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...:

 

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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...

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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

March 22, 2016

America cheers Obama 'n baseball in Cuba, but in Miami, not everyone is celebrating. With poll. Vote!; plus Radio Tuesday, Wade not 1 of LeBron's issues, disrespect for Canes continues, Marlins on Jose, Serena's selfie, NCAA bracket & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 22. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NCAA bracket update & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope -- and now newly on Snapchat, too, @upsetbird2.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, and also on ESPN U and Fusion TV.

LeBron has problems. D.Wade isn't one of them: Click on The Downward Trajectory of LeBron for today's latest column by me.

Media Bracket Round 2: I advanced in the Media Region of SliceMiami.com's first Miami Sports Bracket. To vote for, click here

National disrespect for Hurricanes continues: They were underdogs to Wichita State but reached the Sweet 16, anyway. Now the men of Jim Larranaga are 4- to 4 1/2-point underdogs to Villanova in Thursday night's game. And, among the last 16 standing, UM's 28-1 championship odds (via Bovada) are tied for 10th best. Odds to advance from South Region are: Kanasas 10-11, Villanova 12-5, UM 6-1 and Maryland 13-2.

CUBA CELEBRATES WITH OBAMA, BASEBALL AND MICK ... BUT NOT EVERYONE CELEBRATES: The president of the United States is on the island, bringing the ultimate seal of approval for warming relations with Cuba. America's Pastime visits, too: The Tampa Bay Rays play ball against the Cuban National Team in Havana on Tuesday. Later this week Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones put on a free concert there. It's a feel-good story. But it doesn't feel good to everybody. Miami is the epicenter in America of where it doesn't feel good at all to lots of folks who think the Cubaobama Ladiesinwhitewarming U.S-Cuba relations in general -- and this week's festivities in particular -- lend credence to what continues as totalitarian regime rife with oppression and human rights violations. There will be much cheering and celebration in Cuba this week, and elsewhere as Cuba basks in a portrayal of progress. But the other side must have its voice. In Miami, those voices make a mighty choir -- especially among older Cuban exiles who have seen with their own eyes, who escaped, and whose memories won't let go of the pain. Meet Cuban-born Luisa Vega, 69, now of Hallandale, a retired court interpreter. Thousands all over South Florida share her views. "The first day [Barack Obama's visit] was announced I was doing a deposition with some lawyers and one asked if I should be happy. But it is so painful to me this is happening," she told me on Monday. "We came here because we were forced to flee. People of Cuba are oppressed. I wish before any steps [toward normalized relations] had been taken, something had been done about the dissidents, about freedom of movement. There's so many things wrong with the system. Havana has deteriorated to the point it is a slum. Cuba became a third-world country." I, like most non-Cubans, cannot feel these views viscerally. I see this week's events in Cuba positively; I see Obama's visit an an agent for continued needed change. My own father grew up hating the Japanese because of Pearl Harbor but we move on. Germany once meant Hitler; now U.S.-German relations are good. For me, improved relations with Cuba are a good thing. But, again, the pain others still feel is not my own. Luisa Vegas fled Cuba three days before she turned 14. "It was so hellish I don't think I was ever young," she said. Her grandmother was incarcerated "just because we left." He future husband was taken at 17, and held for two weeks. Luisa remembers sleeping outside the original U.S. Embassy in Havana with a group of freedom-seekers and being screamed at by government-organized mobs. She saw militia storm her home and take away an uncle. Her story is shared by many in Miami. Today, there has been some progress in Cuba in the transition from Fidel Castro to younger brother Raul. By most indications, gays on the island have it somewhat better, as an example. Still, ask the Ladies in White, the group that protests for civil and human rights, if enough progress has been made. Dozens more of them were arrested (pictured right) in advance of Obama's visit. The watchdog group Human Rights Watch begins in 2015 report on Cuba thusly: "The government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights." That, and the words and pain of Luisa Vega, bear never forgetting amid all the cheering in Cuba this week.

JOSE NOT OPENING DAY STARTER = MARLINS BEING MARLINS: Your ace starts on Opening Day, period. Particularly when your starting rotation includes one ace, a jack and three 4's. But the Joserules are never quite standard when it comes to the Miami Marlins, and so it should not have surprised Sunday when the Fish announced that recently acquired Wei-Yin Chen (the jack) would be the O.D. starter on April 5 instead, with Jose on the mound for next day. Hmm. The explantation: That the switch would set up to give Fernandez more rest thorughout the season. The likely real reason: Openers sell out, followed by a severe drop in attendance for Game 2 (at least here). So save Jose to stem the decline and increase the next-date gate. This is sooo Marlins. They can't even get Opening Day right. Jose says (publicly) he is on board with this, but you know he's disappointed. Marlins fans should be, too.

BikiniserenaSERENA PREPARES FOR MIAMI OPEN TENNIS: Defending Miami Open champion Serena Williams has been preparing for the rigors of the two-week tournament that begins this week on Key Biscayne. Pictured, is hard at work taking a bikini selfie on Snapchat. On beach or on court, Serena seldom is not looking good, or shy to show it. Still in her tennis prime at 34. A true wonder.

NCAA BRACKETEERING UPDATE: Sunday--I went 5-3 on my teams advancing in men's NCAA Tournament games. Overall--I'm 35-13 thus far, with 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Cinderella Meter--33.3% (16 of 48 games have been by-seed upsets so far). Today--Madness is off until Thursday.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 12, 2016

Are Dolphins better? Have early free-agency gains outweighed losses? Poll. Vote now!; plus Chris Bosh eyes return, Hurricanes men await Selection Sunday, UM football arrests, Dear Marco Rubio & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 12. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins' dubious start to free agency, Erin Andrews vs. Kim Kardashian, Marlins' big problem, sympathy for Maria Sharapova, your verdict on Peyton Manning, Dollar Bill Murray & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

"No surprise FIU fired women's basketball coach Marlin Chinn. NCAA violation, allegation of sexual misconduct, awful record -- it's the trifecta of career suicide!" --Greg Cote 

Arrested UM football players catch break: Welcome to Miami, Mark Richt. No new coach is fully indoctrinated until he has dealt with his first player arrests. Hurricanes offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Jahair Jones -- Darling the starting left tackle -- were arrested in Miami Beach this week for "resisting officer without violence" after they reportedly were impeding traffic and refused orders to disperse. But Jones' case will not be prosecuted and Darling is expected to similarly be cleared related to what the state attorneys office called a "legally insufficient" arrest form. In other words the cops screwed up on the report. Still, I have a feeling Richt will think his players screwed up too.

ChrisboshBOSH SPEAKS ON HEALTH, IS HOPEFUL TO RETURN THIS SEASON: Chris Bosh's full statement this week on his health, with the underlines for emphasis my own: "I know there have been many questions regarding my health and when I will play again. My situation this year has never been life threatening. I am feeling great and currently I do not have deep vein thrombosis. Together with the Miami Heat, I am working with doctors, exploring the best precautionary treatment options and taking every necessary step to make sure I am healthy for myself, my family and my team. I have been working out, training with the team, watching film of the games, walking through plays, and have attended home games despite not being visible to the public. I will continue to support my teammates in every way possible. I remain positive that I will be able to return this season. I truly appreciate everyone's concern and support." I argued strongly on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz on Feb. 23 that Bosh and the Miami Heat owed it to fans to stop the speculation by being up front about the star's condition regarding blood clots and his prolonged absence from the court. I'm glad that, now, we have that update. And that it was good news, considering the growing assumption had been that Bosh was done for the season and perhaps even that his career might be in jeopardy.

MiketannenbaumGRADING THE DOLPHINS IN FREE AGENCY THUS FAR: Miami has gotten off to a rough start in free agency but scored a potential nice get with running back C.J. Anderson signing an offer sheet. Fins executive VP of football ops and roster-builder Mike Tannenbaum is pictured looking mighty relaxed but probably should be sweating and wringing hands a bit based on the team's early FA results. The most noteworthy additions, the three to the defense, all are guys coming off disappointing seasons in Mario Williams (whom the BIlls had cut), Byron Maxwell (spectacularly overpaid) and Kiko Alonso (health concerns). Meanwhile the two big losses, Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller, are seismic. Miami was priced-out of both because, lacking foresight, the club failed to secure them to long-term deals earlier and avoid losing them in free agency now. Digest this synopsis of the team's notable gains and losses thus far, then take a dip in our poll. Wonder if adding C.J. Anderson would alter your opinion?

Notable roster gains, in order of significance: DE Mario Williams, star caliber as a proven but aging sacker. RB C.J. Anderson, only 25, 4.8-yard career average, very productive in limited role. (He isn't locked up yet, though Fins are hopeful. Denver still could match the offer). LB Kiko Alonso, a steal if he can stay healthy and regain rookie form. CB Byron Maxwell, OK starter but not a shutdown corner. OT Sam Young, backup tackle. S Isa Abdul-Quddus, backup caliber, though he may start. OT Jermon Bushrod, projected to compete for starting guard spot. W (wife) Miko Grimes, outta here, an addition by subtraction to be rid of the this meddlesome, crass woman. Bottom line: Williams is a downgrade from departed Olivier Vernon, especially factoring age. But Anderson  may be every bit as good as Miller. Alonso has big upside but health a major if. Maxwell isn't as good as Brent Grimes.

Notable roster losses, in order of significance: DE Olivier Vernon, to Giants. RB Lamar Miller, to Texans. Five draft spots in first round, down from 8th to 13th in Maxwell/Alonso trade with Philly. CB Brent Grimes, cut. WR Rishard Matthews, to Titans. DE Derrick Shelby, to Falcons. CB Brice McCain, to Titans. WR Greg Jennings, cut. Bottom line: Vernon is a significant loss and Miller is almost as big. It is fair to say both were overpaid to leave and Miami was priced out. But it also is fair to say Miami -- with foresight -- would have locked up both to affordable long-term deals last year and not allowed them to reach free agency. Invisible losses for the Dolphins also must include players they explored/needed but failed to get, including CB Adam (Pacman) Jones, help at guard and RB Matt Forte, the latter of whom I pushed for the Dolphins to pursue in this column on Feb. 12.

DREAM SEASON? HURRICANES MEN GO 1-1 in ACC TOURNEY, AWAIT NCAA BID: The No. 11-ranked Miami men of Jim Larranaga can be as good as just about anybody. Dick Vitale and other Sheldoncollege hoops experts have said UM is Final Four-capable. Based on rankings alone you'd think the Sweet 16 should be a starting point on how we measure this season's success. Well, the time to show it has begun and started with this week's ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., where the Canes beat Virginia Tech 88-82 but then lost last night to No. 4 Virginia, 73-68. UM is 25-7 as it awaits Selection Sunday and its slot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament -- March Madness. How Miami fared this week in the ACCs probably didn't boost Miami's likely seeding or help it much. Maybe if they'd been bounced earlier or reach the final, yes, but going 1-1 was average. Now Miami and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan (pictured) await UM's destination for the big tournament. Joe Lunardi's updated Bracketology for ESPN has the Canes slotted a No. 3 seed in the East; their first game will be Thursday or Friday. UM practiced all this week at George Mason, where the 2006 Final Four banner hangs. That was Larranaga's finest moment in coaching. Can he top that this year? The regular season has offered only teases and hint, and the ACC Tournament was not definitive. The real knowing is about to begin. And now is when the window is flung open wide for UM, which starts four seniors. This must be the year.

RUBIO CAMPAIGN GASPING FOR AIR: Dear Marco Rubio: Even your most ardent supporters must now know you would be smart to start crafting your concession speech Emptystadiumabout "suspending" your campaign for president. It isn't working -- and to a degree it becomes embarrassing to keep denying the obvious. Bad enough your only two primary-season victories thus far have been minor ones (Minnesota caucuses, Puerto Rico), while Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have pulled away. Worse for you is what's happening in Florida, your home state. Polls show Trump leading you by as much as a 2-1 margin. And any hope for a miracle surprise on March 15 gained no steam Wednesday night, when your rally in Hialeah drew only a couple of hundred supporters to a high-school football stadium you'd hoped to fill. Instead of filled bleachers, your crowd gathered in an end zone. The photo from that rally, pictured, is devastating. It looks like an FIU football crowd. (Ouch. Sorry, FIU. Couldn't resist). First Jeb Bush, now Rubio. Both might have been a star in what should be a winnable Republican nomination. Instead Florida is 0-for-2 on "favorite sons" running for prez in '16.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 27, 2016

Who should be our next president? It's an annoying non-sports poll! Last day to vote!; plus Heat sign Joe Johnson, Robert Irvine, Gronk Party Cruise verdict, Marlins playoff paucity in perspective & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27. A website called VIP Concierge is selling tickets to Sunday's most exclusive Oscar parties. Highest price I saw was $6,450 to get into Elton John's annual viewing dinner and after-party. For that price, the ticket should include an Academy Award. 2) The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Gronk Party Ship with poll, Marlins open spring training, legend of Snowflake Nelson, Joey Bats, thanks Jeb Bush & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Heat sign Johnson: Team made it official at 7 p.m. this evening: Heat as expected have signed former all-star guard Joe Johnson.

PrezSPORTS BLOG VEERS OUTSIDE ITS LANE, ANNOYS READERS WITH PRESIDENTIAL POLL: "STICK TO SPORTS, MORON!!" OK I get it. Many of you hate when my (mostly) sports blog delves into politics. That's OK. I'm done explaining that this is a wide-ranging blog exploring all of my interests, which include sports, music, food, politics and et cetera. Besides, if I have ever met anyone who is only a sports fan, that is not someone I really wish to know, quite frankly. We'll get back to sports shortly. For now, hey, I'm a presidential-politics junkie, the main race has winnowed to seven major remaining candidates, the Florida primary is fast approaching -- and those are reasons enough to get a pulse-read on how our blog readers might be feeling heading into all-important March. What? Oh, you still insist on a sports tie? OK, Trump's name is on Doral. How's that? By the way did anyone else watch the Republican debate last night? What a fascinating brawl among Trump, Rubio and Cruz, the Big 3. Poor Kasich and Carson may as well been potted plants. Anyway, it should go without saying this is anything but a scientific poll. It's just for fun. And because I'm curious. I actually care what the people who visit this blog might be thinking. Purposely I have not included a category for undecided, don't-like-any-of-them or "other," a.k.a. the wasted-vote repository of minor-party candidates. I'm offering only the remaining major candidates who might actually win, and offering a chance to state your preference if you choose. That's all. The poll is arranged alphabetically. God Bless America!

RobertirvineON 'SEASIDE EATS' AND ROBERT IRVINE: When I probably should have been watching the Heat-Warriors game last night I was pleased to instead be attending Seaside Eats at the Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, a satellite event to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival benefiting FIU's School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. There were open bars, dozens of local chefs with mostly seafood-themed treats from area restaurants and ... did I mention open bars? Best bite I had was either the Gailkimgiant seared scallop (I forget the restaurant) or the sour cream confection from Dandee Donuts. My God! The event was hosted by celebrity television chef Robert Irvine, the buffed Brit who looks like he might be in trouble if the Food Network suddenly instituted steroid testing. Oy! I took the photo at right, standing close enough to squeeze Irvine' biceps had I been so inclined. Irvine exudes the same apparent big ego in person that he does on shows ,like Restarant Impossible: but is playful with it as when he was addressing a boisterous (read: drunk) crowd last night and interrupted himself to boom, "Be quiet! I'm talking!" Fun night. Quick aside: Irvine's second wife is professional wrestler Gail Kim, left. That's a lot of testosterone under one roof.

Poll result: Most would not like a Gronk Party Ship surprise: We asked if you would feel closer to lucky or annoyed to book a cruise and be surprised to learn you were aboard Rob Gronkowski's "Gronk Party Ship." The vote was 60.2 percent annoyed vs. 39.8% lucky.

THE LIST: MARLINS' PLAYOFF PAUCITY: The fewest playoff appearances by the 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams since 1993, the Marlins's first season, is two, by these eight teams, listed from most recent postseason appearance to most distant:

Team                                         PO apps.

Kansas City Royals MLB         2014, 2015

Winnipeg Jets-* NHL               2007, 2015

Toronto Blue Jays MLB           1993, 2015

Washington Nationals MLB     2012, 2014

Columbus Blue Jackets NHL   2009, 2014

Milwaukee Brewers MLB        2008, 2011

Miami Marlins MLB                1997, 2003

Cleveland Browns-* NFL        1994, 2002

*-Note: Jets only have been a franchise since 1999-00 season. Browns did not play in 1996-98.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 24, 2016

Unexpectedly stuck aboard Gronk's Party Ship. Good thing or bad? New poll. Vote now!; plus Marlins poised for surprising 2016 as spring training unfurls; also, the legend of Snowflake Nelson, Joey Bats' demand, thank you Jeb Bush & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25. New blogpost coming soon! 2) Thanks to our latest wave of Twitter followers. I must say LeBatard Show Tuesdays are good for business. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, concern-level on Bosh verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

"Kimbo Slice is 42. Dada 5000 is 38. It was a Bellator production. And you were expecting a good fight why exactly!?" --Greg Cote

GronkshipQUESTION: IS INADVERTENTLY FINDING ONESELF ON GRONK'S PARTY SHIP A GOOD THING?: So overgrown frat-boy (and, time permitting, Patriots tight end) Rob Gronkowski, his family, friends and paying guests take a three-day Caribbean cruise out of Miami, aboard the Norwegian Pearl. Much drinking and debauchery ensues, as you'd expect. Anyway, there were about 700 on board for the Gronk party ship (see representative photo), among a total cruise-ship population of around 2,300. In other words, roughly two-thirds of those on board were tourists who had no idea what they were getting in for. Maybe some liked it. But we already have heard others have complained to Norwegian about being blindsided into being an unwitting party to all the Gronkness and ensuing silliness -- somewhat the antithesis of the relaxation many expect from a cruise. So I'm curious. Say you and the family were aboard the Pearl for your Caribbean cruise only to unexpectedly learn the ship's predominant client was a massive Gronk party. Good thing? Or bad thing? Feeling lucky? Or a bit annoyed. Take a dip in our poll.

FAITH IN MARLINS ALWAYS A CHALLENGE, BUT 2016 LOOKS PROMISING: Spent Monday up in Jupiter as the Marlins prepared for today's first full-squad work of spring. Click on Looking Up for the column in full. Here is a condensed version with my list of Ifs that must align if the Marlins are to surprise the analysts and bettors to become a playoff challenger: JosefernandezIf Don Mattingly turns out to be an inspired hire, the anti-Ozzie Guillen, who used to leave the practice field to watch bull fights in his office, failed spectacularly and, as the perfect Miami parting shot, praised Fidel Castro... If a healthy Giancarlo Stanton is bearing in on 50 home runs as the pennant races heat, his at-bats perhaps the most exciting minute in sports... If a healthy Jose Fernandez (pictured) is in the heart of the Cy Young conversation, his starts turned into events that fill Marlins Park... If Dee Gordon prove his spectacular 2015 was no fluke, and if Christian Yelich begins to make the move from potential star to budding superstar... If Barry Bonds seizes this chance to rebuild his steroids-dented image and enjoys great impact as the hitting coach. (Quick memo to the Marlins: Do you think giving Bonds a late-season at-bat or two as a pinch-hitter would get any attention? You’re welcome!)... If Miami is cheering Ichiro’s 3,000th major-league hit as it cheers a playoff chase... If Marcell Ozuna re-establishes himself with a comeback year, and if big farmboy Justin Bour blossoms into the team’s biggest slugger not named Stanton... And here’s a personal if, if I may: If Jeffrey Loria and David Samson would force themselves to keep a much lower profile, Marlins fans would be a happier bunch... All of that would leave one more if, maybe the biggest of all along with the health of Stanton and Fernandez: If Miami sees the emergence of two more starting pitchers to join the ace Fernandez, newly acquired Wei-Yin Chen and reliable innings-eater Tom Koehler. From among a half-dozen candidates the Marlins need a couple of volunteers to raise their hands — their arms — and capably join the rotation. Do you believe enough of the "ifs" might come true? February turning to March is the time for such leaps of faith, for hearts to control minds and for hope to win out. That is the beauty of baseball in springtime.

SnowflakeTHE LEGEND OF SNOWFLAKE NELSON: Heat fan and model Alyssa Nelson, a.k.a. Snowflake, got pretty excited watching the Heat beat Indiana last night, as pictured from a screengrab. Perhaps some of the fans watching Snowflake got pretty excited, too. Me? I got in a bit of trouble on the LeBatard Show today by suggesting Snowflake had invited the catcalls she was getting on social media by her choice of attire. This to me was not a mysogenist comment, but rather a practical one. If you want to jump up and down with that neckline showing that much cleavage, please do not feign surprise or disgust when you are, show we say, noticed. That's pretty much the point, is it not?

ON JOEY BATS: Blue Jay slugger Jose Bautista is demanding a $150 million, five-year deal from Toronto (or someone else in free agency), and suggesting his demand is non-negotiable. Dear Joey Bats: The market will determine that. As someone who'd be 36 as a free agent, you won't sit out a year, so your bargaining power is diminished. You have been underpaid, yes. But a demand of $30 million-per seems rich for the age bracket -- even for someone who hit 40 homers last year.

JebbushTHANKS, JEB BUSH: Been meaning to say, since he dropped out of the presidential derby, that I thought Jeb Bush ran a decent race, relative to the negativity and divisiveness surrounding him. He simply was too moderate, maybe too decent and unwilling to get down in the mud, to survive in 2016. I can tell you, as a registered Democrat, that I found Bush and John Kasich the two Republicans for whom I might have most considered voting. Bush spoke to issues and answers while Marco Rubio begins every answer to every question with a hyperbolic, rote attack on Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Alas, the polls told us which tactic worked best and who was Florida's favorite son. Jeb leaves in defeat, but with his honor intact.

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February 20, 2016

How concerned are you Chris Bosh's blood-clots issue could shorten his Heat career? New poll. Vote now!; plus Kiper's latest mock pick for Dolphins, Manny Pacquiao, Sam Bruce, verdict on Miami's G.O.A.T. team, me in Big Canoe & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20. Here us a really meaty Rolling Stone piece on why Mike Love (of the Beach Boys) is considered such an a--hole. Recommended reading. 2) Been away a few days (we have something on our journey here below). Still not back in the paper, but happy to be back in the blog saddle. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The G.O.A.T. of all Miami championship teams with poll, Chris Bosh's latest health scare & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Heat minor players at trade deadline: Miami traded guard Brian Roberts and a future second-round draft pick to Portland for cash, after earlier acquiring him in the Birdman Andersen deal. Heat also dealt Jarnell Stokes to New Orleans in a salary dump of a bit-part player. Both minor deals that barely rate the transactions wire.

WHAT IS YOUR CONCERN LEVEL ON BOSH'S HEALTH AND HEAT FUTURE?: Blood clots can be akin to cancer in that they may disappear with treatment but then reappear. Remission can turn to Boshrelapse. It has happened to Heat star Chris Bosh, who missed the last half of last season with blood clots on his lungs and now is sidelined again, indefinitely, after the detection of a new clot in his calf. Naturally, abundant caution is being taken and no one yet knows (or is saying) when Bosh might return to the lineup. It may be soon, or he could miss the rest of the season. We just don't know. Likewise, we cannot know if the latest health scare will be the last to interrupt Bosh's NBA career, or if this is an issue that possibly could end his career prematurely. Two factors make Bosh prone to a clot reappearance: his height (6-11), which makes circulatkion more difficult, and the long plane flights that are a part of the job. A fear of the calf clot spreading could necessitate a level of blood thinner that could cause Bosh to miss the rest of the season. If the need for those thinners is seen as permanent, the condition could be career-threatening. For now, in the void of not knowing, all we can do is express our level of concern as we wish Bosh the best -- thinking of the man, husband and father first, and the basketball player and Heat second. What is your level of concern? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

KIPER EXPLAINS HIS NEWEST GUESS PICK FOR DOLPHINS IN DRAFT: ESPN's Mel Kiper is out with his second of 4,811 NFL mock drafts (click here to see it in full) and two things jump out. First, Ronniestanleyhe has Ohio State DE Joey Bosa of St. Thomas Aquinas slipping to sixth overall. Second, at NO. 8 overall for Miami, he now has the Dolphins selecting Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley (pictured). Sayeth Mel: "Adam Gase will be charged with getting Ryan Tannehill back on track, and getting a potentially elite tackle is a good way to aid in that process, as sacks have plagued Tannehill throughout his career thus far. Stanley returned to Notre Dame and made himself more NFL-ready. The Dolphins would benefit if he's available here." Sayeth me: I doubt it. In Branden Albert and Ja'Wuan James the Dolphins have solid starting tackles, and Miami cannot afford the luxury of drafting in the first round for depth or competition. I'd call Florida Gators CB Vernon Hargreaves a far likelier (and more sensible) 1R pick for Miami at this point.

On chatty Greg Jennings: Dude has lots to say for a guy who caught 19 passes, was a big disappointment and probably won't be back with the Dolphins. He's made a cottage industry of blatting about the state of QB Ryan Tannehill, a topic surely of minimal interest outside Miami. The latest: Jennings on ESPN2’s First Take, asked how far Tannehill is from elite, saying: "Don’t know. With saying I don’t know I guess I’m saying he’s far [away]. I’m being honest. None of us know. I’ve made the statements about them babying him thus far. It’s like he’s been handcuffed. He hasn’t been given the liberty. Until the end of the season when there was a coordinator change, he was not allowed to check out of a play. If you don’t let me be who I am, who you drafted me to be, you don’t trust me." What Jennings says, every Dolfan knows. Tannehill is the mystery new coach Adam Gase must unlock. That Tannehill remains that after four years is why there is a new coach.

PerfectPoll result: Still Perfect: '72 Dolphins the greatest of all Miami sports champs: The Dolphins, UM football, Marlins and Heat have combined to win 12 championships. We listed them chronologically and invited you to pick your top four. After more than 1,200 votes, the results: '72 Dolphins 25.4 percent; '83 UM 21.5%; '83 UM 9.7%; '13 Heat 9.0%; '87 UM 6.8%; '97 Marlins 5.7%; '06 Heat 5.7%; '73 Dolphins 4.5%; '12 Heat 4.0%; '03 Marlins 3.2%; '91 UM 3.1% and '89 UM 1.5%. If everyone cast the maximum four votes, multiplying each total times four would give you an idea of the percentage of times a team was mentioned on a ballot. In other words, the top two teams were clear choices, then it was a free for all. In case you wondered, my four picks were the four maiden champs: '72 Dolphins, '83 Canes, '97 Marlins and '06 Heat.  

MANNY PACQUIAO GETS A LESSON IN REALITY: Nike dropped aging boxer Manny Pacquiao in reaction to his religion-based criticism of same-sex marriage, calling people who do such things "worse than animals." I believe in freedom of speech, as long as you believe in consequences. Pacquiao has every right to feel as he does about gays and their civil and human rights, and to express those views. Just as society (or business partners like Nike) have every right to repudiate those views and remarks as out of step with fairness and a belief in diversity. What he believes is a doctrine of Bible-based faith, I happen to believe is bigoted and wrong. We are all entitled to our views. Unfortunately, there is little room for middle ground, compromise or discussion, is there? I wonder if God ever intended the Bible to become so divisive? Or likewise if the framers of the Constitution every imaged that doctrine also would become so polarizing? Doubtful on both.

SambruceWHAT WERE YOU THINKING, SAM BRUCE?: So receiver Sam Bruce abruptly withdraws from St. Thomas Aquinas High after it is revealed he sent a threatening photo of himself with a gun to a former classmate who had been involved with the same girl. The other kid called the cops. It should be noted Bruce (pictured) has not been charged with a crime, in that stupidity is not yet a crime. (Oh, if only!) This is only notable news because Bruce is a major part of the Miami Hurricanes' incoming 2016 recruuting class. It raises a red flag. Why does a teenager even have a gun to pose with? I'd be concerned if I were UM coach Mark Richt. The larger view is to again wonder what it is about athletes and guns? It seems to be a part of the football culture. We see it with adults in the NFL and that's sad enough, but not as sad as when we see it with kids making the move from high school to college.

HikingWHAT GREG COTE DOES ON A BRIEF HOLIDAY: We spent Sunday though Wednesday in Georgia, flying into Atlanta, renting a vehicle and driving about 90 miles north into the Big Canoe area, where friends who were away had invited us to stay in their mountain chalet. Idyllic! Did a lot of exploring, driving into surrounding small towns. Also spent much of a day hiking to Lower Falls, a gorgeous, huge waterfall. We found an abandoned cabin en route and I am pictured on the front porch violating two rules of the great outdoors. 1) I am hiking in dress shoes. 2) I am smoking a cigar in a forest. Anyway. Great time, no fires. Spent the final day in Atlanta, visiting the Georgia Aquarium (which made me lament that South Florida of all places does not have a world-class aquarium), and also the historic Oakland Cemetery. Yes, I am a graveyard junkie, a macabre hobby my wife indulges. The notable deceased there include Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949), the Gone With the Wind author, on whose unassuming tombstone rested a single flower and two pens. Nice touch.

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

Twitter @gregcote