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.

 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.


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!

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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.

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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...

August 08, 2011

Ricky Williams odyssey moves on. What will be his Dolphins' legacy? (with poll); plus Dolphs/Canes' over/under on wins, Dwyane Wade watch, Tuna, Marlins & more

1aa1balllucille 1aa1denim [Thanks to all who tapped into our live chat today. Do it each Wednesday 1-2 p.m. Click RIGHT HERE to join then or post questions any time. Also join us on Twitter @gregcote. Oh, and a belated happy 100th birthday to Lucille Ball, to the degree it is proper to wish a happy birthday to someone who's been dead for decades. And pictured left, apropos of nothing, LeBron James' new denim sneaker].

Bill Parcells, has joined ESPN as a football analyst and will make his regular season debut on "Monday Night Countdown" prior to the Pats-at-Dolphins opener Sept. 12. Wonder if Tuna will admit on-air that he quit on the Dolphins, leaving a job undone?

Click on Rest, Not Risk for my newest column, online and in Wednesday's pulp edition, on why Heat star Dwyane Wade should not follow through with plans to play elsewhere if the lockout eats into NBA season. Click on What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been for my column on the end of Dolphins' Ricky Williams era, from Tuesday's paper.

Released Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder says he is retiring. That could be short-lived if another team shows interest. 'Til then, a surprise. Crowder, ex-Gator, had a decent career, but brief and ultimately disappointing. I wish I thought his retiring was a bigger deal. It isn't.

1aa1rickywms RICKY WILLIAMS' DOLPHINS YEARS: WHAT IS HIS LEGACY?: The Dolphins' long-running Ronnie & Ricky Show officially ends as free agent Ricky Williams signs with the Ravens just days after Ronnie Brown signed with the Eagles -- both now considerably more likely to get a Super Bowl ring than if they had been re-signed by Miami. Williams departs as the Dolphins' No. 2 all-time rusher with 6,436 career yards here, only 301 behind longtime leader Larry Csonka. Yet Csonka is revered as a franchise legend. What will be Williams' legacy? You could make the argument he too is a franchise great who deserves consideration for the club's Ring of Honor. You could also argue he was an underachiever beset by drugs and flakiness and did not ultimately live up to his potential. Yardage or yoga? How should Williams be remembered for his Dolphins career? Help set his legacy. Vote now.

1aa1hublot TELLING TIME, D-WADE STYLE: This was inevitable from the moment Heat star Dwyane Wade announced a business partnership with Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot several months ago: the insanely expensive Wade-signature Hublot watch. Pictured, it is called "King Power," features his No. 3 and Heat colors, and retails for 20,900 Swiss Francs, or around $27,500. Hublot is making only 500 of these, so hurry! 

DOLPHINS, CANES OVER/UNDERS ON WINS: Bodog.com has set the Dolphins' betting over/under at 7.5 wins, or slightly below .500 and off playoff pace. That's third in the AFC East, behind the Patriots (11.5 wins) and Jets (10) but ahead of the Bills (5.5). New England's 11.5 shares the league high with the Packers. Bodogs college o/u's have Miami at 8 regular-seasons wins, with Florida also at 8 and FSU at 10.

DAN UGLY'S STREAK: Last night here ex-Marlin Dan Uggla grew his hitting streak to 30 games with a 1-for-6 night that included two strikeouts and five runners left on base. It was not atypical of Uggla's ugly streak. Thirty is thirty, yeah, but 22 of the games have been 1-hit wonders, and his average during the streak has only grown from a dismal .173 to a lousy .220. The former is the lowest average since 1918 at the launch of a 30-plus streak. And .220 is the lowest average ever sitting at 30.

1aa1boshtat1 1aa1boshtat2 BOSH JOINS TAT ARMY: Hey just what the NBA needs. More tattoos! Heat's Chris Bosh (trying to toughen his image?) has a new and elaborate tattoo covering most of his back. At left, the finished product. At right, what, you thought these guys went to tattoo parlors!? Please. The ink comes to them

MARLINS' TOOLS LACKING: Baseball America's new issue has a "Best Tools" feature listing the top-3 in skills in 25 categories. In the NL, the Marlins only place with Mike Stanton (best power, 2nd) and Emilio Bonifacio (best bunter and fastest baserunner, both 3rd). No top-3s in any pitching category was especially glaring to me.

GOLFER SHOOTS 86, SADLY BRAGS ABOUT IT: That would be me. I shot an 86 Saturday at Sunrise CC. When you are about a 20-handicap stuck in low-90s purgatory, and shoot a 40 on the front nine and easily break 90 despite a dicey back nine, you are happy. My round included two birdies, itself astonishing. Of course my showoff son shot 74. I drive around 220. My son's tee shot laughs at my ball as it rockets past.

1aa1brooke BROOKE HOGAN NUDE! (OR DID THAT GO WITHOUT SAYING?): Brooke Hogan (right), offspring of Hulk, posed nude in a Miami studio today for a PETA photo shoot, because of course nothing says "I'm outraged over animal mistreatment" quite like gettin' all nekkid. Brooke describes herself as a television personality, pop singer, actress, model and socialite, meaning she doesn't really do anything except be just marginally famous enough to secretly pray that paparazzi are around. Cannot confirm the photo shoot was picketed by animals upset that PETA couldn't get somebody bigger for the nude layout.

HOW CHARLIE SHEEN'S CHARACTER DIES: Spoiler alert! (In case you haven't heard and give a crap). The new Two And a Half Men (with Ashton Kutcher) explains the absence of Charlie Sheen's character in the season-opening episode with a funeral, after he fell off a Paris subway platform and got struck by a train. Can you believe the luck? That is exactly what I had in the office pool!

BIG BOI BUST: OutKast hip-hopper Big Boi got arrested in Miami for possession of drugs when found in the company of ecstasy and Viagra, the latter giving us pause to wonder if his stage name has been artificially enhanced.

1aa1bachmann MICHELLE BACHMANN: And if you still harbored any doubts whether tea-partying presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann might be crazy, we present the latest Newsweek cover and the most frightening wide-eyed stare in politics.

THE LIST: TIGER VS. JACK IN GOLF MAJORS: Tiger Woods tries again, in this week's PGA Championship, to draw closer to Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major titles. Tiger has been stuck on 14 since 2008. Nicklaus and Woods' major wins by age:

Age    Nicklaus    Woods

25U         4            6

26-29      3            4

30-34      5            4

35-39      3            0

40+         3           --

Note: Woods is 35; will turn 36 on Dec. 30.                   

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April 14, 2011

On Heat's first-round playoff series, team MVP (with polls); plus Mayor Luther Campbell, Barry Bonds, heavy girls & more

[Twitter.com/gregcote. I'm the Eddie House of journalism. Just when you think I'm lousy, I surprise you and do something good].

Heat-Sixers Game 1 blog will publish here in a separate post beginning at 2 p.m. sharp!

HEAT GOT BEST-POSSIBLE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUP: I've been listening to misguided fans and greedy media griping how they wish Miami was playing the Knicks in the NBA playoffs' first round instead of the 76ers. Baloney. From a media view at least it's arguable, I guess. We want drama wherever we can find it. (Although this whole season has been that, so what's wrong with a little break?) But from a fan view, don't you want an easier series? Maybe a sweep? Less stress? More rest before round two? That's why you play 82 games. Duh. That's the point of a higher seed. And that's Philly. Players say automatically who they play doesn't matter, but I guarantee you a nice calm, dull four or five-game rout of Philly is preferred to the wilder ride a Knicks series might have been. Then again I'm occasionally wrong. Tell me if I am or not. Take a dip in our poll. (Team MVP poll below this one...).

LEBRON WINS KING-O-METER. NOW YOU NAME THE MVP: Here are final season results for our 1aa1crown unpopular King-O-Meter, measuring which of Miami's would-be kings has had the better season based on a cumulative system using 10 statistical categories. I say unpopular because many e-mailers think it's divisive. Anyway, LeBron James wins our 2010-11 Heat King title over Dwyane Wade by 4,804.88 points to 4,174.00. (Wade missed six games to James' three, not enough to have bridged the difference). James led in games led, 43-38, including the last nine straight. (Total adds to 81 because both missed the finale). In 70-plus-point games, sort of a standard for extra good, James led, 17-13. Season high for either was James' 107.24 in Game 49 at Orlando. Wade's best was 92.10 in Game 72 vs. Philadelphia. So I say James was the regular-season team MVP. Do you? Vote.    

BOO, STEIGERWALD! YOU ARE RATIONALIZING A HEINOUS CRIME: John Steigerwald, a columnist for a small suburban Pittsburgh newspaper, has caused a firestorm by suggesting that Bryan Stow -- the Giants fan who got severely beaten after the Dodgers' opener in L.A. and remains in critical condition -- brought it on himself by wearing a Giants jersey to the game. Read the column here if you have the stomach. It is wrong on so many levels. The logic is about the same as blaming a rape victim because she wore a short skirt.

1aa1kevinna KEVIN NA'S MELTDOWN: Kevin Na (right) shot a 16 on a par 4 at yesterday's Texas Open, the worst par 4 score in PGA Tour history. Click here to watch the video. John Daly maintains the all-time worst hole on record, an 18 on a par 5 in 1998. It is unfathomable to me that any professional golfer has had a worse hole than I ever had, because I stink and do mental cartwheels and handsprings when lucking the occasional par.

SUMMARY OF BARRY BONDS TRIAL: Three years and millions of wasted dollars for a jury to dumbfoundingly conclude that Barry Bonds somehow obstructed justice without lying. That's quite a trick. Among Bonds, the prosecuting attorney and the jurors, there isn't a single soul in this mess who should be feeling proud or the least bit pleased right now.  

1aa1ashley AMERICAN IDOL AND FAT GIRLS: Oops I know "fat girls" is prejorative. My bad. Seam-stretching? Metabolistically challenged? Ashley Kauffman, 19, pictured, is making the rounds (Good Morning America earlier today) talking about how she was separated from her friends in the American Idol audience and told she was too heavy to sit in the front row. OMG! WWST!? (What Would [Ruben] Studdard Think). Idol denies this happened. Of course, anyone who has watched the show and how it packages pretty should believe the girl. Dear American Idol: This poor girl is barely heavy at all. Please restrict your blatant weight discrimination to the morbidly obese like the rest of us do.

1aa1luke MAYOR LUTHER "UNCLE LUKE" CAMPBELL?: Is it OK to admit the thought both terrifies and intrigues me? I see it as a possibility, especially with 11 people running post-recall for Miami-Dade mayor, when 15-18 percent of the vote might be enough and name-recognition will matter. Bottom line? It's nuts. Nuts! We'd be a national laughingstock. It would further cement Miami's well-earned reputation as an insane asylum politically. And yet, politically, is the election progression from actors to pro wrestlers to rappers really that outlandish? I think Luke has an outside shot. Seriously. And I like that if only because it delivers the [bleep]in' motherlode to colleagues Carl Hiassen and Leonard Pitts.

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost later...

THE LIST: HEAT PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: Miami's first-round series vs. Philadelphia starting Saturday will be the Heat's first playoff meeting with the 76ers. Miami's top five most common playoff opponents:

Opponent   Playoff Games   (Series; Most Recent)

New York   24   (4; 2000)

Chicago   21   (4; 2007)

Detroit   16   (3; 2006)

Atlanta   12   (2; 2009)

New Jersey   9   (2; 2006)

Others, all 1 series: New Orleans 7 games; Dallas 6; Indiana 6; Boston 5; Orlando 5; Washington 4; Charlotte 3.

February 10, 2011

Is Heat becoming LeBron's team? (with poll); plus FIU censors media on Wittels, Movie Talk, Cameron Diaz, K.O.D. & more

[Click on Virtual Tony Sparano Explains Himself for the first in my occasional series of animated and exceptionally amateurish YouTube videos offering sporting commentary. Click on QB Fixes Needed for today's latest column by me (the most-viewed online; thanks) on the Dolphins' and Hurricanes' similar situations at the quarterback spot].

IS THE HEAT BECOMING LEBRON JAMES' TEAM?: [Sunday update: Heat lose at Boston, 85-82. Nothing proven, except to verify that the (presumed) Eastern Conference finals is going to be one hell of a ride]. Early emails and comments suggest today's column 1aa1lebwade by me -- the most-viewed in all of MiamiHerald.com; click here -- is provocative and rubbing some the wrong way. That's OK, although it wasn't my intent. If anything I tried to make very clear that proposing LeBron James is taking over down here wasn't an anti-Dwyane Wade stance in any way. It wasn't suggesting James is being selfish. Nor was it implying the two can't continue to coexist wonderfully. But it's time to be real. LeBron is better, bigger, younger and poised to surpass Wade by however one defines "whose team is it." There are precious few NBA players who are better than Wade, but one is his teammate, and LeBron is proving it this season as clearly (to me) the team's MVP after 50 games. The eventuality, I think, is that LeBron in time will become "bigger" in this town, meaning more popular. Not yet, but in time. The point of the column isn't to cause trouble, but simply to explore a topic that I find interesting and that is sensitive to a degree it has almost been taboo. I think it can be discussed reasonably; hey, it's only sports! As for those bemoaning why it has to be one's team or the other's, I'm dealing with reality, if only in terms of public perception. It isn't about who takes the last shot. It's about who is the face of the team. Whose picture is up there for Miami when national TV is promoting "Kobe's Lakers vs. (Blank)'s Heat"? Take a dip in our poll and explain your feelings if you'd care to.


1aa1cameron A-ROD POPCORN FEEDER CAMERON DIAZ VISITS UM: Alex Rodriguez girlfriend/actress Cameron Diaz stopped by a UM women's tennis team practice Thursday today; see evidence at right. I happened to mention on 790 The Ticket Wednesday that I didn't find her all that attractive. OK I take it back.

FIU'S JACKBOOT POLICY ON MEDIA AND WITTELS: This is disturbing. FIU is handling the Bahamian rape accusations against its top baseball star, Garrett Wittels, by pretending they don't exist -- and daring anybody covering the team to mention them. The school announced that at this coming Wednesday's media availability with Wittels and others, any question referring to the allegations would immediately end the press conference. And whomever dared ask the question might see his credentials revoked. This is heavy-handed, and wrong. FIU wants to be considered a big school, a major athletic department, and Wittels is the school's most prominent athlete along with T.Y. Hilton. The criminal charges happened. Doesn't mean they are true. Doesn't mean Wittels is guilty. But this is a newsworthy situation as he chases the college hitting-streak record. At the very least, Wittels should address the issue with a statement and take a few questions he may answer as he or his lawyers wish. Then move on. Instead FIU is attempting what amounts to censorship. It's wrong.

MOVIE TALK!: I rarely see new movies. My kids make fun of me because A) my favorite film of all-time remains The Wizard Of Oz and B) I found The Departed to be a bit of a chore and was not enthralled. Anyhow, I saw two new movies this week so here goes with my mini-reviews. The Fighter I loved, and you get past the ending feeling a bit formulaic when you remember it's based on a true story. The film captured Lowell, Mass. perfectly (I know the area), and Christian Bale as the loser older brother was memorably superb. The Social Network I liked, didn't love. The movie stands on its own pretty well, but I think one must be really tuned into Facebook -- like, on it constantly, can't-live-without-it -- to appreciate the film on an added level. I'm Gene Shalit. G'night.

STRIP-MINING FOR CASH: The guy who runs Miami's King of Diamonds strip club (a rappers-and-athletes 1aa1rross haven I wrote about prior to last year's Super Bowl here) recently had a night in which rapper Rick Ross (pictured) supposedly made $1 million "rain." Read the sad story here. I say sad because this stunningly ostentatious show of wealth happens in the context of a tough economy and depressed area. Always amazes me how rappers and athletes revel in the kind of gluttonous hedonism that would be seen as an embarrassment in other walks of life. And how they are so often boastful about what should shame them. OK that's my Incredibly Musty Rant of the Day.

THE LIST: DOLPHINS' HIGHEST-DRAFTED QBS: Miami selects 15th overall this year and will consider a quarterback. The 10 highest-drafted QBs in franchise history:

1. Rick Norton, Kentucky, 2nd overall (1R), 1966

2. Bob Griese, Purdue, 4th (1R), 1967

3. Dan Marino, Pitt, 27th (1R), 1983

4. John Beck, BYU, 40th (2R), 2007

5. Pat White, West Virginia, 44th (2R), 2009

6. Guy Benjamin, Stanford, 51st (2R), 1978

7. Chad Henne, Michigan, 57th (2R), 2008

8. Scott Mitchell, Utah, 93rd (4R), 1990

9. Brad Wright, New Mexico, 96th (4R), 1981

10. Joe Theismann, Notre Dame, 99th (4R), 1971

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this new blogpost throughout the day...