April 09, 2015

Blew it! Heat waste huge lead, put playoff hopes in grave peril; plus Heat, NBA at odds over Cuba (with poll); also Kiper's latest draft guess for Dolphins, Fins preseason schedule, MLB video starring Stanton, The Masters & more

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


1aa1awesw1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 9. Happy birthday, Mom! 2) Wes Welker (pictured), almost 34 and addled by concussions, visited the Dolphins. Gawd. He doesn't need to be signed. He needs to be told to retire. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins Opening Day poll, Heat swoon, Duke-Wisconsin pick, well-dressed animals & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NBA blindsides, angers Heat with new Cuba initiative: My latest column, online and shipped to Thursday's paper. Click on Unilateral Decision to read.

Marlins now 0-3, suffer Sleeping Bat Syndrome: Visiting Braves sweep Marlins with last night's 2-0 game, meaning Miami scored three runs in three games. The bright side? Two solid pitching performances. The dim side? Everything else. Nightmare start to the season for Miami. (Click on Another Oddball Opening Day for my column from Game 1). Perspective helps, of course. Still only three games of 162. Still, a fast buzzkill on all that hope and optimism. Up to Fish to win it back.

PLAYOFF CHASE: HEAT SUFFER CRUSHING LOSS TO BULLS: Miami blew a 19-point lead at home tonight to Chicago and lost 89-78 -- a crushing defeat that seriously imperils playoff hopes. Dwyane Wade (4-20, 9 points) was awful. An embarrassing 33-8 third quarter ruined the Heat's chances. Four teams are jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. How it looks from here afgter tonight's huge Heat loss (note playoff-likelihood percentages are not yet updated to reflect Miami's latest loss. Expect the Heat's number to plummet):

7. Boston: 36-41, W2. Playoff likelihood: 59.3% (up 21.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Friday @ CLE, then vs. CLE, vs. TOR and @ MIL. Note: Tough closing schedule with two straight vs. LeBron.

8. Brooklyn: 36-42, L1. Playoff likelihood: 58.7 (down 16.3). Next: Friday vs. WAS, then @ MIL, vs. CHI and vs. ORL. Note: Three remaining home games boost Nets' chances.

9. Indiana: 36-43, W4. Playoff likelihood: 30.4 (down 0.9). Next: Friday @ DET, then vs. OKC, vs. WAS and @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat, which is potentially big.

10. Miami: 35-44, L1. Playoff likelihood: 51.7 (down 3.2). Next: Saturday vs. TOR, then vs. ORL and @ PHI. Note: Heat own tiebreaker over Celtics and Nets, but may need 3-0 finish from here to make it.

NEW POLL: HEAT FACE DILEMMA WITH NBA'S CUBA INITIATIVE. WHAT TO DO?: [Link to my latest column is above]. For 29 of 30 NBA franchises and markets, this is not an issue. For 29 teams and their fans, U.S.-Cuba relations is a 1aa1acuba2subject closer to who-cares than hot-button. For one team only, the Miami Heat, it's important. The dilemma is that being involved in the league's evolving, warming relationship with Cuba might prove smart in the long-term from a business standpoint, but might prove costly in the short-term from a public relations standpoint. After all, many, especially older, Miami Cuban exiles still want nothing to do with a Castro-led Cuba and feel passionately. They objected when President Barack Obama in December announced steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba -- which led to the NBA this week announcing it would hold a four-game camp in Cuba April 23-26. Many Miami fans might feel betrayed if their team involved itself in any way on the island. Curious how you'd steer the Heat's involvement in the NBA's gradual reach into Cuba? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

KIPER'S LATEST DRAFT GUESS PREDICTION FOR DOLPHINS: Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 4.0 newly out on ESPN.com now has Miami selecting Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton (6-2, 339; pictured) 14th overall. Saying Kiper: 

1aa1adannys"The Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh, but the depth chart for the interior of their defensive line is basically "Suh and that's about it." Shelton is a different kind of player than Suh, with a far more limited ability to rush the passer, but if they're on the field at the same time it could free Suh up to be the kind of disruptor the Dolphins are paying for, which is what took place in Detroit, where the Lions had a good rotation along the interior. Shelton isn't just insurance for Suh, he's a nice complement. He's not as disruptive as sack and TFL totals indicate, but he can eat up double-teams at the point of attack and make others around him better. He has great awareness and will occasionally simply discard blocks and make the tackle himself." My thought: A possibility, but doubt Fins go for a DT.

Dolphins preseason schedule: Via the NFL today, it's Dolphins at Chicago Aug. 13-17, at Carolina Aug. 20-24, vs. Atlanta Aug. 27-30 and vs. Tampa Bay Sept. 3-4.

THE GROWING STARDOM OF GIANCARLO STANTON, CONTINUED: Money = fame in America, and so Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' $325 Million Man, is a bigger star than ever before he hits his first home run this season. The latest example: This new MLB video starring Stanton, set to what sounds like a rapid heartbeat. Good stuff:

 

Poll result: Most believe Marlins are a playoff team: We asked in the previous blogpost (you may still vote) and 69.1 percent said, yes, the Marlins will be a playoff team this year, while 30.9% said no. The yes vote was running nearer the 75-80 range early but dipped after the Opening Day loss.

Big Opening Night on TV for baseball: ESPN2's Opening Night game Sunday (Cardinals-Cubs) drew 3.35 million viewers, a 47 percent increase over last year. It was biggest audience for ESPN or ESPN2 Opening Night since 2008, and best for any regular-season game since Yanks-Red Sox Aug. 7, 2011.

'16 NCAA odds: Bovada sets North Carolina as the favorite at 6-1 for next year's men's NCAA Tournament title, followed by Kentucky 8-1, Maryland and Virginia both 12-1, and champ Duke and Kansas both 16-1. Miami Hurricanes are 40-1 (tied for 19th), ahead of Florida and FSU, both 50-1.

Masters odds: Rory McIlroy is favored to win The Masters this week at 11-2 odds, via Bovada, followed by Jordan Spieth at 8-1, Bubba Watson at 10-1 and Jason Day at 14-1. Tiger Woods? He's tied for 11th at 33-1. Check out WalletHub.com for an interesting, fact-stuffed Masters By The Numbers.

Burger-King wedding: Joel Burger is marrying Ashley King. This is a blog. So you know it's the truth. Story here.

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February 12, 2015

Who should Dolphins target in free agency if they're dreaming big? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat trading Chalmers?, ranking SNL's all-time cast 1 through 141 & more

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12. Bill Belichick talks Deflategate (sort of) with David Letterman last night. Transcript and video here. 2) Richie Incognito says he's learned lesson and that Bills will be his last chance. Read here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins All-Star Game, LeBron's grand plan, Kiper on Fins, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, Chicago Little League, 'Dear Greg' & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"One can't have too much useless info so I now know I burned 590 calories sleeping last night. Thanks, FitBit." --Greg Cote

On the Chicago Little League scandal: Jackie Robinson West team is stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League  World Series and, as usual, the problem with youth sports is the adults. Click on Shame Isn't the Kids' to Bear for today's latest column by me.

DOLPHINS WISH LIST (IF YOU'RE DREAMING BIG): Preemptive strike: The odds are Miami won't sign any of the 10 soon-to-be players in our poll once free agency begins officially on March 10. Chances are there will be higher 1aa1afanflbidders or better opportunities for each; plus, not everyone here fits a position priority for the Fins. But these are the 10 best guys who'll be available, according to ESPN, and the Dolphins will be shopping like every other team, so why not dream? Where would you steer Miami on this alphabetical list if money was no object and you had the ear of Mike Tannenbum and Dennis Hickey? Weigh the talent available with the team's needs and decide. Vote and say why.

1aa1asnllistROLLING STONE RANKS ALL-TIME 'SNL' CAST MEMBERS 1 THROUGH 141: This is a blog, so I couldn't say it if it weren't true. Rolling Stone in its latest cover story marks the show's 40th anniversary by ranking everybody who's ever been in the Saturday Night Live cast. I would never, ever spoil it by telling you who is No. 1 so the photo here would be totally random and coincidental. Click here for the full list.

HEAT/CHALMERS TRADE SPECULATION: Sports Illustrated today includes Heat guard Mario Chalmers (pictured) among five players it thinks are most apt to be traded before the Feb. 19 NBA deadline. SI's 1aa1achalmersmlogic: "He has a semi-tradeable contract (signed through next season at $4.3 million) that could interest teams in need of a better backup point guard, such as Washington and New Orleans. Chalmers’ shooting percentage on three-pointers above the break is 21.7%, yet he still launches 21.1% of his attempts from there. Miami, accordingly, has scored nearly four more points per 100 possessions when Chalmers is off the court. The Heat have a better offensive rating with Norris Cole running the show, and Shabazz Napier boosts the team defensively and is a viable threat from beyond the arc (35.4 three-point field goal percentage). By continuously giving time to Chalmers, Miami isn’t necessarily bettering their playoff chances, so Erik Spoelstra might as well let their younger options gain some experience to see if Cole is worth re-signing after this season and if Napier can morph into the long-term answer." All of that makes sense.

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February 11, 2015

Marlins All-Star Game in historical context; plus LeBron's grand plan, Kiper's new Dolphins pick, bad news for Al Golden, Chicago's cheaters?, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, armed goats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot-Seat Index coaching poll, SI swimsuits, J-Law's snake, Marlins unis, 2015 college football rankings & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

LeBron's grand plan: LeBron James reveals in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter his grand plan including a future in movies and his dream of building a Hollywood empire. Click here for the story and related video. Must-read for LBJ fans. 

'Back In My Day': Many of you on Twitter and in emails ask for links to the "Back In My Day" segments I do Tuesdays on the Dan Le Batard Show. I have done 17. Click on BIMD Volume 1 for episodes 1 through 10 (which originally appeared in the blog on Dec. 11). I'll have a link to the most recent episodes soon.

"I liked Beck before it was cool." --Greg Cote

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS ALL-STAR GAME IS FIFTH FOR SOUTH FLORIDA: The Marlins will be hosting their first MLB All-Star Game in 2017, a direct result of the new stadium that so many complained about but that will prove a positive for generations to come. Getting this game is a big deal, and it's about time. Baseball's annual
showcase is far superior to the other sports'. Giancarlo Stanton in the Home-Run Derby seems a given. But Miami sports historians like myself know this Marlins first actually will be the fifth major (Big Four sport) professional all-star game in South Florida. The list, chronologically:

All-Star Game               Date                    Site

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 20, 1975       Orange Bowl

NBA All-Star Game        Feb. 11, 1990       Miami Arena

NHL All-Star Game        Feb. 2, 2003        Office Depot Center, Sunrise 

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 31, 2010       Sun Life Stadium, Miami

MLB All-Star Game        TBD, 2017            Marlins Park

KIPER APES MCSHAY ON FINS PICK: Dueling ESPN mock drafters Mel Kiper (pictured) and Todd McShay need to get together and fake some variety. Kiper in his new Mock 2.0 out today has Jameis Winston No. 1 1aa1akipermeloverall to Tampa Bay, Marcus Mariota No. 6 to the Stinkin' Jets and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes No. 14 to Miami -- just like McShay did last week. Kiper on Waynes: "Dolphins need to add some effective youth at cornerback, and Waynes is a well-coached cover man with the versatility to help in both man and zone and brings a physical presence. He's effective taking on big receivers and will also not shy away from tackling and setting the edge as a run-defender. If you're going on pure upside, Marcus Peters (Washington) could gain a slight edge, but Waynes gets the nod for reliability. The Combine can shift perceptions at this position, but I think Waynes is a safe bet to be one of the top two corners taken and it's a need area for the Dolphins, who need more playmakers in their secondary."

Poll result: It's Golden over Philbin for the coaching hot seat: We asked who among So Fla's Big Six coaches should lead the Hot-Seat Index, and UM football coach Al Golden swamped the Dolphins' Joe Philbin by 65.9 percent to 32.4%. We figured a two-man race and man was it! Heat's Erik Spolestra, Marlins' Mike Redmond, UM hoops' Jim Larranaga and Panthers' Gerard Gallant combined for a scant 1.7%.

ON BRIAN WILLIAMS, JON STEWART: NBC suspends Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months 1aa1abrianwmswithout pay for the truth-fudging that has spawned a million Internet lampoons like the photo pictured. I get the punishment. U.S. presidents and network news anchors -- aren't those the folks you sort of want to trust most? I wonder if in six months Williams will return as if nothing happened or just sort of fade into shamed retirement. Elsewhere on the dial, Jon Stewart is leaving Comedy Central's The Daily Show, a major loss for hilarious, razor-edgy political commentary. I think Stewart is brilliant, by which I mean he shares my take on just about everything arising from today's headlines.

LITTLE LEAGUE A LITTLE TOO LATE WITH ITS DISCIPLINE: So Little League Baseball strips the U.S. championship from the Chicago team (Jackie Robinson West) that won it in the 2014 LL World Series by, we now are told, supposedly fudging boundary lines to improperly build a superteam. Two adults involved have been supposed for actions that spoils the heart-warming story of the first African-American team to reign. Better late than never on the discipline, I suppose, but Little League's due diligence on boundaries and birth certificates needs to come before a tournament not afterward. This story bears further examination. As it was the Chicago team's triumph was overshadowed, anyway, by the Sports Illustrated cover-spawning mania over the Philadelphia girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis.

1aa1agoatswithguns"DEAR GREG...": "I have heard rumors that a sect of anti-government separatists in the Deep South has formed a militia made up entirely of armed goats trained to perform as soldiers. Can this possibly be true?" Dear Reader: I find that almost impossible to believe, but I'll check into it and get back to you.

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February 08, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Canes, Heat, NFL, Tiger, Cats, Dean Smith, Marlins, Fins, Brian Williams; plus verdict on Suh & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ndamukong Suh-to-Dolphins poll, Incognito joins Bills, 7 Canes at Combine, Terrell Williams, death of newspapers video & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 8: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Mixed reviews for UM recruiting class: ESPN rated Miami’s National Signing Day class No. 23 in the country, with most other outlets ranking it lower. Perpetually disgruntled Canes fans face the usual dilemma: Wishing the best for UM while also wanting coach Al Golden gone. What to do!? Oh, the conundrum!

2. HEAT: Once-proud team sputtering to All-Star break: The darlings of the LeBron James Era seek answers, with Dwyane Wade still out injured, the guard play abysmal and Miami now struggling to maintain playoff pace -- Hassan Whiteside the bright spot. Chris Bosh said the season is “slipping away.” Volunteers to stop the slide are encouraged to raise their hand.

3. CANES HOOPS: Moment of truth for “bubble” Canes: Coach Jim Larrañaga’s UM men have been mostly mediocre since that 8-0 start. Now they’re 14-8 after three losses in a row entering today's/Sunday’s key home date with Clemson. Canes are down to “bubble” status on NCAA Tournament watch lists. Many more losses and that bubble bursts.

4. NFL: Super Bowl, dramatic ending draw record numbers: The Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle was the most-watched TV telecast in U.S. history with a record 115.1 million viewers and was the highest-rated Super Bowl in 30 years. Um, what was that you were saying about how Ray Rice et al would damage the NFL’s popularity?

5. GOLF: Woods is unraveling for all to see: In the past two weeks, Tiger Woods — who last won a major in 2008 — lost a front tooth, missed the cut of his PGA Tour season debut after a career-worst 82, and then withdrew from the latest tournament with a back ailment. He’s unraveling! On the bright side: Tiger made $55 million on 2014.

6. PANTHERS: Florida beefs up front office: The hockey club has added longtime Philadelphia Flyers boss Peter Luukko as a a new team executive. I'd be more impressed if the club had added a team that could actually  make the NHL playoffs for a blessed change.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83: Smith led North Carolina to 11 NCAA Final Fours and two national championships. Tobacco Road weeps today. Well, except for those !@#$%^s at Duke.

8. MARLINS: High hopes as spring training nears: Team prepares to open spring training in Jupiter Feb. 20 with new additions and unusually high hopes. With Heat and Panthers struggling it's time for Jeffrey Loria to save us. (Did I really just say that!?)

9. DOLPHINS: Stadium redesign adds upscale seating: There will be 16 four-seat "living rooms" available starting at $6,000 per game. My thought? Watch the game in your own living room and save 6,000 bucks.

10. TELEVISION: NBC's Brian Williams in hot water: NBC News anchor claimed to have been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 -- a tale now proved false. We now hear Williams admits it was not him who guaranteed and quarterbacked the Jets' 1968 Super Bowl win.

Poll results: Dolfans want Suh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue free agent-to-be defensive tackle Ndmaukong Suh (you may still vote), and it was 57.0 percent yes. However 28.8% said "avoid him like the plague" and 14.2% were undecided.

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January 28, 2015

SB Smirk II: Gronk's buttchecks, which may be an upgrade from deflated balls; plus Dan Marino, GoDaddy's Puppygate, greatest-Super Bowl-in-Miami poll, Marlins farm system & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk debut, Marshawn Lynch poll, God press-conference video & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adanmarinoSI piece on Marino: Sports Illustrated has a lengthy new piece on Dan Marino (read it here) as part of a celebration of the sports year 1985 (which began with a Dolphins Super Bowl loss to the 49ers). Marino is pictured circa that era. I'm among the folks who were interviewed and are quoted in the story, but it's worth reading, anyway.

"Calm your asses down!" --Ex-Hurricanes great Michael Irvin, to perpetually dissatisfied, griping UM football fans.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK II: GRONK'S BUTTCHEEKS, AN UPGRADE FROM DEFLATED BALLS, AT LEAST: 1aa1agronkingToday's second of our five daily Super Bowl With a Smirk notes columns
leads with Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski enlivening Media Day with a 1aa1afirereading from a new erotic novel about him (pictured right) called, "A Gronking to Remember" (subtitle: "It was a passion that could not be 1aa1akimkspiked"), by author Lacey Noonan. The passage Gronk read included the word "buttcheeks." (Tight end, indeed!) The X-rated "novel" is 66 pages long and, unfortunately, is the first in a planned series. Click on Smirk II for the full column. Also included: A fire alarm, a prediction, Jay Glazer, a woman in Hungary, Kim Kardashian (pictured left), Roman numerals, ticket prices and a Radio Row brawl. [Previously: Smirk I].

SMIRK II POLL: WHAT HAS BEEN BEST/MOST MEMORABLE SUPER BOWL PLAYED IN MIAMI?: We list all 10 in the poll, chronologically, with the game's MVP in parentheses to give you a one-word memory jog. You tell history which game should rank as the best or most memorable of all the SB 305s:

Smirk I Poll result: Sharp divide on Marshawn Lynch: We asked in the previous blogpost your impression of Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (the person, not the player), and it was 52.2 percent favorable, 47.8% unfavorable.

GODADDY PULLS SUPER BOWL AD AFTER OUTRAGE: GoDaddy, the website-building company pimped by Danica Patrick and no stranger to controversial ads, has pulled its planned Super Bowl commercial after an online preview sparked a backlash. The ad, entitled "Journey Home," features a lost puppy named Buddy who find his way home only to be quickly sold by his owner. Awwww. Folks, the puppy is JUST AN ACTOR! Anyway, enjoy. Or, be outraged:

 

RANKING MARLINS' FARM SYSTEM: ESPN's Keith Law ranks all 30 MLB farm systems and slots Miami's 24th. His description: "Their system rarely ranks high because they promote players to big league roles so quickly, but there's a solid group of very young arms in the system that will be on the list for a while, as well as a teenage position player or two with some real upside. There's very little in near-term talent here, however.". Elsewhere in NL East, Mets' farm is ranked fourth, Braves sixth, Nationals ninth and Phillies 25th.

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January 13, 2015

The curious, shameful skepticism about Rob Konrad's tale of survival; plus elevating Urban Meyer, 'Shameless,' your Super Bowl pick & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

It's Radio Tuesday!: We're in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio -- our 46th national show. Have a new "Back In My Day" ready to roll. Ears welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 13. Today is my parents' anniversary date, which led to the creation of me. See, people used to get married first and then have kids. How quaint! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): AFC/NFC title-game polls, Hassan Whiteside, history of Heat 7-footers, Canton verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Buckeyes favored to repeat: Love the instant odds! Confetti is still falling on Ohio State and already OSU is installed as a 6-1 favorite to win next saeson's national title, via Bovada. TCU is next at 15-2, then Alabama at 10-1. Further down we see Florida State 16-1, Florida 33-1 and Miami 75-1.

Wade ninth in jersey sales: Updated NBA jersey sales rankings are out, with Heat's Dwyane Wade No. 9. The top five: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose.

WHY THE DOUBTERS ON ROB KONRAD?: You probably know the Rob Konrad story by now. Ex-Dolphins fullback falls overboard while fgishing along last week, watches his boat onautopilot motor away from 1aa1akonradhim, and spends 16 hours at sea, somehow surviving. I tell the extraordinary tale today in a column off yesterday's first public comments by Konrad. Click on Survivor to read it. (Konrad and wife Tammy are pictured from the news conference). I find Konrad's story to be absolutely true and close to miraculous. There are doubters, though. I address that briefly in the longer-version column that appears online, writing, "It is our human nature to be skeptical, so there may be some who doubt parts of this tale simply because they cannot fathom 16 hours alone at sea. Me, I hope I am never so cynical that I stop believing in man’s capacity for heroism." Sure enough, a few emailers have cast doubt on Konrad -- as if he created and involved his wife, family and friends in an elaborate hoax. Some early media accounts (here is one from Newsweek.com published Friday) also wonder if the story is too good to be true. I do not consider myself naive. My profession demands that a critical eye is my default view of just about everything. But I believe Rob Konrad. Now, more than before, maybe I believe a little in miracles, too. And I feel a little bit sorry for those who can't.

ELEVATING URBAN: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (pictured) now is a three-time national champion 1aa1ameyeru(two with the Gators) after last night's resounding 42-20 spanking of Oregon in the first playoff-era college championship game. And with a third-string quarterback! I'm no Urban fan, but I must say it may be time to elevate him to the pantheon of great college coaches. Only Bear Bryant (5), Frank Leahy (4) and Nick Saban (4) have won more recognized major-college titles. Meyer and Saban are now racing to see who catches and passes the great Bear first. Age alone suggests Meyer, 50, has a better chance than Saban, 63, to retire as the college game's most decorated coach.

ON 'SHAMELESS': How much I love my wife came clear Monday night when I agreed to watch the Golden 1aa1aemmyrGlobes with her (women and awards shows!), and delay watching the season debut of Shameless until last night on demand. I love the Showtime series. William H. Macy's Frank Gallagher might be the greatest character on TV, and I have a Creepy Old Guy Crush on Emmy Rossum (pictured, as Fiona). The entire cast is an exercise in relentless dysfunction that is both hilarious and sad. Fellow Shamelessites know what I mean. The rest of you, get on board.

Poll result: You like Seahawks and Patriots even more in NFL title games: We asked your predictions for the upcoming AFC and NFC championship games and it was Patriots over Colts by 74.0 percent and Seahawks over Packers by 63.3%.

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August 27, 2014

M&Ms: Miller vs. Moreno: Who should be Dolphins' No. 1 running back? New poll. Vote now!; plus U-Bird Countdown (9 days), SNL verdict, J-Lo & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27. Somebody told me yesterday was National Dog Day. My reaction: Isn't every day? 2) You've watched the movie, 40-Year-old Virgin, now meet the 40-Year-Old Cheerleader. Click here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): SNL greatest cast members poll, Phibin slammed, Stanton's chilling words, Marino, Kaaya, Incognito, Upset Bird Countdown launch & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1aowlsleyowlUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 9 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of 1aa1aowl9NFL Friday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 9 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we have a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. Today (following magpies Heckle & Jeckle), we welcome Owlsley, the give-a-hoot mascot of Florida Atlantic University, its nickname deriving from burrowing-owl nests once found on campus.

MILLER VS. MORENO AS DOLPHINS' STARTING RUNNING BACK: Starting running back is the Dolphins' most glaring still-undecided job as the preseason ebbs to Thursday's finale and the Sept. 7 season 1aa1amillerl 1aa1amorenokopener looms. Will it be incumbent Lamar Miller (left), the former Cane? Or will it be free-agent addition Knowshon Moreno (right), the former Bronco? All signs point to Miller getting the start and most carries, largely because he is more familiar to coach Joe Philbin and has been healthy throughout camp, while Moreno made his preseason debut (impressively) just last week. Moreno as the third-down back also makes some sense if only because he is a superior blocker. But who do you hope starts? Who should? Miller last year rushed for 709 yards and a 4.0 average, and caught 26 passes for a 6.5 average. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards and a 4.3 average, and caught 60 passes for a 9.1 average. Both have solid ball-control; Miller lost one fumble last season and Moreno none. But Moreno is a more accomplished two-way player whose pass-protection skills would come in hand on more than just third down. They are two solid, complementary choices who should make a quality tandem, but only one will start and get the most carries. Who do you hope that is? Vote and say why.

Poll result: John Belushi leads 'SNL' Mount Rushmore-plus: It's 40th anniversary of 1aa1ajohnbSaturday Night Live, and we invited you to vote for your five all-time favorite cast members from 16 finalists. The response was unexpectedly huge (thanks!), and your top five are: John Belushi with 14.1 percent, Eddie Murphy 12.9%, Dan Aykroyd 11.7%, Bill Murray 11.2% and Will Ferrell 10.1%. Next was Chris Farley with 7.8%. Others topping 5 percent: Dana Carvey, Tina Fey, Phil Hartman and Mike Myers.

DOLPHINS INDIVIDUAL OVER/UNDERS: From Bovada, key statistical betting over/unders for Dolphins this year: Ryan Tannehill--3,900 yards, 23.5 TDs, 14.5 INTs. Mike Wallace--950.5 yards, 6 TDs. Brian Hartline--875.5, 3.5. Charles Clay--625.5, 5. Cameron Wake--10.5 sacks. Oliver Vernon--9.5 sacks. Brent Grimes--3 INTs.

DUELING PURVEYORS OF WISDOM: Former college football champion-coaches Bobby Bowden, 84, and


Howard Schnellenberger, 80, have new books out tapping into their long experience on and off the field. 1aa1abowdenbook 1aa1asnells bookBowden's The Wisdom of Faith and Schnellenberger's Passing the Torch are now available to enrich your soul, enlighten your mind and instruct you when to go for it on 4th-and-1. Publisher description of Bowden's book: "The success, the influence, the accolades, the wins ... none of it matters if our lives are not rooted in faith. God trumps our best hand. He always wins." Publisher description of Snells' tome: "The coach talks about the wise decisions and the poor decisions he has made, and he shares the lessons he learned along the way."

1aa1ajlopezJ-LO ENLISTS IGGY: Friend of the Dolphins and former Orange Carpet Queen Jennifer Lopez -- who may or may not outrank special adviser Dan Marino in the adjusted hierarchy -- has enlisted hot young Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea in a re-do of J-Lo's latest single, "Booty," after her new album tanked in the charts. I write this not because I care or because J-Lo has peripheral Dolphin ties, but as a blatant excuse to publish the gratuitous promo photo of the two singers presenting their substantial derrieres for casual inspection.

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August 25, 2014

New survey slams Joe Philbin; plus SNL's all-time best cast members poll; also Upset Bird Countdown, Stanton's chilling words, Marino, Kaaya & more

1) It is TUESDAY, AUGUST 26. Not one of today's Dolphins cuts -- not one -- is surprising or a big deal except to those being cut. 2) No radio again today. We're back in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show next Tuesday, Sept. 2. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes name Brad Kaaya QB, Knowshon Moreno propels Dolphins win, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1ahecklejeckleUPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 10 DAYS: The Upset Bird and I launch our 24th season of NFL
1aa1atenFriday Page predictions in the Miami Herald in 10 days, on Sept. 5. To celebrate we begin a daily countdown honoring notable fictional birds of different species. To start us off, today please welcome Heckle & Jeckle, the mischievous magpies who spread their merry mayhew for Terrytoons from 1946 to 1981.

State of the Quarterbacks: In today's latest column I scan the QB situations of the state's 10 big football teams (3 NFL, 7 FBS) on the eve of the season, and find all involve questions or doubts -- with one notable exception. Click on State of the QBs to read.

"Enough with Jim Parsons already! William H. Macy should-a won that Emmy." --Greg Cote

1aa1ajoepNEW EXPERTS SURVEY SLAMS JOE PHILBIN: Dolphin Joe Philbin is ranked 29th of 32 NFL head coaches in a new ESPN survey of 30 anonymous league "insiders." (Story and list here). Experts were asked to rate each coach from 1st through 5th tier. Patriots' Bill Belichick was No. 1 overall with an average tier rating of 1.07. Also from the AFC East, the Jets' Rex Ryan ranked 17th at 2.73, and the Bills' Doug Marrone was 28th at 3.53, just ahead of Philbin's 3.63. The 30 voters gave Philbin one 2nd-tier vote, nine 3rd-tier votes and 20 4th-tier votes.

1aa1agstantonSTANTON'S SIX CHILLING WORDS: "Five months doesn't change five years." Marlin Giancarlo Stanton said that in Anaheim yesterday when asked by Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown (story here) if Miami's unexpected playoff contention this season has altered his view of the future in terms of his re-signing long term. That's a bit ominous. It means the club and Jeffrey Loria still have much work to do to keep him and that the odds may still be long. Stanton last night hit his 33rd homer and ran his RBI count to 97 to lead a big win that drew the Fish within three games in the wild-card race, as if we needed a reminder why keeping him is such a gargantuan deal.

WE RIP OFF GRANTLAND FOR AN 'SNL' 40TH ANNIVERSARY POLL: ESPN's Grantland is running a bracket-style vote to name the greatest Saturday Night Live cast members as NBC's SNL marks its 40th 1aa1aSNLanniversary season. They're down to the final 16, and our poll features those 16, alphabetically. It's a very strong list considering the finalists do not include the likes of Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Jon Lovitz, Seth Meyers, Tracy Morgan, Gilda Radner, Adam Sandler or Martin Short. You may vote here for up to five (5), and there also is a "somebody else" category if this top 16 excludes one of your favorites. Vote and say why your all-time No. 1 is who it  is.

VOTE FOR AS MANY AS FIVE (5):

ON MARINO, KAAYA, INCOGNITO, LLWS AND TIGER: Some quick scattershot thoughts across sports for an early week...

1aa1adanmDolphins' Marino hire much ado about very little for now: "Special adviser" is one of those weightless, amorphous titles that sound mostly ceremonial. What I'm hearing from two club sources is that Dan Marino will have owner Stephen Ross' ear to offer opinions on personnel but that he'll mostly be a figurehead, a familiar face out front. Club also wants him to mentor Ryan Tannehill.

Canes right to go with Kid Kaaya: I'd not hand the reins to a 23-year-old transfer -- a stopgap solution -- unless he clearly proved himself better. Jake Heaps did not. So Al Golden was smart to opt for true freshman Brad Kaaya. Fast-forward the future. If Kaaya is the next great UM QB, find out now and have him for four seasons instead of three.

Defrocked bully Incognito gets another shot: Tampa Bay Bucs have ousted Dolphins bully Richie Incognito in for a look. Glad Miami has sanitized itself of Incognito, but I don't begrudge him another chance elsewhere. To the Bucs: Bully for you!

1aa1amoneyPaying Little Leaguers. No, seriously. Somebody said that: So evidently Mo'ne Davis being on national TV and the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 13 isn't enough, and she should get a cut of the profits. Gawd. Somewhere, the dollar-struck father of a 6-year-old T-ball phenom is trying to reach Drew Rosenhaus.

Tiger, your desperation is showing: Tiger Woods has parted ways with swing coach Sean Foley. Coach-changing and swing-tinkering are sure signs a golfer is desperate. So is this: Bearing down on age 39, struggling to stay healthy, and not having won a major since 2008.

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July 29, 2014

Miracle Marlins!; plus Arison's open letter (no thanks for LeBron), Canes odds, support for Tannehill rising, naked-TV trend & more

1) It is WEDNEDSDAY, JULY 30. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Faith-in-Tannehill poll, Joe Philbin, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

"The Dolphins signed rookie QB Seth Lobato from Northern Colorado. If he made the team and won the starting job, would that mean the offense had undergone a Lobatomy?" --Greg Cote

MARLINS FANS: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?: You saw one two nights ago against rival Washington,
1aa1abillymwith Miami turning a 6-0 deficit into a 7-6 walkoff win. Last night it was a 3-0 whitewash win. Now the Marlins have won six straight games and nine of the past 10. The team has now crept back up to a .500 record and is within five games of the NL East lead and, as important, within four games of a wild-card spot. This is still the periphery of playoff contention, but Miami has put itself in the conversation, given itself a chance. The team should now be buyers, not sellers, if there is any movement before Thursday's MLB trade deadline looms. On my count, 1-2-3 ... "Everybody's doin' the Fish! Yeah yeah yeah!" It would be a sporting miracle if Miami, sans Jose Fernandez, came from where they were to make the playoffs. They have a fighting shot.

ON MICKY ARISON'S OPEN LETTER TO HEAT FANS: 'WE ARE NOT DONE': The Heat's owner linked to his upbeat message from his Twitter account. Back in the day, he'd have taken out a full page ad in 1aa1amickyx3the Miami Herald. (Why do I think of everything in the context of the Newspaper Deathbed?) Anyway, Arison didn't go all Dan Gilbert and rail against LeBron James for the way he left. He went high-road, extolling the franchise's great accomplishments and expressing optimism moving forward. The letter appeared beneath the photo shown here. The key points, to me: After spending the first half of the letter bragging up all the club has done, and won, he wrote, "I’m here to tell you something else: we are not done; not even close." And, "We are laser-focused on the present and the task at hand of defending our Eastern Conference championship ... while also positioning ourselves for maximum flexibility and maneuverability in the future." And, "Our roster is comprised of players capable of versatility and who are out to prove something to the rest of the league." Finally, a plea to fans: "Like Dwyane [Wade] said when he announced his return to the Heat, I am a #HeatLifer. That’s how I want you to feel about your role as a Miami Heat fan -- that you are a #HeatLifer –- 'all in' with us." I found it interesting that Arison neither mentioned LeBron's departure nor thanked him for his time here. The underlying tone was very much that losing LeBron is a hiccup that this championship-pedigree club will overcome.

CANES CONFERENCE ODDS: ACC media recently voted Miami as the favorite to win the Coastal Division this season. Professional oddsmakers do not agree. New Bovada lines out today have North Carolina the Coastal pick at 8-5 odds, followed by UM and Virginia Tech at 3-1 each. 

POLL RESULT: SUPPORT FOR TANNEHILL SHOWS MODEST RISE: "What will Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill be three years from now?" We asked the poll question during last season and again as this training camp opened to gauge any change in support, and we saw a modest rise in faith. The comparative results:

Poll Answer                2013        Now

A star                        8.2          13.5

A solid starter            39.1        41.4  

A marginal starter      30.4        21.8

A reserve                   7.5         7.1

Gone                         8.4         10.4

Too soon to say          6.4         5.8

In sum, Tannehill's plus-rating in the two most positive categories -- star or solid starter -- rose from 47.3 percent to 54.9%. Tannehill generally has rising support, but it isn't broad, and doubters remain.

MEET TV'S LATEST DUMB NAKED SHOW: It is called Dating Naked and it airs Thursdays on VH1. The title is fairly self-explanatory; see photos. This in many ways is a golden age for television, with terrific shows such 1aa1adatingnaked 1aa1adatingnaked2as Shameless, Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan, Girls and many more. However all is not gold. There is still plenty of tin. TV executives out of fresh ideas tend to cannibalize each other, and this element has collectively decided that nudity is trend-worthy -- Fleshtone is the New Orange -- and so Dating Naked might call itself the illicit child of Discovery's Naked and Afraid and TLC's Buying Naked. Bulletin: Most people look much better clothed. (If you don't believe me, take an eye-opening stroll along the textile-optional stretch of Haulover Beach in north Miami). The "naked" shows also are fraudulent or at least misleading, sort of like ESPN The Magazine's annual "Body" issue that pictures athletes artfully nude but not really, their private parts tastefully covered. Dating Naked is a similar big tease of false advertising, with the frontal stuff obscured and viewers left with small doses of butt crack. I watched some of one episode on VH1's website in order to write this item. The show is not daring enough to be revolutionary, and somehow manages to make nakedness boring.

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May 06, 2014

G1: Heat 107, Brooklyn 86: LeBron's 22, big 3rd quarter lift Miami in series opener; plus Heat 3 Stars named, LBJ routed in MVP, miracle Marlins & more

It's Radio Wednesday: I'm in-studio with Dan Le Batard Show today, 3-7 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MAY 7. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Nets preview and series poll, LeBron overload, Seantrel, LeBapod, peanut shell art, Crocodile Chop & more. 2) Join us Twitter @gregcote.

Durant routs LeBron in MVP: Kevin Durant ended the two-year MVP reign of LeBron James in voting announced yesterday. No surprise. But the margin perhaps was. Durant had 119 first-place votes to James' six.

G1: HEAT 107, BROOKLYN 86: LEBRON, ALLEN LEAD BALANCED MIAMI ATTACK: [Click on Miami's Time for my column off last night's Heat win. It isn't the regular season any more, Brooklyn]. LeBron James led the way with 22 points but Ray Allen's 19 off the bench were just as big last night in Miami's 107-86 win. Chris Bosh also came up big with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a particular spark in the third quarter, when Miami's 33 points busted open a tight game. So much for Brooklyn's 4-0 season record against Miami, by the way. See our Heat 3 Stars of game below. Original post: You thought it started with the regular season? It didn't. You thought it started with the first round of the playoffs? It didn't. The Heat's run for
1aa1ag1 1aa1brookmiaa three-peat begins tonight, for real, for all intent and purposes. The regular season was an elongated walk-through.
1aa1round2The first-round playoff sweep over Charlotte was perfunctory and drama
free. Now it begins! Real playoff ambience and intensity will visit the downtown bayside arena for the first time in this postseason tonight in Game 1 of Heat-Nets. Brooklyn brings personalities, including


1aa1lebronpierceformer Celtics thorns Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Brooklyn brings starpower. Brooklyn also brings a team capable of beating Miami based on that 4-0 season mark favoring the Nets. Granted, three games were decided by 1 point and the other in double-overtime. Still, 4-0 is 4-0, although I suspect that as much as anything fuels the Heat here. If 4-0 makes Nets overconfident or invites doubt about Heat, well, that is what LeBron James and company feed on. The first quarter tonight should be especially torqued up tonight as the Heat fight off the natural rust of too much rest and try to make an early statement. Can't wait! My series pick: Heat in 5.

Poll result: You say Heat in 6: We asked for your prediction and most, 41.4 percent, said Heat in 6 games, edging the 37.3% who said Heat in 5. A Heat sweep drew 7.3% and Heat in seven drew 5.5%. Remaining 8.5% have Brooklyn in an upset. Interesting to contrast this round and last. With Brooklyn only 44.6% say Heat in any easy series (4 or 5 games). Versus Charlotte the easy-series factor was 87.1%.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings: Last night in Game 1--1. Ray Allen; 2. LeBron James; 3. Chris Bosh. Overall through five playoff games: LeBron James 13 points, Dwyane Wade 6, Chris Bosh 5, Ray Allen 3, Chris Andersen 1, Norris Cole 1, James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

ON THE MARLINS' STREAK: Marlins on a nice little 7-1 after last night's win, now a nifty 16-5 at home and only a half-game back in the NL East. Miami's plus-28 run differential, fifth best in MLB, suggests a real-deal contender. Perspective, though: These kind of little streaks happen every year, even in down years. Marlins were 6-1 from June 23-July 1 in 2013; 7-0 from May 1-7 in 2012; 7-1 from April 13-22 in 2011; 9-1 from July 6-18 in 2011; and 6-1 from May 10-16 in 2010. The key is to avoid the comparable slumps such as the 8-game losing streak just a month ago, April 6-14.  

MOUNTAIN DEW'S MUSIC RIPOFF: The sound of the Mountain Dew TV commercial entitled "Kickstart Your Night" currently airing is suspiciously derivative of Jack White. It's a song called "Repetition" by a group called The Willowz, but the vocal and music are such a Jack ripoff it ain't funny. Aside to Third Man Records: This is why lawyers were invented.



1aa1cowellcatDEAR GREG...:
"...Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show what would happen if X Factor judge Simon Cowell were a large house cat. Thank you." Dear Reader: Let me see what I can do.

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