May 27, 2015

FIFA scandal, my Blatter-must-go column and poll. Vote now!; plus NBA Finals odds, also Gordon, Stanton on ASG pace, 'Fish In the Dark', Abbot & Costello Marlins, Dolphins win May & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MAY 28. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, a salute to Memorial Day (50,000 Names), UM/MLS stadium verdict & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Gordon, Stanton on pace to start in All-Star Game: First NL All-Star voting trends are out, with a double dose of desperately needed good news Marlins and Marlfans. Dee Gordon leads all second basemen in voting, and Giancarlo Stanton is third among outfielders -- both on pace to start.

Tap breaks on Dolphins: Fins had their first OTA (organized team activity) practice day this week and it was decorated as a symbolic start to the 2015 season, with much made in particular about how good Ndamukong Suh looked. All of which earns the following two-word commentary: "It's freakin' May!"  

THE FIFA CORRUPTION SCANDAL: Yesterday's indictment in Switzerland of 14 persons including nine 1aa1afifacurrent or former FIFA officials is the biggest story in global sports. It also is big in America, considering the U.S. is behind the lengthy investigation and is extraditing the accused for prosecution. Click on Blatter Must Go for my latest column, online and in today's inky pulp editions. I write that now is the time for a clean break. FIFA president Sepp Blatter (pictured artfully blurry at right) has presided over 17 years of sporadic but seemingly unending scandal -- including controversy over the awarding of the 2018 and '22 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. Blatter should resign or be voted out of office in Friday's election. Doubt either will happen, but we can dream. Meanwhile, weigh in on how serious you think this latest FIFA story is.

LEBRON BREEZES TO FINALS. NEXT STOP: HEARTACHE: Cleveland Cavaliers fans are delusional, in 1aa1alebonrgeneral, I think, but especially as they view this Cavs team and the upcoming NBA Finals vs. Golden State. (Warriors clinched last night). We can forgive Cavs fans naturally thinking that having LeBron James is the panacea that overcomes all. Miami and Heat fans can relate. But Clevelanders resist the reality check that LeBron and mates will be a clear underdog (see below) vs. Steph Curry and the Warriors. It will be interesting to see LeBron in that unfamiliar role. For many in Miami, it will be delicious. By the way, J.R. Smith posted on Instagram his team's hot-tub party after the Cavs swept Atlanta in the East finals ... just in case you didn't dislike LeBron quite enough. Click here to watch.

Warriors clear faves over Cavs: SportsBettingDime.com today has Golden State a 4-9 favorite to win the NBA Finals, with Cleveland at 16-7. Warriors in six games is likeliest pick at 18-7. Finals MVP odds are Steph Curry 2-3, LeBron James 2-1 and the field at 12-1.

MARLINS A MODERN-DAY ABBOT & COSTELLO ROUTINE: After turning its general manager into the manager and then raising eyebrows with a pool celebration after finally winning to end an earlier eight-game losing streak, the Marlins' sudden demotion of Brett Butler from third-base coach to outfield and base-running duties continues the notion that the ballclub is flying by the seat of its pants. ("Who's on third!") Mike Redmond got fired in part for being seen as too passive and conservative. Now replacement Dan Jennings is seen by some as over-managing -- and demoting Butler fits that perception pretty well. By the way, Marlins fired Redmond at 16-22 and are now 2-8 under Jennings. Winning cures all, of course. Fish need to make a push toward .500 as Jose Fernandez returns in a month or so.

 

'FISH IN THE DARK': A confession, first: Larry David is one of my favorite entertainers. Curb Your

1aa1adavidlEnthusiasm
was must-watch, appointment-TV every week for me, and I long for its return. So I was 1aa1afishpredisposed to love "Fish In the Dark," the (fairly) new Broadway comedy starring David. We spent the recent long holiday weekend in New York and saw it with front-row seats, because my wife (in charge of arrangements) is not nearly as cheap as me. How great were the seats? At right is a photo from the performance, taken discreetly (and against all rules) by my son. Anyway, the show was great. No unexpected ground broken; Larry David was pretty much the character we all know -- but that is exactly who the adoring audience came to see. Terrific show! Pretty, pretty, pretty good.

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May 22, 2015

Heat suffer All-NBA shutout; plus Steph Curry/Kidgate poll and Letterman/King of Late Night poll; also my TV debut, D.Wade's new game, Heat draft, Fins No. 1 in $$, Colts punter disses Tannehill, new Weighing The Fish, 'real' Miami Vice video & more

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

1) It is FRIDAY, MAY 22. I'm back at Random Evidence Laboratories today divining the Sunday notes-column package. 2) Thanks for all the Twitter kindness -- a phrase rarely said, "Twitter kindness" -- over my LeBatard debut yesterday on Fusion TV. Much appreciated! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tannehill's new deal with poll, Heat keep 10th pick, LeBatard TV promo, firing-Redmond verdict & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dee Train update: A new blog feature on Marlins' Dee Gordon as he bids to become baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. We'll do this as long as his average remains at .385 or higher. Updated season: .386 (64-for-166). Yesterday: 0-for-4 vs. ARI. Next: Tonight vs. BAL.

HEAT SHUT OUT OF ALL-NBA TEAMS: As Heat fans suffer not only not making the playoffs but watching LeBron James trot toward the NBA Finals with Cleveland, the indignity piles on with the announcement of the All-NBA first, second and third teams. Miami has nobody on any of the the three teams for the first time since 2008. Dwyane Wade collected a mere two points in voting, tied for 29th overall. It's the second straight season Wade didn't make any of the three All-NBA teams after being represented eight of his first nine seasons between 2005-13.

KIDGATE: ON STEPH CURRY'S DAUGHTER AND OTHER CHILDREN IN POSTGAME NEWS CONFERENCES: You know the controversy by now. NBA MVP and Warriors star Steph Curry brings his 2-year-old daughter 1aa1acurrykidRiley to a playoff postgame press conference. To most it is adorable or harmless -- "What's the big deal!" kind of stuff. To others (ESPN's Brian Windhorst notable among them) it's unprofessional. The reaction to the latter reaction is what's interesting and gives this story some shelf life. Suddenly Windhorst and other critics are castigated as anti-kids, as taking themselves too seriously. Well, Windhorst is right. It is unprofessional of Curry to do what he did. Also, unoriginal. Kids-on-laps at the dais has become a cliche. I always find it helpful in debates like this to consider what I call the "yeah but what if" angle. What if every athlete started doing this, across all sports, after every game? All of a sudden we're rolling our esys and saying "Enough!" Right? Babies, toddlers, young kids, teens -- all are welcome! No kids? Bring your dog! Or how about Mom or your favorite uncle? Why can't Steph Curry have his best friend with him? Athletes have so many social-media platforms to show off their family or trumpet their fatherhood if they wish. The workplace needn't be one of them. But that's just me. Your opinion goes directly below:

AN ODE TO DAVID LETTERMAN: Late-night TV legend David Letterman ended his 33-year run with a farewell show Wednesday, and it was emotional for me, among millions of others I'm sure. I grew up and 1aa1adavenow 1aa1adavethenold with Letterman, pictured then and now. His show, his monologues, his top 10 lists and his stupid pet tricks helped transport me from a guy in his mid-20s to a man now pondering retirement himself. My future wife and I were a young couple long before kids around the time Letterman came on the air, dropping watermelons and TV sets off tall buildings, and our common love of Dave's humor very much was an early bonding thing for us. Letterman was fresh, imprimatur of Early Zany, the hip guy opposite your father's Jay Leno. Ironically, sadly, Jimmy Squared -- Kimmel and Fallon -- came along to wrest the hip crown and make Letterman seem what he was becoming: Old. That's life. The natural order of things. I am not sure if Letterman bumps Johnny Carson from the Biggest Chair in late-night television history but I know it's arguable. For me, he'd be a strong second at the very least, after which it'd be a long drop to whomever might be third. In this King of Late Night poll I offer what for me are the Big 3 choices. This is with due respect to early icons like Jack Paar and Dick Cavett, and to later stars like Conan O'Brien and the Two Jimmys. The poll focuses on late-night entertainment more than political shows of Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and so forth. For me, few if any figures on late-night TV or in pop culture overall have played a more prominent role in my personal timeline than Letterman. I miss him already. Thank you, Dave.

DOLPHINS HIGHEST-PAID NFL TEAM. NO, SERIOUSLY: ESPN'S Global Sports Salaries Survey for 2015 incorporated 333 teams in 17 major league in seven sports in 13 countries,and ranked the teams 1aa1afbmoneyaccording to highest average salary per player. (Click on Global Sports Salaries for the full list). The soccer club Paris Saint Germain tops the list with a $9.1 million average. The top U.S. team, fifth overall, is the Los Anegles Dodgers at $8.0 million. How the Miami teams weigh in: Heat is NO. 28 at $4.8 million, Panthers No. 113 at $2.5 million, Marlins No. 114 at $2.5 mill, and Dolphins No. 124 at $2.3 million. However the Dolphins total -- shockingly, somewhat unbelievably -- leads all NFL teams, according to ESPN. Even factoring the Ndamukong Suh deal, and even if they included Ryan Tannehill's new contract, Miami leading all of football is still a surprise.

COLTS PUNTER DISSES TANNEHILL: Pretty bad when you get dissed by ... by ... by a punter! But the Colts' Pat McAfee went and Tweeted this: "Well today's market showed that a 25-25 record gets you 96 million American dollars ... Andrew's about to own a team I think. #Tannehill #Luck." Tannehill actually is 23-25, and McAfee's implication that for a QB it's all about winning is on the mark. In fact that's the theme of my latest column, on Tannehill's new contract. (Click on Just Win Now, Baby to read it). However, I'd also inform McAfee that Luck's three-year passer rating of 86.6 lives in about the same rent district as Tannehill's 84.0. A punter. Imagine that?

Poll result: Faith in Tannehill, but remaining doubts, too: In the wake of his new contract, we asked if you think Ryan Tannehill is worth the money as the franchise QB the Dolphins have been looking for, and "yes" (50.4 percent) beat "no" (17.6%) by almost a 3-1 margin. However, almost one-third (32.0%) voted "maybe but still not convinced."

HEAT KEEP 10TH PICK IN DRAFT; EYEING JOHNSON?: As expected in Tuesday's deathly dull NBA draft lottery did not budge Miami from its 10th pick in the June 25 draft. Chad Ford's new, post-lottery 1aa1ajohnsonstanleymock draft for ESPN has Heat selecting Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson (pictured). Says Ford: "The Heat need depth everywhere and might need starters at all five positions depending on how things play out this summer in free agency. Dwayne Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng all can opt out. Plus, Chris Bosh's health is still a major question mark. Johnson makes a lot of sense here for the Heat; he's one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft, with the size and strength to play right away. And, given how young he is, there's still a lot of upside there. Wisconsin's Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky along with Texas' Myles Turner are other players in the mix for Miami." My take: Ford is being dire. You know Wade will be back. Re-signing Dragic is a priority. Keeping Deng could be an issue but is possible. And Bosh's full recovery is not seen as a "major question mark." The 6-9 Dekker may make sense. With an ascending Hassan Whiteside on board, can't see them taking Kaminsky.

1aa1adwadegame'D.WADE'S GET IT HOOPS': Dwyane Wade has a new game. Literally. His name is on "D.Wade's Get It Hoops," a new kids indoors basketball game that incorporates an app that keeps score and creates videos to post online. Visit getithoops.com or click here for the 2-minute YouTube video explainer starring Wade himself.

WEIGHING THE FISH (40 GAMES): We throw an occasional bell 'n whistle into the blog, and this year we 1aa1afishweigh 1aa1agstantondebuted a new Miami Marlins feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- is a once-every-10-games ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Nine qualify for our fourth ranking. WTF is cumulative and factors six offensive categories. It serves as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best overall season or is hot/cold. Weighing The Fish after 40 games (at 16-24), with current leader Giancarlo Stanton pictured:

Rank Player                 WTF#  @30

1 Giancarlo Stanton     204.0    2

2 Dee Gordon              187.8    1

3 Adeiny Hechevarria   152.7   3

4 Marcell Ozuna           133.7   5

5 Martin Prado             131.2   4

6 Ichiro Suzuki             100.9   6

7 Jacob Realmuto          94.8    8

8 Michael Morse             88.0   7

9 Christian Yelich          69.6   9

'THE REAL MIAMI VICE': This is so Miami. Apparently in 2013 a film company, Coconut Grove-based Entertainment Dynamix, began filming the Miami Police Department with the consent of then-chief Manuel Orosa. The idea was a "real Miami Vice" reality show that never ended up happening. Or at least hasn't yet.  Now, two years later, an Entertainment Dynamix video surfaces that looks like a cross between a promo for the reality show and a recruiting tool for the Miami PD. It's slick, sexy, well done. Why the controversy? Well, ever seen a cop on the beach with her badge clipped to the string of her bikini? The tale was first reported by Miami's Random Pixels blog and followed up by this Herald story. We give you the controversial video here:

 

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May 20, 2015

Is Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill a franchise QB worth that money? Poll. Vote now!; plus Patriots concede, new LeBatard TV show, your verdict on Marlins firing Redmond & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MAY 20. Happy birthday to my eldest son Christopher! 2) Patriots concede: Odd for Robert Kraft to announce that Pats would not appeal Deflategate penalties -- meaning Tom Brady's four-game suspension stands. Can you defiantly claim your innocence and acquiesce at same time? Hmm. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins fire Redmond/name Jennings with poll, Tannehill signs Dolphins extension, Hot Button Top 10, SoFla Super Bowl verdict & more. 4) ICYMI, click on Garo Yepremian, R.I.P. for my column on the Dolphin icon's death. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Loria World: Wild ride continues: The Marlins' turbulent managerial merry-go-round continues under owner Jeffrey Loria. Click on Impatience Rules for my column.

Dee Train update: A new blog feature on Marlins' Dee Gordon as he bids to become baseball's first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941. We'll do this as long as his average remains at .385 or higher. Updated season: .403 (64-for-159). Last night: 1-for-4 vs. ARI. Next: Tonight vs. ARI.

IS RYAN TANNEHILL UP TO HIS NEW CONTRACT?: Update: Click on Winning Must Define Tannehill for my new column, now online. Will have an updated version following today's news conference.  Original post: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's new Dolphins contract of $96 million over six years including $45 million in guaranteed money will become official today. That 1aa1atannyundoubtedly makes Lauren Tannehill the happiest young woman on Earth, but I'm more concerned here with how it makes Dolfans feel. This long-term commitment is a statement by the club that it believes Tannehill is the future, the franchise QB Miami has searched for since Dan Marino's last season in 1999. Have the Fins found him in Tannehill? Or are they settling for "good enough"? For "close enough"? Tannehill made strides last year in his third season with career-best numbers: 4,045 yards passing, 27 TDs, a 92.8 rating. Yet he continued to struggle completing the long ball, the "home run" pass. And he is 23-25 as a starter and 0-for-3 on playoff seasons -- at a position where bottom-line winning is paramount. That, and only that, is why, for example, Tannehill trails Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck in overall estimation. I wonder if you think Tannehill will blossom into Pro Bowl-level stardom or if you see his NFL ceiling as a second-tier guy. I wonder if you think he'll prove to be worth the money he is now being paid. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Most object to Marlins' firing of Redmond: We asked if you approve of Marlins firing manager Mike Redmond after 38 games at 16-22, and 56.1 percent said no versus 30.3% who said yes. The other 13.6% were undecided.

LEBATARD RADIO DEBUTS ON TV TODAY: The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz, the ESPN Radio (and The Ticket Miami) program, debuts on TV today at 4 p.m. on the Fusion network. Here's the promo:

 

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May 03, 2015

Ndamukong Suh arm-wrestles Warren Buffett (with video); plus Kiper's grade/analysis of Dolphins draft and note on Mel Kiper Sr.; also latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) with Fins, big fight, Marlins, hot horse, Cavs-Bulls, drafted Canes & more

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

1) It is MONDAY, MAY 4. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Grade-Dolphins-draft poll, Super Saturday with Mayweather-Pacquiao and poll, NFL Draft, Kentucky Derby, NBA Game 7 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NDAMUKONG SUH ARM-WRESTLES WARREN BUFFETT: No, seriously. The Dolphins' behemoth defensive tackle was in Omaho on Sunday and arm-wrestled 84-year-old billionaire Warren Buffett, live, on CNBC, the business channel. The odd couple are friends who met through former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. I can hear Dolfans railing now, "Oh so this is why he can't be at the Dolphins conditioning program!" Two things. 1) It's a voluntary conditioning program in early May. 2) Ndamukong Suh is the very last member of this team whose conditioning or performance should be the subject of any concern.

 

KIPER GRADES DOLPHINS DRAFT 2ND-BEST IN AFC EAST: Dolfans graded the Dolphins draft a "B" (see poll results just below), and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. (pictured) agrees. His team-by-team draft grades today include these for the AFC East quartet: Jets A-minus, Dolphins B, Patriots B-minus and Bills C-minus. 1aa1amelkiperjrKiper on Miami's seven-man haul: "The Dolphins had one of my favorite picks of Round 1, and they didn't have to move to get their guy. DeVante Parker has the chance to be special and fills a clear need for them. I could have seen him going with any of the four picks ahead of Miami -- St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland and New Orleans -- so getting him at No. 14 was a good value. Jordan Phillips has first-round physical ability and third-round tape, so landing in Round 2 just about averages things out. The addition of Ndamukong Suh was impactful, but Miami can use the depth behind him or put Phillips and Suh on the field at the same time. If Phillips plays at Suh's effort level on every snap, there's a potential stud here. Jamil Douglas could play right away, given the need at guard, and though I thought Bobby McCain was a bit of a reach given some other cornerbacks available when he was taken, that's splitting hairs again. Jay Ajayi is a tough runner who fell on injury and ball security concerns, but if he's healthy, he can be really good. Tony Lippett is a player I expected to go earlier. If there's a question, it's the lack of a linebacker earlier on. The Parker pick really elevates this draft for me, and they can hope the coin flip on Phillips' becoming really good works out. But ultimately, I see one certainty here, and injury risk in a number of places."


1aa1amelsrHow come you never hear about Mel Kiper Sr?:
 Mel's father was in the vending machine business and also sold real estate and coached high-school baseball. He helped his son's early career by finding subscribers and advertisers for Mel's first draft newsletters. Senior died in 1988.

Poll result: Dolphins draft judged closer to good than great: We invited you in the previous blogpost to grade the Dolphins draft (you may still vote) based on initial reactions, and "B" won overwhelmingly with 60.8 percent, followed by "C" with 19.0%, "A" with 16.4% and "D" with 3.8%. Despite more C's than A's, it was still 77.2% overall who gave it an A or B.

HOT BUTTON MAY 3: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. 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 get Parker in draft’s first round: Miami took Louisville receiver DeVante Parker 14th overall in the draft, and I’m not sure who was happier and smiling wider late Thursday night: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, for getting a premier 6-2 pass catcher, or yours truly for actually being right for once in his Miami Herald mock draft.

2. BOXING: Mayweather decisions Pacquiao: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquaio finally had their long-anticipated title fight in Las Vegas late Saturday night. It was the "Fight of the Century" and did not disappoint. Unless you had money on Pac Man. Or like a boxing match in which somebody actually gets hurt.

3. MARLINS: Hot Fish climb up to .500, then lose: The streaking Marlins had now won nine of past 10 games since the 3-11 start that almost got manager Mike Redmond prematurely fired, before losing yesterday. Now the Fish set out on a 10-game road trip. Uh oh. Could soon be time once again talk owner Jeffrey Loria out of doing something rash.

4. NFL DRAFT: Winston goes No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay: Controversial, scrutinized QB Jameis Winston of Florida State went No. 1 to the Bucs and immediately posted an Instagram photo of himself enjoying crab legs. In other words the guy known for making bad choices as a collegian took about nine seconds to make his first bad decision as a pro.

5. HORSE RACING: American Pharaoh wins Kentucky Derby: Betting favorite American Pharaoh finished strong Saturday to win the 141st Kentucky Derby, and now we're just 12 days from the Preakness. I really think this could finally be the year we have our first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Just like I thought last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and...

6. NBA: Clippers win Game 7 to complete final eight: Clippers' thrilling 111-109 Game 7 elimination of San Antonio Saturday moves NBA playoffs to conference semifinal round. Cavs-Bulls may be most interesting matchup ahead. Chicago might have real shot at an upset. Heat fans have a dilemma, though. Rooting against LeBron now means cheering for Joakim Noah.

7. HURRICANES: UM football sees seven players drafted: Tackle Ereck Flowers, ninth overall, led a parade of seven drafted Miami Hurricanes -- fourth-most behind FSU's 11, Louisville's 10 and Florida's eight. Glass half-empty: "No way UM should have finished 6-7 with all that talent." Glass half-full: "That Al Golden sure can recruit!"

8. JOSE FERNANDEZ: Marlins ace becomes U.S. citizen: Rehabbing young pitcher finally faced live batters in practice, but week's big news was the Cuba native taking his oath of citizenship. It proved once again that in America anything is possible. Especially if you happen to throw a 97 mph fastball.

9. DION JORDAN: Dumbass Dolphin draft-bust suspended again: Fins' disappointing 2013 draft bust screwed up again, failed a drug test again and was suspended again. Or, did that go without saying?

10. JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA: Marlins release free-agent bust catcher: The highlight of Jarrod's short-lived Marlins career? Led team last season in longest last name. 

Missing the cut: Billy Donovan leaves Gators for OKC, NHL playoffs, Baltimore riots affect on sports, English Premier League decides title, Tiger Woods in TPC Sawgrass, Giancarlo Stanton in GQ.

Poll result: Most wanted Pacquiao to win: We asked who you hoped won, and it was 76.3 percent for Manny Pacquiao over Floyd Mayweather Jr. (Was running closer to 78-79% prior to the fight).

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April 11, 2015

Heat lose again, playoff hopes on life support; plus is LeBron intentionally hurting Heat? (poll), Fins' Brandon Albert in boxing gym (video), Marlins off the schneid, NBA/Cuba verdict & more

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

1aa1acup
1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 11. Pictured right, coffee cup sentiment applying to current Heat playoff situation. 2) Mike Pouncey signs multi-year extension with Dolphins making him NFL's highest-paid center. Hope deal includes a babysitter to keep him out of trouble in the clubs. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NBA/Heat/Cuba poll, Heat playoff update, Marlins 0-3, Kiper on Dolphins draft, MLB Stanton video & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Aside to my media brethren: Please tap the brakes on applying words like "disaster" to a lost game. One of the lessons of 9/11, at least for me, was to remind there are actual disasters, and that a huge loss in sports, no matter how big the blown lead or important the game, is not one. 

PLAYOFF CHASE: HEAT LOSE AGAIN, HOPES NEXT TO GONE: First Miami blows a 19-point lead in a crushing home loss to Bulls Thursday, then watches Friday as all three teams it is chasing win, and then loses at home tonight to Toronto 107-104. Heat have now lost nine of past 12 games at a time when wins were most essential. Miami must now win its final two games and pray. Four teams are jockeying on the home stretch for the Nos. 7 and 8 East seeds. (Playoff-likelihood percents below are not yet updated with tonight's Heat loss). How it looks from here entering Sunday's NBA action:

7. Boston: 37-42, W3. Playoff likelihood: 82.3% (up 16.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. Next: Sunday vs. CLE, then vs. TOR, @ MIL. Note: In driver's seat, with tiebreaker over Nets.

8. Brooklyn: 37-42, W1. Playoff likelihood: 81.2% (up 14.9). Next: Sunday @ MIL, then vs. CHI, vs. ORL. Note: Last two games being at home helps the cause.

9. Indiana: 36-43, W4. Playoff likelihood: 22.5% (down 10.2). Next: Sunday vs. OKC, then vs. WAS, @ MEM. Note: Pacers own tiebreaker over Heat, which is huge.

10. Miami: 35-45, L2. Playoff likelihood: 14.2% (down 21.3). Next: Monday vs. ORL, then @ PHI. Note: Heat own tiebreaker over Celtics and Nets, but would need 2-0 finish -- and much help -- for any chance. Clearest path to playoffs: Miami ends 2-0, and either Boston or Brooklyn lose all three remaining games.

IS LEBRON JAMES INTENTIONALLY TRYING TO SABOTAGE HEAT? Reports were Cleveland's LeBron James would sit out the two games this week against a Boston team that Miami is desperately chasing

1aa1alebronjamesfor a final East playoff spot. Well, James played last night but sat out fourth quarter in a home loss to Celtics -- and new reports are that he will sit out Sunday's game vs. Boston. He has every right; the Cavaliers have clinched the No. 2 seed. But suspicion is raised, especially if he sits out Sunday's rematch. It is not far-fetched, given the way LeBron departed Miami and left things with Pat Riley, that LBJ might time his rest to hurt the Heat by benefiting Boston. James would scoff at the idea and the truth may never be known, but I wonder how Heat fans feel? Clearly Miami is responsible for its own playoff standing, and losses like last night's make the Heat its own worst enemy. But facts are facts. Miami could really use Boston to lose both or at least one of the next two games, the Cavs are 2-9 without LeBron, and the timing of the King's "rest" could be a coffin nail for the franchise he left. Intentional? You tell me:

Poll result: Most favor Heat involvement in Cuba, but strong dissent, too: We asked how Heat should react to NBA's initiatives in Cuba, and 57.1 percent said "embrace it," while 36.5% said "avoid it" and 6.4% were undecided. The favorable number was running in the 70s but fell noticeably when it was first reported (in this column by me) that the Heat objected angrily and would not participate.

MARLINS OFF THE SCHNEID: [Update: Marlins blow 8-1 lead but hang on to beat Tampa Bay 10-9 in 10 innings for first win, getting the offensive bust-out they needed]. Original post: OK, 0-3 is 0.0185 percent of the season. I get that. Of course 0-3, at home, vs. a supposedly inferior division rival, when you score a grand total of three runs, makes 1aa1abbopeningweekit a bit worse. So does this: Ten straight road games -- tied for the longest trip of the season -- follow the three-game home series vs. Tampa Bay that begins tonight. Pressure shouldn't find any team this soon. Heck, you have to go back a whole year (2014 Angels) to find a team that began 0-3 and still made the playoffs. Pressure is lurking, though. It's waiting around the corner. That's why a strong showing vs. the Rays and an offensive breakout is important.

FINS' BRANDON ALBERT TRAINING IN BOXING GYM: Interesting video here by Herald's Charles Trainor Jr. of Dolphins left tackle Brandon Albert doing offseason work at Matt Baiamonte's boxing gym in Wynwood:

 

IF GREG COTE WERE IN CHARGE OF ROAD SIGNS: The spot-on, realistic-looking road signs pictured at 1aa1akardashianright, in red, have mysteriously begun popping up all over the Los Angeles area. Not sure who is behind the comic genius, but I love it. Imagine a culture where the faux-famous like the Kardashian family -- famous only for being famous -- were not welcomed everywhere as royalty but rather shunned as sad examples of the embarrassment of celebrity worship.

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April 09, 2015

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more

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

It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

1aa1adolcheer2
1aa1adolcheer
URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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March 04, 2015

Do Dolphins fans like Mike Wallace? New poll. Vote now!; plus Spoelstra sings 'Billie Jean,' Heat-Lakers, Doral, Heat/Panthers playoff odds, a horse's head, man named Suh & more


1aa1adonald1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 5. I'm down at Doral today to slap Donald Trump. Nah, I'm really down there to write a column off the first round of the golf tournament. 2) Shania Twain fan? The country star will be playing the Heat arena in downtown Miami July 16 as part of a (supposed) farewell tour. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, optimism-poll results & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

THE VIEW ON DOLPHINS RECEIVER MIKE WALLACE: As NFL free agency begins in earnest the Dolphins seem more and more inclined to keep receiver Mike Wallace and his big salary, although he has 1aa1amikewsomewhat under-performed on expectations. Part of keeping him may be that the trade market was tepid. Some fans undoubtedly think Miami might be better off cutting ties with Wallace and pursuing Packers free-agent Randall Cobb, who is younger and coming off a Pro Bowl year but wouldn't be much cheaper. I wonder how Dolfans feel about Wallace, factoring in his performance and also elements of his personality that included removing himself from a game late last season in a pique over the amount of passes being thrown his way. Is Wallace overrated and nothing special? Or is he a big talent being underutilized? Is the problem his or Ryan Tannehill's that the deep passes taking advantage of Wallace's premier speed have not been happening enough? For me, Wallace is a talent worth keeping and finding a way to fully deploy. Some may disagree. This poll isn't really asking if you think Miami should keep Wallace or not, though it sort of is I I guess. Interpret the question any way you wish, but whatever way you do, it'll be a referendum on how Dolfans feel about one of the team's biggest (and most controversial) stars. Vote and say why in the Comments section.

1aa1ahorseheadAUSTIN AND A HORSE'S HEAD: My wife and I meet a couple of good friends from the D.C. area in a random city a couple of times a year for a mini-vacation, just because. Been doing it a few years now, and we spent the long weekend just past in Austin, Texas, visiting funky-bizarre antique shops on SoCo and party-drinking on 6th Street. Loved hearing the blues-rock of the Red Lady Band at Darwin's, loved Iron Works BBQ, loved the (unexpected) Scholz Garten, loved touring the LBJ Presidential Library, and counted a quite-elaborate horse's head mask among the souvenir purchases I brought back. Of course I had to take it into the Clevelander studio on Tuesday and turn it into radio schtick just for laughs. That's me pictured here wearing the head. Check me out on Twitter or Vine for a video of me trying to coax Dan LeBatard into putting it on.

HEAT-LAKERS: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RIVALRY: Heat beat ,lowly Lakers last night100-94, paced by Hassan Whiteside's 25 rebounds. Heat-Lakers used to be LeBron and Kobe on Christmas Day, 1aa1aheat-lalwith two big teams and stakes high. Now? LeBron gone, Kobe out, Bosh out and much less interest (at least nationally) as Miami hosted LAL last night. What used to be a hell of a rivalry is now a shell of a rivalry, with Miami trying to hang onto playoff pace at 27-33 and L.A. way out of it at 16-44. The last time both teams had losing records the same season: 1992-93.

Heat, Panthers playoff odds: Heat sit on playoff pace as current No. 7 East seed but find five pursuers on their tail. ESPN's computerized Hollinger postseason odds are pessimistic, giving Miami (before last night) only a 40.9 percent chance to make playoffs. In hockey, the Panthers currently are only two points off pace as the No. 9 seed, but Cats' outlook is even gloomier. Hockey-reference.com puts Florida's playoff shot at 12.0%.    

SPOELSTRA CHANNELS HIS INNER MICHEAL JACKSON, RILEY TAKES ON BEATLES AT 'BATTIOKE': Shane Battier's annual karaoke night just happened at the Fillmore South Beach, and highlights included Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (and girlfriend Nikki Sapp) performing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"and the Silver Fox himself, Pat Riley, displaying Sexy Old Man moves on a Beatles remake. Click on Twist and Shout for Riley. Spo is below. Videos courtesy WQAM. Fun!

 

A QUICK BRAG ON NDAMUKONG SUH: Good to see everybody else catching up to us this week on the 1aa1ansuhDolphins and free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. It was almost a month ago, Feb. 7 in this blog, before anybody was mentioning this guy and Miami in same breath, when under the headline 'Ndamuking Suh a Dolphin?' we listed three reasons why it was possible. In an accompanying poll on whether Miami should pur-Suh him, y'all voted 56.8 percent yes, 29.0% no and 14.2% 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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