March 17, 2015

March Madness Haiku Challenge! Got 17 syllables? Enter here, enter now!; plus Wade leads Heat past LeBron, Canes men miss on NCAAs, latest Hot Button Top 10, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

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

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.


1aa1adaypatrick1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 2) I don't know if new Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills will be better than departed Mike Wallace. But I know this. Stills immediately immediately leads all of South Florida sports in hair. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mike Wallace traded with poll, NFL biggest-moves poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Marlins in fantasy, Canes hoops & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Wade's 32 lifts Miami in Return of LeBron II: [Click on The LeBron Effect for my column from last night's game] LeBron last night made his second return to Miami since jilting leaving the Heat to return to Cleveland, but the story was Dwyane Wade, with 32 points, leading an exhilirating 106-92 Heat win. Playing LeBron brings out the best in Wade and the Heat. "None of our guys had to look at a calendar to know who we were playing," as coach Erik Spoelstra put it.

NCAA Tournament odds: Kentucky of course is a near even-money favorite at 6-5, according to Bovada today. Then it's Arizona at 15-2, Wisconsin 17-2, Duke 9-1 and Villanova and Virginia both 10-1.

Me on podcast: I was invited to discuss Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and the Marlins on the Cooper and Rupert podcast out of Los Angeles. Click here to listen. I'm on for 12 minutes starting at 35:00.

The Dolphins, for what's worth...: ...will select Louisville receiver DeVante Parker 14th overall in the first round, according to the latest CBSSports.com mock draft. MY comment: Signing Kenny Stills makes a first-round WR unlikely.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering today/Tuesday: A daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 8th place at 30-36 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 16 games left (next Wednesday vs. Portland). Heat playoff likelihood: 48.3% (up 17.2) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-38 (L1), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 13 games left (next tonight vs. Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 3.3% (down 0.2) per sportsclubstats.com.

IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 10TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: Because, really, what captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient Japanese short-form poetry!? You know what a haiku is. It's a 17-syllable poem. (Not 16 and not 18!) Ideally it's in 1aa1ahaiku5-7-5 structure but we're loose with that. Our three rules are simple: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, we'll consider it a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries in the blog's 'Comments' section below OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com, and you may enter as many haikus as you wish. 3. We'll accept entries starting Monday at 8 a.m. and ending Wednesday at 6 p.m., with the winner to be announced on Thursday. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the 1aa1adickievdouble entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Prizes, you ask? The winner's grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a sports book publishers send me that I don't read? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, get your creative minds revved up. Remember, the entry window opens at 8 a.m. Monday.

DENIED!: HURRICANES MEN PASSED OVER FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT INVITE; UM WOMEN GET IN: The expert bracketologists had judged Miami likely to be on the wrong side of the bubble coming into Selection Sunday, and for Jim Larranaga's 21-12 Hurricanes the experts unfortunately were right. Miami was denied an at-large bid to the men's NCAA Tournament. It would have been a pleasant surprise more than a shock if UM made it, but the Canes were hurt by a mediocre RPI number and a 1-7 record vs. ranked teams. Now, instead of an eighth NCAA appearance, most recently 2013, Miami will settle for its 11th appearance in the NIT, most recently 2012. No. 2-seeded Miami will host North Carolina Central Tuesday at 7 p.m. Larranaga and UM fans can complain a little but not too much. Since starting the season 8-0 Miami was barely above .500 the rest of the way. Better news: Tonight, Katie Meier's UM women as expected were invited to their NCAAs.

Poll result: Mixed but lukewarm reviews for Wallace's Dolphins term: We asked if you thought Mike Wallace's two seasons with Miami were a success, pretty good,  barely OK or a failure, and it was 38.3 percent barely OK, 37.3% pretty good, 17.8% failure and 6.6% success. 

Poll result: Suh, Graham top NFL's biggest moves: We asked what have been NFL's biggest recent free-agency deals or trades and the top three among 12 choices were Ndamukong Suh to Dolphins with 34.4 percent, Jimmy Graham to Seahawks with 24.6% and Darrelle Revis to Jets with 11.1%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins sign Ndamukong Suh, trade Mike Wallace: What a week in Finland! Starts with team signing DT Ndamukong Suh. Ends with Miami trading WR Mike Wallace and signing WR Kenny Stills and TE Jordan Cameron. Of course the big news was Suh. A terrific talent but one who often shows a propensity for unsportsmanlike conduct that has some calling him the league’s dirtiest player. But enough about the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside!

2. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Bubble burst. Canes denied NCAA: March Madness began with last night's Selection Sunday show setting the men’s NCAA Tournament field, with the women’s side coming today. As expected the Canes men narrowly missed and aettle for the NIT; the UM women might sneak in. The alternative, the NIT, should be called the NOT because it ain’t the NCAA.

3. HEAT: LeBron visits tonight as playoff chase continues: The Heat today are ninth in the East and just off playoff pace while awaiting a Monday visit by LeBron James’ Cavaliers — his second time back (first was Christmas) since leaving. Heat president Pat Riley said last week it remains “shocking to me that it happened.” C’mon, Pat. This is a “No Dwelling Zone.”

4. PANTHERS: Big loss has Cats running out of time to make postseason: Panthers lost to Rangers last night to end three-game win streak but remain six points from the final playoff seed with 13 games to play. The good news: Florida still has three games left against Boston, who it is chasing. The bad news: Even winning all three might not be enough.

5. AUTO RACING: Prost wins inaugural Miami ePrix: Nicolas Prost won as the first race of electric cars hummed through downtown Miami streets Saturday in one of 10 stops in the circuit's first season. It was really weird to see cars going that fast with no roar of engines. But no weirder than the only American in the race being a driver named Scott Speed.

6. MARLINS: Fish off to strong spring start: With spring training about one-third done, the Marlins sat atop the Grapefruit League standings with an 8-3 record after beating Detroit yesterday. Can we start the playoffs now?

7. NFL: Flurry of free agency moves, trades: With Miami doing its part, Jimmy Graham, Darrelle Revis, and DeMarco Murray were among the latest wave of NFL players to switch uniforms in the most active offseason in memory.
 
8. BASEBALL: MLB hints at future games in Cuba: New commissioner Rob Manfred expressed openness to playing exhibitions in Cuba if U.S. relations continue to warm. Hey don't blame me, Miami hard-liners. Unlike Ozzie, I don't like Fidel and never have!
 
9. TENNIS: Miami Open gears for next week's start: As Serena Williams ended her Indian Wells boycott, pro tennis shifts to Key Biscayne next week. This year's Miami Open will include a swimwear fashion show, pro beach volleyball tournament and “Taste of the Open” event with celebrity chefs. Reportedly there also will be tennis matches, time permitting.
 
10. BASKETBALL: NBA, NCAA agree to discourage early entries: The NBA and NCAA have agreed on a plan to discourage players from leaving school early for the pros. You knew it had gone too far when middle-school kids started sitting out NBA games because of acne.

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 27, 2015

In-out door spinning: On Hartline, Jagr, Beasley; plus what Miami team inspiring most optimism? (poll; vote!); also Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 1. Happy new month! 2) Our Sunday Random Evidence notes column and our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 are taking today off. 3) Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. 4) Here is the latest 'Back In My Day' segment from the Dan LeBatard Show: Back_in_my_Day-_Baseball's_Rule_Changes-_2-24-15 (2)

"Will the last ESPN on-air personality to not be suspended please turn out the lights?" --Greg Cote

HARTLINE OUT, BEASLEY, JAGR IN. HUH? WHA!?: OK I leave for a long weekend's holiday in Austin, Tex. and all hell breaks loose back in South Florida. Man I can't leave you people alone for a minute! Just since I left early Thursday, the Heat bring back Michael Beasley with a 10-day contract, the Panthers acquire aging star Jaromir Jar, and the Dolphins release receiver Brian Hartline (and also Brandon Gibson). Quick thoughts on each: Heat/Beasley -- Makes sense. With Chris Bosh out the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts out all year, Miami needed power-forward help, and Beasley is still young enough and with enough upside to risk a trial run. Panthers/Jagr -- Well, Jaromir is 43 now. Can he still provide the scoring punch Florida needs to lock down a playoff spot? As when the Marlins signed Ichiro, this signing is exciting for the remaining big-name value but may not have huge impact. Dolphins/Hartline -- It's a clear salary purge to erase a one-time prominent WR of diminishing results. The question now is if eliminating Hartline and Gibson means it'll be more likely that Mike Wallace stays. (I doubt it). Interesting times for all of these teams. And getting more interesting all the time.

WHAT MIAMI TEAM HAS MOST EARNED YOUR OPTIMISM?: Blind hope is one thing, but I'm talking here
about optimism rooted in reason. What is the local Big 5 team most headed the right way? Current or 1aa1aoptimismmost recent won-lost record should be factored, but maybe not as much as the overall direction -- the sense of how well the team is positioned to win big and soon. This is not asking your favorite team or sport. It's asking who among Dolphins, Heat, UM football, Marlins and Panthers fans should feel the most optimistic right now? Purposely I did not include a "none of them!" option in the poll, because like the guy to the right staring up at you says, if you can't find optimism somewhere, you're dead. This, I know, is a tough poll question that may scare away discourage many potential voters because the answer can't be quantified and because it's hard to compare different sports. Plus, you may think it's a close call between a couple of teams. Nevertheless! You are challenged: Take a dip in our poll and drop a Comment saying why you feel as you do.

1aa1agiancarlosiSTANTON'S BURGEONING STAR-POWER AFFIRMED ... IN BODY PAINT: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton adorns the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, and SI say it's the first time any athlete has been on its cover in body paint. (Um, don't some things go without saying?) This is the latest indication of Stanton's burgeoning journey from local star en route to national superstar. A $325 million contract will start that process, along with the expectation of 40-plus home runs. Being built like somebody sculpted in marble doesn't hurt. And the human interest angle -- coming back from an awful, face-smashing beaning -- just adds another layer.

On Marlins' two top prospects: One you may see soon, the other will take awhile. The Marlins 1aa1ajtrealplace righty pitcher Tyler Kolek (ranked No. 34) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (No. 72) among ESPN's Top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Kolek, who just turned 19, will need a few years to marinate and refine, although he's a 6-6, 270-pound behemoth with a mid-90s fastball and the club thinks he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Realmuto (pictured) turns 24 in March and has a chance this spring that he's ready to stick with the big club.

1aa1albjmcdHE'S LOVIN' IT! (OR SO HE CLAIMS): In a Tuesday interview about diet and fitness LeBron James seemed to briefly forget that McDonald's pays him millions to pimp its products. He said, "I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice. It didn't matter. I was 18, I could do whatever I wanted to." Nice recovery, though. When later asked how often he eats McDonald's nowadays he said, "Every day! Every day, every day, every day, every day, every day. I just had it this morning!"

BETTING PUBLIC HAS LITTLE FAITH IN TIGER TURNAROUND: It was the opposite once. The wagering 1aa1atwoodspublic loved Tiger Woods. Back in his reign, as a major neared, people actually debated if Tiger vs. the field was a decent bet. I remember the conversations. Now? New odds from our friends at Bovada have Tiger winning zero majors this year as a prohibitive 1-7 likelihood, and he's now a 14-1 longshot to surpass Jack Nicklaus' career majors record. The bright side? If you see Tiger with a big comeback left in him, it's a buyer's market.

NEWS STORY / MY COMMENT: News story: Three British teens arrive in Syria to join terrorists. My comment: Oh, how unfathomably idiotic!

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 19, 2015

How do you feel about Heat's trade for Goran Dragic? Poll. Vote now!; plus ominous Bosh news (updated), athlete-media relationship poll (it's close!), sign-spinners, Mount Rushmore/QBs result & more

1aa1asheep1) It is FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20. I'm holed up at Random Evidence Laboratories today pulling from nonexistence the Sunday notes-column package. 2) Thursday was the Chinese New Year, year of the sheep. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Mount Rushmore of QBs poll, Westminster dog show, Tiger verdict, false racism, Lesley Gore & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1aboshcOn Dragic trade, Bosh medical update: A strange Thursday night-into-Friday to be a Heat fan. You are elated (most likely) over the Goran Dragic trade but also holding your breath over Chris Bosh's medical situation. Click on Riley Wins Again for my latest column. It's on the big trade but touches on Bosh, too. Bosh is hospitalized for tests and, as I was first to report last night via Twitter, initial concerns centered on the lungs and a possible blood clot. We await official word from the club today but now have heard there are believed to be clots in both lungs. We wish Bosh the best and hope for the most positive news possible but fear the news may instead be that Bosh will miss the reminder of this NBA season.

1aa1adragicHEAT ACQUIRE GORAN DRAGIC FOR PICKS, PLAYERS: The Heat on Thursday acquired elite point guard Goran Dragic (and his brother Zoran) from Phoenix while giving up reserves Norris Cole, Danny Granger, Shawne Williams and Justin Hamilton and two first-round draft picks. I love the deal and you'd click on Riley Wins Again to read my latest column. But enough of me. Your opinion of the trade is welcomed here. Vote in the poll below and say why you feel as you do in the Comments section.

SHOULD PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES BE REQUIRED TO DEAL WITH THE MEDIA?: That wasn't even a question, once. They did and that was that. But the relationship is becoming more and more adversarial

1aa1amediaml 1aa1amediakdand there may be no turning back. We have seen the actions of Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, grudgingly making himself available to avoid fines but hardly cooperating. More recently we have seen the Thunder's Kevin Durant express frustration with the media and his obligations. Many players, especially superstars, can get their message out via personal websites or social media and feel they don't need the mainstream/traditional media. Predictably, as a member of the latter, I don't feel it is too much of an obligation or burden for leagues and teams to expect that players would make themselves available to the reporters who cover them regularly. I think a mutually respectful, working relationship continues to benefit both sides. You may agree, or not. Let's find out. Take a dip in our poll and say why in the Comments section.

Poll result: It's Montana, Brady, Marino and Unitas on your QBs Mount Rushmore: We gave you 12 choices and four votes, and your mountain-worthy quartet were Joe Montana with 20.2 percent, Tom Brady with 16.7%, Dan Marino with 16.3% and Johnny Unitas with 12.3%. Great response, and solid results! Close but no mountain to Peyton Manning with 9.9%. (The maximum percentage was 25, so that means Montana, if everyone cast all four votes, was named on 80.8% of all ballots).

 

SIGN-SPINNERS UNIONIZE, SEEKS PAY HIKE, BENEFITS

        Faked-up News Network (FUNN) -- Sign-spinners have begun to flex their muscle. The Laborers International Union of North America has agreed to represent the estimated 60,000 American street-corner 1aa1asignspinnersworkers whose job is to hold, point and spin mostly arrow-shaped signs that aim to direct motorists to local stores but have the opposite effect as annoyed drivers barrel past shaking their heads at the aesthetic blight on their communities. "These beacons of business are doing essential work for chump pay," explained LIUNA communications laision Veronica Forkenplatter. "While it is true most of our spinners are inebriated homeless folks posing a traffic hazard or disinterested college kids listening to ear-buds or on cell phones, many of our other spinners are former Broadway dancers or other defrocked entertainers looking for a creative outlet. In fact we are trying to confirm -- there is national-spokesman potential in this -- that Joel Grey is currently soft-shoe spinning in New York at age 82."

Check back a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 15, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10, with Marlins, Heat, NBA, Canes, Cats, NFL, cricket, Tiger, LLWS, racing; also, verdict on Loria, thanks Dr. J & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15. Hope the ladies had a wonderful Valentine's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Reconsidering Jeffery Loria poll, D-Wade on '50 Shades,' Ndamukong Suh verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 15: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Miami awarded All-Star Game as spring training nears: As an improved Marlins team opens spring training in five days in Jupiter, MLB held a news conference here Friday to make official that Miami would host the 2017 All-Star Game. "We couldn’t be happier,” Marlins fans said. “Well ... unless of course Jeffrey Loria changed his mind about not selling the team."

2. HEAT: Wade sits as Bosh represents Heat in Sunday’s All-Star Game: Dwayne Wade rests his injured hamstring but Chris Bosh will play in tonight's NBA showcase of stars. Miserable New York and Brooklyn, a combined 31-74, are cohosts. Am surprised teams aren’t boycotting the game at Madison Square Garden for fear their players might catch whatever the Knicks have.

3. NBA: LaVine, Curry, Bosh top Saturday's All-Star Game undercard: Miami's Bosh (along with WNBA'er Swin Cash and legend Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars event, Golden State's Stephen Curry won the 3-point contest and Minnesota's 19-year-old Zach LaVine won the Dunk contest. The latter answered the question, "Who the hell is Zach LaVine?"

4. HURRICANES: It’s the nexus of basketball, baseball and football: UM men’s basketball team tries to shake off an ill-timed slump and still make the NCAA Tournament. UM opened baseball season this weekend seeking to end a six-year College World Series drought. Football prepares for spring practice with heat on Al Golden. For all three, cue Queen and David Bowie’s "Under Pressure."

5. PANTHERS: Crunch time as Cats chase rare NHL playoff spot: Florida enters today's game only four points off playoff pace, chasing what would be only the fifth postseason berth in 21 franchise seasons, after 1996, ’97, 2000 and ’12. Not much margin of error from here, though, as each loss puts the Panthers closer to a phrase particularly apt in hockey: Thin ice.

6. NFL: Scouting Combine, major pre-draft event, begins: The weeklong talent show begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. And if you can't get enough of watching fat college linemen timed in the 40-yard dash, the NFL Network will have your all-excess pass.

7. CRICKET: World Cup under way in Australia, New Zealand: Yes, we DO have cricket in this week’s Top 10 as 14 nations are in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The sport is very popular in parts of South Florida among residents from the West Indies. For others inclined to scoff, here’s your challenge: You can make fun of cricket, but wisecracks may not include the word “Jiminy.”

8. GOLF: Tiger Woods taking indefinite "break" from PGA Tour: This is bad news for the tour and for the upcoming Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. There go the TV ratings. Golf fans would rather watch Tiger take a break (or a nap) than watch other guys play golf.

9. YOUTH SPORTS: Chicago team stripped of Little League title: Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team was stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League World Series for its coach using players not from its district. It's another reminder the only problem with youth sports is adults.

10. AUTO RACING: Daytona 500 begins the NASCAR schedule next Sunday: The swansong season for Jeff Gordon, with all its testiminials and ceremonial rocking chair gifts, is about to begin. The Gordon tributes haven’t even started yet and I’m already tired of them.

Poll result: Estimation of Loria improving, but still skews negative: We gave your four choices on how you feel about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and results were: Very positive 25.6 percent, mildly positive 18.4%, mildly negative 25.9% and very negative 30.1. That made it negative over positive overall by 56-44%. [Note: There was a sudden surge in "very positive" votes yesterday, suggesting an organized effort by the Marlins, perhaps. Not enough, alas]. 

THANK YOU, DR. J: Julius Erving said something (click here) that I have thought but never said aloud. In 1aa1adunkmascotfact I've not heard it said or seen it written. "Dr. J" says the NBA All-Star Weekend's Slam-Dunk Contest, once an exciting, huge draw, has lost much of its appeal due to mascots. Yes, mascots. He means mascots (and non-mascot gymnasts) bouncing off mini-trampolines and acrobatically slam-dunking from above the rim as in-game entertainment (as pictured). Mere earth-bound mortals cannot duplicate that. No, not even Michael Jordan. Blake Griffin can sort of jump over the hood of a small car, but he still is not rising as high or majestically as a trampoline allows. The absence of top stars in the Slam-Dunk Contest also hurts (talking to you, LeBron), but Dr. J. is right. No more trampolines in NBA arenas!

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

January 25, 2015

Which is the best (or least bad) of sports' Big 4 All-Star Games? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10, verdict on D-Wade & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 25. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Is-Dwyane Wade-still-elite poll, Marlins sign Ichiro, Riley descends from mount, Marino dipped in wax, Bob Dylan & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

OUR LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL-STAR GAMES: The NFL and NHL play their annual all-star games today and the NBA's is soon so this is the right time to ask which of our Big Four sports' all-star games 1aa1anflpb 1aa1amlbasg 1aa1anhlasg 1aa1anbaasgyou think is the best -- or, perhaps, the least awful. They all are flawed, which is why the formats are always tinkered with. We spend a lot of time complaining about the selection process. The games don't draw great TV ratings. Each is decorated with surrounding events (home run derbies, slam-dunk contests) because the All-Star Game itself is not a great sell on its own. Nevertheless, chances are you think one if better than the rest. So which is it and why? Remember, this is not a favorite-sport poll. It is asking specifically which one has the best All-Star Game. Vote now.

Poll result: Mixed views (but doubts) on whether Wade still "elite": We asked in the previous blogpost if Heat star Dwyane Wade, at 33, remains an "elite" player by however you define that (you may still vote), and it was 51.6 percent "no," 40.1% "yes" and 8.3% "undecided."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: "Deflategate” dominates buildup to Super Bowl: It’ll be New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in the 49th Super Bowl, but the buildup has become an NFL nightmare with the Pats’ underinflated-footballs controversy. At least attention is diverted away from whether Marshawn Lynch will be fined again for grabbing his crotch. So from either angle, it's all about balls!

2. HEAT: Wade’s streak of All-Star Game starts ends: Forbes surprised many when its rank of best NBA fans had Miami No. 1. That was just before Heat fans allowed Dwyane Wade’s streak of nine All-Star Game starts in a row to end as a late flurry of votes by Toronto fans pushed Kyle Lowry ahead. No word on whether Forbes will now reconfigure its fan rankings.

3. MARLINS: Active offseason continues as Fish add Ichiro: With the Feb. 20 start of spring training looming, the Marlins continued an active and successful offseason by signing 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract as a fourth outfielder. Granted, Ichiro is 41 now and this signing would be more exciting if it were 2005, not ’15. But still!

4. ALL-STAR GAMES: NFL, NHL stars showcased Sunday: Hockey’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, and football's Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, have more in common than the fact both are being played Sunday and each has undergone format changes. For example, they are also alike in that the leagues act like they are big deals but fans don’t care all that much.

5. RUNNING: Annual Miami Marathon stampedes from downtown: OK, you got me. Nobody is talking about this except the runners themselves. But there were some 25,000 of those setting off early Sunday in the annual Miami Marathon & Half Marathon starting at 6:15 a.m. Too bad it’s not in South Beach so the runners could stampede over all the drunks leaving SoBe clubs at about that time.

6. DOLPHINS: Ross touts stadium renovations: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pimped a $350 million stadium renovation designed to attract Super Bowls and other biig events. Dear Steve: The only change in the stadium Dolfans care about is a winning team in it.

7. HURRICANES: Former player donates $1.6 million: UM men's basketball won a big game at Syracuse but a bigger story off-the-field was ex-Canes football star Calais Campbell donating $1.6 million to school's athletic department, biggest gift ever by a former UM athlete. Perpetually complaining, dissatified Hurricanes fans said it wasn't enough.

8. BASEBALL: Manfred takes over as MLB commissioner: Rob Manfred is on the job as of Sunday as Bud Selig retires. Selig had a great run other than the Steroids Era happening under his nose. Much as Nixon was a pretty great president other than Watergate. 

9. GOLF: Allenby, Woods in strange controversies: Robert Allenby claimed he was beaten, robbed and dumped in a park six miles from a bar, but his story unraveled. Tiger Woods claimed he lost a front tooth to a swinging TV camera but nobody seemed to believe that, either.

10. FIU: Veteran coach Russo retires: Cindy Russo retired after 36 years as FIU's women's basketball coach. Perspective? That's 10 years longer than that slacker Don Shula coached the Dolphins.

Check back often because we frequently update and add to our latest blogposts...

January 13, 2015

The curious, shameful skepticism about Rob Konrad's tale of survival; plus elevating Urban Meyer, 'Shameless,' your Super Bowl pick & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday!: We're in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio -- our 46th national show. Have a new "Back In My Day" ready to roll. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 13. Today is my parents' anniversary date, which led to the creation of me. See, people used to get married first and then have kids. How quaint! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): AFC/NFC title-game polls, Hassan Whiteside, history of Heat 7-footers, Canton verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Buckeyes favored to repeat: Love the instant odds! Confetti is still falling on Ohio State and already OSU is installed as a 6-1 favorite to win next saeson's national title, via Bovada. TCU is next at 15-2, then Alabama at 10-1. Further down we see Florida State 16-1, Florida 33-1 and Miami 75-1.

Wade ninth in jersey sales: Updated NBA jersey sales rankings are out, with Heat's Dwyane Wade No. 9. The top five: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose.

WHY THE DOUBTERS ON ROB KONRAD?: You probably know the Rob Konrad story by now. Ex-Dolphins fullback falls overboard while fgishing along last week, watches his boat onautopilot motor away from 1aa1akonradhim, and spends 16 hours at sea, somehow surviving. I tell the extraordinary tale today in a column off yesterday's first public comments by Konrad. Click on Survivor to read it. (Konrad and wife Tammy are pictured from the news conference). I find Konrad's story to be absolutely true and close to miraculous. There are doubters, though. I address that briefly in the longer-version column that appears online, writing, "It is our human nature to be skeptical, so there may be some who doubt parts of this tale simply because they cannot fathom 16 hours alone at sea. Me, I hope I am never so cynical that I stop believing in man’s capacity for heroism." Sure enough, a few emailers have cast doubt on Konrad -- as if he created and involved his wife, family and friends in an elaborate hoax. Some early media accounts (here is one from Newsweek.com published Friday) also wonder if the story is too good to be true. I do not consider myself naive. My profession demands that a critical eye is my default view of just about everything. But I believe Rob Konrad. Now, more than before, maybe I believe a little in miracles, too. And I feel a little bit sorry for those who can't.

ELEVATING URBAN: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (pictured) now is a three-time national champion 1aa1ameyeru(two with the Gators) after last night's resounding 42-20 spanking of Oregon in the first playoff-era college championship game. And with a third-string quarterback! I'm no Urban fan, but I must say it may be time to elevate him to the pantheon of great college coaches. Only Bear Bryant (5), Frank Leahy (4) and Nick Saban (4) have won more recognized major-college titles. Meyer and Saban are now racing to see who catches and passes the great Bear first. Age alone suggests Meyer, 50, has a better chance than Saban, 63, to retire as the college game's most decorated coach.

ON 'SHAMELESS': How much I love my wife came clear Monday night when I agreed to watch the Golden 1aa1aemmyrGlobes with her (women and awards shows!), and delay watching the season debut of Shameless until last night on demand. I love the Showtime series. William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher might be the greatest character on TV, and I have a Creepy Old Guy Crush on Emmy Rossum (pictured, as Fiona). The entire cast is an exercise in relentless dysfunction that is both hilarious and sad. Fellow Shamelessites know what I mean. The rest of you, get on board.

Poll result: You like Seahawks and Patriots even more in NFL title games: We asked your predictions for the upcoming AFC and NFC championship games and it was Patriots over Colts by 74.0 percent and Seahawks over Packers by 63.3%.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

December 24, 2014

Cooperstown calling: Here's your Hall of Fame ballot. New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL Pix ' Fantasy, Heat/Josh Smith, Miami Beach Bowl & more

Radio hiatus: The Dan LeBatard Show was off for the holidays yesterday and is again next week, so my Tuesday in-studio appearances will resume Jan. 6. 

1aa1aceve1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24. Merry Christmas Eve! I really must start my Christmas shopping. Seriously. 2) I have zero problem with Joe Philbin declining to address whether his coordinators would be back next season. That should not be construed as non-support. Expect Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle both to return. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): DSM poll and keeping-Philbin poll results, Dolphins beat Chargers & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Getting ready for LeBron by losing to the 76ers is like preparing for a marathon by failing to finish a 5K." --Greg Cote

1aa1abbhallCOOPERSTOWN CALLING: HERE IS YOUR HALL OF FAME BALLOT: I have completed my baseball Hall of Fame ballot and will reveal my choices later. First I want to offer my readers a chance to vote. The official ballot had 34 names. I weeded out 12 guys who have zero shot or frankly don't even deserve to be listed. (Sorry, Cliff Floyd. You're in the Hall of Very Good). I present here, alphabetically, the other 22 on the official ballot. Vote for as many as 10, but only those you think deserve to be in Cooperstown. Asterisks indicate players on the ballot for the first time. Remember, you may vote for as many as 10. Go!

How to interpret the ongoing voting results: Because the maximum vote is 10 each, a player's highest possible percentage of the overall would be 10 percent if everyone voted the max. In other words, any player at 7.5% or above is meeting the BBWAA equivalent of a 75 percent vote for induction. (Only five of 22 were when last I checked). By the way, for those wondering, this poll does not violate BBWAA rules and won't get me in trouble a la Le Batard. As I said, my ballot is already completed.

HEAT INTEREST IN JOSH SMITH FEELS MOOT: Can't see much reason why released 1aa1ajsmithPiston Josh Smith won't opt to sign with Houston for its far greater championship chance. Miami's interest shows the desperation of a 13-15 team with a need at power forward, with Josh McRobert lost for the season. The 6-9 Smith would fill that need. But he also was shooting 39 percent when Detroit waived him. And he carries the "chemsitry" baggage, of course. I think he's worth the risk, and Heat can offer him big minutes. Can't see him not landing in the West, though.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: AN UPLIFTING WEEK 16, BOTH WAYS: 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: Went 11-5 outright and a nifty 10-6 against the line, including another Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!") with Raiders over Bills. Also had Giants' upset of Rams and four other 'dogs with points. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos, relegated to the consolation round, at least salvaged a closing 107-83 win led by Marshawn Lynch's 24 points to finish 8-8. Congrats to our league champion, Mom's Maniacs!

BIG DEBUT FOR MIAMI BEACH BOWL: Memphis beating BYU 55-48 in double overtime constituted a great debut for the Miami Beach Bowl yesterday. The draw at Marlins Park, 20,761, wasn't great but not terrible, either. Even the postgame brawl, while damnable, gave the game added attention. Great start. Now let's seed if the Boca Raton Bowl debuts as successfully this evening.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

December 19, 2014

Dolphins, NFL Week 16 picks: 0.725%; plus Fleetwood Mac, state bowl-game winners, Heat 'n Panthers morphing, Marlins-Yanks trade, NBA-on-Christmas verdict & more

1) It is SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20. No Random EVidence this week. The Sunday notes-column package is off for the holidays. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA-on-Christmas poll, Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden verdict, U.S.-Cuba relations & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS, NFL WEEK 16 PICKS: "0.725%": The percentage at left represents the less than 1-in-100 playoff likelihood for Miami right now as it hosts the Vikings on Sunday, according to computer estimations 1aa1afripixfrom makenflplayoffs.com. Miami has the second-worst odds of any of 21 teams still mathematically alive (ahead of only Cleveland). It'll be win-and-pray for the Dolphins and several other teams as the better clubs clinch remaining playoff spots. Click on Week 16 Gems for all our latest NFL prediction capsules, which have a playoff-piocture theme. (Strong start to our week Thursday night with a near exacto. Jags beat Titans 21-13; I had it 20-13). Also, click on Overlooking Landry for my weekly Friday Page column. It posits that the Fins' Jarvis Landry is having a season that, most years, would merit offensive rookie-of-the-year consideration, but that, unfortunately for him, this is a particularly bounteous year for rookie wide receivers.

LET'S GO BOWLING: The glut of 39 bowls games begins Saturday. Astonishingly, 11 of the bowls (28%) either involve a Florida team or are played in our state. We rank those 11 by interest in South Florida, with state ties underlined, and with predictions by ESPN's Mark Schlabach:

1aa1adepend1. Rose (College Football Playoff semifinal): Oregon 42, Florida State 31. Jan. 1, 5 p.m., Pasadena, CA.

2. Duck Commander Independence: Miami 27, South Carolina 20. Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m., Shreveport, LA.

3. Birmingham: East Carolina 27, Florida 23. Jan. 3, noon, Birmingham, AL.

4. Capital One Orange: Georgia Tech 34, Mississippi State 30. Dec. 31, 8 p.m., Dolphins stadium.

5. Miami Beach: Memphis 31, BYU 24. Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Marlins Park.

6. Boca Raton: Marshall 45, Northern Illinois 38. Dec. 23, 6 p.m., FAU Stadium.

7. Bitcoin St. Petersburg: North Carolina State 21, UCF 20. Dec. 26, 8 p.m., St. Pete.

8. Outback: Auburn 42, Wisconsin 35. Jan. 1, noon, Tampa.

9. Russell Athletic: Oklahoma 31, Clemson 20. Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m., Orlando.

10. Citrus: Missouri 24, Minnesota 20. Jan. 1, 1 p.m., Orlando.

11. Taxslayer: Tennessee 28, Iowa 17. Jan. 2, 3:20 p.m., Jacksonville.

ON FLEETWOOD MAC: Saw the legendary band at the Sunrise arena last night and thought it was a great show. I've never been a huge FM fan beyond the obligatory heydays love of the Rumours LP, but as a huge pop music fan I am drawn to seeing all-time great perfomers I've not seen before. Thoughts: Lindsay Buckingham is a better guitar player live than is heard on records, but is rather insufferable as a frontman, his ego unhidden. Founding father Mick Fleetwood is terrific on drums and a delight to watch. Bassist John McVie gets too lost; he's too invisble, not musically, but onstage. Stevie Nicks is still playing the gypsy-poet. Not a huge fan of her voice but she is a commanding stage presence. The star, for me, is Christine McVie on vocals and keyboards. I don't think I would have gone to the show had she not rejoined the band.

 

1aa1ampradoMARLINS-YANKEES MAKE TRADE: Marlins today acquired infielder Martin Prado (pictured), pitcher David Phelps and cash from Yankees for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league pitcher Domingo German. I'd call it a medium trade, certainly not a big one. Prado, 31, who hit .282 with 26 doubles and 12 homers last year, will compete to start at third base. Phelps, 28, could emerge as a No. 5 starter.

HEAT, PANTHERS HAVE BECOME SAME TEAM: For years the Heat preened and reigned, and the Panthers were the forgotten and forlorn afterthought. Now the two teams have met in the middle: Mediocrity. They have morphed into the same team. The previous four seasons, the Heat's winning percentage was .718 and the Panthers' .381. This season:

Team        Record            Pos.    L10    Strk

Panthers    14-16, .467    T-7th   6-4    W2

Heat          12-14, .462     7th      3-7    L1 

Poll result: Most don't like NBA playing on Christmas: With the LeBron-at-Heat Christmas Day game looming, we asked what you thought of the NBA playing games on the holiday, and 61.2 percent were against versus 34.0% who were OK with it. The other 4.8% were undecided.

Check back often. We constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

November 08, 2014

Are you rooting for or against LeBron? New poll. Vote now!; plus state collball Week 11 & more

1) It is SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ross screws team and Dolfans with London call, NFL Week 10 Pix & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

ARE HEAT FANS ROOTING FOR OR AGAINST LEBRON?: I watched Cleveland win at Denver late last night to improve to 2-3 as LeBron James scored 22 with 11 assists. Still saw a Cavs team that looked 1aa1ajameslmore like individual pieces trying to work, but the ball movement was much improved. Even Kyrie Irving passed it! Still no low-post impact from LeBron, though. He's less suited for the role, at 20 pounds lighter, and is showing no interest in it. I appreciate the recent Tweet LeBron sent out. "RELAX!" was all it said. There has been much premature media chewing over the Cavs' slow start and how he's looked. ESPN talking heads Mike Golic and BIll Simmons even got into a little Twitter war over it. Remember how the 2010-11 Heat started 9-8 and the sky was falling? Why would the Cavs' rocky start now surprise anybody? I'm more interested here in whether Miami fans are following James and whether they are rooting for or against him. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

STATE COLLBALL WEEK 11: NO CANES, BUT PLENTY ELSE: Miami is idle preparing for next Saturday's big showdown with Florida State, but college football rages on with four other Collball Week 11 state FBS games:

1aa1afiu
Old Dominion 38, FIU 35:
 FIU loses a heartbreaker on last-second field goal to doom its season non-bowl-eligible, now at 3-7. G-Panthers were a 5-point road 'dog here but I gave them a big chance against an O.D. defense giving up an average of 48.8 points in its six losses.

No. 2 Florida State 34, Virginia 20: Miami and its fans surely were watch-scouting as 'Noles tried to breeze by as three-TD (20-point) faves but instead came away with a less-than-dominating performance. FSU is now 2-7 against the spread and I'd made Virginia a fair bet to cover, though not to threaten Tally's winning streak from hitting 25 games. Bingo.

North Texas 31, FAU 10: You know the opponent is dreadful when a now 3-7 FAU was favored (by 3) on the road. The result in turn tells you how good the Owls are, alas.

1aa1acommodores
Florida 34, Vanderbilt 10:
 Gators were favored by two touchdowns (13.5) and handled Lionel Richie & The Commodores pretty easily. The concern if you're a UF fan was the letdown factor, after team spent so much emotion and want-to shocking Georgia in that Brick House-win at the Cocktail Party last week. But, no such problem. Also good to see UF let young QB Treon Harris throw it a little, not just hand off.

Off this week: Miami, UCF and USF.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

October 31, 2014

NFL Week 9 pix: 2 streaks end in Miami; plus LeBron's delightful homecoming fizzle, Noles demand respect & more

1aa1ahalloween1) It is FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31. Happy Halloween, kids of all ages! 2) I'm on the grounds of Random Evidence Laboratories today creating Sunday's notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FSU and LeBron debut make for big TV night, LeBron cheer-boo result, World Series & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Already? 2015 World Series odds: Bovada has L.A. Dodgers and Washington Nationals co-favorites to win it all next fall at 15-2 odds, followed by Tigers and Angels both 10-1. Marlins are 50-1, tied for 23rd of 30 clubs.

NFL WEEK 9 PIX: SORRY DOLPHINS, BUT STREAK STOPS HERE: Miami has won two games in a row, the 1aa1afripixbaby of streaks but a streak nonetheless. And San Diego has lost seven games in a row in Miami since famously last winning that 41-38 overtime playoff game on Jan. 2, 1982. (I was there at the Orange Bowl, cub reporting). I wish I believed that both streaks would continue here Sunday. I don't. Click on Week 9 Gems for all our latest NFL predictions. (Good start on our week last night; correctly had Saints covering at Panthers). Also, Click on Air Show for our Friday Page NFL column. It leads with Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning and includes our King Sport Halftime Awards.

1aa1ahomecomingMIAMI HOWLS WITH DELIGHT AS LEBRON FIZZLES IN HOMECOMING DEBUT: Evidently God belongs to Heat Nation. South Florida watched (though not admitting it) as estranged hero LeBron James scored only 17 points and was awful doing it, shooting 5-for-15 with eight turnovers, in a Cleveland loss to the Knicks in LBJ's homecoming debut. The way LeBron left Miami rankles many Heat fans. The torrent of these sappy homecoming ads annoys many of the rest of us. I am especially already sick of the one with the heartfelt voiceover by mother of the year Gloria and the churchy "Amen" vocal background. Gawd.

PROPS TO THE NOLES: I'm no Florida State fan but I am a Floridian who tends to wish our state teams 1aa1agraywell, so (sorry, Canes fans) I was watching and rooting a little last night as Jameis Winston and the Seminoles shut up that Louisville crowd little by little. Those people with a 21-0 early lead were acting like they'd never seen Winston before and didn't know who they were playing. (By the way, those gray Louisville uniforms are beyond awful). No, FSU isn't as good as last season's champions, but this unbeaten No. 2-ranked team deserves more respect than it gets. Having said that I am already looking forward to UM hosting FSU on Nov. 15. I think the Canes have a big chance at an upset.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...