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9 posts from July 2010

July 25, 2010

How are Dolfans and Canes fans feeling? Predict the seasons here (with polls)

[Follow at Twitter.com/gregcote]

PERSONAL NOTE: I'M BAAAAACK! Have been on vacation -- no, furlough -- since last Sunday July 25 and just returned today, Sunday August 1. Been doing mysterious things I'll bore you with soon. Will return with a brand new blogpost tomorrow/Monday August 2. Also our live chat returns this Wednesday. Meantime thanks as always for steering the blog in my absence. And keep the votes coming!

THE POLLS: FOOTBALL IS NEAR. HOW ARE DOLFANS AND CANES FANS FEELING?: There is much differing opinion, nationally and perhaps locally, too, on how good the Dolphins and Hurricanes might be in 2010. You see the Dolphins called by some a Super Bowl darkhorse, but then also picked for third in the AFC East with a Vegas over/under of only 8.5 wins. You see UM in preseason top 15s, but then also picked fourth among six in its ACC division.

What is the truth? What feels right? Try to find your true gut feeing here. Not what you hope will happen, but what you reasonably think will. Take a dip in these two polls and set the bar here on honest expectations for both of our big-two football teams. Then drop a comment on why your level of optimism is where it is as both squads ready for the season.

July 21, 2010

If your favorite athlete came out as gay (with poll); plus Josh, Merling, new Heat anthem (with vid), old farts please shut up on LeBron, JJ does Nicaragua & more

[Follow along at Twitter.com/gregcote].

[Update I: Oh My Gosh Josh: Click here for today's latest column by me, an ode to Josh Johnson off yesterday's Marlins game].

[Update II: Phillip Merling: Losing a guy in the defensive-end rotation for the season to an injury is tough news, but don't overdramatize the impact of a guy with 3.5 sacks in two seasons. It's a notable loss not so much because Merling is so great, but because DL in general does not seem an area of strength. 

IF YOUR FAVORITE ATHLETE SAID HE WAS GAY: I columnized this week (click here) about why we haven't and when we might finally see a prominent American team-sport athlete reveal he is gay while in mid-career. Email response is running the gamut from thanks to expletives. You know from the column I think the revelation would be positive overall and that the athlete with the courage to be honest publicly and risk the backlash would be a hero to many. I may be wrong. Have your say. But don't be disengenuous and claim this is a nonissue. When it happens (when, not if) it will be major national news. Take a dip in our poll and share your feelings. And of course be civil, children.

1aaslumberparty OLD FARTS: ENOUGH ON LEBRON ALREADY!:

Talking to you Michael Jordan, you Charles Barkley and now you Magic Johnson. "We didn't think about it because it's not what we're about," Magic weighs in on LeBron James joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Please. You all didn't think about it because the chance didn't really present itself, so don't come off now as holier than thou (or at least holier than LeBron) and somehow superior. That's baloney. I'm as mad as Pete Pelegrin just thinking about! To repeat: There is no shame in the Heat's Big 3 joining forces with winning in mind. It was NBA-certified as legit. None of the three is diminished. James is not one iota less great because of it. His legacy will only be feathered -- well, except in and around Cleveland -- for the rings on his hand. So, to all you crotchey old retirees talking about "your day": Shh. Quiet, please. [Pictured: Bosh, Wade and James having a recent slumber party, courtesy our friends at the basketball blog noregard.net].

1aaflo FLO RIDA ANOINTS HEAT: Miami hip-hopper Flo Rida (pictured left) out with a new Heat song/video (click here) called "We Already Won," just in case the Dream Team and its presumption of excellence wasn't disliked enough and the haters needed another reason.   

UNCLE LUKE ADVISES HEAT'S BIG 3: Former rapper Luther Campbell, whose flagging celebrity is occasionally rescussitated by Dan Le Batard, advises newcomers LeBron James and Chris Bosh on strip clubs and other staples of Miami life in this column in the Miami New Times.  

BRANDON MARSHALL NEWS: The Dolphin receiver's nephew (who lives with him) has enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas High and will be a senior receiver on the football team this fall. Blog scoop. Scooooop!

1aajj2 JIMMY JOHNSON ON 'SURVIVOR': Report out of Dallas (click here) has former Canes and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson currently filming as a contestant on the CBS reality show "Survivor: Nicaragua," to air starting in September. JJ loves the show and would have been on in 2008 had he not failed a physical. He is slimmer now, though 67. They have Heineken in Nicaragua, right? Also wondering if Jimmy packed the ExtenZe tablets, just in case.

PETE PELEGRIN: Pete is the defrocked Herald sports writer who covered FIU, was removed from the beat for being too much of an evangelist for it, then wrote an angry blog post ripping the newspaper for what he perceived as anti-FIU leanings before quitting. The blog post was erased but you can read it here. I am not sure if what Pete wrote serves him well. I think it a bit sad. I think somebody probably needed to douse Pete with cold reality water a while ago and inform him that FIU gets covered less in general than UM based on reader interest and logic, not based on any mysterious or nefarious bias. 

1aachefm CHEF MICHAEL: Purina has a line of premium dog and cat food call Chef Michael's. Can you imagine being an actual chef wanting your name attached to pet food? I am picturing that guy applying for a position at a real restaurant and the owner looking over his resume. "Uh, umm, let me get to you, Michael."

Click back. Will be adding a bunch more stuff to this post momentarily and throughout the day...

July 16, 2010

You decided: Dolphins hold off Heat for No. 1! (with poll); plus Wade raps on Leno (with vid), LeBron's new mansion, UM football dissed & more

[It's Live Chat Wednesday! Join us today from noon to 1 p.m. or post questions early by clicking HERE. Also, join us at Twitter.com/gregcote].

WHAT IS SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST TEAM? THE POLL: I suggest in this column in Friday's "Three Kings" special section that the Heat has overtaken the Dolphins for the first time as Miami's biggest sports team. Maybe not permanently, but for the next five or six years. I still think it's arguable because the Dolphins are so entrenched, but I believe it would take a run at a Super Bowl title for the Dolphins to recapture the buzz now dominated by the Heat. "Biggest team" might be defined in many ways, of course. Apply your definition, take a dip in our poll and vote. Then tell us why you voted as you did.


WADE RAPS ON LENO: D-Wade did the Jay Leno couch thing last night, performed a childhood rap and recruited 84-year-old Don Rickles to play point guard. Click here for the video.

WADE'S OOPSIE ON WORLD TRADE: D-Wade was asked Sunday what the reaction might be to a Heat losing streak and he told reporters, "You all are going to make it seem like the World Trade has just went down again." I know what you're thinking. Incorrect grammar! But that's not all. Minutes ago, on Monday, the Heat released this statement: “In an interview yesterday, I attempted to explain how some people may view the Heat losing a few basketball games in a row. It appears my reference to the World Trade Center has been either inaccurately reported or taken completely out of context. I was simply trying to say that losing a few games should not be compared to a real catastrophe. While it was certainly not my intention, I sincerely apologize to anyone who found my reference to the World Trade Center to be insensitive or offensive.” (Dear Dwyane: Hit the self-edit button on the Holocaust references, too).

1aalbjhome LEBRON'S MODEST NEW ABODE: LeBron James is close to closing the deal on a $49.8 million Coral Gables mansion (pictured right), and I would imagine he'll be mowing his own lawn, don't you? LBJ's new boss Pat Riley formerly owned the 20,800-square foot palace, which includes a full gym, tennis court, eight bedrooms and full basketball court. Then again, the accoutrements may be lacking when you consider some of the features of LeBron's departed mansion in Akron. That crib included an ATM, bowling alley, barbershop, casino and Starbuck's. That is correct: A casino. And a Starbuck's.

BIG 3 IN WRESTLING RING: Amusing three-minute YouTube video right here with the Heat's three kings in a wrestling ring. Especially enjoy Chris Bosh rockin' the cowboy hat.

MAN DRIVES DRUNK, BLAMES LEBRON: No, wiseguy, it was not Cavs owner Dan Gilbert! Click here for the odd tale.

READY, SET, HYPE!: OK LeBron is locked down. Now Stephen Strasburg is in town to pitch against the Marlins tonight. I think we've got the Hype Capital title about clinched for today. Any chance LeBron can start for the Marlins?

PRESEASON TEAM DISSES HURRICANES: Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook's preseason teams (via ESPN Insider) predict Miami for only fourth place in the ACC Coastal, behind Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Canes on the preseason All-ACC team are DL Allen Bailey, DB Brandon Harris and K Matt Bosher.

1aaohio2LEBRON IMPACT FELT AT UM VS. OHIO STATE: Repercussions of LeBron-to-Miami won't be restricted to the NBA. Example: UM football plays at Ohio State this season, and T-shirts referencing LeBron coming here already are for sale. Pictured at left is a shirt Canes fans might enjoy having. Find it at smackapparel.com. Ah, capitalism!

ESPN CELEBRATES ITSELF: The Worldwide Leader's annual tribute to its own greatness, The ESPY Awards, went on this week. Serena Williams was the only So Fla athlete who won, for best female tennis player. Notable: FIU baseball streak-guy Garrett Wittels was nominated for best male college athlete but had no shot againt Kentucky point guard John Wall. The awards show was highlighted as always by female athletes and guests all trying to out-hottie one another.

FUN FACT, IN A SAD SORT OF WAY: Chris Bosh just signed a six-year, $110 million deal. Let's say for the sake of argument that you make $50,000 a year. That means Bosh makes your annual salary every 6.8 minutes of basketball.

1aajuliannemoore DEAR GREG...: "Your blog's OK but would be better if occasionally you would show a photo of actress Julianne Moore in an ad wearing nothing but two lion cubs. Thank you." (Notice the dreamy look the face of the club laying across her chest. Can you blame him?)

Click back. Likely adding more stuff to this post throughout the day...

July 12, 2010

Dear America: Your outrage over LeBron-to-Miami amuses us; plus Jason Ferguson, Heat Big 3 on SI cover, Steinbrenner, Vegas on Heat & more

[Thanks to all who joined in our live chat this week. An especially huge response. We do it every Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m., and you'd click CHAT to join live then or to post questions any time. Also, join us at Twitter.com/gregcote, the Official Twitter Site of People Who Think Dan Gilbert Might Be An Idiot].

[JASON FERGUSON RETIRES: Dolphins announced it about 5:30 this (Thursday) afternoon. Veteran defensive tackle was to miss first half of this season suspended, but his run-stopping and leadership thereafter will be missed. Ferguson's retirement underlines the fact Dolphins did not draft a true nose tackle this past April].

1aasi HEAT BIG 3 ARE SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER KINGS: Here is the latest Sports Illustrated cover. I take this to me there will be bonfires anew in Cleveland. That, and prayers up there that the "SI Jinx" is real. 

1aageorges [GEORGE STEINBRENNER, R.I.P.: The legendary New York Yankees owner passed away this morning at age 80. As a lifelong Red Sox fan I spent years cursing his willingness to spend and his appetite for winning, all the while admiring him. A few brief meetings/interviews over the years always found him surprising cordial as well. He was The Boss, an imprimatur of "champion," and a giant with few peers among American sports owners].

1aadang TO THOSE STILL OUTRAGED OVER LEBRON-TO-HEAT, YOUR MISERY AMUSES US!: All of the reaction -- whether it's open-letter-writing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert deploying a thesaurus to feel a hundred ways betrayed or conspiracy-seeing Mavs owner Mark Cuban calling for an investigation -- has been disingenuously hypocritical. Comically so. (Gilbert is pictured at right, explaining how to be the biggest loser in NBA free agency and then respond in a ridiculous manner that only exacerbates the shame). Click on Jealousy, Jealousy for my latest column, newly online and shipping to Tuesday's pulp edition. Teams and fans complaining wish they had managed what Miami did. Can't they just admit that? (Quick addendum: Udonis Haslem agreeing today to re-sign with Miami for less money than he was offered elsewhere will only add to the ire of those who impotently think the Heat must be cheating but have no idea how. Same thing when Miami nabs three-point savant Mike Miller for a bargain. Ain't it great? Weeeeeeeeeee!)

VEGAS SAYS DWADE WILL OUTSCORE LEBRON: Interesting new betting odds out from Bodog.com. Over/under is 2.5 on number of Heat championships in next six years. Miami is a 7/4 favorite for the 2011 title, with an o/u of 65 wins. Scoring-average over/unders are 25.5 for Dwyane Wade, 23.5 for LeBron James and 18.0 for Chris Bosh.

1aabigpapi1aamarlinsmickey TO THE BANK WITH BIG PAPI IN HOMER DERBY: [Post-Derby update: I called it on Papi winning, but I underestimated Hanley, who reached the final before falling, 11-5 to Ortiz. Original post follows]. Tonight is the all-star break's Home Run Derby and I believe you should bet a paycheck (and perhaps also your small children's college fund) on David "Big Papi" Ortiz (left), because Angel Stadium is made for lefty power, it says here. Think Miguel Cabrera has a decent shot; not so much our own Hanley Ramirez. Bonus points if Corey Hart wears his sunglasses at night. Pictured right: The Marlins-themed Mickey Mouse statue as part of a series of All-Star themes Mickey Mice throughout the Anaheim area. 

STRASBURG, LEBRON GO HYPE-TO-HYPE: Washington Nationals wunderkind Stephen Strasburg pitches here Friday night vs. the Marlins when play begins following the All-Star break. LeBron James might throw out the ceremonial first pitch, according to a rumor I just started. Strasburg and LeBron are the summer's most talked-about athletes in America, meaning Miami will be Hype Central on Friday. If we can get Tiger Woods in the crowd we'll have hit the Hype Trifecta.

SPAIN BORES NETHERLANDS TO DEATH: I'm a soccer fan. Had a "Futblog" post running throughout the  World Cup. But I must say I found Sunday's 1-0 Spain championship over the Dutch to be rather boring. The match missed the wide open flair of Brazil or Argentina. The good news? I hit it big because prior to the tournament I'd invested big in predictable "reign in Spain" media references.

1aalohan OIL-SPILL UPDATE: In an agreement not yet made public, British Petroleum (BP) Oil and the U.S. government have developed the latest plan to stop the Gulf Coast oil spill. Officials will attempt to plug the leak with Lindsay Lohan.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DOLPHINS?: Just kiddin'. Their over/under is 8.5 wins this season. That's tied for sixth in AFC. Decent. The bad news? Two of the teams ahead of them at 9.5 are the division-mate Pats and Jets. Also ahead, Colts and Chargers at a projected 11 wins and Ravens at 10. And in other Dolphins news: Wife of fake Dolphins part-owner involved in multi-million lawsuit.

1aabidenhair BIDEN FULFILLS LEBRON BET: Not a lot of people know this, but Vice President Joe Biden bet a friend last week that if the Heat ended up with with James, Wade and Bosh, he'd get his hair cornrowed. (See right). I'm surprised this hasn't been bigger news.

Click back will be adding more stuff to this post soon...

July 08, 2010

The Decision: LeBron picks Heat! Now: Whose team will it be? (with poll)

[Monday update: Look for a brand new blogpost in this space later this afternoon. Check our "Futblog/World Cup" in post directly below. Spain wins! And follow at Twitter.com/gregcote].

1aajamesl "THE DECISION," BY LEBRON JAMES: You watched. You know you did. Now tell us what you thought. About the show, but mostly about the decision. LeBron joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. OMG.

Click on We Are the Kingdom for my column on tonight's seismic news, a column freshly online and hurtling toward Friday's pulp edition.

We were told to expect this. And still it was stunning. Or, to quote my wife, "It's almost unfair. It's like the biggest thing ever. In any sport, really."

So many topics...

James, Wade and Bosh all checking the egos and sharing the ball? You have to think the three friends have discussed that and come to terms.

Making it all work salary cap-wise? See above.

How to fill out the rest of the roster? That's Pat Riley's job, not ours. But "Tres Magnifico" will be a magnet for other free agents looking for an easy championship ring.

Who'll coach? Nationally, everybody thinks Riley swoops back in. I say Erik Spoelstra keeps the reins.

And here's one: Whose team will it be now? I know, I know. Can't they share? Yada yada. Realistically, it's always somebody's team. I think Wade is imbedded in our collective psyche enough to withstand the arrival of the King. Do you? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Futblog II / World Cup: Spains wins it all! Netherlands falls in final, 1-0

[Follow along at Twitter.com/gregcote, because it's free and you'll get your money's worth].

1aaclintonbeer 1aaamercup THIS IS THE OFFICIAL WORLD CUP BLOG OF THIS BLOG -- PART II: Below in a separate post you'd find Part I encompassing the entire first round. This picks up with the round-of-16 elimination games and takes us the rest of the way. Wanted to break it into two posts because the other one was getting longer than that 70-68 Wimbledon set. This Futblog appreciates great soccer wherever it is seen but is unabashedly pro-American, shouted "U-S-A!" and wanted little more last week than for the entire nation of Ghana to be crestfallen in abject sorrow. Was that mean? Right after the new predict-the-winner poll you'll find the daily second-round compendium along with a summary of the best-and-worst from the first round.

THE NEW WORLD CUP POLL: I am again restricted to 10 poll answers so, rather than be arbitrary, I included the eight group-play winners, the group runnerup with best betting odds-to-win entering the tournament, and then an "others" category. I know it's tough to be dispassionate but try to make your pick with head over heart. Or not.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP:

SUNDAY JULY 11

1aaespanaflag SPAIN 1, NETHERLANDS 0 (extra time) --- Spain wins its first World Cup championship in a 1-0 exra-time triumph over Netherlands, which once again is relegated to the dubious title of best soccer nation to never win the sport's grand prize. Andres Iniesta's volley shot from near range in the 116th minute in a match wrought with yellow cards. The final outcome was just, as Spain dominated 63 percent of time of possession --- Preview: It's doubtful Brazilians, Argentines and Germans are very excited about this final, but it fills a marquee pretty well for the rest of us. These are big teams, with Spain the 2008 European champion and ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA coming in, and the Netherlands ranked No. 4 in the world. And yet there is an underdog quality to the match as well, since neither nation has won a World Cup. The winner will join that exclusive club; the loser will be relegated to being the best to not win. Can the robust attack of the Dutch solve the Spaniards' resolute defense? Should be interesting.

THE SEMIFINALS:

TUESDAY JULY 6

1aadutchflag NETHERLANDS 3, URUGUAY 2 --- Holland seized 3-1 lead on goals in 70th and 73rd minutes by Wesley Sniejder off right post (on a sequence that could have been called offside but wasn't) and then Arjen Robben off left post. Uruguay's Maxi Pereira scored early in extra time to at least make the last few minutes frenetically interesting. Match was 1-1 at halftime on a pair of long-range missile-blast goals. Dutch led in 18th minute on a rocket from well outside the box into upper right corner of net by the elaborately named Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, a gorgeous shot from such unexpected distance it caught the goalkeeper flat-footed a split-second too long. Uruguay equalized in 41st minute on a similar-range shot by Diego Forlan that powered over the head and past the Dutch keeper, who got a lot of gloved hand on the ball but failed to lift it over the bar. Dutch now in finals vs. Germany-Spain winner --- Preview: Netherlands, the Oranje, stunned Brazil in the quarters and now must avoid a letdown against a Uruguayan side that is a clear underdog. Chances are Uruguay lost the support of nuetral fans when advancing due to a deliberate handball vs. Ghana, leaving the impression the team either cheated or got immeasurably lucky. An interesting something-to-prove dynamic underlies the matchup. Uruguay attempts to make its "We're back!" statement after winning World Cup titles in 1930 and 1950 but then being surpassed on the continent by Brazil, Argentina and others. The Dutch are in their first semifinal since 1998 and trying to finally shake the label of being perhaps the best team/country to never win a World Cup. 

WEDNESDAY JULY 7

1aaespanaflag SPAIN 1, GERMANY 0 --- Spain's goal in the 73rd minute on gorgeous header by Carles Puyol off perfect corner-kick service proved enough, given the Spaniards' tenacious, unyielding defense. Figured the scoreless match deep into the second half had to make Germany more nervous than Spain. Now, iit's Spain vs. Netherlands this coming Sunday for the world title --- Preview: Spain, La Roja, is ranked No. 2 in the world by FIFA (best of any semifinalist and is reigning 2008 European champion, yet mighty Germany surely is the favorite here based on recent play. A caveat is that the Germans will be missing Thomas Muller with a card suspension, and that Spain has returned to form since an opening loss in group play. Still, Die Mannschaft has been the most impressive team in this World Cup.

Semifinals summary: With due respect to the two nations, I don't know that Spain-Netherlands is the sexiest or most exciting World Cup final imaginable. But it is a worthy final between two countries aiming for their first WC championship. The Dutch are likely the greatest soccer nation to never win the Cup, and Spain entered this tournament as the slight betting favorite, so the matchup, if not scintillating, is credible. 

THE QUARTERFINALS:

SATURDAY JULY 3

1aaflaggerman GERMANY 4, ARGENTINA 0 --- Um, what was that you were saying about the great South American tour de force in this World Cup? First Brazil falls, now Argentina, while European teams rise hugely. Germany made it an overwhelming 4-nil in closing minutes on a second goal by the great Miroslav Klose. Was 3-0 in 74th minute on Arne Friedrich goal capitalizing on more porous defense by the now-crestfallen Argentines. It was 2-nil in 68th minute on tap-in goal by Klose off a short cross after a defensive breakdown by Argentina. Germans had led 1-0 in 3rd minute, stunning Argentines with Thomas Muller header from a gorgeous, curling ball off set-play --- Preview: Argentina-Germany, like Brazil-Netherlands yesterday, is a heavyweight quarterfinal with the heft of a final. Adding spice: Die Mannschaft and Albiceleste have traded verbal volleys portending a match that could be full of as much acrimony as brilliance. Teams also met in the 2006 World Cup quarters, with Germany winning on a penalty-kicks tiebreaker. Argentina is fancied by many now as the best team in play and the likely World Cup champion, but the youthful Germans have coalesced as a force to be reckoned with. Call Argentina slight favorite. Winner faces Spain in semifinal on July 7.

1aaespanaflag SPAIN, 1 PARAGUAY 0 --- Consternation caused by Spain losing its World Cup opener in group play seemed long ago after David Villa's goal in the 83rd minute proved enough in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Paraguay. That was after both teams missed a penalty kick within a few minutes' time --- Preview: Spain has seemed to gather back a sense of momentum and should be counted on as a solid favorite to dispatch an underdog Paraguayan squad. Spain, La Furia Roja, fights a reputation for underperforming in World Cups and needs this victory for its good name. Paraguay, La Albrirroja, is the farthest it has ever been in a WC. Winner faces a rugged July 7 semifinal vs. Germany.

Saturday summary: Another big day for Europe over South America, with Germany utterly humiliating an Argentine squad that fancied itself a likely World Cup champion, and Spain asserting itself (if not dominantly) over Paraguay.

FRIDAY JULY 2

1aaflagdutch NETHERLANDS 2, BRAZIL 1 --- Oh my, oh my. Dutch shock Brazil 2-1 on score by Wesley Sneijder in 68th minute, after tying match in 53rd minute on own-goal by Brazil's Felipe Melo. Later Melo was red-carded and Brazil played a man down late. Brazil had led 1-nil early on a remarkably easy Robinho goal after a through-pass that found a gaping seam in the Dutch defense. Almost looked like a failed offside trap, so in-the-free was the goal-scorer, and so helpless the goalkeeper. In the end, though, Holland moves on and the World Cup favorite, mighty Brazil, is out. Next: Netherlands vs. Uruguay in July 6 semifinal --- Preview: A heavyweight quarter with the heft of a semifinal or even a final. Brazil is most experts' World Cup favorite, while the Netherlands is a European power with the ability to win it all. Call the Selecao a solid but not overwhelming favorite to beat the Oranje. The Dutch have suffered some internal bicking and heard legend Johan Cruyff say they lack style, but this still is one of a handful of national teams with the ability to play with the best. Brazil has a few midfield issues due to injuries or card suspension. A highly anticipated match that should be hugely entertaining.

1aaflaguru URUGUAY 4, GHANA 2 (penalty kicks) --- My lord what a finish! Uruguay surviving on penalty kicks, 4-2, after a 2-2 draw through regulation and 30 minutes' overtime. Ghana has itself to blame, missing a penalty kick that would have won 3-2 in the last minute of OT, after an intententional Uruguay handball on the goalline. The two more misses by Ghana in the PK tiebreaker. Uruguay had tied match 1-1 in 55th minute on Diego Forlan goal off free kick. Ghana had led at half on goal by Sulley Muntari in extra time. Next: Uruguay vs. Netherlands in July 6 semifinal --- Preview: Least sexy of the four quarterfinals, and certainly on the undercard today. Both teams have an underdog aura. Uruguay is in its first quarterfinal since 1970; Ghana attempts to become the first African squad ever to reach the semis. Despite the will of the host continent, call La Celeste a modest favorite to beat the Black Stars of Ghana.

Friday summary: Two crazy results, stunning in their own way. Brazil losing always is a shock, although seldom an unpleasant one exceopt to their fans. Like the Yankees and their fans, Brazil soccer has an arrogance about it that welcomes comeuppance. And the Dutch with a chance for their first World Cup trophy is a great story. Uruguay's victory comes with mixed emotions. The mind cannot help but think this team ought to have lost 3-2 and that such a result would have been justice considering only a flagrant, intentional handball prevented a last-minute Ghana goal.

THE SECOND-ROUND: The knockout stage. It's eight games over the next four days, two each on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, winner-take-all, losers out...

TUESDAY JUNE 29

1aajapflagparaguay PARAGUAY 5, JAPAN 3 (penalty kicks) --- After a scoreless draw through 90 minutes and then 30 minutes of overtime, penalty kicks decided the match and sent Paraguay into the quarterfinals for the first time. The difference in the 5-3 PK verdict was a miss by Japan's Yuichi Komano that caromed off the crossbar in the third round og kicks. Next for Paraguay, July 3 vs. Spain --- Preview: Today's two games bring the second round to a close and set the quarterfinal schedule. Paraguay advanced as Group F winner with one win, two draws and 3-1 on goals. Japan moved on as Group E runnerup with two wins, one loss and 4-2 on goals. Paraguay, La Albirroja, should be favored over the Blue Samarai in this duel of two surprise second-rounders. Either country will reach the WC quarterfinals for the first time ever.

1aaespanaflag SPAIN 1, PORTUGAL 0 --- David Villa's goal in the 63rd minute was the difference. Hard to say the more deserving team did not prevail, considering Spain led clearly in ball possession and meaningful shots on goal. Next for Spain, July 3 vs. Paraguay --- Preview: Spain dvanced as Group H winner with two wins, one loss and 4-2 on goals. Portugal advanced as Group G runnerup with one win, two draws and 7-0 on goals. An intriguing match indeed here. Spain, La Furia Roja, will be out to reestablish itself as a championship contender but must survive a Portugal squad that has not conceded a goal in this Cup and has not lost in 19 straight matches overall. The winner in this battle of rivals and continental neighbors will be a strong bet to reach the semifinals.

Tuesday summary: The field of eight quarterfinalists is now set, with the World Cup pausing the next two days and then the quarters going two and two on Friday/Saturday June 2-3. Paraguay advanced today as sort of a lightweight, 5-3 on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw. Spain advanced with a tough 1-0 victory over a stout Portugal squad that plays defense as well as amybody in the tournament. Not sure Spain, a pre-Cup favorite, has reestablished that standing, but it has raised its hand to say, "Don't forget about us."

MONDAY JUNE 28

1aaflagdutch NETHERLANDS 2, SLOVAKIA 1 --- Favored Netherlands won fairly comfortably, by which I mean it was 1-nil early on an Arjen Robben goal and 2-0 before the Slovaks finally scored on an extra-time penalty kick. In terms of Europe's best hope, the Dutch did not impress to the degree Germany had a day earlier. Next, Dutch face Brazil on July 2 --- Preview: Netherlands advanced as Group E winner with three wins and 5-1 on goals. Slovakia qualified as Group F runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 4-5 on goals. Netherlands, arguably the best soccer team/country to never win the World Cup, figures to have striker Arjen Robben back at full strength and qualifies as a clear favorite here. The Dutch looking to establish themselves as the equal of Germany in terms of Europe's greatest chance to claim the world championship.

1aabraflag BRAZIL 3, CHILE 0 --- Brazil put it away on first half goals by Juan and Luis Fabian within a four-minute span, placing a cherry on top with a Robinho score. Chile managed to control possession fairly well yet the mighty Brazil controlled the match. Next, Brazil faces Netherlands on July 2 --- Preview: Brazil advanced as Group G winner with two wins, a draw and 5-2 on goals. Chile advanced as Group H runnerup with two wins, a loss and 3-2 on goals. Brazil is fortified by three players returning from injury or card suspension, while Chile is missing some key figures. The Selecao of Brazil has dominated this all-time series 46-6 (with 12 draws) and is 5-0 with Dunga as coach. Anything less than a comfortable Brazilian triumph would be a global shock.

Monday summary: Brazil is too, too good. I can see Netherlands giving them their best match yet. But winning? Hard to envision. The World Cup final -- looming as Brazil vs. Argentina or Germany (sorry, Spain) -- could be one for the ages.

SUNDAY JUNE 27

1aaflaggerman GERMANY 4, ENGLAND 1 --- Germany took control with 2-nil lead and poured it on late with pair of goals off counterattacks to overwhelm England and establish itself as the great European hope in this World Cup. Consecutive goals by Thomas Muller within three minutes in the second half found England's defense vanished and socked the match away. England had drawn within 2-1 late in first half on header by Matthew Upson and seconds later appeared to equalize but a shot downward off the crossbar was not called a goal even though replays cleary showed it over the line. (When will FIFA relent and use replay at least on goal calls such as this?) Germans led 2-0, first on 12th career World Cup goal by Miroslav Klose, then on extreme-angle beauty by Lukas Podolski. Next for Germany: July 3 vs. winner of Argentina-Mexico. --- Preview: The U.S. is out, but remarkably, the World Cup goes on! Germany advanced as Group D winner with two wins, one loss and 5-1 on goals. England advanced as Group C runnerup with one win, two draws and 2-1 on goals. Germany must be considered the favorite based on group performance. I had a funny feeling for Wayne Rooney and the Brits. I could envision an upset in a volatile match both on the pitch and among the rival fans but was dead wrong. This was fifth World Cup meeting in one of soccer's great rivalries, and all four previous matches had been level after 90 minutes.

1aaflagarg ARGENTINA 3, MEXICO 1 --- Mexico acquitted itself well yet was beaten handily as Argentina led 3-0 -- on two goals by Carlos Tevez and one by group-play hat-tricker Gonzalo Higuain -- before Mexico finally found the net. Argentina's first goal, by Tevez, appeared to occur on an offside play but was allowed. Neverthless, only Mexican fans might argue the deserving team advanced. Next for Argentina: July 3 vs. Germany --- Preview: Argentina advanced as Group B winner with three wins and 7-1 on goals. Mexico moved on as Group A runnerup with one win, one draw, onle loss and 3-2 on goals. Winner will take on Germany-England winner in quarterfinals on July 3. Argentina based on group play probably rank as tournament co-favorites along with Brazil right now, and there is no logical way to envision underdog Mexico keeping pace in either skill or firepower. Anything but a comfortable win by Diego Maradona's La Albiceleste would surprise. In the 2006 WC the Argentines struggled to beat El Tri, 2-1 in extra time, but think it will be easier this time.

Sunday summary: Saturday saw two small teams with little championship hopes advance. Today, the opposite. Germany and Argentina not only moved on to a quarterfinal meeting, but each demonstrated it is a legitimate threat to win it all. I have seen little of the Netherlands, but, with due respect to the Dutch, today's two winners along with Brazil (of course) look like the best teams in the competition.

SATURDAY JUNE 26

1aaflagghana GHANA 2, UNITED STATES 1 (OT) --- U.S. dream dies in 2-1 extra-time loss to Ghana. Nothing was easy for this U.S. squad. Ghana went up 2-1 in 3rd minute of extra time after America had tied it 1-1 with penalty kick goal by Landon Donovan in 62nd minute after foul against Clint Dempsey in the box. U.S had trailed 1-nil after goal in 5th minute by Kevin Prince-Boateng -- a Prince then king of Ghana. Americans had been loose defensively and out of control in midfield early in game before gathering their composure. in almost 400 minutes of World Cup soccer, the U.S. led all of two minutes. Too many deficits. Too many holes. Too much to ask. Overall a solid World Cup run by the States, but also one that leaves you thinking it seemed to end one match to soon. Next for Ghana: July 2 vs. Uruguay --- Preview: U-S-A! U-S-A!" Americans advanced as Group C winner with one win and two draws and 4-3 on goals, and Ghana as Group D runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 2-2 on goals. Winner faces Uruguay-South Korea survivor in quarterfinals. The dispassionate observer might call this a near-even match, with U.S. perhaps playing better at the moment but Ghana sure to feel the love as Africa's lone surviving squad. Americans may draw incentive from 2006, when a 2-1 Ghana win in the group-play finale eliminated Landon Donovan and the U.S. This time it will be up to Donovan and crew to penetrate the defense-minded opponent nicknamed Black Stars.

1aaflaguru URUGUAY 2. SOUTH KOREA 1 --- Luis Suarez late goal makes Uruguay first team to advance in knockout round. Next for Uruguay: July 2 vs. Ghana --- Preview: Uruguay moved on as Group A winner with two wins and a draw and 4-0 on goals, and South Korea as Group B runnerup with a win, draw and loss and 5-6 on goals. Uruguay, yet to yield a goal, bears the pressure of a clear favorite here. La Celeste last reached the Cup quarterfinals in 1970 but is 4-0-1 all-time vs. South Korea and has a real shot here. Two attacking teams could make for an uproarious match.

Saturday summary: Devastating loss for the U.S., presenting a Ghana-Uruguay match that will be the quarterfinal least-likely -- by far -- to either draw interest outside the two nations or produce a viable World Cup title contender.

Tuesday June 29: Paraguay vs. Japan, 10a; Spain vs. Portugal, 2:30p.

1aafrenchsad BIGGEST FIRST-ROUND DISAPPOINTMENTS: The sweeping story lines probably are the how good the South American teams look, how African teams as a whole did not live up and how the vuvuzela annoyed the hell out of everybody. But it all breaks down to individual countries. Our First-Round Calamity Top Five: 1. France (see right). Ranked 10th in the world but did more than fail to advance. Came apart in a riot of discord and outright mutiny. 2. Italy. Defending champions proved too old and stunningly were eliminated in group play. 3. England. Brits are still alive but qualifying second in their group and seeming like nobody's favorites have the legions back home wringing hands. 4. Spain. Ranked second in the world and entered the Cup as a 4-1 betting favorite but needed a game-three group win just to survive. 5. Ivory Coast. The most highly regarded team other than Italy and France to not move on, based on pre-tournament betting odds.

1aafrenchsad2 BIGGEST FIRST-ROUND SURPRISES: The five surviving teams with the longest pre-tournament betting odds: 1. South Korea (250-1, see right), 2. Japan (200-1), 3. Slovakia (150-1), 4. Uruguay (100-1), 5. Mexico (80-1). The five teams in the round-of-16 with the lowest FIFA World Ranking: 1. Japan (45th), 2. South Korea (40th), 3. Slovakia (38th), 4. Ghana (32nd), 5. Paraguay (30th). If you're wondering about the U.S., call us a semi-Cinderalla, ranked 14th going in and with 60-1 odds.

VUVUZELA!

Dream Team done deal? LeBron reportedly planning South Beach party after joining Wade, Bosh in Miami. Do we believe it? (with poll)

[Notes: Check out "Futblog/World Cup" in post directly below this. It's Spain-Netherlands. Click Chat to post questions any time for our Wednesday live online chats. Also, join us as Twitter.com/gregcote].

[Thursday afternoon South Beach party update: New York Post reporting (click here) that LeBron James has rented out 25 rooms at the W Hotel on South Beach beginning tonight, presumably to par-tay after revealing he's coming to Miami. If true, it's more quasi-evidence the Heat is getting James].

[Urgent midday Thursday update! Everybody and their brother is now reporting definitively that LeBron is now "leaning" toward Miami "if he doesn't change his mind," according to unnamed sources. In fact my brother, a retiree living in Vero Beach, is now reporting that as well].

1aaboshwade LEBRON DAY IN AMERICA! WILL KING MAKE IT A HEAT DREAM TEAM?: Dwyane Wade is in and bringing prized free-agent Chris Bosh with him; Wade tells you in his own words in this YouTube video. No big surprise so far, despite the late anxiety. I predicted July 1 as free agency began that Miami would get Wade/Bosh. Click on Dear LeBron for today's newest column, online and in Thursday's pulp edition.

The big question now: Might Miami also get LeBron James? I would have to say yes, but only to might. I know ESPN's Chris Broussard says LeBron is likely to choose Miami but his report has more hedges than the manicured grounds of a mansion. Hedges like "all indications are," and "leaning toward" and "baring a late change of heart." I think Cleveland also still is in play, and to a lesser extent the Buills and Knicks, too.

LeBron himself ends the endless speculation with his regal, royal proclamation tonight just after 9 on ESPN in an hourlong special called The Decision. I honestly think it's a tossup whether he says "Miami Heat" or says something else.

Your thoughts welcome. Take a dip in our poll and expound on why with a comment.

July 06, 2010

I say Heat still gets Wade & Bosh. Do you think Miami might lose Wade? (with poll)

[Check out "Futblog/World Cup" in the post directly below this in the blog. Today, Netherlands beat Uruguay 3-2 in first semfinal. Also, follow at Twitter.com/gregcote]

1aadwade [Tuesday evening update: Still liking Wade/Bosh for Heat: Click here for my new column, freshly online and shipping to Wednesday's pulp edition. I still believe that after the drama settles Miami ends up with Wade and Bosh. But are Heat fans' concerns justified? Absolutely].  

[Tuesday morning update: Wade goes silent: Plot thickens. Do Heat fans have one more reason to be concerned? Dwyane Wade canceled his scheduled media appearance today at Nova Southeastern University. It was ostensibly to promote his summer b-ball camp and upcoming Summer Groove charity event, but he knew free agency would be the topic. So D-Wade is now going silent until his decision].   

1aadwade YOUR CONCERN DWYANE WADE MIGHT DEPART: THE POLL: Wasn't this free agency stuff supposed to be simple? We thought Dwyane Wade re-signing with Miami was a given. Heck, a few days ago we were told to expect Wade to bring in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to create a Dream Team here. Now, nothing seems clear. Now, there are even reports on ESPN and Yahoo.com that Wade might be enamored of and leaning toward the Chicago Bulls. Anything could and might happen over the next few days. Right now, though, what's the anxiety level over speculation Wade may be wavering and possibly headed elsewhere? Take a dip in our poll. Then, explain how you feel about Heat free-agency prospects in general so far. [Note: MiamiHerald.com has switched to a new poll provider, so this poll might look a bit different than you are used to. Don't be a-scared. Embrace change and vote anyway!]

July 02, 2010

"Dream Team" collapses? Heat lose Wade to Bulls? Is the unthinkable possible? (with updates & more)

[Find our "Futblog/World Cup" post in the blog directly below this. Stunna! Brazil loses to Netherlands 2-1 in first quarterfinal, then Uruguay wins in penalty-kicks tiebreaker. Also, join us at Twitter.com/gregcote]

1aabosh I SAID BOSH JOINS WADE IN MIAMI, LEBRON TO CHICAGO, BUT...: [Updates below this item] NBA free agency: It is what we have anticipated for months and months, and now immediately wish was over already. We have been  led to believe Miami will pull off the ultimate coup, landing top prize LeBron James and also highly coveted Chris Bosh -- right; photo illustration courtesy the South Florida Sun-Sentinel -- to join a re-signed Dwyane Wade. It has been reported as a certainty. Me, I just didn't see it. I hoped it, but didn't see it. Click on The Great Eight for my guesswork analysis on where the top free agents will end up. I wrote the Heat gets Wade to re-up and nabs Bosh, but watches the King, LeBron, ultimately favor Chicago and the Bulls. If I am right, I'm a genius. If I'm wrong and LeBron ends up here, it was all a master plan to ply child psychology, like, "No way you'll come to Miami, LeBron. You afraid of D-Wade's shadow. I dare ya. You scared!" Now, though, late Friday, things are getting anxious for the Heat. The Dream Team seems less and less likely. The once-unthinkable idea that Dwyane Wade might really leave seems more and more possible. See below...

HEAT FREE-AGENCY UPDATES/THOUGHTS:

FRIDAY

Wade reportedly seriously weighing jump to Bulls, 6:35 p.m.: Yahoo's tapped-in Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Wade is seriously mulling a move to his hometown Bulls. Oh my. Not sure if anybody really knows anything definitive at this point. But this guy knows more than most. Don't be afraid yet, Miami. But concerned? Yes. Now Chad Ford writes (click here) on ESPN.com something similar. I'm not saying the sky-is-falling. But still. 

Wade, Bulls to meet again, 5:30 p.m.: What to make of Wade asking for and of course getting a second meeting with the Bulls? Ater saying he was "intrigued" by the Knicks meeting? Hmm. Mind games or something else? You know that plot? It's thickening. For the record I still think Wade re-signing with Miami is close to certain. But this is interesting.

LeBron-Heat meeting a marathon, 2:45 p.m.: Today's confab last 3 hours, LeBron's longest FA session yet. That's gotta be good news for Miami. Right?

Wade "intrigued" by Knicks, 2:25 p.m.: Wade and the Knicks met for just over 2 hours in a Chicago hotel today and Wade emerged telling reporters, "I will say I'm intrigued." (Gulp). No, actually I wouldn't read much into that. Still liking Wade to re-up with Miami as a near-certainty. But might NYK have nosed ahead of hometown Chicago in second place for his services? Knicks would be that much more attractive to Dwyane if they land Amare Stoudemire, which seems all but done.

Wade must commit soon to attract LeBron, 11:55 a.m.: That was a point made on Yahoo.com and a valid one: Wade should stop taking meetings and commit to Miami soon to enhance the chance LeBron James will come here, too.

Wade filming his free-agency tour, 11:35 a.m.: New York Post reports Dwyane Wade, arriving for his Knicks meeting, exited a black van with a camera crew in tow.

Radio row for beleaguered writer, 9:00 a.m.: Have eight radio spots lined up this morning between 8:45 and 11:10 to talk Heat free agency, and I decline more invitations than I accept. Just finished Houston, Louisville on deck. I haven't been this popular since Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if Ma was a prostitute.  

Time for the big pitch to LeBron, 8:35 a.m.: This dream-team dream -- LeBron, Wade and Bosh together -- today is the day it happens or doesn't. Not officially, not announced, but in practicality. Wade and Bosh are on board; they had dinner together last night. You know they're in. LeBron is the big piece, the big question, and the Heat contingent meets with him today in Cleveland.

THURSDAY

Bosh praises meeting with Heat, 6:25 p.m.: Chris Bosh, verbatim from his Tweet, on his meeting with Heat today : "Off to a great start. First one went well. Pat Riley is very passionate about winning." And there you have it. Still really liking Miami's chances to get this guy.

Wade-o-Rama under way, 3:05 p.m.: Dwyane met two hours in Chicago with Bulls this morning. Nets flying in for DW this afternoon, then Knicks on Friday. Still have to believe Wade re-upping with Miami is all but certain. Still, how nervous must this all make Pat Riley?

Johnson, Gay off the board, 2:35 p.m.: Looking as if Joe Johnson will re-sign with Atlanta and that restricted FA Rudy Gay is staying in Memphis. Those are two scorers that might have interested Miami if LeBron got away, though not for max money. (And in other free agency news, the Timberwolves have an agreement to throw $20 million at Darko Milicic, confirming speculation that the Minnesota franchise is run by drunks).

Stoudmire clearly on back-burner, 11:45 a.m.: Though he was the Heat's first official meet-with of free agency, the club's one-hour meeting with Amare Stoudemire unsurprisingly did not produce a contract offer. Clearly Chris Bosh is the power-forward priority and everybody knows it. Plus, Carlos Boozer, who's been lobbying to join the Heat, is a ready, credible fallback if Bosh falls through and Stoudemire signs elsewhere.

"ULTIMATE STANDINGS"?: WE HAVE WORK TO DO: ESPN The Magazine has come out with its annual Ultimate Standings, ranking the 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL franchises on a composite of eight categories encompassing team quality, fan experience and so forth. And, well, we pretty much suck. No. 1: New Orleans Saints. No. 122: L.A. Clippers. Us? Flaming average-osity in the Dolphins (58th), Heat (63rd) and Marlins (65th), and the expected putridity in the Panthers (106th). C'mon, people! Still trying to figure out a way to blame Jeffrey Loria for each team's ranking. Will get back to you.

ELIAN GONZALEZ SPEAKS: It's been 10 years. Thought some of y'all might be interested in this.

1aadogg SNOOP DOGG AIMS HIGH: Godfather of rap Snoop Dogg attempted to rent the entire country of Liechtenstein for a recent video shoot. Click here for the tale. Only in America. Or Lichtenstein.

Click back. Be updating and adding to this post throughout the day...