January 25, 2015

Which is the best (or least bad) of sports' Big 4 All-Star Games? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10, verdict on D-Wade & more

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 25. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost: Is-Dwyane Wade-still-elite poll, Marlins sign Ichiro, Riley descends from mount, Marino dipped in wax, Bob Dylan & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

OUR LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL-STAR GAMES: The NFL and NHL play their annual all-star games today and the NBA's is soon so this is the right time to ask which of our Big Four sports' all-star games 1aa1anflpb 1aa1amlbasg 1aa1anhlasg 1aa1anbaasgyou think is the best -- or, perhaps, the least awful. They all are flawed, which is why the formats are always tinkered with. We spend a lot of time complaining about the selection process. The games don't draw great TV ratings. Each is decorated with surrounding events (home run derbies, slam-dunk contests) because the All-Star Game itself is not a great sell on its own. Nevertheless, chances are you think one if better than the rest. So which is it and why? Remember, this is not a favorite-sport poll. It is asking specifically which one has the best All-Star Game. Vote now.

Poll result: Mixed views (but doubts) on whether Wade still "elite": We asked in the previous blogpost if Heat star Dwyane Wade, at 33, remains an "elite" player by however you define that (you may still vote), and it was 51.6 percent "no," 40.1% "yes" and 8.3% "undecided."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: "Deflategate” dominates buildup to Super Bowl: It’ll be New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in the 49th Super Bowl, but the buildup has become an NFL nightmare with the Pats’ underinflated-footballs controversy. At least attention is diverted away from whether Marshawn Lynch will be fined again for grabbing his crotch. So from either angle, it's all about balls!

2. HEAT: Wade’s streak of All-Star Game starts ends: Forbes surprised many when its rank of best NBA fans had Miami No. 1. That was just before Heat fans allowed Dwyane Wade’s streak of nine All-Star Game starts in a row to end as a late flurry of votes by Toronto fans pushed Kyle Lowry ahead. No word on whether Forbes will now reconfigure its fan rankings.

3. MARLINS: Active offseason continues as Fish add Ichiro: With the Feb. 20 start of spring training looming, the Marlins continued an active and successful offseason by signing 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract as a fourth outfielder. Granted, Ichiro is 41 now and this signing would be more exciting if it were 2005, not ’15. But still!

4. ALL-STAR GAMES: NFL, NHL stars showcased Sunday: Hockey’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, and football's Pro Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, have more in common than the fact both are being played Sunday and each has undergone format changes. For example, they are also alike in that the leagues act like they are big deals but fans don’t care all that much.

5. RUNNING: Annual Miami Marathon stampedes from downtown: OK, you got me. Nobody is talking about this except the runners themselves. But there were some 25,000 of those setting off early Sunday in the annual Miami Marathon & Half Marathon starting at 6:15 a.m. Too bad it’s not in South Beach so the runners could stampede over all the drunks leaving SoBe clubs at about that time.

6. DOLPHINS: Ross touts stadium renovations: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross pimped a $350 million stadium renovation designed to attract Super Bowls and other biig events. Dear Steve: The only change in the stadium Dolfans care about is a winning team in it.

7. HURRICANES: Former player donates $1.6 million: UM men's basketball won a big game at Syracuse but a bigger story off-the-field was ex-Canes football star Calais Campbell donating $1.6 million to school's athletic department, biggest gift ever by a former UM athlete. Perpetually complaining, dissatified Hurricanes fans said it wasn't enough.

8. BASEBALL: Manfred takes over as MLB commissioner: Rob Manfred is on the job as of Sunday as Bud Selig retires. Selig had a great run other than the Steroids Era happening under his nose. Much as Nixon was a pretty great president other than Watergate. 

9. GOLF: Allenby, Woods in strange controversies: Robert Allenby claimed he was beaten, robbed and dumped in a park six miles from a bar, but his story unraveled. Tiger Woods claimed he lost a front tooth to a swinging TV camera but nobody seemed to believe that, either.

10. FIU: Veteran coach Russo retires: Cindy Russo retired after 36 years as FIU's women's basketball coach. Perspective? That's 10 years longer than that slacker Don Shula coached the Dolphins.

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April 24, 2014

R.I.P. Earl Morrall, 79; plus Heat are angry (war on Charlotte!), Dolphins-schedule poll (vote now), runners, FIU sand volleyball (what?) & more

1) It is FRIDAY, APRIL 25. I'm holed up at Random Evidence Laboratories today craft-brewing Sunday's notes-column package. It's hoppy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte G2, Arison's guarantee, Heat in Game of Thrones, Bobcat Jesus, Jose Fernandez, Meb Keflezighi, Rubin (Hurricane) Carter & more. 2) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Heat not satisfied with McRoberts fine for LeBron mugging: Charlotte's Josh McRoberts was fined $20,000 yesterday by the NBA for a flagrant 2 foul in Game 2 when his forearm struck LeBron James' throat. McMuggerts is lucky; he should have been suspended for Saturday's Game 3 in Charlotte. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra agreed, saying today, "We disagree with this," meaning just a fine. James said today he is "frustrated" by the pounding he takes but won't retaliate. "This isn't the 1980s," he noted.

1aa1aearlmDOLPHINS ICON EARL MORRALL DEAD AT 79: Quarterback Earl Morrall, who had such a big hand in the Dolphins' 1972 Perfect Season, died this morning in Naples, Fla. after years of declining health. Morrall replaced injured starter Bob Griese in '72 and led the team to nine straight victories and two more in the playoffs before being replaced by Griese in the Super Bowl. Morrall was 38 when Don Shula brought him to Miami in '72. He would start only 12 games over five seasons, but his role in Miami's historic 17-0 season was enough to make him a franchise icon and forge a unique legacy. I have a column on Morrall that is newly online -- click on The Perfect Quarterback to read -- and shipping to Saturday's inky pulp editions. 

1aa1adolsked14RANKING DOLPHINS SCHEDULE 1-THROUGH-16 ON GAME WATCHABILITY: I scan the Dolphins' newly released 2014 schedule, weighing the caliber of each opponent and factoring in home/away, and at first glance I come up with a most-likely record of 8-8. Which means another of those 9-7 to 7-9 range, Stealers Wheel/"Stuck In The Middle With You" seasons may be ahead. NOOOOOOO! The Dolphins have turned into Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Just below there's a poll inviting you to name the Dolphins home game you are most looking forward to. First here's my ranking of all 16 games, not chronologically but 1-through-16 based on watchability and anticipation:

1. Sept. 7 vs. Patriots: Start with division power. No soft-opening here!

2. Nov. 23 @ Broncos: Sorry, I meant to say @ Peyton Manning.

3. Dec. 28 vs. Jets: Season-ender could have playoff stakes for Fins.

4. Dec. 1 @ Jets: Bitter rival. Monday night lights. Any questions?

5. Oct. 12 vs. Packers: Joe Philbin's old team. Oh, and Aaron Rodgers.

6. Dec. 14 @ Patriots: Pack the longjohns. Battle for AFC East crown?

7. Sept. 28 @ Raiders: Wembley in London is why it's interesting.

8. Nov. 13 vs. Bills: Will game live up? It's prime-time Thursday.

9. Dec. 21 vs. Vikings: Adrian Peterson's first career game in Miami.

10. Dec. 7 vs. Ravens: Post-Ray Lewis and off 8-8, BAL not what it was.

11. Oct. 19 @ Bears: Storied opponent, and Soldier Field is still special.

12. Sept. 21 vs. Chiefs: Amply fed Andy Reid had KC 11-5 last year.

13. Nov. 2 vs. Chargers: One of those season-altering tossup games.

14. Sept. 14 @ Bills: Pretty rough when highlight is Ralph Wilson tribute.

15. Nov. 9 @ Lions: Winnable roadie. But pack pass defense for trip.

16. Oct. 26 @ Jaguars: Rotten opponent. Awful fans. Sad stadium.

POLL: WHAT DOLPHINS HOME GAME INTERESTS YOU THE MOST?: Life is full of tough choices, Dolfan. It's a fairly attractive home schedule, and you can only pick the one game you are most looking forward to. Games are listed chronologically. Vote and say why:

NBA SHOULD HAVE PENALIZED LEBRON-MUGGER JOSH "JESUS" McROBERTS: That hard forearm to the throat of LeBron James late in last night's 101-97 Heat playoff win merited a suspension or at least a fine of Charlotte's Josh McRoberts, who we noted in a previous blogpost looks like Jesus. Instead he was fined $20K, which to most NBA players is loose change under the sofa cushion. No flagrant foul was called but the NBA reviewed the play today and called it a flagrant 2. The good news for Miami? The only player better than LeBron is LeBron, angry, and that play could  be the spark Miami needs as it heads to Charlotte for two games starting Saturday. The Heat, though up 2-0, has yet to play exceptionally well in the postseason. Click on Do Not Rile the King for my column off last night's win.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 2 games): Entering Game 3 Saturday: LeBron James 5 points, Dwyane Wade 4, Chris Bosh 2, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' every game and award points on a 3-2-1 basis).

1aa1acorprun
ON MIAMI CORPORATE RUN:
The annual Miami Corporate Run displaced and greatly inconvenienced thousands of motorists was contested yesterday on downtown streets. I have noticed that runners are prone to making a public display of their obsession, as with competing en masse and also with those bragadocious, I'm-fitter-than-you '26.2' and '13.1' car decals. Anyway, the winner of last evening's race, pictured front right, was a Mr. James Harden, 24, from Houston, Tex.

1aa1afiusandIN RAPT APPRECIATION OF FIU SAND VOLLEYBALL: The FIU sand volleyball team has earned its first trip to the nationals. We mention that here as a gratuitous excuse to show you the team's more-interesting-than-usual team schedule poster. Sand volleyball is like regular volleyball, but on a beach, or sand made to seem like a beach. What's not to like?

LORDE'S "ROYALS" GETS SPRINGSTEENIZED:

 

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April 23, 2014

G2: Heat 101, Charlotte 97: LeBron's 32 lifts escape to 2-0 series lead; plus Arison's bravado, Heat's Game of Thrones, Jose Fernandez chases history & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23. King Sport unleashes its 2014 schedule in an NFL Network show tonight. It's much ado about not much considering teams' opponents already are known, and tonight just attaches dates. 2) Record Store Day just passed. Support your local indie music shop. Long live vinyl! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte preview and Game 1, Typepad issues hold blog hostage & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Blog note about recent issues: You know how you never really stop to appreciate how good you feel until you're sick? I go forth with renewed appreciation for the simple act of being able to post in this blog whenever I wish. That was taken away for several recent days as Typepad fought denial-of-service cyber attacks. Thanks for the patience and understanding, all.

G2: HEAT 101, CHARLOTTE 97: NARROW ESCAPE AS LEBRON NETS 32: LeBron James' game-high 32 points lifted Miami tonight in a narrow escaoe for a 2-0 series lead. Chris Bosh had 20 including some clutch shots late. Dwyane Wade was off offensively (4-for-10 shooting, 15 points) but had a victory-sealing steal with 1.2 seconds left. A very hard foul against James by Josh McRoberts with just under a minute left was not called a flagrant but will be subject to league review and possible discipline. Maybe that play is what is needed to fire up the Heat, which has not shown its best or most intense effort these first two games of the postseason. ..... Game 2 Heat Players of the Game: 1. James, 2. Bosh, 3. Wade (edging the early spark of Mario Chalmers). ..... Original post: Tonight's Game 2 of the Heat-Charlotte first-round series is the 100th home playoff game in Heat history. (Hallmark make a card for that?) More 1aa1aheatchaimportant, it's likely to be the stage for Miami taking 2-0 series command following that 99-88 opening win on Sunday and before 1aa1ag2heatchathe series swings up to North Carolina for Game 3 Saturday night. Mario Chalmers (shin) is game-time decision for Miami tonight. More significantly, Bobcats star Al Jefferson (foot) says he'll play but surely will be limited. Charlotte is 13-4 following losses since mid-January, but a far weightier 17-game sample is that Miami has won 17 in a row over Charlotte including five this season. Dwyane Wade's continued progress will be a watch-point again tonight after an encouraging and efficient 23-point game in the opener. He referred to himself Tuesday as still "working my way back." It'll also be interesting to see if James Jones' heroics off the bench in Game 1 (12 points in 14 minutes) was a one-off thing or portends a steady rotation role.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 1 game): Entering Game 2 tonight: Dwyane Wade 3 points; LeBron James 2; James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

HEAT OWNER SORT OF GUARANTEES RETURN OF BIG 3, ALMOST!: Well, he did. Sort of. Not that he can be sure, really. So this might be big news, or it might not be news at all. Welcome to Journalism 1aa1amickya2014, where sometimes news can be a casual aside in a Tweet, and sometimes it can be Micky Arison, on ESPN Radio Monday, answering, "100 percent," when host Dan Le Batard asked the Heat's owner for a percentage likelihood "this thing stays together next season." (Dan didn't say what he was referring to, but all know This Thing meant the Big 3 era). Micky (pictured far right with Pat Riley) could have said "we're hopeful" or some other vaguary but he took Le Batard's bait with the one percentage that sounds like all but a guarantee. The one problem: Whatever Micky thinks in April is trumped by whatever LeBron James thinks and decides this summer. Clearly nothing about this is 100 percent, but I don't think Arison is far off in his optimism. If Miami wins a third straight NBA title it almost guarantees the Big 3 stays intact. If Miami falls short I think the likeliest scenario is that the Big 3 all extend for one more season with the option to test free agency in 2015. I'd put that likelihood at a solid, um, 78.4 percent.

Heat = Lannisters in NBA Game of Thrones: I don't watch HBO's Game of Thrones. But I know many do, and may enjoy this piece drawing parallels between the popular show and the 2014 NBA playoffs. Pat Riley is cast as Tywin Lannister and his team as the Lannisters, which must mean something to somebody.

 

1aa1ajoshmcrBobcats enlist Jesus, fail anyway: The Charlotte Bobcats, who ran like hell from the depravity of South Beach after their Game 1 loss, fell in the opener despite Jesus playing for the team. And on Easter no less! (I'm surprised this was not a bigger national story, and thanks to Twitter follower @mancard1 for pointing it out to me). Jesus, pictured right, scored 15 points in the 99-88 Miami win while playing under the earthly name "Josh McRoberts."

MARLINS POSITIVITY: Miami is 10-11 right now after Jose Fernandez's 14-strikeout gem last night, but only six teams in MLB have a better run-differential than the Marlins' plus-12. As for Fernandez's dominance, see The List directly below.

THE LIST: KID K, JOSE FERNANDEZ: Fernandez so far in his young career averages 10.307 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. The only two pitchers in history to average more are Randy Johnson (10.610) and Kerry Wood (10.317). How Fernandez ranks in strikeouts-per-inning vs. the eight pitchers with 500-plus career strikeouts for the Marlins:

Pitcher                K's-per-Inning    Strikeouts / Innings

Jose Fernandez       1.145             234 / 204.1

Josh Beckett            0.997             607 / 609.0

Josh Johnson          0.908             832 / 916.2

A.J. Burnett            0.882              753 / 853.2

Anibal Sanchez       0.851              676 / 794.1

Ryan Dempster       0.827             628 / 759.2

Ricky Nolasco         0.817             1001 / 1225.2

Dontrelle Willis       0.740              757 / 1022.2

Brad Penny             0.729             570 / 781.2

YES, MEBRAHTOM KEFLEZIGHI IS AN AMERICAN: The Boston Marathon ran in peace Monday one year after 1aa1amebkthe terrorist bombings -- a triumph of American resolve and spirit -- and, fittingly, in the storybook style sports so often delivers, an American man won for the first time since 1983. The American is named Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi, and you could almost hear a million Americans snorting, "What!? That's no American!" Well, Meb emigrated from his native Eritrea in 1987 at age 12. (I know. Eritrea sounds like the dog in Scooby Doo mispronouncing a word, but it's a small country in the horn of Africa). Anyway, Keflezighi is now 38, living and raising a family in San Diego, and a U.S. citizen. His is a very American story, and a particularly sweet one for this year's Boston race. Congrats, Mebster!

R.I.P., RUBIN (HURRICANE) CARTER, 1937-2014: He was the former middleweight boxer who was framed, wrongly convicted of murder and spent 19 years in prison before his conviction was overturned. He died this week in Toronto. His story was the subject of the Bob Dylan song, "Hurricane," which we offer below. This is not Dylan singing (sorry), but is briefer than the original, includes lyrics (some adult language) and well-represents the tale.

 

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