April 01, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 choices; you pick your top 5. New poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (with video), Marlins, Dolphins cheerleaders & more

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

1aa1ahartlinead1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1. Happy new month, all! 2) Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 3) 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. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By the Media Pointlessly Guessing What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat lose, Cats lose bigger. Update entering WednesdayA 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) after last night's 95-81 loss vs. San Antonio, 2 from 6th and 1/2 game from 8th with 8 games left (next Thursday at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.5% (down 3.1) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 35-42 (L1) after last night's 3-2 loss at Boston, 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next Thursday vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (down 5.7) 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 Thursday night 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple last night. 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. But one worthy of "national champions" talk and a local parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. Last night'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) 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 increased from 81.5 to 82.5.

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URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 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

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

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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February 18, 2015

Who is on your Mount Rushmore of all-time NFL quarterbacks? 12 choices, you pick 4. Vote now!; plus Westminster dog show, Lesley Gore, Tiger verdict, 'Back In My Day' & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tiger Woods poll, pro-rating South Florida's all-time pro coaches, Heat career ASG scorers, saving the newspaper industry & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

WHO SHOULD BE ON MOUNT RUSHMORE OF ALL-TIME NFL QUARTERBACKS?: Every once in a while we 1aa1amountrlike to do a 'Mount Rushmore' poll mainly to annoy WQAM radio host and friend Marc Hochman, who thinks he invented the time-worn idea. We got this idea from NFL.com, which had the discussion earlier this week -- just the latest entity to steal Hoch's un-patented gem. We culled the ballot to 12 finalists who appear here alphabetically. No category for "other," but let us know in a Comment if we've egregiously omitted anybody deserving. You know what Mount Rushmore means, so vote for your top four (4) guys. Go!

Vote For Top Four (4)

Poll result: Mixed results, but mostly support for Tiger Woods: We asked how you feel about Tiger Woods and it was 43.3 percent liking/rooting for him, 38.0% not liking or supporting him and 18.7% neutral or disinterested.

BEAGLE WINS WESTMINSTER 'BEST IN SHOW': Miss P, an adorable 4-year-old Beagle from British 1aa1abeagleColumbia pictured right, won Best In Show last night at the prestigious annual Westminster Kennel Club pageant in New York City. (It was so good to see a winner and hear cheering in a full Madison Square Garden, a building rendered a fetid mausoleum by the Knicks). Controversy ensued, though. Random Evidence cannot 1aa1apoodlestandardconfirm but has heard that the owners of the Standard Poodle pictured at left are being sued for pet abuse and mental torture for inflicting the dog with the embarrassing haircut shown. "As if my name, 'Princess Precious," isn't bad enough, you try walking around looking like this," said the angry canine. "People stare. Other dogs taunt and bully. Even cats laugh at me. It's [bleep]ing humiliating!"

SEEING RACISM WHERE IT ISN'T: Yesterday on the Dan LeBatard Show (The Ticket Miami, ESPN Radio) my Tuesday "Back In My Day" segment excoriated athletes who complain about having to deal with the 1aa1aBIMDmedia. Marshawn Lynch and Kevin Durant were examples I used, not even considering that both are black and that I'd better toss in a white guy for balance. Mentioned Lynch and Durant as the two most prominent, recent examples, which I thought obvious. But because the rant was critical and questioned the general intelligence of athletes who grow up chasing sports more than an education, a few texters to the show and Tweeters to me heard the rant as racist. Man, that's listening so hard you aren't hearing. So if I said the same thing but with a fleeting reference to Bode Miller I'm OK on the Racism Sensitivity Scale? Sorry, but I can't be that politically correct.

PIECES OF CHILDHOOD KEEP FALLING AWAY: I never considered myself a Lesley Gore fan. I thought she was someone whose fans were girls. Besides, when she hit big in 1963 with "It's My Party," my interest in music was just beginning to awaken. But I cared enough to read the obituary when I found out this week Gore had died at age 68. Maybe subliminally, but her first big hit was a part of my early childood's background noise, her death making the sound an echo fading my degrees.

 

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January 26, 2015

The Legend of Hassan Whiteside: How good will he be? New poll. Vote now!; plus Giancarlo's world, how close Dolphins are to contending & more

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 26. Disappointed to hear tonight's Merle Haggard concert at Parker Playhouse is canceled. Was thinking of going. Instead, I think I'll just stay here and drink. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 3) In The Previous Blogpost: All-Star Games poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Block Party: Click HERE for video of Hassan Whiteside's highlights -- including all 12 blocked shots -- from Sunday's Heat win at Chicago.

THE LEGEND OF HASSAN WHITESIDE: Sunday was the national introduction and coming-out party for 7-foot Heat center and dunking machine Hassan Whiteside, the team's out-of-nowhere star since his Dec. 1aa1ahassanw15 callup from the D-League. It was his first nationally televised game, and he tgreated it like the stage it was -- with a club-record 12 blocked shots along with 14 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. What a story he is. Played in Chna and Lebanon, where he competed with armed soldiers guarding the games. Rejected across the board in the NBA -- as he is quick to point out in drawing motivation. Now, at 25, he is flourishing, with his best game coming in yesterday's Block Party win at Chicago. Before the game he told reporters about being hit by a car at age 10. After the game he said, "Three months ago, ask anybody in Charlotte at the downtown Y, I was just there just chilling. I couldn't even get a team to pick up the phone. 'Who is this guy?' It's been like that my whole life." Again, what a story! Says coach Erik Spoelstra: "Clearly he gives this team a different dimension. That's exactly what we need. He just needed time to develop. You root for guys like this." Says Dwyane Wade: "A guy like Hassan, he's special. You can't teach what he has." The question now: Is Whiteside the real deal built to be a long-term star for this franchise or will he prove to be a flash in the pan? That's unknowable; it will play itself out. But that doesn't mean we can't have an opinion now. What is your best estimation of what Hassan Whiteside will become? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Baseball best all-star game in a runaway: We asked in previous blogpost which of the Big 4 sports presents the best (or least bad) all-star game, and it's one area where the NFL gets clobbered by baseball. Results were MLB 65.3 percent, NBA 23.8%, NHL 6.8% and the NFL's Pro Bowl 4.1%.

1aa1agiancarlomissTHE BURGEONING WORLD OF GIANCARLO STANTON: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton was one of the judges at last night's Miss Universe pageant, a Donald Trump production held at FIU and won by Miss Colombia. (Boxer Manny Pacquiao was a judge, too). It's amazing the opportunities that arise when you are a young, handsome local sports star who recently signed a $325 million contract. I think we need to start a rumor about Giancarlo and Miss Colombia. Just sayin'. Don't get me started on beauty pageants, by the way. So archaic. Surprised they still even exist. What decade is this?

HOW CLOSE ARE DOLPHINS TO SUPER BOWL-CONTENDING? EIGHT PLAYERS AWAY: Pro Football Focus analyzed roster of every team playing in AFC or NFC Championship Game since 2007 to determine how 1aa1aeightmany elite or good players each had based on players on field for at least 250 snaps in a season. (That methodology is inherently flawed. But anyway...) For what it's worth PFF determined the Dolphins are eight good players away from contending for a Super Bowl. That ties for 13th in the NFL. The Dolphins ... mid-pack ... imagine that! PFF says Dolphins have two elite players (Cam Wake, Reshad Jones), three good ones (Branden Albert, Jarvis Landy, Koa Misi), 20 average ones (including Ryan Tannehill and Brent Grimes) and six bad ones (including Mike Pouncey and Brian Hartline). There's a lot of dumbness there. Misi rated way better than Grimes? Seriously? To be further incredulous, click here for PFF's full story.

 

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January 06, 2015

Dolphins hire Tannenbaum; plus my Hall of Fame ballot and, yes, it includes Bonds and Clemens. Would your's? New poll. Vote now!; also gay marriage, fake Beach Boys & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today after a two-week holiday hiatus, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. A new "Back In My Day" segment is in hand. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 6. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package after a two-week holiday hiatus. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-draft-needs poll, happy birthday Shula, R.I.P. Stuart Scott, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS HIRE TANNENBAUM AS DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL OPS: The Dolphins today hired Mike Tannenbaum, formerly of the Jets, as executive vice president of pro football operations -- the old Bill Parcells role. He reportedly will oversee (and have firing power over) GM Dennis Hickey but not over coach Joe Philbin. Hickey can't be happy, although he reportedly maintains final say over the 53-man roster. What this means: Owner Stephen Ross doesn't quite trust Philbin or Hickey. Dolphins in flux. Again.

On Heat, Panthers: Click on Falling, Rising for today's column by me. It's on how the Heat and Panthers both are headed for a fight just to make the playoffs, and how that's an indignity for one club but a triumph for the other.

MY HALL OF FAME BALLOT INCLUDES BONDS, CLEMENS THIS YEAR: Update: Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio elected. I voted for all four. Update 30 minutes before vote announced: The website baseballthinkfactory.org, based on a screening of voters, projects the five inductees today will be, in order of support: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio and (narrowly) Mike Piazza. Original post: The latest inductees into Cooperstown are to be announced today at 2 p.m. I became a Baseball Hall of Fame voter for the first time a year ago, and did not include any "Steroids Era" guys on my ballot. It was personal. I felt my first- 1aa1abondsclemsnsever ballot should be as "clean" as the sport aspires to be. This year, however, I voted for both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (pictured). My 10 votes in all went to, alphabetically: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Nomar Garciaparra, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz. For the record I think Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz will get in. I think Sheffield has a good chance. I think Carlos Delgado and Mike Piazza have a shot. I do not think a sufficient 75 percent of my BBWAA brethren are ready yet to join me on Bonds and Clemens. My thinking on those two: Their career numbers are so extraordinary, so enormous, that they would have been Cooperstown-worthy even without PEDs. (I am much less sure on Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and others). I also believe the Hall of Fame is not the Hall of Sainthood. I further believe that guys like Bonds and Clemens (yes, and Pete Rose) have been punished enough by their previous barring from Cooperstown and by their public shaming. Of course all of that is moot as I fully expect both men to fall well short of the Hall again today. I respect my colleagues who continue take the highest moral ground on this. Hopefully they in turn respect those of us who have come to think otherwise -- at least on Bonds and Clemens. Here's a poll inviting your thoughts on this. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Guard, linebacker top Dolphin draft needs: We asked what position the Dolphins should target with the top pick in next NFL Draft, and among eight choice offensive guard (34.9 percent) and linebacker (27.0%) dominated. Defensive tackle (15.9%) and cornerback (12.6%) were next.

1aa1agaymarriageIT'S ABOUT TIME, FLORIDA: Congratulations to my home state for stepping gingerly into the 21st Century in becoming the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage. And to Floridian gay couples for finally gaining their equal rights. Who are you, I or the government to tell any loving couple they are second-class citizens? Of course, with gay marriages inevitably will come gay divorces and the spawn of gay-divorce lawyers as a specialty practice. Oh how I wish I were kidding.     

BOYCOTT THE SEMI-BEACH BOYS!: The Beach Boys (sort of) play Thursday night in West Palm Beach, but, if you have tickets, beware. You are getting half the product. I'd ask for my money back. This is the version 1aa1amloveof the Beach Boys hijacked by frontman Mike Love (pictured), who unfortunately owns the group name. He is touring with only one other original Beach Boy, Bruce Johnstone. The group toured last year with all its original living members -- including Al Jardine, David Marks and, of course, the irreplacable Brian Wilson -- but Love essentially fired the other three. Boycott Mike Love. Boycott the fake, sort of, semi-Beach Boys. (Or at least smuggle in a 'WE WANT BRIAN WILSON!' sign).

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January 04, 2015

What is Dolphins biggest draft need? New poll. Vote now!; plus happy birthday Don Shula, new Hot Button Top 10, Stuart Scott & more

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1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 5. At right, seen this morning on an 826 West overpass, via Twitter. Looks like a waste of perfectly good red Solo cups to me! 2) Click on Random Evidence for the return of the Sunday notes-column package after a two-week holiday hiatus. 3) In The 
Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Wild-Card Weekend picks, Oregon-Ohio State finale, college football vs. pro poll, top Miami sports story of 2014 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"I don't give a flying crap that U-Miami is switching from Nike uniforms to Adidas, and neither should you. I do care what players they put in those uniforms." --Greg Cote

1aa1adraftWHAT IS DOLPHINS' BIGGEST DRAFT NEED?: Don't give me any of that "best available athlete" crap. Assume there will be is a quality athlete at just about every position at the 14th pick in the first round. In that case, what do you think is the Dolphins' greatest need to target with that top pick? Vote and say why.

HAPPY 85TH, DON SHULA!: The great Don Shula, Dolphins icon and winningest NFL coach, turned 85 yesterday. Here's to many more, Don! No coach in football and few in any sports 

1aa1adonashulaenjoyed a greater, more innovative career combining excellence and longevity. Shula is best-known for the back-to-back 1972-73 Super Bowl wins including the still-unique  '72 Perfect Season. But, for me, Shula's record 347 combined regular-season and playoff victories with the Dolphins (1970-95) and the Colts in Baltimore (1963-69) comprise the accomplishment that is most unassailable. Put it this way. Bill Belichick leads active coaches and is fourth all-time with 230 wins. He'd have to average 10-plus wins for 12 more seasons, until age 74, to surpass Shula. Nobody will catch or pass The Don of the NFL.x

STUART SCOTT, 1965-2015: R.I.P., Stuart Scott, the longtime ESPN anchor who passed 1aa1astuartsaway this morning after a long fight with cancer. Scott once said, "You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live." With due respect, no you don't. You beat cancer if you are very lucky. I have had friends die of cancer, and nobody "loses" that fight because they have done nothing wrong, nothing to cause that loss.

HOT BUTTON JAN. 4: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, back after a two-week hiatus, is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: Wild-Card Weekend wraps up playoffs' first round: Carolina beat Arizona and Baltimore upset Pittsburgh on Saturday, now it's on to Bengals-Colts and Lions-Cowboys. By the way, if you didn't think Panthers belonged in playoffs, what does that say about Cardinals?

2. College football: Oregon, Ohio State in first playoff title game: Oregon handled Florida State and Ohio State upset Alabama to set up first College Football Playoff title game Jan. 12. Oddsmakers have established Oregon Ducks as heavy favorites to both win the game and wear the most hideous uniforms.

3. Heat: Struggling team loses fourth in a row: Miami is 14-20 after a fourth straight loss Saturday, is barely hanging onto playoff pace and is only 6-12 at home entering today's date with Brooklyn. Then it's off on a nine-game road trip. Probably just as well.

4. Dolphins: Philbin back despite no playoffs: Team missing playoffs for sixth straight year and third in row under Joe Philbin didn't keep owner Stephen Ross from saying Philbin would return in 2015. What does Ross have in common with a sadist running a limbo contest? Both set the bar low.

5. Hurricanes: Men's basketball team falls to No. 3 Virginia: UM men’s basketball is 10-4 after Saturday's double-overtime home loss to No. 3 Virginia in the ACC opener. It’s fair to say Hurricanes fans really like coach Jim Larrañaga. I mean in general, but especially compared with Al Golden.

6. Duke Johnson: Star UM running back turns pro: No surprise as Canes career rushing leader Duke Johnson announces he'll skip his senior senior and enter NFL Draft. Fans' wishes got all mixed up. They were hoping Duke would stay and Golden would go.

7. Panthers: Cats sign Bjugstad long term: Florida is only two points off NHL playoff pace and this week signed scoring star Nick Bjugstad, 22, to a six-year deal. The Panthers are a team on the rise and have fans feeling optimistic. Repeat that last sentence. It's a rare one.

8. Marlins: Big-spending Fish win the offseason: Too bad they don't give a trophy for winning the Winter World Series. Careful on the high hopes, though. Last time fans felt this good, Ozzie Guillen praised Fidel Castro, tream fizzled and a fire sale broke out.

9. Gators: Florida ends Muschamp era with bowl win: Gators sent departed coach Will Muschamp off with a 28-20 win over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. That's played in Alabama. Which explains the field being soaked with tears.

10. Jim Harbaugh: Coach leaves 49ers for Michigan: That means Michigan vs. Ohio State (Urban Meyer) will now be America's most-disliked-coaches matchup other than Alabama (Nick Saban) vs. anybody else.

Poll result: You'd watch Super Bowl over college championship: We asked, and the Super Bowl beat the College Football Playoff title game as a viewing choice, 59.35 to 40.65 percent. The SB broke down to 44.86 strong support and 14.49 weak. The college finale broke down to 24.76 strong and 15.89 weak.

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November 19, 2014

Is your opinion of Jeffrey Loria changing for better? Poll. Vote!; plus how Giancarlo $tanton celebrated (with pix); also Larranaga's Angel, new SOPY rank, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Schitt's Creek & more

1AA1ACADC1) It is THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20. I'm at Friday Page Headquarters today creating my Week 12 NFL predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's call. 2) AC/DC have a newe song out, "Rock Or Bust," from a forthcoming new album. Listen. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NASCAR dodges bullet at Homestead, Dolphins/NFL playoff picture, Kim Kardashian as a horse, Gary Shelton & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Click on Now, The Pressure for today's latest column, off the Marlins press conference making official Giancarlo Stanton's megadeal.


1aa1amoetgs 1aa1amoet3How $tanton celebrated his new megadeal:
(Yes, we've made the S in $tanton a dollar sign): Giancarlo $tanton's new 13-year, $325 million Marlins contract is being announced officially today, but $tanton celebrated late Monday, at the trendy FDR nightclub at Miami's tragically hip Delano hotel. He has officially entered the orbit of self-celebration that we saw the Heat's Big 3 perfect the past four years. According to TMZ, and seen here, $tanton was partying at 3 a.m. Tuesday with friends "and some very attractive ladies" and a $20,000 bottle of champagne that had been "gifted" him by a Miami party queen named "Julz." Yes, I said a $20,000 bottle of champagne. It was Moet Nectar Imperial Rose' Leopard Luxury Edition Methuselah, one of only 60 made, a 6-liter bottle coated in 22-carat gold leaf. Top that, D-Wade!
 

1aa1ajloria

WILL STANTON DEAL TRANSFORM JEFFREY LORIA'S IMAGE WITH FANS?:
 In my most recent column I write about the impact of the Giancarlo Stanton megadeal on the popularity of owner Jeffrey Loria. Click on Image Makeover to read the column in full. Will locking up Stanton for at least six more seasons (and as many as 13 more) do the trick for Loria? It can't hurt. Loria's unpopularity has run deep, rooted in years of gross underspending on payrolls and product. But now Mr. Cheap has OK'd a contract that would be a record $325 million over the full 13 years. How has that impacted the general opinion of Loria? There's only one way to find out. Ask. So I'm asking. Take a dip in our poll and vote what best reflects your attitude, right now, about Jeffrey Loria.

1aa1aangelrA HEAVEN-SENT ANGEL FOR CANES HOOPS: Miami Hurricanes stunned No. 8 Florida 69-67 in basketball Monday night ending the Gators' 33-game home winning streak, thanks to 24 points including a game-winning prayer 3 from guard Angel Rodriguez, a transfer from Kansas State. Jim Larranaga's guys are now 2-0 and likely to bomb into the Top 25 now.

SOPY: CANE VS. NOLE FOR STATE TITLE DOWN THE STRETCH: Looking like Miami's Duke Johnson vs. Florida State's Jameis Winston, each with two games to play, vying for season honors in our blog-1aa1asopyexclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). 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 our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 13:

SOPY WEEK 12 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk12    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         173     1,725

2 (2)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         161     1,611

3 (3)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      BYE    1,399.5 

4 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            175     1,247.5

5 (5)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb          179.5    1,240.5

6 (6)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        53       1,070

7 (8)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb           141.5    1,055.5

8 (7)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            98       1,055

9 (9)       Matt Jones, Florida-rb              69        868

10 (10)     Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb      BYE      780

Bubble: Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 769. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Florida and UCF have played 9 games; Miami, FSU, FAU and USF have played 10; and FIU has played 11.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (10-0); 2. Miami (6-4); 3. UCF (6-3); 4. Florida (5-4); 5. SoFla (4-6); 6. FIU (4-7); 7. FAU (3-7).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: SLUMPING PICKS, SURGING LOBOS IN WEEK 11: We update you briefly every 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixTuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: Still lagging. Having a strong season, but our lull continues. Went 8-6 overall and 7-7 vs. the spread. Did hit our Upset of the Week call with Pats over Colts ("Aawwk!") and also had 'dog Texans, Rams and Raiders with points. Fantasy: Surge continues. Greg's Lobos won a third straight to make it 5-6 and move within one game of playoff pace with three to go. Won ugly, 88-76, my top scorer the 49ers defense with 15 points. But won. Go 'Bos!

1aa1aschittscreekCAN I SAY 'SCHITT'S CREEK' IN A BLOG? YES, I THINK SO: Cable's TV Guide Network, rebranding to the Pop network in January, has signed it's first scripted series: Schitt's Creek, a Canadian comedy starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. (Schitt, of course, is a legitimate if unfortunate German surname). I'll give the show a try. Have liked Levy and O'Hara since their SCTV days; loved them in the movie Best Of Show. Also look forward to hearing a television announcer intone, "Coming up next ... Schitt's Creek!"

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October 23, 2014

Analyzing Dolphins playoff chances from here, game by game; plus 3 ex-Canes on Hall ballot, SOPY rank (new No. 1), KC-SF, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins win in Chicago, DSM poll, World Series rooting result, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

3 ex-Canes on Hall ballot: The 2015 College Football Hall of Fame ballot is out. Ex-Hurricanes on it are defensive greats Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp.

FORTUNE .500: DECIPHERING DOLPHINS' PLAYOFF CHANCES FROM HERE: In my latest column I write that Miami is only 1-7 on making the playoffs seasons when it is 3-3 after six games. Hasn't 1aa1adolmorganhappened since 1983, Y.O.M. (Year of Marino). And so trusting and believing in the Dolphins is very tough; fans are wary. Click on Make Us Believe for the full column. We analyze Miami's 2014 playoff shot with a look at the remaining schedule:

At Jaguars Oct. 26 -- Miami isn't good enough to have a "trap" game or to look past anybody. Jax is 1-6 but plays pretty stout D and is capable of an upset. Miami win = 4-3.

Vs. Chargers Nov. 2 -- Home-field upset possible, but Philip Rivers a tough hurdle anywhere. Loss = 4-4.

At Lions Nov. 9 -- Very good Detroit defense, although Matthew Stafford's inconsistency and Calvin Johnson's health give Dolphs a big shot. Loss = 4-5.

Vs. Bills Nov. 13 -- Buffs defense is so-so and Kyle Orton is no answer. Win = 5-5.

At Broncos Nov. 23 -- Peyton Manning at Mile High. The one remaining game that feels like Miami has no real shot. Loss = 5-6.

At Jets Dec. 1 -- For NYJ, bad defense plus Geno Smith equals a current 1-6. Win = 6-6.

Vs. Ravens Dec. 7 -- Baltimore looking very good but home field counts here. Win = 7-6.

At Patriots Dec. 14 -- Tom Brady, in Foxborough, in winter, still sounds like a bad result. Loss = 7-7.

Vs. Vikings Dec. 21 -- No gimmies, but this could be surest win left on schedule. Win = 8-7.

Vs. Jets Dec. 28 -- Farewell, Rex Ryan! Win = 9-7.

Will 9-7 be good enough for a wild card playoff spot? Doubtful. As of right now, eight AFC teams have better records than Miami and two others also are 3-3. That's a 10-team scrum for six spots. But getting to 10-6 is doable. In the scenario above, a split of the Chargers/Lions games would do it.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: THE GOOD AND BAD OF WEEK 7: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we 1aa1afripix 1aa1alobosdid the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy-league team. Pix: The good. Went strong at 11-4 overall and 9-6 against the spread, and stayed hot on Upset of the Week calls by bull's-eyeing Jaguars over Browns ("Aawwk!"). Fantasy: The bad. Greg's Lobos fell to 2-5 with a 138-72 blowout loss. Not a good sign when your leading scorer (DeAndre Hopkins) has only 15 points.

SOPY: FSU'S WINSTON LEAPS TO TOP IN STATE COLLBALL RANKINGS: Florida State's Jameis Winston leaps to No. 1 this week in our latest blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- 1aa1asopy"the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college football teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). 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 our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye week (like the Canes) take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 9:

SOPY WEEK 8 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk8    Season

1 (3)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        156.5    1,076

2 (4)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      287.5   1,028.5 

3 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         BYE     1,010

4 (2)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            BYE       923

5 (8)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            166       819

6 (5)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       114       813

7 (7)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           60.5      726 

8 (9)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb             94        720

9 (6)        Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb           (-) 4       667

10 (--)      Alex Gardner, FIU-rb             101       636

Bubble: Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec, 580. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: UCF and Florida have played 6 games; FAU, FSU, Miami and USF have played 7; FIU has played 8.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 8: 1. FSU (7-0); 2. Miami (4-3);  3. UCF (4-2); 4. Florida (3-3); 5. SoFla (3-4); 6. FIU (3-5); 7. FAU (3-4).

WORLD SERIES: ROOTING FOR ROYALS: Main reason for fans of neither team to root for Kansas City over San Francisco in the 110th World Series starting tonight: Giants won it all as recently as 2012 and 2010, while Royals are in the postseason for the first time since 1985. Secondary reason: Silly San Fran radio deejays refusing to play the popular Lorde song, Royals. Seriously. Kansas City DJ's should fire back by refusing to play anything by the alt-rock group They Might Be Giants, although I don't know that TMBG has ever had a radio hit. Anyway, to protest San Fran's protest, here is Royals by Lorde:

 

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October 10, 2014

Are you as annoyed as me by these 3 things concerning the Dolphins and Canes? New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL Week 6 pix, Heat, Rock Hall & more

1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10. I'm sequestered at Random Evidence Laboratories today summoning the Sunday notes column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Chalmers vs. Cole Heat poll, defending MLB's postseason, Cats on ice, Dolphins/Harbaugh, Alan Cherry (R.I.P.) & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Panthers show how not to whet the appetite for hockey: Florida drops its NHL opener in Tampa last night, 3-2, after an 0-6 preseason. Now comes the home opener Saturday night vs. New Jersey and there are concerns within the club it may not be a sellout, or even close.

I AM ANNOYED  BY THESE THREE THINGS. MAYBE YOU ARE NOT: There is a phenomenon in South Florida sports and media. 1) Former Dolphins, especially the 1972 Perfectos, love to complain about the
1aa1airritatingstate of the current team whenever invited by reporters to do so (which is much too often). 2) Former Hurricane football stars love to take to Twitter to snipe at the state of the current team (in apparent discord with the whole idea of 'The U' as family). And, 3. UM trustees and high-ranking donors have no problem taking shots at coach Al Golden following losses -- anonymously, of course, which seems rather cowardly. These three things I find annoying for various reasons, but I may be alone on this. Curious what you think. Take a dip in our poll. Vote for one, two or all three -- as many as you find annoying. Or vote that none of them bother you.

1aa1afripixNFL WEEK 6 PICKS: DOLPHINS BEAT PACK. NO, SERIOUSLY: Bad start last night. Misfired on riskily picking Texans to beat Colts. Click on Week 6 Gems for all the rest of our latest prediction capsules. It's Dolphins over Packers in my Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"). You know it's a dicey pick when you're thinking "What was I thinking" and the game is still two days away. Click on Mr. Rodgers In the Neighborhood for my Friday Page NFL column. I rank all 32 starting quarterbacks on the occasion of Aaron Rodgers' first career start in Miami.

BOSH MIGHT BE FROSTY WITH LEBRON. WHO CARES!: Saturday in Rio de Janeiro is the most important utterly meaningless game in the history of the Heat and perhaps of all mankind. It's Miami vs. Cleveland in 1aa1aheatrioa preseason game. Wait. That's not quite right. It's the Heat vs. turncoat LeBron James. Call it an appetizer for the first regular-season meeting Christmas Day in Miami. There is the implication of a strained relationship between Chris Bosh and James as Bosh says he has no interest in being chummy with LeBron during the season. Will I watch the Saturday exhibition? Sure, I guess. But mainly to carefully discern the pregame nuance and mating ritual of the species Estranged Teammates as we watch to see if Bosh and James exchange bro-hugs, fist bumps, pleasantries or the mere token civility of a nearly imperceptible nod. If that. Oh the drama!

Poll result: Heat switch to Cole at point guard has support: We asked in the previous blogpost who you'd like to see as the Heat's starting point guard, and it was Norris Cole over incumbent Mario Chalmers, 56.6 percent to 43.4%. The vote was close much of the way before Cole gradually pulled away.

ROCK HALL'S 2015 NOMINEES: Fifteen artists are on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot for '15 and it is 1aa1alreednot a particularly illustrious group. My ballot as a longtime amateur musicologist: Green Day, N.W.A., Nine Inch Nails and Lou Reed (pictured) get in. I might vote for Sting if it includes The Police, not just his latter career. I'd consider Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Spinners and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I'd investigate The Smiths, who I respect as having a cult devotion but don't know enough about. Falling short for me: Chic, Kraftwerk, The Marvelettes, War and Bill Withers.

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October 09, 2014

Poll: Chalmers or Cole? Pick a Heat point guard. Vote now!; plus Panthers hockey, Fins/Harbaugh verdict, defending MLB, Alan Cherry (R.I.P.) & more

1aa1ajlennon1) It is THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9. Thinking of the late, great John Lennon today, on what would be his 74th birthday. 2) I'm holed up at Friday Page Headquarters today pulling forth my NFL Week 6 predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for tonight's pick. 3) BBC Music brings together dozens of great artists for a rendition of the Beach Boys classic, "God Only Knows." Trippy result worth a listen and watch here. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins/Harbaugh poll, college football upheaval, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, SOPY standings, toast to '72, Derrick Shelby, Cinder-AL-a & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1aflacatsCats on the ice: NHL starting. Hockey's back. Florida Panthers open tonight/Thursday in Tampa then at home Saturday vs. New Jersey. Click on Telling Season for my preview column. Club hasn't won a playoff series since 1996 and a sharp decline in attendance is expected. This has become a franchise that needs saving. Winning is the only start.

CHALMERS VS. COLE IN HEAT POINT-GUARD BATTLE: IT'S ON: The post-LeBron Heat are 0-2 in the preseason entering Saturday's game vs. Cleveland and James in Rio -- uh oh -- and even though the games don't matter you know that panic is setting in with some fans as 1aa1amarionorris"We really might be that bad" sweeps over them. Relax. It's a playoff team. But to distract you from your growing angst here's a poll. It's incumbent Mario Chalmers vs. challenger Norris Cole (pictured left to right) in what by all accounts is an open battle for starting point guard. And that role is magnified because LeBron James, who brought the ball up and handled it so much he was a de facto point guard, is no longer here. (He went somewhere. I forget where). Chalmers probably brings more offensive pop and swagger; Cole brings better defense and energy. Both have flaws. Is Cole better-suited to being the spark off the bench? What Heat point guard would you prefer to see start and get the most minutes? I exclude rookie Shabazz Napier from the question because he obviously isn't ready yet to be in the conversation. So take a dip in the poll and say why.

Poll result: Dolfan interest in Harbaugh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh should he become avaailable after the season, and 47.9 percent said yes without equivocation. However, 25.2% said only if Miami does not make the playoffs and another 18.7% voted "avoid him like the plague." The other 8.2% were undecided.

DEFENDING BASEBALL'S POSTSEASON, FINAL FOUR: The complainers are out. Not enough starpower! Not enough runs! Bad World Series ahead! I don't buy it. Yes, 10 of the 14 playoff games thus far (not 1aa1adavidandgcounting wild-cards) have been won with four runs or fewer. So what? Pitching is good. Steroids are outlawed. Deal with it. I think the Orioles-Royals ALCS (starting Friday) and the Cardinals-Giants NLCS (Game 1 Saturday) guarantees a World Series of interesting contrast. St. Louis and San Fran are recent champions from 2011 and '12, respectively, while Baltimore and Kansas City last won it all in 1983 and '85. Royals haven't even been in the postseason since then. There will be an AL-David vs. NL-Goliath element that I think America will find appealing. Besides, the fact all four division series ended either 3-0 or 3-1 indicates the vanquished teams were undeserving in some way. And there is no clear betting favorite among the four survivors; it's anybody's ring.

ALAN CHERRY, 1955-2014, R.I.P.: This is self-indulgent. Screw it. It's my blog. My oldest friend, Alan Cherry, died this week, at 59, and I miss him already. We met when we were 19, I think. Fate had us 1aa1aalancboth stumbling blind into journalism careers under the tutelage of Max Hall at BCC. I gravitated to sports. Alan ended up doing important stuff, for three decades a news reporter and editor for the Sun-Sentinel. Alan was a nonconformist both intellectually and visually. In a newsroom where men wore shirts and ties, clean-shaved faces and neat hair, you'd find Alan with long hair tucked under a ballcap and a full, straggly beard. (He was way ahead of the trend on that look. I think his wife Pat and son James deserve royalty checks from Duck Dynasty). Alan was also an accomplished songwriter. He wrote "Letting Go," which I was honored to record (click here to listen). A few years ago Alan was surprised and delighted to hear another of his songs, "House of Ghosts," played on an NPR program devoted to unsigned artists who merited attention. The song is below. Alan was a man of great talent, and greater integrity. Rest in peace, my unforgettable old friend.

 

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