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.

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March 13, 2015

Judging Mike Wallace's time with Dolphins. New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL's biggest FA/trade moves poll, Canes hoops, Marlins in fantasy, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

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


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 14. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Suh effect/Dolphins expectations poll, college hoops, robot sportswriters & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details coming Sunday, contest starts Monday.

Ex-Cane Henderson leads NFL performance-pay list: NFL every spring puts out Top 25 list of performance-based pay bonuses, based on playing time vs. salary. Guys on list tend to be modestly paid but prominent -- overachievers, based on their salary. Well, No. 1 for last season was Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson, the ex-Cane, with a $373,671 bonus. One Dolphin made it: LB Jelani Jenkins, 24th with $242,782.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Saturday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 29-36 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th and 1/2 game from 10th with 17 games left (next Monday vs. Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 33.7% (down 3.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 30-37 (W2), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 15 games left (next tonight at Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.6% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

DOLPHINS TRADE WALLACE, SIGN CAMERON AND STILLS: On Wallace: Dolphins late yesterday traded receiver Mike Wallace (pictured saying goodbye) to Vikings, along with a seventh-round draft pick, in exchange for a fifth-round pick. They gave him away in ending speculation whether he'd remain with team. His free- 1aa1amwallaceagent signing in 2013 is tough to judge (see poll just below). The 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 TDs in two seasons is not the Pro Bowl level Miami thought it was getting but neither should it be called a complete failure. What's notable is that Wallace was targeted 256 times, so the 140 catches translates to only 54.6 percent -- that's low. It speaks to he and Ryan Tannehill never quite finding their chemistry. So does the fact only one of his 15 scoring plays exceeded 50 yards. On Cameron: Free agent tight end Jordan Cameron looks the part at 6-5 and 245 pounds and is only 26. In 2013 he made the Pro Bowl with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven TDs for Cleveland. And last year even sidelined almost half the season he averaged a big 17.7 yards per catch. He isn't Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but at his healthy best he's very good, a guy who can bust big plays and a guy popular in fantasy drafts, though considered a below-average run blocker. The asterisk: Cameron has a concussion history that bedeviled him last season and could well reoccur. Cameron: "If it was a concern for me, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’ve seen a lot of specialists and talked to a lot of people and it’s cleared. There is no cause for concern on my end and the Dolphins felt the same." Cameron is a quality hedge against the Fins likely losing Charles Clay to Buffalo. On Stills: Receiver Kenny Stills comes in trade via Minnesota, giving up LB Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick. Ellerbe was a bust but a 3R pick is pricey. Stills had 63 catches for 931 yards and three TDs with Saints last season and is only 22. He joins Jarvis Landry to give MIA an excellent young tandem.

NFL WHIRLWIND: THE BIGGEST FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS OR TRADES IN LEAGUE'S WILDEST MARCH: I 1aa1anflcannot recall a previous NFL spring that has seen such major activity in terms of free agency and trades. In winnowing our poll to a manageable 12 names I had to omit several notable player movements. (Sorry you missed the cut, Brian Hartline to Browns, Jordan Cameron and Kenny Still to Dolphins and Jared Odrick to Jaguars). What I present you is the top dozen players switching teams, listed alphabetically. You may vote for up to three (3). Base your selections on overall expected impact. Consider how much news the signing made and how exciting the deal is to fans. Remember, vote for your top three and say why.

Deciphering the vote: With three votes allowed per person, a player's maximum vote percentage would be 33.3 percent if everyone voting cast the maximum three votes. A player's percentage multiplied by three is a fair barometer of the percentage of ballots on which he is being included. A percentage over 33.3 indicates some voters are voting for only that person.

MARLINS IN FANTASY DRAFT: ESPN's first fantasy baseball mock draft is out and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton was the No. 4 overall pick in the first round. Other Marlins chosen in the 25-round draft: Christian Yelich (7th round), Dee Gordon (9th), Marcell Ozuna (10th), Steve Cishek (13th), Mat Latos (18th), Jose Fernandez (20th) and Martin Prado (24th). Fernandez of course is out until midseason recovering from Tommy John surgery; otherwise he might have been among the 10 starting pitchers mock-drafted in the first five rounds.

CANES BASKETBALL SHOULD BRACE FOR BAD NEWS NOW: Jim Larranaga knew it going in. His Hurricanes needed to beat Notre Dame in second round of ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Instead UM lost 70-63, continuing a close-but-not-quite season now at 21-12. (Cane Tonye Jekiri is pictured right). The U 1aa1atonyejerikiwill be very close to making the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday, but is expected to fall just short and settle for the NIT. Miami's low RPI number and 1-7 mark vs. ranked teams will be tough to overcome. Upsetting the Irish might have done it. Eamonn Brennan's analysis of UM's situation for ESPN: "Miami's resume' is basically the same as it's been all February: one massive road win (at Duke), four ugly losses (including a still-inexplicable 72-44 home drilling at the hands of Eastern Kentucky), a good road record (which Larranaga has been touting as much as possible), a bad non-conference schedule and a shaky RPI. Miami has been among the first teams outside Joe [Lunardi's] bracket for weeks; it has never gotten over the hump. It may yet on Selection Sunday. We'd be surprised, but far stranger things have happened. Fingers crossed." 

Poll result: Suh expected to lift Dolphins to playoffs: We asked your expectations for the Dolphins in the wake of the Ndamukong Suh signing and most, 65.4 percent, voted "fairly high/playoffs." Then it was 12.3% "modest/improved but no playoffs," 9.7% "low/disappointment and firings," 9.3% "high/division champs," and 3.3% "very high/Super Bowl contender." That's 78.1% overall who expect the playoffs, though doubts remain.

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March 08, 2015

Dolphins land Ndamukong Suh. What say you? New poll. Vote now!; plus Fins in trouble over contract leak?, Bosh's special delivery, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heat extend Michael Beasley with another 10-day contract. No surprise. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exciting-times poll, Mike Wallace verdict, new betting odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

What a Sunday for Miami sports!: Dustin Johnson punctuates his golf comeback with a stirring victory at Doral as the news is breaking across South Florida about the Dolphins landing prized free agent Ndamukong Suh. The days don't get much better than this for local sports. Click on Dolphins 'n Doral to read my column combining both events.

#GetWellCB DeliveriesBosh's special delivery: Heat star Chris Bosh is to address the media this evening prior to the Heat's home game vs. Boston. It will be Bosh's first availability since last month when his season was ended by blood clots in his lung, for which is undergoing continuing treatment with a full recovery expected. Pictured: Earlier today, about 35 Heat staffers delivered 10,000 get-well messages from fans to Bosh's home.

Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Monday:  A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending down at 9th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 20 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 38.2% (down 1.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 4 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.7% (down 1.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

A MAN NAMED SUH!: DOLPHINS REPORTEDLY LAND FORMER LIONS DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It had been looking like Miami was the frontrunner for Ndamukong Suh. Sunday it began to look all but 1aa1ansuhofficial as ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the Fins had landed the NFL's top free agent with a six-year, $114 million offer including $60 million guaranteed. The good: Miami gets the league's premier DT and second-most impactful defender overall after  Houston's J.J. Watt. Suh is in his prime at 28 and instantly and hugely upgrades both Miami's run defense and pass rush. It is a bold, major move by owner Stephen Ross and the franchise. The not so good: The enormous expenditure may short-change the club and its roster elsewhere. Also, Suh is a notoriously dirty player who has incurred some $421,000 in league fines (and two games' suspension) in his five seasons. When you factor in all of it -- Suh's talent, his reputation and the money it is costing -- what do you think of the reported soon-to-be signing? Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Fins being investigated for Suh contract leak?: This story suggests Miami and other NFL teams may be investigated for leaking contract information to the media prior to Tuesday's first day that teams may sign free agents.

Suh, Whiteside top most-excited-about vote: We asked what about Miami sports excites you most at the moment, and of five choice it was the Dolphins' pursuit of Ndamukong Suh leading with 38.6 percent and Hassan Whiteside's Heat emergence with 28.4%. Then came optimism for Marlins season at 18.5%, UM's pursuit of men's NCAA tournament bid at 11.2% and Panthers chasing NHL playoff spot at 3.4%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 8: 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 reportedly land Ndamukong Suh: Miami was seen as a front-runner to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunay that the deal ($114 million over six years with $60 million guaranteed) is done barring a last-minute glitch. Suh is the ex-Lion known for his sacking, run-stopping excellence but also his dirty play and league fines. Admit it: You hate Suh. But you’d love him on your team.

2. HEAT: Miami hanging on to edge of playoff contention: Heat can regain the No. 8 seed with a win over visiting Boston tonight. Why am I smiling? Before season, on a hunch, I bet big that players leading Heat's stretch run would include Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Tyler Johnson and Bill-turned-Henry Walker.

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men seek big showing in ACC tourney: UM ended its regular season 20-11, but now Jim Larrañaga’s Canes need a big ACC tournament starting Wednesday -- at least one win and likelier two -- to get into the NCAA Tournament. Teenage girls and bubble teams know it: It’s tough waiting to see if you’ll be asked to the Big Dance.

4. PANTHERS: Cats now four back in playoff chase: Newly acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr has added a spark, but Florida (off until Thursday) has now dropped four points off the No. 8 seed even after the 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. Injuries have left team thin at goaltender. I don’t wanna say Cats are desperate, but if you own a stick and a glove, you might be starting next game.

5. GOLF: Johnson survives Championship Sunday at Doral: Dustin Johnson, in only his fifth tournament back from last year's six-month PGA Tour leave for personal issues, survived J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson to win the World Golf Championships event on Doral’s Blue Monster. A $1.57 million check, a new baby son, going home to Paulina Gretzsky ... life is good for Dustin.

6. MARLINS: Spring training games begin amid high hopes: The team not only spent big to keep Giancarlo Stanton and bolster the roster but also will have a private team jet and personal chef for players this season. This is making it tough now for me to make fun of owner Jeffrey Loria for being cheap. Damn him ruining my hobby!

7. NFL: Big moves of interest to Miami: Bills acquiring RB LeSean McCoy and Jets trading for WR Brandon Marshall put heat on Dolphins in AFC East. Meanwhile it was a rough week in the NFL for old ex-Canes as the Patriots released Vince Wilfork and Colts cut Reggie Wayne. Perpetually disgruntled UM football fans blamed Al Golden.

8. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week ends on Biscayne Bay: The 88th Bacardi Miami Sailing Week wrapped up, a weeklong sun-splashed regatta held this time each year expressly to make folks in the snow-buried Northeast feel even more jealous of us than usual.

9. AUTO RACING: Streets ready for Miami ePrix: They’ve set up barricades downtown for this coming Saturday’s “Miami ePrix,” in which world’s fastest electric race cars will be humming down Biscayne Boulevard. Miamians have a phrase to describe that kind of crazy speed, chaos and danger on the road: "I-95."

10. SOCCER: MLS begins its 20th season: Major League Soccer is back in action as David Beckham continues to search for a stadium site for his prospective Miami franchise. Dead-ends so far on all his preferred locations. Poor Dave may end up settling for a warehouse district in Hialeah.

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What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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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."

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February 18, 2015

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

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

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

Vote For Top Four (4)

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

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

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

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

 

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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!

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February 12, 2015

Who should Dolphins target in free agency if they're dreaming big? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat trading Chalmers?, ranking SNL's all-time cast 1 through 141 & more

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12. Bill Belichick talks Deflategate (sort of) with David Letterman last night. Transcript and video here. 2) Richie Incognito says he's learned lesson and that Bills will be his last chance. Read here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins All-Star Game, LeBron's grand plan, Kiper on Fins, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, Chicago Little League, 'Dear Greg' & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"One can't have too much useless info so I now know I burned 590 calories sleeping last night. Thanks, FitBit." --Greg Cote

On the Chicago Little League scandal: Jackie Robinson West team is stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League  World Series and, as usual, the problem with youth sports is the adults. Click on Shame Isn't the Kids' to Bear for today's latest column by me.

DOLPHINS WISH LIST (IF YOU'RE DREAMING BIG): Preemptive strike: The odds are Miami won't sign any of the 10 soon-to-be players in our poll once free agency begins officially on March 10. Chances are there will be higher 1aa1afanflbidders or better opportunities for each; plus, not everyone here fits a position priority for the Fins. But these are the 10 best guys who'll be available, according to ESPN, and the Dolphins will be shopping like every other team, so why not dream? Where would you steer Miami on this alphabetical list if money was no object and you had the ear of Mike Tannenbum and Dennis Hickey? Weigh the talent available with the team's needs and decide. Vote and say why.

1aa1asnllistROLLING STONE RANKS ALL-TIME 'SNL' CAST MEMBERS 1 THROUGH 141: This is a blog, so I couldn't say it if it weren't true. Rolling Stone in its latest cover story marks the show's 40th anniversary by ranking everybody who's ever been in the Saturday Night Live cast. I would never, ever spoil it by telling you who is No. 1 so the photo here would be totally random and coincidental. Click here for the full list.

HEAT/CHALMERS TRADE SPECULATION: Sports Illustrated today includes Heat guard Mario Chalmers (pictured) among five players it thinks are most apt to be traded before the Feb. 19 NBA deadline. SI's 1aa1achalmersmlogic: "He has a semi-tradeable contract (signed through next season at $4.3 million) that could interest teams in need of a better backup point guard, such as Washington and New Orleans. Chalmers’ shooting percentage on three-pointers above the break is 21.7%, yet he still launches 21.1% of his attempts from there. Miami, accordingly, has scored nearly four more points per 100 possessions when Chalmers is off the court. The Heat have a better offensive rating with Norris Cole running the show, and Shabazz Napier boosts the team defensively and is a viable threat from beyond the arc (35.4 three-point field goal percentage). By continuously giving time to Chalmers, Miami isn’t necessarily bettering their playoff chances, so Erik Spoelstra might as well let their younger options gain some experience to see if Cole is worth re-signing after this season and if Napier can morph into the long-term answer." All of that makes sense.

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February 08, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Canes, Heat, NFL, Tiger, Cats, Dean Smith, Marlins, Fins, Brian Williams; plus verdict on Suh & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ndamukong Suh-to-Dolphins poll, Incognito joins Bills, 7 Canes at Combine, Terrell Williams, death of newspapers video & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 8: 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. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Mixed reviews for UM recruiting class: ESPN rated Miami’s National Signing Day class No. 23 in the country, with most other outlets ranking it lower. Perpetually disgruntled Canes fans face the usual dilemma: Wishing the best for UM while also wanting coach Al Golden gone. What to do!? Oh, the conundrum!

2. HEAT: Once-proud team sputtering to All-Star break: The darlings of the LeBron James Era seek answers, with Dwyane Wade still out injured, the guard play abysmal and Miami now struggling to maintain playoff pace -- Hassan Whiteside the bright spot. Chris Bosh said the season is “slipping away.” Volunteers to stop the slide are encouraged to raise their hand.

3. CANES HOOPS: Moment of truth for “bubble” Canes: Coach Jim Larrañaga’s UM men have been mostly mediocre since that 8-0 start. Now they’re 14-8 after three losses in a row entering today's/Sunday’s key home date with Clemson. Canes are down to “bubble” status on NCAA Tournament watch lists. Many more losses and that bubble bursts.

4. NFL: Super Bowl, dramatic ending draw record numbers: The Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle was the most-watched TV telecast in U.S. history with a record 115.1 million viewers and was the highest-rated Super Bowl in 30 years. Um, what was that you were saying about how Ray Rice et al would damage the NFL’s popularity?

5. GOLF: Woods is unraveling for all to see: In the past two weeks, Tiger Woods — who last won a major in 2008 — lost a front tooth, missed the cut of his PGA Tour season debut after a career-worst 82, and then withdrew from the latest tournament with a back ailment. He’s unraveling! On the bright side: Tiger made $55 million on 2014.

6. PANTHERS: Florida beefs up front office: The hockey club has added longtime Philadelphia Flyers boss Peter Luukko as a a new team executive. I'd be more impressed if the club had added a team that could actually  make the NHL playoffs for a blessed change.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83: Smith led North Carolina to 11 NCAA Final Fours and two national championships. Tobacco Road weeps today. Well, except for those !@#$%^s at Duke.

8. MARLINS: High hopes as spring training nears: Team prepares to open spring training in Jupiter Feb. 20 with new additions and unusually high hopes. With Heat and Panthers struggling it's time for Jeffrey Loria to save us. (Did I really just say that!?)

9. DOLPHINS: Stadium redesign adds upscale seating: There will be 16 four-seat "living rooms" available starting at $6,000 per game. My thought? Watch the game in your own living room and save 6,000 bucks.

10. TELEVISION: NBC's Brian Williams in hot water: NBC News anchor claimed to have been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 -- a tale now proved false. We now hear Williams admits it was not him who guaranteed and quarterbacked the Jets' 1968 Super Bowl win.

Poll results: Dolfans want Suh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue free agent-to-be defensive tackle Ndmaukong Suh (you may still vote), and it was 57.0 percent yes. However 28.8% said "avoid him like the plague" and 14.2% were undecided.

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February 03, 2015

On Super Bowl: Criticism of The Call, halftime and commercials; plus you rate this Super Bowl (poll; vote now!); also, Warren Sapp, betting odds for next season on Dolphins, Canes & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my regular Tuesday gig with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Have a new "Back In My Day" in hand. Ears welcome.


1aa1agronk1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3. Pictured right, it's just Gronk Being Gronk in a club around 4 a.m. after winning the Super Bowl. Lesson: It is good to be Gronk. 2) In case you missed it: Click on Bouncing Off the Shield for my Sunday Super Bowl special-section column on how the NFL's massive popularity withstands all manner of scandal and controversy that come its way, and on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 3) 
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl MVP poll, Hot Button Top 10, Canton selections & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On the Patriots' complicated legacy: Today's latest column by me extols one of the greatest Super Bowls ever but explores the complicated issue of how history will judge the Patriots' four Super Bowl wins of the Belichick-Brady era. The success should be mentioned first, but the rules-breaking controversies must be noted, too. Click on Excellence and Ethics to read.

Sapp arrested: Former Hurricanes star Warren Sapp reportedly was arrested in Phoenix yesterday for solicitation and assault (story here) and quickly fired by the NFL Network. Because of previous episodes Sapp was in danger of dumbing himself out of his TV career, and I think this has done it. Sad.

A QUICK SUPER BOWL RECAP: The game, halftime, party, commercials. What else is there? (Rhetorical question. There's also a poll below here inviting you to rate this Super Bowl):

The game: I picked the Patriots to win 27-23. They won 28-24. But enough about me! Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is getting too much flak for his "terrible" call that gave New England the win. People are playing the result. Yes, handing off to Marshawn Lynch would have been the safe call. But Carroll would be getting lauded today as the unpredictable, daring genius had Russell Wilson completed that quick- slant pass rather than thrown an interception. Tom Brady and the Pats got lucky with that, but deserved to win. 

1aa1akatypThe halftime show: It feels strange saying it but I thought Katy Perry was great, from the opening entrance on the giant mechanical tiger and straight on through. She is very talented and has the palatable, NFL-friendly sex appeal that others (Miley Cyrus) are lacking, and her opening number, the anthemic "Roar," was perfect for a Super Bowl.

The party: I hosted my annual SB party for 12 or 15 family and friends, with pulled pork sliders (Boston butt, foretelling the Patriots' victory) and gumbo atop the menu. I also happened to win big in our two betting pools (squares, props) which made me an unpopular but smiling host.

1aa1alostpuppyThe commercials: Click on Ad-Meter to watch and see USA Today's Ad-Meter ranking of all 61 Super Bowl commercials. No. 1: Budweiser / "Lost Dog," because heroes Clydesdales saving an adorable lost puppy's life is irresistible and makes me want to drink beer to celebrate. Dead last: UCool / "Heroes Charge," because I don't remember the ad and have no idea what UCool is.

HOW DO YOU RATE THIS SUPER BOWL COMPARED TO MOST: Rate the game on overall interest, watchability and excitement -- not on whether your team won, not on whether you hit on your bet:

VEGAS OUTLOOK FOR DOLPHINS, CANES: Odds for next season's Super Bowl already are out (sportsbooks waste no time) and the Dolphins are at 40-1, tied for 14th. Seahawks are favored at 5-1, then Patriots 7-1 and Packers 8-1. On the college side,Ohio State is a favorite to repeat at 5-1. The Miami Hurricanes are 75-1, tied for 29th.

Poll result: Brady was your MVP favorite: We asked who you thought would be Super Bowl MVP and, of six choices, Patriots QB Tom Brady (who ended up winning) was the top choice with 52.0 percent.

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