February 16, 2017

Trump keeps messing with Miami, but when he threatens to screw up Loria selling Marlins, he's gone TOO FAR!; plus Branden Albert, Shane Battier, 3 Dolphins honored, Fish farm barren, 'The Ballad of 1440,' your Villain Purge verdict & more

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

Mepic1) It is FRIDAY, February 17. We're about to put out a new song, "The Ballad of 1440" (pictured right), an autobiographical tale of a little boy in Hollywood, Florida who grew up to have an unexpected life. Click on image to see larger version. Will post a video of song on social media later this month. Stay tuned. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Villain purge: Loria-LeBron poll, Marlins World Series odds as spring training begins & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Branden Albert, Shane Battier: Weird: Media inaccurately reported Dolphins had waived veteran tackle Branden Albert. Or was it inaccurate? Evidently team decided to release Albert then changed its mind and will try to trade him. In any case, Laremy Tunsil will take over at left tackle. Congrats: Heat hire poplar ex-player Shane Battier as director of basketball development and analytics, and there is speculation he may be groomed as Pat Riley's eventual replacement.

HEY TRUMP, KEEP YOUR FINGERS OFF MIAMI SPORTS!: First Donald Trump's ownership of the golf course caused the controversy that was among the factors that imperiled the future of annual PGA Tour event at Doral. Then as president, Trump messed with the Florida Panthers' hierarchy by nominating Cats owner Vincent Viola to be Secretary of the Army. (Who knew there was a Secretary of the Army!?) Viola accepted, then later withdrew from consideration, citing business ties. Now, the Trump Administration reportedly is considering nominating Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to be U.S. Ambassador to France. Huh? Whu!? Is the qualification because Jeff once owned the Montreal Expos, and they speak a lot of French up there? Or maybe because The Donald can picture him wearing a beret? Or is it that Ambassador to France is the standard perk that comes with a $125,000 campaign contribution? In Franceany case, this is just Trump Loriabizarre. Think about it. The Kushner family -- which is directly tied to the White House because son Jared Kushner is Ivanka Trump's husband and thus the president's son-in-law -- is negotiating with Loria to buy the Marlins for a reported $1.6 billion. But now the family says it will cease efforts to buy the club if Loria is nominated for the ambassadorship. "Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned a AAA baseball team together," Joseph Meyer, Kushner's son-in-law, said in a statement. "Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time." Whoa now. Let us get this straight. A family with direct ties to Trump wants to buy the Marlins. But Trump possibly throwing this goofy little gift at Loria could screw up the whole deal. So strange. Does all of South Florida want Loria to sell the Marlins ASAP? Oui, oui! Hopefully this Ambassador to France story is short-lived, because it is ridiculous. I mean, are we to believe Loria is going to walk away from a potential $1.6 billion windfall because he'd rather be dealing with terrorism concerns in Paris? C'mon! Jeffrey, please put out the inevitable statement that says how flattered you are to be considered for the position yada yada yada but no thanks. Then get back to selling the Marlins so Trump can set up that direct hotline to Don Mattingly in the dugout to make executive orders on pitching changes.

Pff101THREE DOLPHINS, OTHER NOTABLE NAMES ON PFF'S LIST OF TOP 101 PLAYERS OF 2016: Pro Football Focus' Top 101 players of 2016 (because a Top 100 would be too ordinary) includes a trio of Dolphins in RB Jay Ajayi 31st, pass-rusher Cam Wake 45th and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh 52nd. In the AFC East only the Patriots (of course) have more -- five guys led by overall No. 1 Tom Brady. Bills and Jets have one each. Buffalo's guy is bully-guard Richie Incognito (98th), one of three ex-Dolphins to make it along with Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes (43rd) and Giants rusher Olivier Vernon (71st). Vernon is one of four ex-Hurricanes on the list along with Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (24th), Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (58th) and Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (92nd). Other notables: Chargers rusher and St. Thomas Aquinas alum Joey Bosa (32nd) and Colts receiver and ex-FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton (54th).

BraxtongarrettTHE FISH FARM IS BARREN: Trading away top prospects has withered the Miami Marlins' minor-league talent level -- the farm gone barren -- and the latest proof comes today with Baseball America's list of 2017 Top 100 Prospects. Check out the NL East. The Braves have eight on the list, ranked 3rd, 11th, 37th, 48th, 66th, 67th, 77th and 78th. The Phillies have four, ranked 12th, 17th, 41st and 80th. The Mets have three, ranked 8th, 71st and 100th. The Nationals have two, ranked 13th and 52nd. The Marlins? Only one. Lefty pitcher Braxton Garrett (pictured) is ranked 76th and not projected for MLB arrival until 2020. The home farm has empty rows and dry crops. Not good, Fish fans. Not good. 

Poll result: Villain purge: Loria selling tops beating LeBron: We asked which of these 2017 possibilities should please Miami sports fans more, and it was Jeffrey Loria finally selling the Marlins with 61.9 percent and LeBron James ousted from playoffs by Heat at 38.1%.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 2-17-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins spring training, 1:15 p.m.: Full squad is on field for first time this spring up in Jupiter.

2. Panthers at Anaheim, 10 p.m.: Cats have won two straight as they chase that No. 8 East seed.

3. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show continues at Miami Marine Stadium.

4. That about does it. Another light day.

Select recent columns: Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, the latest, on how Heat's recent run has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

 

February 08, 2017

Have we just seen greatest 12-month period in American team-sports history? Name most impressive title. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus UM's Njoku to Dolphins?, Patriots' hero through local family's eyes, Heat go for 12th straight, new BIMD & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 8. Pats won Super Bowl 34-28; I predicted they'd win 31-23. Not bad. 2) A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On Shula vs. Belichick, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

You can hate Patriots, but you cannot deny them: Hate Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Even call them cheaters. But do not deny their place in history. Even Miami and Dolfans must appreciate the historic greatness in their own division. That's my new column. Click Give the Devils Their Due to read.

"I can't decide which is more astounding. The Patriots overcoming a 25-point deficit to win the Super Bowl. Or a once 11-30 Heat team going for its 12th straight win tonight. The wonder of sports!" --Greg Cote

Back In My Day: Click on The Death Of Suspense for my latest BIMD video from Tuesday's LeBatard Show

Best2016HAS THIS BEEN THE GREATEST 12-MONTH PERIOD EVER IN AMERICAN SPORTS?: Just posing the question has its pitfalls. I try to avoid hyperbole, and also the prevalent sense that whatever is happening now is (of course) greater than whatever used to be. But, in this case, let this poll remind you how many historic or dramatic championships we've seen the past 12 months. The NHL's Stanley Cup Finals wasn't particularly special, but I'd testify all of our poll finalists were in one way or another. I invite you to vote for your top TWO of the six, and from there we'll anoint the No. 1 major sports championship of the past 12 months. The finalists are listed chronologically. Your challenge? Step back and see this from a neutral, national perspective, ignoring as best you can whether the result was what you preferred. Ready? Take a dip in our poll and vote now!

Remember: Vote for your top two (2)!

CANES' NJOKU STAYING IN MIAMI WITH DOLPHINS?: That's what ESPN's Todd McShay predicts in his new NFL Mock Draft 2.0 out today. He has UM tight end David Njoku (pictured) being Dnjokudrafted by the Dolphins 22nd overall, and writes, "Njoku comes with loads of upside, thanks to rare athleticism for the position and big-play ability, including 16.2 yards per reception. There's not much of a gap between Njoku and Alabama's O.J. Howard for the No. 1 TE ranking. Both Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims are set to be free agents for the Dolphins, so the fit would make sense for Njoku to stay in Miami." My take? Not a crazy idea. Although I think defense would be a better spend for a No. 1 Fins pick, team does need a dynamic, offensive tight end. Other McShay first-round projections from in-state: Gators CB Teez Tabor 14th, Seminoles RB Dalvin Cook 15th, Gators LB Jarrad Davis 24th and Gators CB Quincy Wilson 31st. Still no Brad Kaaya in the first round. (You shoulda stayed, kid).

PATRIOTS' HERO THROUGH A FORT LAUDERDALE FAMILY'S EYES: The New England Patriots' record-setting comeback to win Super Bowl 51 in overtime, when deconstructed, could be seen as Jameswhitea family in Fort Lauderdale living a dream. Tyrone and Lisa Smith were in Houston watching as their son James, the Pats running back, caught 14 passes for 110 yards, scored a crucial two-point conversion and scored three touchdowns -- including the dramatic game-winner in OT. Smith could very easily have been named Super Bowl MVP instead of Tom Brady. Disney thought he was the MVP, so James and his parents did the "I'm going to Disney World" thing on Monday in Orlando (as pictured), the family starring in a parade and treated like kings. James was born in Plantation, South-Florida raised and played at St. Thomas Aquinas High -- local all the way. After the Disney fete James headed north for Tuesday's victory parade in Boston, and Tyrone and Lisa headed south, back to their lives in Fort Lauderdale. "It's been a surreal feeling," father Tyrone told me. "You just don't go into a game expecting that. You hope the team does well and he does a part to contribute. But you don't expect what happened. I had to come back and turn the TV on about 4 o'clock [a.m.] to kind of see again for myself. It was one for the ages. It's a blessing you can't describe." James is remembered as a great kid at St. Thomas. "Never missed a practice," recalled former Aquinas offensive coordinator Bryan Baucom. "A class act." His dad Tyrone is a Miami-Dade police captain. His mom also in in law enforcement, with the state parole department. "This comes around once every blue moon," said the father of what has happened to the family. I asked him how he felt. I could almost see his smile over the phone. "Exhausted!" he said.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-8-17: What events on the Wednesday sports calendar should interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Milwaukee, 8 p.m.: Surging Miami goes for 12th straight victory.

2. Virginia Tech at Hurricanes, 9 p.m.: UM men host big ACC game.

3. Pro beach volleyball, 10:30 a.m.: FIVB Fort Lauderdale Major men's/women's pool matches all day.

4. North Carolina State at Florida State, 7 p.m.: Seminoles men are ranked No. 14.

5. Chicago at Golden State, 10: 30 p.m.: Dwyane Wade at NBA's best team, that's why.

Select recent columns: Give the Devils Their Due, the latest, on Belichick and Brady. Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, previewing the Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 06, 2017

Pats' monstrous Super Bowl rally tops updated Hot Button Top 10, also starring surging Heat, Jason Taylor, Canes; plus, debate "greatest," but not "winningest." Belichick will never surpass Shula for most career victories & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, February 6. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Jason Taylor gets into Canton, predicting football Hall of Fame class, week's final Super Bowl With a Smirk & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

A Super Bowl to save a season: This has been a bad season for the NFL in general, but Falcons vs. Patriots in Super Bowl 51 is matchup capable of being spectacular and saving the season. Click on Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue to read my Sunday column previewing the game.

Patriots 31, Falcons 23: Click on Super Bowl Gem for my full prediction capsule on today's Super Bowl. (I got the score pretty close, If I do say so).

'GREATEST COACH' DEBATE MAY BE LOSING CAUSE, BUT SHULA HAS TWO DISTINCTIONS THAT REMAIN HIS ALONE: "Bill Belichick closing in on Don Shula!" somehow became a Donbillmanufactured subplot to this Super Bowl from a Miami perspective. I get it. It's easy. But it's also a false narrative, for two reasons. 1) "Greatest coach ever," alas, is a train that may have already left the station for Shula. The Dolphins' icon was 2-4 in Super Bowls. Belichick just won his fifth. I don't know that there are a lot of NFL scholars and historians who would not already give the greatest-ever nod to New England's guy. But! 2) The two great distinctions that will always keep Shula's name in the greatest-ever argument -- most career victories and only Perfect Season -- seem safely his. I laugh at the suggestion Belichick is a real threat to Shula's career mark of 347 overall victories. He would have to win at his current pace and still be coaching at age 72 to have a shot, and maintaining that current pace will be tougher indeed when Tom Brady (finally) retires presumably after one or two more years. The likelihood of Belichick winning and coaching long enough to surpass 347 wins seems roughly as likely as the odds another team will equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. Could happen, but wouldn't bet on it. History might already see Belichick as "greater," but the distinctions of "winningest" and perfection are safely with Shula.

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

Hotbutton1. SUPER BOWL: Monstrous rally grows Patriots dynasty: Awful game much of the way, but Patriots made a thriller of Super Bowl 51, rallying from 21-0 and 28-3 holes to win in overtime, 34-28. Massive choke by the Falcons? Maybe. But Tom Brady had a little to do with that, no?

2. HEAT: Surging Miami seeks 11th straight tonight: Heat crushed visiting Philadelphia 125-102 Saturday night behind Hassan Whiteside's 30 points and 20 rebounds to win a 10th straight and now begins a four-game road trip tonight at Minnesota. Might disappoint lottery-minded fans, but eighth seed and playoffs are no longer out of reach for the way-hot Heat.

3. HURRICANES: UM football claims signing-day bounty: Miami loaded up on National Signing Day with a 24-man bounty that ESPN ranked as the No. 12 recruiting class in the nation. "We nailed it!" said Mark Richt … then again, so did every other college coach in America on signing day.

4. HALL OF FAME: Dolphins' Taylor among new inductees: LaDainian Tomlinson was a lock. Nobody else was. But ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor was among the seven who got in, along with Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Kenny Easley and Morten Andersen. Congrats, J.T. Now what about Zach Thomas.

5. PANTHERS: Barkov, Huberdeau back on the ice: Florida has reinforcements as it chases a playoff spot as young stars Sasha Barkov (out previous 15 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (out all out season) returned from injuries Friday to spark Cat's third straight win. That's two fewer excuses for Cats to miss the playoffs.

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women outshining men: UM men were only 3-5 since Jan. 1 before winning Friday, but Canes women are 17-5 and ranked 16th entering Monday game at No. 6 Florida State. Coach Katie Meier got her 300th career win. Adding a few more in March would be nice.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men beat Jamaica in friendly: After a scoreless draw vs. Serbia in Bruce Arena's debut as coach, the U.S. men beat Jamaica 1-0 Saturday night in Chattanooga. Now, it's what's next on the team's calendar that matters and will judge Arena: World Cup qualifying.

8. GOLF: Comeback short-lived, Tiger out again: He's out a year and a half with various back ailments, he comes back, and he can't finish the tournament, withdrawing with back spasms. Hate to say, but it may be time for Tiger Woods to call it quits.

9. BARKLEY-LEBRON: Basketball beef gets personal: Broadcaster Charles Barkley called LeBron James "whiny." LeBron shot back with a litany of bad stuff Chuck has done in the past. C'mon, kids. Play nice!

10. BASEBALL: It's just about here, folks: Miami Marlins hold their annual stadium FanFest next Saturday and Sunday, the precursor to when players negin to report for spring training. Ready or not, almost time to play ball!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 2017 FIVB world beach volleyball tours opens with the Fort Lauderdale Major beginning Tuesday, a five-star men's and women's event featuring Kerry Walsh Jennings and a bunch of people I've never heard of ..... Falcons QB Matt Ryan won the NFL MVP Saturday night. Correctly had a feeling Tom Brady would be lifting the more coveted hardware Sunday ..... Five days until Kevin Durant makes his first return to Oklahoma City. Thunder fans already are practicing their booing in preparation ..... The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-6-17: What events on the Monday, Feb. 6 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Heat at Minnesota, 8 p.m.: Good shot at 11th straight win tonight at Timberwolves.

2. Hurricanes at Florida State, 7 p.m.: No. 16 UM women visit No. 6 Seminoles.

3. Um, pretty much nothing. Light post-Super Bowl Monday.

Select recent columns: Patriots  and Falcons to the Rescue, the latest, previewing today's Super Bowl. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 04, 2017

Dolphins' Taylor elected to Hall of Fame! How I did on my Canton predictions; plus latest and Super Bowl With a Smirk, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, February 4. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Me and Dwyane Wade and Twitter and wine, the fourth Super Bowl With a Smirk, our Falcons-Patriots SB prediction & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

BREAKING: Jason Taylor voted into Canton: Ex-Dolphins great Jason Taylor has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Also elected" LaDanian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis, Kurt Warner, Morten Andersen, Jerry Jones and Kenny Easley. That's seven in all. How's I do on my predictions? (See below). Six of the guys I had with a 50 percent chance or better got in. I thought John Lynch and Terrell Owens would, but they didn't. I thought Andersen wouldn't make it, but he did. Overall, not too bad on my guesswork. My original post is below:

CantonCANTON CALLING: HANDICAPPING HALL OF FAME LIKELIHOOD FOR JASON TAYLOR, OTHER 17 FINALISTS: Pro Football Hall Fame does the Big Reveal tonight at 8 on Fox, and what's intriguing is that only RB LaDainian Tomlinson is an absolute, you'd-bet-your-life lock to get in. There is big, wide debate on whether the Dolphins' contender, DE Jason Taylor, is likely to make it or has no real shot. I rank the 15 finalists and three senior/contributor nominees by likelihood of induction, with my betting odds on each:

DEAD-CERTAIN LOCK:

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (99% percent likely / 1-100 odds): Bet the house, the car and your entire family.

LIKELY:

QB Kurt Warner (75% / 1-2): God's will?

S Kenny Easley (70% / 1-2): Just watch. At least one Senior nominee has gotten in every year since 1997.

MAYBE:

S John Lynch (65% / 2-3): State of the art

Owner Jerry Jones (60% / 1-1): And Jimmy Johnson didn't make it to finalist round. Ouch. 

RB Terrell Davis (60% / 1-1): Fairly short career could hurt.

OT Joe Jacoby (60% / 1-1): Boss Hog.

WR Terrell Owens (60% / 1-1): Controversial. Media didn't like him. So what!

JtDE Jason Taylor (50% / 5-4): Most experts call him a longshot in first year of eligibility, but he's sixth all-time in sacks, returned more fumbles for TDs than anybody, won a Defensive Player of the Year award and is only pass rusher on the ballot, which helps. Don't be surprised if he gets in this time, or if he doesn't, but I absolutely think Taylor is a certain future Hall of Famer (eventually) and has a big chance right now time.

SLIM SHOT:

PK Morten Andersen (35% / 8-1): Punter Ray Guy remains only specialist/foot-man in Hall.

G Alan Faneca (30% / 10-1): Maybe someday.

OT Tony Boselli (30% / 10-1): Maybe someday II.

Coach Don Coryell (25% / 15-1): No Super Bowls, .572 win percentage. Meh.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (25% / 15-1): If he didn't get in immediately, probably never happen.

NEGLIGIBLE CHANCE:

WR Isaac Bruce (20% / 20-1): Big numbers, but Fort Lauderdale native and Dillard High alum spent much of pro career overshadowed on own team by Torry Holt.

C Kevin Mawae (15% / 25-1): Hall of Very Good. 

S Brian Dawkins (15% / 25-1): Hurts him that Lynch and Easley are both on ballot.

CB Ty Law (10% / 30-1): No ugly mustard-yellow jacket for you!

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK: BIDDING ADIEU FOR WEEK WITH AGRODOLCE, TAYLOR SWIFT, 22 COWS, 1.7 MILLION POUNDS OF CHICKEN WINGS AND ONE ORANGUTAN: Super Bowl With a Smirk bids farewell with our last of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game:

SmirkYou know Super Bowl Week is winding down and the game is finally near when the official parties kick in.

The 26th annual Taste of the NFL, a "Party With a Purpose" fundraiser, happens Saturday night at the University of Houston with dishes by chefs representing every league city.

Featured on the tony menu this year: Atlanta’s Roasted Quail, Parsnips, Onion Soubise and Cranberry Agrodolce vs. New England’s Cavatelli, Housemade Sausage, Butternut Squash and Shaved Truffle Butter.

AgrodolceObvious edge there to Atlanta. I mean, who doesn’t love soubise and agrodolce!?

In case you wondered, Miami, last in a Super Bowl 32 years ago, will be represented on the menu by Stone Crab Bisque and Rum-Glazed Bacon with a Glaze of Dolfan Tears.

Let’s hope there is no controversy at Saturday’s Taste of the NFL like there was last year, when the chef representing the Patriots was kicked out for intentionally deflating other chefs’ souffles.

(*) Maxim, Rolling Stone and Playboy will be among other major party hosts as a bevy of rented women and once-famous hip-hop stars make the rounds. Taylor Swift is hosting a "Super Saturday Night" party and can be expected to act all surprised to be there.

(*) Smirk culled through a stack of his exclusive A-list invites to celebrity soirees and chose to attend a Super Bowl party being hosted by the estranged second cousin of Gloria Estefan’s former gardener.

(*) Hall of Fame voters met Friday in the Bob Kuechenberg Disappointment Room to decide which new inductees will be announced Saturday. LaDainian Tomlinson is the only absolute for Canton, but ex-Dolphin Jason Taylor has a good shot. Should we expect a Tweet from President Trump that the election was rigged?

Kmkey(*) Keegan-Michael Key (of Comedy Central’s "Key & Peele") hosts the NFL Honors awards show Saturday, with winners announced in 16 categories including league MVP — likely Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Could be a shutout for Dolphins, although Cam Wake has a shot at Comeback Player of the Year. Miami also is a finalist for the Kaepernick Cup for anthem kneeling.

(*) Fox, ESPN and NFL Network are girding for pregame shows that will last longer than the game itself. ESPN’s pregame will include a 13-minute segment on how Wilson footballs are made. No, seriously. What they might not tell you: all of the footballs to be used on Sunday required the hides of 22 cows, one of them a cherished doe-eyed Guernsey named Lulu.

(*) ESPN’s pregame also will feature a tribute to Chris Berman on his final major workday before the network shoves him unceremoniously into awkward semi-retirement.

Chicken(*) The National Chicken Council says the estimated 1.3 billion chicken wings eaten on Sunday will weigh 1.7 million pounds or 300 times the combined weight of the 32 NFL teams, surprising analysts who were unaware there was a National Chicken Council.

(*) The annual NFL Foundation Super Bowl golf tournament was held Friday as dozens of former players drove the course loudly griping about their various ailments and lack of benefits.

(*) Acara, an orangutan at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, has predicted a Falcons victory.

(*) There was a brawl on Sad, Sad Radio Row at the SB Media Center on Friday when producers for rival Bangor, Maine, radio stations got into a kickfight over first dibs on Patriots backup long-snapper Tug McGillicutty.

Madea(*) Finally, our parting Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Why do what every other party in America is doing? As the Falcons and Patriots are lining up for the opening kickoff and the din of your guests reaches an excited pitch, abruptly switch the channel from the game to "A Madea Christmas" airing on BET.

Click Smirk I, Smirk II, Smirk III and Smirk IV for this week's previous Smirks.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-4-17: What events on the Saturday, Feb. 4 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Philadelphia at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami favored to bag its 10th straight win.

2. Hall of Fame announcement, 8 p.m.: Canton's big reveal could include Jason Taylor.

3. Hurricanes at North Carolina State, 3 p.m.: UM men, 3-5 since start of year, seek spark.

4. Kentucky at Florida, 8:15 p.m.: No. 8 Wildcat men a big test for No. 24 Gators.

5. Cleveland at New York, 8:30: Because LeBron James at Carmelo Anthony is still a show.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 03, 2017

Me and Dwyane Wade, Twitter and wine; plus our Falcons-Patriots prediction, the new Super Bowl With a Smirk & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, February 3. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes' recruiting bounty, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games), your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

ME AND DWYANE WADE, TWITTER AND WINE: I love Twitter. I do. One of the reasons why metastasized yesterday with my Tweet shown below and Dwyane Wade's response right below it. What I Tweeted was admittedly snarky. Dwyane didn't like it. His NBA prime was defined by greatness. He still is very good, but very good isn't great. From a basketball standpoint, I'll defend that Tweet all day. But from a personal standpoint? The Tweet was a bit mean-spirited, which I don't like to be. I felt bad I may have hurt Wade's feelings, so after his Tweet I Tweeted: "Love @DwyaneWade & always been big supporter as he knows. Just havin' a lil' fun. Very nice wine btw. Blend, but w/ mouthfeel of smooth cab." And of course I got beat up for that because it was seen as a retreat from my initial Tweet. Bottom line? I do not regret the initial Tweet but I do regret that Wade -- whom I like and respect very much -- took it as a cheap shot at sort of a fragile point in his career. Postscript: The wine really was pretty good. God bless Twitter.     

OUR OFFICIAL SUPER BOWL PREDICTION (SORRY, ROGER GOODELL): Sunday’s game in Houston marks only the sixth time in 51 Super Bowls that the matchup has been the team that led the NFL in scoring (Falcons) vs. the team that allowed the fewest points (Patriots). A key difference is, New England is as mighty on offense as it is stingy on D, while Atlanta’s defense, though Sbnebetter than it was, cannot claim to be the equal of what Matt Ryan gets done. As a writer, I think I subconsciously root not for a particular team but for the best story to tell. Here, Super Bowl LI wins no matter the result. Either Atlanta reigns as champion for the first time in its 51-year history. Or we get a trophy presentation that might be even more riveting than the game if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is handing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to a New England franchise he socked so hard over Deflategate — a franchise feeling it was wronged. So "best story" is a tie here. But "best team" is not. As mentioned, Bill Belichick has a complete team that can beat you with or without the ball, while the big-scoring but more lopsided Falcons have a young, somewhat unreliable defense that savvy old Tom Brady will find a way to pick apart. Intangibles also tend to come into play on this biggest stage, and the contrast there greatly favors New England as well. The been-there/won-that Patriots have built a modern dynasty on this stage, while Atlanta — its only other Super Bowl appearance in 1998 and last in the playoffs in 2012 — cannot know they’ll be ready for this. The game might swing importantly very early. Atlanta has scored a touchdown on its first possession in eight games in a row. Keeping that streak alive will give the Birds instant confidence, but if it ends there could be a fast feeling of "uh oh." Ryan is used to leading. He isn’t used to trailing. And certainly not against Belichick and Brady. In a Super Bowl. I think he’ll have that feeling on Sunday. And I think I’m looking forward to the awkward drama of the postgame trophy presentation a lot more than Roger Goodell is. My pick: New England 31, Atlanta 23. Click on Super Bowl Gem for the full predictions capsule.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK: PATRIOTS TRADEMARK FRAUDULENCE, GAGA'S SHOE, MORTARS, FAKE MERCHANDISE: Super Bowl With a Smirk is back with our fourth of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

Smirk Sb51OK, this is war! The New England Patriots, who have never had a perfect season, have somehow won a trademark on the phrase "Perfect Season."

It's an outrage -- the most egregious "alternative fact" yet. It would be like Greg Cote trademarking the phrase "Pulitzer Winner."

Smirk today is calling upon Don Shula and the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- the only team that did have a perfect season -- to foment into an angry if aging mob and picket outside Sunday's Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl in Houston.

The Patriots were undefeated and untied before losing the Super Bowl nine years ago. They deserve a trademark on "Almost Perfect Season." Or perhaps on "Almost Perfect Cheaters."

Instead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December granted the Patriots-owning Kraft Group legal rights to the phrases "Perfect Season" and "19-0," ESPN's Darren Rovell reports.

XaverianIt took eight years for the Kraft Group's petition to finally be approved. The loophole the Pats used to justify deserving Perfect Season was to license the phrase to a Massachusetts high-school football association to commemorate Xaverian High's 24 straight wins.

The Dolphins once filed to trademark "17-0" and "Perfectville" but eventually gave up the fight.

Now New England legally owns what Miami earned on the field, but, galling and absurd as that is, we all know better, and about this I'm not Smirking:

Perfect Season belongs to only one team in NFL history, and it sure ain't the Patriots.

(*) Lady Gaga met the media Thursday in Houston, and declined to pick a winning team, saying, "I'm going to write it down and put it in my shoe." Gaga is headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show Sponsored by Smirk's Second-Favorite Cola.

(*) National-anthem singer Luke Bryan also met the media. The Falcons fan from Leesburg, Ga., blatantly did the limbo to compliment the Patriots so as not to hurt his sales in the Northeast.

Madden17(*) Spoiler alert! The Patriots will beat the Falcons 27-24 on Sunday. Book it. Bank it. Because EA Sports' Madden 17 video game played it and says it. The Madden game is 9-4 on previous SB picks, which strikes Smirk as decent, not great.

(*) The group MVPindex took umbrage at Smirk's Wednesday suggestion they might have been drunk when ranking Julian Edelman's social media impact greater than Tom Brady's. Based on criteria including how many times followers engage with a post, "Edelman does it better," said spokesperson Amber Moore. "So we aren't drunk."

(*) Stadium security precautions will be tight Sunday. Prohibited items that fans may not carry in include umbrellas, lasers, signs and 60-millimeter hand-held mortars.

(*) Two notable Houstonians, former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, ages 92 and 91, will conduct the pregame coin toss. There's a joke there somewhere, but some things are out of bounds even for Smirk.

(*) Counterfeit merchandise update: If that pricey Super Bowl jacket you bought has no logos whatsoever and looks eerily like a 1980s Members Only jacket, it might not be official Super Bowl apparel.

Odouls(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Make your Super Bowl party alcohol-free this year. It'll save you the bother of having to host a Super Bowl party next year.

Click Smirk I, Smirk II and Smirk III for this week's previous Smirks.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-3-17: What events on the Friday, Feb. 3 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Anaheim at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Cats chasing eighth seed and playoffs.

2. U.S. soccer vs. Jamaica, 7 p.m.: Last friendly before men's World Cup qualifying.

3. Might be time to retire this short-lived new blog feature after a second straight slowwwww day in sports.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 02, 2017

Canes, Richt score big with recruits. The names that jump out; plus The Luddite's MVP Standings for red-hot Heat through 50 games, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk (Goodell sacked), Hot Button Daily, your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, February 2. I'm back at Friday Page World Headquarters for the last time this season working up my Super Bowl pick. Anybody got a coin? 2) A new Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Barkley-LeBron beef poll, Super Bowl With a Smirk second edition, updated betting odds, new Back In My Day video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

RICHT SCORES BIG WITH CANES RECRUITING, AND ONE NAME JUMPS OUT: Miami scored the nation's 12th-ranked recruiting class (according to ESPN) this week in the first full shot for Mark JeffthomasRicht after last year's late arrival and scramble, and he wasn't lying yesterday in saying, "We nailed it." UM's 24 recruits  (11 are from South Florida) include 13 four-star rated guys, and 10 from the ESPN 300. The name that jumps out, for me, is fleet receiver Jeff Thomas (pictured), who had not been committed to UM and was a huge late get, favoring the Canes over A-list suitors including Alabama. Thomas will pair with Ahmmon Richards to form a dynamic wideout set for whomever emerges this spring as Brad Kaaya's replacement at quarterback. And that should be a great competition with four legit contenders. I also like that The U really beefed up its offensive line, including behemoth 6-6, 375-pound Navaughn Donaldson from Miami Central. He is bigger than my refrigerator. UM's defensive line looks to be pretty great with the notable addition of pass rusher D.J. Johnson. UM still seems a bit thin to me at running back, but in the overall I really like this incoming class and the job Richt and company did. With 14 of 22 starters returning and a near-Top 10 class arriving for a team that finished 9-4 with an impressive bowl win, this is a program on the upswing. Florida State and Clemson remain gigantic hurdles for UM in the ACC; still, Miami should be an improved team with a steady polls presence in 2017.

LATEST 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK': GOODELL SACKED, SMOKING WITH DITKA, RYAN LEAF, UNCLE MORT: Smirk returns with our third of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game:

Smirk Sb51NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual pre-Super Bowl "state of the league" news conference in Houston on Wednesday, and, really, it seemed to go fabulously well for him.

There was not a single uncomfortable question put to him, with the exception of the Chargers bolting San Diego, the Raiders trying to move to Vegas, lower TV ratings, the refugee travel ban, concussions and brain injuries, the broad perception of diminished quality of play — oh, almost forgot! — and the likelihood that Sunday night he’ll be forced to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after dodging the Patriots for two years over Deflategate.

Quarterbacks under constant sack siege face less pressure. By the end of the 75-minute grilling Goodell’s wingtips were covered by a rising puddle of his own sweat.

At one point, as yet another Deflategate-related question whizzed at him like shrapnel, Goodell said he has "no doubt" that if he were to attend a Patriots game in Foxborough he would be "welcomed."

Whatever he said next could not be detected above the massive roar of braying laughter that could be heard 1,600 miles away in New England.

(*) In college football, Wednesday was National Signing Day, when teams collect their latest bounty. In the NFL it was National Sighing Day, the dead middle of Super Bowl Week, when fans already are tired of the buildup but resigned to more of it.

Stubhub(*) You could spend up to $112,000 on a single Super Bowl ticket on StubHub on Wednesday. If Smirk is spending that much for one seat, there had better been an envelope stuffed with about $111,500 waiting on that seat.

(*) The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots and Raiders would play a regular-season game in Mexico next season if they can manage to scale Trump’s wall.

Ditkacigar(*) Celebrity parties are as big a part of Super Bowl Week as the game itself, according to party planners, and Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski co-host one Thursday: "Cigars With the Stars." Sounds like fun, other than the choking cigar smoke and the dreadful possibility of inadvertently having to converse with either Ditka or Jaworski.

(*) NFL security officials are warning about counterfeit tickets. If, for example, the ticket you bought seems extraordinarily small and reads, "AMC Theaters/La La Land/Admit One," it might not be a bonafide Super Bowl ticket.

(*) A group called MVPIndex ranks most valuable NFL players on social media and says Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rank 10th, 14th and 20th overall, while the top Falcon, Julio Jones, is 47th. Hmm. Edelman ahead of Brady? Are you drunk, MVPIndex?

(*) Friday is the 26th annual NFL Foundation/NFL Legends Super Bowl Golf Tournament. One of the team captain "legends" is Ryan Leaf. Oh, how I wish I were making that up.

(*) In an NFL initiative, Houston Habitat For Humanity rebuilt a home Wednesday despite derisive heckling from members of bitter rival group Rebuilding Together. OK, I made up that second part.

Gaga(*) Super Bowl halftime performer Lady Gaga said in a revealing interview that she would not reveal much about her planned show. People are betting on which song she’ll sing first. Smirk could not care less but is hoping for a wardrobe malfunction.

(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Have those plastic zip ties and duct tape ready again just in case Uncle Mort gets belligerently sloppy-drunk before kickoff like last year.

Click Smirk I and Smirk II for this week's previous Smirks.

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (50 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 20-30 on nine straight wins after last night's over Atlanta, here's The Luddite's 10th installment, with 45-game rank in parentheses. Dragic, by the way, has narrowed his deficit to Whiteside from 216 points to 129 in past five games. 

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,402

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,273

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             893

4. James Johnson (4)           891

5. Dion Waiters (5)              691

6. Rodney McGruder (7)     493

7. Josh Richardson (6)         483

8. Willie Reed (8)               444

9. Wayne Ellington (10)     439

10. Justise Winslow (9)       355

Others: Luke Babbitt 295, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 64, Okaro White 53.

Poll result: LeBron most to blame in Barkley beef: We asked who's most wrong and it was 65.4 percent for LeBron James' personal-attack response and 13.2% for Charles Barkley calling LeBron whiny. Another 14.3% said neither because both had a point, and 7.1% said both are equally to blame.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-2-17: What events on the Thursday, Feb. 2 sports calendar (a very light day) interest South Florida fans most:

1. Golden State at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.: Warriors pounded Clips by 46 last week.

2. Missouri at Florida, 7 p.m.: Gators men's team is ranked No. 24.

3. Hurricanes at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.: UM women take their No. 16 ranking on road.

4. Phoenix Open, all day: First round of PGA Tour event.

5. "This Was the XFL", 9 p.m.: ESPN's debuts latest 30 For 30 doc.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

 

February 01, 2017

If LeBron were any more thin-skinned we'd see his internal organs. New Barkley vs. James beef poll. Vote now!; plus latest Super Bowl With a Smirk, National Signing Day, blog debut of Hot Button Daily, new betting odds, latest Back In My Day video & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 1. Happy new month, all! 2) A new Miami Herald Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE to visit. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk worldwide premiere, Super Bowl poll results, The List (Canes on top) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

The hate/love of National Signing Day: I really dislike the overblown hype and excess of the way Your Friend the Media covers National Signing Day as a bunch of 17-year-olds making a college decision are treated like gods. But! If you love NSD, Miami Herald Sports' new Facebook page will feed the junkie in you all day, right HERE. 

DEBUT OF NEW BLOG FEATURE! HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-1-17: What on the Wednesday, Feb. 1 sports calendar interests South Florida fans most:

1. National Signing Day, all day: Hurricanes, FIU, nation's colleges collect football bounty.

2. Atlanta at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Scorching Miami after its ninth consecutive victory.

3. Florida State at Hurricanes, 8 p.m.: Beating No. 15 FSU could lift UM men to Top 25.

4. Minnesota at Cleveland, 7 p.m.: Imagining LeBron's postgame should Cavs lose again.

5. Baylor at Kansas, 9 p.m.: Men's No. 2 at No. 3 brings Final Four feel to February.

LebbarkLEBRON-BARKLEY BEEF: IF LEBRON WERE ANY MORE THIN-SKINNED WE'D SEE HIS INTERNAL ORGANS: I find interesting and amusing this week's LeBron James-Charles Barkley beef. TNT analyst Barkley called LeBron "whiny," a pretty mild term that I found pretty justified, considering the Cavaliers are reigning champions and second-favorite to win again but here's James at midseason publicly calling out his team's management and his teammates. James, ever thin-skinned and on the lookout for perceived disrespect, called Barkley a "hater" and spewed a very personal attack-response, saying, "I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying." Oy! My take: Barkley has a right in his role as analyst to call James "whiny," and LeBron overreacted. What do you think? Take a dip in our poll.

NEW 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK': ADS AT $167,000 PER SECOND, FAN IN DJIBOUTI, BRADY'S TEARS, TUNA EYEBALLSSmirk returns with second of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

SmirkAgain this year, the Super Bowl television commercials have been voted even more popular than the game itself in an annual poll of the American Society of Advertisers.

In-game ads for this Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl will cost a record average of $5 million per half-minute spot, or roughly $167,000 per second.

Sunday’s ads will include has-been comic actor Jon Lovitz for Mexican avocados, a woman having a sexual fantasy about cartoon hottie Mr. Clean, an Intel ad with Tom Brady, and a Miami Herald commercial promoting Greg Cote’s blog. (OK I made up that last one).

Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad will tell the heartwarming story of immigrant founder Adolphus Busch’s 1857 journey from Germany to St. Louis, unless President Trump signs an executive order banning the ad.

Super Bowl ads used to be highly anticipated before companies put them out days in advance on social media. There still is a bit of unpredictability, other than the two annual iron-clad certainties:

Donkey1. There will be a sentimental ad revolving around a dog befriending a bedraggled donkey in a straw hat.

2. We’ll all hate the GoDaddy spot.

(*) NFL reports Falcons-Pats will be seen in 188 countries, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and in more than 20 languages including Mandarin Chinese, Flemish and Hungarian. Right now, two bickering crones in Budapest stirring a pot of goulash are in agreement Falcons coach Dan Quinn may be “a feje folott” (in over his head).

(*) "What do they know of coaching!" cried a man in Djibouti.

(*) Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan briefly lost track of a backpack containing the team’s Sunday game plan. Cannot confirm witnesses said it had been taken by a scowling man wearing a gray hoodie.

(*) Still early, but Super Bowl Week has been too quiet and controversy-free. Can LeBron James and Charles Barkley both fly to Houston and start arguing please?

(*) Short of that, would some enterprising reporter at least please surreptitiously plant deer-antler spray on some linebacker?

7yrold(*) The question that nearly brought Tom Brady to tears talking about his father — "Who is your hero?" — was posed by a 7-year-old who won a contest to be a Super Bowl reporter. Great. Isn’t bad enough that newspapers are struggling. Now I have a second-grader after my job!

(*) Answer: Blonde/yellow is the betting favorite for the hair color of halftime performer Lady Gaga. Question: What do you mean there are too many ridiculous prop bets!?

(*) Notice how businesses refer to the "Big Game" in ads so they won’t get sued by the NFL? Smirk suggests "Stupor Bowl" or "Super Bore" instead.

(*) A team of Budweiser Clydesdales arrived in Houston Tuesday and were immediately signed to one-week contracts by Bill Belichick and trained to rush the passer.

(*) Only midweek, but already there are early indications the national media may be running out of story ideas. Trending: Experts in onomastics weigh in on the exact origin of Matt Ryan’s "Matty Ice" nickname.

(*) Wait. Smirk could swear he just saw Mercury Morris standing on an orange crate with a megaphone in downtown Houston loudly reminding passersby the ’72 Dolphins remain the only undefeated team.

Moose nose(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Want a few party foods sure to surprise and delight your guests? Eight words: Tuna eyeballs, crispy Cambodian tarantulas, jellied moose nose.

Click Smirk I for Tuesday's Smirk debut.

UPDATED BETTINGS ODDS FOR NBA, COLLEGE HOOPS, NHL: Not much good news here for SoFla teams in latest odds via Bovada. In the NBA: Warriors a strong title pick at 5-7 odds, followed by Cavaliers at 13-5, with Heat still off the board. James Harden is 10-11 for MVP, then Russell Westbrook close at 5-4. In men's college basketball: Kentucky is tops at 11-2 for the national title, then Gonzaga at 15-2. FSU is 20-1, Florida 50-1 and Miami 300-1. In the NHL, Capitals at 6-1 and Blackhawks at 7-1 top a very bunched field. Panthers are 21st at 50-1.

THE NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': From Tuesday's LeBatard Show:

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 31, 2017

Worldwide premiere: Super Bowl With a Smirk, today starring dodgeball, Trump, Adolphus Busch and chicken wings; plus The List (Canes on top) & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 31. A new Miami Herald Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl polls & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket and 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio. You can also watch us on TV from 10-Noon on ESPNU and Noon-1 on ESPN2. 

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, my latest, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

"Yeah, I know. The schedule has been favorable lately. But c'mon, it's still eight straight wins..." -- Greg Cote

IT'S BACK! 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK' DAILY NOTES COLUMN DEBUTS WITH DODGEBALL, TRUMP, VIBRATING BRADY, ADOLPHUS BUSCH AND CHICKEN WINGS: Super Bowl With a Smirk returns this year with a daily needling jab at the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game. Flying under the banner, "Make Fun, Not War," Smirk is an annual week-long feature in the Miami Herald except years we forget to do it. The first of five Smirks:

SmirkHey, did you catch the Pro Bowl game Sunday night? Yeah, me neither. But I heard one of the skills challenges the day before involved Dodgeball. No, seriously, because evidently they couldn't think of an idea even dumber. On deck: Twister!

The Pro Bowl unofficially kicks off Super Bowl Week each year, although it actually launched Monday with two major events in host-city Houston:

1. Super Bowl Live opened, a 250,000 square-foot "fan village" that features a virtual-reality trip to Mars, an outdoor skating rink and the daily live arrest of an NFL player. (OK we made up that last one).

2. Super Bowl Opening Night, formerly Media Day, where fans sat in the stands at Minute Maid Park, home of the Astros, to watch reporters interview players down on the field. The only thing worse than a mass Q&A session at a Super Bowl? Paying to watch it.

DodgeballThe interview process will be its own game of NFL Dodgeball all week as the Patriots maneuver to dodge all inquiries related to Deflategate, the Pats' buddy relationship with President Donald Trump, Tom Brady's appetite for revenge against commissioner Roger Goodell, and cheating-tainted legacies.

Smirk is surprised this hasn't gotten more attention, but Trump -- close friends with Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Brady -– quietly signed an executive order on Monday ordering Matt Ryan to have a lousy game.

(*) NFC champion Atlanta arrived in Houston Sunday afternoon, while AFC champ New England arrived Monday. It was expected to be the last time all week the Falcons were ever ahead of the Patriots.

(*) The point spread might have swung wildly in Atlanta's favor, but airport officials rejected the Falcons' claim that Brady was Muslim and therefore should not be allowed to deplane.

Electricfb(*) The Patriots won by an average score of 28-25 in 50,000 computer simulations conducted by PredictionMachine.com. Smirk conducted his own simulation using an electric football game from the '60s but results were inconclusive as a wildly vibrating Brady kept falling over.

(*) To absolutely guarantee no more Deflategate-type skullduggery from the Patriots, Goodell has ordered that all of the balls used in this Super Bowl be bowling balls.

(*) "Goodell's executive orders are almost as fantastic as mine!," said Trump.

(*) Security is heightened throughout Houston this week as NFL officials crack down on counterfeit merchandise and media interviews with brain-injury experts.

(*) Enterprising columnists sniffing an offbeat angle were scrambling to locate ex-Falcon Eugene Robinson – the devout Christian arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Miami the night before Atlanta's only previous SB appearance -– only to learn, crestfallen, that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution just did that.

Busch(*) Budweiser's Super Bowl ad will tell the story of immigrant founder Adolphus Busch's 1857 journey from Germany to St. Louis, unless Trump signs an executive order banning the ad.

(*) CBS Sports played a "Madden '17" simulation of the Super Bowl and -– ah, who cares who won the video game!

(*) By the way, it's Super Bowl 51 to Smirk, not the Roman numeral "LI," because demographic studies indicate only 12 percent of current Miami Herald readers are ancient Romans from 900 AD.

(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: When deciding how many chicken wings to order, the standard is 240 per person, according to the National Chicken Council.

Poll result: Landslide wants Falcons, but (narrow) majority thinks Pats: We asked who you want to win this Super Bowl and it was Falcons with 83.7 percent. We asked you think will win and it was Patriots with 51.8%.

THE LIST: CANES TOP COLLEGES WITH MOST ALL-TIME SUPER BOWL PARTICIPANTS: The top 10:

School                        SB players

1. Miami                        118

2. Southern Cal              116

3. UCLA                         110

4. Michigan                    106

5. Penn State                  104

6. Notre Dame                102

7. Tennessee                    97

8. Nebraska                     92

9. Colorado                     91

10. Georgia                     89

Note: Florida State is 14th with 82 and Florida is tied for 16th with 77. Alabama leads this Super Bowl with six total players. UM has only one alum playing: Falcons punter Matt Bosher.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 30, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Starring scorchin' Heat, Pegasus, Aussie finals, UM hoops, marathon, Super Bowl Week; plus Falcons vs. Patriots polls (vote now!) & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 30. A new Miami Herald Facebook page debuted last week. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Breaking down Hurricanes 2017 football schedule, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, latest 'Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, my latest, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami wins 7th straight while D-Wade, LeBron complain about their teams: Miami will bring a season-best seven-game win streak into tonight's home game vs. Brooklyn while prominent ex-Heaters  Dwyane Wade and LeBron James complain publicly about their teams. The bad news? Even with seven wins in a row the Heat is now 18-30.

2. HORSE RACING: Arrogate dominant in first Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream: Horse racing is dying? Not Saturday it wasn't! The inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park was richest thoroughbred event ever in a 12-horse field running for a $12 million purse -- a race that Arrogate dominated in a ballyhooed showdown vs. rival California Chrome.

3. TENNIS: Serena, Federer win Australian Open finales: Sisters Serena and Venus Williams met for the 28th time and ninth in a major final on Saturday, with Serena earning a modern-record 23rd major title. Top that, guys? OK, how about Roger Federer, 35, beating Rafael Nadal as the oldest man in a Grand Slam final since 1974.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men stun No.9 North Carolina: UM may be headed into the Top 25 at 14-6 after Saturday beating ninth-ranked North Carolina here, 77-62. Was it a fluke or are Canes really good? May have that answer Wednesday as UM hosts No. 6 Florida State. 

5. NFL: It's Super Bowl Week as countdown to Falcons-Patriots begins: We are now six days until New England vs. Atlanta on Super Bowl Sunday. But first let's start with the real big game and undertake a detailed analytical breakdown of yesterday's Pro Bowl in Orlando. Just kiddin'!

6. RUNNING: Miami Marathon celebrates 15th year: Some 24,000 ran in weekend events culminating with Sunday's annual Miami Marathon. I'd give you the winners' names but neither one of us has heard of them so what' the point? I intended to run the marathon, but decided to sleep in and then eat a pound of bacon instead.

7. PANTHERS: Cats end four-game losing streak: Florida's 2-1 OT win over Tampa Bay ended a four-game slide and moved Florida within three points of NHL playoff pace through 50 games.  Disappointing season so far, but maybe it won't stay that way?

8. BRENT MUSBURGER: Sports broadcasting icon retiring: Musburger will call his final game for ESPN -- LSU-Oklahoma basketball -- on Tuesday before retiring at age 77 after nearly 50 years in broadcasting. As another sports-TV great fades to black.

9. SOCCER: U.S. men start new era with friendly tie: U.S. hosted Serbia in a Sunday friendly in San Diego that ended a 0-0 draw in marking the debut of new coach Bruce Arena. The word for tying Serbia? Meh.

10. NHL: It's All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles: Do you care? Yeah, me neither. Although it probably was still better than the Pro Bowl.

Missing the HB10 cut: Four Hurricanes played in Saturday's Senior Bowl and two Dolphins are in today's Pro Bowl, and I just cannot decide which game interests me least ..... There is talk of a Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather fight. Christ! Do it or shut up about it! ..... In WWE, Sunday's Royal Rumble begins the annual road to WrestleMania. I can't wait to find out who they've decided is going to win! ..... The Winter X Games are underway in Aspen, or, as I like to call it, Slackers on Snowboards ..... ESPN's latest 30 For 30 documentary is titled, "This Was the XFL," certifying once and for all that ESPN has apparently run out of good idea.

Sb51FALCONS-PATRIOTS SUPER BOWL: WHO YOU WANT TO WIN, AND WHO WILL WIN: We see things through different prisms, right? I am surrounded by Dolfans who tend to hate Tom Brady and call the nemesis New England Patriots cheaters, so I am inclined to think that, outside of Greater Boston and suburbs, all of America is rooting for the Atlanta Falcons to win next week's Super Bowl. Or, as much, rooting against Darth Belichick and the Pats. But is that right? I have two polls here. One asks who you want to win the Super Bowl. Vote with your heart. The other asks who you predict will win SB 51. Vote with your head, as if you to bet on one team, straight-up.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 26, 2017

Analyzing Canes' 2017 football schedule game-by-game, predicting season record; plus new 'Back In My Day' (Worn Look), The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings, Miami flavor to this Super Bowl & more

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

Mtm1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 26. R.I.P., Mary Tyler Moore (pictured), gone at 80. 2) A new Miami Herald Facebook page debuted this week. Click HERE to visit. 3) Cubs win World Series! Trump Elected President! Heat win fifth straight! 4) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 5) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl, Montoya wins Miami Race of Champions & more. 6) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

LeBron, Serena, Brady, Tiger: Appreciate them while you can: Each of those all-time greats is on stage this week, the perfect time to appreciate them all. Click on Greatness Times Four for my newest column.

Miami in the Super Bowl, Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

SmokeBREAKING DOWN CANES' 2017 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE GAME-BY-GAME: The challenge here is that, with quarterback Brad Kaaya gone a year early for the NFL Draft, we can't yet know the impact that will have on a UM team that finished 9-4 and ranked No. 20 last season after crushing West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Who'll be the new QB and how good will he be? But this we do know: Our faith in Mark Richt, our faith in Manny Diaz and that young defense, and an incoming recruiting class that could end up ranked in top-10 nationally all lead us to believe Miami will be as good as last season and more likely better. UM might very well be an underdog in only one game -- Sept. 16 at Florida State -- although an Oct. 28 trip to North Carolina and a Nov. 4 visit by Virginia Tech will be major challenges. Taking care of business in all the other games and winning at least one of those three is the path to the elusive 10-win season. Handle the rest of the schedule and win two of those three and you're talking major bowl and maybe a shot at College Football Playoff contention. That's optimistic with the QB flux and all, but optimism is merited right now. Breaking down the schedule game by game:

Sept. 2 vs. Bethune-Cookman -- An all-but-certain win for the Canes and a soft opening for whomever is the new quarterback. UM is 3-0 all-time vs. Larry Little's old school from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. B-C was 4-6 last year, and Miami won 45-0 when schools last met to open the 2015 season. Estimated Win Likelihood (EWL): 95%

Sept. 9 at Arkansas State -- Another very likely win, but a big step up from Bethune and not an opponent to be taken lightly. Arkansas State went 7-1 in Sun Belt last year and was 8-5 overall including a nice 31-13 win over UCF In the AutoNation Cure Bowl. UM leads all-time series 2-0 including a 41-20 win in 2014. EWL: 80%

Sept. 16 at Florida State -- Miami will be a clear underdog, on the road, against a nemesis that has beaten the Canes seven straight times including 20-19 last year. FSU now leads all-time series 30-29. Noles finished 10-3 and ranked No. 8 in '16 after a thrilling 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl game. This will be first time these ACC state rivals have met in the season's opening month since 2009. EWL: 35%.

Sept. 23 vs. Toledo -- A very likely win, although Toledo was a bowl team last year after going 9-4 including 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Miami beat the Rockets in the school's only previous meeting way back in 1987. EWL: 80%.

Sept. 29 at Duke -- A return to the scene of that eight-lateral, kickoff-return Miami miracle in 2015. Friday game could be a challenging roadie, but one that should find UM expected to win. Blue Devils were 4-8 last season and 1-7 in ACC. Miami is 12-2 all-time in this ACC series, with three straight wins including 40-21 last season. EWL: 65%.

Oct. 12 vs. Georgia Tech -- Following the bye week, Canes will be expected to win this challenging Thursday ACC home date, although Yellow Jackets were 9-4 and a bowl winner last season. Teams are 11-11 all-time, though UM has won seven of past eight meetings including a 35-21 victory last season. EWL: 60%

Oct. 21 vs. Syracuse -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over Orangemen. Canes lead all-time series 15-7 including five straight wins, although this will be these teams' first meeting since 2003 back in the BIg East days. 'Cuse finished 4-8 last year and 2-6 in ACC. EWL: 75%.

Oct. 28 at North Carolina -- Tough roadie poses UM's biggest loss-threat since FSU. Miami trails all-time series 11-9 and has lost past two, 20-13 last season and 59-21 on last visit to Chapel Hill in 2015. Tar Heels went 5-3 in ACC last year and 8-5 overall with loss to Stanford in Sun Bowl. EWL: 50%.

Nov. 4 vs. Virginia Tech -- A loss-threat and a challenging test UM should be glad is at home. Miami leads all-time rivalry 20-14 but is only 5-9 in past 14 meetings, including a 37-16 loss last year. Hokies were 6-2 in ACC last year and finished 10-4 overall and ranked No. 16 after beating Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. EWL: 55%.

Nov. 11 vs. Notre Dame -- Fighting Irish's first visit to Miami since 1989 is biggest "event" game on schedule other than FSU. Miami trails all-time series 18-7-1, with four losses in a row including 30-27 in South Bend last year. Leprechauns sank to 4-8 last year but were 10-3 in '15, so it's hard to know how good ND will be. But Canes, at home, figure to be favored. EWL: 65%.

Nov. 18 vs. Virginia -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over a Cavaliers team that was miserable last season: 1-7 in the ACC and 2-10 overall. Canes lead all-time series 8-6 including two wins a row with last year's 34-14 victory at Virginia. EWL: 85%.

Nov. 24 at Pitt -- A Friday roadie closes the regular season and likely will see Miami favored. Pitt was a credible 8-5 with a bowl loss last season, Canes always seem to have Pitt's number. UM leads all-time series 25-10-1 including a 51-28 rout last year, and also has won the past six straight trips to Pittsburgh. EWL: 55%.

Predicted final regular-season record: 10-2.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (MIDSEASON/40 GAMES): Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 15-30 on four straight wins after Monday night's home upset  of Golden State, here's The Luddite's ninth installment, with 40-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (45 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,315

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,099

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             870

4. James Johnson (4)           779

5. Dion Waiters (6)              538

6. Josh Richardson (5)         483

7. Rodney McGruder (7)     428

8. Willie Reed (9)               369

9. Justise Winslow (8)        355

10. Wayne Ellington (10)    354

Others: Luke Babbitt 259, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 61, Okaro White 10.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': THE WORN LOOK: Enjoy!

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

Twitter @gregcote