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13 posts from March 2014

March 31, 2014

Wed pm 4-2: Marlins start 2-0. Now how closely will you follow team? Poll. Vote!; plus Dolphins sign OL, Heat, Tiger, Hochman, Neil Young & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2. Hope y'all had a merry Happy April Fool's Day. I did not have a token prank in the blog. You're welcome. 2) Tiger Woods withdraws from The Masters with back issues. That's got to knock his chances of catching Jack Nicklaus for most majors by a good 10 percent I'd think. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness/Cinderell-O-Meter, Knowshon Moreno, NLRB ruling, Heat, Greatest Ralph results. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Dolphins sign ex-Canes OL: Dolphins today signed offensive lineman Jason Fox, the former All-ACC Miami Hurricanes stalwart. Fox spent past four years with Detroit Lions. He opened last season starting at right tackle but would start only three other games.

1aa1aabuelaThe Grand Opening: Marlins opened season big Monday night with a 10-1 win that found Jose Fernandez striking out nine in six innings as his grandmother (pictured) watched him pitch here for the first time. That was my column; click Abuela to read. In Sunday's Marlins special preview section I wrote an upbeat column on the team, listing 10 reasons to like this team and feel good about this season. So I look prescient, for now. Click HERE to read.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MARLINS?: I admit it. The Marlins are my toughest Miami team to read in 1aa1ajosefterms of the fan base. How do they (you) feel? Upbeat and optimistic? Still hating Jeffrey Loria so much it colors your thinking? What? Well, Opening Night 2014 seems the perfect time to ask. Marlins certainly got off to a wonderful start last night by clobbering Colorado, 10-1. Jose Fernandez struck out nine in six innings, and the offense that wasn't there last season appeared with a vengeance. Oh, and the crowd was a Marlins Park-record 37,000-plus and festive and loud. Now the team is 2-0. But how will that translate for the long haul? Take a dip in our poll, vote what best describes your level of Fish fandom, and say why.

TOLD YA SO ON HEAT: I hate to brag, by which I mean I love to brag, so i'll remind you I told you in a blog item last week that the Heat -- then trailing Indiana by 3 games -- still had a great chance at the No. 1 conference playoff seed based on each team's remaining schedule. Apparently I was right. Miami is now narrowly ahead based on the loss column (51-22 to the Pacers' 52-23). Miami's nine games left include six at home and five against teams with current losing records. Indy's seven games left include three at home and four against losing teams. Most important: Teams' final meet on April 11 is here. Could be tantamount to a winner-take-all for that top seed. Delicious!

HOCHMAN DEBUTS ON WQAM: Longtime former 790 The Ticket personality Marc Hochman ended his contractually mandated time off and returned to the air yesterday (3-7 p.m.) on rival WQAM. I don't know how he'll do in the ratings but I've won already. Placed two sure bets in Vegas. One was that his debut show would include the requisite April Fool's Day prank. The other was that, within the first two segments, Hoch will introduce himself by way of an homage to 'QAM and growing up listening. For me to collect on the bet he had to refer reverentially to Hank Goldberg. Of course I wasn't listening because I was on some other air at the time. How'd Hoch do?

ME, CHARLESTON AND NEIL YOUNG: There is a Greg Cote who is not in the newspaper, online or on radio. He's probably pretty boring, but he would give you an occasional glimpse into that other life 1aa1aneilybecause it's his blog. I mean my blog. Wife and I spent a long weekend in Charleston, S.C., with our longtime friends Jake and Evelyn, from the D.C. area. The two couples started a tradition of meeting and mini-vacationing a couple of times a year at an agreed-upon location, just because. We'd been to San Antonio, Cleveland, Memphis and New Orleans before Charleston. No two cities are alike, except that, coincidentally, all serve alcohol. While in Charleston I finished my latest book, Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young's autobiography. Highly recommended to anyone who is into Young, via CSNY or Crazy Horse. He's a fascinating guy way beyond performing on stage. No spoiler alert needed, but three things to hopefully pique your interest: Pono, Lincvolt and Lionel trains.

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March 27, 2014

Mon am 3-31: Gators in Final Four; plus Dolphins' big upgrade, NLRB's bad ruling, Heat's shot at No. 1, Greatest Ralph & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 30. Check out my latest Random Evidence Sunday notes-column package, leading with the Marlins. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Greatest Ralph poll, Heat fall to Pacers, the art of child-spoiling, topless protestors & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

An optimistic take on Marlins. No, seriously: In today's special Marlins preview section I write an upbeat column on the Marlins. I list 10 reasons to like this team and feel good about this season. Check it out.

DOLPHINS AN APPRECIABLY BETTER OFFENSE BY ADDING MORENO: Signing free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno yesterday makes Miami's offense better -- period. You don't need a bunch of nerdy metrics 1aa1amorenorbor useless stat breakdowns to know that. In Denver last year he rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs and -- this is important -- caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three more TDs. Yes, much of that was thanks to Peyton Manning. Still, Moreno, used right, can be the dual-threat back the Dolphins had but underutilized in Reggie Bush. Moreno also is healthy, young, a very good pass-blocker and fumbled only one time in 241 carries last year. Lots of upside. He should complement Lamar Miller well, no matter who starts. The onus now is on Daniel Thomas to earn his roster spot and carries. The fact Moreno only signed a 1-year, $3 million contract could be smart for both sides. He isn't a financial burden for the Dolphins. At that price, he's low risk, high ceiling. Smart, smart. Moreno is pictured gesturing where he hopes to be on Miami's RB depth chart this season.

BRACKETS BACK! CINDERELL-O-METER (PATENT PENDING) AT 33.3% ENTERING ELITE 8 GAMES: Excluding the four even-seeded play-in games, there have now been 20 upsets (by seeding) in the 60 men's NCAA Tournament games through the Elite Eight round, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 33.3 percent. We update the Cindy Meter throughout March Madness. Here are all 20 upsets thus far, ranked based on seed differential:

1. No 14-Mercer over 3-Duke (+11)

2. 10-Stanford over 2-Kansas (+8)

2. 11-Dayton over 3-Syracuse (+8)

4. 8-Kentucky over 1-Wichita State (+7)

4. 12-North Dakota State over 5-Oklahoma (+7)

4. 12-Harvard over 5-Cincinnati (+7)

4. 12-Stephen F. Austin over 5-VCU (+7)

8. 8-Kentucky over 2-Michigan (+6)

9. 7-UConn over 2-Villanova (+5)

9. 11-Dayton over 6-Ohio State (+5)

9. 11-Tennessee over 6-UMass (+5)

12. 7-UConn ovcer 3-Iowa State (+4)

12.8-Kentucky over 4-Louisvile (+4) 

14. 4-Michigan State over 1-Virginia (+3)

14. 6-Baylor over 3-Creighton (+3)

14. 7-UConn over 4-Michigan State (+3)

14. 10-Stanford over 7-New Mexico (+3)

18. 2-Wisconsin over 1-Arizona (+1)

18. 9-Pitt over 8-Colorado (+1)

18, 11-Dayton over 10-Stanford (+1)

The Cindy Meter composite standings among teams still alive in the tournament are: Kentucky +17 and UConn +12.

Elite Eight round: And my bracket wants...: I had five of eight teams still alive on my bracket. Saturday: I needed Florida to beat Dayton (thanks, Gators), and Arizona to beat Wisconsin. Got one of two. Sunday: I needed Michigan State to beat UConn and Michigan to beat Kentucky -- and got neither.

Sweet 16 round. And my bracket wants...: I had nine of 16 teams still alive in my bracket entering the Sweet 16 games. Thursday night: I needed Wisconsin, Florida and Arizona to win, and all did. (I didn't have a dog in the Dayton-Stanford hunt). Friday night: I needed Michigan and Michigan State to win -- and both did. I did not get the wins I needed from Iowa State and Louisville.

WHY THE NLRB'S NORTHWESTERN DECISION IS WRONG-HEADED AND SHOULDN'T STAND: So a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago rules that Northwestern football players may vote to unionize, and all hell breaks loose in college sports. The ruling affects only private universities (for 1aa1anlrbnow), so the potential reaches to Coral Gables and UM. The Northwestern players bid for compensation benefits for injuries well into their post-school futures, plus bargaining rights for working conditions such as number of practices. The NLRB in effect has ruled that football players are primarily workers and employees, not students. Pay-for-play is not a part of this whole thing, although the ruling surely opens the door for that, too. There are problems with the ruling. Where do I begin? Players already have medical benefits; your ankle injury is well-treated. And is it really good for college sports to have players negotiating how much they'd like to practice? Mostly this ruling is wrong because it assumes players contribute substantially to a school's football revenue. (In Northwestern's case that was $235 million from 2003-12). That's a faulty premise. The ruling alludes to the "enormous commercial value" of players' work. That's wrong. Players come and go, and very few actually impact a university's success or brand. For every superstar exception like Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, there are a hundred relatively anonymous low- or no-impact players along for the ride. About 99 percent of all players have zero relevance on attendance and revenue at Any Given University. They are incidental. They are passengers. The backup guard who seldom plays and should be grateful for his scholarship is lumped in this ruling with the star quarterback -- either that or somebody has to decide relative value. The whole idea of most athletes' entitlement beyond their scholarship is faulty. The brand is Ohio State or Southern Cal or Florida, and fans will be there no matter who temporarily fills the uniform. This NLRB ruling is an unnecessary mess for college sports. I'd call it a landmark ruling if I weren't pretty sure it'll be overturned on appeal and disappear. (At least for now...).

1aa1aheatindHEAT NOT CONCEDING NO. 1 SEED: Last night's 84-83 Miami loss at Indiana gave the Pacers a 3-game lead for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed, and 2 in the loss column. But the tiebreaker (conference record) goes to IND so Heat must finish with a better record, not tied. Still, it ain't over! Miami has 12 games left, and seven are at home including an April 11 rematch with the Pacers. Only five of 12 Heat games left are against teams with a winning record. Indiana has only four games left, of 10, and five against teams with a winning record. In sum, Miami if it wins the rematch here in two weeks will have a shot at wresting No. 1 and home-court advantage in what should be a deliciously brutal playoff series.

1aa1akramdenBUS DRIVER BEATS POET FOR GREATEST-RALPH HONORS: We asked you in the previous blogpost to name the Greatest Ralph of All-Time (you may still vote), and I'm thrilled to report a delightfully diverse two-way battle emerged from among 11 finalists, and that Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners (32.7 percent) beat Ralph Waldo Emerson (20.3%). Ralph Lauren and Happy Days' Ralph Malph were dueling for a distant third. A fictional sitcom bus driver winning my poll over a legendary essayist/poet says much about my blog readership -- all of it good!

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March 26, 2014

Wed pm 3-26: Who is greatest Ralph of all-time? Urgent new poll. Vote now!; plus Heat lose at Pacers, Diddy's parenting, topless protest & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat panic poll, Bosh's birthday bash, Marlins' Samson acting, Madness takes a breather, Sweet 16 odds & more. 2) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

WHO IS THE GREATEST RALPH? VOTE NOW IN THIS IMPORTANT NEW POLL: Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died yesterday, and that got us thinking. Who is the greatest Ralph of all-time? I love the name Ralph. To me it sounds funny (ralf) and is a comedic name, yet its origin is nobly masculine ("wolf counsel") and it has identified some very accomplished people. I have winnowed the great Ralphs to 11 for this poll. Did I miss anybody? This is purely Ralphs, no Rafaels, but a special hometown shoutout to the late Rafael "Ralph" Sanchez, founder of Homestead-Miami Speedway. This is a Boutique Poll. By that I mean it may be unpopular and of interest mostly to me, because I'm weird. OK. Onto the poll: Who's the greatest Ralph and why? Let's get Ralphing!

HEAT FALL AT PACERS: Eastern Conference rivals split two games in December, now Grudge Tres on Wednesday night went  to host Indiana, 84-83, despite LeBron James' 38 points. It was must-watch TV, deliciously physical and acrimonious. (Click on Playoff Feel for today's Heat-Pacers preview column by me). This has turned into the best rivalry in the NBA, and tonight only furthered that. Heat was up 80-76 before faltering. Didn't help that with 2 minutes left Dwyane Wade went out with an apparent hamstring tweak, underlining the question, "Can the Heat count on Wade physically?"

Heat three-peat confidence eroding, but still there: We have asked three times now at spaced intervals: Will the Heat win a third straight NBA title -- yes or no? On Oct. 29 (preseason), it was 83.0 percent yes. On Dec. 12 (with a 16-6 record after a loss to Indiana), it was 70.4% yes. Now, in our latest blogpoll, it's down to 62.8% yes. Interesting trend.

ART OF SPOILING CHILDREN TAKEN TO NEW LEVEL: Sean "Diddy" Combs is planning a lavish Sweet 16 1aa1amaybachbirthday party for his son Christian and has hired a brand placement company to elicit swag to fill goodie bags in exchange for Facebook and Instagram mentions from Diddy. In 2010, dad gave son Justin a $360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday. By my reckonming there is no way either Combs child will be able to avoid spiraling into a Bieberesque life of entitlement, drugs and arrests or, even worse, involvement with a Kardashian.

1aa1aspaintopTOPLESS PROTESTORS CRASH PRO-LIFE RALLY: I so seldom get to write a headline like that. To me it has a "headless body found in topless bar" vibe. Anyway, in Spain on Sunday, topless female protestors painted like skeletons crashed an anti-abortion rally. Presented is an arresting image. Literally.

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March 24, 2014

Tue pm 3-25: Real concern or unneeded angst on Heat title hopes? Poll. Vote!; plus Marino, Bosh's b-day, Marlins' Samson acts & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan Le Batard Show, 3-7 p.m. on 790 & 104.3 The Ticket, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. As serendipity would have it, today is my 16th national appearance as sports prepares for the Sweet 16.

1) It is TUESDAY, MARCH 24. Marlins announce Dolphins legend Dan Marino will throw ceremonial first pitch on Opening Night. 2) Happy 67th birthday to someone who has played so much of my life's soundtrack, Reg Dwight. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with March Madness (but not the one you're thinking of). 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NCAA Tournament: Cinderell-O-Meter, my bracket, haiku winner; plus Heat rips Heat, Dolphins and Moreno, LeBron's soda & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Heat: Big win, bigger game ahead: Last night's 93-91 home win over Portland turned a valve and let some pressure escape from the team, but now it builds right back up fast as Miami visits rival Indiana Wednesday night. Click on Judge Later, Not Now for my column from the arena off last night's win.

HEAT ANGRY AND SEARCHING; IS THREE-PEAT SLIPPING AWAY?: Two straight NBA championships give a team a reservoir of faith. Confident Heat fans stand back and smirk at others as the outsiders panic 1aa1alebfruswith every Miami loss. But now it feels a bit different, doesn't it? Seven losses in the past 11 games -- before last night's 93- 1aa1aspofrus91 home win over Portland -- amounts to the most extended malaise of the Big 3 era. And now we are hearing anger and bewilderment. "We suck," said Chris Bosh. "There is no passion. There's nothing." LeBron: "Too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. It's very frustrating." Coach Erik Spoelstra: "Our lockerroom is angry." The Heat always seems to use turmoil and doubt as fuel. But when will that start to happen? Why hasn't it? Indiana is growing its lead in the East. Three teams out West have better records. Miami's run for a three-peat has become far from a foregone conclusion. I'm curious what you think. Will the three-peat happen or fall short? We had this excat poll question on Oct. 29, 2013 (just before the season started), and again on Dec. 12. Now we take a late-March pulse read, and it will be interesting to compare this with previous results. Remember, not asking if you want the Heat to win it all again, but if you honestly think they will -- if you were placing a yes-or-no bet. Vote and say why.

1aa1aboshbashON BOSH'S BIRTHDAY BASH: Give the Heat stars credit. They know how to throw birthday parties for themselves. Chris Bosh turned 30 on Monday so on Sunday he rented out Marlins Park for a circus themed bash he called Cirque du Noir. It included clowns, liquored-up snowcones, dunk tanks, carnival games, capering little people, a towering cake and entertainment by Bone Thugs 'N Harmony. A representative picture, courtesy April Belle Photos, is shown.

MARLINS' SAMSON STARRING IN LOCAL THEATER PRODUCTION: Marlins president David Samson, fresh 1aa1anotreadyfrom his quick boot off the island on TV's Survivors reality show, will 1aa1adavidsportray Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels in the upcoming theater production, Not Ready for Primetime. Miami's New Theatre will premiere the play with a Friday, March 29 opening night at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay. The play, running through April 19, is directed by Erik J. Rodriguez and revolves around the greatest SNL cast ever featuring John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray et al. Visit the New Theatre website for more. Samson, pictured, is a movie expert, marathon runner, reality-show star and, apparently, an actor. In his free time he is a major-league baseball team president, time permitting.

MADNESS TAKES A BREATHER: 9 STILL ALIVE ON MY BRACKET: Yeah, yeah. I know. I wrote a Curmudgeonly Anti-Bracket Column last week (somewhat in jest), but I do have a bracket in an office pool. Just one. Entering the Sweet 16 round later this week I have nine teams still alive: No. 1s Florida, Arizona and Virginia; No. 2s Wisconsin and Michigan; No. 3 Iowa State; and No. 4s UCLA, Michigan State and Louisville. I think my bracket is in decent shape. I have a dog in the hunt in seven of the eight S16 pairings, and am still alive for my championship pick of Florida over Arizona. Is having 9 teams still alive good, average or poor? To put it in context, Dick Vitale and golfer Bubba Watson have 11 teams left, President Obama has 9 left like me, soccer star Hope Solo has 8 left, and TV's Jimmy Kimmel has 7 alive. In my office pool, I am tied for 16th place among 54 brackets. 

Sweet 16 national-title odds: Fresh from Bovada today, Florida Gators are the readjusted NCAA Tournament championship favorites at 7-2, followed by Michigan State 9-2, Louisville 5-1, Arizona 6-1 and Virginia 10-1. Then it's Michigan/Louisville both 16-1, Iowa State/UCLA both 18-1, Kentucky/Baylor both 20-1, Tennessee 28-1, San Diego State/UConn both 33-1, Stanford 50-1 and Dayton 100-1.

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March 20, 2014

Sun pm 3-23: NCAA Cinderell-O-Meter at 27.1% entering Sweet 16, my bracket, Gators; plus Heat rips Heat, Moreno, haiku winner & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 23. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with March Madness, but not the kind you think. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge entry portal, our Top 5 Pats/Patricks, Dolphins free-agency grade/Super Bowl odds & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Gators whip Pitt, 61-45, reach Sweet 16: I'm up in Orlando with the Florida Gators in their NCAA Tournament regional and Florida looked and played more like the No. 1 seed it is today in easing past Pittsburgh, led by Scottie Wilbekin. Click on Problem Turned Solution for my column off the game centering on Wilbekin. I'd filed this column off Thursday's perfunctory opening win over 16th-seeded Albany. UF was top-ranked, had just won a 27th straight game and yet had more to prove. They're very good. But are they great? They looked closer to that today vs. Pitt. 

1aa1acinderellaUPDATED: NCAA CINDERELL-O-METER (PATENT PENDING) AT 27.1% AFTER 48 GAMES: Excluding the four even-seeded play-in games, which I try to ignore at every turn, there have now been 13 upsets (by seeding) in 48 NCAA Tournament games thus far, or a Cinderell-O-Meter reading of 27.1 percent. That includes all Thursday/Friday games and Saturday/Sunday games. We'll be updating the Cindy Meter here throughout March Madness. Ranking all 13 upsets thus far based on seed differential:

1. No 14-Mercer (over 3-Duke; +11)

2. 10-Stanford (over 2-Kansas; +8)

2. 11-Dayton (over 3-Syracuse; +8)

4. 8-Kentucky (over 1-Wichita State; +7)

4. 12-North Dakota State (over 5-Oklahoma; +7)

4. 12-Harvard (over 5-Cincinnati; +7)

4. 12-Stephen F. Austin (over 5-VCU; +7)

8. 7-UConn (over 2-Villanova; +5)

8. 11-Dayton (over 6-Ohio State; +5)

8. 11-Tennessee (over 6-UMass; +5)

11. 6-Baylor (over 3-Creighton; +3)

11. 10-Stanford (over 7-New Mexico; +3)

13. 9-Pitt (over 8-Colorado; +1)

UPDATE: MY BRACKET AT 35-13 WITH 9 ALIVE IN SWEET 16; YOU?: I know that I wrote a Curmudgeonly Anti-Bracket Column last week (somewhat in jest), but I do have a bracket in an office pool. Just one. I opened a nifty 13-3 on Thursday, my wins including two nice little upset picks with W's by 12-Harvard and 11-Dayton, and a third upset if you count 9-Pitt. I rallied Friday to also go 13-3 for a total of 26-6 entering the weekend. My most notable upset pick Friday was an advance by 12-Stephen F. Austin. I was 5-3 on the survival meter in Saturday games and 4-4 on Sunday. As we pause and await the Sweet 16, I have nine teams still alive in my bracket: Florida, UCLA, Virginia, Michigan State, Iowa State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Louisville and Michigan.

"WE SUCK." LEBRON, BOSH RIP HEAT: Heat loss to Pelicans last night was Miami's seventh in past 11 games, and I'm not sure what's more shocking. That slump. Or there being an NBA team named "Pelicans." OK, it's that slump, and the slumpers aren't taking it well. I haven't heard words like this out of the Big 3-era Heat since 2010-11. "We suck," said Chris Bosh. "There is no passion. There's nothing." LeBron: "Too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. It's very frustrating. We're all frustrated." Coach Erik Spoelstra may have understated it in saying, "Our lockerroom is angry."

1aa1akmorenoLOVING DOLPHINS' INTEREST IN MORENO: Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas might be OK, may be good enough. But I love that Miami thinks it can do better at running back and is looking at Denver free agent Knowshon Moreno, who visits today. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TDs last season. Yeah, it helps when defenses are so consumed by Peyton Manning that stopping the run is seldom a priority. Still, Moreno is good. He's compact, built for short-yardage conversions. He's in his prime at 26. He pass-blocks well. And he's a dual threat who caught 60 passes last year. Hope they get him. (Interesting Fins didn't target LeGarrette Blount instead, since GM Dennis Hickey knew him from their Tampa Bay days).

VOGELSBERG IS MAYOR OF BRACKETVILLE: Scott Vogelsberg is the winner of our blog's 9th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of March * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judges appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the double entendre on bubbles popping. Three Honorable Mentions go to Hukk (Madness Flies Away), Michael (Furious Study) and J.C. (White Whale). Special mention as well to 3Pete, Big Baby, Frydad4, Neal S. and Original VT, all of whom also placed haikus in the final round of consideration. Aside to Mayor Vogelsberg: Email me at gcote@miamiherald.com with your choice of prizes listed in the previous blogpost. Thanks to all for playing. Even those of you who were confounded by the idea of 17 syllables, and others of you who veered from the template and waxed haiku-ish on the Dolphins and other unauthorized subjects.

1aa1asprite6mixLEBRON JAMES IS DOC PEMBERTON OF NBA: Historical aside. Dr. John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola. Now Coke product Sprite is rolling out a limited-edition soda called "Sprite 6 Mix by LeBron James." Picture LeBron in a white lab coat painstakingly experimenting with various flavor combinations before hitting upon the winner: Sprite's traditional lemon-lime flavor but with hints of orange and cherry. "I never imagined I would have my own flavor someday," said James. Dream big, King. Dream big.

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March 16, 2014

Wed pm 3-19: March Madness Haiku Challenge: We have a winner!; plus Top 5 Pats/Patricks, Dolphins' FA grades & more


WE HAVE A MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE WINNER!: And the winner (and runnersup) will be announced in a new blogpost tomorrow/Thursday morning. Stay tuned. Thanks to all. Maybe the best year yet for quality entries.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19. Hope y'all had a beery I mean merry St. Patrick's Day! 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the onset of March Madness. 3) !n The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins free-agency poll, Heat sky falling, Tiger's error, Canes hoops & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

"Selection Sunday now done, bracket is set, office pools on ... HAIKU!" --Greg Cote

Haiku prize list revealed: Our 2014 Haiku Challenge winner will receive his or her choice of four prizes: 1. Dolphins 2013 Postseason Guide: Which may or may not be a collector's item, considering the team did not make the postseason. 2. Heat 2013-14 Media Guide: It's 496 pages of champion, baby. 3. Meet-n-greet with Dan Le Batard Show: And chance to sit in-studio with us during a Tuesday segment. 4. Eurythmics 1986 album "Revenge": Vinyl, unopened, mint. 

NCAA Tournament betting favorites: Bovada sets the faves as Florida at 11-2, Louisville 13-2, Michigan State 7-1, Arizona 9-1, Kansas/Virginia/Wichita State all 10-1, and Duke 12-1.

MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE: FREE YOUR INNER POET. ENTER CONTEST NOW!: This is the official entry point for our blog's ninth annual March Madness Haiku Challenge. The contest stubbornly 1aa1ahaikuchallengesurvives despite sometimes tepid response owing to too few inspired souls able to see and appreciate the natural marriage of American college basketball mania and Japanese short-form poetry. This a "boutique" contest, meaning its relative unpopularity makes your odds of winning fairly good should you dare to delve. Contest rules? Simple:

1. Haikus must in some way be about the NCAA Tournament or postseason 1aa1ahaikuexample(men or women, Miami-themed or national, serious or funny) and must be in
haiku form, or 17 syllables. Classic 5-7-5 metrical phrasing is preferred but not required, and rhyme-or-no-rhyme is your call, but only entries of exactly 17 syllables will be considered. An example of haiku is shown above.

2. Enter as many times as you like in the Comments section here, but only one entry per comment, please! Haikus must be entered as a comment here in this blogpost to be considered. In the case of similar haikus, favored status goes to first posted.

There will be a prize to be announced soon for the best, most original or inventive haiku. Chances are it will be a crappy prize, with a strong possibility that I'll procrastinate getting it to the winner and perhaps forget altogether. Don't delay because we plan to shut off entries and announce winner in a few days.

1aa1ahaikufigurine 1aa1ahaikuvitale

Defending 2013 Haiku Challenge champ is OC Dolphin with his winner: "Miami, home of roundball * Heat, second to none * Canes, joining the fun." The judges overlooked a lack of 5-7-5 phrasing, charmed by simplicity and use of the quaint 'roundball.'

Our CHAMPIONS ROLL CALL: 2013--OC Dolphin; 2012--Frydad4; 2011--OC Dolphin; 2010--I Am Kazaam; 2009--r.duke; 2008--Tococane; 2007--Bruce and David Tucker (tie); and 2006--Kurt from Boca.

Now, don't be scared. Have fun. Ready ... set ...haiku!


THE LIST: GREATEST PAT/PATRICKS: The Dolphins just sigbned the greatest active Irish name in sports -- Cortland Finnegan -- but in honor of St. Patrick's Day we bring you the top five greatest Pats or Patricks in South Florida pro sports history:

1. Pat Riley, Heat coach/president, 1995-present

2. Patrick Surtain, Dolphins cornerback, 1998-04

3. Pat Rapp, Marlins pitcher, 1993-97

4. Pat Cummings, Heat forward, 1988-90

5. Patrick Cobbs, Dolphins running back, 2006-10

Note: No Panthers made the top five after the Pat Committee rejected the surname Fitzpatrick.

Dolphins latest Super Bowl odds: Bovada has updated odds today reflecting the first week of NFL free agency, and Miami remains 50-1, tied for 23rd of 32 teams. Betting faves are Seahawks at 6-1, Broncos 7-1, 49ers 15-2, Patriots 9-1 and Packers 10-1.

Heat beats Rockets: OK so the sky isn't falling, after all. That was just a metor shower.

Poll result: Strong grades for Dolphins' early free-agent signings: We asked in the previous blogpost, a great response followed, and y'all came in throwing bouquets at new general manager Dennis Hickey. Tha vast majority thought the Dolphins' early FA work was good (57.6 percent) or excellent (30.1%). Another 10.6% called it fair, and only 1.7% thought it poor.

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March 13, 2014

Sat pm 3-15: Rate Dolphins' free agency moves thus far. Poll. Vote; plus Heat crisis, Fins add 2 more FAs, Tiger's mistake, UM hoops & more

MARCH MADNESS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's coming. You cannot stop it. Our 9th annual March Madness Haiku Challenge returns as a generally unpopular yet stubbornly annual blog feature. Here comes your chance to out-haiku the competition and win a choice of really crappy prizes that I may or may not remember to send you. Watch for contest and entry details in our official MMHC blogpost coming Sunday!

1aa1aaskew1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 15. R.I.P. Reuben Askew, 85 (pictured), Florida's great governor in 1971-79. 2) Patriots signing Darrelle Revis for one year. That's so Belichick! That's also smart. 3) !n The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Dolphins Strike Back, Ron Jeremy rum, Heat, ACC/Masters odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

"NBA nickname jerseys. God what a dumb idea!" --Greg Cote

GRADE THE DOLPHINS' EARLY WORK IN FREE AGENCY: [Update: Dolphins yesterday signed veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan, 30, who'll compete to start opposite Brent Grimes, and young guard Shelley Smith, 26, also a hoped-for starter]. I wrote an optimistic column on Tuesday -- click on Hopeful Days Are Here Again to read, and thanks for making it No. 1 most-read on miamiherald.com  -- on the Dolphins' start to free agency under new general 1aa1aalbertmanager Dennis Hickey. I'm not leading a Super Bowl chant or anything, but saying Miami is better than it was when the week began and that Hickey seems up to the task. A quick Dolphins free-agency scorecard so far: ADDED--Signed OT Branden Albert (pictured), DT Earl Mitchell, CB Cortland Finnegan, OG Shelley Smith and S Louis Delmas; re-signed CB Brent Grimes and DT Randy Starks. SUBTRACTED--Lost DT Paul Soliai and CB Nolan Carroll, traded OT Jonathan Martin and cut CB Dimitri Patterson. The Martin-to-Albert change at left tackle is alone such a huge upgrade at such an important position that it favorably flavors Miami's start to free agency. But that's just me. Your turn. Take a dip in our poll and tell the new GM Hickey how he's doing so far.

Status quo on projection for Dolphins' No. 1 draft pick: Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Mock Draft is out and, for what it's worth, he still has Miami selecting Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin 19th overall. Makes sense. Martin would be starter-ready on the right side to bookend Branden Albert.

HEAT: DON'T LOOK UP BECAUSE THE SKY IS FALLING!: Last night's 111-107 home loss to sub-.500 Denver gives Miami five losses in its past six games entering Sunday's here vs. strong Houston. That is a lull permissable for most teams, but for the double-champion Heat it invites sky-is-falling scrutiny, judgement and doubt. It is the club's worst slump in just over three years. Notable: LeBron James is averaging a mortal 20.2 points in the six games since his epic 61-point night. The Heat right now is looking tired of or bored with the regular season. Time to panic?

Thank you, Heat, for this slump: In yesterday's latest column -- click on Miami Spice to read -- with tongue in cheek I write how this season has become so much more fun than last year because the championship is seen as in doubt, not inevitable. 

WHY TIGER LOST IN COURT: Tiger Woods lost a minor breach of contract suit against him in a Miami-Dade courtroom this week, stemming from a 2001 business deal. Considering Woods' past serial infidelity, I think the case may have been lost in voir dire. Note to Tiger's attorney: Maybe that all-woman jury wasn't such a great idea, after all.

CANES OUT OF POSTSEASON BID AFTER ACC EXIT: Canes men now 17-16 overall after Thursday's 67-58 loss to North Carolina State eliminated them in second round of ACC Tournament, and they'll have no more games. NC State was higher seeded but this was a disappointing exit, considering Miami had won at NC State 85-70 on March 1. UM did bit have the season (or RPI) to earn an NCAA or NIT bid. Canes beat lowly Virginia Tech 57-53 to open the tournament. UM women still hoping for an NIT bid.

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March 11, 2014

Wed pm 3-12: The Dolphins Strike Back! Team makes gains in rebuilding roster, image; plus ACC hoops/Masters odds, Ron Jeremy, Heat & more

1aa1aferns1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12. Zach Galifianakis has a funny interview with President Obama on his sublimely ridiculous "Between Two Ferns" show on funnyordie.com. Click HERE to watch. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins 'Bright Side' poll, Heat drop 3rd straight, WGC/Doral & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

ACC hoops, Masters odds:
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are co-favorites to win The Masters at 6-1, says Bovada, followed by Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott at 14-1. In the ACC men's basketball tournament beginning today, money is on Virginia and Duke (both 2-1), Syracuse (3-1) and North Carolina (7-1). Florida (40-1) and Miami (66-1) are longshots.

THE DOLPHINS STRIKE BACK: FREE AGENCY, ROSS HELP TEAM RESHAPE ROSTER, IMAGE: This is a big week for your beleaguered Miami Dolphins, who have been irrelevant nationally for a decade- 1aa1ahickrossplus and a Bullygate laughingstock more recently. As I write in my latest column -- click on The Dolphins Fight Back to read -- this franchise has unique challenges. Other NFL teams must fill holes in free agency. Miami must fill a giant crater (the offensive line), other smaller holes and also erase the lingering stink of Bullygate, repair the club's public image and earn back the trust of fans. This week has seen positives strides on two major fronts: 1) FREE AGENCY: New GM Dennis Hickey (pictured with owner Stephen Ross) is off to a strong start. Re-signing Brent Grimes and signing tackle Branden Albert, safety Louis Delmas and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell are significant moves. Albert especially will anchor the revamped O-line with a Pro bowl-caliber guy on the key left side. Re-signing DT Randy Starks today also would be big.  2) STEPHEN ROSS: The club owner's offer to spend $350 million of his own money on stadium renovations is huge and would put Miami back in the hunt to host Super Bowls. Being a savvy businessman he wants something in return, an exemption from paying property taxes that would save him about $3.8 million a year, but that's reasonable. (The Marlins and Heat don't pay property taxes). The combination of a strong start in free agency and Ross' gesture make it a buoyant time for a franchise, and fan base, that dearly need some of that.

Poll result: Passing game tops Dolfans' optimism: We chose the Bright Side in the last blogpost and asked what facet of the Dolphins inspires the most confidence in you, and the top vote-getters were quarterback (26.3 percent) and receivers (24.6%), with notable support as well for the secoindary (20.3%) and defensive line (16.7%). Lagging were front office (5.5%), coaching (3.2%), linebackers (2.1%) and running game (1.3%).

1aa1aronjeremyNATURALLY, PORN STAR RON JEREMY HAS A RUM: When you think of overweight and astonishingly repulsive has-been porn star Ron Jeremy, you naturally think of spiced rum, assuming your willingness to make a leap of faith and hope it isn't spiced with what you fear it could be. Anyway, Ron was signing bottles of his rum yesterday at Crown Wines & Spirits in Fort Lauderdale. What other blog gonna bring you such essential information? Boom chick-a boom!

BIG 3, BIG WADE LIFT HEAT: The Washington Wizards aren't pushovers anymore but the Heat pushed 'em anyway, 99-90, here Monday to end a three-game losing streak. Always a good sign when the BIg 3 all top 20 points, but it was Dwyane Wade's big fourth quarter that seized the win. I'll say it again: Miami three-peats if Wade is Euro-step-healthy throughout the playoffs or at least when it starts really mattering, in the Eastern finals. Big home test tonight vs. visiting Brooklyn.

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March 09, 2014

Mon am 3-10: Bright Side: New Dolphins poll invites your optimism. No, seriously! Vote here; plus Reed takes WGC/Doral, Heat lose 3rd in row & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 10. Click on Random Evidence for yesterday's latest Random Evidence notes-column package, leading with Donald Trump's scary makeover of Doral's Blue Monster. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat Polls on Pacers chase and LeBron attending Ilgauskas ceremony, Tiger in hunt at WGC/Doral & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Reeds wins WGC/Doral; Tiger fades to nine back: Patrick Reed held on to win the World Golf Championships at Doral by two strokes at 4-under on Sunday. Tiger Woods' bogey-littered, birdie-free final round had him +6 for the  day, +5 for the tourney and nine shots behind leader. Click Red On Blue for my column from Doral off the final round. I write about two red shirts and the day's biggest winner, Donald Trump.

GIVING DOLPHINS FANS A CHANCE TO LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: If your natural response to the preceding was, "What bright side!?", you are a typical Dolfan, which is to say you are wrapped in gloom and 1aa1asmiling dolphinpessimism. Which means this is the time of year that truly challenges you. Free agency begins in two days and the draft soon follows, so this is when new general manager Dennis Hickey will reshape the roster for the 2014 season. Everybody knows the problem areas -- starting with offensive line -- so we won't take a riding crop to that dead horse. Instead we present a poll that invites you to say what the team's strengths are entering free agency. Make that strengths, relatively speaking. Put another way, what are the areas that least need addressing in free agency or the draft? Take off your Gloom Hat, Dolfan, and smile like the dolphin pictured. Identify what isn't awful.  Vote and say why.

HEAT DROP 3RD STRAIGHT: Heat lost yesterday at Chicago 95-88, blowing a 12-point fourth quarter lead and then scoring only two in overtime. Joakim Noah is a Heat-killa. Miami now has lost three straight for only second time this season; other time was Jan. 9-15. LeBron scored only 17 on 8-for-23 shooting after flying in from attending the Big Z ceremony in Cleveland. Hmm. The King hasn't been great since that 61-point game. Still say he should-a skipped that Cleveland event.

Poll results: No. 1 seed very important for Heat, LeBron's Cleveland trip OK: We had double polls on Heat in last blogpost. We asked how important it was for Miami to surpass Indiana for No. 1 playoff seed in East, and 47.3 percent said "very," 41.3% "somewhat" and 11.4% "not." We asked if it LeBron James should attend the Saturday ceremony honoring Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland (he did), and 48.9 percent voted "yes," 37.8% "no" and 13.2% "not sure."

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March 07, 2014

Sat pm 3-8: It's 2-Poll Saturday! On Heat-Pacers fight for No. 1 and LeBron attending Cavs event. Both close. Vote!; plus Tiger rallies at WGC & more

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 8. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On LeBron and Cleveland event, WGC/Doral, Luongo trade, Herald news, SI's shameless pimping & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

Tiger in hunt after 66 at WGC/Doral golf: Tiger Woods shot a third-round 66 today on Doral's Blue Monster to roar into contention. He was 1 back after his round. (Click on No Lightning for my column off the weird first round of the World Golf Championships event. There was torrential rain, thunder and tornado warnings, but no lightning from Tiger or the field).

HEAT VS. PACERS FOR NO. 1 SEED: REAL IMPORTANT OR FAKE DRAMA?: Does it matter? Who gets the No. 1 playoff seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference? Right now both teams have lost two in a row (after 1aa1aheatindMiami fell at San Antonio last night) and the Heat is 2 games back in the conference standings with about a quarter of the regular season left. The jockeying for that top spot (along with LeBron James' MVP chase with Kevin Durant) are the drama left. But is No. 1 that important? It's debatable; hence, the poll. The Heat downplay the significance. But how can it not be important if you imagine an Eastern finals Game 7 being either in Miami or Indiana and the difference that would make? Weigh in. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

MORE ON LEBRON'S ILGAUSKASGATE: Update. LeBron said last night he is planning to attend Saturday's event in Cleveland honoring close friend and former teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas but will make a final decision today. You know or can check in the last blogpost for the two reasons I think that's an awful idea. Add a third reason: The possibility the Cavaliers could discreetly tamper with and woo LeBron on his possible return to Cleveland. LeBron attending would become a media and fan circus that would overshadow Ilgauskas' night, and it would send the wrong message to Heat fans.

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