March 01, 2015

The Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Fins cuts, Beasley back, Jaromir Jagr, Stanton, Canes, golf, 14 seconds; plus ode to Doral, optimism verdict & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on the Ticket Miami, 4-7 (with webcam simulcast) on ESPN Radio. Ears (and daring eyes) welcome.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 3. Technical issues prevent us from publishing a new blogpost as we'd planned today. Hope to get it fixed and do so on Wednesday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): In/Out door revolving, Big 5 optimism poll, Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

An ode to Doral: Today's latest column by me is an unabashed appreciation of Doral's place in PGA Tour history -- and ours. Click on The Blue Monster Endures to read in full. 

HOT BUTTON MAR. 1: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins cut Brian Hartline in salary-cap move: Hartline and fellow receiver Brandon Gibson (and now CB Cortland Finnegan) were suddenly lopped off the roster in a salary-cap move. That might increase the likelihood of the team keeping Mike Wallace, which Dolfans can decide is good news or bad.

2. HEAT: Beasley back as Miami remains on anxious edge of contention: Trading for Goran Dragic but losing Chris Bosh to blood clots is not looking like a positive give and take for Heat, whose two straight losses before last night's win over Phoenix have team fighting to stay on playoff pace. Signs of desperation: Bringing back Michael Beasley on a 10-day contract.

3. PANTHERS: Cats sign Jaromir Jagr for stretch run: This would be very exciting if it was, say, 2005. In 2015 Jagr is 43 and skating near retirement. Still, maybe it'll be the shot Cats need to make up what now is a mere two-point deficit to Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

4. MARLINS: Two days from real start of spring schedule in Jupiter: After a couple of tuneups vs. FIU and UM the Marlins begin spring ball vs. MLB competition on Thursday up in Jupiter. Giancarlo Stanton, who appears on latest SI in body paint, got hit by a pitch on the hip by Henderson Alvarez. Cannot confirm the dugout emptied and teammates charged the mound to say, "Don't do that again!"

5. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men scrambling for NCAA Tournament invite: Jim Larranaga's guys are 18-11 and may need to sweep their final two regular-season games and then show well in the ACC tourney to make the Big Dance.

6. GOLF: Harrington wins Honda; Doral on deck: With Doral waiting on deck, Padraig Harrington won the Honda Classic in a Monday playoff up in Palm Beach. As golf haters like to say, the only thing worse than watching four days of golf is watching five days of golf.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes continue spring practice: As Canes work toward their March 28 Spring Game, disgruntled Al Golden detractors pessimistic about the coming season inquire about banner-pulling small-plane rental costs just to be on the safe side.

8. NASCAR: Ho-hum Daytona 500 begins season: Sorry, but Joey Logano winning under a caution flag last week was nobody's dream start for the NASCAR season. Well, except maybe Joey Logano's.

9. UFC: Ronda Rousey wins fight in 14 seconds: This is the dilemma for fans of mixed marial arts and boxing. Part of you wants your fighter to win easily. But the cheap part of you wants to get your money's worth, too.

10. CRICKET: New Zealand first to 4-0 in World Cup: That's right. The Cricket World Cup!

Poll result: Marlins, Heat inspiring most optimism: We asked which of our Big 5 teams is inspiring the most optimism in fans for its direction and immediate future, and the Marlins were out front with 42.9 percent followed by the Heat at 25.6%. Trailing were the Dolphins at 13.3%, UM football at 12.5% and Panthers at 5.7%.

Check back often because we frequently update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 15, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10, with Marlins, Heat, NBA, Canes, Cats, NFL, cricket, Tiger, LLWS, racing; also, verdict on Loria, thanks Dr. J & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15. Hope the ladies had a wonderful Valentine's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Reconsidering Jeffery Loria poll, D-Wade on '50 Shades,' Ndamukong Suh verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 15: 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. MARLINS: Miami awarded All-Star Game as spring training nears: As an improved Marlins team opens spring training in five days in Jupiter, MLB held a news conference here Friday to make official that Miami would host the 2017 All-Star Game. "We couldn’t be happier,” Marlins fans said. “Well ... unless of course Jeffrey Loria changed his mind about not selling the team."

2. HEAT: Wade sits as Bosh represents Heat in Sunday’s All-Star Game: Dwayne Wade rests his injured hamstring but Chris Bosh will play in tonight's NBA showcase of stars. Miserable New York and Brooklyn, a combined 31-74, are cohosts. Am surprised teams aren’t boycotting the game at Madison Square Garden for fear their players might catch whatever the Knicks have.

3. NBA: LaVine, Curry, Bosh top Saturday's All-Star Game undercard: Miami's Bosh (along with WNBA'er Swin Cash and legend Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars event, Golden State's Stephen Curry won the 3-point contest and Minnesota's 19-year-old Zach LaVine won the Dunk contest. The latter answered the question, "Who the hell is Zach LaVine?"

4. HURRICANES: It’s the nexus of basketball, baseball and football: UM men’s basketball team tries to shake off an ill-timed slump and still make the NCAA Tournament. UM opened baseball season this weekend seeking to end a six-year College World Series drought. Football prepares for spring practice with heat on Al Golden. For all three, cue Queen and David Bowie’s "Under Pressure."

5. PANTHERS: Crunch time as Cats chase rare NHL playoff spot: Florida enters today's game only four points off playoff pace, chasing what would be only the fifth postseason berth in 21 franchise seasons, after 1996, ’97, 2000 and ’12. Not much margin of error from here, though, as each loss puts the Panthers closer to a phrase particularly apt in hockey: Thin ice.

6. NFL: Scouting Combine, major pre-draft event, begins: The weeklong talent show begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. And if you can't get enough of watching fat college linemen timed in the 40-yard dash, the NFL Network will have your all-excess pass.

7. CRICKET: World Cup under way in Australia, New Zealand: Yes, we DO have cricket in this week’s Top 10 as 14 nations are in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. The sport is very popular in parts of South Florida among residents from the West Indies. For others inclined to scoff, here’s your challenge: You can make fun of cricket, but wisecracks may not include the word “Jiminy.”

8. GOLF: Tiger Woods taking indefinite "break" from PGA Tour: This is bad news for the tour and for the upcoming Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. There go the TV ratings. Golf fans would rather watch Tiger take a break (or a nap) than watch other guys play golf.

9. YOUTH SPORTS: Chicago team stripped of Little League title: Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team was stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League World Series for its coach using players not from its district. It's another reminder the only problem with youth sports is adults.

10. AUTO RACING: Daytona 500 begins the NASCAR schedule next Sunday: The swansong season for Jeff Gordon, with all its testiminials and ceremonial rocking chair gifts, is about to begin. The Gordon tributes haven’t even started yet and I’m already tired of them.

Poll result: Estimation of Loria improving, but still skews negative: We gave your four choices on how you feel about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and results were: Very positive 25.6 percent, mildly positive 18.4%, mildly negative 25.9% and very negative 30.1. That made it negative over positive overall by 56-44%. [Note: There was a sudden surge in "very positive" votes yesterday, suggesting an organized effort by the Marlins, perhaps. Not enough, alas]. 

THANK YOU, DR. J: Julius Erving said something (click here) that I have thought but never said aloud. In 1aa1adunkmascotfact I've not heard it said or seen it written. "Dr. J" says the NBA All-Star Weekend's Slam-Dunk Contest, once an exciting, huge draw, has lost much of its appeal due to mascots. Yes, mascots. He means mascots (and non-mascot gymnasts) bouncing off mini-trampolines and acrobatically slam-dunking from above the rim as in-game entertainment (as pictured). Mere earth-bound mortals cannot duplicate that. No, not even Michael Jordan. Blake Griffin can sort of jump over the hood of a small car, but he still is not rising as high or majestically as a trampoline allows. The absence of top stars in the Slam-Dunk Contest also hurts (talking to you, LeBron), but Dr. J. is right. No more trampolines in NBA arenas!

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 09, 2015

Hot-Seat Index: What Miami coach should be feeling most job pressure? New poll. Vote now!; plus early '15 college football rankings, Marlins uniforms, J-Law's snake & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. This will be my 50th national show, so I'm sure they have a nice surprise planned for me. Balloons? Cake? Stripper? Nothing at all? Ears welcome.

1aa1ahannahdavis1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10. Model, Derek Jeter squeeze and professional sexy person Hannah Davis is the cover girl for the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue now out. So there. 2) I'd like to brag tell you that I shot an 86 over the weekend at Sunrise, featuring seven pars. This, for me, is very good. Then again, my son Christopher shot 78. What a showoff! 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Ndamukong Suh poll result & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Thank you, Knicks: Click on Good Medicine for my column from the arena off last night's Heat victory.

HOT-SEAT INDEX: WEIGHING THE PRESSURE ON MIAMI'S 'BIG SIX' COACHES: I call South Florida's Big
1aa1ahotseatSix teams the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers on the pro side, plus the Miami Hurricanes in football and men's basketball. We offer a quick "State Of" and gauge the current job pressure on those six head coaches, listed by our estimation of most pressure to least:

1aa1ajoepJoe Philbin, Dolphins: High pressure -- Philbin, 53, approaches his fourth season with a three-year mark of 23-25 and no playoffs. Fans are restless and impatience is now justified. A 10-6 season with no playoffs or perhaps even a one-game improvement to 9-7 with no playoffs might spare Philbin, but chances are he must see Miami into the postseason in 2015 or see himself replaced.

1aa1aalgAl Golden, Hurricanes football: High pressure -- Golden, 45, approaches his fifth season with a four-year record of 28-22, including 16-16 in the ACC and 0-2 in bowl games. The NCAA cloud he inherited has bought Golden leeway with administrators, but much less so with an angry, vociferous fan base. Coming off a six-win season, it could take a bounce to 9-4 to save his job.

1aa1agerardgGerard Gallant, Panthers: Medium-high pressure: Gallant, 51, is in the midst of his first season, with Cats currently 23-28 (including 11 overtime losses) and six points off playoff pace. Gallant hadn't head-coached in NHL since 2006-07 before this season, and Florida thought it had a playoff team. Unless he gets there, it could be a quick hook.

1aa1amikerMike Redmond, Marlins: Medium pressure: Redmond, 43, is about to open spring training on his third season, with a two-year record of 139-185 and no playoffs. The team's 15-win improvement last year earned Redmond credit, but now a  much-improved roster (and a mercurial owner) means a playoff berth or a serious run at one will be expected or the hotseat could find Redmond.

1aa1aeriksErik Spoelstra, Heat: Low to no pressure: Spoelstra, 44, is in the midst of his (hard to believe) seventh season, with a mark of 336-191 including six playoffs and two NBA championships. Even at 22-29, fighting for a playoff spot and facing his first losing season, "Spo" continues to be seen as a long-term gem by loyal Pat Riley.

1aa1ajimlJim Larranaga, Hurricanes basketball: Low to no pressure: Larranaga, 65, is in midst of his fourth season with record of 81-44, including 36-26 in ACC. Has one NCAA appearance (Sweet Sixteen, 2013) and one NIT (second round, 2012). Winning ACC title in 2013 was huge, and Canes are now 15-8 and hoping for another March Madness ticket. It's Larranaga's job for as long as he wishes.

Clearly, to me, Philbin and Golden are under the most pressure. But which is under more? Or, you may feel somebody else should be seen as on a hotter seat. Hence, the poll, with our Big Six coaches listed alphabetically. Vote and say why.

1aa1ajlawANOTHER NAKED CELEBRITY ATTEMPTS TO BREAK INTERNET: I enjoy making fun of celebrity and the silly uses of it, such as the wont of so many female celebs to be naked. This time it is Jennifer Lawrence, 24, "J-Law," the actress from Hunger Games, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook et al. She is au natural but for the unnatural presence of a giant Colombian red-tail boa constrictor posed strategically across her body in the current Vanity Fair. Remember when showing this much skin was risque? Now it's like, yeah, so? I'll throw out a token, "Lucky snake!" and move on.

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS UNIFORMS RANKED 20TH: Bloguin via AOL ranks MLB uniforms 1-30, best to worst. Top three: Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies. Dead last: Padres. Marlins a sort of almost respectable 20th, with the look described as "love it or hate it." (I must say, for me, the Fish's South Beach-y colors took a while to get used to, but I like 'em now).

1aa1aespnsiCOLLEGE FOOTBALL RPI RANKINGS FOR 2015: ESPN Stats & Information does this each year and, before you dismiss it, consider that its top three-ranked teams last year -- FSU, Oregon, Alabama -- all made the initial College Football Playoff. They factor a team's offense, defense and special-teams from previous season, returning starters, head coach and recruiting ranking. The 2015 top three is Ohio State, Alabama and LSU. How state teams fare among 128 schools rated: FSU 21st, Florida 27th, Miami 29th, UCF 73rd, FIU 87th, South Florida 101st and FAU 108th.

Check back frequently because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

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.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 04, 2015

The ones that got away define UM's recruiting class, keep heat on Golden; plus is National Signing Day big or overblown? New poll. Vote!; also, updated bet-odds for Heat, Canes and Cats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl review and poll, betting outlook for Dolphins and Canes & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

CANES CLASS NOT BAD, BUT LOW RANKINGS KEEP THE HEAT ON GOLDEN: I think UM's 2015 recruiting class is being underestimated on this National Signing Day, but the perception-is-reality thing -- its low rankings -- keeps the heat on coach Al Golden. Miami's class is ranked 24th by ESPN, 26th by Rivals and by 247Sports, and 34th by Scout, thanks to 14 de-commitments that left Golden scrambling. Click on The Ones That Got Away for my National Signing Day column, newly online and shipping to Thursday's inky pulp editions.

THIS IS NOT YOUR 'NATIONAL SIGNING DAY' HEADQUARTERS: I rebel against the NSD mania that engulfs college football fans, ESPN and other media today. Don't get me wrong. The sport's equivalent of the NFL's 1aa1aNSDdraft and free agency is important -- an essential annual influx and replenishing. What I reject as absurd is the over-analysis and over-coverage of it. Hurricanes fans and others around the country will instantly choose elation or disappointment today based on the signing of a couple of dozen players they've mostly never heard of or seen play. Based on what? On the analysis and assigning of a star rating by self-anointed website experts such as Rivals.com, Scout.com and others whose opinions are regurgitated as gospel. It's mostly guesswork that usually takes a couple or three of years to fairly judge, yet by the end of the day today every college's recruiting class will be ranked, poll-style. One year ago ESPN ranked UM's class No. 10 in the nation. Which means ... who knows? The Canes had  the nation's No. 1-ranked incoming class in 2008. And it meant nothing, really. In the 2010-11 seasons, when that glorious class should have been blossoming to greatness, UM was a combined 13-12. Anyway, enough of my rant. Tell us what you think of National Signing Day and why.

BETTING UPDATES ON HEAT, CANES, PANTHERS: Courtesy Bovada, Golden State (7-2) and up-trending Cleveland (15-2) are now nearly tied as faves to win the NBA title, with Heat now 100-1 (was 75-1). In the NHL, Anaheim and Chicago are co-faves at 6-1, with the Panthers now 100-1 (was 75-1). In men's NCAA hoops, Kentucky is even-odds to win it all, with Hurricanes at 200-1 (was 100-1). Best bet for a local player to win an individual honor: Cats' Aaron Ekblad stands third in NHL rookie of year odds at 3-1.

Poll result: Huge majority loved Super Bowl: We asked how this Super Bowl compared to most and 82.8 percent called it "better than average." Another 10.3% called it about the same, and 6.9% -- presumably Seahawks fans and losing bettors -- called it below average.

1aa1acreepy photo"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a creepy family portrait in which the Dad looks almost like a ventriloquist's dummy. Thank you!" Dear Reader: Hmm. Tough request, but let me see what I can do. 

Check back often because we often update and add to our latest blogposts...

February 01, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday: Who's most likely to win MVP? New poll. Vote now!; plus new Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1. Happy new month and happy Super Bowl Sunday! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk V, Bowl-vs.-baby poll & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Our Sunday offerings: Click on Bouncing Off the Shield for my Super Bowl special-section column on how the NFL's massive popularity withstands all manner of scandal and controversy that come its way. And click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes column, leading with (what else?) the Super Bowl.

SUPER BOWL MVP DERBY: Some time around 10 tonight somebody will be raising the Super Bowl MVP trophy. Who's your money on? The four players listed -- alphabetically in this poll -- are the four betting favorites to win it. Take a dip in our poll and say why you voted as you did.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 1: 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. SUPER BOWL: It’s Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl as America parties: “Geez, I hope I bought enough booze and snacks for the party. Can’t wait to see the latest Budweiser ad! Hey, I wonder what Katy Perry’s first song will be? What’s that? The game? Oh, yeah. I’ll be watching the Patriots and Seahawks play, but mainly because it leads to the next commercial.”

2. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: National Signing Day looms for UM, others: National Signing Day, sort of the college equivalent of NFL Draft, is Wednesday, and ESPN’s early rankings have Al Golden’s latest Miami recruiting class rated 20th nationally. Perpetually dissatisfied UM fans are unsure whether that’s pretty good so they plan to err on the side of disappointment and complaint.

3. HEAT: Wade’s latest injury adds to (mostly) sour season: Dwyane Wade’s hamstring likely will sideline him a few weeks, including the Feb. 15 All-Star Game. This will be the fourth season in a row Wade plays fewer than 70 games as Miami fights to stay on playoff pace. The one positive has been Hassan Whiteside. New name: Hassan Brightside.

4. HURRICANES BASKETBALL: Let’s find out how good UM men’s basketball really is: The Canes were back in polls at No. 23 then lost at home to mediocre Georgia Tech. Now they face big test today at rival FSU then home Tuesday against No. 10 Louisville. We still need to know how good UM really is. More important, so does the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

5. TENNIS: Championship weekend at the Australian Open: No. 1-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray today in the men’s final of the yhear's first major after Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova for the women’s crown — making Williams 17-2 head-to-head in their lopsided rivalry. Can excellence be boring? In the case of predictable tennis, yes.

6. NFL: Rodgers wins MVP, Seau leads Hall class: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers won league MVP and Junior Seau led an eight-man Hall of Fame Class announced Saturday. Seau played three years for the Dolphins. Hey, the way this franchise has been lately, we'll take success-by-minimal-association.

7. UM FOOTBALL: Canes at FSU Oct. 10: Miami's football schedule came out and the Oct. 10 game at Florida State is the one circled in red. Perpetualy disgruntled UM fans already are looking into a small-plane rental and a Fire-Golden banner in anticipation of a loss. 

8. MARLINS: Team makes it official with Ichiro: A front-office contingent flew to Japan to make official with Ichiro. He's in his 15th year in the U.S. and still speaks though an interpreter, but maybe coming to Miami will finally encourage him to learn our language. Spanish, I mean.

9. PANTHERS: Cats will need luck to catch playoff spot: Florida stands ninth in the jockeying for eight NHL playoff spots in the East, but is a big eight points off pace. That's thin ice. 

10. GOLF: Tiger Woods flames out in year's first event: Tiger Woods drew record crowds to the Phoenix Open but then flamed out with a career-worst 82 to begin his PGA Tour schedule. Bad luck lately for Tiger. Last week: Missing tooth. This week: Missing cut.

HALL OF FAME VOTING BY JERRY JONES: Jimmy Johnson keeps getting barred at the door of the Pro 1aa1ajjx2Football Hall of Fame. Can't get past the bouncer. Keeps saying, "Don't you know who I am" and it does no good. I think, in Johnson's case, the room of voters must be commandeered by his former Cowboys owner-turned-enemy, Jerry Jones. (The two are pictured in happier times). Of the five modern-era player selections on Saturday, I thought Junior Seau, Will Shields and Tim Brown were obvious. Jerome Bettis and Charles Haley were (very) borderline. Voters were in a generous mood.

Poll result: Sherman should choose Bowl over baby: We asked about Seahawk Richard Sherman's dilemma and decision whether to play in today's Super Bowl or attend the birth of his first child if that occurs. Most of you (72.2 percent) said he should play in the game.

Check back often because we frequently update and add to our latest blogposts...

January 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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January 14, 2015

South Florida's Top 10 most exciting 25-and-younger pro athletes; plus Canes hoops, Miley naked (again, yawn) & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 15. I'm at Friday Page Headquarters today bringing forth my next NFL playoff predictions. Oy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Shame on the Rob Konrad doubters, elevating Urban Meyer, TV's Shameless, AFC/NFC verdicts & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Hurricanes basketball soaring: The Hurricanes men ended Duke's 41-game home winning streak just a few days after the Canes women ended Notre Dame's 30-game road winnning streak. Click on UM Hoops Flying High for my latest column, online and in today's Herald inky pulp editions.

SOUTH FLORIDA'S TOP 10 MOST EXCITING 25-AND-UNDER PRO ATHLETES: Talking about our Big Four professional teams here: Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Panthers. Criteria: Players must be no older than 25 as of today. We tried to combine current proof with emerging potential, and here's what we got. Agree with the order?:

1aa1agstanton1. Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins (25 years, 6 months, 2 days): If he's dropping bombs commensurate with his new contract, Stanton (pictured) has a chance to join Dan Marino and Dwyane Wade on the top tier of Miami's greatest team-drafted stars.

2. Jose Fernandez, P, Marlins (22-5-14): Electrifying stuff and a Cy Young contender presuming he comes back all the way from Tommy John surgery.

1aa1ajlandry3. Jarvis Landry, WR/KR, Dolphins (22-1-17): His 84 catches and 1,158 combined kickoff and punt-return yards as a rookie out of LSU just began to scratch the surface for Landry (pictured).

1aa1aaekblad4. Aaron Ekblad, D, Panthers (18-11-7): Just a teen, but Ekblad (pictured) already leads Cats with 19 assists as a rookie and is No. 6-rated among all prospects by NHL.com.

5. Nick Bjugstad, C, Panthers (22-5-28): His new six-year contract refelcted hopes he'll be team's goal-scoring star for a long time.

6. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (23-1-9): Overshadowed a bit by Stanton's bat and Fernandez's arm, but Yelich could be a solid-hitting fixture in left field for a long time.

1aa1ahassanw
7. Hassan Whiteside, C, Heat
(25-7-1): Flavor of the month, for sure, averaging 7.2 points and 6 rebounds off bench in 14 games. We've seen glimpses of greatness and acknowledge the tremendous upside of the 7-footer (pictured), but let's pump the brakes just a tad for now, OK?

8. Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins (23-8-20): Ex-Cane rushed for 1,099 yards and a 5.1 average last season to push his way among NFL's top young backs.

9. Aleksander Barkov, C, Panthers (19-4-12): Huge upside for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft.

10. Shabazz Napier, PG, Heat (23-6-0): A bit of an up and down rookie season, but much potential.

Considered for Top 10 but fell short: Dolphins' Charles Clay, Ju'Wuan James, Jelani Jenkins, Dion Jordan, Mike Pouncey, Dion Sims and Olivier Vernon; Heat's James Ennis and Justin Hamilton; Marlins' Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria and Marcell Ozuna; and Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. Note: Ryan Tannehill is 26 now. Sorry, old man.

1aa1amileycTHEY'VE GONE AND DONE IT. CELEBRITIES HAVE FINALLY SUCCEEDED IN MAKING NUDITY BORING: Now it's singer/provocateur Miley Cyrus appearing nude (in various Polaroids, no less; one is at right) in the V magazine on newsstands Thursday. Miley appearing nude is about as shocking as Elton John shopping at a Versace store. I mean, did you see her video for Wrecking Ball. And now this is supposed to be outrageous? The contrived, packaged free-spiritedness of the Mileys and Gagas and Kim Kardashians has become tiring. Is anything shocking any more?

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January 10, 2015

Canton calling: Your football Hall of Fame ballot. 15 finalists, you pick 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Rex Ryan to Bills, new Hot Button Top 10 & more

RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SUNDAY, JANUARY 11. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Two Super Bowl polls, NFL Divisional Round picks, Shula and Beli-cheat, Canes' big win, Rob Konrad, Bosh the actor, mouthy relatives & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

My NFL Divisional Round pix: Saturday: Patriots, 27-23, and Seahawks, 21-13. Sunday: Broncos, 34-24, and Packers, 31-24. (I was 3-1 overall, 1-3 vs. the spread). Click Divisional Gems for the full predix capsules.

"Rex Ryan to Buffalo as head coach? Not sure if the Bills just got better, but I am sure they just got noisier." --Greg Cote

YOU SELECT WHO GETS INTO PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: Baseball voters who decide entry into 1aa1acantgonCooperstown (I'm one of them) come under annual criticism largely because the Steroids Era-factor makes the vote so polarizing and complicated. Football voters who decide entry into Canton have no such issues, and rarely if ever seem to have their choices scrutinized or slammed. (I'd mention the basketball and hockey halls, but nobody really cares). Anyway,the Pro Football Hall of Fame has winnowed its 2015 nominees to 15 modern-era finalists, who I present alphabetically in this poll. A maximum of five will be elected, so I invite you to vote for as many as five (5) here. Three or four seem obvious to me, but that's just me. I'll tell you my five later.

READING LEBRON'S MIND: The Cavaliers are 19-18, have lost four straight and are presently the sixth seed. The Heat are 15-21, have lost five of six and are slotted eighth. Somewhere, there is telepathy between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and it sounds something like this: "We should-a left it alone."

HOT BUTTON JAN. 11: 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 as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. NFL: Patriots, Seahawks advance; two more today: Patriots (narrowly) and Seahawks (comfortably) won Divisional Round games Saturday, now Colts-Broncos and Cowboys-Packers on Sunday will complete the AFC and NFC title-game matchups. Conpsiracy theorists are ready in case Dallas wins on another lucky call.

2. College football: Oregon, Ohio State in first playoff title game Monday: Fair to say Oregon will have rooting interest of much of country outside of Ohio, because every game needs a villain. America doesn't have Jameis Winston to taunt or Nick Saban to hate, but Urban Meyer is an acceptable substitute.

3. Dolphins: Team adds ex-Jets GM Tannebaum to front office: Mike Tannenbaum becoming VP of football operations was met with knee-jerking derision from many Dolfans and media, who clamored for change but evidently not this change.

4. Heat: Slumping team carries tailspin to west coast: Heat star Chris Bosh stars in Funny or Die's new short comedy viedo, Tall Justice 2. Is it just me, or do Heat players' various side projects tend to be much more amusing when the team is headed to another NBA Finals than when it has lost five of six and is 15-21?

5. Baseball: Hall of Fame adds four to Cooperstown: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected, the largest class since 1955. Could that be because those were only players left untarnished by steroid use or rumors? (Benefit of doubt to Biggio on that...)

6. Panthers: Luongo named to NHL all-star team: Florida had only one player named to the all-star team so it's fitting it is goalie Roberto Luongo, who has team in the playoff chase despite the Cats being one of the lowest-scoring teams in NHL.

7. Hurricanes: Women's basketball stuns No. 4 Notre Dame: UM ended Notre Dame's 30-game road winning streak as the Canes were led by Adrienne Motley's 32 points. Is there even a slight chance the Canes should not now be nicknamed Motley Crew?

8. Rob Konrad: Ex-Dolphin heroically saves own life: Fishing alone, boat on autopilot, Konrad falls overboard, swims nine miles to safety through rough Atlantic waters in dead of night. Man, some guys'll do anything for attention!

9. Stuart Scott: ESPN anchors succumbs to cancer: Polarizing in life but lauded in death, Stuart Scott left us at 49 after a battle with cancer. "Boo-ya's!" at half-mast, please.

10. Don Shula: Icon calls Belichick "Beli-cheat": Turning 85, Shula in an interview called Bill Belichick "Beli-cheat," a reference to the 2007 "Spygate" incident that brought Belichick a $500,000 fine and cost Pats a first-round pick. Shula got criticized, bt what's that they say abiout truth being the best defense?

Poll result: Thinking Seahawks win Super Bowl, hoping Packers: We asked in separate polls who think think will win the Super Bowl and who you want to win from among the final eight. The top three in each category: Predict will win--Seahawks 34.1 percent, Patriots 23.9%, Packers 21.2%. Want to win--Packers 24.9 percent, Broncos 22.8%, Panthers 12.4%.

Check back often because we constantly update and add to our latest blogposts...

January 09, 2015

Who'll win Super Bowl, and who you want to. Two new polls. Vote now!; plus NFL pix, Shula right on "Beli-cheat," Bosh acting, Canes' big win, mouthy relatives & more


RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.


1aa1acharlie1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 10. Happy anniversary to my wife, the greatest person I know! 2) Charlie Hebdo forever. Terrorists don't get it and never will: They don't weaken freedom. They strengthen it. 3) Ex-Dolphin Rob Konrad swims nine miles to shore, saves own life. Story and video here. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolfans and media wrong to blast Tannenbaum hire, Cane to Fins in draft?, Bonds/Clemens verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Chris Bosh, actor: Watch the Heat's Bosh in Funny or Die's 'Tall Justice 2.' It's awful. Then again, it's only 2 minutes. Click here.

HOW BETTING, ROOTING INTERESTS DIFFER WITH NFL'S FINAL EIGHT: With the NFL down to its final eight teams entering this weekend's playoffs, what team do you predict will win the Super Bowl? Now, 1aa1adivnflwhat team do you hope wins it all? Odds are, those answers are different. Who you predict will win asks your dispassionate view, as if you were a nuetral observer laying a big bet. Who you hope will win purely asks your rooting interest. I'm interested in how different those two things might be. Hence, this poll. Top poll asks who you honestly think will win it all. Bottom poll asks who you'd most like to win. Vote in both and say why.

OUR NFL DIVISIONAL-ROUND PLAYOFF PICKS: With eight you get not eggroll (obscure, mathematically 1aa1afripix
challenged reference to 1968 movie), but rather the Divisional Round playoffs. Click on Divisional Gems for all of our latest, expanded prediction capsules. No upsets this weekend, but two teams won't cover. Click on Seven And One for my Friday NFL column. I detail why this is an excellent array of teams, why Dallas in it is money in the bank, and how Carolina is the lone outlier looking up at seven other franchises with championship heft.

SHULA, "BELI-CHEAT" AND THE TRUTH: Don Shula referred to Pats coach Bill Belichick as "Beli-cheat" in a recent Sun-Sentinel piece pegged on Shula's 85th birthday. The general reaction has been A) huffing 1aa1abilldonand puffing that it is unbecoming of a Hall of Fame coach to name-call another coach, or B) amusement along the lines of, "When you're that age you get to say anything you want." I'm a little of both. Prudently, Shula probably shouldn't have gone there, but age and retirement do bring you some latitude. My main point in Shula's defense: Truth. Belichick did cheat, in the 2007 "Spygate" incident that brought Belichick a record $500,000 NFL fine and the Pats a forfeited first-round draft pick. If that's personal to Shula, even seven years later, it's because Belichick's '07 Pats nearly ,atched the Dolphins's '72 Perfect Season, and would have done so sullied by that controversy. You can say calling Belichick out was beneath Shula, but The Don wasn't lyin'.

CANES' BIG WIN UNDERLINES COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S PROBLEM: Katie Meier's UM women stunned No. 1aa1aamotley4 Notre Dame here last night, 78-63, led by 32 points from Adrienne Motley (pictured). It ended ND's 30-game road winning streak. It was the Canes' biggest win since beating No. 5 Duke in 2013. It makes UM 12-3 and will catapult the team into the next Top 25. (Miami's men are solid, too, at 10-4). Here's the problem, and it's sport-wide. College basketball's regular-season doesn't matter. What teams do now and rankings now are weightless. All that counts is what the two UM teams do in the ACC tournament and whether they get into the NCAA Tournament. Everything else is a preamble.

RELATIVES OF ATHLETES, PLEASE SHUT UP: Jameis Winston now says he is still seriously considering a
1aa1adadjwreturn to FSU, after his father (pictured) revealed he'd decided to turn pro. He likley will enter the NFL Draft, but the point is, why should Dad be announcing his son's intentions. We see this all across sports, from Duke Johnson's mother to Brent Grimes' wife to Derrick Rose's brother and more -- loved ones getting a little too mouthy on social media and putting their favorite athletes in squirmy situations. Dear parents, wives and other sycophant, spotlight-glomming relatives: It isn't about you. Shut up, please.

Check back a lot because we update and add to our latest blogposts a lot, and also because I asked you nicely...