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Ciao! I'm ba-aack; plus Dolphins blow big chance on Vick, Erin Andrews peep video, Favre, Ricky & nude family haunts Delray

     [Check me out at Twitter.com/gregcote and join the resumption of our live online chats this Wednesday 1-2 p.m. Click on ChatCity to join live then or to post a question early].

     [BULLETIN: Brett Favre announced Tuesday afternoon he will stay retired, pending his next change-of-mind tentatively scheduled for the day after tomorrow].

     Greetings one and all. Happy to be back in the Homeland (and Heraldland) after being blissfully incommunicado on two weeks' vacation -- a European holiday with the family. We spent three days in Rome and then hopped a seven-day cruise to Italy, Spain, Monaco and France, spending so many Euros that I am now officially in line for a federal bailout.

     Much of the dough was offered in penance to the cruise casino. Actually I did OK overall amid the merry din of bells, hitting big in roulette (including a stack of four chips on the 33; thank you Sammie Smith) and also lucking a few jackpots in slots (including a 7-7-5xpay). My oldest son, better at the tables, did well enough at blackjack and poker to ceremonially and with exquisite nonchalance flip us a $500 chip to offset the cost of copious beverage consumption.

1beggar      I won't burden you with a travelogue except to note that I found out what al dente really tastes like, and was stunned visually by the Vatican, inside and out. The shrine attracts too many beggars to count, forlorn souls playing on the sympathy of the believers. We saw one old crone dressed in black, pathetically supine on the pavement, palm upraised. I bent to the battered tin beside her, surrepticiously snatched a 5 Euro, and ran like hell.

     Another observation: the Sistine Chapel (smaller than you'd imagine) loses some of its aura when filled with a couple of thousand tourists whose collective murmur produces a droning buzz that overwhelms the occasional hopeless "Shhh!" of chapel attendants.

1casino2      One more: the world-famous Monte Carlo Casino can kiss my American a--. You pay a 10 Euro cover charge to get in. The casino is small and quiet as a cemetery, with snooty guys in tuxedos motioning for you to remove your hat. Gimmie a break. That whole Monaco self-appointed royalty thing is a farce, not that you asked me.

     Overall had a terrific time, though. Rome's architecture and my digital camera fell in love; the piazzas at night a romantic vista. Genoa, Villefranche, Barcelona (reawakening memories of the '92 Olympics), Palma De Mallorca, Sardinia and its Argiolas winery -- magnifique! 

     Anyway, what's been happening around here?

     Blew through old papers and found that highlights in my absence included...

     The Marlins getting hot (but the bleeping Phils staying hotter).

     Carlos Boozer lobbying to join the Heat (so far fruitlessly).

1markantony      And singer Marc Anthony becoming the latest Dolphins' minority owner in the stable of celebrity-loving Stephen Ross. (Maybe it's because I've been in Italy, but when I first heard that I thought they meant Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius), pictured, the Roman politician and general from B.C.

     Seems like it's been pretty quiet while I was away, actually. But that is changing very soon, with King Sport about to unlimber and the Canes and Dolphins soon opening camps.

     It's good to be back. In America. And in South Florida.

     Dolphins wrong to say no-way to reinstated, available Vick: You know by now I think Michael Vick would be a perfect fit for the Dolphins' Wildcat offense -- a proven version of what the club hopes rookie Pat White might become. It had been conjecture. Until this week. Monday the NFL reinstated Vick, making him available to sign with any team immediately. Alas, the Dolphins announced Tuesday they have no interest. I still say Miami should have taken a chance, "distraction" be damned. Click here for my new column on this, online now and in today's/Wednesday's paper. The online headline, 'Fins are running scared,' is strong but I do not disown it. I believe teams, including Miami, are pandering to PR in saying no-to Vick. The team brave enough to sign him is going to be glad it did. Agreement or dissent welcome as Sunday's opening of training camp draws near.

1ricky      A massage from Ricky Williams: The Dolphins running back is the subject of an interesting feature piece in the New York Times (click here) about his post-football plans. The story's accompanying photo is shown at left.

     1erinandrews2 Ha! Just kidding about Erin Andrews video!: Relax, Miami Herald legal team. I put that in the main headline just to shamelessly draw readers. I think it is terrible that some pervert videotaped a nude Erin Andrews, the ESPN sideline babe, through a hotel peephole. It was a total coincidence that I happened to have the room next to hers. Kidding! (Is it too soon to kid?) I would never provide such a video link in this church-going family blog. Although anyone who has it may forward it to me so that I might be more fully informed in my outrage. Show right is a freezeframe from the video, first published in the New York Post. Am I wrong to show this photo?

1family      Nude family terrorizes Delray Beach: Complaints arise in Delray over a sculpture of a nude family outside a shopping center there. Click here for the story. Not sure what the art work is titled, but based on this photo I'm going to go ahead and suggest, "Anorexia In Bronze."