw a pass that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by the Washington Redskins. Only because Miami won 14-7 did Garo escape the savagery of being labeled a national goat.
     He dealt with his unique place in history with wonderful humor.
     As recently as January, alluding to the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” controversy, Yepremian Tweeted, “Forty-two years later I realize I should have deflated the ball to get a better grip on it.”
     His one most famous, most infamous moment always overshadowed a career that stood on its own even as his ill-fated “pass” was what Johnny Carson delighted to skewer in late-night monologues.
     Yepremian was named to Miami’s Silver Anniversary team encompassing the club’s first 25 seasons. He was named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.
     He won so many games beyond the one famous one he almost lost.
     He stood barely 5-8 but authored so many of the biggest moments in club history, including the field goal on Christmas Day 1971 in Kansas City that ended “The Longest Game” and gave Miami its first playoff victory in franchise history.
     I was a kid then. I remember my father and I, watching in our living room, pogoing up and down and hugging after Garo’s kick sailed true. (The high-five hadn’t been invented yet).<
     Four decades later one of the most iconic names in Miami Dolphins history has lapsed into memory. But you still only need a single word to describe him:

DO WE REALLY CARE IF SOUTH FLORIDA HOSTS A SUPER BOWL?: So Miami and and renovated 1aa1abowlsuperDolphins stadium are bidding to host the 2019 and 2020 Super Bowls, the next two available, and should learn at next week's league meetings in San Fran if they made the first cut. Do we care? I have always had a theory on that -- one I admit could be totally off-line with how local fans and residents feel. (Hence, this poll). I think we only care about a Super Bowl if the Dolphins are playing in it. I don't think Miami hosting two other teams in an SB is particularly thrilling for anyone outside of direct beneficiaries -- tourism industry, hotels, restaurants and so forth. Yes, Dolphins (and stadium) owner Stephen Ross cares intensely. But do you? What is your level of excitement or interest in South Florida being named host of one of the next available Super Bowls? Take a dip in our poll and say why.


  This whole thing is getting strange. A bit juvenile. Quick chronology: Patriots accused of under-inflating footballs. NFL's independent Wells Report finds Pats and QB Tom Brady guilty. League suspends Brady four games. Criticism ensues that punishment is either too lenient or too harsh. Ted Wells goes on offensive to angrily defend his integrity and findings. Patriots go on offensive, lawyering up and appealing punishment. Now, Brady cultivates Wells-ian mustache apparently to publicly mock his nemesis. Updates here as warranted.

LEBRON WALTZES INTO NBA (CONFERENCE) FINALS: Cleveland awaits tonight's Atlanta-Washington 1aa1ajameslwinner in the Eastern finals, meaning LeBron James all but has a free pass into the NBA Finals. Hawks or Wizards would be large underdogs, although it does bear noting that ATL would have home-court advantage and was 3-1 vs. Cavs this season. Out West, Golden State tries to eliminate Memphis tonight and Clippers-Rockets face a Game 7 on Sunday. Still looking like a LeBron-Steph Curry Finals. By the way, good seats still available on my Miamians For LeBron bandwagon. All aboarrrd!

1aa1ameontwoMOVEMENT: COTE ON $2 BILL: You have heard by now of the "Women on 20s" movement, which is pushing to replace Andrew Jackson with Civil War-era abolitionist Harriet Tubman as the face of the $20 bill. Now, though as yet much less-known, there is a growing movement, dubbed "Cote On Two," to replace Thomas Jefferson on the $2 bill with Miami Herald sports columnist/blogger Greg Cote (pictured right). Updates as warranted.

LUCILLE WEEPS: B.B. KING (1925-2015):

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April 23, 2015

Saving Redmond. Why Loria should surprise us with rare show of patience; plus Jose Fernandez becomes U.S. citizen, why Dolphins' schedule lays out favorably, Fins land Jennings; also Bob Dylan's strange concert (a review) & more


It's Radio Thursday: I'm in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Have a new 'Back In My Day' in hand. Ears (and eyes) welcome. 

1aa1aluke1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 23. Miami icon Luther "Luke" Campbell has a new new book out that is available now. Cover is pictured; click on photo to enlarge image. 2) Countdown: 7 days 'til the NFL Draft. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins best non-division home game poll, Mike Redmond's hot seat, Heat draft projection, our most popular Tweets & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1ajosefJOSE FERNANDEZ BECOMING U.S. CITIZEN: The Marlins young ace pitcher will become a U.S. citizen Friday morning during a U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services ceremony in Kendall. The Cuban native will be the keynote speaker during an event that will naturalize 140 South Floridians. Fernandez came to the U.S.from Santa Clara, Cuba in 2008.

Saving Mike Redmond: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has seldom been patient. He needs to be now, with manager Mike Redmond and this Marlins season. Last night's 6-1 win in Philly helps. Click on Saving Red for my latest column, now online and in today's inky pulp editions.  

1aa1agregjDolphins sign WR Jennings: Dolphins sign longtime Packers-then-Vikings receiver Greg Jennings, 31. Jennings (pictured) made the Pro Bowl in 2010-11; Aaron Rodgers will do that for a guy. Jennings proved last season he can still be productive. He still must prove he still can be star and is not in decline. The signing probably means Fins won't spend No. 1 draft pick on a wideout. Cornerback and running back rise in draft possibility, although Miami shouldn't count on RB Todd Gurley still being there at 14th overall.

Perriman to Fins?: Todd McShay's latest mock draft for ESPN has Miami selecting UCF receiver Breshad Perriman 14th overall in the upcoming NFL Draft. Aside to Todd: They probably would have, at least before the Jennings signing, except that Perriman will likely be gone before then.

WHY DOLPHINS SEASON LAYS OUT FAVORABLY, MOST ANTICIPATED GAMES RANKED 1 THROUGH 16: The Dolphins' 50th-season schedule lays out favorably for the four words I've written at right. The 1aa1adol15skedfirst six games of the regular season look eminently winnable. Not until at-Patriots in

Game 7 will Miami be a clear underdog, or maybe even an underdog at all. With that soft early schedule and a home-loaded late schedule, the Dolphins season appears to be aligned pretty favorably. Here is my order on the most to least interesting games on this Dolphins schedule; your order may be different. By the way, tap brakes on the big deal being made over Miami opening with two straight road games. This will be the 12th time for that, and the third time just since 2010. The Anticipation Meter:

Rank    Game                     Synopsis

  1        Vs  Patriots (G16)  Tom Brady visits to end season with playoffs (maybe) at stake.

  2        Vs  Bills (G3)         Home opener, division game, Rex Ryan, Richie Incognito. What's not to like?

  3        Vs  Cowboys (G10) Dallas rarely visits, and it's still America's Team.

  4        Vs  Jets (G4)          Jolly good: Fins in London, still special. Jolly bad: Costs Dolfans home game.

  5        @ Redskins (G1)    Skins not real interesting beyond RG3 drama, but it is the season opener.

  6        Vs  Colts (G15)      Andrew Luck elevates this game.

  7        @ Patriots (G7)      Biggest division rival, and only time on Monday night stage.

  8        Vs Giants (G13)     Big-drawing foe on Thursday night stage.

  9        Vs  Ravens (G12)   Joe Flacco will be a tough hurdle once again.

10        @Jets (G11)           Should have an idea of playoff chances by now.

11        @ Bills (G8)           Bringing us to the midseason break.

12        @ Eagles (G9)        Odds Tim Tebow is Birds' starting QB? 1 in 138.

13        Vs Texans (G6)      J.J. Watt but an otherwise low-glamour opponent.

14        @ Chargers (G14)   Big test vs. (presumably, still) Philip Rivers. 

15        @ Titans (G5)         Nashville known for music, not NFL football.

16        @ Jaguars (G2)      The good news: Should give Fins solid shot at a 2-0 start.

Poll result: Cowboys sexiest non-division Fins home game: You had it 60.6 percent for Dallas, 21.2% Indianapolis, 11.0% N.Y. Giants, 3.8% Baltimore and 3.4% Houston.

BOB DYLAN: THE CURSE OF THE CATALOGUE: I think the first concert I ever saw as a young adult may have been KISS, in its sonic, full-makeup prime, at the old Hollywood Sportatorium. Hundreds of shows later across all genres, my most recent concert seen was Bob Dylan, last night, at Broward Center for the 1aa1adylanPerforming Arts. What a long, strange trip it's been for this music lover. And what a bizarre performance by Dylan last night -- one of the oddest ones I have seen. Dylan, at 72, performs for himself more than for his audience. I knew that going in, but not to this extent. He performs hardly any of his hits or other beloved, important songs his fans might expect and want to hear. He did do a couple, but his reworkings of "Blowin' In the Wind" and "Tangled Up in Blue," made them almost unrecognizable, nearly different songs. He played a few others I knew and liked ("Things Have Changed," "Workingman's Blues," "Spirit On the Water," "Love Sick"), but most I did not. Dylan also seems shy on stage, reclusive. He does not speak to the audience; he did not introduce his five-piece band. Some of the songs Dylan does not do in concert include "Rainy Day Women," "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "It Ain't Me Babe," "Like A Rolling Stone," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "I Want You," "Hurricane," "Lay Lady Lay," "Positively 4th Street" and "Just Like a Woman." The sold-out audience called him out for an encore that he ended with a sad song called "Stay With Me," and that seemed fitting. His entire performance seems to say, "I am not a trained monkey up here spitting out hits. Indulge me. Stay with me." Can a fan both respect that and be disappointed? I think so. Dylan remains an enduring, important, iconic figure to many. I just wish he could find a better balance between the performance that pleases him and the one that would delight his fans. Seeing Dylan in concert, you are very much aware you are seeing a legendary, historic performer. But not in full, just glimpses.

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April 18, 2015

NBA playoffs begin! Preview, picks and who-wins poll. Vote now!; plus Record Store Day, Dolphins preseason details, debut of new Marlins blog feature 'Weighing The Fish,' Fins cast as Star Wars 'Greedos,' Mayweather-Pacquiao & more


1aa1arecordsstoreday1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 18. Today is national Record Store Day, championing the cause and comeback of vinyl and the indie shops that are its main purveyors. Vinyl sales last year were the highest in 20 years, and growing. Find an indie store near you and explore! 2)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper draft picks for Dolphins/Hurricanes, rooting-for-LeBron poll, Aaron Hernandez verdict, Back in My Day audio, LeBatard vs.Cain Velasquez & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adolphwarsDolphins preseason details: Club announced specific dates and kickoff times today. The schedule: Aug. 13 at Chicago 8 p.m.; Aug. 22 at Carolina 7 p.m.; Aug. 29 vs. Atlanta 7 p.m.; and Sept. 3 vs. Tampa Bay 7 p.m. Pictured right, the Dolphins logo and helmet reimagined with the Rodia Greedos character from Stars Wars by by Mexican artist John Raya. Click on pic for enlarged image.

Mayweather-Pacquiao and Miami: Watch this video and hear Floyd Mayweather confirm that his upcoming May 2 megafight vs. Manny Pacquiao would never have happened if the two hadn't run into each other at a Heat game in Miami on Jan. 27. (Which pretty much makes that the best thing to come of this Heat season).

Click on Awful Decisions And 1.5 Miles for my latest column, on the Aaron Hernandez verdict.

1aa1anbaposNBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW, PICKS FOR ALL EIGHT SERIES: Miami is unqualified for the first time since 2008 and yet the NBA has the temerity to go on with its postseason. Four series begin today and the other four Sunday. Our first-round capsules:


1-Atlanta vs. 8-Brooklyn:
Game 1 Sunday 5:30 p.m. Hawks 12-1 title odds via Bovada, Nets 250-1. ESPN experts panel likes Hawks, 18-0. Me: Al Horford, Jeff Teague and "faceless" ATL won't be tested much in this round. Pick: Hawks in 5 games.

2-Cleveland vs. 7-Boston:
Game 1 Sunday 3 p.m. Cavaliers 11-5 for title, Celtics 150-1. ESPN panel picks Cavs, 18-0. Me: LeBron James and company have way too much firepower for the popgun Celtics. Pick: Cavaliers in 4.

3-Chicago vs. 6-Milwaukee:
Game 1 today/Saturday 7 p.m. Bulls 14-1 for title, Bucks 250-1. ESPN panel likes Bulls, 18-0. Me: Mediocre Milwaukee won't stay in this if Derrick Rose can manage his first healthy playoffs since 2011. Pick: Bulls in 5.

4-Toronto vs. 5-Washington:
Game 1 today/Saturday 12:30 p.m. Raptors 50-1 for title, Wizards 75-1. ESPN panel likes Raptors, 13-5. Me: See a Longshot Bowl upset by D.C. gang led by guards John Wall, Bradley Beal. Pick: Wizards in 7.


1aa1ags1-Golden State vs. 8-New Orleans: Game 1 today/Saturday 3:30 p.m. Warriors 2-1 for title, Pelicans 150-1. Me: Steph Curry vs. Anthony Davis fills a marquee pretty good. But did I mention GS is 39-2 at home? Pick: Warriors in 5.

1aa1ahou2-Houston vs. 7-Dallas: Game 1 today/Saturday 9:30 p.m. Rockets 16-1 for title, Mavericks 40-1. ESPN panel likes Rockets, 16-3. Me: A motivated James Harden and a healthy Dwight Harden will be too much for Mavs. Pick: Rockets in 6.

1aa1alac3-L.A. Clippers vs. 6-San Antonio: Game 1 Sunday 10:30 p.m. Spurs 15-4 for title, Clippers 16-1. ESPN panel likes Spurs, 16-3. Me: Feeling an upset by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan. Pick: Clippers in 7.

1aa1amem4-Portland vs. 5-Memphis: Game 1 Sunday 8 p.m. Grizzlies 28-1 for title, TrailBlazers 50-1. ESPN panel likes Grizzlies, 19-0. Me: Yes on The Griz but Portland is being underestimated and will push this series hard. Pick: Grizzles in 6.   

POLL: WHICH TEAM IS YOUR PICK TO BE NBA CHAMP?: Las Vegas sets odds to reflect its estimation of public perception and then moves the line if needed to reflect actual betting trends. Based on that there is no clear favorite in the NBA playoffs that 1aa1acurryjamesstart today/Saturday -- but there are three teams clearly out front. Cleveland and Golden State, generally seen as co-favorites, and San Antonio, are those teams. The fourth-best odds show a sharp drop to Atlanta and Chicago. So Mr. Vegas is feeling a LeBron James vs. Steph Curry final but also showing much respect for the playoff-tested oldies of Tim Duncan. Curry and James are pictured. Not much love for the beast-of-the-East Hawks, who could attract lots of wagering action as the under-regarded, disrespected 'dog. Who would you anoint as the favorite as the playoffs begin? Not who you hope wins but who'd bet actually will. In the poll I list the seven teams with the best odds, plus an "other" category covering the longshots. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Very little rooting interest for you in Miami, LeBron: With the Heat out of it, we asked if you would now be rooting for LeBron James to win the NBA title, and it was 58.0 percent "no" vs. only 15.2% "yes. The other 26.8% said they no longer care who wins.

NEW BLOG FEATURE: WEIGHING THE FISH (10 GAMES): We throw the occasional bell 'n whistle into 1aa1adeegordon
1aa1afishweighthe blog, and today we debut a new feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- will be a once-every-10-games ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Nine qualify for our first ranking. WTF is cumulative and factors six offensive categories. It serves as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best season or, in this case, who's off to the best start and who most needs to pick it up. Early leader Dee Gordon is pictured. Weighing The Fish after 10 games (at 3-7):

Player                          WTF#

Dee Gordon                   86.8

Giancarlo Stanton         74.8

Michael Morse              60.5

Adeiny Hechevarria     57.8

Martin Prado                 54.6

Christian Yelich           52.8

Ichiro Suzuki                44.4

Marcell Ozuna              39.7

Jarrod Saltalamacchia  34.9

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April 03, 2015

It's Final Four Saturday! But should NCAA Tournament change its format? Poll. Vote now!; plus unlucky Canes, Cuban baseball, Josh Freeman, Heat/Panthers playoff update, John Wolin & more


1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 4. I'm down on Key Biscayne today to columnize off Serena Williams' presumed crushing of her hopeless opponent in the Miami Open women's final. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Top 20 athletes poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Canes/NIT. dead Cats, Ricky Williams sings, Marlins, Dolphins cheerleaders & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1ajoshfExcavation: Dolphins exhume human remains of quarterback Josh Freeman's career. If he surprises everybody, he might be Miami's third-string QB. If he's the Josh Freeman of the past couple of years, he'll quietly disappear by August. This signing is a low risk hit-or-miss by GM Dennis Hickey, who, while with Tampa Bay, had a big paw in the Bucs dubiously drafting Freeman in first round (17th overall) in 2009.

Cuban baseball and MLB: ESPN's Outside The Lines has a topic premiering on Sunday (9 a.m.) that may be of special interest in Miami. "Cuba On Deck?" explores the increased footprint of Cuban players in MLB and how continued defections along with warming U.S. relations will only increase their number. Click here for a 1-minute video preview.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat hanging on, Cats about done. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 8th place at 34-41 (L2), 1 game from 7th, 1/2 game ahead of 9th with 7 games left (next tonight at Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 70.3% (down 0.3) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 36-42 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 6 from 8th with 4 games left (next tonight vs. Tampa Bay). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.2% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

FINAL FOUR SATURDAY, UNLUCKY CANES FALL IN N.I.T.; TIME FOR CHANGE IN NCAA POSTSEASON?: Finally, the Final Four! Tonight it's 7-Michigan State vs. 1-Duke and 1-Wisconsin vs. 1-Kentucky, and it sure feels like the Duke-Kentucky finale everybody expects. Meanwhile, three thoughts watching Miami's men's basketball team fall 66-64 to Stanford in overtime Thursday for the NIT championship. 1) 1aa1acanesnitNobody, ever again, question whether Michael Irvin's blood runs the greenest and orange-est of any alum ever. Man he was into it. 2) Canes got unlucky, big time. First having to play without injured center Tonye Jekiri and point guard Angel Rodriguez, two big losses. And also that big, dubious call against UM with 3.4 seconds left. I thought Miami was the better team, best in the NIT. Which brings us to ... 3) The NCAA should consider retooling its hoops postseason format so that the NCAA Tournament invites the 64 best teams in the country, period, without automatic bids for small-conference winners. Let the Grade 2 and 3 conferences have their own tournament or meld into the NIT. Hampton at 16-17 gets in the Big Tournament but Miami does not? Anybody outside of Hampton think that makes much sense? With my suggested format there still would be Cinderellas -- somebody gotta be seeded 16th -- except Cinderella would be bigger, and better, and the No. 1s would have a challenge from the start, and in every round. Curious what you think. Take a dip in our poll and say why?

Poll result: Jordan top athlete of past 20 years, but runnerup a surprise: We invited you to name your top five athletes from ESPN's list of the 20 greatest of the past 20 years (that means the maximum vote for any individual was 20 percent), and predictably Micheal Jordan won. But your runnerup, Michael Phelps, was a surprise at least to me. Your results, with ESPN rank in parentheses:

1aa1amj1. Michael Jordan 15.7% (1); 2. Michael Phelps 10.5% (9); 3. LeBron James 10.2% (2); 4. Tiger Woods 10.0% (3); 5. Usain Bolt 6.4% (16); 6. Tom Brady 6.3% (4); 7. Serena Williams 5.9% (6); 8. Roger Federer 5.7% (5); 9. Lionel Messi 4.6% (12); 10. Derek Jeter 4.1% (10).

11. Floyd Mayweather 3.7% (17); 12. Peyton Manning 3.3% (7); 13. Tim Duncan 3.0% (14); 14. Kobe Bryant 2.3% (8); 15. Lance Armstrong 1.9% (15); T16. Barry Bonds 1.6% (19); T16. Brett Favre 1.6% (15); T18. Sidney Crosby 1.3% (20); T18. Shaquille O'Neal 1.3% (11); 20. Mia Hamm 0.9% (18).

My vote? In order, it was Jordon, James, Woods, Williams and Jeter.

FOR THE LOVE OF JOHN WOLIN: One of my career mentors and best friends was John Wolin (pictured), a Miami Herald editor, reporter and beloved curmudgeon for 21 years. He died in 2004 after a life 1aa1ajwolinremarkable only partly because John was born with achondroplastic dwarfism that led to gradually increasing paralysis. Long before it became politically correct to refer to dwarfs as "little people," Wolin cut to the chase and disarmingly called himself "a bald, crippled midget." He was one of a kind. He would make you laugh and break your heart. He was one of the most passionate journalists I have ever known. When we moved into our new house John gave me an elaborate set of wrenches that I still have. His beautiful now-grown daughter is my godchild. John lives on unforgettably in the memory of those he knew but also in a scholarship fund in his name at Florida International University, benefiting aspiring journalists. The fund is now accepting donations at GoFundMe/JohnWolin. Those interested in additional information may also visit FIU's Wolin scholarship page here, or call the university's School of Journalism & Mass Communication at (305) 919-5625. The man was extraordinary. May readers blessed with generosity consider finding the cause worthy.



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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more


It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:


GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more


1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).


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