August 27, 2016

D-Wade's cousin killed in Chicago shooting; plus Dolphins impress in dress-rehearsal and Fins talent vs. hope; also, Canes football dissed in royalty rank, Marlins host WBC, Rolling Stone joins us, Jeff Francoeur, Heat's summer grade, Zika & more

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

Zikabillboards1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 26. The Marlins' comeback from 6-2 down to win last night -- that's one of the games they'll look back on and credit should they make the playoffs. 2) Marlins hosting WBC: Marlins Park will host first-round World Baseball Classic games next March 9-12 involving USA, Canada, Colombia and reigning champ Dominican Republic. 3) A new double-billboard (pictured) in Miami-Dade near the Wynwood epicenter of the Zika virus has been put up to promote condom use against the spread of the virus. Click on image for larger view. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins preseason thus far with poll, Race Of Champions coming to Miami, what really sank Ryan Lochte, KFC sunscreen & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Miami only 14th among college football 'royalty': ESPN in this piece today examines which schools lead the list of college football royalty. They have a five-way tie for first place, which is lame. Also dubious: the Miami Hurricanes, tied for sixth with five national championships in the poll era, are ranked only 14th, below both Florida and FSU. Oy!

Imagine if Dolfans were optimists right now: Preposterous, I know. But that is the premise of today's new column by me. Pessimism is easy. Optimism takes effort. Click on All The Things That Could Go Right to read our latest column in full.

Column six-pack: Six other select recent columns, ICYMI: The Real Olympic Ideal (it isn't gold medals). Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter (on new-name Hard Rock). Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars. The Weight Has Just Begun (inside the office and expectations of new Canes coach Mark Richt). A Chance for Football to Retake Miami (on Wade's departure from Heat). Ichiro!

The Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls will be back with the regular season. Look for the first one the night of Sept. 11.

NykeaaldridgeWADE'S COUSIN KILLED IN CHICAGO SHOOTING: Just a few weeks ago at the ESPY Awards Dwyane Wade was one of four NBA stars to somberly address the issue of gun violence in America. "Enough is enough," he said. Yesterday in Chicago, Wade's own cousin was fatally shot on Chicago's South Side. Police said Nykea Aldridge, 32 (pictured), died when two men fired shots at a third man walking with Aldrudge and that the bullet was not intended for her. Aldridge was pushing a baby stroller when killed. She was the daughter of Wade's mother's sister. So awful. Wade, the former Heat star now with the Bulls (still strange to say), Tweeted last night: "My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough." Click here for the full story via the Chicago Tribune.

PS3: DOLPHINS 17, ATLANTA 6 (FINAL) IN ORLANDO: STRONG SHOWING IN DRESS REHEARSAL: Postgame thoughts: OK I wrote that "Try Optimism" column and a lot of you angst-ridden Dolfans chided me. Fine. But last night you saw signs. Miami was playing a team that won two more games than the Dolphins did last year and Miami controlled the night. Tannehill looked sharp. The offensive line protected well. The defense looked solid. Overall a very encouraging performance. Ndamukong Suh was excellent before leaving with a minor ankle injury. I wonder if Zak Dysert might unseat concussed Matt Moore as backup QB. Bottom line? A good night for the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase. ..... Halftime thoughts: Very solid half by Miami. One that is encouraging. Ryan Tannehill sharp, 20-for-29 for 155 yards, with at least three drops, and the one interception off a deflected ball at the line. Not much running game, but a fair dose of Arian Foster (5-10 rushing with a TD, 2-20 receiving). Offense held possession by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Dolphins defense solid, too, limiting ATL to 116 offensive yards on 27 snaps. Good to see Cam Wake in his season debut. Coach Adam Gase on first half: Said offense "did a a good job. A tipped ball for a pick is always a tough one to swallow but I thought I liked the tempo of the guys." Also liked his defense: "We got some hands on some balls. I feel like they did a great job as far as putting pressure on them. The four-man rush was good. Coverage was tight. I feel like we made some strides." ..... Original post: The third exhibition of four is a Dolphins "home" game tonight, though it's being played up in Mousetown, scheduled there originally as a hedge in case the facelift on the newly renamed Hard Rock Stadium was not yet ready for public view. Miami is 1-1 in fake games after winning at the Giants then losing in Dallas, but of course PS3 is always the big one, the one dress rehearsal in which starters play a lot and how you look sort of matters. The exhibition finale Miaatlwill be mostly rest-starters/don't-get-hurt mentality, so tonight is the night to see the closest facsimile yet of the actual 2016 Dolphins. But only to a point! Expect Miami to not show much or flex the playbook offensively. Why? Simple. The Falcons' second-year coach, Dan Quinn, got hired because he previously was Seattle's defensive chief, and now runs the same defense (albeit with much less talent) in Atlanta. Miami opens the regular season where? At Seattle. So the Fins obviously won't provide a lot tonight for the Seahawks to study and prepare for. That's standard NFL gamesmanship. Having said that, the starters will play more than in the first two fake games. Receiver Jarvis Landry said tonight is "not something to judge us by," but also acknowledged the added emphasis on PS3: "Of course. Usually the third preseason game for your starters is the game that you get the most burn. For us, it’s an opportunity to go out and make it feel like a game as much as possible." Hopefully we'll see a sizable dose of Arian Foster, who continues to be slotted higher than Jay Ajayi in (for what it's worth) fantasy rankings and drafts. Also interested to see if Cam Wake, back from an Achilles injury, makes his season debut defensively. Coach Adam Gase must cut 15 players from the roster by this coming Tuesday so the bottom-thirders will be playing for their professional lives tonight. Who says there's no drama in August! Since tonight's game counts, a little, sort of, I'll update scores live here as they happen and check in with halftime and postgame thoughts.

NsuhQUANTIFYING DOLPHINS' TOP-TALENT SHORTFALL: As Miami prepares for its third preseason game tonight in Orlando, the dress rehearsal vs. Atlanta, ESPN.com this week is out with its annual Top 100 ranking of NFL players, and your Dolphins fared poorly with but one player mentioned, the guy over there. Meanwhile elsewhere in the AFC East there are 16 guys mentioned among the Patriots' seven, the Jets' five and the Bills' four. The division's Top 100 talent, according to the Worldwide Leader's panel of 50-plus King Sport experts:

Patriots (7): 3rd overall--TE Rob Gronkowski; 6th--QB Tom Brady; 50th--S Devin McCourty; tie-56th--OLB Jamie Collins; 89th--CB Malcolm Butler; tie-93rd--WR Julian Edelman; and 99th--OLB Dont'a Hightower.

Jets (5): 30th--CB Darrelle Revis; 32nd--DE Muhammad Wilkerson; tie-56th--WR Brandon Marshall; 65th--DE Sheldon Richardson; and 72nd--C Nick Mangold.

Bills (4): 79th--DT Marcell Dareus; 85th--CB Stephon Gilmore; tie-93rd--WR Sammy Watkins; and 97th--RB LeSean McCoy.

Dolphins (1): 25th--DT Ndamukong Suh (pictured). That's it, folks. I thought Jarvis Landry deserved a spot somewhere in lower 100. Reshad Jones might have, too, and thought even Cam Wake still might have snuck in. Alas, no. Only Suh. And he plummeted from a No. 4 overall ranking a year ago.

Also of note on the list: Former Hurricane TE Greg Olsen (Panthers) ranked 45th, ex-Canes DE Calais Campbell (Cardinals) ranked 66th; former Dolphin and Cane DE Olivier Vernon (Giants) ranked 91st; and ex-Dolphin CB Vontae Davis (Colts) ranked 96th.

Poll result: Preseason thus far has made Dolfans less confident, not more: We asked how the Dolphins' first two preseason performances have left you feeling about the team and season, and by a more than 6-to-1 margin it was "worse" (62.8 percent), not "better" (9.6%). The other 27.6% answered "no different."

WELCOME ABOARD, ROLLING STONE: The Chicago White Sox have announced they will change the name of their stadium from U.S. Cellular to Guaranteed Rate Field. In other words, a bad name is getting worse. This led RollingStone.com, in this article today, to write the headline, "Yes, Chicago White Sox Have the Worst Stadium Name in Sports," with this subhed: "It's time to
Rollingstonestart protesting corporate sponsorship by calling your team's stadium whatever you want."
Hallelujah! You all know I have been saying and writing that for years, and that I generally refrain from referring to corporate-named stadiums and arenas in columns. Just last week, in this column on the renaming of Hard Rock Stadium, I wrote: "I fundamentally dislike the idea of corporate names on stadiums and arenas, as many careful or longtime readers know. In most columns I avoid them where possible. I go with generic descriptions, such as the Heat playing in "the downtown bayside arena." Because why should I pimp for an airline? (Or a casino?) TV networks that have lucrative partnerships with leagues are contractually bound to mention "Hard Rock Stadium" early and often during telecasts. But newspapers and other independent media are not. Neither are fans. Consider: All that's left is for franchises to lease their very team's name to corporate sponsors. "The Heat Presented by McDonald's," with golden arches on the jerseys. Would you start calling them the McDonald's Heat because you were told to? So why can't you continue to call it Marlins Park even after naming rights are sold?" So, apparently our little cause is growing. Welcome aboard, Rolling Stone. Nice of you to join us!

JfrancoeurHERE'S WHY MARLINS GETTING JEFF FRANCOEUR WAS SMART: Marlins last night acquired right fielder Jeff Francoeur (pictured) from the Braves, giving up a pair of minor leaguers. I like the now mentality; there is a wild-card playoff spot to be won. Francoeur, 32, is past his prime but not a has-been. Here's why I like the move: 1) There was a need, with Giancarlo Stanton out, and Ichiro better when used less. 2) Very good right fielder with big range and a strong arm. Has led NL in outfield assists five times and leads all active RF'ers in defensive double plays. 3) Can still hit. Last season and this one (a combined 619 at-bats), Francoeur has 20 homers, 29 doubles and 78 RBIs with a .258 average. Not great production, but not bad, either. And 4) Really positive veteran clubhouse presence for a young team in a stretch run. Good move, Fish. 

HeathiphopRILEY SAID HEAT HAD A BAD SUMMER. CONFIRMED!: Pat Riley called it a "bad, bad summer for us." SI.com this week agreed, giving Miami a "D-plus" in its NBA offseason grades. The Heat held onto center Hassan Whiteside but not a lot else went right, from losing beloved icon Dwyane Wade to the continuing uncertainty over Chris Bosh to being forced to overspend to keep Tyler Johnson to failing to land the "whale" Kevin Durant. Franchise's summer might have been a "F," but at least none of Micky Arison's cruiseships sank. Pictured right, apropos of nothing, the Heat logo reimagined, via an uproxx.com redesign of NBA logos as hip-hop artists. Trick Daddy: Liberty City's own!

PEYTON'S STILL AN NFL STAR: Love the new DirecTV ads starring retired Peyton Manning, to the tune of Lionel Richie singing, "It's Peyton on Sunday morning," as our man walks around in his bathrobe doing menial chores. That HGH/Al-Jazeera controversy rolled off Peyton's back like water off a seal. Now, even in retirement, he's still a likable, lovable star in the buildup to this NFL season.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day...

Twitter @gregcote

August 22, 2016

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Olympics, Hard Rock, Fins, Fish, Canes, Heat, Lakatriona, UFC; plus hear grandma rapping, your verdict on Greg's Lobos roster & more

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

Yaz1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 22. A happy birthday today to my wife, the greatest person I know or have ever known! 2) Also, happy 77th birthday today to one of my boyhood heroes, Carl Yastrzemski (pictured). Congratulations, Yaz,and here's to many more! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins clobbered in Dallas, Greg's Lobos 2016 roster with poll, your verdict on Hard Rock Stadium name & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Column six-pack: Six select recent columns, ICYMI: Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter, the latest, on the Hard Rock rechristening of It's Still Joe Robbie Stadium to Me. A-Rod to Fish Made Sense, on what might've been. Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars, on the Purgatory Four. The Weight Has Just Begun, inside the office and expectations of new Hurricanes coach Mark Richt.A Chance for Football to Retake Miami, on Wade's departure from Heat creating opening for Dolphins and Canes. Ichiro!, on wonder of ageless Marlin as he chased 3,000 hits.

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

Hotbutton1. OLYMPICS: Sublime to ridiculous, Rio Games are over: The sublime? The Summer Olympics wrapped up last night in Rio de Janeiro with the U.S. easily winning the most overall and gold medals, led by swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, by Simone Biles-led women's gymnastics and with men's basketball taking the crown on Sunday. The ridiculous? Plenty of competition, but vandalizing, lying Ryan Lochte takes the Fool's Gold.

2. FACILITIES: Hard Rock Stadium new name for home of Dolphins, Canes: The music-themed conglomerate of casinos, hotels and restaurants is paying Dolphins owner Stephen Ross $14 million a year to have its Hard Rock name on his stadium. Given how the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes have fallen off the national stage the past 10-plus years, I wonder if "Rock And & Hard Place Stadium" or "Hard Luck Stadium" would be names more apt.

3. DOLPHINS: Fins' defense blows in Dallas, third exhibition is Thursday: Miami is 1-1 in the preseason after Friday' 41-14 loss in Dallas. Ryan Tannehill looked good, but the defense looked like it was nowhere close to ready for September. Dolphins face Atlanta in fake-game three this Thursday in Orlando. That Sept. 11 opener in Seattle is coming fast. Uh oh.

4. MARLINS: Fish stop the bleeding as return home nears: Marlins stopped their slump with a three-game sweep in Pittsburgh completed Sunday, but still are 1 1/2 games back in wild-card standings beginning a six-game homestand on Tuesday. The one upside to the recent slump? Opportunity to start blaming Jeffrey Loria for something again.

5. HURRICANES: UM turns sights on FAMU and season: Fall training camp wrapped up Saturday for the Canes, who will have a scrimmage game Wednesday geared specifically for Sept. 3 season-opening opponent Florida A&M. Miami led the "others receiving votes" category in AP's preseason Top 25, meaning Canes are as close to ranked as you can get without being ranked.

6. LAKATRIONA BRUNSON: Miami Jackson coach makes history: Congratulations to Brunson, 39, who became the first woman to coach a football game in Florida high-school history. Added bonus: Jackson won its opener, 36-0, over Coral Reef. 

7. HEAT: Coach's message to fans leaves somebody out: Erik Spoelstra's video message to fans on team's website mentioned excitement over the young "core four" of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. We pictured a forgotten Chris Bosh thinking, "Hey. Remember me!?"

8. UFC: McGregor edges Diaz in thriller: UFC 202 saw Conor McGregor decision Nate Diaz in a fight that had pay-per-view buyers getting their money's worth. After taking some hits recently, including the anticlimactic letdown of ballyhooed UFC 200, UFC needed this.

9. SOCCER: Strikers debut with win in new home: The NASL's Fort Laudderdale Strikers debuted in their new home of Central Broward Stadium last night with a 3-1 win over Ottawa led by a spectacular bicycle-kick goal from Italian forward Amauri. Sorry, though, but I miss Lockhart already.

10. LITTLE LEAGUE: Youth baseball World Series underway: The Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., pits 16 U.S. and international teams of kids ages 11 and 12 vying to reach next Sunday's championship. Past controversies have included overage players. The latest: Nine players suspended for performance-enhancing Happy Meals.

Missing the HB10 cut: Marlins Park will announce this week it is hosting a 2017 auto race involving NASCAR and IndyCar drivers. Racing at Marlins Park? Warning track becomes race track? Sounds interesting ..... Marlins' Jose Fernandez became second-fastest ever to 200 strikeouts in a season, doing it in 139 2/3 innings. If only the science of cloning had been perfected ..... A game-worn Stephen Curry mouthguard sold for $3,190 at an auction. Proving true the old P.T. Barnum adage, "There's a sucker with $3,190 born every minute ..... James Harrison called Roger Goodell crooked. Is Donald trump suing for copyright infringement? ..... Bad news: Florida Gators suspend two from season opener. Good news, they hope: Luke Del Rio, son of Raiders coach Jack, named starting QB ..... Countdown five days 'til Arena Bowl 29. I won't watch, but thank you at least for not using Roman numerals ..... Darren Sharper: Sports' Bill Cosby. Sad. No, pathetic!

Poll result: Most give a thumbs-up, "solid" rating to Greg's Lobos fantasy team: We invited you to rate Greg's Lobos fantasy draft and 2016 roster led by Todd Gurley and Ben Roethlisberger and a plurality of 34.7 percent voted "solid/pretty good." After that it was 27.7% "decent/not bad," 14.7% "strong/really good," 13.7% "mediocre/meh" and 9.1% "weak/really bad." Had the options been letter grades, the As/Bs would have beaten Ds/Fs by better than a 2-to-1 margin, 49.5% to 22.8%.

GRANDMA RAPS, AND IT ISN'T AWFUL: When we call ourselves a sports blog that likes to surprise you with other stuff, we ain't lyin'. Here, a 74-year-old woman raps about Jesus, and it isn't nearly as terrible as it could be. Kicks in strong around the 30-second mark. Listen: 

 Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day...

Twitter @gregcote

February 13, 2016

Should Dolphins look into suddenly available Matt Forte? Poll. Vote now!; plus here's how bad Heat 3-point shooting is; also Dwight Howard, Panthers' record pace, ex-Canes at Combine, Ted Cruz's porn star, Kanye West's heavenly video game & more

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

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13. ICYMI, click on Riley's Last Push for my column earlier this week on Pat Riley's drive to win another Heat championship. 2) Marlins pitchers and catchers report in six days to spring training in Jupiter. 3) In The Previous Blogpost: Heat players in Top 100 and how much they were ours, Dolphins two-round mock draft, Shaq verdict, Riley's imperative, The List (Marlins homers), chocolate bunny under siege & more. 4Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Pats' owner throws shade on Mannings: Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a radio interview this week, referring to Archie Manning: "He has two sons who have won two Super Bowls [each]. But with all due respect, we've got one son who's won four."

ForteMATT FORTE TO THE DOLPHINS MAY BE WORTH EXPLORING: That's if Lamar Miller leaves and if Forte is affordable. That is the gist of my newest column; click on The Forte Factor to read. Matt Forte, the career-long Chicago Bears running back, announced yesterday the team would not re-sign him, meaning he will be a free agent free to sign with any team come March 9. Adam Gase, the Dolphins' new head coach, knows Forte as well as anyone, having been Chicago's offensive coordinator. And Miami may have a need at the position if, as expected, pending free agent Miller is not re-signed. At the least, Forte's sudden availability is worth exploring if the price is right. The downside: He just turned 30. The upside: Just about everything else. Forte has been durable, starting 120 of a possible 128 games in his career. He has averaged 1,075 rushing yards and 61 catches per season, and would offer the dual-threat Miami has rarely had. Also, because of his age alone, it could be a buyer's market; I suspect he'd be affordable -- the only circumstance under which this would make sense. I wonder what Dolfans think. Should Miami explore signing Forte or avoid him? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

BoshQUANTIFYING HOW BAD HEAT'S 3-POINT SHOOTING REALLY IS: At the All-Star Game break Miami's .323 accuracy on 3-point shots ranked third from the bottom in the NBA, ahead of only Minnesota and the L.A. Lakers. The Heat's 6.1 3's per game ranks fifth from the bottom. But I find more telling how this season ranks in Heat franchise history. Miami set a franchis erecord for 3-point accuracy at .396 just three seasons ago. Now? Here is the club's all-time bottom five in terms of 3-point accuracy. Chris Bosh (pictured) doesn't get enough help, especially with Tyler Johnson out injured. Note that three of the bottom-five lows happened in the franchise's first three seasons, when 3's were much less a part of the game and Miami had the excuse of being an awful expansion team. Bottom-five seasons for team 3-point percentage in Heat history:

Pct.    Season        Made-Atts.    Leader

.293   1989-90      88-300          Jon Sunvold, 44

.302   1990-91      140-464        Glen Rice, 71

.316   2003-04      348-1,100     Eddie Jones, 177

.323   2015-16      322-998        Chris Bosh, 81

.326   1988-89      97-298          Jon Sunvold, 48

DwighthowardDWIGHT HOWARD TRADED TO HEAT? WHAT ARE YOU, DRUNK?: There is speculation to that end as the Feb. 18 NBA trade deadline bears in and the Houston Rockets shop around a possible deal for Dwight Howard, 30, the 6-11 center. Certainly Miami would be an interesting landing spot if the the Heat feels it will need to replace Hassan Whiteside. Here is the problem. Howard has indicated his intention to become a free agent July 1, which severely limits trade interest in him unless the acquiring team can agree to a long-term deal rather just rent him for half a season. That's the same reason there is little chance the Heat could trade Whiteside before the deadline. Another problem: Would the Heat want to make Howard its big-money signing and effectively withdraw from the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes. Pat Riley loves big, bold moves and likely is doing his due diligence on Howard's availability. But call it unlikely that we'll be seeing for real the photoshop presented here. If Riley does make a pre-deadline deal, it'll more likely be for a quick-fix to the 3-point crisis.

ReillysmithFIRE ON ICE: THE PANTHERS' RECORD PACE: Florida not only is leading its NHL division but is on pace for the best regular season in franchise history. The top five seasons based on points percentage and points per game, noting that fifth place, '95-96, was the Stanley Cup Finals year. Current figures are updated through Friday's night's home loss to St. Louis:

Season        Pts.Pct.    PPG    Leading goal scorer

2015-16      .636        1.27    Reilly Smith, 18 (pictured)

1999-00      .598        1.20    Pavel Bure, 58

2011-12      .573        1.15    Tomas Fleischmann, 27

2008-09      .567        1.13    David Booth, 31

1995-96      .561        1.12    Scott Mellanby, 32

FIVE EX-CANES INVITED TO NFL SCOUTING COMBINE: It's Feb. 26-29 in Indianapolis, and former Miami Hurricanes footballers Artie Burns, Deon Bush, Ufomba Kamalu, Raphael Kirby and Rashawn Scott will be among the more than 300 draft prospects invited. It's a rather weak crop for UM. The cornerback Burns probably is the highest-regarded prospect, generally pegged as a likely third-round pick who could sneak into the low second round.

AmylindsayOOPS, SAYS THE TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: I love love love this story. Ted Cruz's Republican presidential campaign has scrambled to yank an ad released Thursday because it was reported an actress in the commercial formerly starred in soft-core porn. In the ad, the women refers to Marco Rubio as just a "pretty face." Well, that actress, Amy Lindsay, formerly appeared in such film titles as "Erotic Confessions," "Secrets Of a Chambermaid" and "Carnal Wishes." The controversial thespian is pictured at right. I'll say this in defense of the Cruz campaign. This does not make me like him less, because nothing could. I cannot confirm that Rubio criticized the ad ... and then repeated the criticism verbatim four more times.

KANYE WEST CREATES WORLD'S MOST DEPRESSING VIDEO GAME: Rap mogul and all-roound modest guy Kanye West has developed a video game called Only One, which centers around his mother (who passed away in 2007) and her path to heaven. He previewed a trailer Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, and we present it below. And, yes, it is every bit as strange as you might imagine:

 

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 23, 2015

ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings: How Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins rate on use of new-age info; plus get-well campaign for Bosh, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, fight verdict, Oscars review & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 p.m. on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. (And eyes, on the national-show webcast...)

1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pacquiao-Mayweather poll, Hot Button Top 10, Dragic debut for Heat, Oscar snorts coke & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Stuck in the middle with you: Those six words are more than a 1972 song by Stealers Wheel. They describe the position of So-Fla sports fans, as I explore in today's latest column. Click on Border Town to read. Heat and Panthers clawing just to make playoffs, UM men's basketball on NCAA Tournament bubble, Dolphins and UM football stuck in mediocrity, Marlins improved yet not a betting pick for playoffs ... everywhere you look, our teams are better than bad but maybe not quite good enough.

Corner to Fins in first round?: For what it's worth, USA Today's new, post-Scouting Combine mock draft has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. My comment: That's be a great, but it's doubtful the draft's top CB will still be around at No. 14.

MIAMI TEAMS FALL SHORT IN ESPN ANALYTICS RANKING: ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com are calling 1aa1aanalyticsit "The Great Analytics Ranking" and it is now on The World Leader's website; click here. (Illustration shown is from the magazine). ESPN rated all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams on how it judged "the strength of each franchise's analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics." Teams were slotted in one of five tiers: All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics and Non-Believers. The Dolphins, Heat and Panthers all rated in the middle ground of One Foot In, while the Marlins are in the bottom rung of Non-Believers. Here is ESPN's synopsis (minimally condensed by me) of each Miami team:

DOLPHINS: Owner Steve Ross and GM Dennis Hickey have become proponents of analytics, and new VP Mike Tannenbaum is a recent convert. Ross is heavy user of analytics in his real estate business and has been frustrated by its relative infancy in NFL. In summer of 2014 team hired Dennis Lock, who holds graduate degree in statistics, to head a football analytics group. At same time Dolphins announced hiring of sports science analyst Dave Regan, and in September, Tom Pasquali, with a graduate degree in applied statistics and experience in Yankees front office, joined Lock's staff. Tannenbaum said in January he planned to hire a "sports performance director" and acknowledged, "We have a long way to go, but we started something in terms of trying to give ourselves a competitive advantage." Miami has monitored player health for several years, and coach Joe Philbin has altered practice schedule to improve sleep habits by becoming only coach to give players Thursday off. But Philbin focuses on game film far more than stats, and it remains to be seen how well he'll use Miami's burgeoning analytics department.

HEAT: When analytics skeptics point out that coaches have been using numbers for decades, Heat president Pat Riley is commonly cited. As coach of Lakers, Riley famously devised his own efficiency rating for players. He passed that interest to protégé and coach Erik Spoelstra, who speaks the language of analytics. Riley devised a system the Heat still use to grade each defensive possession based on 54 criteria, focusing on the process of executing the team's system rather than results. Evaluations are done by Brian Hecker, Miami's director of basketball information technology, who gets the pertinent numbers to Spoelstra. In addition to lineup data, Spoelstra also has relied heavily on a simulation model developed by analyst Bob Chaikin. He has worked for Heat since 2008, following stint as consultant for team during 1990s, when Riley first arrived as coach. "I look at [stats] to evaluate our team, to compare us to other teams, particularly defensively," Spoelstra told NBA.com in 2011. "I also use it to make points to the team about things we need to improve. I use it also for scouting." Riley's fondness for statistical analysis doesn't seem to have carried over to his personnel work as team president. Miami has regularly punted valuable draft picks in favor of stacking bench with fading veterans. Heat's success, including three titles in past decade, has made it easy to justify sticking with an old-school approach. To get back to that level, Miami's front office may have to embrace details like analytics and international scouting that have gone neglected.

PANTHERS: The Panthers were wise to pick Brian Macdonald as team's director of analytics last summer, although they still have a skeleton crew compared to some other teams around league. Integrating him into team's decision-making has been a season-long process because of when he was hired, and his impact may not be felt until next season. "Anywhere there is data in this organization, I've tried to get my hands in it a little bit," Macdonald said. "That includes the business side of things now, also. The past couple months, I've been doing more business than hockey."

MARLINS: Marlins have a small, tight-knit baseball operations department that has shown very little interest in analytics. Team president Michael Hill was a two-sport athlete at Harvard, but like GM Dan Jennings, is a former player with a background in player development and scouting. The job of keeping the Marlins aware of analytics trends falls to director of baseball ops Dan Noffsinger, a longtime staffer who majored in applied math and economics at Harvard. Noffsinger has good reputation but a broader, less technical skill set than the leading sabermetricians being hired by other organizations. In a sign that Marlins might be ready to change their ways, they are looking to hire their first analytics interns this year to get their program off the ground.

HEAT INVITES YOU TO WISH BOSH WELL: Everything is so organized now. For example the Heat on
1aa1acbgetwellMonday (prior to beating lowly Philly at home) unveiled a getwellcb.com website to encourage fans to send best wishes to Chris Bosh, who will miss the rest of this NBA season as he undergoes treatment for blood clots in his lungs. Not sure the prompting was needed. Great player, great guy. Everybody rooting for Bosh. (He'll be on blood thinners probably at least through May, but is expected back fully for next season's training camp).

1aa1adanteesoffIT'S (STILL) GOOD TO BE DAN MARINO: Dolphins icon (and ambassador and now front-office consultant) Dan Marino tees off during his second annual Marino & Friends Bahamas Weekend event, as a deployed small battalion of the team's cheerleaders stand in the background looking all cheerleader-y. (The excellent photo is courtesy the Miami Dolphins). The Marino event isn't a fundraiser but rather a cross-promotion in which the Dolphins grow their brand in the Caribbean while the Bahamas promotes itself as a tourist destination.


IT WASN'T THE DAYTONA 500 NASCAR NEEDED:
 A race should not end under a caution flag. Start 1aa1ajloganothere. So it was the antithesis of a thrilling ending in NASCAR's season opener Sunday as Joey Logano (pictured) coasted to the finish. In NASCAR's dream it would have been fan favorite and defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and retiring Jeff Gordon duel-barreling to the checkered flag. Or maybe Tony Stewart finally ending his Dayton jinx. Nope, just Logano under a yellow flag. NASCAR, reeling from the domestic-abuse suspension of Kurt Busch, could have used a result that wowed fans in one of its signature events. Didn't get it. That's racin', I suppose.

Poll result: Hoping Pacquiao wins but predicting Mayweather: We asked your feelings on the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight and it was split. Most hope Pacquaio wins, 56.5 percent to 23.4%. But most predict Mayweather will win, 57.9% to 22.0%. (The other 20.1% said they have no interest in the fight).

THE ACADEMY AWARDS REVIEW: Sunday's Oscars telecast may or may not still be going on. The Big 3 winners were Birdman (best picture with Michael Keaton), Eddie Redmayne (actor for The Theory of Everything) and Julianne 1aa1abirdmanMoore (actress for Still Alice). Admit it: No other Oscar category really matters that much except to the winner. Admit it II: You'd never 1aa1abirdheatheard of Eddie Redmayne, either, before last night. Evening lowlight: Host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. Admit it III: Against high expectations, NPH wasn't all that good. Summary: Boyhood

took 12 years to make and one night to pretty much ignore. Quick aside: While watching a film called Birdman, 1aa1abirdraphow must Chris Andersen and Bryan Williams feel? Andersen of course is the popular Heat reserve nicknamed Birdman. Williams is better known as the rapper whose stage name is Birdman, co-founder of Cash Money
records. I'm no lawyer but think the two Birdmen pictured at right should sue the movie for royalties. Speaking of the Heat and movies, I cannot confirm that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the story of how an NBA team works to integrate newly arrived Goran (Dragon) Dragic into its lineup.

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August 19, 2014

4 ways Marlins can keep Stanton. Will they? Poll. Vote!; plus Mo'Ne Davis, Johnny Middle Finger, wax Beyonce, Ray Allen, Stitches & more

1aa1akanyepaul1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20. R.I.P., James Foley. 2) Former Dolphins great Jason Taylor will join Mike Florio's 'Pro Football Talk' show this season on NBCSN. Taylor will appear Mondays as well as other days. 3) Kanye West and Paul McCartney reportedly are collaborating on new songs. Hmm. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge video, Hot Button Top 10, unrest in Ferguson, verdict on D'Onofrio & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1amonedavisMo'Ne Davis doomed to life of spiraling decline: Sad to report that Little League World Series star Mo'Ne Davis appears on the cover the new Sports Illustrated, subjecting her to the infamous S.I. Jinx and a life of cascading woe.

Personal radio note: I have informed The Ticket (104.3 & 790) that I won't be back on the station's Dolphins pregame show this season. Have done it past three or four years and wanted change of pace. Also find that my increasing role with LeBatard show sufficiently sates my radio appetite.  

WHAT MARLINS MUST DO TO KEEP STANTON: In my latest column I make the case why Marlins rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton should be considered the frontrunner for the NL MVP award -- a case further bolstered by last night's game-winning hit. His nearest competitiors have fallen or are flawed. Mostly, he deserves it on his own merit, and his league-leading 1aa1agia132 homers and 88 RBIs are just the start. Click on G-Spot for the entire column. In it I touch on but want to explore further here what Miami must do to keep Stanton long-term. Many baseball experts continue to believe Stanton will be traded before he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season because the Marlins don't think he'll re-sign here long-term. I don't think that is as true as it once was, and I believe the Marlins also sense hope that wasn't there before. Stanton, for his part, has smartly remained shades of silent to vague on his future, which would be a big distraction if  he let it. I see four major factors in what I call the continuing, quiet courtship of Giancarlo Stanton: 1) MONEY. I put this first because it is most obvious, not neccesarily most 1aa1agia2important. Miami only has a chance to keep him if its offer is market-competitive, and that will soar above the $25 million-a-year mark, because so many big spenders (Dodgers, Red Sox, et al) will want him. The Marlins let Miguel Cabrera get away. It cannot happen again. The club for some time now has planned to make Stanton a long-term offer after this season. 2) TEAM. What's the roster surrounding Stanton as you bid to re-sign him? This season is encouraging. That Miami is still in the playoff hunt even without Jose Fernandez can't but please Stanton. The Marlins added pieces, got better. As manager Mike Redmond told me yesterday, "Last year was tough for him, it wasn't fair to him. We didn't have guys around him to help him out. Now we do. It has energized him. He's happier. He's smiling. He wants to be part of a winning team." 3) COMMITMENT. This has not been owner Jeffrey Loria's strongsuit but it is where he must step up. The talent-adding and improvement must continue; Stanton must feel like he has a chance to win a World Series here. How will Loria's commitment show itself moving forward? Free agents after this season will include Royals ace pitcher James Shields. Will Loria surrender to the high-payroll teams or will he make a serious run at him? You know Stanton will be watching. 4. FANS. It matters. The crowd and atmosphere at Marlins Park has its role in all this. Stanton is an L.A. guy. The Dodgers average 47,000 fans a night. Miami can't compete with that but can do much better than its current average of 21,575 ranking 27th of 30 teams. TV guy Tommy Hutton blasted Marlins fans Sunday night for not appreciating Stanton, who was taken out of a big win late in the game after a home run and four RBIs in the midst of an MVP season. It was the perfect spot for an ovation; there was none. Redmond and the team know what they have in Stanton. Fans need to know it ... and show it. SUMMARY: The Marlins' unique advantage is that they can (and will) offer Stanton a contract extension now, meaning after this season, two years ahead of when other teams could. Doesn't mean he'll take it; he may be determined to test free agency. But it might be awfully tough for him to turn down what would amount to a $50 million head start on whatever riches are in his future. Miami cannot force Stanton to re-up if he wants out; as club president David Samson says, "It takes two to make a deal." But the club will make every effort to sign him, first, or, failing that, to get a trade-windfall in return. They'd demand proven talent in trade such as Yasiel Puig from the Dodgers or Yoenis Cespedes from the Bosox. OK, now the poll. We aren't asking what you hope will happen but what you honestly think is most likely to. We asked this same question in January 2013 and will be interested to compare results. Vote and say why.


Cardiac Fish:
 Marlins lead MLB in walk-off wins (11), one-run wins (32) and wins in last at-bat (21), after adding to each catgeory last night.

ON JOHNNY MIDDLE FINGER: So Johnny Manziel is playing badly in the Browns' preseason loss to 1aa1afingerWashington Sunday night and the Redskins are chirping to get under his skin and it works and Manziel flips a bird at their bench. (I bring you the screen grab without pixilating the gesture because anybody who's driven on I-95 has seen it). Johnny Football leads the NFL in jersey sales, but, we are reminded again, not in leadership or maturity. He's just a rookie, but you get the feeling he'll be doing the same s--- when he's 35. "I can tell you what the statement was that set him off," Redskins safety Ryan Clark said this morning on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show. "[It] was, 'This isn't college anymore and these people are faster than you are.'" It's a valuable lesson for Browns' opponents: You needn't sack Manziel to get to him.

ON THE RAY ALLEN HOME CONTROVERSY: The trespassers in the former Heat player's Coral Gables 1aa1aallenhomehome (pictured; story here) is an interesting tale, and a quandary. To the cops who did not initially file charges against the seven teens (all 18 or 19), it was sort of dismissed as a harmless prank. No forced entry, nothing taken, end of story. But Allen, his family and lawyer are treating it like a traumatic home invasion and pressing the case, demanding justice. The State Attorney's Office is considering charges. I see Allen's point. Seven strangers, young adults with flashlights, are in his house uninvited at 2:30 in the morning, frightening his wife and young kids? Sorry, but that sounds like a crime to me. Dumbass kids who meant no harm? Maybe. You still don't do what they did. There also seem to be racial overtones in this. These were seven Hispanic teens from a wealthy neighborhood in a black man's home. I wonder if seven black teens in a white man's home would have been treated as such a harmless prank?


1aa1abeyonce"DEAR GREG...":
"...your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a photo of a wax Beyonce' standing with insouciance among a flock of disinterested wax geese from Madame Tussaud's in London. Thank you." Dear reader: I'll get right on it.

CATCHING UP WITH STITCHES: Remember Stitches, the local rapper who flared into 1aa1abrickpublic consciousness during the past NBA season when his song, "Brick In Yo Face," caught the attention of the Heat's lockerroom? (A scene from the video is pictured). I'd have imagined that Stitches' proverbial 15 minutes of fame would have expired by now, but his oddball cult celebrity is exhumed and rescussitated in a lengthy piece in the latest Broward New Times. Click here to read. It is everything you wanted to know about this guy, and probably much, much more.

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May 08, 2014

On Dolphins' choice of OT Ja'Wuan James: New poll. Vote now!; plus Miami cruising after G2 win, Heat 3 Stars named

1aa1legend1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 9. I'm back up in Random Evidence Laboratories today inventing Sunday's Sunday notes-column package. 2) This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Bob Marley classic album, 'Legend,' the track-listing of which I know by heart from repeated listening. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Nets Game 1, hot Marlins, Mountain Dew, Cowell cat & more. 4) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF DOLPHINS' FIRST-ROUND PICK? VOTE NOW!: The Dolphins last night 1aa1jawuanjamesselected Tennessee offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James 19th overall in the first round. James (pictured) unquestionably had a solid college career, starting 49 games in the tough SEC. But, also unquestionably, he was a reach at 19 and almost certainly could have been had in a trade-down. Plenty of experts even saw him as a likely second-rounder. Clearly the Dolphins and new general manager Dennis Hickey targeted position need over "best available athlete," a conservative tactic by a rookie GM. What do you think? The poll question means to be all-encompassing. I want to know what you think of who Miami picked based on where he was chosen and the quality of the player weighed against team needs. I also want you to factor in the club's decision to not trade up or down, and the selection made vs. other players who Miami could have chosen but did not. Overall: Your gut feeling on the team's top pick is what? Vote and say why.

IT WAS THRILLING THURSDAY: MIAMI IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Rare was the single day, like last night, when Miami's three biggest pro teams all were on a main stage this big, with the Heat hosting Brooklyn in Game 2 of their NBA playoff series, the Dolphins in the first round of the NFL Draft, and the hot Marlins awakening in first place in the NL East. Enjoy, South Florida...

G2: HEAT 94, BROOKLYN 82: MIAMI UP 2-0, IN CHARGE: LeBron James' 22 points, Chris Bosh's 18, Dwyane Wade's 14 and Ray Allen's 13 off the bench led Miami last night. Brooklyn tried to deny the Heat the paint; nothing worked. Click on Benjamin Button for my column off the game, on the spark Miami is getting in this series from a reenergized Allen. Click here for a postgame video with myself and Heat writer Joe Goodman. Original post: Miami's comfortable Game 1 win here Tuesday night will have been relegated all but meaningless unless the Heat hold serve again tonight and 1aa1g2 1aa1heatnets2carry a 2-0 series lead up to Brooklyn. It'll be interesting to note what adjustments are seen, and whether Miami stays with Shane Battier in the starting five. Adjusting is now the burden of Brooklyn, though. The Nets cannot beat Miami playing smallball but have few options, unless the ghost of Kevin Garnett can be the offensive and defensive presence he wasn't in G1. The Nets' 4-0 regular season advantage over Miami is long-gone and irrelevant. Brooklyn must now prove it belongs on the same floor with Miami and can make this the competitive series we thought we were getting.

Attention to Stitches has me in stitches: So before the previous game, in the Heat lockeroom, Chris "Birdman" Andersen is yelling singing the refrain of a song called Brick In Yo Face, by a Miami rapper, 1aa1birdman




1aa1stitches18, who calls himself Stitches. (Read interview with the kid here). The song is basic angry-shout rap, not bad but derivative of hundred things heard before. It's about cocaine, money, guns. The usual. Did I mention Stitches has AK-47s tattooed on his face? Notable here is how mainstream media always swoons over something like this, particularly with local radio mad-scrambling to talk up Stitches and pander for street cred and younger ears. I heard one radiohead today sugges Bird's hype song should be played in the arena. Sure, Pat Riley'd go for that! And maybe Disney should book the Chippendales! My contribution to Stitchmania in this first and only mention is to note that Stitches and Bird (left to right) appear visually to be kindred spirits who but for the age difference might have been separated at birth.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (updated): We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis. Last night: 1. Ray Allen, 2. Chris Bosh, 3. LeBron James, with honorable mention to Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. Through six playoff games: LeBron James 14 points, Chris Bosh 7, Ray Allen 6, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Andersen 1, Norris Cole 1, James Jones 1.

FINALLY, THE NFL DRAFT. WHAT WILL DOLPHINS DO?: Original pre-draft post: The NFL Draft. It's what you've been waiting and waiting for but somehow are already sick of even though it  hasn't happened yet. Am I right?

1aa1nfldraft 1aa1doldraft

1aa1dhickeyAnticipation in Miami is probably luke-warm on the excitement scale. I mean, how amped can you be when your team is selecting No. 19, the big need is an offensive lineman, and the big talk is about a possible trade-down? (Pardon me if I suggest the electricity at the Dolphins' stadium draft party tonight may not equal the concurrent current ricocheting through the Heat's bayside arena). Nevertheless! It's still the Dolphins, the draft and the first round. And we'll be waiting to see if it's a pedestrian or magical night for new GM Dennis Hickey (pictured), the Silver Fox. What you got, D-Hick! So it's big, dammit.

My 23rd annual Miami Herald Mock Draft: My annual guesss-n-pray is out. Click Cote Mock '14 for the entire thing, including exclusive Super Bonus Draft Facts. I ended up getting 25 of 32 first-round picks correct overall but had only three bull's-eyes with exact player to exact team. Here was my full capsule for Dolphins pick:

19. Miami Dolphins: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama -- What I think the Dolphins should do is trade up for Notre Dame OT Zack Martin and plug him in on the right side to fill their greatest position need. But new general manager Dennis Hickey, with only a bare-bones seven draft picks, is not likely to part with 1aa1mosleyany. And barring a trade-up, Miami would be in no-man’s land at No. 19: Draft’s four best tackles all gone and no other O-lineman worthy. A trade-down to then select an OT such as Virginia’s Morgan Moses also is in play. If they stay put, well, ILB is not as great a need but it is a need, and Mosley (pictured) is the best one in this draft, the only one of 1R quality. Miami’s run defense was astoundingly bad or at best erratic last year, and Mosley brings that Alabama pedigree. He also is top notch in coverage, a need for a team that tended to get clobbered by opposing tight ends. Mosley has a bit of an injury history, but if Miami is confident he’s healthy, he would be a great value at 19. He'd be in that “best available” category, with OL needs not forgotten, but deferred to later picks.

State-school draft projections (via ESPN): 1st round--UCF QB Bortles, FSU DT Jernigan. 2nd round--FSU WR Benjamin. 3rd round--UF DT Easley. 4th-to-7th rounds--UM: QB Morris, WR Hurns, OT Henderson, OG Linder. UF: WR Patton, TE Burton, OG Halapio, C Harrison, OLB Powell. FSU: RB Freeman, RB Wilder, C Stork, OLB Smith, OLB Jones. UCF RB Johnson. USF DE Lynch.

MARLINS WIN ON ROAD! MARLINS WIN ON ROAD!: Snap a picture of the standings, Fish heads. (I did,
1aa1standingshere). They showed Miami tied for first in the NL East after a club-record 8-1 homestand that has the team an MLB-best 17-5 at home this season. It's that Loria magic! OK, maybe not. Anyway, that's the good news. The bad news is Miami 2-10 on the road and embarking on a season-long 11-game West Coast roadie starting last night in Padreland. But make it 3-10 now after last night's 3-1 win in 11 innings. Jose Fernandez will have three starts on the trip, so hope lives. First-place Marlins. Man! Might be time to ressurect that "Everybody's Doin' the Fish" song. (Yeah, yeah, yeah!) Sure it was awful. But still better than "Brick In Yo Face." See, everything is relative.

1aa1beckham

OOPS. SPELL-CHECK, PLEASE!:
The Miami Herald sent out this week Tweet promoting its latest coverage in the ongoing David Beckham/soccer stadium story. Unfortunately, Beckham's name was misspelled as Beckman. OY!

Click back often. We update and add to these latest blogposts so often it's almost enough to break the Internet...

March 26, 2014

Wed pm 3-26: Who is greatest Ralph of all-time? Urgent new poll. Vote now!; plus Heat lose at Pacers, Diddy's parenting, topless protest & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat panic poll, Bosh's birthday bash, Marlins' Samson acting, Madness takes a breather, Sweet 16 odds & more. 2) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

WHO IS THE GREATEST RALPH? VOTE NOW IN THIS IMPORTANT NEW POLL: Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died yesterday, and that got us thinking. Who is the greatest Ralph of all-time? I love the name Ralph. To me it sounds funny (ralf) and is a comedic name, yet its origin is nobly masculine ("wolf counsel") and it has identified some very accomplished people. I have winnowed the great Ralphs to 11 for this poll. Did I miss anybody? This is purely Ralphs, no Rafaels, but a special hometown shoutout to the late Rafael "Ralph" Sanchez, founder of Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is a Boutique Poll. By that I mean it may be unpopular and of interest mostly to me, because I'm weird. OK. Onto the poll: Who's the greatest Ralph and why? Let's get Ralphing!

HEAT FALL AT PACERS: Eastern Conference rivals split two games in December, now Grudge Tres on Wednesday night went  to host Indiana, 84-83, despite LeBron James' 38 points. It was must-watch TV, deliciously physical and acrimonious. (Click on Playoff Feel for today's Heat-Pacers preview column by me). This has turned into the best rivalry in the NBA, and tonight only furthered that. Heat was up 80-76 before faltering. Didn't help that with 2 minutes left Dwyane Wade went out with an apparent hamstring tweak, underlining the question, "Can the Heat count on Wade physically?"

Heat three-peat confidence eroding, but still there: We have asked three times now at spaced intervals: Will the Heat win a third straight NBA title -- yes or no? On Oct. 29 (preseason), it was 83.0 percent yes. On Dec. 12 (with a 16-6 record after a loss to Indiana), it was 70.4% yes. Now, in our latest blogpoll, it's down to 62.8% yes. Interesting trend.

ART OF SPOILING CHILDREN TAKEN TO NEW LEVEL: Sean "Diddy" Combs is planning a lavish Sweet 16 1aa1amaybachbirthday party for his son Christian and has hired a brand placement company to elicit swag to fill goodie bags in exchange for Facebook and Instagram mentions from Diddy. In 2010, dad gave son Justin a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. By my reckonming there is no way either Combs child will be able to avoid spiraling into a Bieberesque life of entitlement, drugs and arrests or, even worse, involvement with a Kardashian.

1aa1aspaintopTOPLESS PROTESTORS CRASH PRO-LIFE RALLY: I so seldom get to write a headline like that. To me it has a "headless body found in topless bar" vibe. Anyway, in Spain on Sunday, topless female protestors painted like skeletons crashed an anti-abortion rally. Presented is an arresting image. Literally.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blgopost... 

May 08, 2013

G2: Heat 115, Bulls 78. Champs strike back!; plus bizarre story behind Middle-Finger Lady, Lil Wayne, Dolphin threats, Charles Ramsey song & more

1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 9. The national group, People Who Feel Sorry For Jodi Arias, will be meeting tonight in that phone booth over there. Plenty of room. 2) Marlins closing off upper deck for some games to make crowds seem bigger. What a major inconvenience for the six fans who've been sitting up there! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's Game 1 loss, Derrick Rose poll, the non-LeBron voter, Serena 'n Sloane, baseball awards odds. 4) Join us on Twitter @agregcote.

Click on Sense Of Order Restored for my column off last night's Heat's series-evening Game 2 rout.

1aa1jkpicWell I reckon this here photo from Wednesday's Game 2 pretty much shows how much Heat fans in general love Joakim Noah and how cute we think his adorable little hair-bun is!!!: (I can't be sure, but I think her middle finger might actually be lodged in Noah's right ear). Dear Joakim: We sure appreciative your constant sneering, whining and arm-flapping. We wish your hair-bun would catch on fire. Love, Miami.

[Postscript: Bizzare backstory to Middle-Finger Lady: She is Filomena Tobias, her daughter told the Sun-Sentinel today. Name ring a bell? Her wealthy husband Seth drowned in his Jupiter swimming poll in 2007. No foul-play was determined, but his four brothers sued Filomena in civil court claiming she drugged him and caused his drowning. The guy pictured with her fiance, the VP of an Atlanta wealth-management firm. The daughter said, "She's embarrassed [by the photo] but she's being a good sport. All she has to say is that people need to get a life." Here is The Herald's story].

1aa1midfingNews Mashup: What if the Heat's Middle-Finger Lady had been in Cleveland during Charles Ramsey's hero interview?: I believe this woman has found a possible new cottage industry as the Irate Lady who appears in all circumstances and situations angrily delivering da bird.

1aa1dwverWade strikes back in post-game attire: LeBron James had the crazy interview-session garb after Game 1, all floral and bird-y. Challenged, a sartorially splendid Dwyane Wade (pictured) struck back impressively last night with a shirt/light jacket combo that looked like it was the creation of Versace on hallucinogens.

G2: HEAT 115, BULLS 78; MIAMI EVENS SERIES 1-1: LeBron James' 19 points and Ray Allen's 21 off bench lead six Heat players in double figures as Miami win by the biggest margin in club playoff history and deals Chicago its worst playoff defeat. Brutal game. Nine technical fouls and second each leading to ejections of Bulls Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Headed to the Midwest now at 1-1 as speculation continues to swirl about a dramatic Game 3 return by Derrick Rose. Column off tonight's game should be posted soon. Original post: You can 1aa1bullsheatpartly blame the rest/rust factor for Monday's 93-86 Game 1 Heat loss that featured clanky 39.7 percent shooting and unusually disjointed defense. Or you can simply target the fact that Heat 3-point specialists 1aa1bullg2Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Mike Miller were a combined 4-for-15 beyond the arc. If each hit just one more 3, Miami wins. But I look to other stats that must be corrected tonight in what, realistically if not literally, is a must-win for Miami. Chicago outrebounded the Heat 46-32; that gap must narrow. Four Bulls had more boards than Chris Bosh. Step up, Bosh! And this: Dwyane Wade took zero free throws Monday, and LeBron James took fewer than either Nate Robinson or Jimmy Butler. That must change. Miami can't rely on making 3's so much that it concedes the paint. The Heat need a manlier, more aggressive mindset on both ends of the floor. They'll have it tonight. I see Miami -- team and fans -- showing up a lot better than in Game 1. They'd sure as hell better.

1aa1bullwayneJust to be annoying, Heat nemesis Lil Wayne hops on Bulls bandwagon: As if Miami didn't have enough incentive tonight to even this playoff series after dropping Monday's opener? Rapper Lil Wayne hates the Heat and shows it at every turn, including boasting on-stage that he'd had relations with Chris Bosh's wife. Here Wayne is pictured celebrating with Bulls players after Game 1, courtesy Bulls guard Rip Hamilton, who posted the pic on Instagram. Wayne, referencing Nate Robinson's 24-point second half, also Tweeted, Nate the Great! Somebody show this photo to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and maybe especially Bosh. They play better angry.

ON DOLPHINS' THREATS, ROSS' ODDLY TIMED PHILANTHROPY: What a strange time for the very top of the Dolphins organization in the wake of its stadium-renovations defeat in Tallahassee. Two quick thoughts. On the Dolphins' threats: Club president Mike Dee, asked about team's long-term future in 1aa1deerossMiami, said ominously, "I wouldn't want to prognosticate what the future holds but it is clearly bleak." Hmm. My friend Danny Webster tells me "bleak" means "without hope or encouragement, depressing, dreary..." Is that really how the franchise wishes to portay the state of the franchise? That's dumb, and unnecessarily upsetting to customers (a.k.a. fans). That attitude is mindful of the kid who didn't get his way so he threatened to take his ball and go home. It also sounds like a defeatist attitude. Time to be grownups about this, Dolphins. (Dee is pictured with owner Stephen Ross, their smiles belying the bleakness all around them). On Ross' oddly timed philanthropy: Comes word this week that Ross, 73, has joined the Warren Buffett/Bill Gates initiative in which the wealthiest of the wealthy pledge to donate at least half their money to charity over time or posthumously. It's a billionaires philanthropy club, a wonderful thing. Good for Ross. But the timing only underlines how well he can afford to pay for the desired stadium renovations himself. Ross is pledging to give away more than $2 billion when it would take only a fraction of that to refurbish his stadium to a Super Bowl-attracting, future-assuring shine. Maybe the smart, pragmatic billionaire businessman should consider that whatever money he did spend would come back to him in increased franchise value. That, in turn, would help ensure the club's long-term future here beyond Ross' eventual death -- something he claims he wants. Do what made you a billionaire, Mr. Ross: Get it done. Meantime, enough with the threats about leaving. South Florida deserves better.

HEAT'S SPOELSTRA SECOND IN COACH VOTE: NBA yesterday announced Denver's George Karl was its 2012-13 coach of the year, with Miami's Erik Spoelstra finishing second. Not a surprise.

1aa1charlesr"DEAAAD GIVEAWAY!" THE MARVELOUS CHARLES RAMSEY: Ramsey (pictured) is the Cleveland neighbor-turned-hero who this week rescued those three young women who'd been held captive for 10 years. The crime was horrific. But Ramsey's description of his role in the rescue is exceptional. It is entertaining, even funny. Click HERE to watch and listen. Ramsey colorfully references McDonald's, eating ribs, salsa music and "big testicles." He ends by saying, "I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl runs into a black man's arms. Dead giveaway. DEAAAD GIVEAWAY!" In a later interview, Anderson Cooper asked Ramsey if he wanted a reward and he said, "I get a paycheck. Give the reward to the rescued women." Charles Ramsey, you're my hero. McDonald's, give this man free cheeseburgers for life! (Yes: I am aware Ramsey is an imperfect soul reportedly with domestic-violence arrests in his past. No: It does not diminish his role in this matter, or the fab interview he gave). In the spirit of celebrating Ramsey's role in this -- not making light of the crime -- we present two alternate versions of the interview:

* Charles Ramsey interview remix: Songified. (Grade: A-plus) 

* Charles Ramsey interview animated: Crazy Taiwanese Style. (Grade: B)

Poll results: Deeply divided on Derrick Rose drama: We asked, and 46.6 percent said the medically-cleared Bulls guard should be playing, but 45.2% supported his decision not to, and 8.2% were undecided.

UPDATED: MARLINS "SAD-O-METER" RETURNS! (UNFORTUNATELY): We have had this new blog feature we update as 1aa1bbsadlong as Marlins' winning percentage is under .300 -- as long as the New York Mets' infamous 1962 record of 40-120 (.250) is within reach. Well, the Sad-O-Meter disappeared for a little bit but three straight losses including yesterday's shutout in San Diego have brought it back. Updated Sad-O-Meter: Current record, 10-25 (.286). Season projection, 46.29 wins, 115.71 losses.

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February 19, 2013

Canes win again as UM receives NCAA Notice of Allegations; plus Lil Wayne vs. Heat, fixing NBA All-Stars, Dolphins, goats & more

ESPN Outside The Lines on UM/NCAA case today: I'll be among guests on the show starting at 3 p.m. Please watch anyway.

[1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron schools Michael, Canes win again, Battier tops Wade, Stanton, Cristobal, Robbie Rogers. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Canes win again; UM receives NCAA Notice of Allegations: No. 2-ranked UM men's basketball wins at home last night over Virginia, 54-50, the key play a late Reggie Johnson layup off a Shane Larkin pass. Meantime The U received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA in the Nevin Shapiro probe and now has three months to officially respond. Allegations include a "lack of institutional control" against UM, as expected. "We have suffered enough," said UM president Donna Shalala. (More on that below). On the brighter side, Jim Larranga's Canes are in a dead heat for national-championship favorites. According to latest Bovada odds, Forida Gators are a slight pick at 5-1, a sliver ahead of Miami and Indiana both at 11-2. Then it's Michigan 15-2 and Duke 9-1. But that was before Florida's latest loss.

NCAA ADMITS WRONGDOING BUT PRESSES ON AGAINST UM, IS BLASTED BY SHALALA: Well, damn, this is getting interesting! The external review of the NCAA's unethical botchery of the UM probe came 1aa1donnasout yesterday and was damning. Turns out investigators went ahead and paid Nevin Shapiro's attorney to improperly obtain info via depositions even though the NCAA's own staff counsel explicitly said not to. Also turns out the NCAA has paid thousands to provide Shapiro a cell phone. Click on Full Report for the 52-page review. NCAA President Mark Emmert -- who seeks outs wrongdoing in colleges when his own organization is corrupted -- said he'll move forward toward a Notice oif Allegations against UM, prompting university President Donna Shalala (pictured) to sharply call for an end to this case with no further punishment beyond what the school already has self-imposed. She is right. Click on UM Has Paid, Now Punish NCAA for Tuesday's latest column by me.

Cristobal leaves UM for 'Bama: Former FIU coach Mario Cristobal, hired Jan. 10 by UM as an assistant, is leaving five weeks later for Alabama and Nick Saban's staff, as offensive line coach. The move is unfortunate for the Canes and Al Golden but not a big surprise. Cristobal wants to be a head coach again as soon as possible and felt a national-championship staff would be his best springboard. Hard to argue.

LIL WAYNE DROPS F-BOMBS ALL OVER MIAMI HEAT: Glad to see everybody else is catching up to what you read here first on MiamiHerald.com. The original post: "F--- the Heat, f--- LeBron, f--- She-Wade and I f---ed Chris Bosh wife." That is what rapper Lil Wayne said to a crowd during NBA All-Star Weekend at a 

1aa1carterbirthday celebration for fellow Young Money rapper Birdman, according to Tweets sent out by two attendees, MTV's Shaheem Reid and Karen Civil. It happened during Wayne's performance at Houston's packed Stereo Live club early Monday morning following the game. Click HERE for a brief video, but be warned it's profane. The diatribe does not surprise. Hip-hop and sports do not intersect any more than in the NBA, and Lil Wayne vs. the Heat has become a rather bizarre offshoot. This is an escalation of Lil Wayne's all-but-declared war on the Heat. The hostility began when Weezy felt disrespected because James and Wade did not acknowledge him courtside during a game. It intensified when Weezy claimed he was ejected from the recent game vs. the Lakers here in which he was rooting for L.A.; the Heat said he eft voluntarily. Now the rapper claims he has been banned from all NBA games and events -- at Miami's orchestration. Here's guessing that, once again, Lil Wayne will not be a featured speaker at the Heat's next championship parade.

HOW TO FIX NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND: For me the most compelling snippet of the NBA's showcase weekend in Houston was late in the All-Star Game itself Sunday, when Kobe Bryant decided to get serious (and personal) with LeBron James, defending him hard and even blocking his shot. It looked like something otherwise unseen in the game: Intensity. Real basketball. Step 1 for fixing All-Star Weekend: Make the game matter. Make it into an actual competition rather than a track-meet/dunk-fest/Globetrotters impersonation where the over/under on total points is always around 285 and it is understood nobody bothers with defense. Have some incentive to win. Could be a charity thing. Could be an extra draft-pick for the winning conference's teams; a de-facto "third round" for half the league. I understand the game is a break for these guys. I'm not saying it should be all-out. But let's find a happy medium somewhere between playoff intensty and the farce it is now. Step 2: Streamline, streamline, streamline. There now are six official all-star events, which is three too many. Pare it back to the game itself, the slam-dunk contest and the 3-point competition. That's it. Sorry, retired players and celebrity-rappers. Step 3: Put players in the slam-dunk contest that fans actually want to watch. This used to be big, remember? An event. It was the NBA equivalent of the Home Run Derby. Now it sucks. It sucks because star dunkmasters want nothing to do with it. Find a way to get the superstars back in it. Because we'd all rather watch LeBron dunk, no matter how good Terrence Ross might be. Step 4: This is important. Make sure all arena personnel in every All-Star city have a photo of diminutive actor/comedian Kevin Hart, so that if he attempts to get in the building -- let alone get on the air -- he might be stopped.

DOLPHINS AND FREE AGENCY: Ravens QB Joe Flacco tops a new ESPN.com list of top 50 NFL free agents. Dolphin pending FAs on it are OT Jake Long (9th), WR Brian Hartline (31st) and DT Randy Starks (36th). Top-rated WRs, a Miami target area, are Greg Jennings (3rd), Wes Welker (6th), Dwayne Bowe (7th), Victor Cruz (13th) and an underrated Mike Wallace (14th). Top-rated CB is Brent Grimes (11th).

1aa1goatGOATS SCREECHING, YELLING LIKE HUMANS: Guess that headline about says it all. Click HERE to watch/listen. 

HEAT BIG 5 @ 50: The blog loves bells 'n whistles especially the nerdy-stat variety and so we started this one we are running throughout Heat season at five-game intervals. It's top-five cumulative 1aa1heat5ranking of players having the biggest overall impact based on eight statistical categories. The numbers themselves might not mean much but the numbers relative to each other give an indication of the contribution players are making. The Big 5 @ 50 Games (36-14):

Rank (@45)   Player   Total

1 (1)   LeBron James   1,916.4

2 (2)   Dwyane Wade   1,315.9

3 (3)   Chris Bosh   1,180.0

4 (5)   Mario Chalmers   740.7

5 (4)   Ray Allen   734.6

Bubble: Udonis Haslem, 497.8

1aa1ebert"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a vintage picture of a young Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom in 1969. Thank you." Yep here it is, courtesy of Bill Lucey's newspaperalum.com.

Click back. Will be updating/adding much to this latest blogpost...

January 16, 2012

Hits keep coming: Dolphins lose Mike Nolan; plus pick a Super Bowl rooting interest (with poll), D-Wade's 30th b'day bash & more

1aa1ali2 1aa1ali1[1) Warm congratulations and respect to Muhammad Ali (pictured), The Greatest, on his 70th birthday today. And to the Heat's Dwyane Wade, One of The Greatest, on his 30th birthday today. 2) Another great man, Martin Luther King Jr., would have turned 83 Sunday. 3) Find our NFL Divisional Round playoff post directly below this. 4) If Jon Huntsman dropped out of the Republican presidential race and nobody cared, would he still make a sound? 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

LIVE ONLINE CHAT TODAY: Our Wednesday live chat is 1-2 p.m. Click HERE to join us then or to post questions now.

1aa1mikenDOLPHINS LOSE DEFENSIVE CHIEF MIKE NOLAN: Bad gets worse for the poor Miami Dolphins. Today defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, probably the most accomplished coach on the staff, leaves for the same position with the Atlanta Falcons. This is a big loss and also a bit of an insult -- to lose a top aide to essentially a lateral move. The perception is that Nolan (pictured) has jumped a sinking ship while the jumping was good. Perhaps he also figured the next head coach would not retain him. In either case, another blow to the Dolphins. And here is yet another: Colts firing Jim Caldwell today means more competition in the coach-hiring derby.

PFFSSSSS... THAT IS THE SOUND OF THE AIR LEAVING THE SUPER BOWL: The NFL would never admit it, and Giants and 49ers fans are duty-bound to disagree, but the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis lost a lot of air this past weekend, a lot of anticipation, with the unexpected elimination of Aaron Rodgers' Packers and Drew Brees' Saints. The ideal SB matchup was either team vs. Tom Brady's Patriots. Sorry, but Giants vs. 49ers feels more like a quarterfinal game than an NFC Championship. New York's recent run does not erase that 9-7 regular-season that cast the Giants as nothing special, while defense-minded San Fran is efficient but, well, pretty dull compared to the Packers or Saints. Going into the postseason the NFC team was set as a 4 1/2-point Super favorite over the AFC, back when the Pack or Saints were assumed. Watch that turn around. Thinking that Pats, assuming they get there, would be favored over San Fran or NYG. [Update: I'm right. Just got Bovada odds. AFC now a 2 1/2-point SB favorite, a full touchdown swing. Championship odds are Patriots 6-5, Niners/Giants both 3-1, and Ravens 6-1].  Anyway, enough grousing. This is the NFL's Final Four, so let's deal with it. What's the preferred SB matchup now, and for what team are you most rooting? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

WILL NEW DOLPHINS COACH BE SAME AS THE OLD COACH?: Miami continues to interview head-coach candidates, in no huge hurry now that Jeff Fisher has taken his highly coveted mustache to St. Louis. Who'll end up being hired is yet unknown, but I pass this along and it  might be worth remembering: A Dolphins executive I trust told me Sunday, "Be careful to not rule out Bowles." That of course would be Todd Bowles, interim coach. I am told an option being considered by owner Stephen Ross and GM Jeff Ireland right now is to stick with Bowles as a bridge guy for a season and then see if the Cowher/Gruden/Dungy tree is ready to drop any fruit a year from now. Not saying that'll be the play. But that option is very much on the Dolphin table. Meantime, NFL Network reports Dolphins want to add Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael to their interview list, although that's in some doubt.

1aa1dwyane30thWAYS DWYANE WADE IS DIFFERENT THAN YOU AND I: One of the phenomenons and odd fascinations of modern sports celebrity is that, the bigger the star, the more likely he is to have a lavish party thrown for him and pay for none of it. The star's corporate partners (and others wishing to be) are eager to sponsor said bash, as with Heat star Dwyane Wade's 30th birthday celebration. Wade's birthday is today/Tuesday but the party was Sunday at The Setai on South Beach (where the cheapest room is around $1,000 a night and a penthouse tops $30K). About 400 guests were there, 1aa1dwbirthdayincluding rappers T.I. and Rick Ross, who performed. I always find it cute that promoters offer publicity such as the emailed notice pictured right even for an an affair that is, as noted, "a private, invitation-only event." Sort of a tease, no? It's like, "You too could have mingled with fame and partaken of the complimentary open bar provided by Belvedere, Hennessey and Moet, but for your unfortunate lack of membership in D-Wade's exclusive circle of trust and par-tays." Wade is pictured left at his party with actress/girlfriend Gabrielle Union. (Loving those shoes, D! Bringin' back the spats!!) I'm not picking on Dwyane here. No, the celebration-of-self partying has become de rigeur among sports stars, an all-in-all harmless narcissism calling to mind the splendid two-syllable Muhammad Ali poem: "Me, Whee!!

Bulletin! Media implores Heat to be cautious with Wade's ankle injury! Heat try to hurdle a three-game losing streak tonight at home vs. San Antonio (Spurs are good, but winless on road), and the club is being advised to be careful with Dwyane Wade's ankle injury. And thank God for that advice, because I think otherwise the Heat would have been inclined to recklessly hurry Wade back before he's ready and laugh irresponsibly at notion of aggravating the injury.

1aa1kanyeDEAR GREG...: "Yo, your blog is pretty good but would be better if occasionally you would provide a link to a rare video of Kanye West rapping as a 19-year-old in Chicago in 1996. Thank you." OK: Here

O.J. SIMPSON UPDATE: Yeah, but other than being in prison and now this, things are going pretty well for displaced Miamian O.J.

THE PANTHERS AND PANIC: Was amused by the headline, "Cats down, but not about to panic." Um, I think the recent record has begun to panic for them. Florida has lost eight of its past 11 games with last night's 3-2 shootout loss to visiting Boston, and that season-long and once-solid Southeast Division lead has melted like ice in a glass. Cats and Washington now virtually even in race, and Florida point total stands sixth in the scrum for eight playoff spots. Three straight road games ensue.

HEADLINES YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D SEE (one in a series): Click here. Comment: Could have been worse. It could have been a rifle.

1aa1actresstebowsACTRESS 'TEBOWING' AT GLOBES: An actress/"television presenter" identified as Maria Menounos, whose possible celebrity is hardly diminished by the fact I've never heard of her, is photographed "Tebowing" on the red carpet prior to Sunday night club's Golden Globe awards. Updates as warranted.

Click back. Will be updating/adding to this latest blogpost...