November 15, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 3.5%. Season-low approval rating for Fins; plus Miami clobbered in Carolina 45-21 in defensive collapse; also, Canes column, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

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

1) It is TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14. Know any people who are serious Dolfans? Surprise and delight them with our book on club's first half-century. Click Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes crush Notre Dame 41-8 with CSM postgame poll, other state Collball & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

New Hurricanes column: As 9-0 Canes await arrival tonight into the College Football Playoff ranking's top four, we write about the real reason for this season. Click The Mark 'n Manny Show. Also, click Championship In View For Soaring Canes for column from Saturday night huge win over Notre Dame. And, no surprise: Approval rating in the latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll hit 98.6 percent, another season high. See previous blogpost for details.

DsmDOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G9: 3.5%: Results are certified in the latest installment of the Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 3.5 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Monday night’s 45-21 Dolphins loss at the Carolina Panthers putting Miami's season record at 4-5. That is a new season low. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Wednesday.

 

2017 game-by-game DSM results

G1: 81.9% (following 19-17 victory at L.A. Chargers)

G2: 4.8% (following 20-6 loss at N.Y. Jets)

G3: 3.8% (following 20-0 loss vs. New Orleans in London)

G4: 9.9% (following 16-10 victory vs. Tennessee)

G5: 79.7% (following 20-17 victory at Atlanta)

G6: 86.1% (following 31-28 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G7: 6.1% (following 40-0 loss at Baltimore)

G8: 13.1% (following 27-24 loss vs. Oakland)

G9: 3.5% (following 45-21 loss at Carolina)

Next poll: Nov. 19 (following game vs. Tampa Bay)

G9: CAROLINA 45, DOLPHINS 21: OK YOU SAW WHAT THE CANES JUST DID, FINS. WHAT YOU GOT? NUTHIN'!:  Our five takeaways from Monday night’s 45-21 Dolphins loss at Carolina: 1) With Miami 4-5 after a third straight loss, please do not mention the phrase “playoff contention” again until you hear otherwise. You cannot rely on either offense or defense As ESPN’s Jon Gruden put it Monday night, Miami “is perhaps the most inconsistent team I‘ve seen in a while.” 2) We knew the offense was among the NFL’s worst. But we thought the defense was OK, maybe even pretty good. Until now. Carolina totaled 548 yards of offense, including 294 rushing (and 8.2 per carry). Embarrassing. 3) Not Yet Ready For Prime-Time Players. Dolphins just became the first team ever to play three consecutive prime-time games and lose them all. 4) Miami remains the only team in the league to not score a rushing touchdown this season. Larry Csonka and Ricky Williams are spinning in their graves, and they aren’t dead yet. 5) Game-turning play: Fins were headed into halftime down only 10-7, then Jay Cutler through a bonehead interception from his own end that set up Carolina for a 17-7 lead. It was over from there ..... In- game: MIA 21-45 (4Q): Landry 9-yard pass from Cutler ..... CAR 45-14 (3Q): Funchess 32-yard pass from Newton ..... CAR 38-14 (3Q): McCaffrey 2-yard pass from Newton ..... MIA 14-31 (3Q): Drake 66-yard run ..... CAR 31-7 (3Q): Artis-Payne 12-yard run ..... CAR 24-7 (3Q): Funchess 28-yard pass from Newton ..... Halftime thoughts: Miami down in total yards 220-118 but a fairly even half except for the late, dumb Jay Cutler interception that gifted Carolina an easy TD ..... CAR 17-7 (2Q): Dickson 7-yard pass from Newton ..... MIA 7-10 (2Q): Thomas 2-yard pass from Cutler ..... CAR 10-0 (2Q): McCaffrey 4-yard run ..... CAR 3-0 (1Q): Gano 40-yard FG ..... Live blog tonight will mean as-they-happen score updates, halftime and postgame thoughts, then the DSM postgame poll ..... Original post: The Dolphins have lost two in a row, and there are no pity-points for improved effort or barely losing to Oakland 27-24 last week as what had been a comatose Miami offense finally showed a pulse. Fins still must prove they 

Miacar1can play a complete, complementary game with all cylinders pumping, and if they don't do it Monday night in Charlotte that would make it 0-for-3 in consecutive prime-time showcases. I give Miami a big chance here -- certainly against the spread, getting 10 points. Dolphins may be a shaky .500 at 4-4, but the Panthers' 6-3 mark Miacar2wobbles a bit, too. Cam Newton's passer rating actually is a fair bit worse than Jay Cutler's (78.4 to 87.4), thanks to Cam's 11 interceptions, tied for most in the league. The Cats are minus-8 overall on turnovers, fourth-worst in the NFL. Miami also has the benefit of safety T.J. McDonald's debut after serving an eight-game league suspension for substance abuse. Carolina's defense, though, is really stout -- much better than what Cutler picked apart last week vs. Oakland. And it doesn't help that Fins right tackle Ja'Wuan James is now on injured reserve. Also the Monday night stage, though diminished, still tends to magnify a home-field advantage. The good news? I'd bet on a close game, Miami-plus-points, and an outright upset would not shock. The bad news? I need to see a solid, four-quarter performance by the offense and defense in synch before the Dolphins earn my trust to conjure another major road upset like what they pulled off in Atlanta. My pick: Carolina, 24-17.

 

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: UM crushes Notre Dame, stakes championship intentions: Canes crushed Fighting Irish 41-8 Saturday, clinched a spot in ACC title game and made case to leap from No. 7 into College Football Playoff top four. For me, other than the five national-championship wins, the last in 2001 -- maybe the greatest night in UM football history. #TurnoverChain

2. DOLPHINS: Miami crushed at Carolina on Monday Night Football: Fins had lost two games in a row on Thursday night (at Baltimore) and Sunday night (vs. Oakland) and now gave Monday a shot in last chance to avoid being first team ever to lose three consecutive prime-time games. Didn't work.

3. NASCAR: Six days 'til Championship Sunday at Homestead: Sunday's penultimate race in Phoenix finalized the Championship Four for this Sunday's run at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It'll be Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex and Brad Keselowski racing for season crown. As many eyes, though, will be on Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his last race before retiring.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: CFP committee ready to shuffle top four: With No. 1 Georgia, 3-Notre Dame and 6-TCU all losing Saturday, Miami should leap 7-to-4 -- at least -- in Tuesday's new College Football Playoff ranking. New No. 1 figures to be Alabama ... unless Miami Hurricanes fans commandeer the votes. Would not shock to see Canes second behind only 'Bama.

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men, women both open season 2-0: No. 13 UM men routed Gardner-Webb 77-45 in Friday's season opener behind Bruce Brown's triple-double while Canes women beat FIU 77-69 led by Mykea Gray's 27 points, then both won again Sunday. Men's team plays under cloud of that FBI investigation into college recruiting, but winning is a diversion, at least.

6. MARLINS: Stanton trade speculation gains traction: Fish confirmed Don Mattingly would return as manager but remain noncommittal on slugger Giancarlo Stanton as assumption grows that they'll trade him, with Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants and Phillies out front among reported suitors. Dear Marlins: Small request. Get (a lot) more for Stanton than you got for Miguel Cabrera.

7. HEAT: Must we get used to being average?: Miami is 6-7 after Sunday's loss in Detroit, after finishing right at .500 last season. Long season, folks. And it's looking like another thrilling fight for that seventh or eighth seed. Pardon the attitude. The Big 3 years spoiled me.  

8. PANTHERS: Florida sinks to bottom of East: Cats are 5-11 after loss in New Jersey and in last place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. Either the club will show patience seldom associated with the Panthers, or rookie coach Bob Boughner may be on the edge of trouble.  

9. FIU: Panthers fall at home: FIU was an upset loser to Old Dominion 37-30 Saturday but still is an impressive 6-3 under first-year coach Butch Davis, though overshadowed by UM's unbeatenness. I mean, what were the odds FIU would today have as many wins as the Seminoles and Gators combined?

10. BASEBALL: Japanese phenom headed to America: Touted Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani will be in Major League Baseball starting in 2018. hailed as perhaps the greatest two-way player since Babe Ruth. Hey, no pressure or anything, Shohei!

Missing the HB10 cut: Free man O.J. Simpson has been banned from the Cosmopolitan hotel-casino in Vegas over alleged drunken, belligerent behavior. Or, did that go without saying? ..... Lonzo Ball's younger brother was among UCLA players arrested for shoplifting in China. Does the Bruins defense get statistical credit for those steals? ..... Bulletin: Ezekiel Elliott's suspension is back on, pending another 47 appeals ..... On behalf of Richard Sherman and his Achilles, can we finally abolish Thursday Night Football? Please? ..... R.I.P., Roy Halladay. And a slap in the face to those Boston radio idiots who made light of the private plane crash that took his life ..... What the hell did you start, Harvey Weinstein? Now Louis C.K., too? Keep it in your pants, fellas. Y'all are giving men a bad name, by which I mean even worse than usual.

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

Twitter @gregcote

October 10, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 9.9%; plus big Miami D beats Titans 16-10 but team embroiled in Snortgate; also, see what else falls where in latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

Columbus1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 9. Happy Columbus Day, if it hasn't become politically incorrect to still think of Christopher positively. 2) See previous blogpost for results in latest Canesfan Satisfaction Meter. They're buoyant, a season high. 3) Know any people who are serious Dolfans despite recent performances? Surprise them with our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes win at FSU with CSM poll, other state Collball Week 6, Panthers open, Cam Newton's problem, your World Series verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphins column off Sunday's game: Ah, yesterday. The halcyon days when the Dolphins' biggest problem was a lousy offense, not a soon-to-be-former offensive line coach snorting lines of a certain white powdery substance. Click on It Isn't Just Cutler for my game column.

Dolphins column on Foerster/Snortgate: NEW! Click Latest Drama in Bizarre, Trying Season.

DsmDOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G4: 9.9%: Results are certified in the latest installment of the Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 9.9 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 16-10 victory over the visiting Tennessee Titans putting Miami's season record at 2-2. That's a slight bump up, but a minimal one following a victory. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that will be around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

2017 Game-by-Game DSM Results:
G1: 81.9% (following 19-17 victory at L.A. Chargers)
G2: 4.8% (following 20-6 loss at N.Y. Jets)
G3: 3.8% (following 20-0 loss vs. New Orleans in London)
G4: 9.9% (following 16-10 victory vs. Tennessee)
Next poll: Oct. 15 (following game at Atlanta) 
 

G4: TENNESSEE AT DOLPHINS: EARLY IN SEASON FOR MUST-WIN FEEL, BUT HERE WE ARE: Postgame thoughts: One theory is there are no unsatisfying wins in the NFL. But if there were, this would be close: A 16-10 Miami win, at home, against a Tennessee team without its starting QB, a team that last week gave up 57 points. The Dolphins defense was as good as its offense was bad. That's the glass half-full. The D produced six sacks and two fumble recoveries -- the D won the game. But Jay Cutler and the offense were mostly anemic again, producing only six points on their own. With Miami 2-2, the Cutler offense has yet to generate a 20-point game as the schedule toughens from here ..... 4Q: Huge sack by top-pick rookie Charles Harris ... MIA up 16-10 on Cutler-Landry 6-yard hookup, but then a missed extra point wide right. Uh oh ..... 3Q: And the puntfest/snoozefest continues, with 15 combined punts through three ... Near-safety for MIA defense; ball marked at 1 leading to punt from end zone ... Miami punting on 4th and 1 from TEN 47 tells you how much confidence Adam Gase has in his offense right now ... TEN ties it 10-10 on 69-yard drive ending in 11-yard scoring pass. First opponent series Miami D has looked less than dominant ... DeVante Parker won't return today. Just the news an anemic offense didn't need ..... Halftime thoughts: Miami's defense, even considering Titans were without Marcus Mariota, was fantastic, limiting Tennessee to 80 total yards on 29 plays.  Four sacks and Reshad Jones' two fumble recoveries, one returned for a TD, made it among the most dominating defensive halves in memory. But! The Dolphins offense was just as bad as the defense was good, totaling a measly 63 yards. Miami scored zero points not set up by the D. Jay Cutler was 5-for-11 for 21 yards with an interception, and heard booing and "We want Moore!" chants. About as ugly as it gets for a team with the lead ..... 2Q: Cutler  intercepted on deflected ball. Pass was high, though, so it's mostly on him ... A very brief "We want Moore!" chant just bloomed following another Dolphins punt ... TEN within 10-3 on 45-yard FG set up by Ajayi turnover ... Ugh. Ajayi lost fumble gives Titans ball at MIA 24 ..... 1Q: Wow! MIA 10-0 after Jones' 38-yard TD return on fumble forced by Alonso hard hit on QB Cassel. Seemed like incomplete pass at first. Jones returned it anyway. Good thing ... MIA 3-0 late in quarter on Parkey 41-yard FG set up by takeaway ... Little Jakeem Grant had a TD catch but two defenders broke it up ... First big play is by MIA's defense as Jones recovers fumble at Titans 42 ... Noticeable booing as Fins punt for third straight time ... MIA's first 2 series have started at 7 and 3 yard lines. Not good ... Long-snapper Denney playing in 196th game, tie-3rd in Dolphins history. Promise never to mention the long snapper again ... Swapping punts to start game ..... Pregame: Marcus Mariota inactive a  huge boost for TenmiamiMiami's upset shot. Bet-line immediately fell from Dolphins -3 to -1.5. And then to even/pick-'em ..... Original post: I don't need a reminder that Miami started 1-4 last year, rose like Lazarus and made the playoffs. It is both true and means nothing. This Dolphins team at 1-2 will be in deep trouble if it falls to 1-3 today and all know it. Tennessee at 2-2 is a 3-point road favorite, which tells you a little something about regard for the Fins. But I like Miami in an upset. That's right. Eureka! Dolphins sleeping offense finally awakens! It hardly feels like an upset, especially with the strong possibility that Titans QB Marcus Mariota (hamstring) either won't play or will be G4limited. The dropoff to lousy Matt Cassel is extreme. But I'd like Miami anyway in the Fins' second-latest home opener in franchise history to one in 1987. Dolphins' offense can't possibly be as bad as it's looked the past two weeks (right?), and this is a Tennessee defense that just gave up 57 points (!) to Houston. Miami needs to recommit to the ground and Jay Ajayi, first, and the O-line must give Jay Cutler a cleaner pocket and another second to throw against a beatable Titans pass defense. Meanwhile the Dolphins run-stopping has been pretty solid; now, if only the pass-D was as stout. The key may be Ajayi's health, after he missed practice Thursday, babying a tender knee. Still not sure this will prove to be much beyond an average Dolphins team, or a playoff team, but it is a team that wins this game at home. (Or better be). My pick: Dolphins, 24-17. [Click on Week 5 Gems for all our latest NFL picks].

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: Finally! UM gets Litmus-test win over FSU, but loses Walton: Canes fans had waited since 2009, through seven straight losses to Florida State and then a Hurricane Irma delay, to finally beat their ACC rival and nemesis again. Wait: Worth it. Still-unbeaten Canes 24, Noles 20. Costly, though, with season-ending ankle injury to top RB Mark Walton.

2. DOLPHINS: Fins' D beats Titans, but Snortgate scandal erupts: Offense was lousy again as defense carried Miami past Titans 16-10 Sunday. But now team is scandalized by video on social media appearing to show offensive line coach Chris Foerster snorting lines of a white substance that looks an awful lot like cocaine.

3. PANTHERS: Hopeful Cats christen 24th NHL season: Florida opened with state doubleheader, losing Friday in Tampa then winning Saturday vs. Lightning here. New Panthers coach Bob Boughner is franchise's 15th, none lasting longer than three seasons. Club never got that memo about patience being a virtue.
 
4. MARLINS: Fish introduce Jeter as new ownership era begins: The Marlins introduced the public front of the new ownership group, money man Bruce Sherman and baseball man Derek Jeter. They aren't haven't lost a game yet and, mostly, they are not Jeffrey Loria, so for now Miami loves them.
 
5. HEAT: 9 days now 'til season opener: Heat is halfway through its six-game exhibition schedule, with regular season opener Oct. 18. Miami basically stood pat with last year's team that went 30-11 in second half. But is it good or bad when you're convinced your one missing piece is Kelly Olynyk?

6. BASEBALL: Postseason underway with divisional series: The Astros (at Red Sox) and Indians (at Yankees) are up 2-1 and in position to clinch their 5-game AL divisional series tonight. Raise your hand if you still think of the Astros as an NL team.

7. SOCCER: U.S. men breathe easier after rout of Panama: Team USA walloped Panama 4-0 Friday night in a qualifying match in Orlando to all but assure itself of advancing to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. U.S. can clinch Tuesday with a win (or likely even a tie) at Trinidad & Tobago.

8. CAM NEWTON: Carolina QB belittles woman sports writer: Newton called it "funny" to hear a "female" talk about route-running. Dear Cam: You play football for a living. What I find funny is someone who plays a game for living believing that game's intricacies are beyond the grasp of anybody.

9. UM BASKETBALL: Canes expect no problem with FBI probe: A Hurricanes assistant coach was implicated but not charged in that national FBI investigation of college men's basketball recruiting, and UM now says it expects a complete exoneration. Exhale, please.

10. WNBA: MInnesota continues its mini-dynasty: A fourth championship in seven seasons. Does that qualify the Minnesota Lynx as dynastic? If only I cared enough to consider further.

Missing the HB10 cut: Headlines I Never Thought I'd See (one in a series): 'Washington Nationals assistant suspended related to revenge porn suit' ..... O.J. Simpson continues to be as free as a man can be when everyone who looks at him believes he got away with double-murder ..... A new poll indicates most Americans disapprove of NFL players kneeling for the national anthem, but also disapprove of President Trump calling for their firing. What the hell do we approve of!? 

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

Twitter @gregcote

October 03, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 3.8%. Rock bottom!; plus tragedy in Vegas, Saints crush Miami 20-0 in London, Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Stanton stays at 59 (with column) & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, OCTOBER 2. Know any people who are serious Dolfans despite the last two weeks' performance? Treat them to our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Canes whip Duke with CSM poll, other Collball Week 5, NFL Week 4 pix, your Trump vs. NFL verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

MADNESS CONTINUES WITH MASS SHOOTING IN VEGAS: Was it terrorism? I'm not even sure how to define the word anymore. It was not the type associated with radical Islamic extremists; so, do we call it domestic terrorism? Or was it just a deranged lunatic who had no business being in possession of a military-grade automatic weapon? More than 50 are dead and more than 200 wounded at a country music concert on the Vegas strip at the hands of one coward on a balcony. The worst shooting in U.S. history. I'm sure the well-meant "Prayers For Vegas" sentiments are already all over social media. Not enough. Who has an answer to the madness attacking civilization by degrees? OK now back to sports! Christ almighty.   

Latest column: For Giancarlo Stanton, hope last night wasn't goodbye: He struck out in the ninth to end at 59 home runs. Standing ovation. Curtain call. Doffed cap in thanks. Or was that a farewell gesture? Click on Hope That Wasn't Goodbye for my column from the game.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G3: 3.8%: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show a season-low 3.9 percent overall satisfaction -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 20-Dsm0 loss to New Orleans in London putting Miami's season record at 1-2. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. You may vote here, immediately below, or also online by clicking DSM G3. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2017 Game-by-Game DSM Results:

G1: 81.9% (following 19-17 victory at L.A. Chargers)

G2: 4.8% (following 20-6 loss at N.Y. Jets)

G3: 3.8% (following 20-0 loss vs. New Orleans in London)

Next poll: Oct. 8 (following game vs. Tennessee)

G3: SAINTS 20, DOLPHINS 0 IN LONDON: FOR MIAMI, AWFUL GOT WORSE: Postgame thoughts: You thought the performance at the Jets last week was bad? Bad got worse. Miami was awful offensively in Sunday's 20-0 loss to New Orleans in London -- pitifully so after an opening 81-yard drive that ended with a Jay Cutler end-zone interception that seemed to thoroughly deflate the team. The Fins' defense was OK, closer to pretty good than bad considering Drew Brees slices through everybody. But the offense? A punt-fest after that opening drive. Nothing happening. Miami is lucky to not be 0-3. At 1-2 the season is not lost, but will be unless offensive answers are found soon. Right now, Ryan Tannehill has never looked better to Dolphins fans ..... 4Q; Sack by Wake. Sadly, might be highlight of game for Miami ... Saints 45-yard FG for 13-0 lead. Dolphins offense today making that seem insurmountable ..... 3Q: Fins are inept offensively right now, but give Saints credit. Much better than in past years on D ... Saints 10-0 on Brees 3-yard screen to Thomas. Only in this game, against this Miami offense, does 10-nil feel like a big lead ... Saints on 4th and 1 get the 1st by at least a full millimeter ..... Halftime thoughts: Ugh. Ugly. Do not mistake this soccer-like 3-0 score for great defense. Mostly it has been inept offenses, a rhythm-less game full of penalties, punts and miscues -- the worst an end-zone pick by Cutler that really seemed to deflate Miami. To say that Brits are not seeing the best of American football is to massively understate the awfulness of this game so far. Miami has three punts and six penalties. What is wrong with Miami's offense!? ..... 2Q: Saints 3-0 on 43-yard FG on half's final play ... Penalties killing Fins ... Saints miss 42-yard FG try. So still 0-0. Common in EPL soccer. In NFL, not so much ..... 1Q: With CB Maxwell inactive (hamstring), Brees really picking on rookie Tankersley ... Cutler throws end-zone interception to instantly snuff promising opening drive. Awful choice by him. Demoralizing end to opening drive that took half the quarter ... Unsurprisingly, clearly a pro-Dolphins crowd ..... Original postTally ho and cheerio and all that stuff we think Brits say but they really don't. Ready for a lil' Breakfast at Wembley? Miami and N'Awlins go at it at 9:30 this morning in the U.S. East in what is (ludicrously) a home game Mialondonfor Miami. How good the Dolphins are — whether they’re any good — was cast in serious doubt with that display of public flatulence at the Jets last week, so this is a true test. I do not believe (yet) that Miami is that bad. But I also do not believe that Sunday’s matchup with the Saints is a particularly favorable one that will be an instant cure. Main reason: Drew Brees, even pushing 39, is still really, really good, while Miami’s pass defense really, really isn’t. At least thus far. And that includes failings underneath due to thin linebacking, even with the return from AWOL suspension of Lawrence Timmons, who undoubtedly still would be in the penalty box if the Jets loss didn’t turn things so dire. N’Awlins' defense of course is famously bad, so Fins have an upset shot if the Double Jays, Cutler and Ajayi (running on a babied knee), are appreciably better than they were last week. Londoners could be in for a bloody shootout! Bottom line, though? Dolphins pass defense made Josh McCown look like a superstar last week. Now here comes Brees. Uh oh. My pick: Saints, 27-23. [Click on Week 4 Gems for all our latest NFL picks].

Dolfact: History, almost: With the Dolphins' scheduled home opener postponed by Hurricane Irma until Week 11 and the second "home" game taking place in London, Miami's actual first home game of the regular season -- next Sunday Oct. 8 vs. Tennessee -- will be the second-latest on the calendar in the club's 52 seasons. The only later home debut was Oct. 11, 1987, a season that saw Week 3 canceled by a players strike and three consecutive Dolphins road games.

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:

Hotbutton1. MARLINS: Stanton chases history to season's end: Marlins ownership change is official effective today, but the weekend spotlight belonged to Giancarlo Stanton as he chased baseball history. At 59 homers entering Sunday, he had one game left to reach 60 or even the PED-untainted record of 61 and be King Clean. He fell short, staying at 59. Let's hope he'll be back.
 
2. DOLPHINS: London falling. Hard. Fins blow, again: It was a home game 4,500 miles from home as Dolphins took on Saints as slight underdogs Sunday morning at Wembley Stadium -- and got clobbered 20-0. We thought Fins could not possibly be as awful as they were last week. But oh we were wrong!
 
3. HURRICANES: UM gets big win at Duke in ACC opener: Mark Richt's guys sailed 31-6 in Durham Friday night behind big defense and three TDs from Malik Rosier, and now No. 14 UM is 3-0 and it prepares to face rival Florida State in Tallahassee. And what seemed impossible five weeks ago is true: The Canes will be favored.
 
4. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Canes men's program part of FBI probe: FBI investigation of corruption in men's college basketball recruiting already has toppled Louisville's Rick Pitino in what could be seismic scandal, and UM has acknowledged a member of its staff is implicated. Football team a nice diversion, but high anxiety in the Gables.
 
5. HEAT: Wade makes nice, Heat open preseason: You know NBA season is getting close when the fake games begin! On a week when Dwyane Wade, now of Cleveland, made nice by saying he wants to end his career in a Heat jersey, Miami opened its six-game preseason here by beating Atlanta Sunday. Oh, and Heat are now mobile-only on ticket entry, so you, Luddite, better go buy a smartphone.

6. PANTHERS: Cats wrap exhibitions, await regular season: Panthers ended their preseason with a promising 4-2 mark and now await regular-season NHL opener in Tampa Friday, then home vs. Lightning Saturday. Last year: Big hype, no results. Now: No hype ... so we'll see.

7. BASEBALL: Wild-card games commence postseason: AL wild-card game Tuesday (Twins-Yankees) and NL Wednesday (Rockies-Diamondbacks) begin the MLB playoffs. These are like those play-in games in NCAA Tournament. Sorry, wild-carders, but you didn't really make the playoffs, now did you?

8. NFL POLITICS: Trump vs. Protest war continues: War between President Donald Trump and NFL social-justice protesters continues. Dear Trump: Fewer Tweets on NFL, more action on Puerto Rico. I mean ... just sayin'! 

9. RUSSELL WESTBROOK: Signs mega contract extension: Oklahoma City Thunder lavished Westbrook with a five-year, $205 million contract extension. Wait. Weren't max contracts around $20 mill about a minute ago? 

10. O.J. SIMPSON: Parolee heads to Florida: Our man O.J. Simpson gets out of prison on parole this week and is believed headed to South Florida to take up residence. Remember, if the glove does not fit, you must ... say welcome, Neighbor!

Missing the HB10 cut: FSU finally off the schneid, FIU and FAU both with big wins ..... Game 4 of the WNBA Finals is Sunday. Note to self: Look up who's playing.

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

Twitter @gregcote

September 28, 2017

Trump vs. NFL: Poll. Vote now!; plus UM hoops scandal, R.I.P. Hefner, Herald NFL Week 3 QB rankings, new 'Back In My Day,' NFL Pix 'n Fantasy Week 3 results, 2 Canes Top 5 in latest SOPY standings & more

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

Lebpod1) It is THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27. #HelpPuertoRicoNow. 2) Click on Toys! for my latest Back In My Day segment from the LeBatard Show. 3) Know any people who are serious Dolfans despite last week's performance? Treat them to our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins crushed by Jets with DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"R.I.P., Hugh Hefner, Playboy founder, gone at 91. Red velvet smoking jackets are hanging at half-mast." --Greg Cote

Hurricanes men's basketball scandal: A member of Jim Larranaga's staff is implicated in the nationwide FBI investigation of corruption in college basketball recruiting. Click on Larranaga Has Canes Flying High, Now This to read my latest column. 

Bears-Packers pick: NFL Week 4 kicks off tonight at Lambeau Field with King Sport's oldest rivalry. Click on Thursday Gem for our prediction capsule.

Jose Fernandez tragedy: 1-year laterMy latest Sunday column reflects on the tragedy that rocked South Florida one year ago, and on one man's complicated legacy. Click on Regret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow to read.

TrumpathletesTRUMP VS. ATHLETE ACTIVISM. WHO'S RIGHT?: Some NFL players kneel during the National Anthem or in other ways protest police treatment of unarmed black men and other prejudice. President Donald Trump called such players a "son of a bitch" at an Alabama rally and suggested they should be required to stand or be "suspended or fired." I tackle this dense topic in today's latest column; click on Trump Is Wrong, Needs Lesson On What Freedom Means to read. My take: Not only do athletes have the right to not stand, they are doing so for a righteous cause. They are not being anti-American as Trump suggests. Their actions are not anti-country, flag, anthem or military. But that's just me. Your opinion is invited here:

SMITH-BRADY DEAD HEAT, CUTLER SLIPS / HERALD QB RANKINGS / WEEK 3: The Patriots' Tom Brady (pictured) wins Week 3 with a 53.90-point game, his Tbradysecond straight weekly title, to pull nearly even with the Chefs' Alex Smith for the overall season lead in the Miami Herald's NFL quarterback rankings. The Dolphins' Jay Cutler, off a below-par game, slips one spot to 25th but has played one fewer game than others in the chart, and these are cumulative ratings. This is the 20th season of our Passer Success System (PASS) rankings, which began in 1998. Our formula is simple and unchanged since its inception, factoring accuracy, yardage, TD-interception ratio and team result. Most major ranking systems such as the NFL's and ESPN's are complicated and percentile based, allowing QBs who miss half a season to still win a title, while our system is cumulative, rewarding players who are consistently productive and avoid injury or benching.

MIAMI HERALD PASS RANKINGS / WEEK 3
RK   LW   Player, Team                     WK3            Season
1        1     Alex Smith, KC                  29.75           120.70
2        8     Tom Brady, NE                   53.90           120.60
3        4     Aaron Rodgers, GB            40.65            111.35
4        6     Drew Brees, NO                40.00            107.35
5       14    Jared Goff, LAR                44.60              97.10
6        9     Matt Ryan, ATL                 29.70              96.35
7       16    Eli Manning, NYG              44.30              96.25
8       18    Kirk Cousins, WAS              52.25             96.20
9        3     Matthew Stafford, DET      21.20             92.90
10      2     Derek Carr, OAK                  9.90             89.50
11     11    Carson Wentz, PHI             27.80             87.80
12      7     Ben Roethlisberger, PIT     19.75              87.05
13     15    Dak Prescott, DAL             28.15              80.45
14     10    Trevor Siemian, DEN          14.95             77.45
15     22    Tyrod Taylor, BUF               35.65             74.10  
25     24    Jay Cutler, MIA                  19.00             53.50
    Bubble: Russell Wilson, SEA, 73.45. Week 3 best: Brady, NE, 53.90 (25-35, 378, 5-0 in win). Week 3 worst: Joe Flacco, BAL, minus-6.60 (8-18, 28, 0-2 in loss).

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: WEEK 3 RESULTS: Every Tuesday in the blog I tell you know how I did the previous NFL weekend with my Miami Herald predictions and Fripix Loboswith my Greg's Lobos team in the LeBatard Show fantasy league. In Week 3: Herald picks: Embarrassing! -- And you thought the Dolphins were bad!? I went a terrible 7-9 straight-up and a woeful 4-10-2 against the spread. If this isn't my worst week all year, I'm in trouble. Did nail an outright upset with Colts over Browns and had two 'dogs with points in Giants and Saints, but, otherwise my week was exemplified by having the Lions beating the Falcons and having that bull's-eye snatched from me. Greg's Lobos: Back on the W Train! -- The Lobos improved to 2-1 by whipping Pablo Torre 119.4-99.5, led by Todd Gurley's big 37.9 points. He's early frontrunner for Lobo of the Year. We are the Gurley men!

SOPY RANKINGS / WEEK 4: TWO CANES IN FOUR-MAN RACE FOR 'STATE HEISMAN' LEAD: With Irma's upheaval past and full schedules back, the State
MwaltonOffensive Player of the Year (SOPY) rankings are heating up. What we like to call our ongoing "state Heisman" race show the top four players separated from Sopythe pack including a pair of Hurricanes as we enter Collball Week 5. UM running back Mark Walton (pictured) bumps up to No. 2 in the standings off a state-FBS-best 214-point game vs. Toledo. Our weekly rankings measure the most productive quarterbacks, running backs and receivers from the state's seven top-level FBS teams: Miami, Florida, Florida State, FIU, FAU, UCF and South Florida. The rankings are cumulative but based weekly on average points per game: Total points divided by number of games a player's team has played. This keeps the comparison level even because not all teams have played same number of games. Our simple formula awards a half-point for every passing yard and one point for every rushing or receiving yard, with six points for every TD scored or thrown. Here is the statewide SOPY Top 10 entering Week 5:

2017 SOPY WEEK 4 TOP 10

RK  LW  Player, School-Pos.                     Avg.        Total-Games

1    2    McKenzie Milton-UCF qb             198.50      397-2

2    3    Mark Walton-Miami rb                191.00      382-2

3    1    Quinton Flowers-SoFla qb           190.25     761-4

4    4    Malik Rosier-Miami qb                184.50      369-2

5    6    Alex McGough-FIU qb                 121.83      365.5-3

6    5    Travis Homer-Miami rb               111.50      223-2

7    --    Devin Singletary, FAU-rb            111.00      444-4

8   10    Darius Tice, SoFla-rb                 103.50      414-4

9    --    D'Ernest Johnson, SoFla-rb         101.25      405-4 

10  --    Auden Tate, FSU-rec                    95.50      191-2

Bubble: Tyrie Cleveland, Florida-rec, 92.33. Week 4 best: Walton, Miami, 214 points. Season best: Flowers, SoFla, 276 (Wk3).

Cote's State of the State rankings: 1. Miami (2-0), 2. South Florida (4-0), 3. Florida (2-1), 4. Florida State (0-2), 5. UCF (2-0), 6. FIU (2-1), 7. FAU (1-3).

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 08, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See what falls where; plus Chris Bosh sued by porn website; also, LaVar Ball/$495 sneakers poll, R.I.P. Art Hertz, Colonel Sander's romantic side, your eSports verdict, HB Daily (Mon) & more

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

Arthertz1) It is MONDAY, May 8. Belated condolences and an R.I.P. to Art Hertz, 83 (pictured), the Miami civic giant and former Orange Bowl Committee president. Got to know Art pretty well from my years covering Hurricanes football in the '80s. Good man. 2) Know any Dolfans? Thrill them with our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): First 2018 mock draft has bad news for Dolphins and Canes, Heat's foray into eSports/gaming with poll, updated Fins/Marlins title odds, your who-runs-this-town verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Porn, rat poop a part of lawsuit against Chris Bosh: I ain't lyin'. Click here for the story.

Latest column: Wade must check ego for any shot at Heat reunion: In my latest Sunday column I explore what could happen this summer if Wade opts out of his Bulls contract -- but might only happen if he came at a bargain price with no demands on his role. Click On The Team's Term's, Not His to read.

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. HORSE RACING: Always Dreaming takes a muddy Kentucky Derby: Always Dreaming -- Todd Pletcher-trained, with John Velazquez aboard and co-owned by Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola -- beat the mud and a big field Saturday to usher in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown at Churchill Downs. They call it the "Run For the Roses." Which also is what I do when I suddenly realize I’ve forgotten my wife’s birthday.

2. NBA: Prelims to get to Cavaliers-Warriors continue: Cleveland swept Toronto on Sunday and tonight Golden State looks to do the same in Utah. It is looking more and more like an inevitable third consecutive Cavs-Warriors Finals, which is exactly what American wants. Or doesn't. I can't decide.

3. MARLINS: Fish back to open long homestand Monday: Flailing Fish had lost nine of 11 before winning at Mets Sunday, and now face St. Louis tonight to open a nine-game homestand. Meanwhile three groups are now bidding to buy the club from Jeffrey Loria. How perfectly fitting would it be for Loria to end his unpopular reign by not selling to the fan-preferred Derek Jeter group?

4. DOLPHINS: Harris, other draftees in Fins’ rookie minicamp: Top pick Charles Harris and other draftees wrap up Miami’s weekend rookie minicamp Sunday — as much a meet-’n-greet as actual football work. Circle June 13-15, the first mandatory full minicamp, when things start to get serious.

5. LAVAR BALL: Would you buy a $495 pair of sneakers?: Super-dad LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand introduced a $495 signature sneaker for his NBA rookie-to-be son Lonzo Ball, thereby exponentially increasing the pressure on Lonzo to be an instant superstar. If I'm spending $495 on sneakers they'd better be stuffed with about $400 in cash.

6. NHL: Nashville first through to conference finals: Nashville became the first team to win its conference semifinal series, and now Pittsburgh can advance with a win tonight. We could see Game 7s in three of the four second-round series. That's the way you do a postseason, NBA!

7. N-WORD: Racist fan in Boston ignites outcry: A dumbass Red Sox fan shouted the N-word at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and was banned for life from Fenway Park. Official apologies and national conversation ensued. I wonder if the fan who yelled received an I-know-what-you're-going-through note from Steve Bartman? 

8. BOXING: Alvarez pounds Chavez in Vegas fight: Canelo Alvarez won an easy decision over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a battle of Mexican favorites last night in Las Vegas. The weight class was super middleweight. Alas, nothing super about the fight.  

9. HURRICANES: UM breaks ground on new football facility: It was news when UM announced plans for a new $34 million indoor football practice facility. It will be news when it opens its doors in 2018. Not sure it was news this week when people in dress shoes and hardhats stood around with gold shovels for a groudbreaking, but we sure covered it like it was. Slow news week?

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes playoff hopes on deathbed: Jim Morris' guys are an uncommonly common 24-23 and in grave jeopardy of seeing their record NCAA playoff streak come to an end. Doctors are standing by ready to call a time of death. Might take the miracle of an ACC title to save the season.

Missing the HB10 cut: Canes men's basketball is ranked No. 7 in the nation in an NBC Sports (very early) preseason Top 25 ranking newly out. And the bar is set. High ..... NASCAR did Talladega Sunday, with Ricky Stenhouse under the checkered flag ..... Ping pong balls ready? The NBA Draft Lottery is May 16 ..... Answer: UM tennis player Piotr Lomacki rose two spots, to No. 62, in the latest ITA singles rankings. Question: Whaddya mean they might wanna think about ranking fewer players? ..... Champion Olympic bobsledder Steven Holcomb found dead at 37. I'd never heard of him. R.I.P., anyway ..... At auction yet again: That rare 1909 T-206, the original Honus Wagner baseball card. I don't wanna say it might be a fake, but if you look closely you can see an ESPN banner on the outfield wall.

BallLAVAR BALL AND HIS $495 SNEAKERS: I have a new mini-column out on LaVar Ball's new line of $495 sneakers started for his son, Lonzo, 19, the UCLA guard about to enter the NBA. Click on The Gall Of Ball to read. It used to be you became an NBA star and from that grew the merchandise. But Dad (pictured) and his Big Baller Brand have flipped the switch. It is audacious. It might even be smart. But it also is off-putting to a lot of people as its heaps a ton of pressure on Lonzo Ball to be an instant star in order to sell sneakers and save the family brand. What are you rooting for to happen? Take a dip in our poll:

ColonelCOLONEL HARLAND SANDERS: SUPER-STUD: How KFC has brought its iconic Colonel Sanders back to life in advertising is smart, and fun. Companies that have brand ambassadors that famous are dumb to move away from them. (Who remembers his first name is Harland, by the way?) The latest dab of genius is a "romance novella" (pictured) that casts the Colonel as a stud. (Background story here). They're giving it away with the purchase of a $20 bucket of chicken, and it sounds wonderfully awful. The book. Not the chicken. Spoiler alert: In the book, Tender Wings Of Desire, the Colonel carries the gorgeous redhead to his castle (shown in the background), where together they enjoy a lavish banquet of fried chicken, after which the unhinged Colonel carries the woman into a fully appointed sex dungeon below and dons a rubber mask for hours of bondage games. OK, I made up that last part. The Colonel would never do that!

POLL RESULT: SORRY, GAMERS, BUT THAT AIN'T A SPORT: We asked if you consider eSports/competitive video gaming to be an actual sport, and it was 77.9 percent "no" to only 22.1% "yes."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 5-8-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. St. Louis at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.: Fish 13-17, needing spark, as they open 9-game homestand.

2. NBA playoffs, 9 p.m.: Warriors up 3-0, can close out 2nd-round playoff series with sweep at Jazz.

3. NHL playoffs, 7:30 p.m.: Penguins 3-2 and home, looking to close out series with Capitals.

Select other recent columns: Not In Our Stadium, on the N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa, on why the Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons, on Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami, on Bush/Jeter group reaching agreement to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 19, 2017

On Marlins statue for Jose Fernandez, and on proposed Dolphins trade for Richard Sherman. Two polls. Last day to vote!; plus Aaron Hernandez suicide, our tour of UM Sports Hall of Fame, Hot Button Daily (Wed) & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, April 19. Know any Dolfans? Buy them joy. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NBA playoff preview/predictions, Jose Fernandez documentary, your verdict on if Heat season was success & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On UM Sports Hall of Fame, Erik Spoelstra: My latest columns: Not even most Hurricanes fans have visited the UM Sports Hall of Fame (which held its 49th annual induction banquet last night), but it's a treasure trove worth a visit. Click on History Breathes at UM Sports Hall for my latest column. Also, seldom has a .500 record and no playoffs felt better than this Heat season did. ICYMI,click on Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph for my latest Sunday column.

POLL I: A MARLINS STATUE FOR JOSE: APPROPRIATE? OR INAPPROPRIATE?: There are '16' uniform patches being worn by players this season. But those are small, and temporary, and sort of for-the-team personal. Now, it Josefernhas been confirmed in recent reports, the Marlins plan later this season to erect a permanent 10-foot bronze statue of the late star Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident last September that killed two others. That's big, and public. This issue grew to complicated controversy by subsequent test results that indicated Fernandez was both behind the wheel that night and impaired by alcohol and cocaine -- that, in effect, he was responsible for his own death and those of two others. That, to many, casts a much different light on his legacy, and raises questions whether a statue is appropriate or not. Results were mixed recently when I asked about the uniform patches. Approval ran at 39.0 percent, disapproval at 32.4% and uncertainty at 28.6%. But a statue kicks the Marlins' honoring of Jose to a different, ultimate level. What do you think? Vote now:

POLL II: SHOULD DOLPHINS GIVE UP FIRST-ROUND PICK FOR RICHARD SHERMAN?: So says writer Bill Barnwell on ESPN.com. In an all-trades mock draft, he proposes that Miami gets RshermanSherman, the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, 29, from Seattle and gives up this year's No. 22 overall pick, next year's fourth-rounder, and CB Byron Maxwell. Says Barnwell: "The Dolphins aren't exactly shy about going after players they value, and they would be getting a massive upgrade at arguably the weakest position on their roster by trading for a future Hall of Fame cornerback in Sherman. Miami doesn't have a ton of cap room, but by packaging Maxwell and saving $3.5 million as part of the trade, the Dolphins should be able to squeeze the Stanford product onto their roster. Maxwell improved dramatically as the season went on in 2016, and he would give the Seahawks some semblance of familiarity as they rebuild at cornerback." Me: First let's tap brakes on Sherman unequivocally being Canton-bound. He's clearly better than Maxwell, but the difference of a first-round pick? And Dolphins have so many other needs. It isn't an implausible deal, but I'd hesitate. Now, your turn:

AhernandezAARON HERNANDEZ HANGS HIMSELF IN JAIL: Hernandez, the former Florida Gator and New England Patriots tight end, left no suicide note  but authored the final chapter of his own American tragedy in hanging himself in his jail cell overnight. [Full story here]. He used a bedsheet. He was 27. Apart from loved ones, few will shed tears or mourn his loss, except to shake heads at the waste. Hernandez was serving a life sentence without the chance of parole for a 2013 murder when he was acquitted of an unrelated double-murder just days ago. Hernandez had a bright future in the NFL before throwing it all away. In three seasons with the Pats he caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 TDs. He was good. Few will lament his loss. For many, it won't be "R.I.P." but more likely Rest In Hell. But I feel badly for everybody here. For the victims of his temper and derangement. For his loved ones. and for Hernandez himself -- for the mental demons that led to what he let himself become. Ultimately, he has only himself to blame. It's still a shame from every angle.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 4-19-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NBA playoffs, 7 p.m.: Three more first-round Game 2s, including Golden State in nightcap.

2. Marlins at Seattle, 3:40 p.m.: Fish close first series of nine-game road trip after near no-hitter.

3. UEFA quarterfinals, 2:45 p.m.: Second leg for AS Monaco-Borussia Dortmund, Barcelona-Juventus.

4. NHL playoffs, 7 p.m.: Four first-round Game 4s as St. Louis, Anaheim seek advance via sweeps.

5. FAU at Hurricanes, 6 p.m.: UM baseball (17-19) still scrambling to get on right side of .500.

Select other recent columns: Heat Fell Short, But Didn't Fail, off season-ending game. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Dolphins Draft Wish List, on candidates for Miami's No. 1 pick. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. A Complicated Legacy, on latest in Jose Fernandez saga. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 20, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) starring Canes/NCAAs, Fernandez saga, Heat down to 8, viva Team USA!, tennis, Cats, cricket; plus Cote says thanks, Chuck Berry, your Jose verdict, Hot Button Daily & more

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

Chuckberry1) It is MONDAY, March 20. R.I.P., Chuck Berry (pictured in his latter years), the influential rock 'n roll guitar icon, gone over the weekend at age 90. Rest in Peace, Johnny B. Goode. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): We name our March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Love & Regret/Jose Fernandez saga with poll, UM men fall in NCAAs & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

'Cote's Coterie' lifts us to final four!: A late surge of support Sunday carried us past Mike Ryan and into the final four of Slice Miami's annual sports media poll. I'm now up against Amber Wilson in the semifinals. Uh oh. Click on Slice Miami Final Four to vote.

My bracket update: Still solid: As the NCAA Tournament pauses and exhales I stand tied for ninth place among some 90 entries in a LeBatard & Friends pool. I have 12 teams still alive in the Sweet 16. Is that pretty good? Or average? Took a hit though with Duke falling. I'd had the Devils reaching the (but not winning) the championship game. By the way, to this point, favorites (based on seeding) are 38-10, a 79.2 percent win rate. Once again, the Cinderella aspect of March Madness appears largely oversold.

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 / NCAA TOURNAMENT: Miami makes quick exit from March Madness: An unexpectedly good season ended so badly for Canes men in a very disappointing 78-58 opening loss to Michigan State Friday night in Tulsa. How is your bracket looking as we arrived Sunday at the Sweet 16? Mine is a sieve leaking a torrent of my own tears. (It isn't, really. But it's funnier to say that...)

2. JOSE FERNANDEZ: State says Jose at wheel, caused crash: The story that couldn't possibly get any worse keeps getting worse. The latest: A report confirming Fernandez was at the wheel and to blame for fatal boat crash. Isn't a tragedy worst when you know it should never have happened? (Click on A Complicated Legacy for my column on latest development in saga).

3. HEAT: Can we please start a “We're No. 8!” chant?: Heat fell from 7th to 8th seed with Sunday's home loss to portland -- only the team's sixth loss in past 29 games. Meantime Dwyane Wade is out for the rest of season in Chicago, another reminder Heat seems more and more right to have let Wade go.

4. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Stanton homers as Team USA wins, makes final four: Americans beat Dominican Republic late Saturday in San Diego, 6-3, led by Marlin Giancarlo Stanton's go-ahead home run. Winner-take-all game eliminated D.R. and lifted U.S. to WBC championship round at Dodger Stadium and a semifinal vs. Japan. Team USA has never won this event. "Can you believe it?" said a clearly annoyed Abner Doubleday. Let's gooooo States!

5. TENNIS: Miami Open begins on Key Biscayne: Andy Murray and especially Serena Williams are among major withdrawals with injuries for the two-week event starting Monday. I feel like Serena is so good she could at least reach the semifinals playing on crutches. Meantime, IMG, which owns the event, assures it will remain on Key Biscayne long-term. That means the Miami Open has won the Miami Open.

6. UM WOMEN: Canes win NCAA opener, carry banner for UM hoops: Miami survived upset-minded Florida Gulf Coast, 62-60, at home Saturday in its NCAA Tournament opener and will now face Quinnipiac Monday night 9, home again. What the Hurricanes men failed to do, the women did: Avoid a one-and-done.

7. PANTHERS: Don't write Cats off yet. Almost. But not yet: Florida is six points off NHL playoff pace with only 11 games left after getting spanked 4-0 Sunday in Pittsburgh. Somewhere between simply needing a lot of luck and needing a miracle rest the Panthers' chances.   

8. BOXING: Mayweather-McGregor penciled in for September: The hype has begun with Conor McGregor saying he's going to "shock the world" and win by boxing against heavily favored Floyd Mayweather in their mixed boxing/UFC bout rumored for September. Am I alone in wishing there were a way they both could lose?

9. NFL FREE AGENCY: Report: Teams awary of Kaepernick because of Trump: An AFC GM said teams are hesitant to sign available QB Colin Kaepernick for fear of a an onslaught of negative Tweets from Donald Trump. And in other free agency news, the Dolphins have done pretty good so far but not quite as good as the Patriots. Or did that go without saying?  

10. CRICKET: India beats Australia, I think: Actual lead of news story I read Sunday morning: "RANCHI, India (AP) -- A 199-run seventh-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha gave India a 152-run lead after they declared their first innings at 603-9 against Australia on Sunday." Anyone who has any idea what any of that means, would you please keep it to yourself?

Missing the HB10 cut: Congrats to our blog's March Madness Haiku Challenge champion, Ken Whiteley of Chattanooga, Tennessee ..... Canes baseball fell to 8-13 Saturday. Sorry to place you below cricket, Jim Morris, but until you start winning, no Top 10 for you! ..... NASCAR runs today in Phoenix. It will be loud. I won't watch. 

Poll result: Shaky support for Marlins honoring Fernandez with uniform patch: We asked if, in light of this week's report putting Jose Fernandez behind the wheel of the fatal boat crash that killed him and two others, it still is appropriate that the Marlins this season to wear a uniform patch honoring Jose. The results: 39.2 percent "Yes. Because of all he meant to Miami and to the Marlins." "No. Not when he caused the tragedy that took two other lives"; and 28.0% "Not sure. I can see both sides." That's a plurality who still favor the patch, but roughly another 60% who are against it or have misgivings. 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-20-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. Quinnipiac at Hurricanes, 9:10 p.m.: UM women host 2nd-round game for spot in Sweep 16.

2. Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico, 9 p.m.: First World Baseball Classic semifinal game from L.A.

3. Miami Open tennis, 10 p.m.: Main draw starts Tuesday, but qualifying matches happening today.

4. Marlins vs. Braves, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game in Lake Buena Vista.

Select recent columns: A Complicated Legacy, the latest, on developments in the Jose Fernandez saga. A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness, on the NCAA Tournament. D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 16, 2017

NCAA Tournament begins, last day to enter March Madness Haiku Challenge! Details here; plus Hurricanes-in-tourney poll (last day to vote), our NCAAs preview column, Eric Hosmer, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, March 16. Team USA's Eric Hosmer, born in Cooper City and from American Heritage High, hit the go-ahead 2-run homer in last night's huge 4-2 win over Venezuela in second round of World Baseball Classic. Local boy makes (really) good. 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, onus on Team USA in WBC, Smokey Robinson review & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

"Happy 104th, Mae Riback!"

Column: Loving the Madness: I used to be a March Madness agnostic who made fun of Bracketheads, but I have slowly come around on why people love the NCAA Tournament so much. Click on A Quintillion Reasons to Love the Madness for my latest column. 

HaikuOH NO! IT'S BACK! IT'S OUR 12TH ANNUAL MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: We expect the entries to be pouring in like a tsunami, by which I mean we expect a few, or perhaps even several. We have done the Haiku Challenge for as long as we've had this blog and it is back for tradition's sake and by unpopular demand. I say unpopular because many of you are intimidated by this contest, or simply do not agree that nothing captures America's mania over the NCAA Tournament and bracketeering better than ancient VitaleJapanese short-form poetry. I do not do this for the masses, but for the select, chosen few who await the contest every year with relish. It's sort of like a restaurant menu that offers liver. Few like it, but the few who do love it. You may know that a haiku is a 17-syllable poem (not 16! not 18!) and that ideally it's in 5-7-5 structure. But we're loose with the structure. Rhyming? Fine, but not necessary.

Three simple but hard-fast rules:

1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament, March Madness, college hoops or the  Miami Hurricanes, it's a valid entry. (Tip: 'Larranaga' burns four syllables).

2. You may submit entries ONLY one of two ways: via email to gcote@miamiherald.com, or via Twitter @gregcote with the hashtag #Haiku. You may enter as many haikus as you wish.

3. Entries will be accepted from now through 5 p.m. today/Thursday, with winner announced in the blog Friday morning. (We are getting an unusually big response this year so shutting entries down sooner than first expected).

Prize, you ask? I dunno, maybe a Dolphins media guide or something equally crappy? We'll figure something out. Don't do it for the prize. Do it for the sheer glory and to flex your creativity and inner-Zen. OK, ready? Get the mind revving. The entry window has banged open. Haiku!

MIAMI SNUBBED ON 'BEST COLLEGES FOR SPORTS' LIST: Money magazine and Sports Illustrated together have come out with a Top 100 list of "Best Colleges for Sports Lovers." Top five are Stanford, Notre Dame, Michigan, Duke and Virginia. Florida fares well at No. 7. Florida State at least makes it at No. 64. Miami Hurricanes? Nope. Nada. Click here for the complete Top 100 and methodology.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 3-16-17: Events on today's sports calendar that should interest SoFla most:

1. NCAA Tournament, 12:15: With first of day's 16 men's games including Gators at 3:10, 'Noles at 9:20.

2. Panthers at Columbus, 7 p.m.: Was 7-2 rout of Toronto start of late Cats surge?

3. Venezuela vs. Dominican Republic, 10 p.m.: World Baseball Classic 2nd-round game from Diego.

Select other recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 13, 2017

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Starring Canes and Selection Sunday, Team USA collapse, white-hot Heat, ice-cold Cats, El Clasico; plus didn't we invent baseball?, concert review (Smokey Robinson), Lorde, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, March 13. Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Thank you Mae Riback, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, Canes out in ACCs, ESPN analyst slams Dolphins for Stills/Branch deals, how/why 'The Ballad Of 1440' happened & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

NCAA title odds by conference: Via Bovada today, odds on which conference will produce the men's NCAA Tournament national champion: ACC 11-4, Pac-12 7-2, Big 12 19-4, Big East 6-1, SEC 19-2, Big Ten 22-1, field (any other conference) 19-2.

LordeMy sweet Lorde: Really like Lorde and like her new song, "Green Light," that she performed on SNL last night. Click here to see the song's official video. Side note: Lorde is 20. In the video, for reasons unknown and as pictured, she looks 40.

ICYMI: Thank you, Mae Riback: This was a recent short human-interest column about my finally meeting my oldest fan, and it has gotten an extraordinary outpouring of positive response. If you missed it, click on Thank you, Mae Riback to read. 

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. NCAA TOURNAMENT: Hurricanes to face Michigan State in opener: Selection Sunday set the 68-team men's NCAA Tournament field last evening, including a Miami Hurricanes vs. Michigan State first-round matchup Friday night at 9:20 p.m. in the Midwest regional in Tulsa. Canes, 8-seeds, have opened as 2-point favorites over the 9-seed Spartans. So. Ready? "Gentlemen (and ladies) ... start ... your ... brackets!"

2. WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC: Team USA, Dominicans advance: Four-team round robin play at Marlins Park ended Sunday night with the U.S. and Dominican Republic advancing to the next round of the WBC. The D.R. is defending champion while underachieving Team USA has never won a WBC title or even medaled. Um, didn't we invent baseball!? Tick-tock, fellas. Represent, dammit!

3. HEAT: Miami still 1 back in playoff chase: Heat is on a 21-5 run even after losing at Indiana Sunday as it awaits a five-game homestand starting Wednesday, but still is 1 game back of the 8th seed and playoff pace. Meanwhile coach-of-the-year talk has begun for Erik Spoelstra. That's the plus side of starting 11-30. Nowhere to go but up.

4. SOCCER: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona confirmed for Miami: Months of rumors are now reality. “El Clasico,” the best rivalry in international club soccer, is coming to Hard Rock Stadium July 29. Major event? I'd liken it to a Super Bowl, but that might flatter the NFL. (Barcelona, by the way, just engineered the greatest comeback in Champions League history in overcoming a 4-0 hole to oust Paris St. Germain).

5. NFL: Dolphins busy as free agency underway: Miami spent big to keep S Reshad Jones and WR Kenny Stills as free agency began, and also signed former Pro Bowl LB Lawrence Timmons and reacquired TE Anthony Fasano. A team that made the playoffs for first time since 2008 is acting like it's serious about building something. Dolfans call that "a pleasant change."

6. PANTHERS: Reeling Cats sink from playoff race: Florida made it eight losses in past nine games in falling at Tampa Bay Saturday and now is seven points off NHL playoff pace. There is a phrase for chances Cats still make the postseason. It is, "Miracle on Ice." 
 
7. UM WOMEN: It's Selection Monday for Katie Meier's Canes: Women's NCAA field materializes this evening, and 16th-ranked Canes expect to be around a No. 5 regional seed. UM women have shaky history in NCAAs, so pressure will be on.
 
8. TONY ROMO: What's happening with poor Tony?: They're trading him. They're not trading him. What the Dallas Cowboys do with unseated veteran quarterback Tony Romo has become the biggest drama of NFL free agency.
 
9. NASCAR: Truex wins Las Vegas: Martin Truex Jr. won Sunday's NASCAR race. Gee, you think a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway had any bets placed on it? Now Vegas is getting the Oakland Raiders too as the line between gambling and sports fades to non-existence.
 
10. CANES BASEBALL: Sunday win eases rough start for UM: Once-ranked Miami is now 5-9 after beating Georgia Tech to take two of three in its ACC home series. That's still only 3-9 since a 2-0 start for Jim Morris' guys. Oy.

Missing the HB10 cut: Nothing personal, UFC, but are people really supposed to be excited by a "Belfort vs. Gastelum" fight? ..... Although at least they actually fought. It's still all talk on Mayweather vs. McGregor, and probably will be for months ..... Did you all spring forward one hour? Line of the day seen on Twitter but funny only to the anti-Trump crowd: "Can we please spring forward four years?"

"LET'S GOOOOOOOO STATES!" TIME FOR TEAM USA TO REMIND WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC WHO INVENTED THIS SPORT: [Update: After a blown-lead loss to the Dominican Republic the U.S. beat Canada on Sunday to advance in the WBC] Original post: This is the fourth World Baseball Classic going on, with first-round WbcmiamiMiami games at Marlins Park, as well as in Seoul, Tokyo and Jalisco, Mexico. The United States team has yet to win a WBC championship or even earn any sort of medal by finishing in the top three. It is a disappointment bordering on embarrassment. Team USA manager Jim Leyland (the former Marlins championship skipper) bristles at the topic, but it is real. How can the country that invented baseball watch Japan (in 2006 and '09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) win WBC titles when the American team always has so many more major-leaguers as a national-team talent pool? This is the subject of today's latest column by me. Click on Time For Team USA To Win This Thing to read. The U.S. (featuring Marlins Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich) rallied to beat Colombia last night 3-2 in 10 innings. Tonight at 6:30 comes the WBC's signature game for Miami: U.S. vs. defending champ Dominican Republic in a sold-out game. The Americans can secure an advance to the second round by winning. Crowd will be raucous and the stakes high. Supposedly the crowd will be pro-Dominican. We'll see. Can't wait.

CONCERT REVIEW: SMOKEY ROBINSON: A LOT TO LIKE, BUT...: Wife and I went to see Motown icon Smokey Robinson earlier this week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. I was Smokeynever a super-fan. My appreciation of what we used to call soul music from that era tended more towards the grittier sound of Stax/Memphis than the more polished stuff coming out of Motown/Detroit. I'll take the funk of Al Green and The Staple Singers, thanks. Still, I try to see legendary performers I have never seen, and wanted to check Smokey off that list. As a solo performer or with the Miracles, he's a Hall of Famer whose career I respect. The first half of the show did not disappoint. He performed all of the familiar hits, and very well, his distinctive voice still clear and strong. He engaged with the audience. I learned that a few famous songs by others, like "My Girl" by the Temptations, were written by Smokey. Also learned that his signature hit, "Tears Of a Clown," happened because Stevie Wonder had written the music and gave it to Smokey. Great stuff. Alas, the second half of the show dragged when Robinson got into a bunch of slow jams and morphed into romantic/sexy mode, complete with hip grinds. Umm, how to say this delicately? Smokey, sir, you're 77 now. Your voice and songs are enough.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / MON 3-13-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Selection Monday, 7 p.m.: Women's turn as NCAA Tournament field set for Canes, others.

2. Marlins vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m.: Spring game in Port St. Lucie.

3. Manchester United vs. Chelsea, 3:30 p.m.: FA cup soccer match.

4. Netherlands vs. Israel, 6 a.m.: World Baseball Classic second-round game.

Select recent columns: D.R. and Miami Win the Night, from the World Baseball Classic last night. Time For Team USA To Win This Thing, previewing WBC at Marlins Park. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

ICYMI: 'THE BALLAD OF 1440': A final spin of our new autobiographical song...

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 10, 2017

Thank you, Mae Riback. Story of how I (finally) met my oldest fan; plus Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP race, Canes await Selection Sunday, Dolphins bashed for Stills/Branch deals, background on why 'Ballad Of 1440' happened, Hot Button Daily & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, March 10. Who is panicking more right now: the fading Panthers, losers of six of past seven and now six points back in NHL playoff chase? Or Jim Morris, whose baseball Canes are 2-8 since starting 2-0? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): "The Ballad of 1440" video debut, the dead we forgot (Ghost Tour addendum), Jimmy Buffett's retirement communities, Marlins odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Canes blown out in ACC quarters, await Selection Sunday: UM lost Thursday 78-53 to top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. Nobody except super freshman Bruce Brown (21 points) scored in double figures for UM. Canes had beaten Syracuse 62-57 on Saturday led by two  men who know Brooklyn well in coach Jim Larranaga and senior forward Kamari Murphy. Click on At Home in Brooklyn for my column off Saturday's win. Next: Selection Sunday should find Miami a mid-seed for NCAA Tournament, with an 8 vs. 9 opener most likely.

THANK YOU, MAE RIBACK: There are no "average readers." The story of most every life is a tale worth telling, which brings us to Mae Riback of Hollywood. Next week she will turn 104 -- still alert, still reading the Miami Herald daily, still turning to the sports section first. She had written me a lovely letter in late 2015, kind words in appreciation of my writing. She said how she Tinyhad read me for decades, told me I should write a book. She apologized for tremors in her penmanship, noting she was then 102. Her letter sat in a cardboard box, unseen, for 18 months. I rarely visit my office, and almost never answer envelope mail, because readers reach me by email 95 percent of the time. But on a recent visit to our Doral building I went through old mail that had accumulated, tossing most of it but somehow drawn to open this one envelope. Guilt overrode me. Here this centenarian had taken time to write such a kind letter, and I had ignored it! Eighteen months later, as I finally wrote back, I dreaded I might be too late. I cannot tell you who was happier when she called me on the number I'd given. We met this week, at the Hollywood apartment she shares with a fulltime aide in the Hillcrest area. Her handshake was unexpectedly firm. She uses a walker and struggles to hear but is sharp, and looked 20 years younger than I'd imagined. I gave her a copy of my Herald book, "Fins At 50," which I'd signed. She has been a Dolphins fan for years. ("But they annoy me lately!" she said). Ms. Riback was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. but moved here in 1971 after a 25-year career teaching phys-ed. She loved tennis and golf, so retiring with her husband to South Florida was a dream. Her aide produces a Sept. 30, 1950 page from The Grossinger Times with Mae "Tiny" Riback in a headline for having won a tennis tournament. Only 0.02 percent of Americans live to be 100. I asked how she explains her longevity. "I played. I moved all the time," she said. "Tennis I was best at, but sports, to me, were No. 1." Her racket is retired now but she remains active. Plays bridge every week. Reads the Herald voraciously, devours CNN or CNBC to stay up on current events. We parted with another strong handshake, and this time she asked me to lean down so she might kiss my cheek. She was was delighted by our meeting, and said she'd tell everyone she knew all about it. Tiny, the pleasure and honor were mine. [Click on Thank You, Mae Riback to see the column as it appears online

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (65 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 31-34 after Wednesday night's home win over Charlotte, here's The Luddite's 13th installment, with 60-game rank in parentheses.

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (65 games):

Luddite1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,869

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,721

3. James Johnson (3)          1,207

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,189

5. Dion Waiters (5)               994

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      674

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         651

8. Josh Richardson (9)         561

9. Willie Reed (8)                558

10. Luke Babbitt (10)          421

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 154, Udonis Haslem 72.

ESPN ANALYST SLAMS DOLPHINS' RE-SIGNING OF STILLS, BRANCH: While some in the local media genuflect over the Dolphins re-signing their own free agents in receiver Kenny Stills (pictured) and defensive end Andre Branch, at least one prominent ESPN analyst slams the deals. Bill Barnwell grades each a "D+" (ouch) in this analysis of early free-agent activity. (Teams may begin signing others' unrestricted free agents beginning at 4 p.m. today). An excerpt/synopsis of Barnwell's criticism of the Stills deal: "Miami shelled out $20 million in guarantees as part of a four-year, $3e2 million deal to bring its third wideout back to South Florida. The Dolphins are bringing back a player coming off a nine-touchdown season, one that isn't Stillssupported by usage rate and is almost guaranteed to regress toward the mean. In terms of total production during his two seasons with the Dolphins, Stills is 77th in the league in receptions and 57th in receiving yards. Nobody's expecting him to catch a high percentage of his passes because he is thrown so many deep balls, but Stills has the fifth-worst catch rate in the league among guys with 100 or more targets the past two seasons, at 47.9 percent. Because it takes so many passes for him to hook up with his quarterback, the Dolphins generate only 8.1 yards per Stills target, which is 35th in the league. Unless the Dolphins target Stills more, he isn't going to offer much of a return on this deal. Where are those targets coming from? Jarvis Landry probably isn't going anywhere. DeVante Parker has at least two years left on his rookie deal and has looked brilliant when healthy. The Dolphins committed to a run-heavy approach once Jay Ajayi got the starting job last season. This is the same organization that traded three picks, including their third- and fourth-round selections in the 2017 draft, to move up and grab Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo in April. Carroo now has no path to a meaningful role in the offense one year after he was worth what amounted to a mid-second-round pick off draft capital. Carroo might very well be a bust, but it's both too early to judge and a horrible sign for Miami's ability to gauge talent if he's a sure-fire failure after one season. Mike Tannenbaum is paying for the player the Dolphins want Stills to be, which is something approximating DeSean Jackson. At 24, Stills could develop into that sort of player, but he hasn't been that guy yet in his career. This is a receiver who has one 100-yard game (and that was exactly 100 yards) in his time with the Dolphins, a wideout who did most of his damage against average-or-worse pass defenses, such as those of the Bills, Browns, Bengals, 49ers and Jets last season. That's a guy worth taking a shot on, but even in this inflated market, $20 million in guarantees is an exorbitant sum." Now, Barnwell's criticism of the Branch deal: "The Dolphins have one of the league's most expensive defensive lines, anchored by two elite players in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. They wanted a third pass-rusher last offseason and paid a premium for Mario Williams while quietly adding Branch, a former Jaguars bust, on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as a backup. Williams busted in spectacular (if predictable) fashion, while Branch was a useful reserve, racking up 5.5 sacks and 12 hits on 430 pass rush attempts. You would think that the Dolphins would figure that most players are going to look effective playing next to two Hall of Fame-caliber defenders and allow Branch to leave while signing the next buy-low opportunity to play alongside Suh and Wake. Instead, the Dolphins paid a hefty premium to keep Branch around, giving him $27 million over three years. Much depends on the structure of this deal, but in a draft exceedingly deep in pass-rushers, Miami likely overpaid to hold onto a player whom it could have replaced at a fraction of the cost." My take: Somewhere between the local fawning and Barnwell's harsh view is the truth. The Dolphins kept two very useful players in Stills and Branch ... but paid dearly, likely paid too much.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 3-10-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Minnesota at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Fading Cats have lost 6 of 7, now 6 points off NHL playoff pace.

2. United States vs. Colombia, 6 p.m.: U.S. opener in World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.

3. ACC Tournament semifinals, 7 p.m.: It's Duke-North Carolina and then Florida State-Notre Dame.

4. Florida vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.: No. 2-seed Gators men debut in SEC Tournament in Nashville.

5. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball, off to 4-8 start, hosts ACC opener.

'THE BALLAD OF 1440': HOW, WHY IT HAPPENED: "Greg, why are you standing in your very messy garage, appearing in a very homemade video and singing while wearing a suit and cowboy hat?" It is a reasonable question. Why the suit and hat is hard to answer. I guess I just felt like it, and wanted something that might stand out visually. The rest of it is easier to answer. I have 1440always enjoyed singing, which is not the same as claiming I have a good voice, which I do not. (I have an earnest voice that means well). "The Singing Sportswriter" used to be an alter-ego of mine on Dan LeBatard's radio show as I'd write what were meant to be humorous parodies related to sports. A few years ago I recorded a serious song, called "Letting Go," that my late friend Alan Cherry had written. This new song, "The Ballad Of 1440," was borne of nostalgia, wistfulness and gratitude. The newspaper business, socked hard, is working hard to reinvent itself. I have grown old enough to have retirement now on the back burner. My mentor, Edwin Pope, just died. These things together led me to reflect on growing up and falling into the career I did -- how unexpected that was, and how lucky I am. I happened to hear an old and obscure song called "Muswell Hillbilly" and though the structure would adapt well to autobiographical lyrics I could write. "1440" is the street address where I grew up in Hollywood, Florida, and the song is about how I'll always be that little barefoot, lower-middle-class kid who was the first in his family to go to college. The video, shot by my oldest son Christopher, includes opening and closing credits (with a dedication), and is interspersed with several old family photos of me when I was a boy. The song may be hard for some to take seriously -- it is, after all, me singing in a messy garage wearing a cowboy hat! -- but know that the sentiment behind it is genuine. This is meant as a thank-you to a lot of people who have helped me along the way, including our most loyal and longtime Miami Herald readers and radio listeners. I hope you enjoy it and in case you missed it,the video is below:

Select recent columns: Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. At Home in Brooklyn, on UM's win over Syracuse in ACC tourney. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club.  NFL's Arrested Development.  The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote