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%.

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February 27, 2015

In-out door spinning: On Hartline, Jagr, Beasley; plus what Miami team inspiring most optimism? (poll; vote!); also Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 1. Happy new month! 2) Our Sunday Random Evidence notes column and our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 are taking today off. 3) Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. 4) Here is the latest 'Back In My Day' segment from the Dan LeBatard Show: Back_in_my_Day-_Baseball's_Rule_Changes-_2-24-15 (2)

"Will the last ESPN on-air personality to not be suspended please turn out the lights?" --Greg Cote

HARTLINE OUT, BEASLEY, JAGR IN. HUH? WHA!?: OK I leave for a long weekend's holiday in Austin, Tex. and all hell breaks loose back in South Florida. Man I can't leave you people alone for a minute! Just since I left early Thursday, the Heat bring back Michael Beasley with a 10-day contract, the Panthers acquire aging star Jaromir Jar, and the Dolphins release receiver Brian Hartline (and also Brandon Gibson). Quick thoughts on each: Heat/Beasley -- Makes sense. With Chris Bosh out the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts out all year, Miami needed power-forward help, and Beasley is still young enough and with enough upside to risk a trial run. Panthers/Jagr -- Well, Jaromir is 43 now. Can he still provide the scoring punch Florida needs to lock down a playoff spot? As when the Marlins signed Ichiro, this signing is exciting for the remaining big-name value but may not have huge impact. Dolphins/Hartline -- It's a clear salary purge to erase a one-time prominent WR of diminishing results. The question now is if eliminating Hartline and Gibson means it'll be more likely that Mike Wallace stays. (I doubt it). Interesting times for all of these teams. And getting more interesting all the time.

WHAT MIAMI TEAM HAS MOST EARNED YOUR OPTIMISM?: Blind hope is one thing, but I'm talking here
about optimism rooted in reason. What is the local Big 5 team most headed the right way? Current or 1aa1aoptimismmost recent won-lost record should be factored, but maybe not as much as the overall direction -- the sense of how well the team is positioned to win big and soon. This is not asking your favorite team or sport. It's asking who among Dolphins, Heat, UM football, Marlins and Panthers fans should feel the most optimistic right now? Purposely I did not include a "none of them!" option in the poll, because like the guy to the right staring up at you says, if you can't find optimism somewhere, you're dead. This, I know, is a tough poll question that may scare away discourage many potential voters because the answer can't be quantified and because it's hard to compare different sports. Plus, you may think it's a close call between a couple of teams. Nevertheless! You are challenged: Take a dip in our poll and drop a Comment saying why you feel as you do.

1aa1agiancarlosiSTANTON'S BURGEONING STAR-POWER AFFIRMED ... IN BODY PAINT: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton adorns the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, and SI say it's the first time any athlete has been on its cover in body paint. (Um, don't some things go without saying?) This is the latest indication of Stanton's burgeoning journey from local star en route to national superstar. A $325 million contract will start that process, along with the expectation of 40-plus home runs. Being built like somebody sculpted in marble doesn't hurt. And the human interest angle -- coming back from an awful, face-smashing beaning -- just adds another layer.

On Marlins' two top prospects: One you may see soon, the other will take awhile. The Marlins 1aa1ajtrealplace righty pitcher Tyler Kolek (ranked No. 34) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (No. 72) among ESPN's Top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Kolek, who just turned 19, will need a few years to marinate and refine, although he's a 6-6, 270-pound behemoth with a mid-90s fastball and the club thinks he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Realmuto (pictured) turns 24 in March and has a chance this spring that he's ready to stick with the big club.

1aa1albjmcdHE'S LOVIN' IT! (OR SO HE CLAIMS): In a Tuesday interview about diet and fitness LeBron James seemed to briefly forget that McDonald's pays him millions to pimp its products. He said, "I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice. It didn't matter. I was 18, I could do whatever I wanted to." Nice recovery, though. When later asked how often he eats McDonald's nowadays he said, "Every day! Every day, every day, every day, every day, every day. I just had it this morning!"

BETTING PUBLIC HAS LITTLE FAITH IN TIGER TURNAROUND: It was the opposite once. The wagering 1aa1atwoodspublic loved Tiger Woods. Back in his reign, as a major neared, people actually debated if Tiger vs. the field was a decent bet. I remember the conversations. Now? New odds from our friends at Bovada have Tiger winning zero majors this year as a prohibitive 1-7 likelihood, and he's now a 14-1 longshot to surpass Jack Nicklaus' career majors record. The bright side? If you see Tiger with a big comeback left in him, it's a buyer's market.

NEWS STORY / MY COMMENT: News story: Three British teens arrive in Syria to join terrorists. My comment: Oh, how unfathomably idiotic!

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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!

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February 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

All-Star Game               Date                    Site

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 20, 1975       Orange Bowl

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

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

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

MLB All-Star Game        TBD, 2017            Marlins Park

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

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

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

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

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

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February 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.

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February 08, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February 07, 2015

Bully for them! Bills bringing Incognito back into AFC East; plus should Dolphins pursue Ndamukong Suh? Poll. Vote!; also, 7 Canes invited to Combine, funny death-of-newspapers video & more

1aa1abobm1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7. Bob Marley (pictured), one of my musical heroes, would have turned 70 yesterday. 2) Mentor LeBron James talks about rehabbing badboy Johnny Manziel; read it here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes recruiting poll, Heat season "slipping away," Dolphins draft & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Can we please not make too much of the Heat falling off playoff pace. It's a half-game with 32 to play. Geez." --Greg Cote

Seven Canes invited to NFL Scouting Combine: Seven (former) Hurricanes are on the newly released invite list for this month's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis -- the main showcase for the NFL Draft. They are, alphabetically: DE Anthony Chickillo, WR Phillip Dorsett, OT Ereck Flowers, CB Ladarius Gunter, RB Duke Johnson, ILB Denzel Perryman and TE Clive Walford.

NDAMUKONG SUH A DOLPHIN?: This is one of those what-ifs that is intriguing to me despite the fact that -- realistically -- it seems unlikely to happen. But the fact it could makes it fair game for discussion (and a poll!). The three pertinent facts: 1) The Dolphins need help on run defense. The 165.3 yards 1aa1andamsuhMiami allowed the last six games of the season were the most in the NFL. 2) The Lions' Suh, in his prime at 28, is the best run-stopper in the NFL, a four-time Pro Bowl guy and three-time All-Pro in five stellar seasons. And 3) Suh is expected to be a free agent who can sign with anybody beginning March 1. I say "expected to be" assuming Detroit does not re-sign him or apply a franchise tag, which seem unlikely. Now, the two complications: First, money. He made $12.5 million last year. That's a starting point. He might not command J.J. Watt dough ($100 million over six seasons), but he could be close to that neighborhood. To sign him under the salary cap Miami likely would have to jettison Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline and other lesser guys, and restructure other contracts. It would be complicated and costly. Second, Suh's reputation. He has been fined $420,669 for "player safety violations," suspended once, named the league's "dirtiest player "(Sporting News) and "least-liked" player (Nielsen). He's been clean off the field but a personal-foul king on it. Should  that be a factor in pursuing him? Is he worth the monetary stake? Money, first, and his reputation make the Dolphins' pursuit unlikely but not unfathomable. Factoring everything, should the Dolphins seriously pursue Suh? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Fans generally unimpressed with Canes' recruiting class: We asked if you judged UM's National Signing Day bounty as very good, good, average or poor and your verdict was 4.1 percent very good, 29.4% good, 43.1% average and 23.4% poor. That's not condemnation, but it is twice as many on the average/poor side as on the very good/good side.

1aa1aincognitoREX RYAN EXHUMES INCOGNITO'S CAREER: In Buffalo this morning the signing of guard Richie Incognito, the former Dolphins Bullygate star, was considered imminent. He was there taking a physical. Rex Ryan upon taking the job said he planned to "build a bully" no other team wanted to play. Now he has signed a bully toward that end. Suddenly the Dolphins have three vital rivals in the East: the nemesis Patriots, the hated Jets and now, fueled by Ryan's arrival, the Bills. Fun!

FIRST WORDS FROM NEW DOLPHINS ASSISTANT TERRELL WILLIAMS: Pertinent stuff from the introductory conference call with new Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams (pictured): On impressions of DE Dion 1aa1atwmsJordan--"I haven’t really evaluated Dion since college, since he was coming out in the draft. We’re still in the evaluation stage. I’m sure we’ll be able to put Dion in the best position for him." On his defensive philosophy--"It’s not about me and what my philosophy is. It’s what makes the Miami Dolphins the best. We are in the process of looking at our personnel and kind of figuring out what we do best. I just like guys who make plays." On  a 4-3 defense vs. a 3-4--"It still comes down to tackling guys. It doesn’t matter, whatever the defensive scheme is, it still comes down to tackling and fundamentals." Williams, 40, coached the Raiders' DL in 2012-14. He'd recently joined the Florida Gators' new staff before accepting the Dolphins job. Summary of today's Q&A: Bland. An unilluminating interview in which Williams repeatedly played the tough-to-comment-because-I-just-got-here card.

CLEVER VIDEO ON DECLINE OF THE NEWSPAPER: A funny video (below) called Stop the Presses humorously makes a serious point about the decline of the American newspaper. Click here for the background story. It over-emphasizes comic strips/funny pages but gets across its larger point, too:

 

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February 05, 2015

How would you rate Hurricanes' recruiting class? Poll. Vote!; plus Bosh says season "slipping" from Heat, latest draft projection for Dolphins & more

1) It is FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6. I'm up at Random Evidence Laboratories today calling out for Sunday's Random Evidence notes column. 2) Mentor LeBron James talks about rehabbing badboy Johnny Manziel; read it here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): National Signing Day and Canes with poll, betting updates for local teams, Super Bowl verdict, 'Dear Greg' & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins stadium re-design to include "living rooms": Ridiculous, but true. Click here to read. Remember when the game was the thing? When winning was plenty? When teams didn't need bells and whistles to attract fans?

"Whiteside. Whiteside! WhitesideWhitesideWhiteside. WHITESIDE!!" --Greg Cote

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY POST-MORTEM ON CANES: The dust has settled (even though whenever people say that there invariably is no dust involved), the national rankings are in and opinions have gelled and are 1aa1acanesnsdhardening. So: How'd the Miami Hurricanes and coach Al Golden do this week on National Signing Day? The big-four ratings are not too kind, with ESPN ranking the Canes' class 23rd, Rivals 26th, 247Sports 26th and Scout 34th. There were no 5-stars recruits and the 3's outnumbered the 4's. A staggering 14 de-commitments and only seven kids signed from the South Florida backyard also colored those rankings. I thought UM's class was better than it was ranked; click on The Ones That Got Away for my column. Canes really beefed up on the offensive line, for one. Some emailers are similarly upbeat but many others are not so, seeing this as the latest damnation of Golden. So let's throw it open to debate. I admit no school's recruiting class can be fairly judged for a couple of years, but that doesn't mean you can't have an immediate opinion. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

DESPITE WHITESIDE, HEAT IN PERIL: Chris Bosh after Wednesday's 102-101 loss at lowly Minnesota, the
1aa1ahassanlatest blown-lead defeat: "Things are slipping away from us." And they are. Slumping Miami now is the No. 8 East seed in hunt for eight playoff spots, a mere half-game ahead of Brooklyn. Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Luol Deng have missed a combined 28 games -- and counting, with Wade still out. What's doubly disappointing is that Miami is losing despite the monstrous arrival of 7-foot phenom Hassan Whiteside (pictured), who had 24 points, 20 rebounds, three steals and two blocks on 12-for-13 shooting last night. Mr. Brightside has 101 points, 92 boards and 23 blocks in his past six games. Still, disconcertingly, the Heat is only 7-16 in games Whiteside has played. (It's 5-7 when he plays 20-plus minutes). Get well soon, Dwyane.

LATEST MOCK-DRAFT GUESS FOR DOLPHINS: ESPN's Todd McShay is out with his Mock 2.0 -- oh 1aa1atwaynesthank God! -- and he has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes (pictured) 14th overall. Drafting a CB first makes some sense if there is no inside-linebacker worth taking that high, although wide receiver still could be the target if Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline or both aren't back. McShay has Jameis Winston going No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay and Marcus Mariota falling to sixth and becoming a Stinkin' Jet.

Poll result: NSD coverage is excessive: My media brethren, take heed. We asked how readers feel about the mountainous coverage of National Signing Day, and 55.9 percent called it "excessive" while another 30.6% paid "little or no attention." Only 13.5% called the coverage "justified."

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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. 

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February 03, 2015

On Super Bowl: Criticism of The Call, halftime and commercials; plus you rate this Super Bowl (poll; vote now!); also, Warren Sapp, betting odds for next season on Dolphins, Canes & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today for my regular Tuesday gig with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Have a new "Back In My Day" in hand. Ears welcome.


1aa1agronk1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3. Pictured right, it's just Gronk Being Gronk in a club around 4 a.m. after winning the Super Bowl. Lesson: It is good to be Gronk. 2) In case you missed it: Click on Bouncing Off the Shield for my Sunday Super Bowl special-section column on how the NFL's massive popularity withstands all manner of scandal and controversy that come its way, and on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes column. 3) 
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl MVP poll, Hot Button Top 10, Canton selections & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

On the Patriots' complicated legacy: Today's latest column by me extols one of the greatest Super Bowls ever but explores the complicated issue of how history will judge the Patriots' four Super Bowl wins of the Belichick-Brady era. The success should be mentioned first, but the rules-breaking controversies must be noted, too. Click on Excellence and Ethics to read.

Sapp arrested: Former Hurricanes star Warren Sapp reportedly was arrested in Phoenix yesterday for solicitation and assault (story here) and quickly fired by the NFL Network. Because of previous episodes Sapp was in danger of dumbing himself out of his TV career, and I think this has done it. Sad.

A QUICK SUPER BOWL RECAP: The game, halftime, party, commercials. What else is there? (Rhetorical question. There's also a poll below here inviting you to rate this Super Bowl):

The game: I picked the Patriots to win 27-23. They won 28-24. But enough about me! Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is getting too much flak for his "terrible" call that gave New England the win. People are playing the result. Yes, handing off to Marshawn Lynch would have been the safe call. But Carroll would be getting lauded today as the unpredictable, daring genius had Russell Wilson completed that quick- slant pass rather than thrown an interception. Tom Brady and the Pats got lucky with that, but deserved to win. 

1aa1akatypThe halftime show: It feels strange saying it but I thought Katy Perry was great, from the opening entrance on the giant mechanical tiger and straight on through. She is very talented and has the palatable, NFL-friendly sex appeal that others (Miley Cyrus) are lacking, and her opening number, the anthemic "Roar," was perfect for a Super Bowl.

The party: I hosted my annual SB party for 12 or 15 family and friends, with pulled pork sliders (Boston butt, foretelling the Patriots' victory) and gumbo atop the menu. I also happened to win big in our two betting pools (squares, props) which made me an unpopular but smiling host.

1aa1alostpuppyThe commercials: Click on Ad-Meter to watch and see USA Today's Ad-Meter ranking of all 61 Super Bowl commercials. No. 1: Budweiser / "Lost Dog," because heroes Clydesdales saving an adorable lost puppy's life is irresistible and makes me want to drink beer to celebrate. Dead last: UCool / "Heroes Charge," because I don't remember the ad and have no idea what UCool is.

HOW DO YOU RATE THIS SUPER BOWL COMPARED TO MOST: Rate the game on overall interest, watchability and excitement -- not on whether your team won, not on whether you hit on your bet:

VEGAS OUTLOOK FOR DOLPHINS, CANES: Odds for next season's Super Bowl already are out (sportsbooks waste no time) and the Dolphins are at 40-1, tied for 14th. Seahawks are favored at 5-1, then Patriots 7-1 and Packers 8-1. On the college side,Ohio State is a favorite to repeat at 5-1. The Miami Hurricanes are 75-1, tied for 29th.

Poll result: Brady was your MVP favorite: We asked who you thought would be Super Bowl MVP and, of six choices, Patriots QB Tom Brady (who ended up winning) was the top choice with 52.0 percent.

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Twitter @gregcote