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11 posts from June 2010

June 28, 2010

Bosh talks free agency (with new video); plus LeBron/Bosh-to-Heat still aive? (with poll), Marlins' manager-mess & more

[Check out our constantly updated "Futblog/World Cup" post directly below this in the blog as quarterfinal pairings are set. Also, celebrate America by joining the following at Twitter.com/gregcote]

Wednesday evening update: No confirmation yet on rumors that Miami and Toronto have agreed on a sign-and-trade that sends Chris Bosh to the Heat, with the Raptors getting Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony (a former Canadian national-team player). Toronto Globe & Mail reports the rumor is false. Stay tuned. Crazy days. Click here for a new free-agency related video interview with Bosh, from the player himself.

1aa3 JAMES, BOSH JOINING WADE IN MIAMI!?: [Click on Imagination soars for today's latest column by me on the James-Wade-Bosh possibility. Click on King me for Tuesday's column]. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh supposedly met in Miami to chew over their world domination plan. The three also supposedly agreed to essentially split the free-agent money to msake this work. Stephen A. Smith, the defrocked ESPN talking head presently ranting for Fox Sports radio, started this on Monday by reporting that free agents-to-be James and Bosh would both be joining Wade in Miami. In the classic spirit of talk radio, no source was named, although Smith said: "It comes down to LeBron picking between the Miami Heat and Cleveland. I've spoken to my sources in Cleveland and New York and I've known one guy for 15 years that has never given me false information. You're only as good as your sources. LeBron James is going to play with Dwyane Wade in South Beach. Chris Bosh and LeBron James are going to the Miami Heat. It's not official, but I'm telling you LeBron is going to the Miami Heat." Smith later called that happenstance "highly likely." Do we believe it? Dare we hope that big? One hesitation here is that other reports have LeBron and Bosh to the Chicago Bulls. Another hesitation is that nobody as this point is doing anything more than glorified guessing, with free agency not even officially starting until midnight Wednesday. With that caveat, take a dip in our poll. Remember: Not asking what you hope will happen but what you realistically think will.

MARLINS LOOKING LIKE FOOLS ON MANAGERIAL MISHANDLING: I have made a cottage industry (mostly in this blog and in my Sunday notes column) of poking fun at Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria for his years of underspending. A few readers have complained about the Loria-bashing. Most recently I objected to the firing of manager Fredi Gonzalez, calling it unjust or at the very least premature. I wrote that ownership was setting Fredi up to fail and looking for a way to get rid of him to bring in Loria's longtime buddy Bobby Valentine. Well, I still believe the firing was preordained. I still believe Gonzalez's bosses never got him bullpen help but made him a scapegoat. But what has happened since has become a baseball joke rendering the Marlins a laughingstock. The Valentine hire went bad; I hear because Bobby V, with sudden leverage, demanded more money. So now the Marlins, confounded, are forced to say their inexperienced interim manager will keep the job the rest of this season. Meantime other than pitching coach Randy St. Claire the Marlins have no on-field staffer with any previous big-league experience. What an embarrassment. If anybody figures out a way to fire an owner, please let me know. Fredi should be laughing somewhere. Marlins fans should be crying, or angry, or fed up, or all of the above.

1aatigerw FORBES' MOST POWERFUL SPORTIES: Eighteen sports figures make the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Celebrities list topped by Oprah Winfrey. The sporties, by overall rank: 5. Golfer Tiger Woods (evidence serial adultery has not ruined his brand); 14. Laker Kobe Bryant; 20. Michael Jordan; 28. Heat's LeBron James (just wanted to see how that looked); 29. Tennis' Roger Federer; 31. Boxer Floyd Mayweather; 36. Soccer star David Beckham; 45. Golfer Phil Mickelson; 48. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo; 49. Yankee Alex Rodriguez; 52. Shaquille O'Neal; 55. Boxer Manny Pacquiao; 61. Tennis' Serena Williams; 64. Yankee Derek Jeter; 65. Cyclist Lance Armstrong; 81. Tennis' Maria Sharapova; 83. Tennis' Venus Williams; and 96. Autoracer Danica Patrick.From the sports periphery, list also includes: 15. Jay-Z, New Jersey Nets part owner; 85. Giselle Bundchen, wife of Tom Brady; and 92. Eva Longoria, wife of basketball's Tony Parker.  

U.S-GHANA SET AMERICAN SOCCER RECORD: The game that eliminated the United States from this World Cup was the most watched soccer match ever in America with 19.1 million viewers. Rounding out the top five: Brazil-Italy (1994) 18.1M; U.S.-China (women, 1999) 18.0M; U.S.-England (2010), 17.1M; and Italy-France (2006), 17.0M. 

1aacristiekerr AN ODE TO CRISTIE KERR: The LPGA tour has been stagnant for years as it fell under the increasing spell of foreign players. Asking Americans to embrace a sport dominated by South Korean women is a tough sell. That's more reason to appreciate Miami's own Cristie Kerr, who just won the LPGA Championship by a staggering 12 strokes (an event no American had won since 2000) and is now poised to overtake the No. 1 spot in the women's world rankings. Though overshadowed by Swede Annika Sorenstam, by Mexico's Loren Ochoa and by the South Korean stampede, Sunset High's Kerr (pictured) has carved out an excellent career. This was her 14th LPGA title and second major. She has been top-10 16 other times in majors including three runnerups. And, at 32, remarkably, she seems better than ever. If women's golf were bigger, Kerr would be on a stardom level with Serena and Venus or in the ballpark. Congrats, Cristie. Well done.

GREATEST NBA PLAYERS EVER: Website called Interbasket.net polled 54 basketball writers and announcers prior to the 2010 NBA Finals and asked them to name the five greatest players ever. Results: Michael Jordan 50 votes; Magic Johnson 44; Wilt Chamberlain 37; Larry Bird 35 and Bill Russell 30. Others: Oscar Robertson 24; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 22; Kobe Bryant 10; Elgin Baylor 4, Julius Erving and Jerry West 3; Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal 2; and Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon 1.

1aamickey MICKEY ROURKE UPDATE: Miami's own revitalized actor has shed his long, greasy-looking, serial-killer hair for a neater, shorter loo. Even more impressive than Mickey's new 'do: The fact his 57-year-old ass is dating (pictured) Anastassija Makarenko, a 24-year-old Russian model.

HEADLINES YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU'D SEE (one in a series): Evidently reports of his death were premature. But barely.

THE LIST: LONGEST-SERVING LOCAL PROS: Players who have played the most seasons for our four pro franchises:

Dolphins: Dan Marino 17; Bob Kuechenberg 15

Heat: Alonzo Mourning 12; Keith Askins 9

Panthers: Paul Laus 11; five tied with 9

Marlins: Luis Castillo 10; Jeff Conine & Alex Gonzalez 8

June 25, 2010

Marlins firing Fredi was premature, unjust (with poll); plus Rudy Gay on Heat radar?, U.S. soccer, tennis marathon & more

[Find "Futblog: World Cup'" in post just below this in the blog. Friday's four matches bring first round to close and set 16-team field. Also, join us at Twitter.com/gregcote]. 

1aafredi FREDI GONZALEZ CALLED OUT: THE POLL: I guess the headline above -- "Marlins firing Fredi is premature, unjust" -- sort of gives you an idea how I feel. For more click here for my column online in Thursday's pulp-edition. I think owner Jeffrey Loria was setting Fredi up to fail in order to hire his old pal Bobby Valentine, which now seems very likely. And how about Loria daring to says that everyone knows he is "all about winning." Really? Really!? Does that include all those years when he spent less on player payroll than any other owner in the sport? But enough of my ranting. Now you tell me about this managerial change. Take a dip in our poll and expound.

1aagayrudy HEAT DRAFT DONE. NOW COMES THE GOOD PART: I won't even mention any of the Heat's second-round draft picks from last night because in the big scheme they hardly matter. What does is free agency starting in six days and what will happen. These things seems more and more clear to me: 1) Re-signing Dwyane Wade long-term is a near-certainty. 2) Trading Michael Beasley is very likely and what makes sense is Beasley ending up in Memphis (which liked him in the draft) and Memphis signing and trading to Miami Rudy Gay, a less-than-max-cost guy who would provide offensive punch from the small-forward spot. Gay (pictured) turns 24 in August, and averaged 19.6 points last season. Don't put much stock in Pat Riley saying he won't trade Beasley. The player's value diminishes if Riles does anything but portray Beasley as a valuable piece in the team's future. 3) Chris Bosh will be the primary, realistic target in free agency, with Amare Stoudemire the acceptbale, though lesser, fallback. 4) That "We Want U Back"-themed birthday party wasn't all show. The Heat wants Udonis Haslem back. 5) By acquiring one max-cost guy like Bosh and one a bit cheaper like Gay, Pat Riley would have salary-cap space left over to fill in the cracks with some additional bargain pieces. If I am right, Wade-Bosh-Gay is your new  nucleus, Miami.

1aausa U.S. SOCCER WIN AT GROUND LEVEL: [See "Futblog: World Cup" just below this in the blog for more]. I was scheduled to write a column off the U.S. World Cup soccer game yesterday until Fredi Gonzalez was abruptly fired. Showed up with a buddy at Duffy's Plantation, a sports bar, for the 10 a.m. match, joined soon after by one of my sons. Place was packed, all U.S. supporters as far as I could tell. (Kept looking for an Algeria supporter from Miami's "Little Algiers." Didn't see one.). World Cup beer specials: 34-ounce drafts from various countries. Morning, but I partook of one (that I'm admitting to). Terrific crowd. "U-S-A!" chants, flags, face paint, the whole bit. I wore my USA soccer shirt and fit right in; no pretense of impartiality whatsoever and proud of it. When we scored in extra time on Landon Donovan's shot the bar erupted in sonic joy. I was hugging a guy I'd never met. I mean, there is something about the World Cup. Patriotism reigns. We are not cheering for a team, or even a sport. We are rooting for ourselves. It was a special late-morning I'll not forget. Pictured: A guy there who had applied his facepaint in the mirror so that (oops) when you looked at him you saw an A, a backward S, then a U. Nevertheless! A happy, proud American, and what's better than that!?

[Click here (then red button marked 'Start listening') for the U.S. goal call by the incomparable Andres Cantor. Geez, and I thought I was excited!]

1aaisner TENNIS MARATHON FINALLY ENDS: In an historic Wimbledon first-round match, John Isner (pictured) finally won this morning when his opponent, Nicolas Mahunt, died of old age. No I'm kidding. Mahunt lost in the 138-game fifth set but did not perish. Isner's final winning line: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. I play tennis. I can testify that this no-tiebreaker, win-by-two fifth set is one of the most remarkable sports occurences of our lifetime -- a record never to be broken or likely to be approached.

THE LIST: HEAT 2ND-ROUND PICKS: Eleven of the club's 26 second-round picks have gone on to appear in a game for Miami. Top five 2R picks based on career regular-season points for Heat:

5,473   Grant Long (1988-95)

2,544   Sherman Douglas (1989-92)

1,352   Matt Geiger (1992-95)

1,264   Rasual Butler (2002-05)

1,176   Eddie House (2000-03) 

Futblog / World Cup: First-round complete. Round of 16 set!

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Now that the World Cup's first round is complete and the 16-team field of survivors is set, we will introduce a brand new, separate blog post for the remainder of the tournament -- Futblog II -- including a new predict-the-winner poll. Look for it to post Saturday at 8 a.m. sharp!].

1aaajibjabsoccer 1aaamercup THIS IS THE OFFICIAL WORLD CUP BLOG OF THIS BLOG: Let's talk soccer! We start by offering a short video that features a dusty sandlot soccer game featuring the following five people (pictured right, clockwise from upper left): Former Peruvian World Cup star and Fort Lauderdale Striker Teofilo "Nene" Cubillas; Dolphins legend Don Shula; Heat star Dwyane Wade; Miami Herald sports columnist and blog inventor Greg Cote; and former University of Miami athletic director Sam Jankovich. Click here to enjoy.

[Continually updated day-by-day results and commentary happen immediately after the poll...]

THE WORLD CUP POLL: I am limited to 10 poll answers. Sorry, Hondurans! Couldn't even list my own personal country, Cote d'Ivoire. Try to vote here with your head, not your heart, to the degree that is even possible in an event that is all about passion. And tell why you picked who you did if you'd like.

FRIDAY JUNE 25 / DAY 15:

Match of the Day:

Spain 2, Chile 1 (Group H) --- Today's four matches bring to a close the first round and set the 16-team field for second-round elimination games beginning Saturday. Spain, remember, was the favorite entering this Cup -- or at least the co-fave with Brazil -- but the Spaniards needed to win to assure advancement. Both teams advance with the result, but Spain wrests first place in the group, meaning Chile must face Brazil in the first elimination game.

Other matches:

Ivory Coast 3, North Korea 0 (G) --- North Korea was eliminated and Ivory Coast even if it won had a 99.9 percent likelihood of not advancing based on a goals-differential tiebreaker. We unabashedly took sides in this meaningless game: Against the Communist, nut-run Koreans and in favor of the official team of this blog, Greg Cote d'Ivoire.

Portugal 0, Brazil 0 (G) --- Tournament power Brazil had clinched advancement and Portgual had all but done the same even if it lost, so this was another match with little meaning. The draw was no big surprise, and no doubt about Brazil's favorite's role should be implied by it.

Switzerland 0, Honduras 0 (H) --- Honduras was all but mathematically eliminated going in, but  Switzerland could have snuck into the round-of-16 had it won by at least two goals. 

THURSDAY JUNE 24 / Day 14:

Match of the Day:

1aaballslovakia Slovakia 3, Italy 2 (Group F) --- Italy, the forgotten power in this tournament and (oh by the way) the defending World Cup champion, proved itself too old and stunningly is eliminated with today's defeat. It is a major humiliation for a big team. Slovakia advances instead in what was a winner-take-all-match.

Other matches:

Paraguay 0, New Zealand 0 (F) --- A draw was enough for Paraguay to advance to the round of 16 as group winner. The Kiwis are out after finishing third of four, but with the unexpected solace of having finished higher than once-mighty Italy.

Japan 3, Denmark 1 (E) --- Both teams were tied for second in group with three points, so this was winner- take-all in terms of advancement. Japan needed only a draw but won comfortably, Denmark had to win but dug itself a 2-nil hole early.

Netherlands 2, Cameroon 1 (E) --- Group-leading Dutch had already clinched advancement going in and  cellar-dwelling Cameroonians already were eliminated. It was a play-nice-and-don't-get-hurt affair for the Dutch but they won anyway and could be a darkhorse to win it all.

Day 14 summary: Defending champion Italy failing to advance surely was the story of the day. Netherlands previously had qualified to move on. Japan earned the round-of-16 with a clutch, must win. A draw was enough for Paraguay because of prior good work, and it was Slovakia advancing at the expense of the crestfallen Italians.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 23 / DAY 13:

Match of the Day:

1aaamerica United States 1, Algeria 0 (Group C) --- Landon Donovan's goal in extra time is the Big Decider as America advances beyond the group stage to the round of 16. This is not an impartial blog and does not pretend to be. I watched the match at a sports bar, wearing a USA team shirt, and will further describe the atmosphere later. America deserved to win, after being cheated of a winning goal in its earlier game, and after having a goal disallowed on a dubious offside call in this match. A tremendous day for American soccer!

Other matches:

England 1, Slovenia 0 (C) --- England, the pre-tournament group favorite, saved face with a win-or-else decision to advance to the second round. There was enormous pressure on the Brits, who were the clear group power entering play.

Germany 1, Ghana 0 (D) --- Germany advances as group leader. Ghana, even with a los, advances in second place based on the goal-differential tiebreaker over Australia. Pressure was on the Germans to advance as group winner and stake their claim to being a World Cup title contender, and they did, if unconvingingly.

Australia 2, Serbia 1 (D) --- Both teams are out. Serbia could have advanced with a win. Aussies, even with the win, lose the goals-differential tiebreaker to Ghana.

Day 13 summary: "U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!" America's advancement on an extra-time goal by Landon Donovan is the story of the day, at least parochially. Others: England sneaking into the second round, Germany qualifying as expected, and Ghana representing beleaguered Africa.

TUESDAY JUNE 22 / DAY 12:

Match of the Day:

1aaargmessi Argentina 2, Greece 0 (Group B) --- Today began the wave of Game 3s, four straight days of four games each that will conclude group play and set the round of 16. Argentina is so good that it won even though it didn't have to and Greece did. Greeks eliminated with the defeat, and Argentines reaffirming themselves as a bona fide threat to win it all. 

Other matches:

Uruguay 1, Mexico 0 (A), 10 a.m. --- There was not much pressure on either squad here, with winner sure to advance, both advancing with a draw, and even loser likely to. Sure enough, Uruguay breezes to next round, and Mexico even in defeat advances with a +1 to -2 goals-differential tiebreaker over South Africa.

1aafrench South Africa 2, France 1 (A), 10 a.m. --- Both teams are eliminated. France is by far the disappointment/embarrassment of this Cup with its chaos, discord and mutiny. (Handy headline: "French toasted!") South Africa isn't far behind, as the first host nation ever to expire in the group phase.

South Korea 2, Nigeria 2 (B) --- Argentina beating Greece in the match going on concurrently meant South Korea needed only a draw to advance, while Nigeria required a win. The back and forth match left the team from the home continent in tears, and South Korea in tears of joy.

Day 12 summary: Uruguay and Mexico advance from Group A, and Argentina and South Korea from Group B. Argentina looks as strong as any side in the tournament at the moment, while the day marks one of the darkest in the history of the sport for crestfallen France.

MONDAY JUNE 21 / DAY 11:

Match of the Day:

1aaspain Spain 2, Honduras 0 (Group H) --- This match wrapped up Game 2s of the opening round and Spain (loss-win) -- to many the tournament favorite going in -- with its 2-nil win finds itself back in decent position advance. Spain is tied for second in the group but has a one-goal tiebreaker advantage over the Swiss entering Game 3s. Honduras (loss-loss) is not mathetically eliminated but its chances of doing so are infinitesimal.

Other matches:

Portugal 7, North Korea 0 (G) --- The 2010 Cup's biggest goal avalanche included one by Cristiano Ronaldo as Portugal (tie-win) all but clinched its advancement, staking its claim to move on from the group along with Brazil. North Koreans (loss-loss) were officially eliminated.

Chile 1, Switzerland 0 (H) --- Chile (win-win) puts itself in the driver's seat to advance, while the Swiss (win-loss) remain in contention but are now vulnerable to being leapfrogged by Spain. Switzerland was playing a man down but had a golden, missed opportunity to level the match in the closing minutes.

Day 11 summary: Pre-tournament co-favorite Spain breathes life into its hopes. Portugal and Chile position themselves for great chances to advance.

FIFA BENCHES REF WHO SCREWED U.S. --- FIFA has not included Koman Coulibaly, the referee whose egregiously erroneous decision cost the U.S. a win over Slovenia, on its roster of referees for the next round. That is tantamount to an admission by the governing body that Coulibaly made an awful mistake. Well, OK, it might not be. But it should be! 

SUNDAY JUNE 20 / DAY 10:

Match of the Day:

1aaholland2 Brazil 3, Ivory Coast 1 (Group G) --- Brazil earns game-of-day honors here as long as the U.S. isn't playing, given that Brazil has established itself as the 2010 Cup favorite and plays the most entertaining futbol around. (Besides, the opponent was the official team of this blog: Greg Cote d'Ivoire). Brazil (win-win) has clinched advancement to the round of 16. The Coast (tie-loss) remains in contention.

Other matches:

Paraguay 2, Slovakia 0 (F) --- Paraguay (tie-win) with this result assumes first place in the group and is now controlling its own fate to advance, while Slovakia (tie-loss) drops to last and needs much luck from here.

Italy 1, New Zealand 1 (F) --- Italians (tie-tie) dominated the Kiwis (tie-tie) in time of possession, shots and corner kicks but the Azzurri settled for a second straight disappointing draw. It will be must-win for both in their third and final first-round match.

Day 10 summary: Brazil is, appropriately, among first teams to officially advance beyond first round and continues to look like the team to beat for the world championship. Italy continues to join France and perhaps England as the major teams most struggling in this Cup.

SATURDAY JUNE 19 / DAY 9:

Match of the Day:

1aaholland Netherlands 1, Japan 0 (Group E) --- Netherlands wins 1-nil as the march of Game 2s continues. Not a scintillating day on the calendar but this rated as the MOD because Netherlands is the biggest team playing, the one of six in action today with a realistic shot of perhaps winning it all. N'lands (win-win) advances to next phase; Japan (win-loss) still is well in it. Oh, and whatever happened to the word "Holland"?

Other matches:

Ghana 1, Australia 1 (D) --- A disappointing draw for Ghana (win-tie), which remains possibly Africa's best hope to advance. Aussies look like one of the weaker teams in the Cup field and remain on life support in terms of reaching the round-of-16.

Denmark 2, Cameroon 1 (E), 2:30 p.m. --- Denmark (loss-win) puts itself in reasonable contention to advance, while Cameroon (loss-loss) is officially eliminated. African teams now have one win from 11 matches on their own continent.

Day 9 summary: Perhaps the least eventful day yet in the first round, highlighted by the Netherlands underlining itself as a second-tier favorite to win it all, and Cameroon epitomizing the overall disappointing showing by African teams.

FRIDAY JUNE 18 / DAY 8:

Match of the Day:

1aaamericasoccer United States 2, Slovenia 2 (Group C) --- Landon Donovan, minutes after the match ended: "I don't know how they stole that goal from us." What a wild, crazy result. As an American fan I'm not sure whether to be thrilled or angry. U.S. (tie-tie) trailed 2-0 -- such an enormous hole in soccer -- but fought back for a dramatic 2-2 draw with Slovenia (win-tie) to keep alive American hopes for advancing to the round of 16. But! America had scored for an apparent 3-2 lead in the 85th minute only to have the goal disallowed -- "Stolen," said Donovan -- by the referee. The apparent call, offside, was wrong according to TV replays. And if it was a foul call in the box, replays showed the only obvious foul was American Michael Bradley being held. Bottom line: A 2-2 draw is a remarkable comeback for the U.S. and a great result. But by consensus of replays and all commentary this was a shoulda-been 3-2 American victory denied on a very, very dubious call by a referee who had a nightmarish game. By the way, in case you didn't guess this is unabashedly a patriotic blog and I do not feign impartiality. During the match I I was wearing a U.S. soccer jersey I bought at a Sports Authority store at Sawgrass Mills. Seriously. I paid 50 bucks for a glorified T-shirt. God bless America!

Other matches:

Serbia 1, Germany 0 (D) --- Germany (win-loss) on the wrong end of a stunning upset by Serbia (loss-win), a result that means neither team has clinched nor been eliminated from advancing to round two. Die Mannschaft was a clear favorite but was hurt by playing a man down after a red card, and by a missed penalty kick.

England 0, Algeria 0 (C) --- U.S. caught a break with just the result it wanted: a draw. England (tie-tie) was a huge favorite to send Algeria (loss-tie) to a second straight defeat, which would have made Algeria the first team eliminated. A win by either team would have left America in third place with one game to play in the first round and needing luck to advance. Instead, Uncle Sam is tied for second in the group and will be in great shape to advance if it wins it final first-round match, vs. Algeria.

Day 8 summary: In one turbulent hour U.S hopes went from being on death's door (at 0-2) to skyrocketing with joy (at a shoulda-have-been 3-2) to being somewhere in between with the final tie. Germany's loss continues the trend of unpredictabilty. And England fell in with France as the tournament's biggest big-team underperformer so far.

FOR U.S. TO ADVANCE: Americans next play at 10 a.m. Wednesday, vs. Algeria. England and Slovenia play concurrently. And it's pretty simple: U.S advances with a win, and is out with a loss. Period. If the U.S. ties, we are in if Slovenia beats England, and out of England beats Slovenia. If both group matches tie Wednesday it would come down to a tiebreaker. The first TB is goal differential, and the second TB is goals scored. Simplest bottom line: Win and in. 

THURSDAY JUNE 17 / DAY 7:

Match of the Day:

1aamexfans Mexico 2, France 0 (Group A) --- The appropriately named Les Bleus, France (tie-loss), sought to reestablish itself as the pre-Cup group favorite but failed miserably in a 2-0 loss to Mexico (tie-win). Stakes were huge. Mexico, El Tri, now joins Uruguay as faves to advance from the group. France, probably the disappointment of the Cup so far, is in a world of hurt and facing elimination.

Other matches:

Argentina 4, South Korea 1 (B) --- A virtual co-match of the day, except there will be more sheer desperation in France-Mexico. Argentina (win-win) routed SK (win-loss) 4-1 on a hat trick by Gonzalo Higuain and will dance into the second round. Argentina when on its game is as entertaining as any team with its Lionel Messi-led attacking line. Messi's role in Higuain's hat trick (the first in the World Cup since 2002) was huge. Argentina is getting the Messi that Barcelona got, which feathers the growing championship hopes of Diego Maradona's La Albiceleste.

Greece 2, Nigeria 1 (B) --- Greece (loss-win) overcame a one-goal deficit to claim its first-ever World Cup victory and keep alive its chances to advance. A crushing defeat for Nigeria (loss-loss) in its home continent, one that realistically, if not quite mathematically, eliminates any hope to advance beyond round one.

Day 7 summary: Argentina reaffirmed itself as having the best overall Cup showing thus far, while France did the opposite, underlining itself as the greatest disappointment. And Nigeria continued a letdown showing overall by teams from the host continent Africa.

DEFENDING THE WORLD CUP: Click here for my column, online and in Thursday's pulp-edition Miami Herald, defending soccer and this World Cup against its critics. Refreshing unpredictability has been a hallmark, giving rise to possibility for teams like the U.S.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 16 / DAY 6:

Match of the Day:

1aaswiss Switzerland 1, Spain 0 (Group H) --- Oh my. The upset of the World Cup so far. Spain is the favorite of many to win its first WC and was predicted to handle the Swiss without much struggle. (Then again, that's what we said of co-favorite Brazil before it managed a 2-1 decision over plucky North Korea). Well, Spain dominated by most measures, leading in shots (24-9), corner kicks (11-3) and ball possession (74 percent). But the lightly regarded Swiss won the only statistic that matters. This was the 16th Cup match and completes for each team the first of three games in the first round.

Other matches:

Chile 1, Honduras 0 (H) --- Not a marquee match but somebody was going to be ebullient as Chile celebrates its first World Cup victory in 48 years against a country, Honduras, in the WC for the first time since 1982. Chile is generally seen as the favorite to advance from this group along with Spain and established that. 

Uruguay 3, South Africa 0 (A), 2:30 p.m. --- This began the wave of second games in the three-match first round. Uruguay, impressive, now has tie/win and is positioned to advance or perhaps even win a group in which favored France has appeared vulnerable. Host South Africa, now tie/loss, is in jeopardy.

Day 6 summary: Spain losing is the upset of the tournament so far. Uruguay, arguably, has made the Cup's most impressive showing so far.

TUESDAY JUNE 15 / DAY 5:

Match of the Day:

1aaelano Brazil 2, North Korea 1 (Group G) --- Brazil went up 2-0 on gorgeous Robinho through-pass finished neatly by Elano (shown celebrating) in 72nd minute. Had been 1-0 in 55th minute on Maicon shot off extreme angle near end line -- on what could have been an intended crossing pass. North Korea scored with one minute left. The scoreless first half was a stunner. I gave North Korea no chance not involving the deployment of nuclear weapons by Kim Jong-il. This was the match of the day because it is BRAASSIIILL!! It is the World Cup bow for the tournament co-favorite, and that alone made it special.

Other matches:

New Zealand 1, Slovakia 1 (F) --- The Slovakians (the Slovenly?) should have prevailed in this  match and led late before squandering the lead to the Kiwis. Can't see either side reaching the second round.

Ivory Coast 0, Portugal 0 (G) --- If not for Brazil's debut this would have been match of the day: a fierce battle to advance between two even teams, with two of this Cup's most exciting stars in Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Les Elephants' Didier Drogba, and -- not to forget -- the Official Team of This Blog in Ivory Coast, a.k.a Greg Cote d'Ivoire. Alas, all that came of it was nil-nil and not much Drogba, who entered late. One of these teams will advance from the Group of Death along with Brazil, but today gave no clue which it will be.

Day 5 summary: North Korea pushing Brazil was the story of the day. It doesn't mean North Korea is big enough to make the second round or that Brazil is fragile enough not to. But it sure made for an unexpectedly interesting match.

WC TELLY RATINGS A HIT: Michelle Kaufman, our writer in South Africa, passes along that rating for U.S.-England drew 16.7 million American viewers -- more than the first four games of the NBA Finals. Go soccer!

MONDAY JUNE 14 / DAY 4:

Match of the Day:

1aaitaly Italy 1, Paraguay 1 (Group F) --- Italy, ranked fifth in the world, is defending World Cup champion, a heavy group favorite and not an unreasonable longshot (10-1) to repeat as champ. Therefore this rain-drenched result will please Paraguayans much more than it will fans of the Azzurri. Paraguay could be group's next-best team and was out to show it has the cred.

Other Matches:

Netherlands 2, Denmark 0 (E) --- Group favorite Netherlands, ranked fourth in the world and judged a second-tier Cup favorite, was a clear pick over a Denmark squad whose advance to the round of 16 would be a surprise. Dutch rolled thanks in part to an own-goal by the not-very-great Danes.

Japan 1, Cameroon 0 (E) --- Only goal by Keisuke Honda. I used to drive one of those in the '80s. Japan's win is an upset that is certainly deflating for Cameroon, the favorite in this match on its home continent. Japan now has inside track to advance past first-round along with group strongman Netherlands.

Day 4 summary: An awful lot of people think Netherlands -- if not Spain or Brazil -- is the smart money to win it all. Today did not damage those beliefs. But Italy's hopes of repeating its world title probably were not enhaced by its opening draw.

WILL THE BUZZING STOP?: It was being reported (click here) that FIFA might ban vuvuzelas and their incessant buzzing drone from inside World Cup stadiums. But latest reports (click here) are that the noise will continue. Dear South Africans: Can't you just blow those damned horns after goals or something? Must it be constantly!? Every stadium sounds like it has been overrun by a billion bees.

SUNDAY JUNE 13 / DAY 3:

Match of the Day:

1aagermany Germany 4, Australia 0 (Group D) --- Match of the Day? Not for competitiveness, surely, but because Germany was the only "big" team in play. Routine win was expected and, true to form, Germans won in 4-nil rout. (You like a whole lot of white people on the pitch? This was your match!) Though Aussies looked weak, result verifies Germany as a solid second-tier title contender, right after co-faves Brazil and Spain.

Other matches:

Slovenia 1, Algeria 0 (C) --- Well, this makes it interesting. For all of the good work by England the U.S. in yesterday's draw, Solevnia is now the Group C leader with this win. Slovenia! That torques up the pressure on the Americans to beat (not just tie) Slovenia when they meet this coming Friday. Slovenia won on a sloppy play by the goalkeeper for Algeria, which played a man down.

Ghana 1, Serbia 0 (D) --- Ghana (coached by a Serb) scores late in match on penalty kick off a hand-ball. Another match well off the marquee, but an interesting affair. Ghana earns inside track to advance (along with favorite Germany) beyond the group.

Day 3 summary: Germany was the day's biggest winner by score, but Slovenia took those honors otherwise, with its outright victory putting unexpected pressure on the U.S. and England in Group C.

SATURDAY JUNE 12 / DAY 2: U.S.-ENGLAND IN SPOTLIGHT:

Match of the Day:

1aahandofclod United States 1, England 1 (Group C) --- A draw that will please the American side more than it will the Brits. U.S. evened score late in first half on a fortunate goal by Clint Dempsey, a shot that should have been routinely saved but trickled past the English goalkeeper, an egregious, costly mistake that one British tabloid headlined "Hand of Clod." Brits had led 1-0 on a score in fourth minute, underlining two concerns for U.S. going into the match: Defense, and surviving early nerves. England possessed the ball more effectively but the U.S. overall was not outplayed. Original post: Let me say unequivocally this is not an impartial, dispassionate blog. "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" And I say that even though England is my best bet in my WC pool. This might be the most highly anticipated American soccer match in history. Says U.S. Soccer Federation prez Sunil Gulati: "This game is about where the sport is in the U.S." Highly regarded England, led by Wayne Rooney, is dreaming of its first World Cup title since 1966. The Americans are out to prove they are worthy of fathoming such dreams.

Other matches:

South Korea 2, Greece 0 (B) --- Not a sexy match except to fans of either country, but the first outright win of the Cup, and an upset to boot. Greece, ranked 12th in the world, was seen as solid favorite against South Korea squad ranked 40th and judged a 250-1 WC longshot.

Argentina 1, Nigeria 0 (B) --- This one had Match of the Day cred if not for US-England. Argentina is thinking itself a World Cup title contender, led by the brilliant forward Lionel Messi and the volatile coach Diego Maradona, and did as it needed to here against a tough Nigeria squad. In the fourth game of this Cup, after two draws and an upset, Argentina becomes the first favorite in the win column.

Day 2 summary: A good start for the United States, tying an English squad that fancies itself a championship contender. Also a solid opener for Argentina; Diego Maradona has earned himself some luxury time on the bidet, perhaps? Greece's result is by far the poorest in the five games so far.

FRIDAY JUNE 11 / DAY 1: SOUTH AFRICA KICKS IT OFF:

Match of the Day:

1aafanssa South Africa 1, Mexico 1 (Group A) --- Host South Africans led 1-0 on goal by the fabulously named Siphiwe Tshabalala, went on to tie Mexico, 1-1. That's good, pleasing result for the hosts. South Africa is considered perhaps weakest team ever to host Cup, and was seen as in danger of being first host ever to lose its opening match.

Other match:

Uruguay 0, France 0 (A) --- France was lucky to qualify for the Cup on a Thierry Henry handball not called, and, although favored here, I'd seen them as fodder for an opening upset and was right.

Day 1 summary: A robust start for host South Africa. Opening results underline that Group A could be the toughest call on which two teams will advance to round two, with France a clearly vulnerable favorite, Uruguay and Mexico just about as good, and South Africa parlaying the considerable tailwind of adoring crowds.

1aaelephant ELEPHANT DELAYS U.S. SQUAD: The U.S. team bus en route to practice Friday was delayed four minutes by an elephant that blocked the roadway while casually snacking on a tree. Cannot confirm the pachyderm was working undercover for the English side.

A HUMBLING EXPERIENCE: Click here for my World Cup column, online now and in our special WC preview section. I have followed and appreciated soccer since the Fort Lauderdale Strikers days, circa 1977. I also played soccer at the college level, although that begs explaining. It was only a club team, and I was only the backup goalkeeper. In my only start, we lost at the Florida Institute of Technology, 8-0.

1aavuvu VUVUZELA!: The damned tournament hasn't even gotten underway yet and already I am tired of hearing and hearing about the "vuvuzela" (which you may know by its Setswanna name, "lepatata"), the horn South Africans blow at soccer matches. The sound is mournful, like a cross between a foghorn and an elephant giving birth. Plus, whenever I see a picture of someone blowing a vuvuzela (as left), it reminds me of me in my college days, drinking a yard of beer.

FAVORED NATIONS: Bookmaker.com calls it a near dead-heat between Spain (21 percent chace of winning) and Brazil (20%), followed by England (15.5) and Argentina (14.5). Second-tier: Italy, Netherlands, Germany, France. Over/under on total goals scored is 160.5. Other over/unders include 650.5 corner kicks, 295.5 yellow cards, 18.5 red cards and 15.5 penalty kicks scored.

WCFF (WORLD CUP FAST FACT): I am taller than Lionel Messi, the greatest soccer player in the world. And by a good two, two and a half inches.

CHAMPIONS IN THE FIELD: The seven nations that have combined to win the 18 previous Cup titles all are in the 2010 field: Brazil (1958-62-70-94-02); Italy (1934-38-82-06); Germany (1954-74-90); Argentina (1978-86); Uruguay (1930-50); France (1998) and England (1966).

1aajpsartre SOCCER FOR NERDS: I stumbled upon and reccomend a site called SoccerQuantified. It caters to the cerebral, mathematical you. Particularly like the tone-setting quote from the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (pictured): "In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team." Any doubt the coming month shall prove him right?

WORLD CUP IN MIAMI?: SoFla is a major part of U.S. bid to host World Cup in 2018 or (more likely) 2022, and you can help Miami's effort by signing an online petition at gousabid.com/miami.

This World Cup blogpost will be updated continually throughout the June 11-July 11 tournament. Don't worry. We'll have other posts, too. I mean, I love soccer, but I'm not trying to commit blogicide or anything.

June 21, 2010

Should taxpayers fund Dolphin stadium upgrades? (with poll); plus Marlins' horn embarrassment, Nick Saban's apology, BP oil-spill art & more

[BULLETIN: Wednesday's live online chat is canceled. Click HERE to post questions early for next week's chat].

[Find "FUTBLOG: WORLD CUP" post directly above this in the blog. Also, follow along at Twitter.com/gregcote].

[Click here for today's (Wednesday's) column by me: Let the fun begin! On Panthers' trade, NHL and NBA drafts and looming basketball free agency kicking off two teams' wild summer].

1aabucks TAX DOLLARS FOR DOLPHINS STADIUM UPGRADES? THE POLL: I wish the Dolphins would think more about playing in Super Bowls and less about hosting them, but whether taxpayers should substantially fund almost $200 million in stadium upgrades to attract future SBs is a valid question. I think public investment should be finite. For example, if the Marlins in eight years say they want to upgrade their new ballpark, the club should be on its own for that. In the Dolphins' case the question is complicated by the fact the stadium was privately built (by the late, great Joe Robbie) and previous major upgrades were privately assumed (by Wayne Huizenga). So public investment in the stadium has been minimal. Still, the inclination here is to think Stephen M. Ross and his suite of celebrity part-owners should be the ones footing the majority of the bill. Your thoughts welcome. Take dip in our poll.

DOLPHINS' 17-0 SAFER THAN EVER: Don Shula should be smiling as the NFL moves ever closer to an 18-game regular season (from the current 16). It will mean a team would have to go 21-0 instead of 19-0 to equal Miami's 1972 Perfect Season. I have always tended to think Miami will have to share its unique perch someday, but am beginning to feel more and more the opposite.

MARLINS' MINI-VUVUZELA DISASTER: The Marlins marketing guy who dreamed up the vuvuzela-like horn giveaway at this past Saturday's game must be pretty proud for having unleashed an embarrassing evening that had even Marlins players complaining. I mean, other stadiums are banning these horns, and the Marlins give away 15,000 of them? It was a nightmare; both teams hated the noise, and the club now needs to ban its own giveaway item. I'm not sure which was worse: the giveaway itself, or club president David Samson claiming the next day the promotion "absolutely worked." Also from that memorable night, the batting-order snafu might not have been Fredi Gonzalez's fault, but it's his responsibility. I am not happy to say that I think if this season continues as a non-playoff year and a managerial change is made, that gave the firing squad a bit of ammo. Finally, the Marlin bullpen's 11 walks in five innings was a plain embarrassment.

ALL HAIL JOSH JOHNSON: On a brighter note, Marlinheads, Josh Johnson is really, really good, and his current streak -- eight straight starts giving up zero or one run -- deserves more attention than it is getting. Which is why I wrote this column online now and shipping to Tuesday's pulp edition. Since 1900, there have been 18 perfect games pitched. Since 1900, what Johnson has done has been accomplished only eight times.

1aaobamawave OBAMA TAKES RIGHTEOUS STAND, SITS DURING 'WAVE': At a recent Nationals game, President Barack Obama conspicuously did not participate in "The Wave," which everyone thinks is passe' and wishes would go away except The Wavers themselves, many of whom are drunk. We want our presidents to be or at least appear dignified. People doing The Wave do not appear dignified. It is physically impossible to stand and throw your arms spastically in the air while shouting "Whoaaaa!" and appear dignified at the same time. If you were to start a list of things a president of the United States should not be seen doing in public, The Wave and farting very possibly would top that list.

1aabannertiger2 ANTI-TIGER SENTIMENT EASING?: Well, probably in general, but not with the guy who rented the plane that carried this banner over the weekend U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. By the way, Dustin Johnson, the guy who led going into the last round but shot 82? He looked like me on that one three-hole, six-over stretch. Who had the more embarrassing weekend: Dustin or the imploding French World Cup soccer

1aanicks NICK SABAN SAYS SORRY. SORT OF: Alabama coach Nick Saban, in a new interview with The Sporting News, apologizes somewhat (and somewhat tardily) for the way he left the Dolphins following the 2006 season. Most all will recall that amid the skullduggery he stated flatly, "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach," prior to becoming the Alabama coach. The money quote: "Would I manage it differently. Absolutely." And: "I do apologize for any professional mishandling that might have occured." Saban also notes that he "made the organization better." Which might be debatable, considering what he left for Cam Cameroon finished 1-15. And considering it was on Saban's watch that Miami infamously chose Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees. Give Saban credit for his semi-regret and qualified apology. He's still a bit of weasel, though.

1aabpoil BP OIL-SPILL ART: The unnatural disaster in the Gulf Coast is entering its third month with no end in sight. I'd imagine some people might think the poster pictured is in bad taste. But I don't see it as making fun of the awful plight of birds and fish. I see it as closer to political art that is anti-British Petroleum, and therefore alright by me.

RADIO WARS: Somebody told me they heard WQAM's Sid Rosenberg crowing on the air about beating 790 The Ticket's Dan Le Batard head to head in the latest ratings book. Two thoughts: 1) Both shows are very different, and very good. 2) Sid's winning rating was 2.4 to Dan's 2.2. Shouldn't there be a rule that 5.0 or better is a prerequisite for any bragging whatsoever?

THE LIST: DOLPHINS' FATHERS AND SONS: Fathers and sons who have played or coached with the Dolphins, chronologically based on father:

Coach George Wilson (1966-69) & QB George Jr. (1966)

QB Bob Griese (1967-80) & QB Brian (2003)

LB Rudy Barber (1968) & FB Kantroy (1999)

Coach Don Shula (1970-95) & ass'ts David (1982-88), Mike (1991-92, '00-02) 

DT Randy Crowder (1974-76) & LB Channing (2005-current)

June 18, 2010

Stanton grand slam!; plus Dolphins on T.O., Haynesworth (with poll), Lakers win, Miami-Wade County, meditating with Ricky Williams & more

[Join the happy family at Twitter.com/gregcote or never quite get over the gnawing feeling of not knowing what you missed].

MIKE STANTON MAKES IT COUNT: Recently slumping Marlins phenom Mike Stanton just tomahawked his first career home run, a grand slam at home vs. the Rays. Sweet. First of a slew.

AVOID TEMPTATION, DOLPHINS. RUN LIKE HELL!: Two of the NFL's biggest-baggage/biggest-talent players, receiver Terrell Owens and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, are available. You could make an argument the Dolphins should be interested in one or both; take a dip in our poll and tell us why. I'd argue against both. Owens, openly available and relatively cheap, might be a nice complement to Brandon Marshall and further improve the WR corps, but by how much? At his age, is he worth the chemistry risk? Haynesworth, the disgruntled Redskin, is gettable by trade or possibly for less if his fed-up team elects to waive him. That story remains really fluid. He turns 29 Thursday, still has some tread on his tires but isn't worth the headache. His Washington teammates think him selfish. The talent isn't worth the trouble. Your thoughts invited.

1aalakers win LAKERS TAKE GAME 7, TITLE: I wrote here there was no way the Lakers would lose at home tonight. Just no way whatsoever. I couldn't recall ever being more certain of the outcome of a championship game. Well, I was sort of right and sort of wrong. L.A. won, but it wasn't with the comfort I'd imagined in a game that was at times brutal to watch offensively. Gotta love Ron Artest in the postgame interview, though, thanking (among others) his psychiatrist. One question about the celebration photo at right: Why is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lurking in the background looking all angry and sinister? Creepy! 

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING MIAMI-WADE COUNTY: So Miami-Dade County proclaims to officially rename itself Miami-Wade County the week of July 1-7 to coincide with the start of NBA free agency. Is this getting to be a bit much? No? The Heat create a We Want Wade website and buy a billboard with a blank check on it. Now the local government shows its love. I think he gets it, people. I think Dwyane knows we want him back. Instead of the Internet campaigning and billboard and mayoral proclamations, just present to Wade one Chris Bosh (OK and maybe somebody else) and everything will be fine.

IZZO'S DECISION AND HEAT: Tom Izzo electing to return to Michigan State and not taking the Cavaliers job is widely seen as based on some inside inkling that he wouldn't have been inheriting LeBron James. If so that would increase the chances Miami has a shot at LeBron, albeit from really slight to only regular-slight. The Heat's best realistic free-agent hope remains Chris Bosh , with Amare Stoudemire an acceptable (though lesser) second option. 

1aarickymeditate 1aarickymed2 THE LATEST BEND IN RICKY WILLIAMS' ODYSSEY: Dolphins running back Ricky Williams is leading weekly meditation classes at Nova Southeastern University, one-hour sessions open to all, and free. A handful of people show up, less if you don't count sports writers trolling for easy, can't-miss columns. In the photo here of a recent class there is Tim Graham (burgundy shirt), who blogs on the AFC East for ESPN.com, and Dave Hyde (white shirt), a sports columnist for the Sun-Sentinel. Click on Tim or Dave to read what they wrote about meditating with Ricky. In the spirit of disclosure I (not above trolling for an easy column) wanted to take the class as well -- figured I'd ask rather than just show up -- but Ricky said no thanks. I guess over the years I have needled and poked at his eccentricities one too many times. Oh well. Que sera sera. Williams continues to be a fascinating, admirable person, and a pretty damned fine football player, too, whether he likes me or not.

OH MY GOSH JOSH: Do not concede the NL Cy Young award to anyone right now. Anyone. Right in the mix: Marlin Johnson, at 8-2, with an ERA under 2.00 after giving up two runs in his past 47 innings. (Now if we can only get hanlet Ramirez to start hitting as well as JJ is pitching...) Johnson's Cy Young impediment isn't anybody else. It's his own team. He'll only be considered if Florida is judged a playoff contender late in the season. [Thursday evening update: Marlins just demoted Cameron Maybin to Triple A. Curious to see how his future with the team plays out. He's the Michael Beasley of the diamond].

THE LIST: GAME 7'S: They have become rare in the three major sports that offer them, especially in the basketball and baseball. The five most recent Game 7's in the NBA Finals, with series MVP:

2010   Lakers vs. Celtics (TBD)

2005   Spurs def. Pistons (Tim Duncan)

1994   Rockets def. Knicks (Hakeem Olajuwon)

1988   Lakers def. Pistons (James Worthy)

1984   Celtics def. Lakers (Larry Bird) 

June 16, 2010

Like I said about L.A. & Kobe...; plus Mike Stanton's home debut, PETA vs. Marlins, Dwyane Wade & more

[It's LIVE CHAT WEDNESDAY! I have alternated colors in the phrase to give you an idea of all the fun we'll have. Click on Chat to post questions early or to join us live today from 1-2 p.m. Also, follow at Twitter.com/gregcote, the Official Twitter Site of America. Together we'll catch bin Laden even if we have to do so individually and face arrest].

ON MIKE STANTON'S HOME DEBUT: Click on Be Excited, Be Patient for my column off last night's home debut by Mike Stanton. The kid went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, but, as I note in the column, Dwyane Wade's home debut on Oct. 31, 2003 was a four-point game on 1-for-9 shooting. The crowd of 17,000-plus was encouraging and I think largely due to Stanton. Tuesdays are usually death for attendance, the Rangers are not a big draw, plus Game 6 of the NBA Finals and President Obama competed on TV. Ordinarily that would spell a generously announced 12K or so. As for Stanton's first big-league home run? I'm calling it for tonight. Fourth inning, left field, 413 feet.

LAKERS IN CHARGE HEADING TO 7: OK so Boston went up 3-2. Big deal. I tried to tell y'all that with the Lakers at home last night and again in a Game 7, Team Kobe was in charge all the way. Last night's rout was proof. Who wins Thursday night? Hint: Jack Nicholson will be smiling. Click here for my column on how this NBA Finals is earning its buzz.

1aafish PETA TAKES AIM AT MARLINS AQUARIUM: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is asking the Marlins to abandon their plan to have live salt-water aquarium tanks as backstops on either side of home plate at the new ballpark opening in 2012. A PETA spokesman said the noise and chaos of a stadium will be "stressful and maddening" to fish and suggested "robotic fish" as an alternative. Robot fish! You know what I suggest? I suggest a meddlesome group change its acronym to IAPETA: Incredibly Annoying People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Besides, I don't know who their source is on those tanks being stressful to fish. I spoke to the fish pictured at right, who was delighted at the idea of auditioning for a spot in the tank. Gotta run. Meeting friends at a sushi restaurant.

1aaawade WADE PLEDGES TO BE BACK WITH MIAMI: Sure, Dwyane Wade says he can't commit to Team USA this summer because of free agency, his messy divorce and so forth, but, more important, D-Wade commited to re-sign with the Heat during a Publix in-store appearance in Plantation Saturday with Alonzo Mourning. My friend Josh was among hundreds who waited hours for a chance for a precious minute with Wade. Given that hard-earned chance, Josh implored Wade to stay in Miami and Wade said: "I will. Just because you asked!" Here is a photo of Wade (and Zo) at Publix just seconds before Wade made that historic promise. Still trying to determine whether this apparent "oral agreement" is legally binding.

SWARM OF KILLER E'S ENDS CANES BASEBALL SEASON: Disappointing end to UM's baseball season in Gainesville as Hurricanes fell to host Florida, losing their best-of-three NCAA super-regional series, 2-0. Miami made seven errors -- seven. Who'd have believed that The U would turn into The E? That's pretty embarrassing. A solid season for Jim Morris' crew overall, but not a special one. Not good enough, bottom line.

1aagaga2 LADY GAGA DOES METS: Evidently pop star Lady Gaga swarmed into a Mets game wearing not much (see left), shot a bird to fans and generally acted like an idiot. How can this woman not be a Jets fan?

1aaasian I CAN'T EVEN THINK OF A HEADLINE FOR THIS PHOTO AT RIGHT: Umm. Cubs seek bullpen help...?

THE LIST: MOST CHAMPIONSHIPS: Franchises in America's big-four sports with 10 or more championships won in their current city:

27   New York Yankees (MLB; last in 2009)

23   Montreal Canadiens (NHL; 1993)

17   Boston Celtics (NBA; 2008)

14   Los Angeles Lakers (NBA; 2009)

12   Green Bay Packers (NFL; 1996)

11   Detroit Red Wings (NHL; 2008)

11   Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL; 1967)

10   St. Louis Cardinals (MLB; 2006)

June 08, 2010

Should UM leave ACC for SEC? (with poll); plus Marlins aquarium, Dolphins in Super Bowl, Stanton vs. Strasburg, Udonis Haslem & more

[Important Bulletin or Warning, as the case may be: Our highly anticipated -- I give myself the benefit of doubt -- OFFICIAL WORLD CUP BLOG debuts here tonight at midnight, the split-second it officially becomes Friday and Day 1 of the WC in our time zone. Expect a pick-the-winner poll, an obligatory token vuvuzela reference, a rare video of Don Shula scoring a winning soccer goal and much more. Also, I have arranged an arm-wrestling match between Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. OK I made up that last part. But the Shula part is true, sort of].

[Follow along at Twitter.com/gregcote because it's free and relatively harmless].

SHOULD UM JOIN SEC IF GIVEN A CHANCE?: The news breaks that Nebraska is leaving the dying Big 12 to join the Big Ten, and that a ripple effect could further impact both conferences as well as the Pac 10 and beyond. Some speculation has the SEC weighing expansion and including Miami among schools that could be invited. Do you think the ACC is the right conference for UM, factoring athletics and academics, or would you support a move to the SEC? And why?

LIVE FISH AT NEW MARLINS BALLPARK: The Marlins announced today the new ballpark opening in 2012 will have live aquariums as a home plate backstop. Interesting idea. Not sure the fish will like it. But I do.

DOLPHINS IN SUPER BOWL NOT SO OUTLANDISH: I have a new column, online and in today's/Thursday's inky-pulp edition, on Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently saying, rather boldly, "I think in February, we will be playing in the Super Bowl." I explore the legitimacy of his saying that. Click here to read and tell us what you think.

1aahaslem2 HEAT SHOWS SOME LOVE FOR UDONIS: It's been all WadeWadeWadeWadeWade for the Heat, but the team showed some love Wednesday afternoon for its other pending free agent, organizing a surprise 30th birthday party for popular veteran Udonis Haslem at his home. About 200 family, friends and Heat staffers were there, decked out in "We Want U Back" T-shirts and carrying like signs. I think the Heat actually does want Haslem back, but at the right price in the right role. Meantime the surprise party is yet another club display of the loyalty that Dwyane Wade says is so important to him. The party was for Haslem. But the gesture may have been for Wade.

1aastrasburg2 STRASBURG VS. STANTON: HYPE AND REALITY: Mike Stanton, the 20-year-old Marlins sensation (pictured), went 3-for-5 in his big-league debut, impressive even though two of the hits were of the bouncy infield variety. But Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg? Otherworldly. Fourteen strikouts in a seven-inning victory. Pitchers have an advantage in facing hitters for the first time. Having said that, give Strasburg an A-plus debut to Santon's solid B. Really looking forward to Stanton's home debut this coming Tuesday.

1aa19 MARSHALL PICKS NUMBER: It's final. New Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall will wear uniform number 19, Ted Ginn's old numeral. Them's big shoes to fill, Brandon!   :)   :D  

CANES IN SUPER-REGIONAL AT GAINESVILLE: Click here for my column off Tuesday's regional win by UM. "To me, we are the New York Yankees of college baseball." Pretty ballsy statement from coach Jim Morris about the expectations for his program. Accurate, too.

MARLINS SEASON-TICKETS / UPDATED: The Marlins say they will offer partial/weekend season-ticket plans at the new ballpark, and additional "mini" packages beyond that. But fans buying full-season packages willl have priority on seating. That seems reasonable.

CAMARILLO IN THE BOOTH?: Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo is one of 24 current or former NFL players signed up for this summer's June 21-24 "Broadcast Boot Camp," put on by the league each year to groom players who think they might have a future in TV. Ex-Dolph Larry Izzo also is enrolled.

THE LIST: SOUTH FLORIDA LEAGUE LEADERS: Top 10 most impressive feats by players on our big-four pro teams who have led their league in a major statistical category:

1. 5,084   Passing yards by Dan Marino, Dolphins, 1984 

2. 1.89   ERA by Kevin Brown, Marlins, 1996

3. 48   Touchdown passes by Dan Marino, Dolphins, 1984 

4. .342   Batting average by Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, 2009

5. 30.20   Scoring average by Dwyane Wade, Heat, 2008-09

6. 1,853   Rushing yards by Ricky Williams, Dolphins, 2002

7. 10   Interceptions by Dick Westmoreland, Dolphins, 1967

8. 44   Touchdown passes by Dan Marino, Dolphins, 1986

9. 22   Wins by Dontrelle Willis, Marlins, 2005

10. 59   Goals by Pavel Bure, Panthers, 2000-01

June 05, 2010

UM super-regional bound!; plus can FIU catch Miami in sports stature? (with poll), Dolphins owner says Super Bowl & more

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DOLPHINS OWNER PREDICTS SUPER BOWL: Oh yeah and in other news, Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross says, "I think in February, we will be playing in the Super Bowl." (Of a team that went 7-9 last year). Ross also says he thinks QB Chad Henne could be "the greatest quarterback in Dolphins history." Of a guy beginning his first season as a starter and chasing the legend of some bum named Dan Marino). In the updated AFC East standings, Miami has now passed the blowhard Jets for Most Outlandish Optimism.

1aaatheu 1aaatheu2 FIU VS. UM: THE POLL: The two schools' at-times bitter rivalry had been back on the front burner with both playing in the same NCAA regional at UM. Can or will Florida International ever enjoy the overall national stature in athletics that Miami does? I would doubt it if only because UM has such a head start and big lead in major national championships. But is it possible over (a long) time? Sure. Take a dip in our poll and tell us what you think and why.

UM 10, TEXAS A&M 3 (Final): OK, Canes are regional champs after beating Texas A&M 10-3 today. Now comes the hard part: a best-of-three super-regional vs. Florida in Gainesville starting Friday night -- with only the survivor going on the College World Series in Omaha. ... I just turned in my all-tournament team ballot for this regional. My Most Outstanding Player vote went to UM 1B Scott Lawson. And the MOP winner is: Lawson. ... Wheels come off for Aggies in the seventh, Canes now up 10-2 and headed for the super regional. ... Yasmani Grandal busts out of regional slump with two-run double and Harold Martinez fgollows with RBI double as Canes now up 7-2. Before the at-bat Grandal had been 3-for-13 in the regional with zero batted-in. ... The no-tomorrow stakes continue as A&M brings in ace Barret Loux to pitch the sixth. ... Sam Robinson now pitching for Miami. ... Canes settle for one run from bases-loaded, no-outs situation. Up 4-2 on RBI groundout by Harold Martinez in fifth. ... Sun out and back in play in the fifth after a 22-minute rain delay. Canes will have bases loaded with no outs in top of fifth when we resume. ... Nervous lead. Canes only have two hits through four innings. ... UM brings in ace Chris Hernandez to pitch bottom of third (UM is the visiting team). ... We're underway on a (fairly) sunny Tuesday afternoon, winner-take-all in the NCAA regional championship game. Winner advances to this coming weekend's super-regional vs. Florida in Gatorville. Loser licks wounds. I'm here columnizing. ... Earlier in this NCAA regional being hosted by UM, FIU was eliminated but Garrett Wittels doubled to extend his historic hitting streak to 56 games, second-best ever by a collegian and two shy of the all-time NCAA record. The sophomore's streak will resume with the start of next season. ... Click on El Grande Yasmani for my column off last night's rain game. It's on his being drafted and being -- despite Wittels' streak -- the best college baseball player in South Florida in 2010. 

1aabritoMLB DRAFT'S FIRST ROUND: ONE LOCAL SURPRISE: No shock that Manny Machado, the Miami Brito shortstop (pictured), went third overall to Baltimore in Monday night's baseball draft, or that UM catcher Yasmani Grandal went 12th to Cincinnati. The local stunner was that Nick Castellano, the Archbishop McCarthy third baseman, was snubbed altogether in the first round. I thought the Marlins (picking 23rd) would go for pitching, but the two guys I'd mentioned (Barrett Loux, Karsten Whitson) were long gone, so the Fish took California prep star Christian Yelich, an outfielder/first baseman. See ya in a few years, kid. Maybe.

THE LIST: STATE SCHOOLS IN COLLEGE WORLD SERIES: Ranked by total CWS appearances:

Miami  23 (last in 2008); 4 titles (last in 2001)

Florida State   19 (last in 2008); no titles

Florida  5 (last in 2005); no titles

Rollins  1 (1954); no titles

Click back. Updating and adding to this post throughout the day...

June 03, 2010

Peace! Jake Scott, Dolphins end estrangement; plus Lakers or Celtics (with poll), Garrett Wittels extends streak, R.I.P. John Wooden, World Cup au natural & more

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1aajake2 1aajake SCOTT, STANFILL TO ENTER DOLPHINS' HONOR ROLL: King Franchise has announced that former defensive stalwarts Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill (pictured) will be the 19th and 20th individuals to go onto the Dolphins' Honor Roll in a ceremony during the home game vs. Chicago this Nov. 18. Both are deserving, as the safety Scott (No. 13 before Marino was) is the club's all-time interceptor, and the end Stanfill retired its all-time leading sacker. (Cue Ray Charles singing "Georgia," because they are former GA Bulldogs college teammates. The news is especially significant because Scott has long been estranged from the franchise, largely over old acrimony with Don Shula. But peace finally has been achieved, and Scott is expected for the induction ceremony. Next stop for the Honor Roll? No doubt, no question: Jason Tayor and Zach Thomas.

POLL: YOUR LAKERS-CELTICS ROOTING INTEREST: [Lakers up 1-0 after coasting 102-89 last night in L.A.] I went on record predicting Boston in seven games. Get me rewrite! I knew L.A. was the logical pick, perhaps. I just had a feeling on the Celts. Then again, I'm the guy who predicted Miami over Boston in a first-round upset, so take what I say on this to the bank at your own great peril. But this isn't about who'll win. It's who you want to win. Take a dip in our poll and tell us why.

1aagarrett UM-FIU FEUD, GARRETT WITTELS SHINE LIGHT ON COLLEGE BASEBALL: [Friday update: FIU got spanked this afternoon by Texas A&M, 17-3, but Garrett Wittels extendeed his hitting streak to 55 games]. Miami's Hurricanes host an NCAA regional beginning Friday featuring crosstown foe Floirida International (oh yeah, and two other teams). It's sexy because of the stakes -- both local teams trying to get to the College World Series. And because of the acrimony between the programs and coaches Jim Morris of UM and FIU's Turtle Thomas, his estranged former assistant. And also, of course, because FIU's Garrett Wittels (pictured) has a 54-game hitting streak and could tie the all-time NCAA record this weekend. Click on Voodoo for my new column on Wittels' streak and its place in local sports history, including my top-10 best individual seasons by local-team athletes. Special year for college baseball around here, with Wittels the Sun Belt Player of the Year and UM's Yasmani Grandal earning that honor in the ACC. It is Wittels, though, with history in his reach.

1aajohnw JOHN WOODEN, R.I.P.: The legendary former UCLA coach and college basketball icon has passed away at age 99. Commiseration to his loved ones. Any Mount Rushmore of coaches -- any era, any sport, any level -- must include this man. 

BARACK OPINION: First President Barack Obama intimates he'd like to see LeBron James playing in his hometown Chicago. Now the prez sez it would be a "wonderful" story if LeBron stayed in Cleveland. Dear Sir: How 'bout you stick with the economy and the oil spill and leave the basketball alone. (Unless you want to push LeBron for Miami. Then it's OK!)

SELIG SMART TO RESIST PUBLIC SENTIMENT: Good for baseball commish Bud Selig declining today to reverse that bad call and make it a perfect game in last night's fiasco regarding the Tigers. (See blogpost directly below this for our full take and a poll). You don't rewrite history. What you do is make sure it isn't repeated by expanding instant replay.

1aabodypaintwc WORLD CUP FEVER: The international soccer tournament begins June 11, and to get you in the mood we present a photo of a World Cup soccer-loving fan who is nekkid but for body paint. This is all we could get away with, being a family blog and all. I haven't seen this much bum since Venus Williams' French Open outfit.

THE LIST: CELTICS-LAKERS FINALS HISTORY: This is the 11th time Boston and L.A. have met for the NBA title. The previous 10 results, including Finals MVP (beginning in 1969) and leading scorer (before that):

Year   Winner

1962   Boston (Elgin Baylor)

1963   Boston (Elgin Baylor)

1965   Boston (Jerry West)

1966   Boston (Jerry West)

1968   Boston (John Havlicek)

1969   Boston (Jerry West)

1984   Boston (Larry Bird)

1985   L.A. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)

1987   L.A. (Magic Johnson)

2008   Boston (Paul Pierce)

Imperfect Game fallout: Should baseball expand replay? (with poll); plus Ricky is Dolphins MVP, Pat Riley sued, Heat's loyalty gesture, sexy banker & more

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1aaarmando 1aaarmando2 IMPERFECT UMP SPOILS PERFECT GAME: WHAT NEXT?: The talk in sports today is the call by umpire Jim Joyce on the final play spoiling what should have been a perfect game by the Tigers' Armando Galarraga last night. A few thoughts...

1. Reverse the call? No: Some think commissioner Bud Selig should reverse the call under the broad "best interests of baseball" powers that allow him to. He shouldn't. A commissioner should not rewrite history. Where does that end? Where do you draw the line on which calls are important enough? You don't. You accept human error as part of the game until which time you don't by broadening instant replay.

2. Nobility in the wake of it all: I admire the reactions of the principals, Galarraga and Joyce (both pictured). The pitcher has been remarkably gracious in accepting the mistake -- and was from the instant it happened. The umpire has stood up to admit his error and apologize directly to the man he unintentionally wronged. Both have helped defuse what could have been a very ugly aftermatch.

3. What's next? Expand instant replay!: This should be the impetus to expand instant replay from its current use only on homerun calls to a limited use on plays at first base. Ball/strike calls should not be subject to review. Neither should slide/tag calls at second, third or home, because replays often don't clearly reveal if a glove grazed or missed a pant leg, for example. But safe/out at first almost always is clearly apparent via replay -- as it was last night.

4. How to expand instant replay: Each manager should get one replay-review per game, assuring its judicious use. Technology in place means the review would be quick, not laborious as when football referees peer endlessly into that ridiculous black-draped booth. Evidence must be absolutely clear to reverse a call; tie goes to the umpire. Beyond each manager's lone appeal, the umpire crew chief would have the discretion to order an additional review if warranted.

5. The poll: Now you decide: Plenty of baseball purists want no part of instant replay and would be against its expansion. Plenty of others think it's absurd for something like last night to happen when there is technology to prevent it; no, to correct it. Your opinion welcome. Take a dip in our poll.

'THE KID' GOES QUIETLY: Overshadowed by the Imperfect Game controversy, Ken Griffey Jr. quietly retires at age 40, fifth all-time in homers. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer without question, standing all the taller because he survived the steroids era with no taint to his name.

RICKY WILLIAMS NAMED DOLPHS' 2009 MVP: It's Ricky's second time being so honored, counting a shared award in 2002. Williams becomes the team's seventh multiple MVP, after Dan Marino (12 times), Bob Griese (6), Jason Taylor (4), and two apiece for Larry Csonka, Zach Thomas and O.J. McDuffie. 

1aaapriley PAT RILEY GOES TO COURT: The Heat's president is being sued in Miami-Dade Court by a real-estate  broker for $5.5 million that the broker says he is owed related to Riley's late-'90s purchase of 700 acres of undeveloped land in Fort Myers. Development has quadrupled the value of the land, and the broker claims he has not been sufficiently paid for his services. Quite a litigious time lately for some major sports figures around here. Heat star Dwyane Wade just settled a suit brought against by former business partners related to a failed restaurant venture. And ex-Dolphin O.J. McDuffie recently won a malpractice judgement related to his career-ending toe injury -- thanks largely to jury-swaying testimony from star witnesses Dan Marino and Don Shula.

HEAT HIRING HARDAWAY A GESTURE TO WADE: It was brilliantly understated but no doubt noticed by Dwyane Wade when the Heat recently created a token front-office position for former star Tim Hardaway (as the club did for Alonzo Mourning as well). The announcement happened to come just a few days after the free-agent-to-be Wade criticized a potential suitor, Chicago, by questioning that club's loyalty in allowing ex-stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to leave the Bulls family. Wade loves that guys like Zo and Hardaway are embraced by the club. And take this to the bank: If Wade re-signs with Miami, there will be the understanding that a lucrative front-office role awaits his retirement, quite likely including a franchise ownership share.

BASEBALL WITH LATIN AMERICAN FLAVOR: Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has a new online exhibit on the game's Latin American influence that might interest some of you. Click on Viva Beisbol to see it.

1aabanker SEXY BANKER SUES OVER FIRING: Debrahlee Lorenzana, 33, of New York (pictured; story here), is suing her Citigroup branch claiming she was fired from her job as a banker because her appearance was too distracting to male co-workers. Umm ... what was I talking about?

VANISHING IN AMERICA: Click here for a list of 10 things we won't be seeing much longer. It includes coin-fed parking meters and restaurant matchbooks. I worried it would include newspaper, but we escaped the guillotine.

THE LIST: TOP LOCALS IN MVP VOTES: Dolphins, Marlins and Heat who have finished in top five in NFL, NL or NBA league MVP voting:

1st   Dan Marino, Dolphins, 1984

2nd   Alonzo Mourning, Heat, 1998-99

2nd   Shaquille O'Neal, Heat, 2004-05

2nd   Chad Pennington, Dolphins, 2008

2nd   Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, 2009

3rd   Alonzo Mourning, Heat, 1999-00

3rd   Dwyane Wade, Heat, 2008-09

4th   Tim Hardaway, Heat, 1996-97 

5th   Miguel Cabrera, Marlins, 2005

5th   Miguel Cabrera, Marlins, 2006

5th   Dwyane Wade, Heat, 2009-10

...