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D-Wade's cousin killed in Chicago shooting; plus Dolphins impress in dress-rehearsal and Fins talent vs. hope; also, Canes football dissed in royalty rank, Marlins host WBC, Rolling Stone joins us, Jeff Francoeur, Heat's summer grade, Zika & more


Zikabillboards1) It is FRIDAY, AUGUST 26. The Marlins' comeback from 6-2 down to win last night -- that's one of the games they'll look back on and credit should they make the playoffs. 2) Marlins hosting WBC: Marlins Park will host first-round World Baseball Classic games next March 9-12 involving USA, Canada, Colombia and reigning champ Dominican Republic. 3) A new double-billboard (pictured) in Miami-Dade near the Wynwood epicenter of the Zika virus has been put up to promote condom use against the spread of the virus. Click on image for larger view. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins preseason thus far with poll, Race Of Champions coming to Miami, what really sank Ryan Lochte, KFC sunscreen & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Miami only 14th among college football 'royalty': ESPN in this piece today examines which schools lead the list of college football royalty. They have a five-way tie for first place, which is lame. Also dubious: the Miami Hurricanes, tied for sixth with five national championships in the poll era, are ranked only 14th, below both Florida and FSU. Oy!

Imagine if Dolfans were optimists right now: Preposterous, I know. But that is the premise of today's new column by me. Pessimism is easy. Optimism takes effort. Click on All The Things That Could Go Right to read our latest column in full.

Column six-pack: Six other select recent columns, ICYMI: The Real Olympic Ideal (it isn't gold medals). Name Of Stadium Doesn't Matter (on new-name Hard Rock). Time for Baseball and Cooperstown to Reconcile With Banished Stars. The Weight Has Just Begun (inside the office and expectations of new Canes coach Mark Richt). A Chance for Football to Retake Miami (on Wade's departure from Heat). Ichiro!

The Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls will be back with the regular season. Look for the first one the night of Sept. 11.

NykeaaldridgeWADE'S COUSIN KILLED IN CHICAGO SHOOTING: Just a few weeks ago at the ESPY Awards Dwyane Wade was one of four NBA stars to somberly address the issue of gun violence in America. "Enough is enough," he said. Yesterday in Chicago, Wade's own cousin was fatally shot on Chicago's South Side. Police said Nykea Aldridge, 32 (pictured), died when two men fired shots at a third man walking with Aldrudge and that the bullet was not intended for her. Aldridge was pushing a baby stroller when killed. She was the daughter of Wade's mother's sister. So awful. Wade, the former Heat star now with the Bulls (still strange to say), Tweeted last night: "My cousin was killed today in Chicago. Another act of senseless gun violence. 4 kids lost their mom for NO REASON. Unreal. #EnoughIsEnough." Click here for the full story via the Chicago Tribune.

PS3: DOLPHINS 17, ATLANTA 6 (FINAL) IN ORLANDO: STRONG SHOWING IN DRESS REHEARSAL: Postgame thoughts: OK I wrote that "Try Optimism" column and a lot of you angst-ridden Dolfans chided me. Fine. But last night you saw signs. Miami was playing a team that won two more games than the Dolphins did last year and Miami controlled the night. Tannehill looked sharp. The offensive line protected well. The defense looked solid. Overall a very encouraging performance. Ndamukong Suh was excellent before leaving with a minor ankle injury. I wonder if Zak Dysert might unseat concussed Matt Moore as backup QB. Bottom line? A good night for the Dolphins and coach Adam Gase. ..... Halftime thoughts: Very solid half by Miami. One that is encouraging. Ryan Tannehill sharp, 20-for-29 for 155 yards, with at least three drops, and the one interception off a deflected ball at the line. Not much running game, but a fair dose of Arian Foster (5-10 rushing with a TD, 2-20 receiving). Offense held possession by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Dolphins defense solid, too, limiting ATL to 116 offensive yards on 27 snaps. Good to see Cam Wake in his season debut. Coach Adam Gase on first half: Said offense "did a a good job. A tipped ball for a pick is always a tough one to swallow but I thought I liked the tempo of the guys." Also liked his defense: "We got some hands on some balls. I feel like they did a great job as far as putting pressure on them. The four-man rush was good. Coverage was tight. I feel like we made some strides." ..... Original post: The third exhibition of four is a Dolphins "home" game tonight, though it's being played up in Mousetown, scheduled there originally as a hedge in case the facelift on the newly renamed Hard Rock Stadium was not yet ready for public view. Miami is 1-1 in fake games after winning at the Giants then losing in Dallas, but of course PS3 is always the big one, the one dress rehearsal in which starters play a lot and how you look sort of matters. The exhibition finale Miaatlwill be mostly rest-starters/don't-get-hurt mentality, so tonight is the night to see the closest facsimile yet of the actual 2016 Dolphins. But only to a point! Expect Miami to not show much or flex the playbook offensively. Why? Simple. The Falcons' second-year coach, Dan Quinn, got hired because he previously was Seattle's defensive chief, and now runs the same defense (albeit with much less talent) in Atlanta. Miami opens the regular season where? At Seattle. So the Fins obviously won't provide a lot tonight for the Seahawks to study and prepare for. That's standard NFL gamesmanship. Having said that, the starters will play more than in the first two fake games. Receiver Jarvis Landry said tonight is "not something to judge us by," but also acknowledged the added emphasis on PS3: "Of course. Usually the third preseason game for your starters is the game that you get the most burn. For us, it’s an opportunity to go out and make it feel like a game as much as possible." Hopefully we'll see a sizable dose of Arian Foster, who continues to be slotted higher than Jay Ajayi in (for what it's worth) fantasy rankings and drafts. Also interested to see if Cam Wake, back from an Achilles injury, makes his season debut defensively. Coach Adam Gase must cut 15 players from the roster by this coming Tuesday so the bottom-thirders will be playing for their professional lives tonight. Who says there's no drama in August! Since tonight's game counts, a little, sort of, I'll update scores live here as they happen and check in with halftime and postgame thoughts.

NsuhQUANTIFYING DOLPHINS' TOP-TALENT SHORTFALL: As Miami prepares for its third preseason game tonight in Orlando, the dress rehearsal vs. Atlanta, ESPN.com this week is out with its annual Top 100 ranking of NFL players, and your Dolphins fared poorly with but one player mentioned, the guy over there. Meanwhile elsewhere in the AFC East there are 16 guys mentioned among the Patriots' seven, the Jets' five and the Bills' four. The division's Top 100 talent, according to the Worldwide Leader's panel of 50-plus King Sport experts:

Patriots (7): 3rd overall--TE Rob Gronkowski; 6th--QB Tom Brady; 50th--S Devin McCourty; tie-56th--OLB Jamie Collins; 89th--CB Malcolm Butler; tie-93rd--WR Julian Edelman; and 99th--OLB Dont'a Hightower.

Jets (5): 30th--CB Darrelle Revis; 32nd--DE Muhammad Wilkerson; tie-56th--WR Brandon Marshall; 65th--DE Sheldon Richardson; and 72nd--C Nick Mangold.

Bills (4): 79th--DT Marcell Dareus; 85th--CB Stephon Gilmore; tie-93rd--WR Sammy Watkins; and 97th--RB LeSean McCoy.

Dolphins (1): 25th--DT Ndamukong Suh (pictured). That's it, folks. I thought Jarvis Landry deserved a spot somewhere in lower 100. Reshad Jones might have, too, and thought even Cam Wake still might have snuck in. Alas, no. Only Suh. And he plummeted from a No. 4 overall ranking a year ago.

Also of note on the list: Former Hurricane TE Greg Olsen (Panthers) ranked 45th, ex-Canes DE Calais Campbell (Cardinals) ranked 66th; former Dolphin and Cane DE Olivier Vernon (Giants) ranked 91st; and ex-Dolphin CB Vontae Davis (Colts) ranked 96th.

Poll result: Preseason thus far has made Dolfans less confident, not more: We asked how the Dolphins' first two preseason performances have left you feeling about the team and season, and by a more than 6-to-1 margin it was "worse" (62.8 percent), not "better" (9.6%). The other 27.6% answered "no different."

WELCOME ABOARD, ROLLING STONE: The Chicago White Sox have announced they will change the name of their stadium from U.S. Cellular to Guaranteed Rate Field. In other words, a bad name is getting worse. This led RollingStone.com, in this article today, to write the headline, "Yes, Chicago White Sox Have the Worst Stadium Name in Sports," with this subhed: "It's time to
Rollingstonestart protesting corporate sponsorship by calling your team's stadium whatever you want."
Hallelujah! You all know I have been saying and writing that for years, and that I generally refrain from referring to corporate-named stadiums and arenas in columns. Just last week, in this column on the renaming of Hard Rock Stadium, I wrote: "I fundamentally dislike the idea of corporate names on stadiums and arenas, as many careful or longtime readers know. In most columns I avoid them where possible. I go with generic descriptions, such as the Heat playing in "the downtown bayside arena." Because why should I pimp for an airline? (Or a casino?) TV networks that have lucrative partnerships with leagues are contractually bound to mention "Hard Rock Stadium" early and often during telecasts. But newspapers and other independent media are not. Neither are fans. Consider: All that's left is for franchises to lease their very team's name to corporate sponsors. "The Heat Presented by McDonald's," with golden arches on the jerseys. Would you start calling them the McDonald's Heat because you were told to? So why can't you continue to call it Marlins Park even after naming rights are sold?" So, apparently our little cause is growing. Welcome aboard, Rolling Stone. Nice of you to join us!

JfrancoeurHERE'S WHY MARLINS GETTING JEFF FRANCOEUR WAS SMART: Marlins last night acquired right fielder Jeff Francoeur (pictured) from the Braves, giving up a pair of minor leaguers. I like the now mentality; there is a wild-card playoff spot to be won. Francoeur, 32, is past his prime but not a has-been. Here's why I like the move: 1) There was a need, with Giancarlo Stanton out, and Ichiro better when used less. 2) Very good right fielder with big range and a strong arm. Has led NL in outfield assists five times and leads all active RF'ers in defensive double plays. 3) Can still hit. Last season and this one (a combined 619 at-bats), Francoeur has 20 homers, 29 doubles and 78 RBIs with a .258 average. Not great production, but not bad, either. And 4) Really positive veteran clubhouse presence for a young team in a stretch run. Good move, Fish. 

HeathiphopRILEY SAID HEAT HAD A BAD SUMMER. CONFIRMED!: Pat Riley called it a "bad, bad summer for us." SI.com this week agreed, giving Miami a "D-plus" in its NBA offseason grades. The Heat held onto center Hassan Whiteside but not a lot else went right, from losing beloved icon Dwyane Wade to the continuing uncertainty over Chris Bosh to being forced to overspend to keep Tyler Johnson to failing to land the "whale" Kevin Durant. Franchise's summer might have been a "F," but at least none of Micky Arison's cruiseships sank. Pictured right, apropos of nothing, the Heat logo reimagined, via an uproxx.com redesign of NBA logos as hip-hop artists. Trick Daddy: Liberty City's own!

PEYTON'S STILL AN NFL STAR: Love the new DirecTV ads starring retired Peyton Manning, to the tune of Lionel Richie singing, "It's Peyton on Sunday morning," as our man walks around in his bathrobe doing menial chores. That HGH/Al-Jazeera controversy rolled off Peyton's back like water off a seal. Now, even in retirement, he's still a likable, lovable star in the buildup to this NFL season.

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