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World Cup rooting interest: Which of final 8 teams (now 6, soon 4) do you hope wins it all? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus your verdict on LeBron-to-Lakers, the president and the press & more


1) It's SATURDAY, JULY 7. Hope y'all had a happy (and safe) Fourth of July! For me it's a day of reflection as well as fun. I have not always loved who is president. I have not always loved my country's policies. But I have always loved my country, and been grateful to be among its citizens. 2) Want to surprise the Dolfans in your life? Check out our 'Fins At 50' book on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron to Lakers, Hot Button Top 10, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Cote on vacation: Missed new columns from me lately? It's because I'm on vacation this week. In town, still tending the blog, OD'ing on World Cup, but on vacation. I'll be back with a new column on Monday.

WcupTHE WORLD CUP FINAL EIGHT SIX (SOON FOUR): WHAT'S YOUR ROOTING INTEREST?: Thirty-two nations have been pared to eight -- now six, and soon four -- as the World Cup's quarterfinals stage ran yesterday and again today in Russia. The one good thing about no U.S. team in it is that many of us have had to adopt a team to root for, for whatever reason. I'm curious what your rooting interest is. In this poll I list the final eight national teams still standing in alphabetical order. Brazil and Uruguay were eliminated yesterday. Remember: this is not a poll to predict who will win. This is a rooting-interest poll -- who you WANT to win. And if you don't have a preference, it probably means you haven't been watching, and won't from here, which would be your loss. Past champions in the final eight, ranked in order of most recent title: Brazil (1958-62-70-94-02), France (1998), England (1966) and Uruguay (1930-50). The other four are seeking their first crown. Ready? Vote!

LebronlaWHY LEBRON WAS RIGHT, BEYOND MONEY, TO PICK LAKERS: Well, that was quick. LeBron James decided to take his talents to Hollywood (or thereabouts) on the first day of free agency this past Sunday, agreeing to a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Now if LeBron can coax a Spurs trade of Kawhi Leonard to L.A., he'll be set. In my latest column I write how LeBron should be applauded for his latest decision, because it is good for him and for the NBA. There's a poll below to gauge whether y'all agree with me or not. To read that latest column, click LeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth Applauding. Our four other columns from the past week: LeBron's 1 Choice to Meet His Legacy Head-OnMLS Miami Says All Are Welcome7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. And Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports Town).

POLL RESULT: SUPPORT FOR LEBRON'S MOVE, BUT...: I asked in a poll on my Twitter feed if LeBron James made the right choice by going to the Lakers, more than 2,200 voted, and it was 53 percent yes, 32% no and 15% undecided. I ask the same question in the blog poll above (you may still vote) and it was also yes, but closer, when last I checked. The trend? Pretty strong "yes" sentiment initially, but then an increasing number of "no" votes. 

THE PRESIDENT AND ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS: To preview his latest column, the Herald's Leonard Pitts wrote on Twitter: "I will not blame the murders on the toxic environment fostered by the president and his followers. I will say that in routinely denigrating reporters, they set the stage for what happened. They are not guilty, but they are not innocent, either." We agree. In writing in my blog about the Annapolis murders of five Capital Gazette employees, here is what I wrote last week: "The fear moving forward: That the next assault on journalists might be politically motivated as blatant attacks on the First Amendment and unjustified disparaging of journalists continues to spew from the White House. The president of the United States cannot continue to relentlessly, egregiously and unfairly portray journalists as "fake news" purveyors, as the enemy of the people, and not expect that might eventually result in violence." 

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Other select more recent columnsCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursEnd the Illogical Shame and Get Howard in the HallJeter Must Restore Faith Before He Can WinTannehill's Defining SeasonHeading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris. (For our column page, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

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Twitter @gregcote