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20 posts from March 2008

March 31, 2008

Marlins' Opening Week

     [Updated Tuesday morning, 4-1: Click here for my column off the opener. Draw no conclusion after one of 162 games but sound a warning bell: The Marlins have the most unproven starting rotation in baseball].

     Original post from Monday:

     Marlins launch their 16th season today at home amid many questions: Can a patchwork starting rotation succeed? Will last year's horrible defense improve? How much will Miguel Cabrera's bat be missed?

     Not much is expected, nationally, with the Vegas over/under on Florida's final record at 69-93. Ouch.

     Weigh in on your expectations in our poll. Also let us know: What do you think will be the team's strength and what is your biggest concern?

March 30, 2008

The "Golden" Final Four

     Four No. 1 regional seeds in the NCAA Tournament Final Four of men 's basketball -- an historic first.

     North Carolina. Memphis. UCLA. Then finally (and barely!) Kansas.

     I know there are Cinderellaheads out there. You were rooting for Davidson today. To me, though, it doesn't get any better than 1-1-1-1 for the national championship.

     Your initial thoughts on the UNC-Kansas and Memphis-UCLA matchups are invited. Will you miss the classic underdog element?

March 28, 2008

Joe vs. Fredi (with The Daily Poll)

       Aaa1frediYankeesAaa1joe and Marlins at Dolphin Stadium tonight and Saturday to close out spring training, and it's ex-manager Joe Girardi vs. current skipper Fredi Gonzalez. Who would you rather have, right now, leading the Marlins?

     Do more than vote in the poll below; elaborate. Also interested in your thoughts on a few other topics...

     Vegas over/under on Marlins wins is a modest 68. Sound right?

     "Mr. Marlin" Jeff Conine re-signed today for the purpose of retiring a Marlin, which was expected and nice. Is there anybody else to challenge for the Mr. Marlin tag? Mike Lowell, maybe?

     Also welcoming commentary on The Incredible Shrinking Yankees. To the delight of Red Sox Nation, NYY arrives in town diminished from the league power they used to be. Native son Alex Rodriguez arrives undiminished, still the best player in baseball. But some (including Boston's David Ortiz) say Marlin Hanley Ramirez will be the one to pass A-Rod for that title within a couple of years. Agreed?

     Talkin' baseball! Dammit.

The return of Alonzo Mourning

Aaa1zo      Refuting assumptions he would retire, Alonzo Mourning has now made it pretty clear he hopes to return to the Heat this fall for a 16th NBA season at age 38 pushing 39.

     Appearing Thursday night on 610 WIOD’s Heat Magazine, Mourning said he will decide firmly in August or September but left little doubt he still had the fever to play.

     "The mental part is there. If I was healthy today, I’d be finishing out the season for the Heat," Zo said. "I still want to play the game of basketball. I still feel like I have a lot to offer. I still feel like I could have a positive impact for the Miami Heat. I was playing some of my best basketball before I got hurt. Shaq and I playing together, we had a great combination. I really feel that if I would have still been playing and hadn’t gotten hurt, then I don’t think the trade would have happened."

     Click here for Zo's career stats.

     Question for Heatniks on what now seems the strong possibility of Mourning's return: Good, welcome news? Or would you rather he retired? My take: The worst team in the league needs all the help it can get, and if a healthy Zo can give 20-some minutes either starting or off the bench ... welcome back big guy!

     [Unrelated note: Today's column by me off last night's Panthers game did not make a lot of papers due to deadlines devised by the Marquis de Sade. Click on Dead Cats to read it].

March 27, 2008

Shaq: Putting the ass in class (with The Daily Poll)

     Been trying my best to ignore this Shaquille O'Neal vs. Heat tempest, but can't any longer. Isn't it amazing how a man who is 7-1 and 325 pounds can be so small?

Aaa1shaq2      This guy should be grateful the Heat traded him to a contender, and have more class than to lower himself to sniping. First he criticizes Miami's medical staff and now, in a Boston Globe story, hits Pat Riley and two ex-teammates by saying, "We have professionals [in Phoenix] who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again."

     Shaq evidently is incapable of leaving anyplace with any grace. In Orlando it was Penny Hardway, in L.A. Kobe Bryant, now this. O'Neal drove Stan Van Gundy out, needed constant coddling and was, behind the scenes, hardly the lovable big teddy bear that is his public persona. Shaq parts the curtain with comments such as these and reveals one of the most self-centered individuals in sports today.

     What's sad is that Shaq has damaged his legacy here in a way that I doubt can be repaired. There was a time when a standing ovation would have greeted his return to Miami; now I'd bet booing would mix strongly with the cheers. There was a time you could expect the Heat to retire Shaq's jersey; now I think the rafters will never see it.

     Sad.

     Poll time. Tell us why you voted the way you did.

[Updated Friday morning: Congratulations, voters. You made this our 13th blog poll to top 1,000 votes in less than 24 hours. Thanks as always for participating].   

March 26, 2008

Heat in playoffs (scoop!), mambo, Tiger, tennis, Maybin, Japan, mosh pit, Kimbo (with poll), nude swimming and more

     Another mess o' miscellania...

     Question: Who needs a miracle more right now? Hillary Clinton or the Florida Panthers?

     [Musical Aside: Anybody a fan of The Raconteurs? Jack White, Brendan Benson and the boys have a new CD out this week. Click here to sample. I may be getting too old for this, but I can't help it!].

     NO YEN FOR OPENING IN JAPAN: Bumping this item up since I write about it in today's paper. Two words for MLB opening up its regular season in Japan: It sucks. It's sort of a Dolphins-in-London issue. It's fine for leagues to market themselves globally, but let's confine these grow-the-sport games to exhibitions, not games that count. Click here for my column on that and let us know if you agree or not.

Aaa1mambo_2      BIG DANCE VS. MAMBO: Man you all are some Dolphincentric people. I run a harmless little March Madness Haiku Contest, and the comments fill with anti-college hoops talk from haiku-hating Dolfans. Expand your horizons, folks. Big world out there! But if you must talk Dolphs to pass the time until the draft, feel free. Rumor out of Jax today is that the Jaguars, evidently impressed by the way he mambos, are interested in Jason "Tutu" Taylor. I say it's more likely he wins Dancing With the Stars.

     HEAT IN TITLE CHASE!: OK, it's the Heat Dancers. But still. Aaa1heatd_2 Bracketed playoffs are underway at NBA.com to name the league's best dance troupe and Miami's is trying to defend its title. Heat Dancers' alumnae include a contestant from ABC's Bachelorette, a Pussycat Doll, a WWE Diva Search winner, a Venus Breeze "Legs of a Goddess" winner, and a Deal or No Deal "suitcase model." So you see, girls, you too can be a Heat Dancer and go on to a career typecast as a hottie! Who knows. Maybe even be in a calendar!

       POTTY-MOUTH TIGER: Love the story of how a photog's shutter Aaa1nager drove Tiger Woods (pictured at left) to profanity Sunday on the ninth hole at Doral. "Jackass!" said Tiger. "The next time a photographer shoots a f---ing picture, I'm going to break his f---ing neck." Well, that's fair. I figure if a photog can snap, so can Tiger. By the way, it's good Woods didn't win, if only to put to rest the astonishingly ludicrous notion that he might have won every tournament he entered all year.

       FUZZY EXCUSE, MARIA: Sony Ericcson tennis is about to Aaa1maria commence down on Key Biscayne. Anybody excited? I became less so when I found out Maria Sharapova (shown sitting because she's tired) had withdrawn on account of "fatigue." Jesus on a horse, girl. Buck up! Shoot some Red Bull and get your coddled behind out there!

       MAaa1cameron_2AYBIN FORCES MARLINS' HAND: I'd be up on the metaphoric soapbox railing if the Marlins had demoted future-star center fielder Cameron Maybin to Double-A on a close call. But when you don't hit your weight in spring training and you're really skinny, that's a problem. Bet he's up by early summer. Big future as a local favorite, despite the fact his nickname is Cam.

     THE BIG MOSH PIT: Bobby Knight said in his new ESPN analyst role that the NCAA Tournament should increase from 65 teams to 128. Seriously. Like we needed another reason to hate Bobby Knight?

     BIGGER SLICE OF KIMBO: Now Kimbo Slice and that whole street-Aaa1kimbo fighting, "mixed martial arts" crap gets the imprimatur of legitimacy with an upcoming bout on CBS. Walter Cronkite is so upset he's spinning in his grave and he isn't even dead yet. Keep waiting for Kimbo's 15 minutes to be up, but I keep forgetting our national appetite for embarrassment.

     TWO WORDS. SWIMSUIT OPTIONAL: Olympic champion swimmer and summer-'07 Playboy nudie Amanda Aaa1beard Beard tells AOL.com (click here for story and shot of Playboy cover) that she'd like competitive swimming to become more "risque." Challenge yourself. Offer an idea for doing that without using the word "breaststroke."

     Ciao for now.

March 25, 2008

Tococane wins March Madness Haiku Contest!

Aaa1mm1 Aaa1mm2 Aaa1mm3 Aaa1mm4

     [Update Wednesday 3-26: The winning haiku-er's prize, a 2008 UM men's basketball postseason media guide, was mailed today].

     Congratulations to blogger Tococane for having the top entry in this year's March Madness Haiku Contest. The winning NCAA Tournament-related haiku:

     "The Padawan Haith

     Will Do Battle With Darth Barnes

     The Force Will Prevail"

     The committee liked the consistency of the Star Wars theme, and the use of the word padawan (learner or apprentice) to refer to UM's Frank Haith as he set out to challenge his Texas mentor. Mostly the committee liked that this showed a smidgen of originality and rose above a pretty lousy field overall.

     Runnerup haiku by raoul duke: "Big Orange Ball Bounce / Vitale's Head Like Basketball / Dick Vitale's Head Bounce"

     Third place haiku by OC Dolphin: "Sun Devils Are Out / How Could This Be I Dunno / It's A Committee"

     To Tococane: Claim your winning prize asap by emailing me (at gcote@miamiherald.com) with the last three numbers of your IP address. That way I can verify that someone else is not claiming to be you. Your choice of prizes: A Miami Hurricanes 2008 Postseason Media Guide or a 2008 NCAA Men's Final Four Record Book.

     Original post:

     Welcome to our blog's third annual "March Madness Haiku Contest" celebrating the natural marriage of American men's college basketball and Japanese verse. Of frenetic western athletic passion and mystical Far Eastern poetry.

     There are prizes galore for the winning entry. Well, actually a prize (singular) and not so galore. But better than nothing! We'll send the winning haiku-er a 2008 NCAA Tournament record book or a Miami Hurricanes postseason guide or something like that.

     Only two rules:

     1. You may enter as many times as you like by clicking on 'Comments' below, but only one haiku per comment! In other words, if you have five entries, make them one each in five different comments.

     2. Entries must have something to do with March Madness and must be in haiku form: 17 syllables! We prefer but do not insist on the traditional 3-line, 5-7-5 form, only that the total be exactly 17 syllables. Rhyming or no-rhyme is your choice.

     In the case of similar haikus the first posted will receive preference in judging. We'll accept entries over the next several days and update this post to give you ample warning when the entry deadline is approaching.

     Co-winning haikus from 2007: Bruce with "Slighted Syracuse / Sadness surrounds Snow City / Orange turned to blue." And David Tucker with "The five Gator boys / Only forty minutes left / History awaits."

     Winning entry from 2006: Kurt from Boca with "Stay home and watch games / Or check scores from the office / Forget champ by June."

     This year let's do even better. Now get to haiku-ing!

March 23, 2008

Canes' NCAA ouster and its aftereffect (with The Daily Poll)

     Inviting comments here on Sunday's 75-72 UM loss to Texas in the second round of the NCAA Aaa1aum_4 Tournament. I think this Hurricanes team and this program have advanced far enough that "nice try, guys" doesn't fit. You wonder how the outcome might have been different if the team overall and Jack McClinton in particular had played the entire game with the urgency it played the last four or five minutes.

     Click here for my column off the Texas game. I have a feeling I'll get beat up over it for being too critical. All I ask is that you read all of it before spewing, as the overall tone is properly upbeat.

     More than about just this one result, I'd like to encourage chatter on what this tournament and this game means to the state of Canes men's basketball.

     How close do you think Miami is to being a team that gets to March Madness routinely, not just once in a while? Is Haith the right man to achieve that? Remember that UM reached the Sweet 16 in 2000 but it didn't foretell much. Is this year different?

     What will it take -- if it's possible at all -- for UM basketball to rise closer to the level of Dolphins, Heat, Marlins (benefit of doubt there) and Canes football in terms of broad interest? Don't just vote. Expound!

     [REMINDER: Get your entries in now for our March Madness Haiku Contest. The Madness goes on even if the Canes don't! Monday is the last day to enter. Scroll down in the blog to the appropriate post or click here].

March 21, 2008

McMagic! UM advances in NCAAs

Aaa1jack_2       Jack McClinton's spectacular second half fashioned a 38-point game and lifted Miami's Hurricanes past St. Mary's, 78-64, Friday in Little Rock. Oops, sorry. North Little Rock. Click here to find my column off the game.

     Whereas the NCAA Tournament is a major national event, and whereas McClinton's 32-point half almost single-handedly lifted UM to the second round, be it therefore resolved that this was one of the great clutch game performances in the history of South Florida sports. Agreed? 

     On deck Sunday: Texas. Uh oh.

     Comments welcome.

     By the way, enter our March Madness Haiku Contest pronto if you haven't already. Monday will be the final day entries will be accepted. Scroll a few posts down in the blog (or click here) to enter. We had well over 100 entries when last I checked, and some damned good ones, too. Can you do better? Remember, McClinton burns three syllabes. Haiku judiciously, my wise friend.

March 20, 2008

The Williams Sisters and Daddy Dumbest

     Richard Williams, father of Palm Beach-based tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, has for years had a disturbing habit of earthquaking in the wake of his famous daughters with an outspokenness that crosses over into outrageousness and irresponsibility and leaves a sensible person to surmise Richard may be, well ... nuts.

Aaa1rwms      The latest: An interview with a newspaper in India (click here) in which the father (pictured) rants about racism and says, among other things, "The white man hated me all my life and I hate him. I'm not even an American, it just so happens that I was born in America. People are prejudiced in tennis. I don't think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be. But if you get some little white no-good trasher in America like Tracy Austin or Chris Evert who cannot hit the ball, they will claim this is great."

     I don't mean to be an apologist here or claim that racism doesn't exist in general or in tennis, but I think the time has come for Venus and Serena to publicly repudiate such comments. To distance themselves from their loose-cannon father as well as to advise him privately, "Dad, please. Shhhh." Can you imagine the outrage if the late Earl Woods had publicly disparaged Jack Nicklaus?

     Dear Richard: Let your children enjoy the attention and the riches they have earned, sir. Be a proud parent, not a sycophant pathetically groveling for the spotlight. Quit embarrassing your daughters.