April 22, 2018

The new Hot Button Top 10: See who wins the tight battle for No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Heat's hope-crushing defeat (with column), 4-Man Outfield (updated) & more

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

1) It's SUNDAY, APRIL 22. Eagles and Jimmy Buffett put on a great show at The Rock last night. Vince Gill played with the Eagles and was fantastic. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 4, analyzing Dolphins schedule, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

The violent swing of a physical series: My Heat Game 4 column: This was the 76ers coach after yesterday's game: "I'm shocked we won this game. We didn't really have a right." The Heat's 106-102 loss for a 3-1 series disadvantage could not have been more demoralizing. Miami did so much right. Philly did so much wrong. And yet the Heat let what should have been a faith-restoring, series-evening victory slip away late. Again. My column: A Hope-Crushing Defeat. Our previous Heat playoff-run columns: Embiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So Much / Not Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry Them / Whiteside Must Rise Up Now / In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust / And The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (APRIL 22): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Crushing Game 4 loss has Miami on the brink: Yesterday's 106-102 Game 4 home loss by Miami makes it a 3-1 series that Philly can clinch at home on Tuesday. How in hell did the Heat manage to lose that game? How on earth did the Sixers somehow win!? Soon, there will be a long offseason to ponder the questions. Short answer: The 76ers are better. As for my series prediction -- Heat in six games -- I plead temporary insanity. Although "temporary" may be open to debate.

2. DOLPHINS: Finally! It's NFL Draft Week: The regular-season schedule came out, and it isn't daunting enough to be an excuse for more Fins losing. Meanwhile, finally, it's draft week, with the first round this Thursday night kicking off the three-day event. You've read a thousand mock drafts (mine is yet to come) and still have no idea what the Dolphins will do with the 11th overall pick. It's OK. Neither do I. The real question: Do the Dolphins even know?

3. SOCCER: Quartet of giants at Hard Rock this summer: The International Champions Cup returns to The Rock this summer with a massive doubleheader: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich on July 28, and Manchester United vs. Real Madrid on July 31. Both games should sell, just like last summer’s El Clasico Miami did with Real Madrid and Barcelona. Miami and Hard Rock always gets the best ICC matches. No mystery. "I own the event," as Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross points out.

4. MARLINS: Jeter tries to defend the indefensible: Fire-Sale Fish owner Derek Jeter made the  mistake of going on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for an interview that airs Tuesday. It got contentious. Jeter called Gumbel mentally weak and at one point said, "Tanking? What is tanking?" Well, since he asked! Dear Derek: Tanking is trading away your best players in a payroll slash, even knowing it would leave you with a non-competitive team. Marlins' current record: 5-15. Or 5-16, if you count Jeter's loss to Gumble.

5. NBA: Pelicans first through, LeBron sweating: New Orleans swept Portland to be the first team onto the playoffs' second round, while Golden State and Philadelphia are one win away from advancing. But the story of the postseason thus far might be Cleveland's 2-1 series deficit to Indiana suggesting a wide-open East. Game 4 is Sunday. LeBron James can't lose again ... can he? But if the Heat don't advance, isn't that about the best South Florida can hope for?

6. HURRICANES: UM football puts a bow on spring practice: Mark Richt wrapped up a month's offseason work, and spring practice ended with it looking as if Malik Rosier would enter the fall still as the team's starting quarterback. The questions fans are left to ponder: Is that a good thing?

7. NHL: Four teams advance, four close: Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, San Jose and expansion Las Vegas are on to the next round in the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Nashville all hold 3-2 series leads. Winnipeg is the last hope to end Canada's four-decade Stanley Cup drought. But don;t get your hopes up, eh?

8. SOCCER: UEFA Champions League semifinal on deck: It's Liverpool vs. Roma and Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid in the first leg of the semifinals this Tuesday and Wednesday, with the second leg on May 1-2. You partial to Cinderellas? Roma's tour team.

9. UM BASEBALL: It isn't getting any better, folks: Dropping two out of three at Pitt, Canes baseball is now 17-22, with the chances to climb above .500 slipping away. A sad way for coach Jim Morris to go out after such a long and stellar career at UM. 

10. POWERBOATS: Miami Marine Stadium comes alive!: There's powerboat racing at Miami Marine Stadium this weekend for the first time in 26 years with the P1 Miami Grand Prix. It's history making, by which I mean this is the first-ever appearance of powerboat racing in the Hot Button Top 10.

Missing the HB10 cut: UCF football unveiled a "2017 National Champions" sign at its stadium. Um, should we tell them, or let them continue in their harmless delusion? ..... Packers QB Aaron Rodgers bought a small share of the Milwaukee Bucks. His advice to the team: More passing! ..... UM held its 50th annual Sports Hall of Fame banquet. honoring a nine-person class led by new Dolphin Frank Gore. The number of people in the UM hall now exceeds the population of half the countries in the world ..... Five years after the Boston Marathon bombing, an American woman won the race for the first time since 1985. "U-S-A!" ..... Condolences to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on the death of wife Erin.

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON HEATING UP?: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Brinson has been struggling mightily but came alive with two homers Thursday and another Saturday to raise his OPS from .316 to .488. The latest, entering Sunday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .971   10  38    9  13    6    2-1-1      .342

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .711   19  77   11  15   12   3-1-4      .195

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .616   19  81    8  20   11   2-0-2      .247

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .488   19  70    6  11    7    0-0-3      .157

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNS: The Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Recent: On Dolphins schedule: Schedule Not Daunting, So No More Excuses. Also: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack / Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / Dave Shula Goes Home Again / Others: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing / Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2018

G2: Heat @ 76ers: Tonight or forget it. Will Miami show up?; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated). See who's No. 1 and what else falls where; also, 4-Man Outfield update (Brinson at .131) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 16. Jackie Robinson dissolved baseball's color barrier 71 years ago yesterday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 1 and playoff preview, your confidence-level verdict, The List, 4-Man Outfield update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

G2: HEAT @ SIXERS: MUST-WIN FOR MIAMI? NOT LITERALLY, BUT YES REALISTICALLY: Still no Joel Embiid for Philly, yet Heat are a 7-point underdog tonight in Game 2 of their NBA first- Miaphiround playoff series after being shellacked 130-103 in Game 1 Saturday. This is the 34th seven-game series in Miami franchise history, and the weight of Game 1 is clear. The 18 times Miami has G2won the opener, it is 15-3 on advancing. The 15 times it has lost the opener, it is 7-8 on advancing. But four of those advances from 0-1 were in the Big 3 era; today's is obviously not an especially strong Heat team, just a resourceful one with a deep bench. The onus tonight is on Erik Spoelstra to make adjustments that give his Heat a chance. That starts with better perimeter defense against the Sixers' 3's. It also depends on much better efforts and results from everybody but the one guy who played well Saturday, Kelly Olynyk. Time for Miami's "Culture" to show up in the battle with Philly's "Process." The fundamentals that Spoelstra relies on -- defense and effort -- need to arise in full tonight or Miami will limp home in an 0-2 crater.   

My Heat playoff columns: The Dolphins thought they'd retake Miami when LeBron left, but the Heat, back in the playoffs, have other ideas. Click In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust. Also, I foolishly daringly picked Miami to win in six games. For that column: The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT/NBA: Heat get clobbered in Game 1 as playoffs underway: Ouch. Oy. Miami got spanked 130-103 by the 76ers in Philly last night, with Game 2 back up there tonight/Monday. Kelly Olynyk showed up big off the bench for Miami; everybody else pretty much disappeared. It's early, but our series pick (Heat in six games) has been rushed to the emergency room. First the Eagles win the Super Bowl, then Villanova wins the NCAA Tournament, now this. Don't get greedy, Philly!

2. DOLPHINS: Amendola sounds off as draft nears: We're 10 days until the draft's first round, so before we get fully immersed in that, new Fins receiver Danny Amendola tells ESPN that his former Pats boss, Bill Belichick, is both a brilliant coach and a person who could be "an a-hole sometimes." Um, Danny, doesn't that sorta go without saying on both counts?

3. MARLINS: B.V.I. Fish ready to visit Yanks, Stanton: After closing out a home set with the Pirates on Sunday (another loss, of course), the British Virgin Islands Marlins travel to New York for Monday and Tuesday games vs. the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Marlins dismantler-in-chief Derek Jeter said it would be "awkward" for him to be in Yankee Stadium so he won't make the trip. What, like it isn't awkward for him to be at Marlins Park, too?

4. HURRICANES: Spring Game fails to settle QB battle: The quarterback race remains open although with Malik Rosier out front and the defensive line dominated the offensive line, if you want a capsule synopsis of Saturday's football Spring Game at Hard Rock Stadium. Other big college programs sell out their Spring Games, while UM 's drew only around 12,000 fans. If that. You know why? Because Miamians are smarter than everybody else. Bulletin: A Spring Game doesn't count. It's a glorified practice. See ya in September.

5. NHL: Panthers extinct (again) as playoffs underway: Florida finished ninth in the scrum for eight Eastern playoffs spots, but the fight for Lord Stanley's cup is on, anyway. Nashville, Tampa Bay and old-guard Boston are the betting favorites going in, but wouldn't it be fun if the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights won it all!? Already picturing a float full of waving Elvis impersonators in the victory parade.

6. SOCCER: Neat contrast in Champions League semifinals: The UEFA Champions League is down to four teams as the first leg of the semifinals looms April 24-25. In the upstart division: Liverpool vs. Roma. And in the heavyweight division: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid. The only real Cinderella? Associazione Sportiva RomaI Giallorossi = La Lupa = La Magica. Roma!

7. GOLF: Tiger commits to U.S. Open: He was encouraged by a credible showing in this month's Masters with a 1-over tie for 32nd, including a finishing 69. Now Tiger Woods says he'll play in the 118th U.S. Open June 14-17 in New York. Tiger has won three U.S. Opens and the one way back in 2008 was his last major title. Time for another, Eldrick?

8. UM BASEBALL: Will Clemson series be needed spark?: The Canes are limping with a 15-20 record but were encouraged to take two of three on the road at No. 8-ranked Clemson over the weekend. UM will take a spark anywhere it can find one as it tries to salvage Jim Morris' swansong season.

9. NFL: Cowboys release star receiver Dez Bryant: Dallas rather abruptly cut Dez this week. Yes, and other than his age, injuries, diminishing production, huge salary and itinerant attitude issues, it was a real shock!

10. MLB: Two-way sensation Ohtani continues to wow: The Angels' Japanese star Shohei Ohtani enters Sunday play hitting .367 with three homers and a 1.191 OPS, and is 2-0 pitching with a 2.08 ERA and 18-2 on strikeouts/walks ratio. Mike Trout? Who?

Missing the HB10 cut: Quick. Somebody check on Conor McGregor. Getting worried. Been several days since he's done anything stupid ..... Dancing With The Stars announced an all-athletes lineup for its 26th season, including Adam Rippon, Josh Norman, Johnny Damon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The must-watch factor? A chance to hopefully see Tonya Harding fall on her a-- in humiliated defeat ..... PGA Tour golfer Kelly Kraft missed the cut because his tee shot hit a bird. He'd have still made the cut had more of his other shots hit birdies ..... WNBA draft was held. Details when available ..... Free-agent QB Mark Sanchez was suspended four games for performance-enhancing drugs. Dear Mark: They ain't workin'!

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON DOWN TO .131: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but Brinson is really struggling, while Yelich remains sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .984   6   26    6  10    5    2-0-1      .385

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .761  14  59    8  13   10   3-1-3      .220

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .703   15  66    6  19   10   2-0-2      .288

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .316   15  61    3   8    1    0-0-0      .131

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Recent: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack / Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / Dave Shula Goes Home Again / Others: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing / Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 09, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Tough fight but a new No. 1, and see what else lands where; plus my Sunday Tiger 'n Phil column, your Heat playoff-foe verdict, 4-Man Outfield update (oh no Brinson) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 9. This was my mother's birthday. It's why my first uniform number in Little League was 9. Miss you, Mom. 2) Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat playoff possibilities with poll, 4-Man Outfield, 'Dream Still Lives' video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Tiger, Phil and the emotional power of sports: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at The Masters. Two beloved, all-time greats, out of contention but trying to summon glimpses of the greatness that is running away from them. This is the emotional pull of sports, the sentimental power of it. And this is an atypically personal column by me. To read, click Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports.

Other most recent columns: Heat/playoffs, Dolphins/Gronk, Dave Shula, Marlins: As a playoff opponent is determined: For Heat, 1 Team to Avoid  /  Hop aboard our flight of fancy: The Case For Gronk to Dolphins  /  He'd been out of coaching since 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son is back: Dave Shula Goes Home Again  /  And on baseball's Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Two games left and playoff foe still a mystery: Miami ends the NBA regular season at home tonight vs. Oklahoma City and Wednesday vs. Toronto -- with everything still up in the air. At the moment Heat is 6th seed and set to open playoffs vs 76ers, but that can change. Miami still could finish 6th, 7th or 8th and face the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers or Cavaliers. So pick your preferred opponent and then hold your breath for a couple of days.

2. PANTHERS: No playoffs for you, Cats. The fight was lost: Florida ended its season with five straight wins but still was officially eliminated from playoff contention -- by one standings point. Cats started season too slowly and got good too late. Roberto Luongo became only third goalie to reach 1,000 career games, but, once again, too little of that career has been spent getting anywhere near the elusive Stanley Cup.

3. GOLF: Reed hangs on to win Masters: American Patrick Reed finished 15-under-par to to win The Masters and his first career major, edging Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Way back were Tiger Woods at plus-1 and Phil Mickelson at plus-2. You know it's bad when Sunday for Tiger and Phil is more about saving face than contending. Meantime defending champ Sergio Garcia missed the cut thanks to an 8-over par 13 on the 15th hole of the first round. Who'd he think he was, Greg Cote!? 

4. MARLINS: Fire-Sale Fish embarrassed in 20-1 loss: Miami has a 3-6 early-season record lowlighted by Sunday's shameful 20-1 loss -- yes, 20-1 -- at Philadelphia. The Mets visit starting tonight. The marketing catch-phrase for Derek Jeter's starless team is, "Just Gettin' Started." Yeah, that's what worries us, Derek!

5. PRO WRESTLING: Bam! Pow! It was Wrestlemania XXXIV!: The Undertaker beat John Cena and Ronda Rousey was victorious in her WWE in-ring debut to highlight Sunday's 34th Wrestlemania extravaganza before 70,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans. When the final history of America is written just prior to the Apocalypse, our bizarre, enduring fascination with the loony spectacle of pro wrestling needs to have its own chapter.

6. DOLPHINS: NFL Draft countdown: 17 days: Getting closer to the April 26 first round. I'm not privy to exactly what's being discussed inside the Dolphins' Ginn Family War Room. But I do know that Miami probably should spend the 11th overall pick to get its quarterback of the future. Which is why it probably won't happen as the conservative, inside-the-box Fins probably will target defense first.

7. SOCCER: UEFA Champions League nearing semifinals: Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will own the inside track as the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take place this Tuesday and Wednesday. If you're radar for the sport is only engaged during the World Cup, treat yourself to some of the the best club futbol on Earth. I mean, Ronaldo's bicycle-kick goal, am I right!?

8. UFC: McGregor rampage, then UFC 223: Khalib Nurmagomedov or perhaps Nurmagomedov Khalib won the lightweight Saturday at UFC 223 in Brooklyn. But more interesting was the rampage that got Conor McGregor arrested earlier in the week for disrupting a Dana White UFC media event. McGregor was caught on camera throwing a hand dolly through the window of a bus carrying UFC fighters. There is a phrase for this: "Publicity stunt."

9. HURRICANES: Spring football unveiling in five days: Canes' open-to-public Spring Game is this coming Saturday at The Rock. Yesterday's scrimmage was closed to fans and media, but, based on statistics provided by Mark Richt, Malik Rosier outplayed challenger N'Kosi Perry in the quarterback battle. Spring schming. September, please.

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes' rocky farewell for Morris continues: UM baseball is 13-18 after beating North Carolina on Sunday to snap a seven-game losing streak and avoid being swept at home. Forget College World Series for the moment. Don't even think NCAA playoffs. Take it one step at a time, Canes. Think .500. Think trying to avoid one of the worst seasons in UM history.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Alliance of American Football spring league announced Steve Spurrier, 73 this month, will coach its Orlando team when the eight-team league begins play the week after the next Super Bowl. Negotiations with Spurrier went smoothly once they agreed to that sideline putting green ..... I correctly had Villanova winning it all. It was all those other damned games that ruined my bracket ..... Miami Open tennis leaving Key Biscayne for Hard Rock Stadium? If I might adapt the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi: "They left paradise and moved to a parking lot" ..... The WNBA Draft is coming up on April 12. Where's Mel Kiper's mock? ..... Dear Media: Can we please quit acting all excited every time Tim Tebow hits a home run in Double-A? Thank you ..... That reminds me: Johnny Manziel, the devil to Tebow's angel, threw TD pass in some spring game Saturday ..... The quarterback grandson of Bear Bryant just signed with Alabama. Hey no pressure or anything, kid!

POLL RESULTS: CELTICS OR CAVS FOR HEAT, PLEASE, NOT 76ERS OR RAPTORS: We asked what opponent (of four possibilities) you'd most like the Miami Heat to face in the playoffs' first round, and it was 43.2 percent Boston Celtics, 32.0% Cleveland Cavaliers, 22.4% Philadelphia 76ers and 2.4% Toronto Raptors. The same question on our Twitter feed had the same order: Celtics 46%, Cavs 36%, 76ers 11% and Raptors 7%

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON'S WOES: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but all four (especially Brinson) RE struggling to some degree except Yelich -- and he's sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .984   6   26    6  10    5    2-0-1      .385

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .831   9   35    5   7    7    2-0-3      .200

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .765    8   34    4  11    5    1-0-1      .324

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .428    8   38    3   7    1    0-0-0      .184

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks to APSE. Here are our nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 02, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See the new No. 1 and what else lands where; plus NCAA Final Two and my bracket, your verdict on Marlins expectations (ouch), me in APSE column-writing, Miley Cyrus spanked by Easter Bunny & more

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

Easter1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 2. Welcome, April. Hope all you Christians had a Happy Easter! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day expectations poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

APSE contest: We finished in Top 5: The Associated Press Sports Editors annual writing contest that had placed me in the top 10 for national columnists this month in the major-outlet category revealed the exact order on Friday and I ended up No. 5. Congrats to the winner, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star. And thanks to APSE. I'm pleased by the top-five recognition. (A list of our nominated columns that earned that honor may be found below).

Latest columns: Marlins' Opening Day, NCAA Final Four, Dolphins, Wayne Huizenga: On baseball Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing and Marlins 2018: Accentuating The Positives (Sort Of)  /  On NCAA Final Four: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella  /  On Fins: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason  /  And on passing of South Florida sports and civic giant: Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible.

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

Hotbutton1. MARCH MADNESS: It's Villanova-Michigan for NCAA men's title: 'Nova crushed Kansas while Michigan ended the dream of Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean in Saturday's Final Four, setting up a heavyweight championship match tonight that finds Villanova the biggest title-game favorite since 2010. On the women's side, Notre Dame beat Mississippi State for the crown Sunday as 'Anybody But UConn' prayers were answered.

2. MARLINS: MLB underway as Jeter presents his Fire-Sale Fish: Marlins finished a credible 2-2 vs. Cubs in season-opening series now welcome Red Sox to town for a pair. Marlins gave up a home run on the very first pitch of the season, while Giancarlo Stanton was homering on his very first swing as a Yankee. Poetic justice? Meantime "Marlins Man" is shopping himself to other teams, as if anybody on the face of the Earth gives a s--- other than Marlins Man.

3. TENNIS: Championship Weekend as Miami Open leaves Key Biscayne: John Isner beat Alexander Zverev for the men's title Sunday one day after Fort Lauderdale's Sloane Stephens defeated Jelena Ostapenko, completing the first U.S. sweep of the event since 2004. It was a star-shy, low-watt weekend to end the tournament's long history on Key Biscayne before next year's move to Hard Rock Stadium. The crowd jeered during Saturday's post-match ceremony when tourney director James Blake mentioned the move. Good.

4. PANTHERS: Playoffs now seem a longshot for Cats: There is a phrase for the Panthers' playoff hopes now: Thin ice. An ill-timed third straight loss on Saturday has Florida now seven points off playoff pace with two games in hand, a lot of ground to make up with only five games to play starting Monday here vs. Carolina. Even a strong finish won't be enough unless 8th place New Jersey ends in a tailspin.

5. HEAT: Whiteside gripes as Miami waits to clinch: Hassan Whiteside went petty after Saturday's home OT loss to Brooklyn, calling it "bulls---" that he was benched when Nets went small. Miami now sits in 7th place (via a tiebreaker) and still needs one more win or a Detroit loss to clinch playoff spot. They'll make it, but the idea, with five games left, is to stay above 8th to avoid top-seed Toronto in the first round. Aside to Hassan: As your team fights down the stretch, not a great time to make it all about you, big fella.

6. GOLF: All eyes on Tiger as Masters nears: The year's first golf major -- The Masters at Augusta -- begins this Thursday, and it will be the first major first step to gauge Tiger Woods' comeback and return to full health. "I got a second chance on life," Tiger said this week. "I am a walking miracle." Woods has won the Masters four times but not since 2005. A fifth would send weekend TV through the roof, were there roofs over golf courses.  

7. HORSE RACING: Audible wins the Florida Derby: Audible won the Florida Derby on Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, assuring he'll be among favorites in the May 5 Kentucky Derby. Audible will take a four-race winning streak into Triple Crown season, and the previous two Florida Derby winners (Always Dreaming in 2017 and Nyquist in '16) have gone on to win at Churchill Downs. No pressure anything, Audible!

8. DOLPHINS: Let the NFL Draft countdown begin!: April now, draft month, 24 days 'til the first round. Mel Kiper's latest mock draft for ESPN has the Big Four quarterbacks going 1-2-3-5 and then also 15th (Lamar Jackson). Alas, Kiper has the Dolphins, picking No. 11, taking Florida State safety Derwin James. Pfffft

9. SOCCER: Champions League quarterfinals on deck: The UEFA Champions League quarterfinals are April 3-11. The first of eight matches are Tuesday with Sevilla vs. Bayern and Juventus vs. Real Madrid. No middle ground. You are either excited, or could not possibly care less.

10. HURRICANES: Football spring practice at midpoint: Mark Richt's Canes are halfway though spring practice, with the Spring Game coming up April 14. UM football gets the nod because, unfortunately, Jim Morris' baseball Canes continue to slog around at 12-15 after being swept on Sunday at Georgia Tech.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Angels' two-way star Shohei Ohtani on Sunday became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to start as a non-pitcher on Opening Day and then start as a pitcher within his team's first 10 games. Talk about a showoff! ..... Answer: I just saw that the UM men's tennis team is ranked 46th in the nation. Question: Do you think maybe they 're ranking too many teams? ..... NFL league meetings ended in Orlando with an apparent agreement on what constitutes a catch. Progress! ..... Ex-NBA stars Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash and Grant Hill head the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. Inductees also include Maurice Cheeks. No, seriously.

Ncaaff DickvitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: LET'S GO VILLANOVA!: We're updating you on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand in 19th place entering Monday night's championship game in San Antonio:

Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness crescendo with the Final Four on Saturday: No. 3 Michigan rallying to beat No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and then No. 1 Villanova crushing No. 1 Kansas. I had no teams in the first game and both in the second, with Villanova winning it all. Hoping a 'Nova win Monday can get me in the pool's final top 10 or close to it.

Elite Eight -- Last Sunday as the Final Four was set I had the two No. 1 seeds still in play and both winning, and Villanova and Kansas both came through for me. Alas I didn't have a bracket dog in the hunt in either of Saturday's games as Michigan ousted Florida State and No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean kept the dream alive by beating Kansas State. 

[See earlier blogposts for our results preceding the Elite Eight round]

JeterPOLL RESULTS: YOUR OUTLOOK FOR MARLINS? NOT PRETTY: We asked in a blog poll this week, "What is the most likely/reasonable expectation for the 2018 Miami Marlins?" and gave you six choices. The results: 38.3 percent said 59-or-fewer wins; 27.5% said 60-64 wins; 15.8% said 65-69 wins; 10.8% said 70-74 wins; 4.2% said 80-plus wins; and 3.3% said 75-79 wins. That's 81.7% who don't see Miami reaching 70 wins. Ouch. In a separate Twitter poll, we you what would end up as the bigger number: Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge's combined home runs for the Yankees? Or Marlins season losses? More than 2,000 voted, and it was 56% for Marlins losses as the larger number. Ouch II.

Mileybunny"DEAR GREG...": "...Your blog's OK, but would be much better if occasionally you would show a picture of Miley Cyrus being spanked by the Easter Bunny. I feel that would be especially appropriate now, with Easter coming up on Sunday. Thank you." Dear Reader: That's a lot to ask, but I'll see what I can do. (Click on image to see enlarged version. Imagine. You're a professional mall Easter Bunny guy ready for his annual weekend posing with 5-year-olds, and a rep for Miley Cyrus calls to invite you to this photo shoot...)

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 26, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): A surprise at No. 1 (maybe) and see what else falls where; plus our NCAA bracket update (ugh), columns on Dolphins/Frank Gore and Wayne Huizenga & more

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

Neveragain1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 26. So, so proud of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High whose anger and tears in the wake of last month's mass shooting led to Saturday's March For Our Lives that drew hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C. and millions to rallies nationwide. The movement to ban assault weapons has only just begun. 2) Happy 71st birthday on Sunday to a philanthropic giant and a man who has been such a vital part of my life's soundtrack: Elton John. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): R.I.P. Wayne Huizenga, our NCAA bracket update, your Who's-Next verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our latest column: The feel-good and the bad of Dolphins signing Frank Gore: It strikes all the right emotional chords, but it also is in keeping with a curious, troubling offseason for the Dolphins. To read our newest column, click Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason. (By the way, we had a snarky little Twitter poll inviting your reaction to last week's Fins signing of Gore and QB Brock Osweiler. More than 3,000 voted. The result was 26 percent voting "Super Bowl!" and 74% voting "Well, um, uh...") 

Other most recent columns: On Wayne Huizenga, Serena Williams, Canes QBs: A South Florida sports and civic giant dies. Click Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible / Serena returns from maternity leave in her home tournament and is quickly ousted by 20-year-old phenom who grew up idolizing her. Click Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / And, can Malik Rosier hold onto Hurricanes' quarterback job? Click Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation

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

Hot1. MARLINS: It's Opening Week for Fire-Sale Fish and MLB: Winding down a mildly encouraging spring training, by which I mean they weren't awful, the decimated Marlins are three days from Opening Day this Thursday afternoon here vs. the Cubs. The big question: Will new boss Derek Jeter be a part of pregame ceremonies and risk being booed after trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon in a profit-first, baseball-second salary dump?

2. MARCH MADNESS: NCAA Tournament has its Final Four: It'll be No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 seed Loyola-Cinderella in the men's Final Four this Saturday after a five-day break. That's three superpowers and one reminder why we love March Madness so much.

3. WAYNE HUIZENGA: Influential sports owner dies at 80: The man who founded the Miami Marlins and Florida Panthers and rescued the Miami Dolphins from financial calamity -- once owning all three teams concurrently -- died on Thursday. Huizenga was a giant in business and philanthropy and a major figure on the South Florida sports landscape in 1993-2008. R.I.P., good sir.

4. DOLPHINS: Curious offseason continues with Gore, Osweiler: The Dolphins' offseason is getting "curiouser and curiouser," as Lewis Carroll's Alice might say. Last week the team signed former Hurricanes star Frank Gore and then quarterback Brock Osweiler, which might not be too bad except that one is a soon-to-be 35-year-old running back and the other is Brock Osweiler. 

5. MARCH FOR OUR LIVES: Parkland tragedy spawns massive rally: No, this has nothing to do with sports. It is much more important than that. Close to a million demonstrators against gun violence and for gun control were drawn to D.C. Saturday by last month's Parkland tragedy and the student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. I've seldom been prouder to be American. The best part? Didn't feel like a culmination. Felt like a beginning.

6. PANTHERS: Cats' win as playoff chase enters crunch time: Florida beat Arizona 4-2 led by Vincent Trocheck's two goals Saturday but remains three points off playoff pace with two games in hand. It's crunch time with nine games left, starting now with four straight on the road. Cats have been 19-7 since Jan. 30 but must close strong or the second-half rally will be for naught.

7. HEAT: Miami tumbles to 8th, awaits LeBron: Playoff-bound Heat now sit in 8th place in East after last night's OT loss at Indiana as the NBA regular season wanes. Now it's four straight home games starting Tuesday with a visit by LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. Is LeBron back in Miami still a big thing? We'll likely see him in the playoffs, too -- if Miami can somehow inch up to the 6th seed. 

8. TENNIS: Crazy first week as Miami Open hits midpoint: No. 1 seeds Roger Federer and Simona Halep both were eliminated, and Serena Williams suffered a rare first-round ouster as the Miami Open turned quickly into a wide-open affair. Oh, and Caroline Wozniacki claimed she was verbally abused by the crowd. The tournament headed to Hard Rock Stadium next year isn't leaving Key Biscayne quietly ... or predictably.

9. HORSE RACING: Five days 'til Florida Derby at Gulfstream: Promises Fulfilled and Audible are among favorites in this coming Saturday's 67th running of the Florida Derby at Gulfstream. The next-to-last day of the track's Championship Meet will star a major Kentucky Derby prep race that will send one horse off to the Kentucky Derby with a tailwind.

10. SOCCER: Peru beats Croatia in Miami friendly: Holy Nene Cubillas! Peru is back in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, and looked ready Friday in beating Croatia 2-0 in a Miami friendly that drew 46,893 to The Rock. Both teams are in the 32-nation field for the summer World Cup in Russia. Alas, the U.S. is not, unless Trump can work something out with his pal Putin.

Missing the HB10 cut: Hurricanes spring football practice continues. Would you wake me in September when they start keeping score again? ..... Canes baseball is back up to .500 and goes for the sweep over No. 24 Virginia today. Just when I'm about to write off the season, UM says, "Wait a sec!" ..... Love that another spring football league is starting up one year ahead of Vince McMahon's planned XFL reboot. I'd put the over/under on either league succeeding at 1.5 seasons ..... The NFL winter meetings start Sunday in Orlando. This is where a bunch of rich guys get together, wring hands and do very little. It's a little like politics, in that way ..... UConn's dominance in women's basketball? Bor-ring! ..... By the way anybody know if the NIT tournament has ended? Or started?

Bracket VitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: A BIG SUNDAY LIFTS US: We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and I stand tied for 24th entering the Final Four (up from 51st) after a perfect Sunday:

Day 9 / Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness will crescendo with the Final Four on Saturday in San Antonio: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 3 Michigan, and No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 Villanova. I have 'Nova winning it all.

Day 8 / Elite Eight -- Sunday as the Final Four was set I had the two No. 1 seeds still in play and both winning, and Villanova and Kansas both came through for me. 

Day 7 / Elite Eight -- I didn't have a bracket dog in the hunt in either of Saturday's games as Michigan ousted Florida State and No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and Sister Jean kept the dream alive by beating Kansas State. 

[See previous blogposts for daily results preceding the Elite Eight round]

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 21, 2018

Who's next? Which of South Florida's Big 7 teams is closest to being champion? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Miami Open column on Serena loss, latest Back In My Day video (Handwriting!), Hurricanes QBs & more

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

1) It's WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21. We'll be back with our NCAA Bracket updates when the Madness resumes on Thursday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, my NCAA Bracket update, March Madness Haiku Challenge winner revealed & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

New: Column from Miami Open on today's loss by Serena Williams: To read, click Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company.

Other most recent columns: On Hurricanes' QB battle, state of Dolphins: The most intriguing question in South Florida sports right now is whether Malik Rosier will hold on to the Miami Hurricanes' starting quarterback  job against very tough competition. We have begun to find out as Tuesday opened a month of spring practice under the aegis of third-year coach Mark Richt. I explore the QB situation in my latest column after speaking with Richt just before spring sprang. To read that column click Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation. Our previous column was on the offseason struggles of Miami's pro football team. To read that one click Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

WhoWHO'S UP? WHICH OF OUR BIG SPORTS TEAM WILL BE CHAMPION NEXT?: We like to do this poll every year or two (or when we think of it) as a pulse-read on how South Florida sports fans are feeling about their teams. The presumption behind is that we all might have a favorite team but nobody is a fan of only one sport. Chances are you have at least a casual awareness of even the teams you care about least. Anyway, usually this poll involves only what I call our Big Five teams -- the four main pro teams plus Hurricanes football. This time I've expanded by two,adding Canes men's basketball and David Beckham's Miami Major League Soccer franchise set to kick off in 2020. Vote as honestly as you are able, not for the team you hope wins the next championship, but for the team you genuinely feel is most likely to. Ready? Do it.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': HANDWRITING!: Our latest Back In My Day the gradual extinction of handwriting as now it's all emails and texts. Video includes the rare use of  a prop on the dismount:

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 pieces that earned us a Top 10 national column-writing designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 19, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who wins mighty battle for No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Match Madness update: My bracket still strong after Bloody Sunday and our Haiku Challenge winner; also, my newest column (Dolphins) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 19. Hope ya'll had a fun and safe St. Patrick's Day weekend! 2) Pleased to meet so many of you recently at the LeBatard Show event at J. Wakefield Brewing in Wynwood. Great place, great time, great people. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): My NCAA Bracket updates, March Madness Haiku Challenge, The List (UM hoops), new Back In My Day video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

HaikuWE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: Our blog's 13th annual Haiku Challenge drew a robust 128 entries this year, of which 80 qualified for consideration as proper haikus (17 syllables) and on topic. Our winning entry was from Michael DeFerrari. His haiku: "Winning a bracket / justifies my existence / picks don't fail me now." Judges appreciated the classic 5-7-5 structure, liked the simplicity and allusion to the disproportionate importance placed on winning, and were smitten by the apparent nod to the 1979 Herbie Hancock album and subsequent colloquialism, "Feets don't fail me now." (Michael, email me at gregcote@miamiherald.com and we'll work out a prize). Appreciation as well to honorable mention haikus from Jay Krupa, Trevor @trashmanT, Harrison Gillming, Marshall Aldrich, Garrick Piche, Rob Frye and Ryan Rodenhauser. Thanks to all who played! Haiku!

Latest column: On Dolphins scrambling to make up losses: This has been a rough offseason and free agency for the Miami Dolphins, led by the departures of much starpower in Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey. In my newest column, I pose the three questions that measure the state of the Dolphins. You might not like answers. To read, click Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins.

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES / MARCH MADNESS: Miami one and done as Sweet on deck: Your bracket busted yet? Chances are Bloody Sunday did it, with five upsets in eight games. Hurricanes men got bounced in their opener by Loyola-Chicago and UM women were ousted quick by Quinnipiac. The Madness pauses a few days now before resuming Thursday with the Sweet 16. Kansas and Villanova are the only No. 1s left, with Loyola and Syracuse (a play-in team) the double-digit-seed survivors in the Glass Slipper Division.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins busy as NFL free agency underway: Ndamukong Suh followed Jarvis Landry out the door, but Miami bagged two receivers in veteran Danny Amendola (from the Patriots) and young, fleet Albert Wilson. Fins are now talking about signing running back DeMarco Murray. Hmm, like defensive end Robert Quinn, whom they traded for, I'd be more excited about Miami getting Murray if this was, like, 2014. 

3. PANTHERS: Cats hit road as playoff fight intensifies: After Saturday's loss to Edmonton the Cats stand ninth in the jockeying for eight East playoff spots, now five points off pace but with three games in hand. Florida now plays seven of its next eight games on the road in a closing stretch that will likely determine whether the Stanley Cup playoffs invite South Florida or not.

4. HEAT: Miami sits pretty for playoffs, but can they climb?: Heat is a virtual lock to make NBA playoffs with a dozen games left. Only question is whether Miami can climb from 8th place for a more advantageous first-round draw. Fourth place and home-court advantage is only three games away, but it'd take a strong finishing kick starting Monday vs. Denver. 

5. TENNIS: Serena back as Miami Open begins: Not tired of brackets yet, are ya? The women's draw was Sunday and the men's is Monday as the Miami Open gets underway in its final iteration on Key Biscayne before (unfortunately) moving to Hard Rock Stadium in 2019. Simona Halep was seeded No.  1 but the big intrigue on the women's side will be how wild-card entry Serena Williams performs (starting Wednesday) in her first major tournament since maternity leave.

6. MARLINS: Fish say they want to hear from fans: Two-thirds through spring training the Marlins are a surprisingly decent 12-8-2 after Sunday's loss to the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Meanwhile, the club has started a "Dimelo Miami" gimmick, dimelo being Spanish for tell me. They want to hear from fans. Uh oh. Be careful what you wish for, Fire-Sale Fish.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Richt's Canes to open spring practice: Mark Richt's Hurricanes aim to restart the momentum when spring practice begins this Tuesday after last year's break-through 10-3 season that included ACC Championship Game and Orange Bowl appearances. Atop the spring watch list: In a quarterback competition flung wide open, Will Malik Rosier reaffirm himself as the starter?

8. SOCCER: Peru-Croatia in Miami for tuneup: I know a lot of Peruvians live in Miami. Not sure if we have a "Little Zagreb" section of town or not. Anyway, plenty of futbol fans will turn out this coming Friday night at The Rock for a World Cup tuneup friendly match. U.S. men sadly didn't qualify, so we take what we can get.

9. CANES BASEBALL: UM avoids being swept at Duke: Hurricanes beat Duke in Durham Sunday, 8-2, to avoid being swept by their ACC rival. Still been an uphill climb overall, though, for Miami, now 9-10, in Jim Morris' final season. If this is a team capable of reaching the College World Series, tick tock fellas, time to start showing it.

10. HORSE RACING: Florida Derby looms into view: Less than two weeks until the March 31 Florida Derby at Gulfstream, one of the last major prep races before the Kentucky Derby opens Triple Crown season. Still waiting for a superhorse and betting darling to emerge and capture imaginations. Maybe Hallandale Beach will be the stage?

Missing the HB10 cut: Once again the NIT is happening, and nobody is really sure why.

Mm ViitaleUPDATED. MY NCAA BRACKET: STILL REALLY SOLID, EVEN AFTER BLOODY SUNDAY
:
 We're updating you daily on how our bracket is faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There are 131 entries, and -- hard to believe -- even afgter Bloody Sunday, I stand tied for second place overall. And the leader's championship pick is, while mine (Villanova) is not, so I'm still well in this thing entering the Sweet 16:

Next / Sweet 16 -- After a three-day pause the Madness turns Sweet beginning Thursday. Kansas and Villanova are the only No. 1s left. With UMBC ousted, the designated Cinderellas left are 11-seeds Loyola-Chicago (which slayed Miami) and Syracuse, the latter off a play-in game. 

Day 4 / Round of 32 -- Correct on only three of eight games (37.5%) on a Bloody Sunday in which Cinderella went nuts. There were five by-seed upsets, including No. 1 Xavier falling to Florida State. Alas, one of the games that went according to form saw the UMBC fairy tale end. For the tournament as a whole I have been correct on 36 of 48 games, or 75%. (Updated: More than half of all in my pool, 68 of 131, already have seen their title-pick eliminated, led by Virginia with 22, North Carolina 16, Arizona 11 and Michigan State 10).

Day 3 / Round of 32 -- Correct on seven of eight games (87.5%), another big day, missing only on Loyola's upset of Tennessee. For the tournament overall I have been correct on 33 of 40 games, or 82.5%.

Day 2 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 12 of 16 games (75%), a dip from Day 1 but still not bad. Went two out of three on by-seed upsets, nailing No. 9 Kansas State over No. 8 Creighton and 9-Florida State over 8-Missouri, but missing on 10-Providence over 7-Texas A&M. Our other misses: Like all of you, I didn't see No. 1 Virginia losing in a stunner. Also missed on losses by Arkansas and Wichita State. Overall, survived the Round of 64 with 26 teams still alive, or 81.3%. 

Day 1 / Round of 64 -- Correct on 14 of 16 games (87.5%). Very pleased. That includes two out of three on by-seed upset picks. I was right on No. 11-Loyola over No. 6-Miami (sorry, Canes fans) and 9-Alabama over 8-Virginia Tech. This just didn't feel like the March for Miami to make a run, as I wrote in this column. The upset misfire was 10-Oklahoma over 7-Rhode Island. Our only other miss: 13-Buffalo's bracket-busting stunner over 4-Arizona.

OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: The five 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Can Hurricanes Answer The Doubters? / Why Do Dolphins Keep Giving Away Their Best Players? / Canes, NCAA Need March Madness To Save The Season / Heat, Panthers, Canes Gunning For History / As Dolphins' Owner Wrestles With Anthem-Kneeling, A Player Shows A Way Beyond Protests / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Fins Must Find Their Future / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 05, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): A new No. 1 not used to being there, and see what else falls where; plus our APSE-winning columns, Miami's Top 25 Sports Figures & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 5. Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking Miami's Top 25 Sports Figures for 2018, thank you APSE & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Ranking Miami's 2018 Top 25 Sports Figures: I last did one of these in late 2015 and man has a lot changed around here in two-plus years. Does Dwyane Wade hang on to No. 1? Where do newcomers Derek Jeter and David Beckham land? Who's the top Dolphin? You're a click away from those answers and more. For the column and full list, click Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018.

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

Hot1. PANTHERS: Six straight! Cats surging toward playoff pace: The HB10 doesn't often smile this much on the Panthers, but they've been as good as any team in NHL the past five weeks, winning 13 of the past 16 games including six straight after Sunday's 4-1 win over Philly in a home matinee. Florida is today one only one point off playoff pace but with three games in hand. Cats failed to make a trade-deadline deal, but apparently no help is needed, thanks.

2. HURRICANES: UM men open ACC tourney; women out: Jim Larranaga's Cardiac Canes ended regular season with four straight wins by three points or less to finish 22-8 entering the men's ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. UM opens Thursday night vs. winner of North Carolina  vs. Syracuse or Wake Forest. Meanwhile Katie Meier's Canes women followed a 20-9 season with a 1-1 ACC run, beating Wake Forest then being eliminated by Florida State. Both UM teams should get an NCAA Tournament invite, the men more assuredly.

3. DOLPHINS: Combine, Landry, Quinn fill busy week: With top receiver Jarvis Landry hot on the trading block, Miami dealt a 4th-round draft pick to the Rams for starting-caliber defensive end Robert Quinn. Meantime the NFL Scouting Combine in Indy wrapped up this weekend with coach Adam Gase giving incumbent QB Ryan Tannehill a strong vote of confidence ... and Dolfans left to wonder if that's a good thing.

4. HEAT: Miami gets lift from homestand: Miami hardly seemed a playoff team in that defenseless 131-113 home loss to the Lakers but is 3-1 on this homestand. As Heat hosted its annual Family Fest for fans on Sunday, team had lost nine of its past 12 before beating Detroit here Saturday -- the team chasing Miami for that eighth and last East playoff spot. Heat is erratic but it appears depth will earn a postseason ticket.

5. MARLINS: Hot spring so far for Fish: Little is expected this season of the Fire-Sale Fish, but they're 6-3-1 this spring entering Monday. I know. It's meaningless. A mirage. A dream. Still, um, can we start the playoffs right now!? 

6. HORSE RACING: Big upset in Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream:  Quite a spring for the Hallandale Beach track. The Pegasus World Cup just ran and the Florida Derby is coming; now, Sunday brought the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race highlighted by 7-5 betting pick Good Magic. Alas, 18-1 longshot Promises Fulfilled led wire to wire to cast the Derby picture into unfocused confusion.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Six days 'til Selection Sunday: Brackets ready? March Madness will be upon us in six days, after this week's conference tournament results dole out automatic bids and let the bubble teams make their case.

8. ALY RAISMAN: Olympic gymnast sues over Nassar scandal: Gold-medalist Aly Raisman is suing the U.S. Olympics Committee and USA Gymnastics over the Dr. Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Right on! This will settle, because there's no way those two shamed groups will want to endure further shame in open court. 

9. SOCCER: MLS in Miami, yes, but where still in doubt: Major League Soccer's 23rd season began this week. Miami will have an expansion team in the 25th. But where will team's permanent home be? Overtown as assumed? A larger site in Doral? Somewhere else? If David Beckham doesn't even know, we sure can't.

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes face rival FIU, begin ACC play this week: Slow-starting UM is 5-6 after two straight wins, but the season gets interesting starting this week. Wednesday the Canes visit rival FIU, then host Notre Dame in a series launching the ACC schedule. 

Missing the HB10 cut: Well, [bleep], I made the national Top 10 in column writing from the Associated Press Sports Editors this week, a pretty big deal in the sports journalism biz, and if Greg Cote can't brag in his own damned blog, where can he  brag!? ..... When do the Winter Olympics start? In South Korea, right? ..... Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell. Any way they can both lose? ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "New manager Dave Martinez had a trio of camels brought to Nationals spring training to help players get over franchise playoff hump" ..... And another: "J.R. Smith threw soup at a Cavaliers assistant coach." What a terrible waste of soup! ..... Keep doing what you're doing, Stoneman Douglas survivors and other students. Show us the way. The world is watching.

ICYMI: OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: These were the five submitted 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors:

March 1: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing.

April 22: Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose.

May 15: NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering.

July 24: What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer.

October 1: With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional recent columns: For One Night: Magic City  /  Fins Must Find Their Future  /  Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed  /  Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season  /  Will You Make The Leap Of Faith The Marlins Are Asking? And our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing. Also: UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them? LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade. Others: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameThe Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksWade Will End Where He BelongsRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae RibackThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 03, 2018

Ranking Miami/SoFla's Top 25 Sports Figures in 2018. New column!; plus thank you, APSE: 3 ways I'm grateful, and 1 reason it doesn't matter; also, Magic City for one night & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, MARCH 3. Happy to be done with sad February. Welcome, new month! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): This is week Dolphins must find their future, latest Back In My Day video (Uber!) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DwadeRANKING MIAMI/SOFLA'S 2018 TOP 25 SPORTS FIGURES: I last did one of these in late 2015 and man has a lot changed around here in two-plus years. Does Dwyane Wade hang on to No. 1? Where do newcomers Derek Jeter and David Beckham land? Who's the top Dolphin? You're a click away from all of those answers and many more. For the column and full list, click Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018.

Our most recent other columns:  For One Night: Magic City  /  Fins Must Find Their Future  /  Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed  /  Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season  /  Will You Make The Leap Of Faith The Marlins Are Asking? And our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing.

THANK YOU, APSE: THREE WAYS I'M GRATEFUL, AND ONE REASON IT DOESN'T MATTER: Yesterday the Associated Press Sports Editors completed its annual contest judging, and look who turned up as Top 10 in column writing. Yep, me. The five columns the Miami Herald entered for me are listed below. I'd like to tell you three reasons why I'm honored by this, and one reason why it doesn't matter:

Apse(*) I'm honored because the APSE awards are to written sports journalism what the Oscars are to actors. It's national. It's the big prize. And in my case, the Miami Herald is in the major-outlet category (over-175,000 circulation), and so our competition is the likes of the New York Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, L.A. Times and ESPN.com. It was me against the giants, so it pleases me to be placed in their company. (By the way, I laughed out loud the first time I saw on Twitter that, in my case, some joked that they thought "over 175,000" was an age category. Funny!).

(*) I'm honored because variety is the thing I like most about my job. I have been a beat writer who covers the same team every day, and, for me, it got boring. Column writing presents me a blank palette, more freedom to roam. I go for variety in my subject matter, and so it was very pleasing to me that of the five 2017 columns chosen by my boss to enter in the contest, none were standard Dolphins/Heat/UM football fare. All were off the beaten path to a degree.

(*) And I'm honored because the columns of mine that got me in the top 10 offer a little bit of a lesson, I think, for the evolving newspaper business, which, in its increasing and understandable emphasis on the digital product over the print product, is increasingly obsessed with writing only stuff that generates a lot of online "clicks," and eliminating subject matter that does not. I think most of my five winning columns were probably not click monsters, but resonated very much with those who did read them. Sometimes, that still needs to be enough.

(*) Now, why it doesn't matter is because of the capriciousness of contests and judging, the randomness of it. I have always believed that about writing awards; now I can say it without it sounding like sour grapes. There is no validation here. I have had better years and better columns, but got lucky that these five happened to resonate with enough judges who liked them. Hundreds of sports writers who've never been handed a plaque are doing good work every year, every day. Keep it up, brothers and sisters, because it's always about readers, not judges.

Thanks to all of our readers, listeners, followers, clickers and thinkers -- especially those loyal long-timers. Now here are the five 2017 columns that happened to win for me:

March 1: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing.

April 22: Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose.

May 15: NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering.

July 24: What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer.

October 1: With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them? LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade. Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameThe Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksWade Will End Where He BelongsRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae RibackThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 19, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): After a week when tragedy overshadowed everything in sports; plus column on Derek Jeter's decimation of Marlins as spring training begins & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19. The Dolfans in your life don't know it yet, but they need this. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check out our book, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Stoneman Douglas tragedy with column and GoFund Me page & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: On Derek Jeter's Marlins as spring training begins: He can spin it and try to justify it any way he wishes, but Derek Jeter's massive Marlins salary dump is a betrayal of public trust. The Marlins are tanking because the new owners have put the bottom line above the product on the field and above the paying customers. To read my latest column, click: Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season

My column on Stoneman Douglas shooting tragedy, ICYMI: Seventeen were killed last week in a shooting spree at Parkland's Stoneman Douglas High carried out by a coward with an assault weapon, a deranged former student who'd been expelled. Something like this, by the way, is why I, unlike most sports writers, never use words like 'tragedy' or 'disaster' to describe a knee injury or an awful season. This is a tragedy. For my column, click: Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing.

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

Hot1. STONEMAN DOUGLAS: Mass shooting at local high school kills 17: Seventeen innocents were murdered at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in a mass shooting that stunned the sports world as much as it did the rest of us. The perpetrator: A 19-year-old former student with an assault weapon who is now in custody. Another tragedy wrought by a deranged mind with a military-grade killing machine. The United States shames itself by continuing to allow these weapons to be sold.

2. HEAT: Slumping Miami hanging on at All-Star break: Heat has lost seven of past eight, is 1-2 since Dwyane Wade's return and has fallen to 8th place in the East. All-Star Weekend in L.A. came as a welcome diversion, with Goran Dragic in the main game Sunday, scoring two points in 11 minutes off the bench in a 148-145 Team LeBron win, after Wayne Ellington did Saturday's 3-point contest. Heat are off 'til Friday, at New Orleans.

3. MARLINS: Fire-sale Fish begin spring training for real Monday: What's left of the Miami Marlins opens spring training for real with Monday's first full-squad work up in Jupiter, with the first spring game only four days later. And -- other than new owner Derek Jeter being a colossal disappointment by trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon in a massive salary dump -- it's been a great offseason!

4. OLYMPICS: Winter Games into final week in South Korea: Entering Monday's play Team USA was tied for fourth in gold medals won and tied for sixth in total medals won. Are we OK with that, or are we jingoists crestfallen because America should be No. 1 in everything and at all times?

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men's program cleared in FBI probe: Canes men have lost three straight and are back out of the Top 25 after Saturday's home loss to Syracuse. The good news? The UM program -- linked before season to FBI national probe of recruiting corruption -- went a long way to being cleared when charges were dropped against the AAU director accused of funneling money from Adidas to persuade one player to sign with Miami. Wonder if FBI sent Jim Larranaga an "Oops. Sorry, our bad" Hallmark card?

6. PANTHERS: Hot Cats inching up in playoff chase: The good news? Panthers have won seven of past eight games after Saturday's win at Calgary and have within six points of playoff pace. The bad news? Six down is still a lot, and 12th in the East means a lots of teams to still climb over with only 26 games left.

7. UM BASEBALL: Jim Morris' final season underway: It was Play ball! Friday in a season-opening weekend home series for 24th-ranked Canes baseball vs. Rutgers -- UM taking two of three games. Miami is trying to return to NCAA playoffs after missing last year for the first time in four decades. This is the 25th and last season for Morris, who'll then retire. His Canes teams have reached 13 College World Series and won two. Three would be a charm for the coach in the No. 3 jersey.

8. NASCAR: Vroom! Dillon takes Daytona 500 in season opener: Austin Dillon won Sunday's season-opening Daytona 500 -- leading only on the final lap. The emotional tug came from the season starting without retired Dale Earnhardt Jr., and from Danica Patrick running in her final Daytona 500.

9. HURRICANES: UM football sets spring dates: Hot off a national top-10 recruiting class, Canes announced spring practice would commence March 20 -- highlighted by Malik Rosier trying to fend off challengers in an open competition for the starting quarterback job. Meanwhile, coach Mark Richt will host an "All Pro Dad Father & Kids Experience" at Hard Rock Stadium on February 24. Visit AllProDad.com for more.

10. SOCCER: Champions League matches continue: The 32-team UEFA Champions League continues toward its May conclusion with matches Tuesday and Wednesday including club giants Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United. You are following this avidly or not at all. No in-between, sorry.

Missing the HB10 cut: The weekend "Monster Truck Jam" wraps up Sunday at Marlins Park. Turns out it looks even more ridiculous in person than it does on TV ..... Headline: 'Arizona male cheerleader booted from arena for heckling Arizona State during basketball game.' Ah, sportsmanship! ..... Fox News host Laura Ingraham blasted LeBron James for his criticism of Donald Trump, essentially tell LeBron to "shut up and dribble" just like the president's aides told her to.

POLL RESULT: OPINIONS OF JETER 'VERY UNFAVORABLE': We asked, "What is your impression of the job Derek Jeter has done so far as CEO of the Miami Marlins?" And it was 75.58 "very unfavorable." the other three categories -- very favorable, somewhat favorable and somewhat unfavorable -- all tied with 8.14%.

AccordinionDEAR GREG...: "Dear Greg, Your blog's OK but would be much better if occasionally you would show a picture of a street musician playing the accordion while dressed like a giant creepy rodent-type thing and staring menacingly at the camera. Thank you." Dear Reader, I would but where on Earth am I going to find something like that!? Please be a little more reasonable with your requests in the future.

Select other recent columns: UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them? LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade. Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Exploring Dolphins' QB QuandaryFarewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameStanton Had All the Power -- And Used ItDo We Trust Jeter To Fix Marlins?The Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksJeter Betting On JeterHope That Wasn't GoodbyeWade Will End Where He BelongsRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae RibackThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote