June 08, 2016

Hear a 21-year-old Cassius Clay sing "Stand By Me" (it isn't bad!); plus where does Ali rank among past century's greatest American athletes? Poll. Vote now; also, in bed with D-Wade, R.I.P. Kimbo, magic of Jose, Games of Thrones & more

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

Kimboslice1) It is WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8. R.I.P., fighter Kimbo Slice (pictured), gone suddenly at 42. We spent much of yesterday's LeBatard Show discussing his life. He was a Miami original who started so low and rose from the streets thanks to strength and ingenuity. 2) Bulletin: Roger Goodell is not dead. Somebody hacked the NFL's Twitter site and reported commissioner Roger Goodell had died. I wonder. Does Tom Brady have an alibi? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 led by Muhammad Ali, our Ali and Richard Bleier columns, bipartisan political insult & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 5: My five most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look:Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, the latest, on how Ali set the template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, also new, on Richard Bleier's long climb to the Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on the PGA Tour leaving Doral. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional. The Under Pressure 12, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure.

DwadegabyInto the bedroom -- and the bed -- with D-Wade and Gaby: Well, this is too much information! Black Sports Online relays that Heat star Dwyane Wade has, on Snapchat, provided fans with a glimpse of himself and wife/actress Gabrielle Union in bed (apparently) just before and after, um, ah, I guess i can say "marital relations" in a family blog. Click here for the item via BSO. At right is an "after" screengrab from the Snapchat. This may be taking the social media concept of "total access" a smidge too far. I'm no prude, but this is wandering too close for my liking to Kim Kardashian-nude-in-a-bathroom-mirror-selfie territory. Remember when celebrities used to bemoan their lack of privacy? Now it seems they're the first to give it away.

"A Democrat running for Congress put a flyer on my door that states proudly, 'Meet Tim Canova. He's not a politician.' Only in politics does this outsider-ism seem to work. If I'm hiring a salesman, I'd sort of like him to have done the job before in much the same way I'd prefer someone about to perform surgery on me to be an actual doctor. And yet it's no-experience-necessary to be in Congress? Bizarre."  --Greg Cote

Clay albumCASSIUS CLAY SINGS 'STAND BY ME' ... AND IT ISN'T BAD!: The video below is 21-year Cassius Clay singing "Stand By Me" in 1963. The video lists him as Muhammad Ali, but '63 was before the first Sonny Liston fight in Miami Beach and a year before before Clay had converted to his Muslim name. "Stand By Me" was the only proper song included on the album (pictured right) that Clay recorded in '63; all of the other "songs" were monologues, poetry and other spoken-word material by Clay. The single heard here was released in 1964 and nearly reached the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at 102 weeks after his stunning upset of Liston. Clay-turned-Ali was a big fan of soul music and friends with tghe legendary Sam Cooke. As for Clay's version of this classic song? He's no Ben E. King, but his rendition actually is pretty solid. Floats like a butterfly, sings like a bee?

 

RANKING ALI AMONG AMERICA'S GREATEST ATHLETES OF THE 20TH CENTURY: The death of Muhammad Ali over the weekend is the impetus for this poll. The 15 athletes presented here are Espncenturynot of my choosing, although I can't disagree with much. These are the top 15 of ESPN's 100 greatest American athletes of the 20th Century list from the network's SportsCentury project. I present them alphabetically, not in order, so as not to prejudice the jury (that's you), although you'd find the complete list here. Limited it to 15 simply so the poll wouldn't get too unwieldy. If you can't believe so-and-so didn't make the top 15 and our poll, blame ESPN, not me. Or cast one of your votes for "somebody else" and say who you were thinking of. But please note this is American athletes only, which is why you don't find soccer god Pele on the list, for example. Also note it is athletes of the past century only, which is why you won't see LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady or anybody else whose career has all or substantively occurred since 2000. As for what constitutes "greatest," that's entirely for you to decide. Select your top three (3) athletes, and from that consensus we'll arrive at the greatest American athlete of the 20th Century. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results.

Vote for your top three (3):

JosefTHE WONDER OF JOSE, CONTINUED: Marlins ace Jose Fernandez's statistics in his past eight startst: 8-0 records, 1.38 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 innings. The ERA is 0.66 over his past six starts. He still might be third on most NL Cy Young ballots right now behind Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, but he'll continue to contend for the award if his performance keeps up and if Miami hangs in the playoff chase. Jose is a surreal 23-1 with a 1.53 ERA at home in his career vs. a mortal 8-10 and 3.54 on the road. But he's scheduled for only one start (June 11) on the current nine-game road trip.

Dragonlady GameofthronesON 'GAME OF THRONES': An admission. Five years late, I have joined the lowing herd. I have recently adopted and embraced HBO's Game of Thrones as a guilty viewing pleasure. I am not an aficionado-bordering-cultist who prays to the show or wishes to over-analyze every nuance of every episode in a like-minded online community of zealots. But I enjoy GOT and have elevated it to the my uncrowded pantheon of must-see TV. I like it visually first, for the stunning look of it, before I even get to the expansive, complicated storyline I am still trying to slowly decipher with the not always patient help of my wife, a longer-time fan. Also I must make a confession: One reason I like the show is my embarrassing schoolboy crush on the character Daenerys Targaryen, "Dany," the Mother of Dragons (pictured), portrayed by actress Emilia Clarke. The show's description of her character: "Princess of House Targaryen, Daenerys lives in exile in Essos with her advisors and dragons. Dany rallied the Unsullied of Astapor to her cause and continues to grow the army she needs to take back the throne." Greg Cote's description: "You know, the hot blond with the dragons."

ON 'CRISIS OF CHARACTER': A forthcoming book very critical of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton White House has been written by former Secret Service agent Gary J. Byrne Garyjbyrne(pictured). Coming out a month before the Democratic convention, the book -- timing and content -- fall straight from Republican heaven. If you didn't know better, you might even think the RNC was behind it. I find particularly interesting the book's title: Crisis of Character. Hmm. The title means to suggest the character issue is Hillary's. I wonder if it isn't the author's instead. A tell-all book by a former Secret Service agent!? So much for the secret part of the job title, huh. How unseemly. How unprofessional. How against-code. How against every expectation of discretion for a Secret Service agent to betray confidences in this manner. I'd feel similarly, by the way, if one of Donald Trump's former loyal lieutenant's suddenly came out with a sleazy tell-all timed to sell books. A back-stabbing snitch is a back-stabbing snitch. But I certainly hold Secret Service agents to a higher standard than I do corporate suits. Gary J. Byrne should be embarrassed. Except perhaps to Republicans to whom he is undoubtedly a hero, this man should be ashamed of himself.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

June 06, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Muhammad Ali, NBA Finals, Doral, Jose, Copa America, UM baseball, French, Cats logo, Fins; plus new columns on Ali and Richard Bleier, the Everybody Sucks vote & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 6. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Muhammad Ali 1942-2016, your Panthers logo verdict & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

New columns on Muhammad Ali, Richard Bleier: The death of Ali, with so much of his history interwoven with Miami, is seismic. Overshadowed but still a sweet story worth your time: the struggles and rise of Richard Bleier. Links to both of my latest columns are immediately below.

"How did the world first learn that Muhammad Ali had died? America's most trusted news source: Marlins Park Jumbotron." --Greg Cote

The Last 5: My five most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, the latest, on how Ali set the template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, also new, on Richard Bleier's long climb to the Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on the PGA Tour leaving Doral. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional. The Under Pressure 12, listing the dozen South Florida sports figures most under pressure.

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

Hotbutton1. MUHAMMAD ALI: Legendary boxing great passes away at 74: G.O.A.T. Greatest Of All Time. Ali might have been that in the ring. He definitely was that beyond boxing, a groundbreaking societal and cultural icon who probably was the most influential athlete of the 20th Century. R.I.P. to a true American original. Thank you, Champ. You said, "I am the greatest!" And you weren't lying.

2. NBA: Golden State in early command over LeBron, Cleveland: Warriors won NBA Finals Game 1 by 15 points despite Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shooting a combined 8-for-27, then won Game 2 last night 110-77 despite their two stars combining for a modest 35 points. Cleveland says it is still "Believeland," but, down 2-0 entering Wednesday's Game 3, it feels closer to "Grieveland." 

3. GOLF: PGA Tour leaves Doral, Miami after 55 years: A local tradition since 1962 died when Tour said it was leaving Donald Trump’s Doral course for Mexico City. Oh, the rich irony! But, hey, maybe Trump can get his wall built fast enough to keep the event from crossing the border!

4. MARLINS: Red-hot Jose stays en fuego on mound: Fish hit the road for nine games now after wrapping up their homestand Sunday against the Mets. Jose Fernandez, after going 6-0 in May with a 1.38 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 39 innings, matched a career-high 14 strikeouts Sunday in a 1-0 win. At this rate, if Miami stays in playoff chase, Fernandez will have Cy Young's attention.

5. HURRICANES: UM wins, advances to NCAA super-regional here: UM led Long Beach State 8-1 and hung on to win 9-8 last night here to win its NCAA Regional. The Hurricanes will now host Boston College in a super-regional this coming weekend in a best-oo-three series, with the winner advancing to the College World Series. More heavy stakes at The Light.

6. SOCCER: Host U.S. bows badly as Copa America gets underway: The 100th Copa America tournament finds favored Argentina debuting Monday night, led by Lionel Messi if his back issues and tax owes allow him. Meanwhile a very disappointing 2-0 opening loss to Colombia puts the American side in early trouble in the event it is hosting. A poor showing by the U.S. cojuld jeopardize the coaching future of Jurgen Klinsmann, according to a rumor I just started.

7. TENNIS: Serena falls in French Open final, Novak gets career Slam: Little-known Spaniard Garbine Muguruza denied Serena Williams her record-tying 22nd major in the French women's final. But in Sunday's men's final Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray to complete his personal career Grand Slam. Serena couldn't make history. Novak did.

8. PANTHERS: Cats unveil new logo to lukewarm response: Lukewarm is putting it generously. Nearly 70 percent preferred the old leaping-cat logo in our blog poll. The new shield design seems generic, right off the Logos 101 cookie-cutter. Then again, as long as you win, Panthers, nobody will much care.
 
9. NHL: Pittsburgh's Finals lead over San Jose cut to 2-1: Three one-goal games, two decided in overtime. Looks like Lord Stanley has himself a pretty good Finals after all. San Jose tries to tie it at home Monday night. Stanley Cup, do you know the way to San Jose? (Sorry).
 
10. DOLPHINS: Fins resume practices, move exhibition game: Miami stages four more OTA practices Monday through Thursday. Meanwhile team announced its exhibition home opener vs. Atlanta would be played in Orlando. And the preseason home finale could be played at FAU. They insist this has nothing to do with stadium renovation delays, but nobody believes them.

Missing the cut: Davie's Nova Southeastern won the NCAA Division II national championship in baseball. Top that, Hurricanes! ..... Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds admitted in an interview he'd been surly and acted stupid much of his career. Intended result: "Aw, he ain't so bad, after all!" thought Hall of Fame voters ..... Who in God's name is Michael Bisping? ..... We are two months from scheduled start of Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. And other than the Zika virus threat, the bacteria-infested waters and the massive construction delays, everything looks good! ..... Heat announced its three preseasom home games, for those of you who like to plan four months in advance to attend games that don't matter ..... There are 75 names on the latest College Football Hall of Fame ballot and, egregiously, Howard Schnelleneberger still is not one of them ..... UM's Sinead Lohan reached final four of NCAA women's tennis singles before losing ..... ESPN  has a new 30 for 30 documentary on O.J. Simpson. Spoiler alert: He did it, but was acquitted ..... Disgraced and dethroned FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his regime took $80 million in bonuses on their way out. Blatter: The Gift That Keeps On Taking ..... Dwyane Wade was 33rd in ESPN's "World Fame 100" rankings, further proof ESPN will make a list about anything ..... This just in. Knicks boss Phil Jackson has announced he'll be taking credit for all of new coach Jeff Hornacek's wins.

EverybodysucksBIPARTISAN POLITICAL INSULT: I am aware that much of America considers the looming presidential election to be the lesser of two evils. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are untrusted and disliked by many. Tens of millions of votes will be cast mainly to keep the other person out. I personally find one candidate much more evil than the other, but, in the bipartisan spirit of hating both, I present a photo that I found funny and that, to many, is sadly accurate. The best part of the photo, to me? The gentleman's genial smile as he holds the placard declaring America is doomed. Also -- wait a second. Hey! Is that guy shooting a bird at us!?

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

May 24, 2016

South Florida named host of 2019-season Super Bowl! How much do you care? Poll. Vote now; plus Dolphins' AFC East odds, Stanton's epic strikeouts pace, non-news on LeBron's Miami return, thank you Bahamas, your verdict on Dolphins' 2016 win total & more

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

Bahamas Dylan1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 24. A happy 75th birthday today to an American  music and cultural icon, Bob Dylan (pictured right). 2) I want to be Ichiro when I grow up. 3) Thank you, Bahamas and Royal Caribbean, for a wonderful weekend family cruise! The six of us had a terrific time. The photo at left was taken by me on Sunday; click on it to see a larger version. I would be remiss of course to not also thank my new best friend, a local named Kalik. Kalik Beer. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Gauging Dolfans' optimism with poll, Hot Button Top 10, your verdict on ESPN, woman chooses death over Trump or Clinton & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

More signs nobody believes in Dolphins: Vegas NFL divisional odds are out today (via Bovada), and for the AFC East it's Patriots a huge favorite at 5-11, Bills and Jets both 21-4, and Dolphins the longshot at 8-1. Meantime this new list calls the Dolphins the fifth-most dysfunctional team in the NFL. Cue buoyant "We're No. 5!" chant.

"Yes, we have. We have reached a point where something Stephen A. Smith says, vaguely and speculatively, about LeBron James maybe somebody returning to Miami, passes as news that is regurgitated by other media. Pretty amazing when you think about."  --Greg Cote 

Thank you, LeBron. Thank you, Draymond: Those two sports videos-gone-viral over the weekend -- first of LeBron James' Flop and then of Draymond Green's Kick -- are why the Internet was invented, and also some of why you're probably still watching the NBA playoffs even if your team is out of the running. These are the dog days for pro sports in South Florida, with no Heat or Panthers left, the Dolphins pretending like May practices are important and the Marlins sunk back to mediocrity. So thanks, LeBron and Draymond, for keeping us interested. Click on The LeBron & Draymond Follies for my latest column.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: The LeBron & Draymond Follies, the new one, on the playoffs as NBA Follies. No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins, on how Fins must earn back the faith and trust they've lost. Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, on Pat Riley's annual state-of-the-Heat address.

SoflabidSOUTH FLORIDA AWARDED 2019-SEASON SUPER BOWL. HOW MUCH DO YOU CARE?: In Charlotte, N.C. today  NFL owners vote to award the 2019-season Super Bowl -- to be held in February 2020 -- to South Florida and the renovated Dolphins stadium. That's Super Bowl 54, or LIV for our Roman friends. Other competing cities were Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tampa and New Orleans. This obviously is a huge day for Greater Miami civic leaders embodied by the South Florida Super Bowl Host Committee, and also for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross as he (finally) justified his great personal expenditure on stadium improvements. I wonder, though, if hosting a Super Bowl is as important, or important at all, to South Floridians. To Dolphins fans. And you know what happens when I wonder. A poll happens! Take in a dip in our poll, say which answer most reflects how you feel, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

GstantonSPECIAL K: MARLINS' STANTON ON RECORD STRIKEOUT PACE: Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' $325 Million Man, is on pace to challenge 40 home runs, with 11 just past the season's quarter mark. That's the good news. That bad news? Just about everything else. He is batting .213 after Monday night's home win and had struck out 60 times in 42 games (1.43 per game) entering today. If he continues at that pace the remainder of the year his final strikeout total would be 229 -- an all-time major league single-season record. Stanton's current projected total compared to players who have struck out 200 or more times in a season:

Player, Team                              Year        K's        Per game

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins       2016       229       1.43       

Mark Reynolds, D'backs           2009       223       1.44

Adam Dunn, White Sox            2012       222       1.47

Chris Carter, Astros                  2013       212       1.43

Mark Reynolds, D'backs           2010      211       1.46

Chris Davis, Orioles                 2015      208        1.30

Drew Stubbs, Reds                   2011      205        1.30

Mark Reynolds, D'backs          2008      204        1.34

Note: Marlins' current season record is held by Preston Wilson with 187 strikeouts (1.16 per) in 2000.

Poll result: Dolfans slightly more optimistic on 2016 Dolphins than Las Vegas: The Vegas betting over/under on Miami wins is 7. Yours is 8.1 -- slightly above .500 but likely not a playoff number -- based on an aggregate of votes in our recent poll. The breakdown: 10 or more wins 12.8 percent; 9 wins 31.4%; 8 wins 27.9%; 7 wins 13.3%; and 6 or fewer wins 14.6%. Although 9 wins was the most popular vote, the average of all votes cast was 8.145.

TrumpmenuTWEAKING TRUMP, NORWAY-STYLE: Sign outside a Norwegian Mexican restaurant. The joke feels so five-months-ago to us, perhaps, but I like seeing American politics reflected around the world.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

May 23, 2016

Dolfans optimistic? After all the changes, how many games will Dolphins win in 2016? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10 (updated), woman chooses death over Trump or Clinton, your verdict on ESPN & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 23. I'm back! Spent a long weekend in the Bahamas. More on that later. 2) Good story here by ESPN's Pablo S. Torre on the friendship between Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Not sure I entirely buy the premise that the friendship is all that controversial. But an interesting read nonetheless. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Is-ESPN-in-trouble poll, navigating dog days of SoFla sports, proof Joe Public still hates Dolphins, your pessimism on Bosh's return, FA Cup champs list & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins, the new one, on how Fins must earn back the faith and trust they've lost. Conviction on Whiteside, Uncertainty on Bosh, on Pat Riley's state-of-the-Heat address. It's Pat Riley Season!, on Heat's looming offseason.

DolfanHOW OPTIMISTIC (OR NOT) ARE DOLPHINS FANS RIGHT NOW?: I won't know unless I ask, right? On one hand, there seem to be legitimate reasons for optimism, after an encouraging coaching hire in Adam Gase, a promising draft led by Laremy Tunsil and a free-agency period in which gains led by Mario Williams at least offset losses. Yet the disappointment and mistrust are ingrained now, yes? They have become part of the fabric of being a Dolfan. It is hard to expect this franchise to do right, or to be good, after 10 to 15 years of mostly letdowns. (Click on No Benefit of Doubt Left to Give On Dolphins for my latest column more fully exploring all of this). Mirroring the more doubtful/skeptical side, the new Las Vegas betting over/under on Dolphins wins (via Bovada) is a mere seven. That's one better than last year's dismal 6-10 season, but 7-9 isn't a playoff team and doesn't budge the club from its rut of mediocrity. Now, ESPN's offseason report card for each team weighs in with a D+ grade for Miami. Ouch. Betting lines mirror public perception, so that means Mr. Vegas with its over/under of 7 wins is surmising that gamblers football fans in general aren't sold on Miami being appreciably better. My question: Are Dolfans sold on the improvement? Is South Florida more optimistic? Are you? Only one way to find out: A poll! Take a dip in it. As always, I encourage you to vote as dispassionately as you can, not as a fan, but honestly, as if you were betting with mind (or money), not heart. Ready? Go! Vote, say why you feel as you do, and check back often to monitor evolving results.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Riley unequivocal on Whiteside as team's offseason priority: The Silver Fox favored the media with his annual postseason State of the Heat address (the onset of Pat Riley Season) and left zero doubt that re-signing center Hassan Whiteside long-term is the club's No. 1 priority. Alas, he could not be as unequivocal on Chris Bosh's future, only saying the club is "trying to find a way" to get Bosh back on the court. That's hopeful. But a little ominous, too?

2. MARLINS: Miami need to pick up the pace: Fish, in a current five-game homestand, remain in playoff contention as year's second quarter began but are only 6-9 since that 11-1 streak. Slumping Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .211 and on pace for a club-record 237 strikeouts. The good news? The $325 Million Man gotta get hot soon ... right?

3. NBA: Cavaliers, Thunder up 2-1 entering Game 4s: Cleveland leads 2-1 in East finals over Toronto entering Game 4 tonight in Canada, while Oklahoma City is up 2-1 out West over Golden State entering Game 4 Tuesday in OKC. That "inevitable" LeBron James vs. Steph Curry finals is on hold for a bit.

4. DOLPHINS: Miami prepares for OTA practices: Fins will stage full practices this Tuesday though Thursday and again May 31 as new Vegas betting odds set the team's wins over/under at a modest seven. Meantime club this week bids to host three more Super Bowls, the next in 2019. How 'bout Miami spends less time on hosting a Super Bowl and more time on playing in one.

5. UM BASEBALL: Third-ranked UM begins postseason play: The regular season now done, Jim Morris' No. 3 Hurricanes prepare now for the ACC Tournament running this Tuesday though next Sunday, followed by an expected host's role in an NCAA Regionals. That in turn will lead to the College World Series ... or a very good Canes season will have been for naught.

6. HORSE RACING: Exaggerator denies Nyquist in Preakness: It was possible, after almost 30 years without a Triple Crown winner, the sport might now have had two in a row. That was the true entering Saturday's Preakness. It isn't now.

7. PANTHERS: Cats announce new logo and uniform unveiling: Florida announced it will reveal its new logo and look at its arena on June 2. That's good. Even better: Announce you're going to reveal a hockey team that can win a playoff series for the first time since 1996.

8. NHL: Tampa Bay can clinch spot in Finals on home ice: Tampa Bay leads Pittsburgh 3-2 in East semis and can clinch spot in Stanley Cup Finals on home ice Tuesday night, with St. Louis and San Jose tied 2-2 out West. Alas, not sure if any Finals matchup that arises of this will makes hearts race outside of the competing cities.

9. TENNIS: French Open, one of sports' majors, gets underway Sunday: Well, OK. Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are the two big majors. They get together and make fun of the French and Australian Opens. But still.

10. SOCCER: Americans train in Miami for Copa America: Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. men are training in Miami for the Copa America being held in the U.S. in June. Meantime, Manchester United won Saturday's FA Cup final that riveted attention across Great Britain.

Missing the cut: I Googled the phrase ENOUGH ALREADY! and saw that Tom Brady is now appealing the reinstatement of his four-game suspension ..... The Pro Bowl reportedly is moving to Orlando in 2017. What a perfect destination for a Mickey Mouse event! ..... Dolphins will be back on WQAM-560 this season for first time since 2009. That's big news for the station. Also for the estimated nearly 1 percent of all people who don't own televisions ..... Miami Dolphins Foundation held its 20th annual golf-and-fishing Fins Weekend fundraiser ending Saturday. Hopefully funds will go toward fielding a winning football team for a change ..... Valued Heat assistant David Fizdale interviewed with Memphis. Miami would love him to get the opportunity (but not really!) ..... The NFL is returning to the government more than $723,000 its teams (including the Dolphins) received in "sponsored" military tributes. Hey, somebody gotta pay for those gigantic, football field-sized flags! ..... Second-worst golf week: Tiger Woods tried to demonstrate how close his game was to healthy by hitting three straight wedge shots in the water. Worst golf week: Phil Mickelson must pay back nearly $1 million in money he received via insider trading ..... Rangers 2B Rougned Odor was suspended eight games for landing a punch vs. Toronto. Wild guess: You grow up with the name "Odor," you get in your share of fights ..... UM women's tennis lost in the NCAA Sweet 16. Feeling nostalgic, Canes fans blamed Al Golden ..... Scotland's Muirfield Golf Club voted to continue its ban on women members, erasing itself from consideration to host the British Open. Club officials could not be reached, because they are all living in the previous century ..... Canes men's basketball coach Jim Larranaga, 66, said, "I'm going to coach until I'm dead." A foolproof way to avoid being fired, come to think of it ..... The 76ers won the NBA draft lottery and will have the first pick in June. They'll still be awful, but now will have one less good excuse ..... The Indianapolis 500 is next Sunday. Gentlemen, get ready to get ready to start your engines ..... And in other news, WNBA season is underway, and you continue to ignore it.

Poll result: ESPN diminished, but still the boss: We asked what best reflects your opinion of ESPN in light of recent departures from the network, and a plurality of 46.0 percent chose "diminished but still the leader." However, more than twice as many voted for "in decline" (36.9%) over "as big as ever" (17.1%).

ObitWHO SAYS THERE IS NO HUMOR IN DEATH?: Either the dearly departed or the bereaved she left behind had a sense of humor in writing the opening of this newspaper obituary. I must say Mary Anne Noland probably speaks for millions of Americans faced with what they perceive as a lesser-of-two-evils presidential decision in November. Although I'm guessing the vast majority of us will either choose the lesser evil or choose to abstain from voting rather than choose the great beyond as a preferred alternative.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

May 06, 2016

G2: Toronto 96, Heat 92 (OT): At 1-1, still liking Miami in 6; plus no-Bosh decision smart beyond health, good/bad news for Miami in '17 NFL Draft, Jose & Giancarlo (Part IX), appreciating Shula, disrespecting Richt, urgent Fins cheerleader news & more

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

Cincodemayo1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 6. Hope y'all had a happy Cinco de Mayo! As you know this date marked the Mexican Army's upset victory over French forces at the Battle of Pubela in 1862, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza. That's in Mexico. In the U.S. this date marked the latest excuse to get drunk. Like we need one! 2) Thanks to Tony Kornheiser for having us on his national radio show. And thank you, Mavis Staples, for a wonderful show on Wednesday! 3) Welcome back, Jaromir Jagr. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat beat Raptors in Game 1, LeBron wants Heat next, an appreciation of Mavis Staples, Fins/Marlins updated betting odds, ex-Heat/Dolphin on wasted-talent list, your verdict on Heat-Raptors & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Shula: A Renewed Appreciation, the new one, on his health scare at 86 inviting us to take stock of the coaching legend. Nothing Will Derail a Heat-LeBron Eastern Finals, previewing Heat-Toronto series. Draggin' to Dragon: Dragic Lifts Heat, from Sunday's Game 7 victory.

U.S. presidential odds: Today, six months before the election, via Bovada: Next president--Hillary Clinton 1-3, Donald Trump 2-1, Bernie Sanders 20-1. Republican VP--Chris Christie and John Kasich both 4-1. Democratic VP--Julian Castro 2-1, Elizabeth Warren 4-1.

G2: TORONTO 96, HEAT 92 (OT): TURNOVERS, COLD-SHOOTING LATE HAS SERIES TIED 1-1 HEADING BACK TO MIAMI: Miami outshot the Raptors 49-42% and led in rebounds but is hard to claim the Heat deserved to win last night on the road. Miami led 77-70 in the fourth quarter but soon after went on a field goal drought of 4:37 as Toronto forced a second straight overtime game. Then Miami started 0-for-5 in OT. Heat also self-destructed with 21 turnovers to offset the gift of 12 missed free throws by the Raptors. This Heat team had a chance to be the first in franchise history to lead a playoff series 2-0 with consecutive road wins. Instead it's 0-for-15 in such opportunities. The good news? A split in Toronto and heading home at 1-1 probably would have been OK with most Heat fans coming in. See you Saturday at 5 p.m. by the bay. Still like Heat in six. ..... Original post: All eyes will be on Heat-Raptors tonight -- the only game on the NBA  playoff schedule -- and it finds Miami with a chance to make some history. This is the 41st playoff series in Heat franchise annals. Fourteen of the previous 40 have begun with two games on the road, but none of those 14 -- G2
Heatatraptorszero
-- have ever resulted in a 2-0 Miami series lead. That can happen tonight for the first time if the Heat can manage to pile another win in Toronto onto that overtime survival in Game 1. (The Eastern semifinal series swings to Miami with Game 3 on Saturday). As a starting point Miami will win again if guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic continue to be clearly better than Toronto's tandem of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Lowry has been especially awful. "I know we won't advance if I don't play better," he admitted on Wednesday. Look for Toronto to try to get Lowry going tonight with early shots and foul-seeking drives into the paint. Miami can't count on being as good from 3-point range as it was (8-for-11) in Game 1, but Hassan Whiteside (17 rebounds) should continue to be a force om the boards. Miami needs more offense from Whiteside, though, which may come tonight. Toronto is a 4.5-point favorite tonight. Then again, the Raps were a 6.5-point fave in the series opener.

THE REASONS FOR SITTING BOSH REST OF PLAYOFFS GO BEYOND HEALTH: It was smart of the Heat and Chris Bosh to jointly announce yesterday (at the team's strong urging) that he would not return the rest of the playoffs. Not a surprise, but it needed to be said to defuse the growing distraction caused by his wife's #BringBoshBack social media flurry and also by the unecessary,
Chrisboshbutting-in involvement of the NBA Players Association. The group issued a pointless statement saying Bosh's health if the utmost concern. What, like it isn't for the Heat, too? Abundant caution on the part of the team is why Bosh is still sitting in the first place. But it may not be the only reason. This doesn't get talked about, but Bosh rejoining the active roster right now might not be best for the team from purely a basketball standpoint. Miami will be better with him back starting next season. But right now? Here's why not, beyond the blood clot-related health concerns: 1) He would not be in basketball condition, let alone playoff-intensity condition, after not playing since February. 2) His return in the midst of a playoff run would be a circus-y distraction. 3) The team is performing well without him, with most metrics indicating Miami has been better post-Bosh, especially offensively, with Luol Deng's increased role and the addition of Joe Johnson. The Heat eventually will be a better team with Bosh when Erik Spoelstra figures out how to reintegrate him to the team's advantage next season. But that's not an experimenting that should be starting now.

LeBron, Wade on looming faceoff: LeBron on whether he has thought of facing Miami in Eastern finals: "Of course. It'd be great to play against those guys in the postseason. I've always wanted to go against [Dwyane] Wade in a playoff series." Wade on same question: "That's something we always talked about. Obviously, you want to play against the best and we respect each other as being two of the best competitors. But right now, that's not something I'm focusing on." Funny. Despite that disclaimer at the end, Wade obviously is looking forward to facing LeBron as much as vice versa. Make it happen, fate! Even fans in Toronto and Atlanta would probably rather watch Heat-Cavs.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MIAMI IN FIRST '17 MOCK DRAFT: The outrageously early guesswork is out today via ESPN's Todd McShay. The good news for Miami is for The U. McShay has QB BradkaayaBrad Kaaya (pictured) as the No. 2 overall pick, after only Clemson QB DeShaun Watson. The bad for Miami is for the Dolphins. He has the Fins selecting fourth overall, which would indicate a really bad season. His choice for Miami isn't so bad, though: LSU running back Leonard Fournette. Others of Todd's first-round picks include Gators Jalen Rabor (CB) and Jarrad Davis (OLB) and Seminoles Roderick Johnson (OT) and Dalvin Cook (RB). Find McShay's full mock here. A Sports Illustrated '17 mock has Kaaya going first overall and the Dolphins selecting 10th and taking Alabama DE Jonathan Allen.

MARLINS: THE JOSE & GIANCARLO SHOW, PART IX: Jose Fernandez was the winning pitcher yesterday in the Marlins' ninth win in past 10 games, and Giancarlo Stanton homered. I wondered how often that has happened -- a Stanton HR the same game as a Fernandez W in the ultimate nexus of the team's two biggest stars. Answer: Nine times. But the pattern is interesting. It happened a lot in Jose's rookie season of 2013 (5 times, July 23-28, August 19, September 6-11). It happened only once in 2014 (April 29). It did not happen at all in 2015 largely because of staggered injuries to both. But it has already has happened three times in 2016, in all three of Jose's wins (April 18-28, May 4).

ShulaA RE-APPRECIATION OF SHULA: Whether it is a parent or grandparent or an iconic football coach who meant so much to your city, when an 86-year-old man is hospitalized, it is a good time to pray or give thanks or simply to appreciate that person. That is the spirit of today's latest column by me, an unabashed paean to Don Shula. We celebrate, again, all he meant and accomplished, and also marvel at yet another reminder of how distant the Dolphins' best days have grown from the present. Click on Shula: A Renewed Appreciation to read the column in full.

MarkrichtDISRESPECTING MARK RICHT: A panel of CBS Sports college football experts ranks all 65 Power 5 conference head coaches entering the 2016 season (click here) and the Hrricanes' Mark Richt (pictured) is ranked only 18th -- a tumble down from last year's 7th. Explains the synopsis: "Richt takes a big step back in the rankings, falling 11 spots. This is no doubt a result of a third straight season of failing to live up to high expectations at Georgia, especially in a season in which the SEC East was so very winnable. Now Richt has moved on to Miami where we'll see if a fresh start is enough to get him back into the top 10." The usual suspects -- Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Mayer -- are 1-2 atop the list. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is 6th. Florida's Jim McElwain is 27th.

FinscheerURGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS!: The Dolphins are giving fans a chance to attend this year's Dolphins Cheerleaders calendar shoot. Click here for details including how to enter. The club has chosen 40 young women for a seven-week boot camp from which the final 2016 squad will be selected. The camp will consist of workouts, etiquette training, team building, uniform fittings, look development and performance training. (Yes, I said "look development!") The 40 finalists were selected from among more than 800 hopefuls who auditioned at tryouts in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil in addition to South Florida. I really don't care about any of this. I just needed a vessel in order to gratuitously float the photo at right.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 22, 2016

Panthers lose OT heartbreaker, trail Isles 3-2; plus what should be Dolphins' priority for No. 1 draft pick? New poll. Vote now!; also 'Patrick & Zo,' homicide rates and lesson in them, athletes on 'most influential' list, reliving Prince in Miami & more

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

Passover Tubman1) It is FRIDAY, APRIL 22. A most happy Passover to our Jewish readers and friends. Also, happy Earth Day and thank you, mother! 2) Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Imagine you'd proposed that idea to her before she died in 1913, seven years before women had even won the right to vote! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): History! Heat and Panthers both win in playoffs on same day for first time, R.I.P. Prince, ESPN fires Schilling, Marlins' awful start, NBA jersey ads & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

"The national group, People Who Thought the Dolphins Might Actually Get Josh Norman, is meeting tonight. Waffle House. Corner booth." --Greg Cote

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, the latest, off Heat's Game 2 win. Rook 1, Rook 2, on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. This Is the Upside, off Heat's impressive Game 1 victory.

G5: N.Y. ISLANDERS 2, PANTHERS 1 (2OT): CATS NOW TRAIL 3-2 HEADING TO BROOKLYN: Florida loses 2-1 in double-overtime past midnight and now faces elimination in Game 6 Sunday. Click on Cats Need Jagr's Goals Punch for my column from the game. ..... Original post: All four games so far have been one-goal margins if you exclude one last- Catsislessecond empty netter. In Florida's two wins Roberto Luongo has given up two total goals and in the two losses nine goals have whizzed past him, so figure defense and Luongo's performance naturally will be a key tonight starting at 8. But defense-first hasn't really been the Cats' mindset thus far in the postseason as it usually was in G5the regular season. You know how the Miami Heat are going nuts offensively so far in the playoffs? The Panthers are showing a similar aggressiveness. In the NHL there is an analytic rating that measures a team's total of blocked and unblocked shots in one-goal or overtime situations when both teams are full strength. Florida's rating was a minus-99 in the regular season, ranking 18th in the league, the number suggesting a team that tried to protect leads with puck possession rather than push for additional goals. But in the first four playoff games the Cats are an NHL-leading plus-46, signaling push-forward aggressiveness. How important is tonight? Historically in the NHL Game 5 winners of a 2-2 series go on to win the series 78.4 percent of the time. Late tonight, one team will be one win away from its first Stanley Cup series advance in two decades (Panthers' last was 1996, Islanders' '93).

Tannenbaum"DEAR MIKE TANNENBAUM...:" SETTING DOLPHINS' DRAFT PRIORITY: In six days, next Thursday night, your Miami Dolphins make their first-round selection in the NFL Draft, 13th overall barring a trade up or down. That puts Dolphins roster builder Mike Tannenbaum (pictured) in the throes of a huge decision. What to prioritize with so Draftroommany needs? Will you help him, please? I'll have a Dolphins draft column in this Sunday paper's (online Saturday) and of course will have my annual Official Miami Herald Mock Draft in Thursday's paper (online Wednesday). So you'll be getting plenty of my specific thoughts on who the Dolphins should and will select No. 1. Now it's your turn. I invite you to say what you think is Miami's greatest position need and what you think its draft priority should be, assuming a player of comparable talent were available at each position. Say you happen to be in an elevator with Tannebuam. You have 10 seconds to share your thoughts as he pretends to listen. What are you telling him? The poll is alphabetical. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

PatrickzoTRAILER: 'PATRICK & ZO': Sports Illustrated has a new SI Films documentary, Patrick & Zo, newly available on SI.com. The doc explores the kinship and rivalry between menacing defensive giants Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, who both starred at Georgetown University and then faced each other as star centers throughout their NBA careers. (Zo, of course, is the former Miami Heat star and now a club vice president). Click here to see the film's trailer: Patrick & Zo

GLOBAL HOMICIDE RATES, AND THE LESSON IN THEM: I read with interest the latest annual survey of the Mexican Citizens Council for Public Security, which ranks the world's most dangerous large cities (300,000-plus population) based on the number of homicides per 100,000 people. The dubious top three: Caracas, Venezuela with 119.87; San Pedro Sula, Honduras with 111.03; and DangerSan Salvador, El Salvador with 108.54. Four U.S. cities unfortunately make the top 50: St. Louis is 15th with 59.23, Baltimore 19th with 54.98, Detroit 28th with 43.89 and New Orleans 32nd with 41.44. Ten countries account for all of the top 50 most murderous cities: Brazil with an astounding 21, Venezuela 8, Mexico 5, U.S. and South Africa 4 each, Colombia 3, Honduras 2, and 1 each for El Salvador, Guatemala and Jamaica. (Click here for an article that includes the entire top 50). Forty-one of the most homicidal cities are Latin American, thanks largely to Brazil. Zero European cities are on the list. Two quick thoughts: 1) I wonder if President Donald Trump will now move to ban all Brazilians from entering the U.S? 2) Notice that zero Muslim countries are in the top 50. Hmm. That is despite radical terrorists (the most indiscriminate murderers of all) inflicting the most havoc on Muslims in countries where they live and unfairly fomenting broad-brush anti-Muslim hysteria in America and elsewhere thanks to folks like Trump. What the latest statistics suggest is that -- if you erased the scourge of terrorism from the globe -- you'd probably be safer from murder living in Baghdad or Raqqa than you would be in St. Louis or Baltimore. We can take whatever lesson or reminder from this that we wish. Here's one, and I think it's a reminder that we Americans in 2016 could use: Terrorists are murderous people. Muslims are not.

SIX SPORTIES ON TIME'S 'MOST INFLUENTIAL' LIST: Time's 2016 100 Most Influential people list (given as a group, not in order) includes, alphabetically: track star Usain Bolt; the Warriors' Stephen Curry; Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton; former UM football player-turned-actor Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson; UFC star Ronda Rousey; and golfer Jordan Spieth. OK, I guess. Each is very successful is his or her field. The influential part is open to interpretation, I reckon.

GONE TOO SOON, PRINCE: The great musician and performer died suddenly yesterday at 57. Recalling his Super Bowl halftime performance in Miami on Feb. 4, 2007, amid a rainstorm and lightning. The show must go on...:

 

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 21, 2016

History! Heat, Panthers win playoff games on same day for first time ever; plus R.I.P. Prince, 'White Ho,' Josh Norman, bigot Schilling fired, Marlins' awful start, NBA jersey ads (what Heat's might look like) & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 21. Seen leaving the Heat arena late last night ... what happens (pictured) when a letter in 'White Hot' mysteriously disappears. 2) Attention Miami Dolphins: Star Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is unexpectedly a free-agent now. Reportedly the 49ers are a frontrunner, though. 3) Hope you had a happy 4-20, National Weed Day. Yeah, like pot smokers need an annual holiday to enjoy their herb? 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Youth will served and serve back (Heat's rookie reliance), Luol Deng's good work off-court, bad golf joke & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

PrincePrince dead at 57: Oh my. David Bowie, now Prince. All artists are unique, if the word is taken literally, but few stood out as more so than Prince. What a talent. What a shame to lose him so soon. I had a chance to be in his company (briefly) a few days before he performed at halftime of the February 2007 Super Bowl here. How small of stature, but with an aura and mystique -- and sound -- that filled the biggest rooms. Prince was genre-bending and to a degree gender-bending, an exceptional guitarist with a magnetic stage presence. I am already missing every song he might have written but now won't. R.I.P. 

"Nobody in the sports world had a better Wednesday than Harriet Tubman." --Greg Cote

HISTORY!: Last night was the first time ever the Heat and Panthers both won a playoff game the same day.

The makeup of MLB Opening Day rosters: In case you wondered, it was 59.1 percent White (plus 0.3 from a year earlier); 28.5% Latino (minus 0.8); 8.3% African-American or Black (no change); and 1.7% Asian (plus 0.5). The totals add to 97.6%. Our source, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, does not explain who the 2.4% are.

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East, the new one, off last night's Heat win. Rook 1, Rook 2, on Heat's refreshing, uncommon reliance on rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson. This Is the Upside, off Heat's impressive Game 1 win.

G2: HEATS HANDLES CHARLOTTE 115-103 FOR 2-0 SERIES LEAD AS WADE, OFFENSE STAR: Dwyane Wade 28 points and eight assists last night led the 115-103 downtown win over the Hornets. Plenty of help, though. Four others in double figures including Hassan Whiteside with 17 points and 13 rebounds on 8-for-8 shooting. Miami did not hit 115-plus points in consecutive games all season but has done it to open the playoffs. Click on For 2 Magical Games, Heat Is Showtime East for my column off the Game 2 win. ..... Original post: Heat has won five straight over Charlotte in postseason dating to 2014, and the Hornets' 123-91 loss Dwadein Game 1 here offered little indication that streak will end tonight in Game 2. Of course, a leveling and a tighter came is certain. Miami was  near perfect to start the playoffs' first round, personified by Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside shooting a combined 20-for-24. That won't happen again, and neither will Charlotte's shell-shocked, deer-in-headlights effort. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford is right in saying, "Whether you lose by 30 or one, it's 1-0." So is Heat coach Erik Spoelstra in saying, "We will see a response from [the Hornets]." Key for Miami will be to continue to defend Charlotte's 3-point shot and control the boards. It also figures to be a night when Miami needs more offense from Dwyane Wade (pictured) than the quiet 16 he gave in the opener. Miami has won 10 consecutive first-round games overall and 15 of past 16 at home vs. Charlotte, so I'd bet on Heat winning again tonight, though narrowly. Miami can put the hammer down with a 2-0 series lead tonight, or find itself 1-1 heading for two straight in Charlotte. This is the beauty of a best-of-seven. Every result changes the entire narrative. Historically, though, here is the significance of tonight's result for Miami. In its playoff history, the Heat is 13-0 in a series its leads 2-0, but 10-8 in a series that is 1-1. And that sounds about right as a frame for tonight: Miami either puts this thing away, or invites anxiety moving forward.  

JagrG4: PANTHERS 2, N.Y. ISLANDERS 1: HUGE CATS WIN EVENS SERIES: Goals by Teddy Purcell and Alex Petrovic and big goaltending by Roberto Luongo forged last night's 2-1 road win that has the playoff series 2-2 heading back to Sunrise for Game 5 Friday night. ..... Original post: I still think Florida's roster is superior to the Isles', but NYI's 2-1 series lead says otherwise. Florida blew a 3-1 lead in Game 3 thanks in part to some sketchy officiating; now we see the response in the crucial Game 4 tonight in Brooklyn. Cats either will bounce home feeling good at 2-2, or wallow desperately in a 3-1 hole. Islanders haven't won a playoff series since 1993 and Panthers since '96, so something's gotta give. Troubling for the Panthers is that goalie Roberto Luongo has given up nine goals in the two losses. He admitted he was "exhausted" after three playoff games in four nights. Cats will need better net-minding tonight from their main guy or from Al Montoya to get back in this series. They'll also need their frontline scorers to get going, starting with Jaromir Jagr (pictured), who has not tallied a point in the three games. He also has not scored a goal in 34 straight playoff games, an almost unfathomable streak whose end tonight would be hugely well-timed.

SAD I: WHY DOES CURT SCHILLING STILL HAVE JOB AT ESPN? HE DOESN'T ANYMORE: Update: ESPN canned Schilling late yesterday. Good for ESPN. Original post: Full transparency: I work for The Worldwide Leader parttime as a once-a-week studio co-host for ESPN Radio on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, as many of you know. Those checks from Disney are a welcome stipend to my day job with the Miami Herald. So because of my role with ESPN, minor though Curtschilling Curtschillingit is, I hesitated to write this and will tread carefully. I love free speech. I also know that employers have a right to expect those they pay to represent the company in a way that does not unduly offend customers. I'm not sure, if I owned the Buffalo Bills, how I'd feel about Rex Ryan introducing Donald Trump at a New York rally last week. I'd feel the same if he had introduced Hillary Clinton, although it is fair to say some of Trump's views are more controversial and polarizing, and yet now the face of an NFL team is on board with all of those views (on Muslims, on Mexicans) by association. The matter of Curt Schilling, the ESPN baseball analyst, is far more disturbing. He previously was suspended by ESPN and later demoted from Sunday Night Baseball after posting a meme that compared extremist Muslims to Nazis. Schilling, 49, also has said Clinton should be "buried under a jail." Now the latest: Schilling has shared on his Facebook page the cartoon pictured, with the comment, "A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don't care what they are, who they sleep with, men's room was designed for the penis, women's not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic." The cartoon feeds the bigoted hysteria that surrounds the transgender bathroom issue that is news in several states, notably North Carolina, by suggesting it will mean predators attacking your daughters. Actually I think the cartoon might mean to lampoon the hysteria and mock the intolerant and small-minded like Schilling. In any case, Yahoo Sports reports an ESPN spokesman as saying, "We are taking this matter very seriously and are in the process of reviewing it." Schilling has responded to the outcry by blaming the media and those offended, writing on his website, "You know how I know you ‘offended’ people are full of crap? Because I’m not even close to any of the things you so desperately want me to be, so you can whine. You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for tolerance and acceptance while you refuse to do and be either. YOU’RE the ones making it the issue." Schilling notes the things he shares on Facebook or Twitter are his own opinions and have nothing to do with his employer, but this of course is where he is plainly wrong. His description now does not begin with "former pitcher," it begins with "ESPN Baseball analyst." That's the issue here. Schilling has every right to have whatever opinions he wishes and to share them. The thing is, ESPN also has every right to not want its on-air stars volunteering themselves into needless public controversies with stances not in line with what represents Disney or ESPN. Curt Schilling's name should conjure one word first: Baseball. Instead it has come to conjure another: Bigotry.

DonmattinglySAD II: ON MARLINS' NIGHTMARE START: We're an unlucky 13 games into The Longest Season and already the requisite wisecrack has started circulating. Surely anyone who follows the Marlins has said or heard some variation of this: "Has Loria fired Mattingly yet?" It speaks to both owner Jeffrey Loria's notorious impatience and to the the club's disappointing start under new manager Don Mattingly (pictured). "Nightmare" start might not be hyperbole. The 4-9 record is third-worst in MLB. The 1-7 home record is the worst. Five of eight position starters are batting .244 or under. The bullpen has been an Amtrak derailment. (Speaking of which: Why, Lord, is Chris Narveson still in the big leagues?) [UPDATE: Marlins today/Thursday demoted Narveson to the minors] Now the Marlins face one more at home today against the rotation-strong Washington Nationals and then set out on a daunting, season-long 10-game road trip. There is the potential for things to get really ugly. Loria wanted a fast start under Mattingly. The opposite has left the Fish buried on the local landscape under the Heat and Panthers' playoff runs and Dolphins draft talk. And any attention the Marlins are getting is mostly negative. As for that crack about "has Loria fired Mattingly yet," the way things have started -- and knowing this owner -- it might seem less and less like a preposterous joke as summer rolls in.

HeatadsjerseySAD III: IMAGINING HEAT'S AD JERSEY: I have fought my quiet fight against the encroachment of advertising in sports for years. Long-time and particularly observant readers know that I, for example, never refer in my columns to stadium and arena names that include a corporate sponsor. I'll make it a generic ""Heat's downtown bayside arena" rather than mention the airline in the official name. It's just my little line in the sand. Well, now advertising is coming to the front of NBA jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season, a business-smart but otherwise sad development. Stadium names being whorred out for revenue is bad enough, but now jersey fronts? What's next, franchise names? The Burger King Miami Dolphins? How about player names? "And now batting, brought to you by Pepsi-Cola ... Giancarlo Stanton!" ESPN.com today (click here) imagines what various NBA jerseys would look like in the ad age and logically has the Heat sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines, Heat owner Micky Arison's other company, headquartered in Doral. Bright side: As shown, the corporate logo is affixed to the jersey in a way somewhat less garish and intrusive than it could be, I suppose. It's still sad. I mean, it's one thing to pay good money to buy a Heat T-shirt because you support the team or the player whose number and name are on it. But now you're also a walking billboard for Carnival or some other company, like it or not. As for the notion the sponsor's name on the merchandise might result in a reduced cost? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! You are kidding, right?

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 12, 2016

Micky Arison in the crosshairs on Carnival cruises to Cuba: New poll. Vote now!; plus Ronda Rousey loves Dolphins, Heat and Panthers parlay similar blueprint to playoffs, Cats' Stanley Cup odds, Donald Trump porn parody & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 12. Ronda Rousey praises Dolphins. Click here for the video. 2) Thanks to all the listeners, viewers and Tweeters who liked our "Back In My Day" on today's LeBatard Show. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, The List (Dolphins), your verdicts on LeBron/Tiger & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and now Snapchat, too.

Panthers' Stanley Cups odds: Out today via Bovada, Florida is tied for eighth at 16-1 odds, better than opponent Islanders' 25-1. Capitals are favorites at 4-1, followed by a knot of five teams at 8-1. Cats Roberto Luongo (30-1) and Jaromir Jagr (35-1) are team's most plausible betting longshots for playoffs MVP. 

The Last 3: My three most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint, the latest, on two teams' similar philosophy. Now the Proving Begins, as Panthers end regular season and face playoffs. Out Of Excusesoff Marlins Opening Night.

HEAT OWNER ARISON IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF CARNIVAL, CUBA AND POLITICS: Micky Arison's net worth is $7.7 billion, although it may have risen to $8 billion while you were reading this sentence. He is chairman of Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines, the world's largest. He also is principle owner of the Miami Heat. As such, his two primary interests and business ventures put Arisonhim in the crosshairs of the latest news regarding his cruiseships, Cuba and politics. We first tackled this subject in the blog last July when Carnival first won Carnivalapproval to begin cruises to Cuba. For Arison (pictured) and Carnival it could be great for business. But many South Florida Cubans who fled that island's Castro tyranny (and many of those are Heat fans) are angry over normalized U.S.-Cuba relations and also about Carnival ships docking there. We ran a poll here last July asking if Carnival planning trips to Cuba negatively impacts how you view Arison, and it was 79.9 percent "no" vs. only 16.8% "yes" and 3.3% "undecided. But I wonder if the view has changed now that the Carnival-Cuba startup is soon -- first ships are set to head south in May -- and now that we know this disturbing detail: the still-oppressive Cuban government controls what passengers may be aboard the cruiseships, and they do not include Cuban-born people, which of course includes Cuban exiles living in and around Miami. Carnival has asked the Cuban government to relent on that policy, but, if Carnival wishes to do business in Cuba, it has no choice but to agree to that one huge restriction, even though it is plain discrimination, of course. Imagine Carnival traveling to a country that insisted only white people be aboard the ship? Or banned Muslims? As I wrote last July, I am in favor of normalized U.S.-Cuba relations, which I think ultimately will benefit the Cuban economy and people. But clearly it is wrong for the Cuban government to not allow folks born in Cuba and exiles in Miami to be aboard those Carnival ships, as we discussed on yesterday's Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Dan was particularly passionate on the topic. And there protesters outside Carnival headquarters Tuesday. So, nine months after our first poll, let's repeat the question and compare the vote. Check back often to monitor evolving results.

TWO TEAMS, SIMILAR BLUEPRINT AS HEAT, PANTHERS FORGE PLAYOFF PATH: [Panthers Sasha Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, pictured left, and the Heat's Justise Winslow and Dwyane Wade, right, personify each team's winning blend of experience and youth -- the blueprint that carries each to the playoffs. Click on Heat & Panthers' Shared Blueprint for the online version of the my latest column] Appreciate the rarity of this first. The Miami Heat and Florida Panthers are about to both enter the playoffs in the same season for only the fifth time since 1993, when hockey joined basketball down here. And South Florida is one of only five markets to have both its teams reach the 2016 postseason, along with Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and Oakland/San Jose. Even more notable is the similar blueprint the Heat and Panthers have shared to find success, with rosters that blend wise and wizened veterans and raw youth. For the Heat it’s a blueprint that is very different from the company norm, showcasing an unusual reliance on young players by a franchise that, from Pat Barkov Wade WinslowRiley on down, Jagrhas never quite trusted youth. For the Cats it’s a blueprint taken to extremes, bookended by 44-year-old leading scorer Jaromir Jagr and by 10 players not even born when Jagr first entered the NHL, such as rising stars Sasha Barkov, 20, and Aaron Ekblad, 19. Both teams’ uncommonly wide gulf between its oldest and youngest players was reflected perfectly Monday in the Panthers’ dressing room following a midday practice. Nick Bjugstad, the Cats center, is 23 but looks even younger. His hand kept drifting absent-mindedly to his chin and rubbing what was there, which isn’t much. He is trying, the poor kid. The NHL postseason is upon us, the fight for the Stanley Cup beginning, and in hockey, the playoff beard is a near-sacred tradition. A wisp of blond whiskers trying bravely to be a goatee and an even wispier sprout on his alabaster cheeks is all Bjugstad can claim for now. "I keep playing with it – it’s more than I’ve ever had!' he is saying after Monday’s midday practice. "It is what it is. But it’s kind of embarrassing." Elsewhere around the dressing room manly playoff beards are in full bloom. It looks like a casting call for a movie about lumberjacks. A media guy trying to be kind tells Bjugstad most of the full-bearded guys probably started growing their facial hair at least a month ago. "So did I," Nick had to admit. The beard thing is the perfect reflection of what the Panthers see when they look in the mirror: A blend of age and youth, of over-35 veterans like Jagr, Roberto Luongo, Brian Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Willie Mitchell, offset by what is perhaps hockey’s premier core of players under 25. It was a risk that relies on aging players still having enough prime left and youthful guys proving ready. It was a chemistry experiment that has worked but might have blown up in the lab. "Our older guys have been so willing," as general manager Dale Tallon told me Monday. "It could have been a disaster." From the 45-minute jaunt from Sunrise down to Miami, from ice to hardwood, Heat veterans like Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and (even sidelined) Chris Bosh similarly mentor a youthful core led by rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson, by second-year man Tyler Johnson and by Hassan Whiteside, who is 26 but still learning. "I’m just passing down knowledge," Wade describes the role that doesn’t show up on stat sheets. "All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped." It is a good time to be a fan of both teams, with each franchise locked in win-now mode but also boasting a blossoming young core that suggests a bridge to a promising future beyond the Hall of Fame-bound old guard led by Jagr and Wade. Both teams share justifiably high playoff hopes as the Panthers face the New York Islanders in the first round with Game 1 here Thursday night, while the Heat enter their final two regular-season games still unsure of their seeding, who’ll they’ll face or whether they’ll have home-court advantage. You’d think the Heat might be in happy-to-be-here mode, after missing the playoffs last year and with Bosh out. Yet there is the sense of a wide-open Eastern Conference, and of a real chance to reach the East finals, maybe head-to-head vs. old friend LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. You’d think the Panthers might really be in happy-to-be here mode. They last made the playoffs in 2012 and last won a playoff series in Year of the Rat 1996. Tallon and coach Gerard Gallant both admitted Monday they did not expect to win a division title this year. But hockey’s Eastern Conference also is wide open. An ESPN experts panel by a 9-0 vote picked the Panthers to advance past the Islanders. Washington was the only East team with an appreciably better record than Florida this season, but the Cats were 2-1 against the Capitals, outscoring them 10-5. The idea of a championship run by either the Panthers or especially the Heat is fanciful and not being discussed much in any sober conversation, but, in only their fifth playoffs at the same time, the idea of either team or both reaching their conference finals is tantalizingly plausible. And who knows? If that happens, by then, Nick Bjugstad’s patchwork of whiskers might even pass for a decent beard.

ThedonaldPERFECT! A DONALD TRUMP PORN PARODY!: How great and absolutely fantastic and terrific is this!? I'm so happy I feel like building a giant wall! Just when you think Larry Flynt might be dead, the Hustler impresario rises to produce something fun, like "The Donald," his new Donald Trump "porn parody" video. The photo at right surely whets your appetite and suggests the cinematic gravitas at play here. Click on Trump Porn Parody to read more. The video goes on sale to the public today/Tuesday, available to everyone including Muslims and Mexicans. Trump is the perfect target. I mean, who is more cocksure? Don't worry. Cocksure is a real word, not a dirty word, and describes Trump quite spot-on.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

April 01, 2016

NCAA Final Four polls: Who will win? And who do you hope does? Vote now!; plus what Dwyane-Kobe rivalry always lacked, Marlins individual betting odds, Trump hires lawyer he "fired" on TV, your verdict on Arian Foster & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, APRL 1. Happy new month, all! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins and Arian Foster poll, Miami Open casualties & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

COTE ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT: I'll be retiring from the Miami Herald and from ESPN Radio, effectively immediately. April Fools!! "Damn," said South Florida in unison. "Thought we finally got rid of him!"  

FinalfourWHICH NCAA FINAL FOUR MEN'S TEAM WILL WIN? AND WHICH DO YOU WANT TO WIN?: Here are two polls, both with the Final Four teams listed alphabetically, but each asking a very different question. One is "Who do do you think will win?" This is your head answering. It's who you'd bet on if given 100 bucks to place on just one straight-up team to win it all. The other poll is asking "Who do you hope wins?" Your heart answers this one. Whether based on what's left of your bracket or other factors, what team has earned your rooting interest? Vote in both polls and we'll be interested to see how the results might differ.

IT WAS DWYANE VS. KOBE FOR FINAL TIME, BUT HERE'S WHAT FRIENDSHIP AND RIVALRY ALWAYS LACKED: [Update: Wade popped 26 points Wednesday night and Kobe scored only two in nine minutes in a 102-100 overtime loss by Heat in L.A. Bad loss as Miami squanders chance to take over third place in East] Original post: Kobe Bryant was questionable to play with a tender right shoulder Dwyanekobetonight as the absymal Lakers host the Heat. And Dwyane Wade had said that if Kobe didn't play, "Then I'm not playing either." So a highly anticipated matchup could have ended up a letdown. Instead the two future Hall of Famers played their 20th and last head-to-head meeting as Bryant is retiring after this season. That's a fair sample size, the equal of a quarter of a season, and we see in the comparative stats that the rivalry has tended to bring out the best in each other. Bryant averages 27.3 points and Wade 24.2 when they face each other, above the career averages for each. Kobe's high game in the series is 42 points (Christmas Day 2004) and Wade's is 40 (Christmas '06). The two also have faced off in All-Star games and played as USA Olympic teammates in a long friendship. But one thing is glaringly missing. Here is why Dwyane-Kobe is a far cry from Magic-Bird in terms of all-time NBA personal rivalries: Despite Heat-Lakers meriting the Christmas Day spotlight four times, Wade and Bryant have never met in the playoffs. Not once. Eight different seasons have found Heat and Lakers in the playoffs at the same time, but never have the teams intersected in the Wade-Bryant era. And no personal rivalry is full-fledged in this sport without championship implications or at least postseason stakes.

MARLINS INDIVIDUAL BETTING ODDS: Via Bovada today, Giancarlo Stanton's projected regular-season final numbers are a .280 average, 39.5 home runs and 105.5 RBIs. The HR figure is tied for the MLB high with Bryce Harper. Other select Marlins betting over/unders: Jose Fernandez 13.5 wins, 199.5 strikeouts, 2.75 ERA; Wei-Yin Chen 11.5 wins, 3.49 ERA; A.J. Ramos 30.5 saves; Dee Gordon .295 average, 50.5 steals; Justin Bour 23.5 homers; and Christian Yelich .290 average.

FUN FACT ABOUT TRUMP LAWYER IN CAMPAIGN-MANAGER SCANDAL: You know that Donald Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been arrested for misdemeanor battery for his Bradcohenhandling of a treatment of a reporter, Michelle Fields, at a March 8 news conference at Trump National Golf Club in Palm Beach. And you may have heard Lewandowski's attorney, Brad Cohen, speaking on the NBC's Today show on Wednesday; click here for the story and video. Now, what you may not know: Bradford (Brad) Cohen, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, is the same Bradford Cohen who Trump "fired" early in the 2004 season of his TV show The Apprentice, forerunner of the later Celebrity Apprentice. Local attorneys who know Cohen tell me he delighted in the fleeting fame of his brief TV role and loved that Trump would refer to him on-air as "The Bradford." Trump called Cohen "stupid" in dismissing him. Twelve years later, Cohen (pictured), now 44, is smart enough to be one of the point-men Trump has brought in to help defuse the mini-scandal dogging his Republican presidential run.

LEBATARD SHOW INTENTIONALLY ABORTS 'BACK IN MY DAY' EPISODE: Tuesday the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz intentionally cut off the end of my very popular "Back In My Day" segment, a staple of my Tuesday in-studio co-host gig. I believe Dan purposely delayed the start of it and then attempted to distract and delay me throughout, evidently thinking it was better to have me miss the hard network out than to finish my piece. He quickly apologized on-air, and later off-air, but it's in my craw a day later to the degree I don't mind milking it for a blog item. Click here for yesterday's show podcast; BIMD starts around the 52:45 mark. #LeBaFraud #Disrespect. Of course I'm kidding. Probably.

Poll result: Dolfans unimpressed by interest in Arian Foster: I was not impressed; as told in this column. For me Arian Foster is an aging, damaged-goods running back, the one position that best exemplifies the Dolphins' offseason struggles in free agency. Well, y'all agreed. We asked how you felt about the Dolphins' interest in the free agent Foster, and by a better than 5-to-1 margin you said "skeptical/past prime" (72.9 percent) over "good/plenty left" (13.9%). The other 13.2% were undecided.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

March 24, 2016

Which Miami 25-&-under sports star will have greatest career? Poll too close to call. Last chance to vote!; plus Canes sartorially, Cote vs. Stugotz, Serena's pitch for Miami Open, Melania Trump, Fins on the cheap, your Cuba-trip verdict & more

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

Garagiola1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 24. Purim began at sundown last evening. Happy day to all our Jewish friends. 2) R.I.P. famed baseball broadcaster Joe Garagiola, pictured, at age 90. His was the first TV voice I heard when I was falling love with baseball as a kid. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Other side of the cheering on Cuba visit with poll, disrespecting Canes, Marlins on Jose, Serena's selfie, NCAA bracket update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

"Rays beat Cuban National Team. Thank you, Tampa Bay, for denying the Castros the added propoganda." --Greg Cote

My latest 'Back In My Day': ICYMI on Tuesday's Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, here it is via ESPN Radio: Click Menus to listen and watch.

BrightfutureBRIGHT FUTURES: WHICH OF SOUTH FLORIDA'S 25-AND-UNDER PRO SPORTS STARS WILL HAVE THE GREATEST CAREER?: We made 25 the arbitrary line of demarcation here, and considered every current Heat, Dolphins, Marlins or Panthers player who was born in March 1991 or later. There were a lot, but we whittled it to a list of the 14 most prominent -- five Panthers and three from each of the other teams. Our poll list is alphabetical, and you may vote for your top three (3). It shouldn't be easy. For me, Jose Fernandez and Sasha Barkov were pretty easy, but the third was not. Jarvis Landry? Justise Winslow? Somebody else? Enough about me. Your turn. By the way, if you think anybody obvious is missing from the poll, I should mention as a preemptive strike that Giancarlo Stanton and Hassan Whiteside were born in 1989 and Ryan Tannehill in '88. They're still young, but too old for our 25U club. OK, ready? Remember, this is a brightest-future poll; try not to make it about which team or sport is your favorite. Vote now and check back frequently to monitor constantly evolving numbers. To decipher a three-vote ballot, triple the percentage of each player's total shown for an estimation of the percentage of ballots that include him in the top three. In other words, Winslow at 23.3 percent (when last I checked) was being included in about 70 percent of all top-threes.

Vote for your top 3:

UnisSWEET 16: NOT ALL AGREE THE HURRICANES ARE LOOKING GOOD: ESPN has one of those silly "Uni Watch" uniform rankings for the Sweet 16 teams, and the Miami Hurricanes's new Adidas duds are ranked only 14th. Ouch. The synopsis reads: "Green, orange and white are such a great color combination. Too bad they're used to such poor effect on the new March Madness uni set that Adidas prepared for the Hurricanes. It's hard to say which is worse -- the orange [or green] shoulder harness or the 'grass skirt' striping on the shorts. A real stinker." OK, then. A Thursday victory from Villanova away from their first Elite Eight appearance, we're thinking UM fans prefer their team continue to be athletically splendid even if its sartorial splendor may be somewhat dubious.

UH OH. IT'S COTE VS. STUGOTZ IN LOCAL MEDIA BRACKET'S FINAL FOUR: Website SliceMiami has been holding NCAA-style brackets in four 16-person "regions" including Media, and I -- the last Herald writer standing -- have vanquished two foes to reach the Final Four, where I will face my 790 The Ticket and ESPN Radio mate, the great Stugotz. The other semifinal will pit WQAM's Marc Hochman vs. his 560 stablemate Joe Rose. I think voting in the Final Four round is Thursday and Friday but we'll update you further.xx

SerenaSERENA STANDS UP ELOQUENTLY FOR THE MIAMI OPEN: We know Serena Williams is the best women's tennis player in the world, and has been for much of the past 15 years or so. She's a pretty good writer, too, it turns out. Williams this week penned a piece for the New York Times on why the Miami Open (running now through April 3 on Key Biscayne) is so dear to her and how she'd hate to see it leave, which it could related to a legal battle over improvements to the site. Good for you, Serena! Find her entire essay here.

DOLPHINS ON THE CHEAP: ESPN ranks all 32 teams in terms of current free-agent spending and your Dolphins slot in 22nd with only $11.9 million in guaranteed money given. Dough spent does Abdul-quddusnot always equate with winning, no, but it is a bit disconcerting that division-power New England has spent more than triple ($38.1 mill) what the Dolphins have to get better. ESPN's cynopsis of the Fins' FA expenditure so far: "For the first time in several years, the Dolphins elected to be judicious with their free-agent spending. They spent just $11.9 million in guaranteed money so far, with the biggest guarantee going to safety Isa Abdul-Quddus ($6 million). Big-ticket items haven't produced more victories, so Miami is trying the opposite approach." But just as spending big isn't always smart, being economical doesn't always mean smart spending. For example, Abdul-Quddus (pictured), the big get in terms of guaranteed money, has only 16 starts and two interceptions in 74 career NFL games. Hmm.

Poll result: Most oppose Obama and baseball's visit to Cuba: We asked your reaction and it was 25.3 percent "positive," 54.9% "negative" and 19.8% "mixed emotions or undecided." Interestingly, the negative vote was running only slightly higher (58.5%) in Florida, where a higher percentage of Cuban-Americans reside. Also interesting (at least to me): The "positive" vote enjoyed a plurality when the poll appeared only in my blog, before it hit a broader/different audience when picked up by MiamiHerald.com.

MelaniatrumpTHE MELANIA TRUMP AD: Nasty politics continue on the Republican side of the presidential race. A super-PAC supporting Ted Cruz ran the ad pictured, showing Donald Trump's wife Melania in a GQ photo shoot from 2000, back in her modeling days. The text reads, "Meet Melania Trump: Your Next First Lady. Or, You Could Support Ted Cruz On Tuesday."  The Donald responded on Twitter with a warning for Cruz to be careful or he'll "spill the beans" on Cruz's wife. Me? I have little doubt that Trump is privately not displeased at all with this ad -- with people being reminded how great he must be to have a wife this hot. But here's the bottom line: Will seeing Melania like this make anyone less likely to vote for Donald Trump? For many people, absolutely nothing could possibly make them less likely to vote for Trump.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote