June 29, 2015

Wade opts out as expected, Winslow will be Heat's biggest draft star since 2003.The new column; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 & more


1) It is MONDAY, JUNE 29. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Giancarlo Stanton injured, Heat-draft-Justise Winslow poll, Dwyane Wade poll, Panthers draft & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram, Vine and now Periscope, too.

WADE OPTS OUT: Heat star Dwyane Wade will opt out of the final year of his Miami contract and become a free agent, ESPN reports this afternoon in this story. The move is fully expected and had been anticipated for weeks. It does not mean that Wade and the Heat won't continue as partners. It does mean that the sides must come to terms on a new contract of that is to happen, with negotiations set to begin on Wednesday.  

The new column: Setting the bar sky-high for Justise Winslow: Click on No Ceiling, No Doubts for my latest column, on Heat top draft pick Justise Winslow, online now and shipping to Tuesday's inky pulp editions. Elsewhere in Heatville, in addition to Wade opting out, Luol Deng announcing today he is opting-in and staying with Heat, perhaps a mild surprise because there were media reports suggesting otherwise. Also, team announcing it won't pick up option on Michael Beasley -- no surprise at all.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (updated Monday) 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:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Miami drafts Duke's Winslow, confronts Wade uncertainty: Heat hit big and fans were delighted Thursday night as team got Duke swingman Justise Winslow 10th overall in the NBA Draft. I won big, too, after investing, on a hunch, in lame media references such a "Justise Is Served" and "League of Justise." Now Heat fans turn from delighted to wringing-hands anxious as Dwyane Wade prepares to opt out and become a free agent by tonight's midnight deadline, his future in Miami uncertain as contract negotiations begin Wednesday.

2. MARLINS: Stanton injured, Fernandez's return to mound on deck: MLB home-run leader Giancarlo Stanton is sidelined with a broken bone in his wrist, likely for four to six weeks, adding injury to the insult of a disappointing season for Miami that has included nine losses in past 11 games. Now speculation swirls that Miami may be sellers, not buyers, before the trade deadline. I’d say there isn't much more reason to watch, except at least Jose Fernandez’s long-awaited return from Tommy John surgery is set for this Thursday, here, vs. the Giants.

3. PANTHERS: Cats host NHL Draft, target goal-scoring help: Big week for the Panthers. Florida hosted the NHL Draft in Sunrise and took 6-4 winger Lawson Crouse 11th overall after earlier celebrating Aaron Ekblad’s NHL rookie of the year honor. But stop reading here if you believe in bad omens: After Florida hosted the draft for the first time in 2001, it missed the playoffs the next nine seasons.

4. SOCCER: U.S. faces Germany in Women's World Cup semfinals: The Americans beat China 1-0 on Friday to advance to the semifinals against Germany on Tuesday in a meeting of WWC co-favorites. American soccer fans would be thrilled (and surprised) if the U.S. men got this far, but it’s championship-or-bust for the women’s team.

5. TENNIS: As Wimbledon begins, can anybody stop Serena Williams?: The fortnight at Wimbledon starts today/Monday (cue strawberries-and-cream references) with Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams the favorites, as usual. Serena goes for her fourth consecutive major. Injury might stop Serena. Sometimes disinterest has. Other women players? Not so much.  

6. DOLPHINS: Fins win offseason, now off until training camp: In late July, the preseason will start with Dolphins training camp. For now, thanks to signing Ndamukong Suh and extending Ryan Tannehill’s contract, I declare Miami to be NFL Offseason Champion! No rings for that. No parade. The reward is the heavier expectations you lug into August.

7. DEFLATEGATE: NFL hears Tom Brady's appeal of suspension: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended the Patriots quarterback for four games based on the result of an independent investigation paid for by Goodell's league. So who hears and will rule on Brady's appeal? Goodell! Hmm.

8. PETE ROSE: Latest revelation ends last Cooperstown hopes: Then again, is it really shocking that Pete Rose, who previously admitted to betting on his team as a manager, also is now determined to have bet on his team as a player, too? 

9. CONFEDERATE FLAG: When politics and social issues seep into sports: The growing move to abolish the Confederate flag in the wake of the South Carolina church shootings has seeped into sports, such as NASCAR chairman Brian France saying his sport will be "aggressive" in disassociating the symbol from its events. Aside to Confederate flag supporters: The Civil War was in the 1860s. Might be time to move on.

10. NUDE ATHLETES: Roster announced for ESPN mag's 'Body' issue: ESPN The Magazine announced the 24 sports figures who are to appear nude (though artfully covered) in its latest “Body” issue due out July 6, and they include Bryce Harper, Kevin Love and Dan LeBatard. OK, I made up that last one.

Missing the HB10 cut: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross teams with Qatari investors in bid to buy Formula One racing circuit. And Sean "Diddy" Combs arrested for allegedly swinging kettlebell during confrontation with a UCLA assistant coach who supposedly mistreated Combs’ son.

Poll result: Overwhelming thumbs-up for Heat drafting Justise Winslow: We asked your initial reaction to Miami selecting Duke's Justise Winslow 10th overall in the NBA Draft and 86.0 percent answered "very favorable" and another 8.7% "somewhat favorable. A negligible few answered either very (2.8%) or somewhat (2.5%) unfavorable. 

Poll result: Solid support for keeping Dwyane Wade: We asked you to describe how much you want the Heat to re-sign Dwyane Wade and more than 80 percent answered either "a lot" (48.3%) or "the max" (32.6%). Fewer than 20 percent answered either "a little" (11.1%) or "none" (8.0%).

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March 28, 2015

It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida!; plus Heat in good hands, unbeatable Kentucky, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Miami Open, Cats alive, Miami-izing of ESPN Radio & more


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes in NIT semis with poll, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Jarred Cosart, Marlins odds, Dolphins draft, MLS/Miami, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Turning awful into good: That racist fraternity video at the University of Oklahoma was awful, but the positive response of the Sooners football team reminds us of sports' power to involve itself in issues that matter. Click on Bigger Than Games for my latest column.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat fall, Cats still alive. Update entering SaturdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 33-39 (L1) after last night's 99-86 loss at Atlanta, 3 games from 6th with 10 games left (next Sunday vs. Detroit). Heat playoff likelihood: 73.0% (down 4.8) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 34-40 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 3 points from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Montreal). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

1aa1asupersatWELCOME TO SUPER SATURDAY: It's a Super Sports Saturday in South Florida. We have the 64th Florida Derby at Gulfstream (I'll be there columnizing). UM's football Spring Game is up at Lockhart Stadium. The Miami Open continues down on Key Biscayne, including Serena Williams' match delayed from Friday. The spring Marlins host Astros up in Jupiter. Panthers try to keep NHL playoff hope alive at Montreal. Oh, and the NCAA Tournament begins its Elite Eight with 1's Kentucky and Wisconsin both in play. That enough for you?

1aa1aheatbig3NBA EXPERTS VERIFY HEAT IN (VERY) GOOD HANDS: The Heat may have a losing record post-LeBron and looking like a playoff seventh-seed, but regard for the people running the franchise remains high.
An ESPN experts panel this week lists NBA owners, front office executives and head coaches, first to last, plus an overall ranking, and Miami shines. Heat is ranked second in ownership (Micky Arison), third in front office (Pat Riley), sixth in coach (Erik Spoelstra) and No. 3 overall, trailing only San Antonio and Golden State. (The Spurs swept all four categories). Riley, Arison and Spoelstra are pictured left to right, immortalized on canvas -- the Heat's real Big 3. 

CAN WE PLEASE STOP PRETENDING ANYBODY CAN BEAT KENTUCKY?: I cannot remember seeing a more lopsided game this deep into an NCAA Tournament than the 78-39 Kentucky rout of West 1aa1asweet16Virginia in the Sweet 16. The Mountaineers were awful, can't shoot straight, but it was KY's defense and size that preened. You hear analysts still speculating about who can beat Kentucky and how, but it's just an injection of false drama against the growing inevitability of John Calipari's Wildcats finishing as the sport's first unbeaten national champs since 1976. By the way all seven of eight higher-seeded teams won in the Sweet 16 round (all but Oklahoma), so the March Madness Upset-o-Meter is now at 19.6 percent, with 11 upsets (based on seeds) in 56 games thus far. (By the way, CBS and Turner report that TV ratings have been the highest for a Sweet 16 since 1991, and up 30 percent over last year. So Kentucky as flagship seems to be helping, not hurting). 

Poll result: UM in NIT semifinal is big deal, sort of: We asked if the Miami Hurricanes men's basketball team reaching the NIT semifinals (Canes face Temple on Tuesday) is a big, medium or minor deal. You voted big 42.7 percent, medium 40.2% and minor 17.1%.

MIAMI OPEN: SHARAPOVA FAST-TRACKS INEVITABLE ELIMINATION: No. 2-seed Maria Sharapova (pictured) losing to little-known Daria Gavrilova in the Battle of the Russian 'Ovas' became the 1aa1amariasfirst notable big news of the Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Typically Sharapova reaches the women's semifinals or even the finals before getting steamrolled by her career nemesis, Serena Williams. This year, it was as if she chose to concede early to that inevitable fate. Sharapova's unexpected early ouster and the fact Roger Federer isn't playing on the men's side robs the Miami Open of some luster.

CATS ALIVE! PANTHERS WITHIN THREE POINTS OF NHL PLAYOFF RANGE: Don't kick the Cats to the 1aa1abrandonpirricurb yet. Florida's 4-1 win at Toronto on Thursday led by two goals from Brandon Pirri (pictured) moved the Panthers within three points of Ottawa and fading Boston for the final Eastern playoff spot. Odds are still long but made better by the fact three of the team's eight remaining games are against the two teams they're chasing: Sunday at Ottawa, Tuesday at Boston, then April 9 against the Bruins here. May take a sweep of those three to get it done.

THE MIAMI-IZATION OF ESPN RADIO: Mr. Miami Dan LeBatard captains ESPN Radio's 4-7 p.m. national ship, and now the nighttime airwaves are going Miami, too. Starting this coming Monday, March 30, the reconfigured new 1aa1aespnradio
1aa1abomaninational lineup will feature "The Sedano Show" from 7-9 p.m., with Miami-raised Jorge Sedano, and then "The Right Time With Bomani Jones" (pictured) from 9-11, featuring the South Beach-living LeBatard protege who had been Dan's co-host on Wednesdays. (The LeBatard Show will audition several people to possibly replace Jones on Wednesdays). ESPN described Bomani's new show as "evocative." I think they probably meant "provocative," but let's not nitpick. David Roberts, ESPN Audio Network VP, rightly notes the lineup's diversity. LeBatard and Sedano are Hispanic; Jones and Freddie Coleman (on after Bomani) are black.

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February 18, 2015

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

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

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

Vote For Top Four (4)

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

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

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

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


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December 04, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rk      Player, team-pos.                LW     Season

1        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb         111     1,968

2       Jameis Winston, FSU-qb         90.5    1,844

3        Jacquez Johnson, FAU-qb     142.5   1,765

4        Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb            161     1,513

5        Justin Holman, UCF-qb           85     1,468.5

6        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb            35      1,255

7        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec        35      1,211

8       Alex McGough, FIU-qb            DNP   1,063.5

9        Lucky Whitehead, FAU-rb       47        958

10      Matt Jones, Florida-rb             29        924

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

SOPY Champions

2014    Duke Johnson, Miami-rb                1,968

2013    Jameis Winston, FSU-qb                2,107

2012    Stephen Morris, Miami-qb             1,900.5

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

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

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

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


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September 09, 2014

Do you support Canes coach Al Golden? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins, Ray Rice/Bruce Levenson, NFL pix 'n fantasy, SOPY standings & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10. Dolfan satisfaction running at a buoyant 96.4%. See previous blogpost for full results of first DSM poll. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins whip Patriots, DSM poll, QB wives, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On Ray Rice, Bruce Levenson: Amid the outcry over Rice's violent video and Levenson's racially charged email, we step back and suggest that Rice deserves a second chance in the NFL, and that there may have been some truth in what Levenson wrote. Today's latest column: Beyond the Condemnation. 

Bump for Dolphins Super Bowl odds: The win over New England sent Miami's updated Super Bowl odds (via Bovada) rising from 66-1 (tied for 19th) to a current 40-1 (tied for 12th). Seattle has bumped ahead of Denver, 7-2 to 9-2, as overall SB favorite. 

'FIRE AL GOLDEN' MOVEMENT TAKES SEED. DO YOU SUPPORT UM'S COACH?: OK, "Fire Al Golden movement takes seed" may be a tad dramatic, if technically accurate. It's a very small seed at this 1aa1aalgoldenpoint. Miami New Times has a piece about "disgruntled UM fans" raising money to fly a 'Fire Al Golden' banner over the stadium during the Florida State game in November, but the cause of one disgruntled fan, Danny Vazquez, seems to have modest support (though a pretty good publicist, evidently). His GoFundMe campaign has raised only $520 from 21 donors in six days, about half of what he needs for the banner. His FireAlGolden Twitter account has a modest 230 followers. Wasn't it just a minute ago we loved Golden and students were wearing white shirts and orange ties in his honor? Wasn't it just a minute ago we were lauding how he'd navigated UM through the three-year Nevin Shapiro/NCAA mire he inherited? Now he loses the opener at Louisville and we want his scalp? Seems silly to me, or at least way premature. What if UM is 2-1 and then wins at Nebraska? What if the Canes are 7-2 and ranked going into that FSU game? How silly would that banner flyover look then? The purpose of this poll is to gauge support (or lack of) for Al Golden. I wonder if the critics calling him Al "Folden" and supporting his firing are the majority, a lunatic few or somewhere in between. Tell me. Tell Al. Tell each other. Vote now and say why.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: SOLID START: We'll update you briefly every week (on Tuesday or Wednesday) on 1aa1afripixhow we did the previous NFL weekend with our published predictions and with our fantasy-leahgue team. Pix: We went 11-5 overall and 8-8 against the spread, nailing three outright upsets including Dolphins over Pats. Fantasy: Greg's Lobos, after a miserable 2-12 season last year in our eight-team league, won its opener 167-126, led by Calvin Johnson's 36 points.

SOPY: DEFENDING CHAMP WINSTON VAULTS TO SECOND: A Week 2-best 142 points lifts FSU quarterback Jameis Winston into second place in our blog-exclusive State Offensive Player of the Year
1aa1asopy(SOPY) rankings -- "the State Heisman." This is a cumulative weekly updated list of the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from Florida's seven FBS college football teams: Miami, FSU and Florida, FIU and FAU, and South Florida and UCF. Our past two season SOPY winners have been FSU QB Jameis Winston (2013; 2,107 points) and Canes QB Stephen Morris (2012; 1,900.5 points). Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Standings are for regular seasons and do not include conference championship games or bowls, so that all seven teams are on even footing.


Rk (LW)   Player, team-pos.            Wk2    Season

1 (1)        Marlon Mack, SoFla-rb        80       384

2 (3)        Jameis Winston, FSU-qb     142     348

3 (2)        Rashad Greene, FSU-rec    80       289

4 (--)       Alex Gardner, FIU-rb           138     199

5 (7)        Duke Johnson, Miami-rb     103      198

6 (6)        Karlos Williams, FSU-rb       87       189

7 (10t)     Brad Kaaya, Miami-qb         99.5    176.5 

8 (--)       Jonnu Smith, FIU-rec          133      153

9 (--)       Jeff Driskel, Florida-qb       137      137

10 (--)     Rodney Adams, SoFla-rec   60       136

10 (10t)   Jay Warren, FAU-rb             59      136

Bubble: DeMarcus Robinson, Florida-rec, 129. Other team leader: UCF--Justin Holman-qb, 115. Season's best week: Mack, SoFla-rb, 304 points (Wk1). Note: All seven state FBS teams have played two games except Florida and UCF (1 each).

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

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August 17, 2014

I do ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge (with video); plus new Hot Button Top 10; plus Ferguson, Mo., verdict on UM's D'Onofrio & more

1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 18. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-Bucs exhibition, Mark D'Onofrio poll, LeBron cheer/boo result & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Hurricanes ranking outlook: Miami is ranked 39th in the Associated Press preseason ranking, or 14th among "others receiving votes" after the Top 25. Realistically, that means it'll take at least a 2-0 start, perhaps 3-0, to see the Canes ranked.

I FULFILL MY ALS ICE-BUCKET CHALLENGE: I have developed a love-hate relationship with the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge. The cause -- raising funds to fight Lou Gehrig's Disease -- is a great one. That's why I happily went along. (And yes, there was ice involved). The gimmick has been a fabulous success in raising not only money but awareness. Whomever dreamed this up hit big, because it seems everybody is doing it from famous sports stars and celebrities to regular folks. Now, though, I'm sort of ready for this thing to go away, even as I feel guilty saying it. This is like anything that goes viral and is fun for a while and then you get sick of it. Think Gangnam Style. We also can predict the spate of copycat "challenges" by others in the name of fundraising (or attention-getting). Just wait and watch. God bless America.


HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is an added Sunday feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition has been on summer hiatus, scheduled to return to the newspaper next Sunday, Aug. 24. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Pass passes, run fails: The quarterbacking was great -- Ryan Tannehill, especially Matt Moore and even newly acquired Brady Quinn -- and so was the overall defense in last night's 20-14 exhibition win in Tampa, but the running game sputtered. It was minus-5 yards in first half, meaning you outgained Miami while sitting on your couch.

2. UM football: Quarterbacks 1 and 1A: It is 15 days until the season begins and the Canes still aren't sure if Jake Heaps or Brad Kaaya -- co-No. 1s on the depth chart -- will start the opener at Louisville. Competition is a good thing. So is a decision. Soon.

3. Marlins: Another shot at .500: After winning six of past nine Fish have another chance today to get back to .500. They enter Sunday only 3.5 games back for NL wild card. Giancarlo Stanton's best case for MVP isn't the homers, but that he has this team, sans Jose Fernandez, in playoff chase.

4. Heat: Christmas present: Release of 2014-15 NBA schedule confirmed the Heat will host Cleveland and LeBron James Dec. 25 in his first return to Miami since leaving in free agency. Four months to decide, South Florida: Cheer or boo?

5. Social media: Ice-bucket challenge: Are we tired yet of the ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge? Not the fund- 1aa1aiceraiser for the terrible disease, but the incessant videos by sports stars and others dumping ice on their heads? Hope not. Because mine's coming later today. (Cannot confirm the whole idea was based on a casual suggestion from the ice industry).

6. Soccer: EPL underway: The English Premier League season is underway, with a growing audience of U.S. followers. It's like the World Cup, if the World Cup only involved one country. Sunderland! Stoke City! Woooo!

7. LLWS: Mo'Ne Davis: A girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis of Philadelphia, has been the talk of the ongoing Little League World Series. She's been giving the boys nightmares. Dreams, too, perhaps? (Oh, c'mon. Like you hadn't start noticing girls when you were 12 or 13?)

8. Baseball: New commissioner: Rob Manfred was elected MLB's new commissioner. Manfred hopes to bring something different to the ofifce following guys like Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig. A personality!

9. NASCAR: Stewart idle again: Tony Stewart will voluntarily sit out a second straight race today in the wake of tragedy in which he killed a sprint-car driver on a track in upstate New York. The phrase for that? "Smart public relations."

10. Notre Dame: Academic fraud: Notre Dame football is scandalized by allegations of academic fraud involving four prominent players -- not exactly a quartet to rival the Four Horsemen for nobility. Here's to the Cheatin' Irish!

[Preemptive strike on what's below: You--"Why are you talking about race relations and political stuff!? This is supposed to be a sports blog! Cancel my subscription to the Internet!" Me--This is a Greg Cote blog, sports-based but broader. We also talk pop culture. We talk about what's fun and absurd. Sometimes we also talk about what's not fun, but real].

ON FERGUSON, MISSOURI: I get the outrage. I can't feel it like I could if I were black and living in Ferguson, Mo., but I get it. Some of the same anger and helplessness hit my own state last year with 1aa1afergusonTrayvon Martin, another young black teen, 17, killed for what 1aa1aferguson2seemed no justifiable reason. A neigborhood security-watch guy held the gun in that case. In Ferguson, it was a cop, and the victim was Michael Brown, 18. There are complications here, though; there is gray area. Had Brown just stolen from a convenience store and punched the clerk as surveillance video suggests? Not saying that justified the police shooting; it did not. But it does help explain the possible mindset on both sides of the tragedy. There were angry protests in Ferguson after Brown was shot, when it first appeared he was more of an innocent victim than we would later learn. And I understand a community needing to vent. What I don't get in Ferguson, or anywhere, is how outrage and legitimate protest segue to violence and then looting. I can't find that bridge in my mind. Can't find it in how I think civilization should work. One minute, you are demonstrating the police-shooting of a teenager. The next minute, you are marauding through the shattered window of a liquor store. The police response in Ferguson -- tear gas and rubber bullets -- seemed excessive, but did the looting and violence invite it? Quickly, then, the images conveyed to the rest of the country are of looting and cops in riot gear, and focus on a young man's death is lost. Everything here is sad: The shooting, the militaristic police response, and, yes, the people of Ferguson who found that bridge from protest to looting, and poured across it.

Poll result: The heat is on UM's D'Onofrio: We asked your opinion of Canes defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio and about half, 49.8 percent, answered "moderate/let's see what happen this year." But "negative/wish he were gone" outnumbered "positive/gets a bad rap" by more than a 4-1 margin, 41.1% to 9.1%.

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May 22, 2014

Who's biggest Heat-hater in national media? Poll has Top 5. Vote now!; plus Landon Donovan, Mark Cuban, Dolphins rookie camp & more

1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 23. I'm up in Random Evidence Laboratories today summonging the newest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Pacers Game 2 with video, why Hoosiers hate me, benevolent umpires & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Instagram and Vine.

1aa1asymonetteFacts That May Only Interest Me: There will be 119 officials working NFL games this coming season. The only one of the 119 who graduated from a Florida college is Tom Symonette, No. 100, line judge, 11-year veteran, ex-Gator.

Speaking of Heat haters...: Bill Simmons (among frontrunners in our Anti-Heat poll below) will be in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket.

WHO GRAND MARSHALS THE ANTI-HEAT PARADE?: It's always something. It's always someone. The national commentary that rubs Miami the wrong way and makes a Heat fan shake his or her head. The 1aa1akeephatinglatest is Charles Barkley this week saying, "Those fans in Miami are not real fans, those fans in Cleveland are real fans" -- in predicting and encouraging James to return to the Cavaliers. Before that, during the Heat's Game 2 win in Indiana, Bill Simmons surmised that LeBron's slow start in the game may have been because he'd heard Cleveland had just won the draft lottery. Oh, and don't get a Heat fan started on Skip Bayless! They're 1aa1aheatleseverywhere: National journalists or talking heads who never seem to give the Heat enough credit or can barely contain their delight in speculating LeBron will leave. In this poll I have listed alphabetically my Top 5 Anti-Heat guys, in either reality or perception (your choice). I could have listed others such as Michelle Beadle, Ric Bucher or Brian Windhorst. Maybe you'd include Stephen A. Smith? That's where the 'other' vote comes in. Have I left anybody out? Vote for who you consider to be the biggest Anti-Heat person in the national media and say why.

ON MARK CUBAN'S ADMISSION: Outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in a newly published article in Inc. magazine: "I know I'm prejudiced. I'm bigoted in a lot of ways. I mean, we're all prejudiced 1aa1amcubanin one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it's late at night, I'm walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there's a guy that has tattoos all over his face -- white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere -- I'm walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of. I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I'm not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it's not appropriate for me to throw stones." (Click here for the full interview. He made similar comments yesterday in a speech in Nashville). The comments are immediately controversial; them coming in the context of the NBA's Donald Sterling mess gives them added volume. Clearly Cuban, unlike Sterling, has no track record of racism. Still, Michael Wilbon today, for one, called Cuban's comments "awkward," called the reaction a "firestorm" and said the owner must explain himself further. Me? I think Cuban was speaking a human-nature truth that lives within most of us in terms of stereotyping. I give him credit for saying it aloud. But I also find "If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it's late at night..." to be especially troubling, because it is that exact stereotyping mindset that may have gotten Trayvon Martin killed.

SHH. THE DOLPHINS ARE PRACTICING: Dolphins have a rookie mini-camp today/Friday through the weekend 1aa1ajjamesand it flies largely undetected by local radar. It isn't just the overshadowing Heat playoff run. It's the lack of anybody -- anybody -- with star appeal. That can happen when your No. 1 draft pick is an offensive lineman (in this case Ja'Wuan James, pictured, from Tennessee). That can also happen when five of your eight picks are from North Dakota State, Liberty, Montana, Coastal Carolina and Marist. Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Michael Sam and others bring big noise to other NFL teams' rookie camps. Miami's incoming crop of eight draftees and some 20 undrafted free agents may prove bounteously successful. But, going in, may we admit it's on the Dull side of the Excitement scale?

ON THE LANDON DONOVAN EXCLUSION: Was surprised and disappointed by the news Landon Donovan had been left off the final 23-man USA roster for this summer's soccer World Cup. Bold call by coach 1aa1alandondJurgen Klinsmann. Donovan played in previous three World Cups and is all-time leading U.S. scorer in international goals with 57 (in 156 games). Here is the statement Donovan put out on Facebook: "It has been an honor and privilege to have represented the U.S. national team in three World Cups. I was looking forward to playing in Brazil and, as you can imagine, I am very disappointed with [Thursday's] decision. Regardless, I will be cheering on my friends and teammates this summer, and I remain committed to helping grow soccer in the U.S. in the years to come." Donovan, at 32, had lost a step, but I felt his World Cup experience and savvy would have been a stabilizer for the team. Klinsmann's decision is ripe for second-guessing.

WATCH WHERE YOU PARK: Are you an able-bodied person who has ever ignored a "handicapped 1aa1ahandiparking" sign and parked in a spot reserved for those with disabilities? Or seen somebody else do that? Click here and you may think twice. By the way, the old-fashioned "handicapped parking" logo we are used to is getting a makeover, being replaced by a more dynamic, forward-leaning figure as pictured. Me, I'd like to see an even more dynamic logo in which the stick figure in the wheelchair is a pointing a gun at someone parked in his spot.

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April 29, 2014

Silver hammers Sterling: Clippers' racist-owner banned for life, with Heat reaction, poll result; plus Jameis Winston, Bruce Springsteen & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30. ICYMI, click on The Perfect Quarterback for our column on the death of Dolphins icon Earl Morrall. It generated a voluminous positive reaction. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte Game 4, Donald Sterling poll, RIP Dr. Jack, Dolphins draft, Herald building, Panthers firing, Jeff ireland, NCAA odds & more. 3) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Crab theft sacks Winston:
 Man the folks over at TMZ are en fuego. Just days after breaking the Donald Sterling/racist tape story, they report here that Florida State has booted two-sport star Jameis Winston off the baseball team after a charge that he stole crab legs from a grocery store.

 SILVER HAMMER! 1aa1aadamsCLIPPERS OWNER BANNED FOR LIFE, FINED MAXIMUM: New NBA commissioner Adam Silver (pictured) wasn't fooling around yesterday. At a news conference in New York he banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling "for life" for racist views expressed in an audiotape -- views that outraged players throughout the league. Silver also fined Sterling $2.5 million, the maximum allowed by the NBA Constitution. In addition, Silver said he would seek a three-fourths majority vote of NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the team. Click Silver Lining for my latest column, online and in today's inky pulp editions.

Poll result: You support tough sanctions against Sterling: We asked what the punishment should be for Sterling and most, 58.6 percent, said he should be made to sell team or relinquish power, while 20.8% said he should be suspended and/or fined. Another 16.9% said no punishment, that he has a right to his views, while 3.7% said an apoogy was enough. (You may still vote in our previous blogpost).

Heat react to decision: Heat players and others were among the NBA family reacting strongly and positively to Silver's actions Tuesday against Sterling. A sampling from Twitter: Owner Micky Arison: "Great job Adam.The NBA is in good hands. You have my full support." LeBron James: "Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerfukl league!! Great leader!!" Dwyane Wade: "Commissioner Silver....STRONG...way to take charge and protect our great league."

THE BOSS REIGNS IN SUNRISE: We saw Bruce Springsteen at the Panthers arena in Sunrise last night (posted a couple of Vines from it) and for me he lived up to and in some ways exceeded his legend's 1aa1abrucesstatus. Stevie Van Zandt was not in the E Street Band last night but he was mostly missed visually with that iconic bandana. The sublime Tom Morello, from Rage Against the Machine et al, more than made up musically. Attendees, in the mosh pit near the stage, included Heat prez Pat Riley and his lookalike pal, actor Michael Douglas. [Background: This was my fourth Springsteen show. The first was his famous Orange Bowl gig in September 1985 on the Born in the USA tour, the next was his Ghost of Tom Joad acoustical tour at the smaller Sunrise Musical Theater in December 1996, and the previous was I think May 2008 back at the hockey arena on the Magic tour. I call myself a big Springsteen fan, though not a know-every-lyric-to-every-song worshipper]. Last night's show was weighted to non-radio hits, though he played enough of those to satisfy casual fans. Are there casual Springsteen fans, though? You get the feeling 90 percent of the fans at his shows are devotees wearing 30-year-old Springsteen T-shirts. No artist I have ever seen live connects better with his audience, and last night that was literally. He constantly walked among the crowd to sing and at one point fell backward into the floor-level throng and was slowly transported in that fashion at least 20 yards back to the stage, singing all the while. What a sight. What a show. There were so many signtaure songs Springsteen did not perform, including "Born In the USA" and "Glory Days," but nobody seemed to mind. It was three hours of verifying his nickname with energy and excellence: The Boss.

Springsteen setlist from last night: 1--Clampdown; 2--Badlands; 3--High Hopes; 4--No Surrender; 5--I Wanna Marry You; 6--Linda Let Me Be The One; 7--Boom Boom; 8--Hearts Of Stone; 9--Talk To Me; 10--Wrecking Ball; 11--Hungry Heart; 12--Save My Love; 13--The River; 14--Prove It All Night; 15--My Love Will Not Let You Down; 16--Darlington County; 17--Shackled and Drawn; 18--The Ghost of Tom Joad; 19--The Rising; 20--Land of Hope and Dreams. Encores: Highway To Hell; Born To Run; Dancing in the Dark; Tenth Avenue Freeze-out; Shout; The Wall; Thunder Road (video of latter below).


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April 28, 2014

G4: Heat 109, Charlotte 98: Sweep = sleep!; plus new Dolphins draft projections, NBA racist-owner poll, Panthers, Dr. Jack, Ireland, Herald & more

1aa1amichotwalt1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 29. Demolition has begun on the iconic Miami Herald building, and Walt Michot's photo here is worth a thousdand words, all of them sad. 2) Jay Z and Beyonce's summer tour will kick off June 25 at Dolphins stadium. 3) ICYMI, click on The Perfect Quarterback for our column on the death of Dolphins icon Earl Morrall. It generated a voluminous positive reaction. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte G3 with preview/live blog/postgame thoughts/Sunday reflections, Dolphins best-game result & more. 5) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Panthers fire coach: The Florida Panthers today fired coach Peter Horacheck. It isn't a susprise in the least. They never removed the "interm" tag from him, he did not spark a notable turnaround, and the Cats need a replacement with more NHL experience. With an impressive young nucleus of talent and the No. 1 overall draft pick coming, Florida has a fairly inviting roster. Now GM Dale Tallon must find a premier goal-scorer and make the right coaching hire to re-energize a listing franchise.

No radio today: No me today on the Dan Le Batard Show. I'll be on Friday this week instead.

DOLPHINS LATEST DRAFT PROJECTIONS: ESPN dueling Mock Drafters Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay crap their latest guesswork today and Kiper has Miami selecting Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley 19th overall, while McShay has the Fins picking Virginia tackle Morgan Moses. They have Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin -- the guy Miami really wants -- going 15th and 17th, respectively. Sounds like a trade-up for Martin may be the way to go.

Seahawks hire Jeff Ireland as a temp: Champion Seattle has hired ex-Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland as a consultant through next month's draft. Explained coach Pete Carroll: "We were tired of all this success." Naw, Pete didn't really say that. But Seattle really DID hire Ireland.

G4 FINAL: HEAT 109, CHARLOTTE 98: SWEEP = SLEEP: Postgame: Miami sweeps Charlotte 4-0 with tonight's triumph led by LeBron James' 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Now let the playoffs begin! I mean the real playoffs. Brooklyn-Toronto winner on deck for Miami in next round, but, with that series tied 2-2, Heat could be in a for a full week's rest thanks to this sweep. Tonight's Heat 3 Stars: 1. LeBron. (Or did that go without saying); 2. Chris Bosh, with 17 points, 8 rebounds; 3. Norris Cole, with a sparky 13 points, 4 assists off the bench. ..... Halftime thoughts: Heat trail by two 54-52, but Al Jefferson sitting for Bobcats with foot injury and like Heat based on flow of game. Funny that Charlotte fans boo LeBron James at every touch. It's so 2010! Loved Heat's pregame warmup-shirt stunt in support of Clippers and against racist Donald Sterling. Miami shooting only 41.5%, only 2-for-12 from 3 and LeBron with a mortal 11 points and yet it's a (near) even game. Thse things do not bode well for the Bobs. ..... Original post: While playing golf on Saturday (I had a 93 at Inverrary-East while my showboat son shot 79), I predicted the fired-up Heat would win that night's Game 3 easily but 1aa1aheatchag4 1aa1aheatcha 1aa1aheatsweepthen lose Game 4, which is tonight. I called the first one right. Now I'm wavering on tonight.  All know the series is effectively over, and that in 108 all-time NBA playoff sets the team up 3-0 has won every time -- 108 for 108. But human nature can work two ways tonight. It might spark the Bobcats to avoid the embarrassment of a series shutout coupled with the Heat being complacent and coasting. Or! It might find the Bobcats going through the motions, resigned to defeat, while the Heat rev it up again for the sweep -- knowing that would mean welcome extra rest before the next round. Unlike Saturday, I don't have a strong feeling which way this one will go. (I'll be back here with commentary at halftime and postgame).

THE LIST: HEAT-CHARLOTTE SERIES SCORING LEADERS: The top five updated through Game 4:

1. LeBron James, Heat            30.0

2. Kemba Walker, Bobcats       19.5

3. Al jefferson, Bobcats           18.7

4. Dwyane Wade, Heat            17.5

5. Chris Bosh, Heat                 14.5

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated through 4 games/first round): Entering second round: LeBron James 11 points, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Bosh 4, Chris Andersen 1, Norris Cole 1, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

MY VIEW: NBA SHOULD FORCE OUT STERLING AS OWNER. NOW YOUR VIEW GOES HERE: No company or entity that deals with the public can afford to be owned or led by a racist -- let alone a franchise owner in 1aa1adonaldsthe NBA, with more than 70 percent of its players African-American. That is why L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling's racism on that audio tape is such a bombshell-crisis for the NBA and must be dealt with quickly. For now the NBA has told Sterling (pictured) not to show up at Tuesday's Clippers home playoff game, but surely more punishment is ahead. I think Sterling needs to be forced out as owner or at least be made to relinquish his authority -- the harshest penalty. But a hefty suspension and/or fine also is possible. Perhaps you think a public apology would suffice. Some of you may even think no punishment is due because, after all, it's a free country and Sterling isn't breaking any laws with his views even as they outrage most of us including NBA star like the Heat's LeBron James, who said, "There is no place for Donald Sterling in our league." How would you handle this situation if you were new NBA commissioner Adam Silver? (Hmm. Sterling and Silver. How bizarre). Take a dip in our poll and say why.

1aa1adrjackHEAT REACT TO DEATH OF "DR. JACK": [Update: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is pcitured left at age 10, with Dr. Jack at a basketball camp in 1980. Lil' Erik was so cuuuuute!] Original post: Jack Ramsay passed away Monday morning at age 89 at his home in Naples, Fla., after a long battle with cancer. (Naples, 1aa1adrspocoincidentally, was also the adopted hometown where Dolphins great Earl Morrall died on Friday). Ramsay is best known as the basketball Hall of Famer and 20-year NBA coach who led the Portland Trailblazers to their only championship in 1977. But his post-coaching career in broadcasting also was long and accomplished. He has a niche in Heat history as the team's eight-season on-air personality alongside Eric Reed from 1992-2000. Fans may recall the Dr. Jack nugget, "This-away, that-away, Hardaway!" Team owner Micky Arison said today, "When I first bought the team we had no basketball organization in place and Dr. Jack was the first person who I turned to for advice. So for a few days, he was the entire basketball organization for the Miami Heat. Over the years I often turned to him for advice. Club president Pat Riley said: "Dr. Jack Ramsay meant a great deal to me as a mentor when I was coaching and while I've been with the Heat running the team." Ramsay's long, remarkable life included a pre-hoops stint in the Navy working underwater demolition. R.I.P.

GATORS, CANES ODDS FOR '15 NCAA MEN'S HOOPS TITLE: With deadline past for declaring for NBA draft, new odds are out on 2014-15 NCAA men's basketball season, and national-championship favorites are Kentucky at 5-1, Duke 9-1, Wisconsin 12-1 and Kansas 14-1. Florida, Arizona and North Carolina are bunched at 16-1. Miami is 66-1, ahead of Florida State's 100-1.

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April 16, 2014

Wed pm 4-16: Heat isn't as good as past two years. True or False? Poll. Vote now!; plus Heat-Charlotte in 1R, scary saga of Puig, local $$$ list & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16. Panthers win lottery for No. 1 overall pick in June NHL draft. Here's betting GM Dale "Trader" Tallon swaps it. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why No. 2 seed is better for Heat, Philbin on candid camera, Nirvana, NHL playoffs, Bubba, Pacquiao & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Heat open playoffs vs. Charlotte here Sunday: It's Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats in first-round Game 1 here Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC-TV. No need for instant over-analysis; Miami should sweep. Be interesting though to watch Udonis Haslem's defense against Al Jefferson. Miami rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh in tonight's meaningless regular-season finale vs. Philadelphia, a loss. Recently sidelined Dwyane Wade saw limited action and looked sharp, and Greg Oden returned from injury.

DIFFERENT CHALLENGE AND DOUBT CHASING HEAT INTO PLAYOFFS: The Heat love a challenge. Love to be doubted. LeBron James says that all the time. OK, so here's the challenge and the doubt, Heat, and it's 1aa1abig3heatdifferent than in the past: Are they good enough? Simply that. Because the presumption is that this Miami team seeking a three-peat just isn't as good as the teams that won back-to-back championships. A worse regular-season record is the backbone of the presumption but there's more. Of the two big new additions, Greg Oden hasn't played much and might not at all in the postseason, and Michael Beasley has faded out of the rotation. Departed Mike Miller is sorely missed, still. Ray Allen and Shane Battier just seem older. Depth appears to be thinner. Chemistry doesn't feel as rock-solid. Then there's Dwyane Wade's fragile health of course. These things -- not to mention how great San Antonio is -- cast Miami as a somewhat vulnerable defending champ as the playoffs begin this weekend against Charlotte or Washington. Do you buy the basic premise that this Heat team is not as good as the ones that won consecutive titles? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

THE BIZARRE, SCARY ODYSSEY OF YASIEL PUIG: The L.A. Times' Los Angeles Magazine, in its May issue, has a lengthy and fascinating piece on Dodgers star Yasiel Puig written by Jesse Katz. Get it 1aa1apuigyHERE. It reads like a screenplay. It probably will turn into one. It is the tale of Puig's path from Cuba to the major leagues via Mexico, and it is fraught with shady characters, skullduggery and ominous overtones. Read it, understand Puig a little more, and suddenly you'll be less focused on his speeding tickets or his showing up late for a game. The story gives a new understanding and appreciation for his situation. The young man has a lot on his mind. Reportedly his path out of Cuba was underwritten by a Miamian, Raul Pacheco, and involved smugglers -- human traffickers working for a major and murderous Mexican drug cartel. There are allegations that Puig promised 20 percent of his future earnings and that some exceptionally unsavory people may still be looking for their money. If I were the Dodgers and MLB I'd not only take this seriously, I'd enlist the FBI and anybody else who might help. What a scary tale. Forget protecting your investment, Dodgers. Protect Yasiel Puig.

Sad coincidence for baseball: This week marked the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, and this week there are exactly -- and only -- 67 active African-American players on MLB rosters. 

"MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY ... MON-EY!" (PINK FLOYD, 1973): ESPN has a list of the world's 1aa1amoneytop-paying sports teams, and Manchester United of soccer's English Premier League is on top with an average salary of $8.11 million per player, edging the Yankees' $8.03 million. The Heat check in 16th at $5.57 million, led by LeBron James and Chris Bosh at $19.1 million apiece. Interestingly, among Greater Miami's other three pro teams, the Panthers are next at $1.85 million per, edging the Dolphins ($1.77M) and Marlins ($1.55M).

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