April 20, 2015

Trust Pat Riley ... except when he says he's made peace with LeBron. My new column; plus what should Dolphins target in draft? Poll. Vote now!; also Hot Button Top 10 (updated), 4/20, your pick for NBA title & more

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

1aa1aapril4201) It is MONDAY, APRIL 20. It's 4-20, the unofficial national holiday when marijuana devotees celebrate their love of cannabis by smoking weed ... just like they do every other day of the year, but with a tad more ceremony today. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA playoffs preview and poll, Weighing The Fish (10 games), Dolphins preseason & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

TRUST PAT RILEY ... EXCEPT WHEN HE SAYS HE'S MADE PEACE WITH THE WAY LEBRON LEFT: My column off today's Riley postseason State of the Heat news conference is now posted online and you'd click In Riley We Trust to read it there. We posted it in advance here in its entirety, including an interesting, barely disguised shot at LeBron James, a passage underlined for emphasis below. The photo is by me from the news conference:

1aa1arileyme      Pat Riley just turned 70. His hair has gone a natural silvery gray. He is at a point, in life and career, when a man begins to hear his mortality clock ever louder, to a point that reminders from elsewhere are neither required nor appreciated.

      "People always are trying to make me older than I am," he mused with a small smile Monday in his annual season-ending State of the Heat news conference. "They’re trying to ask me, ‘Why are trying to stay around this game?’ I love the game. I love competition. I love the challenge of building this team again."

      Riley is an NBA lifer in his 46th year in the league, and planning for his 21st season in Miami. He may be a newly minted septuagenarian, but he is convinced he has another championship ring -– at least one more -– in his future.

      Do you doubt him?

      We don’t trust much in South Florida sports or have a lot of faith right now, do we?

      We don’t trust Jeffrey Loria owning the Marlins.

      We have doubts about Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

      We see Panthers hockey forever trying our patience.

      We feel eroding confidence in Canes football coach Al Golden.

      There isn’t a lot at the top of our sports marquee that has earned our unequivocal trust.

      But Riley has.

      By his tenure and titles, by his track record, the wily Silver Fox has earned every confidence that the injury-marred, playoff-less season just past was a blip, an outlier. In the triumvirate of Riley, owner Micky Arison and coach Erik Spoelstraa, the Heat continue to be the unrivaled model for Miami sports.

      "I challenge myself more than anybody else," he said, "to make sure what happened this year doesn’t happen again."

      Do you doubt he is up to the challenge?

      One year earlier, though in June, after Miami’s loss in the NBA Finals, Riley’s theme had been to pointedly challenge LeBron James to stay, saying, "You have to stay together if you got the guts. You don’t find the first door and run out of it."

      Twenty-two days later James found the door marked ‘Cleveland’ and ran out of it.

      Monday, Riley obviously was alluding to James and the timing and manner of his departure when he referred to having "no more smiling faces with hidden agendas" to deal with this time. Pressed on that he attempted a fast back-track by saying he could have meant "anyone across the board," though it was obvious who he meant.

      I later asked Riley directly if he is at peace with the way James left.

      "Yes, absolutely," he said. "I’m at peace with it."

      I think he was being smarter than he was truthful. In any case Riley is wise to set aside if not bury the LeBron animus, at least publicly, and portray a man not lamenting, but looking forward.

      There is much to look forward to.

      Center Hassan Whiteside, forwards Chris Bosh and Luol Deng and guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic -– that is a starting five you can win with. With good health, and added depth including another 3-point shooter or two, that is a starting five you can contend with.

      "You would like to have seen that team intact for just one game," Riley said. "We didn’t get to see that. It was a real disappointing year in terms of setbacks."

      Riley portrayed being able to re-sign Dragic as a near-certainty.

      "If he doesn’t sign, my ass is going to be in that seat next year and I’ll be writing," he joked, pointing at reporters. "We’re in a very good position to offer him more than anybody else."

      Dragic and Bosh are all-star caliber. So, still, is Wade, who has shown an ability to offset advancing age with efficiency. Whiteside could become a powerhouse, what Riley called "a formidable presence in the offense." Deng is the selfless do-it-all guy every team needs. The return of Josh McRoberts to the rotation will be big. Guys like Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem still fill a valuable role.

      There is little doubt that Miami –- even with all of the injuries and Bosh’s blood clots and the 30 different starting lineups -– still should have made the playoffs but for a late swoon.

      "I told Eric [Spoelstra] to go beat himself up for a week," Riley said, maybe half-kidding. "And if he didn’t want to, I’d help him."

      Riley remains a huge Spoelstra supporter and believer, but also an enormous asset.

      "I’ve been in that trench before," as Riley put it. "I see everything. He knows I see everything."

      The club’s president and architect has seen enough, and accomplished enough, that Heat fans should have little doubt he’ll see this franchise back into the playoffs next season, and soon back into championship contention.

      It is hard to not have doubts about many of our biggest South Florida sports teams right now.

      It is hard to trust and have faith in who is in charge and leading those teams.

      Pat Riley makes it easy.

1aa1adoldraftWHAT POSITION SHOULD DOLPHINS TARGET IN FIRST ROUND?: It's the night of April 30. Dolphins are on the clock at No. 14 in the first round. There are comparably talented and rated players available at the positions Miami has targeted. So, what to do? Wide receiver seems to be the position earmarked for Fins in a lot of early mock drafts and analysis. It's a glamour position -- though also won pretty well-stocked, by my eye. Would cornerback or linebacker be a smarter option? (Yes, guard also is a need, but no OG is seen as 1R-worthy this year). So you tell me. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Warriors, then Spurs your pick for NBA title: Golden State (37.3 percent) and San Antonio (31.6%) dominated third-place Cleveland (15.3%) when we asked who'd win the NBA championship. Hmm. Anti-LeBron bias, perhaps? Atlanta was a distant fourth with 6.2%.

HOT BUTTON APR. 19: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, newly updated. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NBA: No Heat, but NBA playoffs begin anyway: With Dwyane Wade and Miami on outside for first time since 2008, NBA playoffs began this weekend with LeBron James’ Cleveland and Steph Curry’s Golden State the betting co-favorites and both off to 1-0 series leads. Meantime, Miami somehow lost its playoff spot to Boston and Brooklyn even though it was 7-1 against them. "SMH," said Heat fans, shaking their heads.

2, MARLINS: Fish swept by Mets, rough start to season tests optimism: Dee Gordon is way-hot and Giancarlo Stanton set the club record for career homers, but little else has gone right in team's 3-10 after Sunday' loss and sweep by Mets. Miami doesn't play today. The ways things are going, Marlins will lose the off-day.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins ponder options as NFL Draft nears: Countdown is 10 days now until first round, with speculation growing that Miami likely will take a receiver or cornerback 14th overall. Then again, there also looms the anticlimactic possibility of a trade down.

4. LEGAL SYSTEM: Ex-Patriot Hernandez guilty of murder: Aaron Hernandez will serve life in prison, after jurors said they were “shocked” defense lawyer James Sultan admitted Hernandez witnessed the murder even though no testimony or evidence had placed him at the scene. Opposing defenses were seldom a problem for Hernandez, but apparently his own defense was.

5. NHL: Stanley Cup playoffs start without Cats (again): The hockey postseason is underway, and many experts see the New York Rangers as favorites to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. That was one year after a team from Canada last won it all, a now-22-year drought for the birthplace of hockey. Modified national anthem to play at arenas during playoffs: Oh No, Canada.

6. BOSTON MARATHON: Iconic race is Monday, two years later: The 119th running will be today for the race struck by the 2013 terrorist bombing that killed three and wounded 264. The sentencing for convicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins Tuesday. Is it too late to invent a sentence worse than death?

7. POLITICS: NBA visits Cuba this week: NBA will conduct a developmental camp in Cuba this Thursday through Sunday. That's against the Heat's wishes, on the face of it, although Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line would benefit greatly from an open port and tourism in Cuba.

8. GOLF: Next Tiger? Spieth wins Masters, electrifies sport: Jordan Spieth, 21, impressively won the Masters and immediately I saw a poll asking whether Spieth would shatter the record by surpassing 20 career major wins. Tap brakes, please. Talking 20 majors after No. 1 is like mentioning the Cy Young Award on Opening Day after the pitcher retires the side in the top of the first.

9. PANTHERS: Florida slotted for 11th pick: NHL draft lottery determined the Panthers will select 11th in the draft they will host in Sunrise on June 26, after the league rejected Florida's proposal that, this year only, the draft host gets the overall No.1 pick.

10. FIU: Golden Panthers wrap spring practice: FIU, seeking its first winning season since 2011, drew a couple of hundred fans for its Spring Game, which was only about 99,000 fewer than Ohio State.

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April 14, 2015

It's official. It's over. Heat eliminated from playoff chase by Indy win; plus who should be on Marlins' all-time "Mount Rushmore"? Poll. Vote now!; also Dolphins draft, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson topless, presidential politics, God & 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. Will have a new 'Back In My Day' segment if I can dream one up. Ears welcome.

1aa1abosh1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 14. Chris Bosh is shown flanked by Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade and their significant others during Bosh's recent 31st birthday party. Click on image to see it larger. 2) Rolling Stones fan? Mick and the boys are playing Orlando Citrus Bowl on June 12. 3) Heard Howard Stern's great 90 minutes with Madonna. Stern doesn't get enough credit for being an adroit interviewer. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Heat playoff chase, LeBron-sabotage verdict &more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins draft: ESPN and Football Outsiders offers "draft guides" for all 32 NFL teams and you'd find Miami's here. They call cornerback the Fins' greatest need and suggest a trade-down from No. 14 to acquire additional picks is very possible to likely.

Richie incognito seems to be fitting in well with the Bills. Although several players complain that a large teammate they're afraid to identify keeps stealing their lunch money. --Greg Cote

PLAYOFF CHASE: DONE. HEAT ELIMINATED: Heat's 100-93 win over Orlando in home finale last night kept Miami alive, but Heat were eliminated from playoff race tonight by Indiana's 99-95 double-overtime home win over Washington. (Click on You Know How This Ends, Right? for my column from the Heat arena. I wrote that it remained hugely likely Miami would miss the playoffs but that it hardly matters. What does is a brighter future next season with a healthy Chris Bosh, a full year of Goran Dragic and a developing Hassan Whiteside. The frustration here wasn't missing the playoffs but how they were missed: with a late-season collapse that somehow kept Miami from being one of the top eight teams in a really bad conference). Anyway, Boston clinched the No. 7 East and now it's Brooklyn or Indiana for No. 8 as Miami will watch the postseason on TV for first time since 2008.

WHO SHOULD BE ON MARLINS' FRANCHISE "MOUNT RUSHMORE"?: The time-worn "Mount Rushmore" gimmick, the concept that local radio man Marc Hochman is convinced he invented despite it being applied to myriad top-four lists throughout history, is now being done for every team at MLB.com. (Find 1aa1afishmountthe ballot here). Fans are invited to name the "Franchise Four" from eight finalists plus an other/write-in category, with results to be announced during the July All-Star break. The Marlins' final eight presented in our poll is interesting. For me Josh Beckett and Livan Hernandez are dubious picks apparently included because both were World Series MVPs. Not sure about Charles Johnson, either, because of the offensive deficiencies. Obvious omissions? Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez. Maybe Dontrelle Willis? Oh, and some guy named Ricky Nolasco happens to be No. 1 in Marlins all-time starts, innings, strikeouts and victories, that's all. So don't blame me. Our poll is based on the MLB list. Also I have excluded an "other" category because it would be a wasted vote. Let's play the hand we are dealt. By whatever criteria you wish, vote for the top four (4) and say why.

Figuring four-vote ballot results: Any one player's maximum vote would be 25 percent of the total if everyone cast the maximum four votes. Multiply a player's total times four for an idea of the overall percentage of ballots on which that player is being included.

GOLF'S GREAT DAY: Jordan Spieth (pictured) won The Masters on Sunday, but golf and the PGA Tour won, too. 1aa1ajspiethSpieth, 21, seems the real deal, the first young American who could truly be up to the "next Tiger" stuff. Meanwhile young Rory McIlroy (world No. 1 and fourth place Sunday) won't concede anything to Spieth. Golf also benefits from old-timer Phil Mickelson's big Masters and from the fact Tiger Woods also had an encouraging tournament. This is straight out of the PGA Tour's dreams: McIlroy and the American Spieth leading a new vanguard while guys like Mickelson and Woods remains relevant. Quick aside: Spieth is an old-looking 21 thanks largely to the Prince William hairline that will have Jordan endorsing implants by 25.

U.S Open odds: Via Bovada today, Rory McIlroy is an early 11-2 favorite to win golf's next major, the U.S. Open, followed by Jordan Spieth at 7-1 and Tiger Woods at 14-1.

1aa1alexitLEXI THOMPSON OH MY!: Coral Springs-born rising LPGA star Lexi Thompson, 20, poses topless (sort of) on the cover of the current Golf Digest magazine, a towel covering most of what is otherwise uncovered. What's amazing is not that this is daring or groundbreaking (it's neither), but that it is generating a lot of attention. For media and athletes alike, what once was bold is now blase'. Bumper sticker: Honk If You've Appeared Nekkid On a Magazine Cover.

 

 

RUBIO, CLINTON: TWO THOUGHTS ON PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: Miami's own Marco Rubio announced his presidential candidacy last evening at Freedom Tower. I had two suggestions: Hidden, oscillating 1aa1ahillrubfans to counter Rubio's tendency to sweat like Richard NIxon in a 1960 debate. And no water bottles within 100 feet of him! More seriously, Rubio has an outside nomination shot in a muddled Republican field bereft of a clear frontrunner, although he must overcome the notion that, at 43, it's too soon for him. Damning poll numbers also suggest his support has eroded since he sort of peaked as an "it" guy in 2013. On the Democrat side there is a clear, now-declared frontrunner, but I'll be very interested to see if Hillary Clinton's age -- she'd be 68 on election day -- will emerge as a factor or be a subject considered off-limits.

1aa1abumperCOMBATIVE, COMPETITIVE CHRISTIANS: Pictured is a bumper sticker I saw on an older car while visiting my mother in Vero Beach on Sunday. The message -- I Love God More Than You Do -- struck me as comical, although I don't think it was intended to be.

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April 09, 2015

Blew it! Heat waste huge lead, put playoff hopes in grave peril; plus Heat, NBA at odds over Cuba (with poll); also Kiper's latest draft guess for Dolphins, Fins preseason schedule, MLB video starring Stanton, The Masters & more

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


1aa1awesw1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 9. Happy birthday, Mom! 2) Wes Welker (pictured), almost 34 and addled by concussions, visited the Dolphins. Gawd. He doesn't need to be signed. He needs to be told to retire. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day poll, Heat swoon, Duke-Wisconsin pick, well-dressed animals & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NBA blindsides, angers Heat with new Cuba initiative: My latest column, online and shipped to Thursday's paper. Click on Unilateral Decision to read.

Marlins now 0-3, suffer Sleeping Bat Syndrome: Visiting Braves sweep Marlins with last night's 2-0 game, meaning Miami scored three runs in three games. The bright side? Two solid pitching performances. The dim side? Everything else. Nightmare start to the season for Miami. (Click on Another Oddball Opening Day for my column from Game 1). Perspective helps, of course. Still only three games of 162. Still, a fast buzzkill on all that hope and optimism. Up to Fish to win it back.

PLAYOFF CHASE: HEAT SUFFER CRUSHING LOSS TO BULLS: Miami blew a 19-point lead at home tonight to Chicago and lost 89-78 -- a crushing defeat that seriously imperils playoff hopes. Dwyane Wade (4-20, 9 points) was awful. An embarrassing 33-8 third quarter ruined the Heat's chances. Four teams are jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. How it looks from here afgter tonight's huge Heat loss (note playoff-likelihood percentages are not yet updated to reflect Miami's latest loss. Expect the Heat's number to plummet):

7. Boston: 36-41, W2. Playoff likelihood: 59.3% (up 21.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Friday @ CLE, then vs. CLE, vs. TOR and @ MIL. Note: Tough closing schedule with two straight vs. LeBron.

8. Brooklyn: 36-42, L1. Playoff likelihood: 58.7 (down 16.3). Next: Friday vs. WAS, then @ MIL, vs. CHI and vs. ORL. Note: Three remaining home games boost Nets' chances.

9. Indiana: 36-43, W4. Playoff likelihood: 30.4 (down 0.9). Next: Friday @ DET, then vs. OKC, vs. WAS and @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat, which is potentially big.

10. Miami: 35-44, L1. Playoff likelihood: 51.7 (down 3.2). Next: Saturday vs. TOR, then vs. ORL and @ PHI. Note: Heat own tiebreaker over Celtics and Nets, but may need 3-0 finish from here to make it.

NEW POLL: HEAT FACE DILEMMA WITH NBA'S CUBA INITIATIVE. WHAT TO DO?: [Link to my latest column is above]. For 29 of 30 NBA franchises and markets, this is not an issue. For 29 teams and their fans, U.S.-Cuba relations is a 1aa1acuba2subject closer to who-cares than hot-button. For one team only, the Miami Heat, it's important. The dilemma is that being involved in the league's evolving, warming relationship with Cuba might prove smart in the long-term from a business standpoint, but might prove costly in the short-term from a public relations standpoint. After all, many, especially older, Miami Cuban exiles still want nothing to do with a Castro-led Cuba and feel passionately. They objected when President Barack Obama in December announced steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba -- which led to the NBA this week announcing it would hold a four-game camp in Cuba April 23-26. Many Miami fans might feel betrayed if their team involved itself in any way on the island. Curious how you'd steer the Heat's involvement in the NBA's gradual reach into Cuba? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

KIPER'S LATEST DRAFT GUESS PREDICTION FOR DOLPHINS: Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 4.0 newly out on ESPN.com now has Miami selecting Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton (6-2, 339; pictured) 14th overall. Saying Kiper: 

1aa1adannys"The Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh, but the depth chart for the interior of their defensive line is basically "Suh and that's about it." Shelton is a different kind of player than Suh, with a far more limited ability to rush the passer, but if they're on the field at the same time it could free Suh up to be the kind of disruptor the Dolphins are paying for, which is what took place in Detroit, where the Lions had a good rotation along the interior. Shelton isn't just insurance for Suh, he's a nice complement. He's not as disruptive as sack and TFL totals indicate, but he can eat up double-teams at the point of attack and make others around him better. He has great awareness and will occasionally simply discard blocks and make the tackle himself." My thought: A possibility, but doubt Fins go for a DT.

Dolphins preseason schedule: Via the NFL today, it's Dolphins at Chicago Aug. 13-17, at Carolina Aug. 20-24, vs. Atlanta Aug. 27-30 and vs. Tampa Bay Sept. 3-4.

THE GROWING STARDOM OF GIANCARLO STANTON, CONTINUED: Money = fame in America, and so Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' $325 Million Man, is a bigger star than ever before he hits his first home run this season. The latest example: This new MLB video starring Stanton, set to what sounds like a rapid heartbeat. Good stuff:

 

Poll result: Most believe Marlins are a playoff team: We asked in the previous blogpost (you may still vote) and 69.1 percent said, yes, the Marlins will be a playoff team this year, while 30.9% said no. The yes vote was running nearer the 75-80 range early but dipped after the Opening Day loss.

Big Opening Night on TV for baseball: ESPN2's Opening Night game Sunday (Cardinals-Cubs) drew 3.35 million viewers, a 47 percent increase over last year. It was biggest audience for ESPN or ESPN2 Opening Night since 2008, and best for any regular-season game since Yanks-Red Sox Aug. 7, 2011.

'16 NCAA odds: Bovada sets North Carolina as the favorite at 6-1 for next year's men's NCAA Tournament title, followed by Kentucky 8-1, Maryland and Virginia both 12-1, and champ Duke and Kansas both 16-1. Miami Hurricanes are 40-1 (tied for 19th), ahead of Florida and FSU, both 50-1.

Masters odds: Rory McIlroy is favored to win The Masters this week at 11-2 odds, via Bovada, followed by Jordan Spieth at 8-1, Bubba Watson at 10-1 and Jason Day at 14-1. Tiger Woods? He's tied for 11th at 33-1. Check out WalletHub.com for an interesting, fact-stuffed Masters By The Numbers.

Burger-King wedding: Joel Burger is marrying Ashley King. This is a blog. So you know it's the truth. Story here.

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January 07, 2015

Here's why Dolfans, media have it wrong in blasting Tannenbaum hire; plus Cane to Fins in first round?, Bonds/Clemens verdict & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1aa1ajesuischarlie1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 8. Charlie Hebdo forever. The terroorists don't get it and never will: They don't weaken freedom. They only strengthen it. 2) I'm back at Friday Page Headquarters divining my NFL Division Round playoff picks. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My baseball Hall ballot and poll, Dolphins hire Tannenbaum, Florida gay marriage, semi-Beach Boys & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLFANS, MEDIA WANT IT BOTH WAYS, HAVE IT WRONG IN BLASTING TANNENBAUM HIRE: Herald colleague Manny Navarro has a smart post in his "Eye On the U" Hurricanes blog, under the headline, "Mountain of negativity only makes things worse." The accurate and unfortunate point is no matter what Al Golden does or says, he'll be vilified 1aa1amiketby a waiting mob. Well, the same mindset envelopes the Dolphins in the negativity of too many of their fans and so many of the media who cover them -- as we have seen anew in the wake of yesterday's hiring for former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum (pictured) as executive vice president of football operations. The perpetually negative wing of the fandom and media would have it both ways: First complaining about the status quo and lack of change ... and then complaining, instantly, in knee-jerk fashion, when the club does something, anything. I hate being a voice of reason here; it's so unfashionable (!). But people are getting way too caught up in organizational flow charts and who reports to whom. Look, cut to the chase: This bolsters the club's front office. Tannenbaum is an experienced NFL talent evaluator and AFC East expert who helped guide two Jets teams to the AFC championship game. Adding his eyes, mind and voice cannot hurt. The reality is this: Joe Philbin is right now still a marginal, yet-to-be-proven commodity as head coach, a guy who very well might have been let go rather than retained after a third straight year out of the playoffs. And Dennis Hickey, though he has done a nice job in his first year as GM, does not have the resume' heft that makes him beyond getting help. If Tannenbaum's arrival underlines that Philbin and Hickey will be fighting for their jobs in 2015, so be it. That was the case even before this move. I don't find the hiring of Tannenbaum to be misguided or ill-timed or any of that. I find it to be interesting and see its potential. Can we at least let the man report to work (his first day is Feb. 1) before we form an angry picket line outside his office?

A CANE TO DOLPHINS IN FIRST ROUND?: Bleacherreport.com has the Dolphins selecting UM tackle Ereck Flowers 14th overall in the first round in its new NFL mock draft. Won't happen. Two reasons. 1) Dolphins need a guard, not a tackle. 2) Flowers could have used another year as a Hurricane and is seen as a maybe-first rounder who could drop to 2R status.

Poll result: Mixed results on Bonds, Clemens and Cooperstown: We asked how you feel about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the Hall of Fame, and seldom do we get such diverse response to a blog poll. A plurality, 33.5 percent, voted "never." However, 29.0% said both should be in the Hall already, 19.9% said it's time to let them in now, and 17.6% said not yet but maybe someday.

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January 06, 2015

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

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 18, 2014

Should NBA play games on Christmas? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat skid, Panthers surge, Philbin/Golden result, U.S.-Cuba relations & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18. I'm up at Friday Page Headquarters today conjuring the NFL Week 16 predictions. Click on Thursday Gem for my pick on tonight's putrid Titans-Jaguars game. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): 'Tis the season for being average, Miami and Shaq, Philbin/Golden poll, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, Marlins, meatballs & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1asantaA POX ON NBA FOR PLAYING ON CHRISTMAS!: One week from today LeBron James-at-Heat will be one of five NBA games played on Christmas. The NHL, conspicuously, 1aa1ajesusdoes not play on Christmas. I hate that the NBA does. I'm not alone. Stan Van Gundy once said, "I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game." Phil Jackson said, "I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day." LeBron James said, "If you ask any player in the league, we'd rather be home with our families. It's not just a regular holiday." I agree. I'm not especially religious; it just seems wrong to play on Christmas. You with me, or are you OK with it? Have a vote!

HEAT ON HISTORIC SKID: OK "historic skid" may be a bit dramatic, but last night's 105-87 home loss to reeling Utah marked the first time since 1990 that Miami has lost four consecutive home games by double digits. Heat is 1-7 overall in its past eight home dates, and fighting just to stay on the eight-team Eastern playoff grid nearly one-third into the season. The good news? Dwyane Wade had 42 points. Wasn't sure he had another 40-point game in him, frankly. The bad news? Everything else. Chris Bosh was out again, Miami couldn't buy a 3-point shot, and the defense was (again) lousy. Injuries haven't helped, but, bottom line: the post-LeBron era has set sail on much rougher seas than imagined. The Christmas game here against LeBron and Cleveland could be ugly.

PANTHERS FIND THEIR PULSE, PACE: It's funny. The Heat is 12-14 and No. 7 in their conference and it's a near-disaster to fans. The Panthers are 13-16 and tied for No. 8 and it's closer to a joyous miracle. That's one team coming down from four straight NBA Finals appearances, and the other dreaming of its first Stanley Cup postseason series victory since 1996. Florida got much attention for its record 20-round shootout win the other night, but Cats have been ascending for awhile; they're over .5000 since a 4-8 start, and 6-4 in past 10 games. (They've also won four of past five home games).

Poll result: Philbin edges Golden in "fire him!" sentiment: In the previous blogpost we asked you to make a choice who you want gone more, and Dolphins coach Joe Philbin edged the Hurricanes' Al Golden for the dubious prize, 52.6 percent to 47.4%.

A NON-CUBAN'S VIEW OF WARMING RELATIONS: [Preemptive strike: "Stay out of politics! STICK TO SPORTS!!!"] I am fascinated by the various reactions to yesterday's news that the U.S. has begun to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. To be clear, I'd guess the vast 1aa1aamercubamajority of America doesn't much care either way. To those who do care, I'd imagine (and hope) that most think diplomacy and civil relations in general are a good thing. But in South Florida, among many Cuban-Americans and exiles -- especially older folks -- this amounts to climbing into bed with the enemy and has inspired anger, even outrage. My take: U.S.-Cuba normalized relations were a long-time coming; Raul Castro taking over for brother Fidel obviously hastened the process. I call this "progress." To me an historical analogy is Japan. After the Pearl Harbor bombing it was unimaginable America would ever be on good terms with Japan, but times change, and Japan is now a strong ally. I respect that many Cuban-Americans can't and won't ever forgive Castro, and that is their right. But that outrage is too small in the national scope to steer American foreign policy.

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December 04, 2014

Do you believe Jameis Winston? New poll. Vote!; plus Scintillating vs. Silly with UM fans, Duke Johnson wins 'state Heisman'; also 'Goodbye RGIII' video, Barkley is right, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy & more

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4. I'm at Friday Page Headquarters today divining my Week 14 NFL predictions. Pray for me. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins edge Jets, DSM poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins catch a break: Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl run-stopper, today was suspended for the remainder of the regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. So he's erased from Sunday's Dolphins game here.

WINSTON DENIES RAPE ALLEGATION: I have no idea whether Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is guilty and lying or falsely accused and telling the truth. Neither, chances are, do you. It's he-said/she-said, the 1aa1ajwinstonissue is consent and it's risky to make assumptions. Winston's long-awaited two-day student conduct hearing over the rape allegation against him ended Wednesday with no decision yet reached. Winston declined to answer questions but did read from a five-page statement, declining any guilt. In part: "I did not rape or sexually assault [the accuser]," the statement reads. "I did not create a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment in the short period of time that we were together. [She] had the capacity to consent to having sex with me and she repeatedly did so by her conduct and her verbal expressions. I never used physical violence, threats, or other coercive means. I never endangered [hers] health, safety, or well-being." Click here for the story. Do you tend to believe Winston based on your knowledge of the case? Take a dip in our poll, and try to separate whether you are a Seminoles fan or hater from what you honestly think.

SCINTILLATING VS. SILLY AT UM: What's scintillating right now -- Hurricanes men's basketball -- isn't getting the full attention it deserves because of the distraction over what's silly: the pointless speculation over football coach Al Golden. Jim Larranaga's men's hoopers are now 8-0 and surely will 1aa1ajiml
1aa1aalgrise from their No. 15 poll ranking after Tuesday night's 70-61 home win over No. 24 Illinois. Yet the obsession these days of UM fans in general and of the media seems to be the job status of Golden following a disappointing 6-6 season. All of this was perfectly reflected last night at the arena when a "Fire Golden" chant briefly bloomed, only to be tamped out by annoyed fellow attendees directing attention to the basketball game, please. (Pictured left, the heroic Larranaga. Pictured right, Golden, being chased by an angry mob). The Golden chatter is silly because it's moot. Golden's job is not in jeopardy; UM is not considering a coaching change. Maybe we won't be able to say that a year from now, but it's ironclad-true today. Yet false rumors percolated yesterday about an imminent firing. One local radio host reported he'd been told by a source that Golden was getting the boot; then, when that proved false, the same host Tweeted, "I'm NOT a journalist!" Effing hilarious. Meanwhile, a few Board of Trustee members continue in the role of shadow snipers, anonymously criticizing Golden. The Trustees should stop with the cowardice, and the local media should cease and desist with what has become a far too common practice of using anyonymous sources. Well, at least that's what I was told by a "close associate" of a journalism professor who requested anonymity!

SOPY: CANES' DUKE JOHNSON WINS "STATE HEISMAN": Well, something went right for the Miami Hurricanes this year. Duke Johnson went right. UM's Duke of Gables comfortably beats Florida State's 1aa1asopy 1aa1adukejJameis Winston in our season-ending, blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings: the "State Heisman." The SOPY rankings end with the 12-game regular season and do not include conference title games or bowls, so every school is on even footing. This is a cumulative ranking of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Florida only played 11 games, not making up its lightning-canceled opener. UCF plays its final game Thursday night, but the result has no bearing on the overall lead so we present the final rankings now. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The final 2014 SOPY Top 25:

SOPY FINAL 2014

Rk      Player, team-pos.                LW     Season

1        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         111     1,968

2       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         90.5    1,844

3        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb     142.5   1,765

4        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            161     1,513

5        Justin Holman, UCF-qb           85     1,468.5

6        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            35      1,255

7        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        35      1,211

8       Alex McGough, FIU-qb            DNP   1,063.5

9        Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       47        958

10      Matt Jones, Florida-rb             29        924

11. Dalvin Cook, FSU-rb, 906; 12. Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 881; 13. Phillip Dorsett, Miami-rec, 874; 14. DeMarcus Robinson, Florida-rec, 830; 15.Breshad Perriman, UCF-rec, 815; 16. Treon Harris, Florida-qb, 799; 17. Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb, 797; 18. Mike White, SoFla-qb, 782.5; 19. Jonnu Smith, FIU-rec, 768; 20. Clive Walford, Miami-rec, 718; 21. William Stanback, UCF-rb, 667; 22t. Andre Davis, SoFla-rec, 636; 22t. Alex Gardner, FIU-rb, 636; 24. Anthon Samuel, FIU-rb, 617; 25. Joseph Yearby, Miami-rb, 612.

SOPY Champions

2014    Duke Johnson, Miami-rb                1,968

2013    Jameis Winston, FSU-qb                2,107

2012    Stephen Morris, Miami-qb             1,900.5

Cote's State of the State ranking: 1. FSU (12-0); 2. UCF (8-3); 3. Florida (6-5); 4. Miami (6-6); 5. SoFla (4-8); 6. FIU (4-8); 7. FAU (3-9).

BARKLEY IS RIGHT ON FERGUSON RIOTERS: Race is a fascinating thing. If I (white as a linen napkin) call the folks rioting and looting in Ferguson, Mo. "scumbags" it comes off as racist. Black Charles 1aa1abarkleycBarkley can say it -- and did. It's still controversia, but not the way it would be if said by a white commentator. Barkley is right, by the way. "Scumbag" is an inflammatory word, but do people destroying property and looting merit much better? I hate that the looters claim an entitlement based on their outrage over the Michael Brown shooting and the police-shooter's non-indictment. Righteous protest and civil disobedience are wonderful things, part of the our freedom. Looting isn't. Not under any circumstance. Barkley sounds more like Rush Limbaugh in calling the police "the only thing in the ghetto between this place being the wild wild West," and saying, "There's a reason they racially profile us at times." But in lambasting the looters, I can't imagine he'd get much disagreement from anyone but the looters.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: WEEK 13 SEES PICKS UNEVEN, LOBOS PRAYING: We update you briefly every 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixweek on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: We went a fairly solid 11-5 overall but only 7-9 against the spread despite a pair of nice outright upset picks with Falcons over Cardinals ("Aawwk!") and Jaguars over Giants. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos won, 118-69, led by Calvin Johnson's big 38 Bird Day points, improving to 6-7 on the year. We're in a four-way tie for our league's final playoff spot entering the last week. However we stand fourth on the tiebreaker ladder, meaning we need a small mirale. Um, make that a large miracle.

GOODBYE, RGIII: A smart, expertly done ode to Robert Griffin III's downfall, to the tune of Elton John's Candle in the Wind:

 

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November 25, 2014

Ouch. Computers put Dolphins playoff shot at mere 19.7%; plus Canes' Duke nears "state Heisman," NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, (barely) remembering JFK, naughty names & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio on South Beach today with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. A new "Back In My Day" is prepped and ready. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolfan and Canesfan Satisfaction Meter polls. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

DOLPHINS PICK A BAD YEAR TO BE PRETTY GOOD; PLAYOFF HOPES SLIM: Miami at 6-5 has a slightly less than 1 in 5 chance (19.7 percent) to reach the postseason, according to the computer analytics at a site I 1aa1adol19.7have come to respect: makenflplayoffs.com. Following last night's end of NFL Week 12 the three clear AFC frontrunners, all but in, are the Patriots (94.3%), Colts (92.0%) and Broncos (83.1%). Then it's a mad five-team scrum for the last three spots among the Bengals (61.9%), Chiefs (50.2%), Steelers (47.6%), Chargers (47.4%), Ravens (39.9%) and Browns (38.8%). Then comes Miami, 10th overall in the hunt for six AFC tickets. The Fins' path to the playoffs from here seems pretty clear: Beat the three teams you should (Jets, twice, and Vikings) and find a way to beat either the Ravens or Patriots. Doable. But daunting.

SOPY: UM'S DUKE WITH SAFE BUT NOT INSURMOUNTABLE LEAD ENTERING FINAL GAME: Miami's Duke Johnson leads Florida State's Jameis Winston by 103.5 points entering each player's final game in our 1aa1asopyblog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." That's a nice but not insurmountable lead. The SOPY rankings end with the 12-game regular season and do not include conference title games or bowls, so every school is on even footing. This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been Winston (in 2013 with 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (in 2012 with 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 14:

SOPY WEEK 13 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk13    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         132     1,857

2 (2)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         142.5   1,753.5

3 (3)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb      223     1,622.5

4 (5)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           143     1,383.5

5 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb           104.5    1,352

6 (8)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb           165      1,220

7 (6)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec       106      1,176

8 (7)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb              8       1,063.5

9 (10)     Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       131       911

10 (9)       Matt Jones, Florida-rb            27        895

Bubble: Karlos Williams, FSU-rb, 839. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Florida and UCF have played 10 games; Miami, FSU, FAU and USF have played 11; and FIU has played 11.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (11-0); 2. UCF (7-3); 3. Miami (6-5); 4. Florida (6-4); 5. SoFla (4-7); 6. FIU (4-8); 7. FAU (3-8).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: PICKS, LOBOS BOTH SLIP IN WEEK 12: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team, 1aa1aarkstate 1aa1afripixand this week's report ain't pretty. Pix: We went a mediocre 9-6 overall but only 6-9 against the spread -- breaking a season-long string of 11 straight weeks at no worse than .500 ATS. Had four 'dogs-with-points including Dolphins, but misfired badly on our Cards-over-Seahawks upset call, a bad pick. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos' three-game win streak ended with a mighty thud, 144-54. Never a good sign when your high scorer (Philip Rivers) has 13 points. The bigger issue was six guys in single-figures. Oy! The good news? At 5-7 I'm only one game off playoff pace (not counting tiebreakers) with two weeks left, so I'll have a shot if I can win out. Rally, Lobos!

REMEMBERING JFK (IF BARELY): This is what insidious time does. It fades even the most memorable of us. A year ago the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination was big news. The 51st 1aa1ajfkanniversary, this past Saturday, passed quietly. Do any of us even know when Abe Lincoln was assassinated? It was on an April 15, 149 years ago. So we may expect a proper media remembrance on the big-One-Five-Oh next spring, at least. JFK's murder is one of my faintest childhood memories. I vaguely recall us being sent home from school early and finding my mother weeping at the black-and-white TV set. On Saturday I was on a weekend cruise in the Bahamas and didn't give the date a fleeting thought. But I do now.

NAUGHTY 'N NICE NAMES: The Daily Mail of London reports a recent study of 63,000 (presumably British) school 1aa1anameschildren determined which kids tend to be naughty misbehavers and nice angels, based on first names. Ten nicest girls: Amy, Georgia, Emma, Charlotte, Grace, Sophie, Abigail, Hannah, Emily and Alice. Ten naughtiest girls: Ella, Bethany, Eleanor, Olivia, Laura, Holly, Courtney, Amber, Caitline and Jade. Ten nicest boys: Jacob, Daniel, Thomas, James, Adam, Harry, Samuel, Jack, Oliver and Ryan. Ten naughtiest boys: Joseph, Cameron, William, Jake, Joshua, Jamie, Lewis, Benjamin, Ethan and Luke. All I can say is, if Ella and Joe get together, watch out!

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November 04, 2014

What can hot Dolphins, Canes and Heat accomplish? New poll. Vote!; plus NFL Pix 'n Fantasy, new SOPY rankings, governor election & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 5. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Fins crush San Diego, DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On Heat's first loss: Click on Reality Hasn't Changed for my column from the arena off last night's Heat loss. Losing to very good Houston wasn't a reality chcek for Miami because the reality is the same now as it was at 3-0. Heat is competitive, not a contender, and the moving on from LeBron James will be a season-long challenge.

HAPPINESS IS A MIAMI SPORTS FAN (FOR NOW, AT LEAST): My earlier column is unabashedly rah-rah, me as Homer Guy, banging the civic drum in celebration of our local teams' collective Big Weekend. 1aa1abig3Why not? I live here. I wish our teams well. Doesn't mean I can't be objective or won't be critical, but when the Dolphins, Heat, football Hurricanes and hockey Panthers are all winning on the same weekend for only the fourth time ever, well, that's good with me. Click on Happy Days for the column. It's pretty remarkable each team's turnaround the past few weeks. Dolphins, three straight wins for 5-3 at midyear. Heat, last unbeaten team left in Eastern Conference (before Tuesday night''s first loss). Canes, 6-3 after three wins in a row. Our blog's Dolfan and Canesfan Satisfaction Meter polls both set season highs this week, and Heat fans were celebrating the smooth start to Life After LeBron. The hot streaks raise hope that all three possibilities mentioned in this poll could happen, although the argument could also be made that all three remain doubtful. Vote for only as many of the three as you honestly think will happen, and say why.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: SO-SO AND GOOD IN WEEK 9: We update you briefly every Tuesday on how we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and our fantasy-league team. Pix: So- 1aa1afripix 1aa1aarkstateso. Having a great season so far, but not helped much by going 8-5 overall and 7-6 against the spread last week. Stayed scorching hot on Upset of the Week calls by bull's-eyeing Patriots over Broncos ("Aawwk!"). But let's not mention that I picked San Diego, OK? Please? Fantasy: Good. Woebegone Greg's Lobos finally won, rising to 3-6 with a 134-107 triumph led by Marshawn Lynch's 30 points. I'm now within two games of playoff pace with five weeks left. Go 'Bos!

SOPY: CANES' DUKE OF GABLES IS RUNNING AWAY WITH IT!: Another big game from Miami's Duke Johnson last week has increased his overall lead in our latest blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the 1aa1asopyYear (SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Because our rankings are cumulative, players on a bye take a temporary hit that evens out over course of season. The SOPY Top 10 entering Collball Week 11:

SOPY WEEK 10 TOP 10

Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.                Wk10    Season

1 (1)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         244     1,552

2 (2)        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb     150.5   1,336 

3 (3)       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb        215.5    1,291.5

4 (4)        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            97.5    1,072.5

5 (5)       Justin Holman, UCF-qb           158      1,061 

6 (6)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            58        957

7 (7)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        62        875

8 (8)       Alex McGough, FIU-qb             61       781

9 (10)      Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb        95       741

10 (--)      Matt Jones, Florida-rb            216      713

Bubble: Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb, 667. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 (Wk1). Note: Miami, FIU, FAU and USF have played 9 games; FSU and UCF have played 8; and Florida has played 7.

Cote's State of the State rank entering Collball Week 10: 1. FSU (8-0); 2. Miami (5-3); 3. Florida (4-3); 4. UCF (5-3); 5. SoFla (3-6); 6. FIU (3-6); 7. FAU (3-6).

COTE'S TAKE ON FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL RACE: For what it's worth (not much), but because I love politics and because my blog veers occasionally from sports, I size up the three candidates: Rick Scott 1aa1aflaflag(Rep.)--Incumbent has been the worst Florida governor of my lifetime and also ran a campaign of negative ads, but nevertheless won. That's because... Charlie Crist (Dem.)--That he also was largely unlikeable to voters, with cause, was the sole reason this race was even close. A better candidate would have sailed to victory over the unpopular Scott. Adrian Wyllie (Lib.)--In theory, a vote for Wyllie was a noble statement against the two mainstream contenders. In reality, support for Wyllie may well be to blame for Scott's return to office. Decision '14: I voted Crist as the less-damnable of unsatisfying choices, but respect the verdict. Whomever was your choice, I hope you voted!

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Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 97.4%; plus Fins rout Chargers 37-0 behind Tannehill and D, my Philbin column; also Canes record, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, NOVEMBER 3. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with Dolphins. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes whomp North Carolina, CSM poll, FIU falls, Gators stun Georgia & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

CSM sets season high: Voting in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter poll wrapped this morning at 92.2 percent, a season high. Find complete results in the blogpost directly below this.

My Philbin column: Getting a huge email response to my column off the game on coach Joe Philbin celebrating his biggest Dolphins win while mouring the death of his father. It seems to have touched many readers who aren't even sports fans. Click on Heartache and Joy to read it. (Find our Dolphins-Chargers gamepost and postgame thoughts immediately below the latest DSM poll).

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G8: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 97.4 percent overall satisfaction -- a season high -- in the wake of Sunday's 37-0 victory over visiting San Diego putting Miami's season record at 5-3. The DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Tuesday.

;

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

G7: 63.2% (following 27-13 victory at Jacksonville)

G8: 97.4% (following 37-0 victory vs. San Diego)

Next poll: Nov. 9 (following game at Detroit)

G8: SAN DIEGO @ DOLPHINS: A PLAYOFF TEAM DECLARES ITSELF HERE: Final: Miami's first defensive shutout since 2006. Ryan Tannehill's career-best 125.6 passer rating. A dominating home triumph over a quality opponent has Miami 5-3 at midseason and very much thinking playoffs. Impressive. The best all-round, end-to-end victory in the three-year Joe Philbin/Tannehill era. Happy for Philbin, personally, with the win coming just two days after he tended to the death of his father, Paul, who passed away at 93. ..... Fourth quarter: Starting QBs Tannehill and Rivers both out of game, it's so lopsided. ..... Third quarter: It's 37-0. Jarvis Landry 14-yard TD is Tannehill's third scoring throw of game. TD set up by fumble-causing sack by Olivier Vernon that Jared Odrick recovered, Miami's fourth defensive takeaway. ... Grimes with his second pick. Dolphins D is making this a nightmare for Rivers. ... MIA 30-0 after 23-yard FG set up by Grimes pick. Should have been more. Clay and Wallace both dropped TD passes inside the 10. ... Brent Grimes intercepts Rivers, returns to SD 19. ... Miami sails to 27-0 lead on Tannehill's 21-yard TD pass to Rishard Matthews. What an a-- kicking! ..... Halftime: Tannehill is 18-for-25, 208 yards and a TD at the break, and Miami's defense has limited the Chargers to 118 total yards. A dominating half by Miami. Did not expect to be saying that. Good Fins, Good Tanny are in the house so far. ..... Second quarter: MIA 20-0 inside of 2 minutes. Fins ride 38-yard Wallace catch to 1st and goal but settle for 25-yard FG. ... Reshad Jones intercepts Philip Rivers, returns 16 yards to Bolts 31. A 26-yard FG and 17-0 lead is result. ... Lamar Miller 2-yard TD run has MIA up 14-0 early in second Q. ..... First quarter: Strong start for Dolphins. ... MIA up 7-0 on 77-yard opening drive capped by Charles Clay 6-yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill. Tanny 6-for-6 on drive. ... Bolts unwisely eschew 39-yard FG attempt, go for it on 4th and 1 from MIA 22 and are stopped on Reshad Jones tackle. ..... Pregame: Kickoff temp 69 degrees with crazy-low 29% humidity. Hope game is as good as this perfect weather. ... I'm second-guessing today's pick (Chargers 24-20) a little bit. Usually don't do that. ..... Original post: San Diego is 5-3. Miami is 4-3 at it reaches midseason today. Today's 1 p.m. kickoff feels like a pivotal game that will see the winner looking like a playoff-team and the loser seeming like something else. The Dolphins have won two games 1aa1adolsdin a row and are one last-second play (vs. Packers) from carrying four consecutive W’s into Sunday’s matinee. Oppositely, two consecutive losses have sort of knocked the bloom off Philip Rivers (erstwhile MVP candidate) and San Diego (erstwhile NFL “it” team). I’m still a bit surprised the Dolphins are favored here, albeit slightly, by 1 1/2 points. The Chargers defense is as good as Miami’s — actually 18.6 points allowed to Fins’ 21.6 — and Rivers is more reliable than Ryan Tannehill, who for some reason has tended to struggle more at home than away this season. Dolphins’ O was really bad in Jacksonville last week, leaving Mike Wallace to complain, “We’re not going to get nowhere like that.” (Tweet! Throw a grammar flag. That’s a double negative!) I just see Bolts as a little less erratic and a little better all-round. Aside to Dolphins defense: Diego TE Antonio Gates is reborn and having a monster year. Cover him, won’t you? Historical note: Fins have won seven consecutive games in this occasional series, with SD’s last win in Miami the famous 41-38 overtime playoff game on Jan.2, 1982. So add the law of averages embodied in the weight of 32 years to the reasons my gut is telling me the visitors' return flight will be happier than the home team’s postgame locker room. My pick: Chargers, 24-20.

HOT BUTTON NOV. 2: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, an expanded, updated Hot Button Top 10. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Miami hosts Chargers seeking third straight wins: Dan Marino was still a Pitt Panther and Chargers' QB was Dan Fouts when San Diego last won in Miami — that famous 41-38 overtime game Jan.2, 1982. Bolts have since lost seven in a row here. Dolfans who believe in trends are happy. Those who believe in law of averages are nervous.

2. Hurricanes: UM, Duke of Gables stay hot in rout of UNC: Canes beat ACC rival North Carolina 47-20 here in a Saturday homecoming game that saw Duke Johnson pile up 226 offensive yards and score three TDs. Team had ceremony honoring former UM quarterback great Jim Kelly. It was "Kelly Tough," then it was "Duke Great."

3. Heat: Strong start to post-LeBron era for Miami: Heat are 2-0 entering this evening's home game vs. Toronto, and Chris Bosh has 56 points. Oh, and Cleveland fans were disappointed after an opening loss in which LeBron James shot only 5 for 15 and had eight turnovers. "Pinch me," said Miami fans. "I must be dreaming!"

4. College football: First playoff rankings already due a shakeup: The first College Football Playoff rankings had Mississippi State, FSU, Auburn and Ole Miss as the top four, but Ole Miss' Saturday loss will change that. I trust the CFP committee featuring Condoleezza Rice. I just hope her intel on football is better than her intel was in ’03 on those Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

5. Baseball: Giants deny Cinderella Royals: No offense, Madison Bumgarner, but I think San Francisco’s third title in five years was something only a Giants fan could love. It answered the question, "Is it possible for a World Series to go to a Game 7 that ends 3-2 with the tying run on third and still think that World Series was boring?"

6. Gators: Florida stuns No. 11 Georgia: UF fans were left toasting the World's Largest Cocktail Party with a 38-20 win that may have saved Will Muschamp's job. New QB Treon Harris did great, expertly handing off as Gators topped 400 yards rushing.

7. Panthers: Cats finding their claws after slow start: Florida has shaken off an 0-3 start to win four of past six hockey games including last night over Flyers. Grading on a curve, that's a hot streak.

8. Horse racing: Bayern wins controversial Breeders' Cup: It was a rough start and a photo finish in the only horse race outside of the Triple Crown that most of us pay any attention to.

9. NASCAR: Only two races left before Homestead: Can't wait for the big Nov. 16 finale at Homestead. Looking forward to an exciting day of bitter feuds, intentional wrecks, pit-row shoving, and, time permitting, an auto race.

10. Politics: Florida elects governor Tuesday: Hey, we sports fans are interested in more than sports, right? We're also intrested in electing a great next governor. Unfortunately, our choice is Rick Scott or Charlie Crist.

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