May 28, 2015

On Heat vs. Wade salary impasse: Who's right? Poll. Vote now!; plus UM-FIU baseball, Sepp Blatter, Dolphins' rank on NFL uniforms list, verdict on FIFA scandal & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 28. Random Evidence, the Sunday notes column, is off this week. However, our blog-exclusive adjunct, the Hot Button Top 10, will appear here Sunday as always. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): FIFA scandal with poll, LeBron facing Finals heat, Abbot & Costello Marlins, 'Fish In the Dark' & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Sepp Blatter being reelected as FIFA president on Friday is like Richard Nixon winning a second term in the midst of Watergate." --Greg Cote

Miami Beach Bowl: Announced today that the second annual Miami Beach Bowl will be played Monday, Dec. 21 at 2:30 p.m., again at Marlins Park.

NBA delay: Don't go there: If you hear anybody whining about the long, week's delay before the start of the NBA Finals (and you have, or will), please tell them to shut up and complain about something that matters.  

WADE/HEAT CONTRACT IMPASSE IS COMPLICATED BY EMOTION: The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports citing anonymous sources that Dwyane Wade and the Heat are significantly apart in contract talks, 1aa1adwadeand that there is a chance Wade will opt out this summer, test free agency and possibly even leave Miami. I believe the chances of Wade actually leaving are remote, because I believe the Heat does not want Wade to leave, and that Dwyane wishes to spend his entire career in the city where he is a three-time champion and revered. The story is interesting, though, because it involves cold reality vs. emotion, and it involves the value of loyalty. Wade sacrificed $10.6 million off what he was owed by agreeing to a reworked two-year, $31 million deal that is to pay him $16 million this coming season. It is believed he wants to recoup that money by getting a deal that would pay him around $20 million per season over the next three years. That gulf, to me, seems small enough to bridge, but it would require compromise. The cold reality: Wade, at his age (33) and with his injury history, probably should be happy with the $16 million. His All-Star days and max-contract days may be past. Not sure he'd do better on the open market, although you never know. (The rejoining-LeBron-in-Cleveland speculation already is out there). The emotional argument in all this: That the Heat owes Wade in every sense, and should be willing to over-spend to keep to keep him, and keep him happy. That's the value of loyalty. I have to believe Pat Riley will find a way here. Meantime, what would you do if you were Riley: Take a hard line and pay Wade what you think he is worth now? Or pay him more than you feel he is worth to make up for his earlier sacrifices, and out of respect. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

MIAMI AND FIU: FEUDIN' NEIGHBORS MEET: UM and FIU meet in baseball tonight for the first time since 1aa1ajmorris
1aa1acgablesreg
1aa1atthomas2008, though not by choice, at 7 p.m. in the four-team NCAA regional The U is hosting in Coral Gables. It's an open secret that Canes coach Jim Morris and FIU's Turtle Thomas -- Morris' assistant for 12 seasons through 1999 --  had a falling out and don't especially like each other. Morris and Thomas are pictured. Thomas would count it a career highlight by beating Miami tonight, even if he'd never admit it. The pressure is on Miami, top-seeded in this regional and a No. 5 national seed, to beat its underdog city neighbor. Should be deliciously intense. I'll be down there columnizing tonight.

DOLPHINS' UNIFORMS RANKED MID-PACK IN NFL: AOL.com ranks all 32 NFL uniforms (click here) and the top five are Packers, Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys and Chiefs. AFC East teams are mid-pack with Jets 10th, Bills 16th, Dolphins 17th and Patriots 22nd. (Bulletin: New England finishes last in division!) Dead-last overall: Tampa Bay Bucs. 

Poll result: FIFA scandal a huge story: We asked about this week's soccer scandal and 58.9 percent called the FIFA corruption indictments a "huge" story, 20.2% called it "big," 4.8% "medium" and 16.1% "minor."

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May 27, 2015

FIFA scandal, my Blatter-must-go column and poll. Vote now!; plus NBA Finals odds, also Gordon, Stanton on ASG pace, 'Fish In the Dark', Abbot & Costello Marlins, Dolphins win May & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, a salute to Memorial Day (50,000 Names), UM/MLS stadium verdict & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Gordon, Stanton on pace to start in All-Star Game: First NL All-Star voting trends are out, with a double dose of desperately needed good news Marlins and Marlfans. Dee Gordon leads all second basemen in voting, and Giancarlo Stanton is third among outfielders -- both on pace to start.

Tap breaks on Dolphins: Fins had their first OTA (organized team activity) practice day this week and it was decorated as a symbolic start to the 2015 season, with much made in particular about how good Ndamukong Suh looked. All of which earns the following two-word commentary: "It's freakin' May!"  

THE FIFA CORRUPTION SCANDAL: Yesterday's indictment in Switzerland of 14 persons including nine 1aa1afifacurrent or former FIFA officials is the biggest story in global sports. It also is big in America, considering the U.S. is behind the lengthy investigation and is extraditing the accused for prosecution. Click on Blatter Must Go for my latest column, online and in today's inky pulp editions. I write that now is the time for a clean break. FIFA president Sepp Blatter (pictured artfully blurry at right) has presided over 17 years of sporadic but seemingly unending scandal -- including controversy over the awarding of the 2018 and '22 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Blatter should resign or be voted out of office in Friday's election. Doubt either will happen, but we can dream. Meanwhile, weigh in on how serious you think this latest FIFA story is.

LEBRON BREEZES TO FINALS. NEXT STOP: HEARTACHE: Cleveland Cavaliers fans are delusional, in 1aa1alebonrgeneral, I think, but especially as they view this Cavs team and the upcoming NBA Finals vs. Golden State. (Warriors clinched last night). We can forgive Cavs fans naturally thinking that having LeBron James is the panacea that overcomes all. Miami and Heat fans can relate. But Clevelanders resist the reality check that LeBron and mates will be a clear underdog (see below) vs. Steph Curry and the Warriors. It will be interesting to see LeBron in that unfamiliar role. For many in Miami, it will be delicious. By the way, J.R. Smith posted on Instagram his team's hot-tub party after the Cavs swept Atlanta in the East finals ... just in case you didn't dislike LeBron quite enough. Click here to watch.

Warriors clear faves over Cavs: SportsBettingDime.com today has Golden State a 4-9 favorite to win the NBA Finals, with Cleveland at 16-7. Warriors in six games is likeliest pick at 18-7. Finals MVP odds are Steph Curry 2-3, LeBron James 2-1 and the field at 12-1.

MARLINS A MODERN-DAY ABBOT & COSTELLO ROUTINE: After turning its general manager into the manager and then raising eyebrows with a pool celebration after finally winning to end an earlier eight-game losing streak, the Marlins' sudden demotion of Brett Butler from third-base coach to outfield and base-running duties continues the notion that the ballclub is flying by the seat of its pants. ("Who's on third!") Mike Redmond got fired in part for being seen as too passive and conservative. Now replacement Dan Jennings is seen by some as over-managing -- and demoting Butler fits that perception pretty well. By the way, Marlins fired Redmond at 16-22 and are now 2-8 under Jennings. Winning cures all, of course. Fish need to make a push toward .500 as Jose Fernandez returns in a month or so.

 

'FISH IN THE DARK': A confession, first: Larry David is one of my favorite entertainers. Curb Your

1aa1adavidlEnthusiasm
was must-watch, appointment-TV every week for me, and I long for its return. So I was 1aa1afishpredisposed to love "Fish In the Dark," the (fairly) new Broadway comedy starring David. We spent the recent long holiday weekend in New York and saw it with front-row seats, because my wife (in charge of arrangements) is not nearly as cheap as me. How great were the seats? At right is a photo from the performance, taken discreetly (and against all rules) by my son. Anyway, the show was great. No unexpected ground broken; Larry David was pretty much the character we all know -- but that is exactly who the adoring audience came to see. Terrific show! Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

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May 26, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Fish, Fins, Finals, Canes baseball, Montoya, Letterman, hockey, soccer, tennis, Heat; plus 50,000 Names: Thank you, American heroes; also, UM/MLS stadium verdict & more

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

It's Radio Tuesday: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami and 4-7 on ESPN Radio and Fusion TV. Ears, and eyes, welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MAY 26. Click on Random for our latest Sunday Random Evidence notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): UM/MLS stadium discussions with poll, King of Late Night and Kidgate poll results, proctology news & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON MAY 25: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature (a day late this week but updated) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. MARLINS: Stinking Fish make bizarre manager change, finally win: The slumping Marlins surprised baseball by prematurely firing manager Mike Redmond and then stunned baseball by replacing him with Dan Jennings, who was the general manager and began 0-5 in his new role before finally winning. Jennings last managed at the high school level in 1980s. No, seriously.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins lock up QB Tannehill with long-term deal: The Dolphins will pay quarterback Ryan Tannehill $96 million over the next six seasons in the hopes he makes them a perennial playoff team and even a Super Bowl contender. I think Dolfans are generally happy about the deal, but probably not nearly as happy as Tannehill’s wife, Lauren.

3. NBA: Golden State, Cleveland barreling toward Finals: All of America outside of Atlanta, Houston and Miami is rooting for the Golden State-Cleveland NBA Finals that now seems certain -- Steph Curry vs. LeBron James. Take solace, Heat fans. Even if that happens, it would be first time in five or six years that LeBron would enter a playoff series expected to lose.

4. UM BASEBALL: Canes to host NCAA regional: Miami failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament but stil was named a No. 5 national seed and will host an NCAA Regional at Ron Fraser Stadium. (Hey. It's my blog. I can call it whatever I want).

5. AUTO RACING: Miamian Montoya wins Indy 500: The 99th running of “Greatest Spectacle In Racing” is the one day IndyCars steal the spotlight from NASCAR, and Miami's Juan Pablo Montoya won Sunday. I was betting on Will Power. Not because I thought he'd win, but because I have a soft spot for guys with ridiculous names that sound like alter-ego pseudonyms of comic-book superheroes.

6. DAVID LETTERMAN: Late-night TV legend says farewell: Letterman didn’t supplant Johnny Carson as the all-time late-night king, never got to host “The Tonight Show” and didn’t often beat Jay Leno in ratings, yet wound up a legend. Proves you can be beloved even if you don’t win the ultimate prize. Just ask Dan Marino. Ouch! Too soon?

7. NHL: High drama in hockey semifinals: Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers are tied 2-2 in the Eastwern Conference and Anaheim and Chicago are knotted 2-2 in the West. Dear NBA: This is how you do drama.

8. SOCCER: Joint stadium for UM football and MLS soccer?: David Beckham wanted a Miami waterfront home for Major League Soccer but couldn’t get one. Miami Hurricanes need a campus football stadium but couldn’t get one. Now the sides are discussing sharing a new venue near Marlins Park. What will it be called? Consolation Stadium?

9. TENNIS: French Open is underway: Betting favorites in Paris are Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams. Sort of like in every other tournament anywhere else.

10. HEAT: Tough week for Heat fans: Watching LeBron James roll to another Finals. Pretending to be thrilled over keeping the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. Then seeing no Miami player make the All-NBA first, second or third team for the first time since 2008. Good news? Season's almost over.

Poll result: Cautious excitement over proposed UM/MLS stadium: We asked and 34.5 percent called it a great idea and 28.6% were intrigued enough to hear more. On the negative side, 15.1% were skeptical and 21.8% said "no!"

MEMORIAL DAY, 2015: THANK YOU, FALLEN SOLDIERS: On Memorial Day every year (that's today), America honors its war dead. As a proud, patriotic citizen I am honored to mark the occasion in my blog today. The Revolutionary War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Iraq and right through to today's fight against Islamic State, among many other battles distant and not, America's bravest fight and the casualties continue. Across decades and centuries, across the world, the price of freedom never lets up and never will. I hate that we use the word "heroes" so frivolously, especially to apply to something as inconsequential as sports. This is the day for real heroes. The video below is a song called "50,000 Names," by George Jones. It is about Vietnam and The Wall in Washington, D.C., but it speaks to all of America's war dead, and with appreciation to all of the loved ones they left behind. This is for them. Thank you, today and always!

 

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May 23, 2015

UM football / MLS soccer shared-stadium venture: Good idea? New poll. Vote now!; plus King of Late-Night and Kidgate verdicts, proctology news & more

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

1) It is SUNDAY, MAY 24. Click on Random for our latest Random Evidence, the Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): David Letterman farewell with King of Late-Night poll, Steph Curry/Kidgate poll, Dolphins top-paid NFL team, punter disses Tannehill, Weighing the Fish at 40, Heat draft, D.Wade's new game, 'real' Miami Vice video & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Hot Button Top 10: The HB10, our regular blog-exclusive Sunday feature, will appear here Monday evening this week.  

ON THE HURRICANES FOOTBALL / MLS SOCCER JOINT STADIUM VENTURE: You know the University of Miami and the David Beckham group trying to bring Major League Soccer here have met about a shared 1aa1astadiumsharestadium that would be built near Marlins Park. (One proposed rendering is pictured). It would be about 40,000 seats, which strikes us a bit too small for UM and a bit too big for MLS. (The Canes already have intimated they would still play marquee homes games, such as vs. Florida State, at much-bigger Dolphin stadium). I'm not sure if the proposed merger serves either side particularly well. UM, which of course needs the on-campus stadium it has never realized, would be closer to campus ... but enough to make a difference? The Beckham group, which has tried mightily and failed to have a downtown waterfront stadium, would suddenly be OK with Little Havana? For both sides it feels like settling. I have no better alternative dealing with each side's current realities, and I am not saying this wouldn't work fine. But I wonder how both sides of fans -- Canes football fans and people waiting to support MLS soccer here -- feel about the deal under discussion? About sharing a stadium? About the location? Would UM fans rather stay put at Dolphins stadium? Would soccer fans rather hold out for a different location? Or does what's being discussed sound pretty good? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Carson still King of Late-Night: We asked on the occasion of David Letterman's farewell but you made it clear you haven't forgotten his mentor. Johnny Carson earned 70.4 percent of your vote for King of Late Night, more than triple Letterman's 22.5%. After that it was 4.1% for Jay Leno and 3.0% for "someone else."

Poll result: On Steph Curry's side in Kidgate: We asked if athletes such as NBA star Steph Curry should be allowed to bring their kids to postgame press conferences, and it was 56.0 percent yes, 38.3% no and 5.7% undecided.

URGENT P1aa1aproctologyROCTOLOGY NEWS: As your full-service blog we like to keep you abreast of major medical breakthroughs, and here's one: Something that simulates the look and feel of a human derriere so that butting budding proctologists might become digitally adept before confronting an actual human being, as seen in the photo. They have named the device "Patrick," which must thrill all you Patricks out there. Click on Fake Proctology Ass for the tail tale that explains it all. Updates as warranted.

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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more

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

It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

1aa1adolcheer2
1aa1adolcheer
URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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March 08, 2015

Dolphins land Ndamukong Suh. What say you? New poll. Vote now!; plus Fins in trouble over contract leak?, Bosh's special delivery, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heat extend Michael Beasley with another 10-day contract. No surprise. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exciting-times poll, Mike Wallace verdict, new betting odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

What a Sunday for Miami sports!: Dustin Johnson punctuates his golf comeback with a stirring victory at Doral as the news is breaking across South Florida about the Dolphins landing prized free agent Ndamukong Suh. The days don't get much better than this for local sports. Click on Dolphins 'n Doral to read my column combining both events.

#GetWellCB DeliveriesBosh's special delivery: Heat star Chris Bosh is to address the media this evening prior to the Heat's home game vs. Boston. It will be Bosh's first availability since last month when his season was ended by blood clots in his lung, for which is undergoing continuing treatment with a full recovery expected. Pictured: Earlier today, about 35 Heat staffers delivered 10,000 get-well messages from fans to Bosh's home.

Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Monday:  A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending down at 9th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 20 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 38.2% (down 1.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 4 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.7% (down 1.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

A MAN NAMED SUH!: DOLPHINS REPORTEDLY LAND FORMER LIONS DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It had been looking like Miami was the frontrunner for Ndamukong Suh. Sunday it began to look all but 1aa1ansuhofficial as ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the Fins had landed the NFL's top free agent with a six-year, $114 million offer including $60 million guaranteed. The good: Miami gets the league's premier DT and second-most impactful defender overall after  Houston's J.J. Watt. Suh is in his prime at 28 and instantly and hugely upgrades both Miami's run defense and pass rush. It is a bold, major move by owner Stephen Ross and the franchise. The not so good: The enormous expenditure may short-change the club and its roster elsewhere. Also, Suh is a notoriously dirty player who has incurred some $421,000 in league fines (and two games' suspension) in his five seasons. When you factor in all of it -- Suh's talent, his reputation and the money it is costing -- what do you think of the reported soon-to-be signing? Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Fins being investigated for Suh contract leak?: This story suggests Miami and other NFL teams may be investigated for leaking contract information to the media prior to Tuesday's first day that teams may sign free agents.

Suh, Whiteside top most-excited-about vote: We asked what about Miami sports excites you most at the moment, and of five choice it was the Dolphins' pursuit of Ndamukong Suh leading with 38.6 percent and Hassan Whiteside's Heat emergence with 28.4%. Then came optimism for Marlins season at 18.5%, UM's pursuit of men's NCAA tournament bid at 11.2% and Panthers chasing NHL playoff spot at 3.4%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 8: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins reportedly land Ndamukong Suh: Miami was seen as a front-runner to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunay that the deal ($114 million over six years with $60 million guaranteed) is done barring a last-minute glitch. Suh is the ex-Lion known for his sacking, run-stopping excellence but also his dirty play and league fines. Admit it: You hate Suh. But you’d love him on your team.

2. HEAT: Miami hanging on to edge of playoff contention: Heat can regain the No. 8 seed with a win over visiting Boston tonight. Why am I smiling? Before season, on a hunch, I bet big that players leading Heat's stretch run would include Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Tyler Johnson and Bill-turned-Henry Walker.

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men seek big showing in ACC tourney: UM ended its regular season 20-11, but now Jim Larrañaga’s Canes need a big ACC tournament starting Wednesday -- at least one win and likelier two -- to get into the NCAA Tournament. Teenage girls and bubble teams know it: It’s tough waiting to see if you’ll be asked to the Big Dance.

4. PANTHERS: Cats now four back in playoff chase: Newly acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr has added a spark, but Florida (off until Thursday) has now dropped four points off the No. 8 seed even after the 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. Injuries have left team thin at goaltender. I don’t wanna say Cats are desperate, but if you own a stick and a glove, you might be starting next game.

5. GOLF: Johnson survives Championship Sunday at Doral: Dustin Johnson, in only his fifth tournament back from last year's six-month PGA Tour leave for personal issues, survived J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson to win the World Golf Championships event on Doral’s Blue Monster. A $1.57 million check, a new baby son, going home to Paulina Gretzsky ... life is good for Dustin.

6. MARLINS: Spring training games begin amid high hopes: The team not only spent big to keep Giancarlo Stanton and bolster the roster but also will have a private team jet and personal chef for players this season. This is making it tough now for me to make fun of owner Jeffrey Loria for being cheap. Damn him ruining my hobby!

7. NFL: Big moves of interest to Miami: Bills acquiring RB LeSean McCoy and Jets trading for WR Brandon Marshall put heat on Dolphins in AFC East. Meanwhile it was a rough week in the NFL for old ex-Canes as the Patriots released Vince Wilfork and Colts cut Reggie Wayne. Perpetually disgruntled UM football fans blamed Al Golden.

8. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week ends on Biscayne Bay: The 88th Bacardi Miami Sailing Week wrapped up, a weeklong sun-splashed regatta held this time each year expressly to make folks in the snow-buried Northeast feel even more jealous of us than usual.

9. AUTO RACING: Streets ready for Miami ePrix: They’ve set up barricades downtown for this coming Saturday’s “Miami ePrix,” in which world’s fastest electric race cars will be humming down Biscayne Boulevard. Miamians have a phrase to describe that kind of crazy speed, chaos and danger on the road: "I-95."

10. SOCCER: MLS begins its 20th season: Major League Soccer is back in action as David Beckham continues to search for a stadium site for his prospective Miami franchise. Dead-ends so far on all his preferred locations. Poor Dave may end up settling for a warehouse district in Hialeah.

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What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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January 01, 2015

What was Miami/South Florida's biggest sports story of 2014? Poll. Last chance to vote!; plus Oregon hammers FSU, Ohio State stuns 'Bama & more

1aa1anew15
1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 1. Happy New Year, all! Let's make it a great one! 2) In The 
Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron and D-Wade plotting reunion?, Orange Bowl game interest poll, Cats sign Bjugstad, NFL Pix results & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

A message from me to you: To all our readers, print and online, to our Blog Family and radio listeners and to our followers and friends on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine ... thank you! You made it another great past year and make me look forward to 2015.

More Cowbell!: Click on More Cowbell for my column from last night's Orange Bowl game. I write how Georgia Tech was up to the big stage in its 49-34 win; Mississippi State was not.

1aa1amiami2014WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2014?: We do this every year. We asked you last week to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2014 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from an alphabetically presented top 10 of my choosing. You may vote for your top three (3). I offer no synopsis beyond what's in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Remember, you can choose your top three. Ready? Vote!

Your national sports story of year was...: We asked you to vote for the 2014 national sports story of the year from among The Associated Press' top 10, and LeBron James going home was your top choice with 22.2 percent, followed by Donald Sterling's NBA ouster (20.7%) and NFL domestic violence (18.9%).

O MY! OREGON, OHIO STATE REACH TITLE GAME: Ohio State upsets Alabama 42-35 in last night's late semifinal ending at 12:42 a.m. (which is ridiculous). Not sure if Urban Meyer winning feels any better than Nick Saban losing. In the first game Oregon hammers Florida State 59-20. Turnovers killed FSU as much as the Ducks did. Don't eviscerate the Noles too much, though. Champions; 29 straight. Great run. Respect. ..... Original post: What the Free World has clamored for so long -- a College Football Playoff -- bursts from concept to reality today with the two CFP semifinals: Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m., then Alabama vs. Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl at 8:30. The doubleheader will do monstrous TV ratings nationally , and should even fly high in nonchalant South Florida. Here, the large FSU alumni fan base and our natural disdain for Nick Saban assures interest. (Then again, rooting against Nick means rooting for Urban Meyer. LIFE ISN'T FAIR! ESPN polled its 43 college football experts (which is about 38 too many, by the way), and the picks were Oregon over FSU by 31-12 and 'Bama over OSU by (ouch) 42-1. Eventual-champion votes were Alabama 21, Oregon 18, FSI 1 and Urban 0. The asterisk in the headline? Me. I agree with the consensus on the Tide rolling, but think the Seminoles -- undefeated yet maligned -- will upset the mighty Ducks. Can't wait! 

Poll result: Interest in Orange Bowl game was low: We asked your interest level in last night's Georgia Tech-Mississippi State Orange Bowl game, and most voted "non-existent" (49.2 percent) or "low" (23.4%). The rest voted "medium" (18.4%) or "high" (9.0%).

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November 16, 2014

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 47.6%; plus UM falls late to FSU, Stanton deal, new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins wad Bills, DSM poll, NFL Week 11 picks & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Click on What Champions Do for my column from the stadium on last night's Canes-Noles game. I write that FSU deserves more credit than Miami does blame. Find our blog gamepost directly below the new CSM poll and latest Hot Button Top 10.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G10: Results are certified in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 47.6 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Saturday night's 30-26 home loss to Florida State putting UM's season 1aa1acsmrecord at 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. (That's easily UM's highest grade following a loss this season). The CSM, in its sixth season, is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Monday.

;

2014 CSM results

G1: 6.7% (following 31-13 loss at Louisville) 

G2: 35.9% (following 41-7 victory vs. Florida A&M)

G3: 71.8% (following 41-20 victory vs. Arkansas State)

G4: 11.6% (following 41-31 loss at Nebraska)

G5: 73.3% (following 22-10 victory vs. Duke)

G6: 3.3% (following 28-17 loss at Georgia Tech)

G7: 29.6% (following 55-34 victory vs. Cincinnati)

G8: 80.4% (following 30-6 victory at Virginia Tech)

G9: 92.9% (following 47-20 victory vs. North Carolina)

G10: 47.6% (following 30-26 loss vs. Florida State)

Next Poll: Nov. 22 (following game at Virginia)

HOT BUTTON NOV. 16: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, an expanded, updated Hot Button Top 10. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Hurricanes: UM falls short as Florida State hex continues: Miami led last night all game until 3 minutes remained, losing 30-26. FSU and Jameis Winston did what they do: Being doubted, looking less than great ... then winning. No power shift yet in the ACC. I said yet.

2. Dolphins: Spanking of Bills enlivens playoff hopes: Happy days are here again after Thursday's 22-9 home win over jinx Buffalo. I'd mention Peyton Manning is waiting on deck in Denver, but I'm not a rain-on-your-parade kind of guy.  

3. Marlins: Stanton reportedly close to record extension: Slugger Giancarlo Stanton, 25, is said to be close to signing a $325 million, 13-year extension. Be honest. Raise your hand if you thought Jeffrey Loria, who led the league in being disliked, would ever be the owner to set record for spending.

4. NASCAR: Season champion to be crowned today at Homestead: I'll be down there as Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick race for NASCAR season crown today at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Any would be a first-time champ in latest incarnation of Chase for the Crown format. 

5. Heat: Still trying to decipher team in post-LeBron era: A 5-2 start, now two losses in a row entering today's home game vs. Milwaukee. What we know for sure about the Heat right now is that we don't know anything for sure.

6. College football: Alabama topples No. 1 Mississippi State: Nick Saban's home win, 25-20, will send the No. 5-ranked Crimson Tide leaping into the College Football Playoff ranking's coveted top four, and likely sending Mississippi State out of it. You get a chance to watch the game, Condoleezza Rice?

7. UM hoops: Canes men visit No. 7 Gators Monday: Jim Larranaga's UM men are 1-0 but get their first real test of the newborn college basketball season at top-10 Floirida Monday. Canes footballers just lost to a state rival. Let's see how the hoops guys fare.

8. Panthers: Cats begin four-game road swing: I keep reading how the season is on upswing. Hmm. When last I checked, Florida was 5-9, last in NHL in goals and 13th of 16 teams in conference. Can we raise the bar on "upswing," please?

9. FIU: Golden Panthers win home finale: FIU rallied to defeat Middle Tennessee 38-28 in their home finale to snap four-game losing streak. It was Senior Day. Based on reports, there may have been more Seniors being honored than fans in the stands. 

10. Soccer: Strikers fall short for NASL title: Fort Lauderdale lost at San Antonio last night 2-1 for NASL championship, Strikers' first time in Soccer Bowl since 1980 loss to N.Y. Cosmos in league's original incarnation. I may be only person in America both at the '80 game and aware of last night's.

G10: NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE 30, HURRICANES 26: No in-game live blog last night because of recurring online/connectivity problems from the stadium. ..... Original post: If No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama is today's collball Game of the Day, it's by a whisker over this one as unbeaten Florida State visits Miami at 1aa1acanesfsu8 p.m. in a nationally televised game that has FSU's 25-game winning streak and repeat-championship hopes in serious jeopardy. The Hurricanes are but narrow 2 1/2-point underdogs at Dolphins stadium, due to a combination of Jameis Winston and his Noles not being as dominant as last year, and UM playing its best ball of the season. The timing seems right for the homies. The U rides in on a three-game win streak and has won 13 of its past 14 home games as it tries to end a four-game FSU win streak in this ACC and state rivalry. Miami has not won at home over the Tally gang in 10 years. The sold-out stadium may be filled with nearly as many fans in garnet and gold as in orange or green, but there are reasons beyond the venue to like Miami. Brad Kaaya is having a better season, at least statistically, than Winston. Red-hot Duke Johnson is playing like a running back who means to make a late run at the Heisman Trophy. And UM's once-maligned defense has seemed to coalesce with more of an attacking style. Miami, the way it is playing right now, is a team that can keep pace with Winston in a shootout. And Lord knows FSU is overdue for a loss. I'll be at the game tonight columnizing. It's one of those "event" games that won't feel like work. Can't wait 'til kickoff! My pick was: Hurricanes, 31-27.

Other Collball Week 12 state FBS games:

South Carolina 23, Florida 20 (OT): Steve Spurrier back in The Swamp is always fun, even though this was an off-year meeting in which Spurrier's 'Cocks and his ex-Gators both are sloughing through disappointing seasons. Florida was a 7-point fave but game to me felt even, like no result would surprise. With good reason, apparently.

FIU 38, Middle Tennessee 28: FIU once was 3-3 and dreaming bowl but had spilled to four straight L's and was a 5-point 'dog here. But I rightly gave G-Panthers a decent upset shot in their home finale.

Also: USF def. Southern Methodist, 14-13, and UCF def. Tulsa, 31-17, Friday night. Off this week: FAU.

JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAYS, MARLINS' GIVE US THE GIFT OF STANTON: The Miami Marlins, of all teams. Jeffrey Loria, of all sports owners. That is what strikes you first when hearing that Giancarlo 1aa1agstantonStanton reportedly is about to sign the richest contract in the history not only of baseball, but of North American team sports: $325 million over 13 years. It isn’t that some team is offering him that. It’s that this team is. The Marlins, who are routinely among MLB's bottom-dwellers in player payroll. The Marlins, who have led the league in cost-cutting, fan-angering "fire sales." The Marlins, whose penurious business 1aa1adickens
operation has made Loria perhaps the most unpopular owner in South Florida sports history. This is astounding. Not less. It calls to mind (just in time for the holidays) Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which Ebenezer Scrooge sees the light and transforms himself from a miser of cold heart to a man of admirable generosity. Scrooge, in the modern reenactment, is played by Loria. And convincingly, as hard as that is (still) for the mind to wrap around. Click on The Gift of Stanton for today's full column by me.

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