June 03, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): NBA Finals, Canes ousted in NCAA Regional vie for top and see what else falls where; plus your Warriors/Raptors poll result, a column four-pack, our 'Rocketman' review & more

1) It's MONDAY, JUNE 3. Happy new month, y'all! 2) Check our review of the new Elton John biopic, "Rocketman," below. 3) It's always football season, so it's always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Learn more or buy on Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins on a run, NBA Finals with polls, Bill Buckner dies, ranking Miami's top 25-and-younger players, Back In My Day (Food Trucks!), Sheryl/Bonnie/Mavis video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our past week's quartet of columns: Marlins, NBA Finals, Bill Buckner, Miami's top young stars: For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / Drama Kings: How NBA Became America's Most Interesting Sport / Buckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness / And Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: Warriors even Finals heading back west: Toronto, an underdog entering its first NBA Finals, won Game 1 but saw Golden State even the series Sunday night despite no Kevin Durant (again) and 6-for-17 shooting from Steph Curry. Three-word analysis on the opener: Pascal Bleepin' Siakam!?! Now, after Game 2: What, you didn't think the Warriors were actually going to lose the series did you!?

2. CANES BASEBALL: UM season ends in NCAA Regional: Ranked No. 20 nationally in Gino DiMare's first year as head coach, Miami saw its season end Sunday night in a 5-2 loss to Mississippi State in the NCAA Regional in Starkville, after the Canes had hoped to be named a regional host but were denied. It marked UM's 46th postseason appearance after missing out the two previous years, but an ultimate disappointment for a program once defined by trips to the College World Series in Omaha. 

3. NHL: Bruins lead Blues in Stanley Cup Finals: Boston wins opener, St. Louis ties series, then Bruins take 2-1 command Saturday night with a 7-2 road rout entering Game 4 Monday night. Boston has raised Lord Stanley's Cup as recently as 2011, while the Blues are in the Finals for the first time since 1970 seeking their first championship ever. Sorry, Bruins, but everybody outside of New England is rooting for those 'dogs on skates from the Midwest.

4. MARLINS: Fish on road as team prepares for MLB Draft: The Fish, a sub-dreadful 10-31 at the season's quarter mark, went on a nice little 9-5 run to end May, and have begun June with back to back 9-3 wins in San Diego to make it 11 wins in past 16 games. Road trip continues Tuesday in Milwaukee. Meantime look for the Marlins to target a big bat with their first pick (fourth overall) as the three-day MLB Draft begins today/Monday. Two names to remember: Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday and Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

5. SOCCER: U.S. defends title as Women's World Cup nears: The United States is defending champion in the month-long Women's World Cup commencing in France in four days, this coming Friday, with the first U.S. match on June 11 vs. Thailand. The veteran American squad led by Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are betting favorites to repeat at 2-1 odds, but host France (7-2), Germany (11-2) and England (7-1) all are top contenders in the 24-nation field. I'm entirely neutral, of course. "U.S.A! U.S.A!" "Let's gooooo States!"

6. DOLPHINS: Mandatory mini-camp closes offseason: The Fins stage a mandatory three-day mini-camp this Tuesday through Thursday to end their offseason work, then it's around six weeks off (how will we ever survive!?) until the start of full preseason training camp. Big question: Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick? Second-biggest question: Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen?

7. TENNIS: French Open reaches quarterfinals in Paris: No. 1 men's seed Novak Djokovic and betting favorites Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep all were still alive entering the midpoint of tennis' latest major, but top women's seed Naomi Osaka was ousted in the third round -- and so was Serena Williams, who was after but fell short of a 24th career major that would have tied Margaret Court's all-time record.

8. SOCCER: Liverpool takes Champions League title: In Madrid Saturday, Liverpool rode an early penalty kick to a 2-nil triumph over underdog Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final. It was the sixth Euro crown for Liverpool and first since 2005. Tottentham was playing in its first Champs League final.

9. HORSE RACING: Belmont to close wild Triple Crown season: The Belmont Stakes closes thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown calendar this coming Saturday with Tacitus at 11-8 odds and Preakness winner War Of Will at 2-1 the clear betting picks in the tight nine-horse field. The triumvirate of races was doomed from the start when Country House was awarded the Kentucky Derby by controversial disqualification and did not enter either subsequent race, quickly erasing any possibility of a Triple Crown. Country Mouse is more like it.

10. CRICKET: Yes, that's right. Cricket, dammit!: Cricket is very popular in South Florida with those from the West Indies especially, and I don't have to tell them the six-week-long ICC Cricket World Cup is now underway in England, with the host nation the betting favorite at 2-1 odds and India (11-4) and Australia (4-1) chasing. Bumper sticker: I Chirp For Cricket!

Missing the HB10 cut: The teenage sons of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade reportedly will play basketball for the same Los Angeles-area high school next season. "We quit," said every other school in the district ..... Astros star Carlos Correa is out six weeks after injuring a rib during a home massage. Moving on! ..... The SiriusXM PGA Tour radio channel suspended analyst Hank Haney after he poked fun, entering this weekend's Women's U.S. Open, at how South Korean  players tend to dominate the LPGA tour. (Quick aside: Hank ain't wrong, by the way) ..... The 2020 College Football Hall of Fame finalists ballot will be released Monday. Once again look for Howard Schnellenberger to not be on it, because the Hall continues intractable in its dumb qualifying rules ..... Six Hurricanes qualified to compete in the NCAA Divison 1 Outdoor Track & Field Championships later this week in Jacksonville ..... Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee ended in an unprecedented eight-way tie when, oddly, all eight kids misspelled "cat" ..... Panthers prospect Juho Lammikko won a gold medal with Finland in the IIHF men's ice hockey world championships in Slovakia ..... A week passed without Inter Miami announcing a new soccer stadium site, so the count remains for now at three ..... Update: Countdown now 2,576 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

POLL RESULTS: YOU PREDICT WARRIORS BUT WANT RAPTORS: In separate polls we asked who you predict WILL win the NBA Finals, and who you WANT to win the Finals. And results were split. And 77.78 percent of you predicted Golden State would win (most of the votes cast before the series began). But 58.82% of you wanted Toronto to win.

RocketmanTHE ELTON JOHN BIOPIC 'ROCKETMAN': WEIRD BUT WORTHY: I've been an Elton John fan since my teens. No one else in music or pop culture has been as steadily important to me. So I walked into the theater Friday night predisposed to love Rocketman, the new biopic of his life (well, of his early years and early stardom through rehab in the early '90s). I walked out of the theater having liked but not loved the film. That's partly because I wasn't sure exactly what I had just seen -- which itself might be a positive viewing experience to some. (To most, judging by the 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score the film is garnering). Rocketman is part movie, part biography, and a big part musical. Not just musical as in a lot of his songs are heard. I mean musical as in dancing and choreography. I can so see this biopic ending up as a Broadway production. It is largely based on fact but with much creative license taken as well. A "true fantasy," as the film describes itself. The performances are strong, especially Taron Egerton as Elton, but there are times the production seems a bit disjointed. Times when dialogue turns to song rather jarringly. (Another nitpick: No mention of or reference to his longtime bandmates, Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson). Despite the flaws and the film being all over the map stylistically, though, I highly recommend it for Elton fans and also for appreciators of a cinema experience that is outside the norm. Rocketman takes chances. And that's a good thing.

Other select most recent columns: Take Heart, South Florida. We're Bad, But Hardly Alone / Riley, Heat, Everyone Else Chasing Warriors' Epic Greatness / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It (Really) Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Zion Williamson's Power to Reject the Lottery / All The Ways Dolphins Are Finally Headed Right / Inter Miami's Demolition Ceremony Begins Frantic Race To The Finish / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Brady Is As Brady As Ever / Marlins Losing Big Now, But A Future Is Emerging.

Other select columns: Welcome to the New America, Lexi Thompson / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Everything Aligning for Dolphins to Land Tagovailoa in '20 / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About So Much More Than Golf / In Joel Quenneville, Panthers Get Their Riley, Their Shula / Dwyane Wade Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is Bereft; Wade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And A 30-point Star and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

APSE-HONORED WORK: The Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked us a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the five 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.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

October 05, 2018

NFL Week 5 picks: Dolphins-Bengals winner and all the rest; plus World Series rooting-interest poll. Vote now!; also, Canes-Noles Week = first (real) test for N'Kosi Perry, Rocketman trailer & more


1) It's FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5. Football's here and that means it's the perfect time to delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tannehill falls in Herald QB rankings, NFL Week Pix 'n Fantasy, college State of State rankings, final 4-Man Outfield, latest Back In My Day video & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram. 

PerryCanes-Noles Week column: Perry's first (real) test: Through Mark Richt's smartly calculated design, the Hurricanes' emerging young quarterback N'Kosi Perry (pictured) has faced little to no pressure in his first three college appearances. That changes this week. Our latest column: We're About To Find Out About N'Kosi Perry. Select other recent columns: Whatever Happened to Kenyan Drake? And: With All D.Wade Has Meant, One Year to Say Goodbye Might Not Be Enough.

PicksUPSET BIRD DAY IN AMERICA!: DOLPHINS-BENGALS AND ALL THE REST OF OUR NFL WEEK 5 PICKS: The Dolphins are going to find it a tough go Sunday in Cincinnati, where the Bengals have their best offense in years and now get top RB Joe Mixon back from injury, as well as top defender Vontaze Burfict back from suspension. Read the full predix capsule at the top of my latest NFL predictions. They include my Game of the Week, Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!") and all of the rest. Our 28th season of Friday NFL picks (online Thursdays) is off to a solid start. We are a stout 42-20-2 overall and more importantly a strong 36-25-3 against the spread after starting Week 5 off big Thursday night. We had the Patriots covering 10 1/2 by beating Colts 34-20, and Pats won 38-24. Let's keep it going! Dive into Week 5 Gems for all of my latest picks. (Included is a separate link to Thursday's pick, or find it directly here.

MlbposBASEBALL POLL: EIGHT TEAMS STANDINGS. WHO YOU WANT TO WIN WORLD SERIES?: The two tiebreakers are out of the way. The two wild-card games are, too (sorry, Cubs and A's). Now we are down to the real postseason, the Last Eight Teams Standing, four in each league, with the division series having started Thursday in the NL and the AL unfurling today. And I'm curious: What's your rooting interest? Who do you want to win the World Series. Not who you predict will win -- who you hope does. Contending teams are listed alphabetically. Vote!


THE 'ROCKETMAN' TRAILER: As some know a movie is being made about the early years of Elton John. As others may know I'm a huge, lifelong fan of the man and his music (not to mention his philanthropic efforts et cetera). So I pass along this movie trailer with great anticipation...

Other select recent columns: NFL 2018 Team RankingsDolphins? Heat? Nope. UM Football Owns This TownNFL Enters Year 3 Of Anthem-Protest QuagmireTo The Good-Guy Grinder In The ShadesTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were Ours.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 15, 2017

Venus' Wimbledon run ends in defeat but still a marvel: My new column; plus Marlins score big 0 in major category, El Clasico Miami still hopeful on Ronaldo, Dolphins rocket up $$$ chart, your Heat-offseason verdict, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more


1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 15. Rolling Stone, increasingly list-crazy, lists the 100 Greatest Movies of the 1990s. Click here for the countdown. 2) Almost Dolphins time. Know any die-hard Dolfans? Surprise them with our book on club's first half-century. Learn more or order at Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): AL wins Miami All-Star Game, your Home Run Derby vs. ASG verdict, Heat-offseason poll, ESPY Awards & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Venus' remarkable Wimbledon run falls just short: My new column: My Sunday column, newly online, is on the marvel of Venus Williams even in defeat Saturday in the Wimbledon women's final, at 37 the oldest woman in a major final since 1994. Click on An Ageless Wonder, Even In Defeat to read.

CUPBOARD BARE: MARLINS PLACE ZERO PLAYERS ON TOP-PROSPECTS LIST: Here is a challenge the next Marlins owner will inherit. Miami suffers a complete shutout in Baseball America's new 2017 midseason ranking of the Top 100 Baminor-league prospects, which includes guys recently drafted. To put that in perspective, the Fish's four NL East rivals combine to place 21 players on the list: Braves--9 players (ranked 10th, 23rd, 25th, 33rd, 41st, 42nd, 55th, 72nd and 76th); Phillies--7 players (46th, 47th, 52nd, 69th, 81st, 92nd, 98th); Nationals--3 players (8th, 70th, 95th); and Mets--2 players (4th, 50th). Miami's barren minor-league cupboard is why fans should expect to see more veterans traded for prospects. That began with the recent trade of shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to Tampa Bay. More infusion of young talent via trades -- though not another fire sale -- should be expected before the July 31 trade deadline. Click here for the complete Top 100.

REPORTS ASIDE, RONALDO EXPECTED FOR EL CLASICO MIAMI: Rosters for El Clasico Miami -- Barcelona vs.Real Madrid July 29 at Hard Rock Stadium -- were Ronaldoannounced Tuesday, the day the Marlins hosted the All-Star Game. That overshadowed the news, but the soccer world has since been abuzz that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured) did not appear on Real Madrid's roster for the International Champions Cup tournament play including Miami. Barcelona's roster includes stars Lionel Messi, Luis Sanchez and Neymar, with no notable omissions. Some media outlets have since reported (erroneously) that Ronaldo not being on the roster means he definitely will not play in Miami, but that is not a certainty  -- at least not yet, or not officially. Ronaldo, 32, led his native Portugal to a third-place finish in the recent FIFA Confederations Cup tournament and perhaps could use a rest. Also, he has a July 31 court date scheduled in Spain related to tax-fraud charges against him. With those factors in mind his omission from Real Madrid's ICC roster was ominous, but I am told there still remains a strong chance he will travel to play in the Barca-Real game on the 29th. Soccer fans and Miami hope so, because Ronaldo vs. Messi is a big part of what makes El Clasico a classic. Stay tuned.

DOLPHINS CRACK FORBES' 2017 MOST-VALUABLE-TEAMS LIST: Forbes has issued its annual World's Most Valuable Teams list for 2017, a Top 50, and the Miami Dolphins are the only South ForbesFlorida franchise on it, smack in the middle at No. 25 with a value of $2.38 billion. That marks a 28 percent increase from the previous year, 10th-biggest plus on the list. (The Dolphins ranked 33rd, at $1.85B, in 2016). The Marlins, about to be sold for $1.2 billion, would not make the list at that value; 50th place was at $1.75B. The Heat were just below that. Overall, the Dallas Cowboys rank No. 1 in the world with a value of $4.2 billion, followed by the New York Yankees at $3.7 billion. The most valuable NBA team, the New York Knicks, rank seventh at $3.3B. After the 'Boys and Yanks in the top five comes English soccer power at Manchester United at $3.69 billion, and then the two teams in this month's El Clasico Miami, Spanish soccer titans Barcelona and Real Madrid, $3.64 and $3.58 billion, respectively. Click here for the full Top 50.

POLL RESULT: HEAT OFFSEASON A SUCCESS, ALTHOUGH VERDICT MIXED: We asked, "Has this been a successful Miami Heat offseason?" And "yes" was a clear winner with 58.2 percent. But it was 25.3% "no" with the other 16.5% undecided, meaning better than 4 in 10 had doubts.

HOT BUTTON DAILY: SAT 7-15-17: Today's sports events of most interest in SoFla:

Wimbledon, 9 a.m.: Venus Williams goes for women's title in London.

L.A. Dodgers at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.: After meltdown-loss last night, Fish continue homestand.

Heat vs. Memphis, 6 p.m.: Heat kid squad ends summer-league season.

U.S. vs. Nicaragua, 7 p.m.: Gold Cup men's soccer match from Cleveland.

Yankees at Red Sox, 4 p.m.: Sports' best rivalry adds Aaron Judge mania.

Select other recent columns -- Our Miami All-Star Week columns: All-Star Week Proves Miami's Baseball Potential as Loria Era Ebbs: From Tuesday's ASG. Verdict to Judge, But Marlins Come Up Big: From Home Run Derby. Home Run Derby Is King: Why power show has become bigger than ASG. Miami Loves Hosting, Just Has A Funny Way Of Showing It: We're not typical All-Star host. There Should Be A Place For IchiroHonoring such greats should be what All-Star Game is about. Others: Venus, Rising: On Williams' Wimbledon run to finals. to read the column. The Gentleman-Athlete Earned Our Thanks: A farewell to Bosh. Heat Lose Twice On Hayward: Top free agent picks Boston. Bam Is Due Benefit Of Doubt: Heat drafting Bam Adebayo No. 1. Make Fun of the Farce, But You'll Watch: Mayweather vs. McGregor. No Parade In Sight: None of our Big 5 teams seems close to championship. Fall From Greatness And From Grace: Latest in Tiger Woods saga. What's Next, Marlins?: Easy to say blow up the Fish, but harder (and not smart) to do. NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. Home Run For Miami: Loria selling Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. Also: History Breathes at UM Sports HallIs There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?Thank You, Mae RibackA Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports PastThe Miracle of Liberty CityThank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

May 13, 2017

The true tale of Marlins' Boobs Flasher! (with video); plus huge disagreement on how good Dolphins are, with your expectations; also, Buoniconti and Kiick as new faces of brain injury, David Beckham's acting debut, Hot Button Daily (Sat) & more


1) It is SATURDAY, May 13. Condolences to Fort Lauderdale's Ray Hudson, the Strikers icon turned great soccer announcer, on the passing of his father, Wilfred, at age 98. 2) Our latest Back In My Day video from the LeBatard Show is entitled 'Bumper Stickers.' Watch it HERE. 3) Know any Dolfans? Thrill them with our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins-expectations poll, Kathy Berman, your LaVar Ball/$495 sneaker verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

David Beckham: Aspiring soccer-team owner, professional actor: Becks has his first speaking role in the new King Arthur movie. Story here. 

THE INCREDIBLE (OR PERHAPS RIDICULOUS) TRUE TALE OF THE MARLINS' BOOBS FLASHER: It was meant to distract the opposing pitcher. That didn’t work. Had it been meant to distract South Florida from the fact the Miami Marlins had lost 11 of the past 14 games entering tonight’s, well, then that worked a little bit better. Fans have been talking less about the team and its Korinawoes than about a certain young blond woman behind home plate since an episode during Wednesday night’s home game vs. St. Louis splashed all over the Internet. Hey, Boobswhen it gets on Inside Edition, it is certifiably news. Or ... something. It was the bottom of the sixth inning when Korina Evaniuk, 22, pulled down and open the V-neck of her Marlins shirt to reveal much of her cleavage. Korina is shown, at left, in action, from a screen grab, and at right in her Twitter avatar. Alas, the attempted distraction did not prevent Cardinals pitcher Brett Cecil from striking out Christian Yelich in a 7-5 Marlins loss. "I was just having fun," Evaniuk told NBC6. "That’s just me. It’s my personality. We were drinking, watching the game and, I don’t know, we wanted to have a distraction. We wanted to try and win! I’m bringing attention to baseball I guess!" Evaniuk reportedly is (or was) a Marlins "Mermaid," one of the team’s in-game cheerleaders. She’d been a second-row guest of "Marlins Man," the local attorney-turned-cult oddity in his ubiquitous orange jersey. The boobs-flash was not shown live in South Florida because the cameras of the local Marlins broadcast were elsewhere at that moment. But the episode was shown on the St. Louis feed, and commented on at length by Cardinals announcers. Marlins officials officially condemned the action, but, if any publicity is good publicity, and if it takes the mind off a losing team, how bad can it be, really?

DayofdolphinTHE DAY OF THE DOLPHINS I: SHARP DICHOTOMY ON HOW GOOD '17 TEAM WILL BE: The Day Of the Dolphin was a 1973 thriller movie starring George C. Scott. The Day of the Dolphins, in our blog, is the two-parter presented here. Part I: Coach Adam Gase and the people running the Fins think their 10-6 playoff team has improved. They are convinced of it. Las Vegas strongly disagrees, setting a wins over/under of only 7 1/2. Who's right? I explore in today's latest column, and identify eight issues/questions -- eight big "ifs" -- that will provide the answer and steer the season to continued credibility or to the regression Vegas foresees. Click on The Dolphins' Eight Ifs to read in full. Meanwhile, I invited you in a recent blog poll to say how good you thought the team would be based on regular-season wins. Your verdict: 10 wins--33.7 percent; 9 wins--31.5%; 8 wins--18.3%; 11 or more wins--10.4%; 6 or fewer wins--3.6%; and 7 wins--2.5%. Your combined average of all votes: 9.20 wins, a maybe-playoff number closer to last year's total than to Vegas' disrespecting projection.

THE DAY OF THE DOLPHINS II: THE SAD TALE OF NICK BUONICONTI, JIM KIICK: Part II: Absolutely stellar work by Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price, our old friend and former colleague Scott, on this week's two stories on the brain-injury related plight of two 1970s-era Dolphins icons. These are long reads worth every moment of your time. Click on Nick Buoniconti and Jim Kiick to read, Nickbuonbut be warned. The tales will make you sad, especially if you are of an age where these two meant something to you pre-Marino, when Shula was King. (Buoniconti is pictured right, today, at 76. Kiick is 70). Within the story you'll find a video that depicts Buoniconti taking more than a minute to try to remember and figure out how to pul a T-shirt over his head. Heart-wrenching. I remember, attending the club's 50th anniversary banquet two seasons ago, seeing all of those gnarled, disfigured claw-hands and those terribly limping knees. Football players tend not to age well. The deteriorating mind, though, the effects of CTE -- those things are not as obvious. Until they are. Situations like Buoniconti's and Kiick's could have been spotlighted in any NFL city. It's unfortunate for the Dolphins the stories chose Miami, but the stories are important to tell. It's also notable and no coincidence that Buoniconti, a middle linebacker, and Kiick, a running back, played the two positions that tackle most and get tackled most. Like the government was with the dangers of cigarettes, the NFL is a few generations late in finally acknowledging the debilitating, long-lasting dangers of brain-injuries in the sport. That Buoniconti and Kiick are the latest faces of the problem is sad, but serves a so-important cause.

ASPIRING MIAMI SOCCER OWNER DAVID BECKHAM MAKES ACTING DEBUT: Beckham, 42, still trying to realize a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami, has a small part in King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword, which hits movie theaters on Friday. His appearance lasts only two minutes but is a speaking role, as Trigger, a smart-mouthed soldier to the king. Fans may not Beckhamtworecognize the British heartthrob, as he is hardened for the role with yellowed fake teeth and prosthetic facial scars. Pictured: Beckham as heartthrob, and made-up as Trigger. "My role is pretty small in that I have one or two lines," he says in a video on his Instagram account. This is Beckham's first speaking role in a full-length feature film, although he did have a brief, wordless cameo in the 2015 film, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Both movies were directed by Guy Ritchie, one of Beckham's best friends). The subject of the new film, King Arthur, was a British leader in the late 5th and early 6th Centuries. Hey, wasn't that about when Beckham first announced his bid to own an MLS expansion team in Miami? Beginning to seem like that. It actually was February 2014 when Beckham announced his plans. Three years and three months later, he and investors appear ready to complete the purchase of the three acres needed to complete his stadium site in Miami's Overtown area. The deal would require county-commission approval.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 5-13-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Atlanta at Marlins, 7 p.m.: Fish, losers of 12 of past 15, continue 9-game homestand.

2. NHL playoffs, 7 p.m.: Ottawa at Pittsburgh in Game 1 of Eastern finals.

3. Hurricanes at Virginia, 1 p.m.: UM baseball doubleheader after Friday rainout.

4. WNBA opener, 5 p.m.: Seattle at defending champ Los Angeles tips off season.

5. UFC 211, 10 p.m.: Stipe Miocic vs. Junior dos Santos headlines in Dallas.

[Note: NBA playoffs are off Saturday]

Select recent other columns: On The Team's Terms, Not His, on what it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. Not In Our Stadium, on the N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa, on why the Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons, on Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami, on Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 22, 2015

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 5.4%; plus Radio Tuesday, Fins sink to 5-9, Hot Button Top 10, ranking Miami's 25 biggest current sports figures, your Cooperstown verdict & more


1) It is TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22. Click on Week 15 Gems for all of our NFL Week 15 picks. 2) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Your 2016 baseball Hall of Fame ballot and vote, Dolphins/NFL Week 15 picks, Pete Rose verdict & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz today, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on The Ticket Miami (790) and 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, simulcasting on ESPNU and Fusion TV. I'll have a new blogpost here post-show, by mid- to late-afternoon.

"Would I trade Ryan Tannehill for Drew Brees, who is about to turn 37 and is five years past his prime? If drunk, perhaps." --Greg Cote

Miami's Top 25 Sports Figures: I rank the biggest-name Dolphins, Heat, Marlins, Panthers and Hurricanes, an impossible task, but somebody had to do it. Click on The Miami 25 to read the column and see the list.

Our Dolphins-Chargers postgame thoughts: Find them below, just after the new Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll.

DsmDOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G14: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 5.4 percent overall satisfaction -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 30-14 loss at San Diego putting Miami's season record at 5-9. The DSM, in its eighth year, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are certified official the day after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:30 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2015 DSM Results

Game 1: 31.0% (following 17-10 victory at Washington)

Game 2: 1.7% (following 23-20 loss at Jacksonville)

Game 3: 18.0% (following 41-14 loss vs. Buffalo)

Game 4: 2.7% (following 27-14 loss vs. N.Y Jets in London)

Game 5: 92.0% (following 38-10 victory at Tennessee)

Game 6: 96.1% (following 44-26 victory vs. Houston)

Game 7: 32.4% (following 36-7 loss at New England)

Game 8: 4.8% (following 33-17 loss at  Buffalo)

Game 9: 44.6% (following 20-19 victory at Philadelphia)

Game 10: 3.8% (following 24-14 loss vs. Dallas)

Game 11: 3.7% (following 38-20 loss at N.Y. Jets)

Game 12: 17.3% (following 15-13 victory vs. Baltimore)

Game 13: 6.2% (following 31-24 loss  to N.Y. Giants)

Game 14: 5.4% (following 30-14 loss at San Diego)

Next poll: Dec. 27 (following game vs. Indianapolis)

G14: SAN DIEGO 30, DOLPHINS 14: PLAYING OUT THE STRING: Postgame thoughts: Man, the Dolphins just suck. I hate to say it. San Diego had lost five straight home games.  Before today. Hadn't scored a rushing TD since Week 1. Until today. Had gone 11 straight games without rushing for 100 yards. Until today. Miami has turned into the remedy for other teams -- the opponent you want to play. Very little offense today and not nearly enough defense. Same old story. And this was a bad opponent, remember. Wasted season. ..... Halftime: Embarrassment! Low keeps getting lower for Miami's season. ryan Tannehill only 74 yards passing at the half. Run game with 13 yards on 10 carries. Meanwhile the pass-D has been scorched for 203 yards by Philip Rivers. Unless you believe in miracles, and I doubt you do by now, Miami is headed for 5-9. ..... Pregame: I'll be updating the score live and be back with halftime and postgame thoughts prior to the DSM. ..... Original post: God, this is what the Dolphins have become. A 5-8 Fins team playing at a 3-10 Chargers team in the only NFL Week 15 game in Finsboltswhich both teams are mathematically, scientifically and theologically eliminated from playoff contention. The only scintilla of drama we’ll find Sunday at 4:25 p.m. in San Diego is that the final road game of the year for Miami could be the last home game ever for Chargers fans, with the franchise plotting a move to new digs in Carson, Calif., south of L.A. That should add an element of emotion that could bolster the Bolts, while, oppositely, flying cross-country on a short week (after playing Monday night) figures as a detriment for the Fins. Yes, certain trends favor the visitors here. Miami has won nine of past 11 in occasional series, including 37-0 last season, and Diego has dropped five home games in a row. Also, Chargers have been held to three points in each of their past three losses. I have a hunch, though, that Philip Rivers’ offense will find its remedy in a Dolphins defense that has allowed 36, 33 and 38 points in three of its past four road games. If this is farewell, San Diego, Chargers will go out a winner, at least. My pick: San Diego, 24-20.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (DEC. 20): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Welcome to Miami: Basketball Town USA: Remember when this was a football town? Might be again someday. Isn't at the moment. Saturday alone, the No. 15-ranked Hurricanes men improved to 9-1, the No. 23 UM women narrowly were beaten by No. 4 Baylor 88-81 for their first loss, and Florida and FSU were winners here in the four-team Orange Bowl Classic. Hoop City!

2. HEAT: Riley denies team is shopping Whiteside: As the Heat hosts Portland on Sunday, speculation the team might trade young center Hassan Whiteside is "B.S.," said club president Pat Riley. Which may or may not be execu-speak for, "We haven’t heard a good enough offer yet."

3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Six days to UM bowl game as postseason parade begins: Saturday saw the first six of 42 bowl games, with the Miami Beach Bowl coming up Tuesday and the Hurricanes set to face Washington State this coming Saturday (though without new coach Mark Richt) in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex. That’s so close to the border you can see Mexico. Well, unless Donald Trump’s wall is already up.

4. PANTHERS: Red-hot Cats open homestand: Florida has skated to three wins in a row and nine in past 12 games and now begins a six-game homestand Sunday vs. Vancouver. Yet despite all the recent winning the Panthers are on the far edge of playoff contention, eighth in the East. Man, you tough with those postseason tickets, Lord Stanley!  

5. DOLPHINS: Fins in San Diego as another disappointing season ebbs: Miami visits the Chargers on Sunday, playing out the string after Monday’s loss to the Giants eliminated Fins from playoffs for a seventh season in a row. "Grandpa, tell me again what it was like when the Dolphins were good!"

6. PETE ROSE: Purgatory continues as bid for reinstatement is denied: Banned from baseball since 1989 for gambling, all-time hits leader Pete Rose remains ostracized with this week’s ruling. Of course, the Hall of Fame independently could still put Rose on its ballot, but that’d make too much sense.

7. NBA: Cavs, Warriors on Christmas Day: It's the gift NBA fans will all unwrap together. There are five NBA games on Christmas but one of interest: Cleveland at Golden State, LeBron James at Steph Curry in a likely Finals preview. Hopefully LeBron isn't too "tired" to play. 

8. MARLINS: Miami conspicuously absent from MLB's Cuba goodwill trip: MLB made its first trip to the island since 1999 with a goodwill tour including clinics, and participants included former Cuban defectors such as Yasiel Puig. Notably, the team closest to Cuba did not participate. See, it isn't true. The Marlins do occasionally do something smart!

9. SERENA WILLIAMS: Tennis star named SI's Sportsperson of the Year: Easy to defend Sports Illustrated's choice of Serena, who dominated women's tennis, although golfer Jordan Spieth had an argument. Also, I wonder if SI forgot that American Pharoah ended horse racing's 37-year Triple Crown drought?

10. STAR WARS: The Force Awakens sets box-office records: The new Star Wars film raked in some $250 million in its opening few days. More people have already seen the film than will  attend every NFL game on Sunday. It's good for sports to be humbled every once in a while, right?

Missing the cut: Carolina Panthers go for 14-0 today. Champagne ready, '72 Fins? ... Suspended Florida QB Will Grier is transferring. Later, Gator ... Wonder how the NHL likes that its leading scorer, Patrick Kane, was investigated for sexual assault? ... NBA referee Bill Kennedy comes out as gay after a gay slur from Rajon Rondo ... Four major amateur golf tournaments are underway in South Florida ... Duran Duran will perform at the tennis Miami Open on Key Biscayne. Which would be exciting if this were, like, the 1985 Miami Open ... President Obama congratulated retiring soccer star Abby Wambach on a great career. Republicans demanded equal time, argued it wasn't so great ... Ray Rice still wants to play. Sure, because there's a lot of demand for aging running backs who both punched their girlfriend and averaged 3.1 per carry ... LeBron James collided courtside with the wife of golfer Jason Day and was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

Poll result: Griffey Jr. leads your 2016 Hall of Fame inductees: We asked who you'd vote into Cooperstown from among 12 top contenders on the latest ballot, and your top five were Ken Griffey Jr. with 18.6 percent, Mike Piazza 11.9%, Roger Clemens 10.8%, Barry Bonds 10.2% and Curt Schilling 9.2%. Based on the mentions per ballots cast, only Griffey's support translated to the 75 percent mininum required by the Hall of Fame.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

December 16, 2015

Proposed Heat trade: Winslow, Deng to Knicks for 'Melo. Smart or dumb? New poll. Vote now!; plus separate studies suggest Dolphins fans are dumb but love sex, McShay's No. 1 pick for Fins, Star Wars fake spoiler alert & more


1) It is WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16. Aside to Howard Stern. Can I have a loan? 2) See previous blogpost for latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter results. Oh they're bad! 3) IThe Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins lose to Giants with DSM poll, rarity of MIA-NYG series quantified, NFL Pix 'n Greg's Lobos Week 14 results & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

And Dolphins' pick in McShay's Mock Draft 1.0 is...: Having a draft five months early isn't silly enough, so let's have one before the draft order is even determined. "OK!" said ESPN's Todd McShay today with his Mock 1.0. He has Ohio State (and St. Thomas Aquinas) DE Joey Bosa going No. 1 overall to Titans, and Miami selecting eighth overall and taking Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley. Quick reaction: Huh? Miami has so many needs, why would they spend a No. 1 on one of the few positions with solid starters?

HEAT TRADE WINSLOW AND DENG FOR 'MELO? ESPN WOULD DO IT. WOULD YOU?: The annual 'Melo-to-Miami rumor, reliable as a groundhog, has raised its head! ESPN Insider (and apparent Meloheatwanna-be general manager) Chad Ford proposes this week that the Miami Heat get in a three-way trade with the New York Knicks and Sacramento. It's complicated but breaks down to this: Miami gets Carmelo Anthony, 31 but still a proven scorer, along with career backup guard Sasha Vujacic and young forward Cleathony Early. And the Knicks in return get Miami's No. 1 draft pick Justise Winslow, starting forward Luol Deng and also Birdman Andersen. Would you make that deal? I doubt I would give up Winslow's potential plus a starter for 'Melo at this point in the gunner's career. Plus, how is 'Melo going to get his shots on a team with guards who want the ball in Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic and a scoring power forward in Chris Bosh? I'd almost rather have center Hassan Whiteside on the market than Winslow. Two factors suggest Whiteside is a lame duck. First, Miami has proved to be better defensively with him off the floor, which is odd and a bad sign for a shot-blocker who  is there first for his defense. Mostly, it will be very difficult for the Heat to re-sign Whiteside long-term after this season and still have the financial flexibility to move forward as a player in free agency. But back to the trade that likely will never happen but is fun to talk about. Would you essentially trade Winslow and Deng for 'Melo? Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

GrammarSCHOOLED! MIAMI FANS, ESPECIALLY DOLFANS, FARE POORLY IN SPORTS GRAMMAR: Grammarly.com ranks the 42 American pro-sports cities (NFL, NBA and MLB) based on a sample of 100 fan posts per team on social media, and Miami ranks a lowly 30th with an average of 8.14 mistakes per 100 words. (Click here for full list). Miami's score breaks down to 5.51 mistakes for Heat fans, 7.00 for Marlins fans and 11.90 for Dolphins fans. That latter figure ranks 85th of 92 teams overall. Oy. Like the Dolphins needed one more thing they weren't good at!? Wait. Shouldn't that be, "...one more thing at which they weren't good"?

On the bright side, Dolphins fans are very randy: Dating site okcupid.com surveyed users who identify with an NFL team and, to the question, "Would you consider sleeping with someone on the first date?," Dolphins fans answered yes 51 percent more than fans of any other team. Woo hoo! Was the survey taken on South Beach at 3 a.m? We can't know. A possible explanation for Dolfans' general horniness? Seven straight years about of the playoffs leave one seeking diversions from misery.

StarwarsbutlerFAKE SPOILER ALERT FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: Stars Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens open in theaters to extremely high anticipation this Friday. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his supporters face a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his Stormtroopers. Stop reading immediately if you want to be surprised because I am about to give away the movie's big ending. OK, here it is: The butler did it.

Revisit our blog a lot because we constantly update and add to our latest posts...

Twitter @gregcote

September 02, 2015

Who's best football coach in Hurricanes history? Poll. Vote!; plus Upset Bird Countdown (9 days), bizarre UM football photos, Kim Davis/gay marriage, Suh named Top 5, Heat intrigue, Canes' RBs, Dolphins get lucky, 'Concussion' trailer & more


1aa1acyrusm1) It is WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2. Dolphins change punters? If you think that's big news, you aren't very confident in your offense. 2) Wonder if it has occurred to Miley Cyrus (pictured) that the slut-persona has become so expected (ho hum) that she'd truly shock us more by being demure and fully clothed? 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Dolphins beat Atlanta in third fake-game, Weighing The Fish, Fins' fantasy rankings, dodging the Cone of Doom & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and now Periscope, too.

1aa1afinsat50Herald's 'Fins at 50': Our massive "Fins at 50" coverage commemorating Dolphins' 50th season remains available online. Click FINS AT 50 to access. My contributions: COACHING LEGEND, column on Don Shula. 50 GREATEST, list of franchise's 50 top figures (not just players). ALL-TIME TEAM, my picks. And VIDEO INTERVIEWS, my talks with Shula, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. I also have a Shula-by-the-numbers column not in original package; click TOP 10 NUMBERS.

A Pair of Aces: I write, in today's latest column, that big seasons by quarterbsck Ryan Tannehill and Brad Kaaya will be lifesavers for the Miami careers of their Dolphins and Hurricanes coaches, Joe Philbin and Al Golden. Click on To The Rescue to read.

WHO IS GREATEST HURRICANES FOOTBALL COACH EVER?: Championships? Longevity? Recruiting 1aa1acanesprowess? Serving with do-right class beyond wins and losses? There are many ways a college football coach might be judged. Now, it's Judgement Day. We offer you, alphabetically, the 10 University of Miami football head coaches who have coached here a minimum of 50 games. (Randy Shannon and Al Golden happen to sneak in right at 50). By whatever criteria you hold most important, vote for your top two (2), then check back here often to monitor evolving results as we find out who is the greatest football coach The U has had ... and who isn't. Vote and say why you chose as you did.


Deciphering two-vote results: The highest possible vote total in this poll would be 50 percent if everyone cast the maximum two votes. Double a coach's total for a rough idea of the percentage of voters including that person in their top two.

UPSET BIRD COUNTDOWN: 9 DAYS: Our 25th Silver Anniversary season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald, featuring the creepy yet prescient Upset Bird, launches Sept. 11. And so we have begun a 10-day countdown. This year's countdown theme is bird-related nicknames from America's Big

1aa1aseahawk 1aa1a9Four sports, from newest (No. 10) to 1aa1afripix 1aa1abird;pixoldest (No. 1). There are 14 in all. Charlotte Hornets, Baltimore Ravens, Anaheim Ducks and New Orleans Pelicans were too recent to make the cut. This pains us, because we love Ducks and Pelicans as goofy nicknames, and the Raven, of course, is the hero and official muse of the Upset Bird. Don't look for Detroit Red Wings in our countdown, either; that nickname derives from a wheel, not a bird. Also no 1aa1a10 1aa1abluejaysJets here, even though they have wings. Our countdown began Monday with the 10th longest-serving bird nickname, Toronto Blue Jays, established 1977. Today, at No. 9: Seattle Seahawks, born 1976. Ornithological note: There is no "seahawk' per se in the winged kingdom but it is accepted in our countdown as a nickname for the osprey.

1aa1acanesstrangephotoWEIRD CANES FOOTBALL PHOTOS: Here's a strange little story that first appeared on Bleacher Report on Sunday, headlined 'Miami Hurricanes Football Players Do Goofy Poses for Photo Day.' (Click here for the original report). The photos shown, by Eric Espada at Caneshooter.com, picture players in unofficial, casual poses, as pictured here. They're just having fun. Two minor problems. 1) As BR points out, "The student sections at Florida State and other ACC schools are going to have a field day with these photos." 2) As a few have pointed out to me on Twitter and in emails, the photos (at least this one) could be misconstrued as homoerotic or poking fun at gays. Like I said, it's a strange little story that I don't think is any big deal. But, for reasons 1 and 2, it's another example how athletes maybe should think twice before doing ... well, anything.

SUH ELITE, BUT DOLPHINS OTHERWISE LAG IN TOP 100 PLAYESR: ESPN.com's annual rank of the Top 100 NFL players is out today (full list here) and DT Ndamukong Suh (pictured) ranks No. 4 overall, after only J.J.
1aa1ansuhWatt, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. That bad news? Miami place only one other guy in the Top 100: DE Cam Wake at No. 51. Meanwhile the Fins' AFC East mates all have four men make the list. The Patriots have QB Brady 3rd, TE Rob Gronkowski 5th, S Devin McCourty 56th and LB Jamie Collins 97th. The Jets place CB Darrelle Revis 9th, DE Muhammad Wilkerson 50th, DE Sheldon Richardson 61st and C Nick Mangold 88th. And the Bills place RB LeSean McCoy 41st, DE Mario Williams 46th, DT Marcell Dareus 64th and DT Kyle Williams 94th. You wonder why Miami's offensive line is such a concern? That's seven front-seven pass rushing opponents in the Top 100.

ON KIM DAVIS, FAITH AND DUTY: [Warning: The following item may upset the "STICK TO SPORTS!!!" crowd. Those are the folks who accidentally wander across this blog like Mormons discovering Bourbon Street, unaware that Random Evidence is a (mostly) sports blog that also delves into pop culture and 1aa1adaviskimissues like this one]. Here is a backgrounder on the Kim Davis story, for the unaware. She (pictured) is the Rowan County clerk in Kentucky. Her office issues marriage licenses. Or not! She cites her religious belief in refusing to issue licenses to gay couples -- despite a Supreme Court ruling that says she must. "Under God's authority," she justifies her stance. Dear Ms. Davis: What you are doing does not make you a bad person or a good person as much as it simply makes you a person spectacularly unqualified to be a county clerk in the United States in 2015. That you were not summarily fired for failure to uphold the law and do your job suggests the Rowan mayor and city council may be hibernating and unaware of current events. May I suggest another line of work, Ms. Davis? Perhaps one where personal/religious beliefs and the law of the land are not at odds? Bulletin: THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Nobody gives a s--- whether or who you worship when not on the job. Nobody cares if, when not on the job, you hear your God telling you the love of same-sex couples is inferior and wrong. You are entitled to your personal beliefs. What matters is that, when on the job, you do what you are being paid to do. Or leave.

ARE HEAT THE NBA'S MOST INTRIGUING TEAM?: Grantland's Zach Lowe poses the question this week at ESPN.com; click here to read. The premise sounds like a bit of hyperbole, yet is not far-fetched. Dwyane Wade trying to hang on to "elite." Chris Bosh coming back. Hassan Whiteside emerging. Goran Dragic in his first full season. The elements for "intriguing" are here. 

1aa1ajoeyearbyEDWARDS INJURY A MEDIUM LOSS FOR CANES, NOT A HUGE ONE: Gus Edwards appeared to have won
UM's starting running back job when a foot injury knocked him out for the season just before the first depth chart was revealed. Now Joe Yearby (pictured) looks like the next man up to be the featured back, although freshman Mark Walton also is in the mix, with bigger Trayone Gray also still in the RB picture and more physically suited, perhaps, for Edwards' short-yardage and goalline role. Beyond Edwards' size advantage, though, otherwise, on paper, the Hurricanes should lose nothing with Yearby replacing him. Yearby ran for 509 yards and a 5.9 average last season to Edwards' 349 and 5.7. Yearby is a bit better receiver out of the backfield, too.

DOLPHINS CATCH A BREAK WITH COUSINS IN FOR RG3 IN OPENER: Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. 1aa1acousinskEven a struggling Robert Griffin III is better and a bigger threat than backup Kirk Cousins (pictured), who'll start against Miami up there in the Sept. 13 season opener. Cousins is not as experienced (9 career starts to 35), is less accurate (59.0% completions to 63.9%), has a sizably lower passer rating (77.5 to 90.6) and, perhaps most important, is more than twice as likely to throw an interception (4.7 pick ratio to RG3's 2.2). Also, Cousins is not the least bit a running threat; Griffin definitely is. Suffice to say, Ndamukong Suh and Cam Wake are not unhappy it'll be Cousins in Week 1. As colleague Barry "Buzz" Jackson pointed out, the first six QBs Miami faces this season could be Cousins, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Brian Hoyer -- a cornucopia of inexperience or ineffectiveness. Mariota is a rookie, Taylor has zero NFL starts and the other four have a combined 48-79-1 career record.

WATCH TRAILER FOR 'CONCUSSION,' THE NFL's NIGHTMARE MOVIE: Sony Pictures drops the new Will Smith film, Concussion, on Christmas Day. Here is the new 2-minute trailer:


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February 23, 2015

ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings: How Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins rate on use of new-age info; plus get-well campaign for Bosh, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, fight verdict, Oscars review & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 p.m. on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. (And eyes, on the national-show webcast...)

1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pacquiao-Mayweather poll, Hot Button Top 10, Dragic debut for Heat, Oscar snorts coke & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Stuck in the middle with you: Those six words are more than a 1972 song by Stealers Wheel. They describe the position of So-Fla sports fans, as I explore in today's latest column. Click on Border Town to read. Heat and Panthers clawing just to make playoffs, UM men's basketball on NCAA Tournament bubble, Dolphins and UM football stuck in mediocrity, Marlins improved yet not a betting pick for playoffs ... everywhere you look, our teams are better than bad but maybe not quite good enough.

Corner to Fins in first round?: For what it's worth, USA Today's new, post-Scouting Combine mock draft has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. My comment: That's be a great, but it's doubtful the draft's top CB will still be around at No. 14.

MIAMI TEAMS FALL SHORT IN ESPN ANALYTICS RANKING: ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com are calling 1aa1aanalyticsit "The Great Analytics Ranking" and it is now on The World Leader's website; click here. (Illustration shown is from the magazine). ESPN rated all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams on how it judged "the strength of each franchise's analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics." Teams were slotted in one of five tiers: All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics and Non-Believers. The Dolphins, Heat and Panthers all rated in the middle ground of One Foot In, while the Marlins are in the bottom rung of Non-Believers. Here is ESPN's synopsis (minimally condensed by me) of each Miami team:

DOLPHINS: Owner Steve Ross and GM Dennis Hickey have become proponents of analytics, and new VP Mike Tannenbaum is a recent convert. Ross is heavy user of analytics in his real estate business and has been frustrated by its relative infancy in NFL. In summer of 2014 team hired Dennis Lock, who holds graduate degree in statistics, to head a football analytics group. At same time Dolphins announced hiring of sports science analyst Dave Regan, and in September, Tom Pasquali, with a graduate degree in applied statistics and experience in Yankees front office, joined Lock's staff. Tannenbaum said in January he planned to hire a "sports performance director" and acknowledged, "We have a long way to go, but we started something in terms of trying to give ourselves a competitive advantage." Miami has monitored player health for several years, and coach Joe Philbin has altered practice schedule to improve sleep habits by becoming only coach to give players Thursday off. But Philbin focuses on game film far more than stats, and it remains to be seen how well he'll use Miami's burgeoning analytics department.

HEAT: When analytics skeptics point out that coaches have been using numbers for decades, Heat president Pat Riley is commonly cited. As coach of Lakers, Riley famously devised his own efficiency rating for players. He passed that interest to protégé and coach Erik Spoelstra, who speaks the language of analytics. Riley devised a system the Heat still use to grade each defensive possession based on 54 criteria, focusing on the process of executing the team's system rather than results. Evaluations are done by Brian Hecker, Miami's director of basketball information technology, who gets the pertinent numbers to Spoelstra. In addition to lineup data, Spoelstra also has relied heavily on a simulation model developed by analyst Bob Chaikin. He has worked for Heat since 2008, following stint as consultant for team during 1990s, when Riley first arrived as coach. "I look at [stats] to evaluate our team, to compare us to other teams, particularly defensively," Spoelstra told NBA.com in 2011. "I also use it to make points to the team about things we need to improve. I use it also for scouting." Riley's fondness for statistical analysis doesn't seem to have carried over to his personnel work as team president. Miami has regularly punted valuable draft picks in favor of stacking bench with fading veterans. Heat's success, including three titles in past decade, has made it easy to justify sticking with an old-school approach. To get back to that level, Miami's front office may have to embrace details like analytics and international scouting that have gone neglected.

PANTHERS: The Panthers were wise to pick Brian Macdonald as team's director of analytics last summer, although they still have a skeleton crew compared to some other teams around league. Integrating him into team's decision-making has been a season-long process because of when he was hired, and his impact may not be felt until next season. "Anywhere there is data in this organization, I've tried to get my hands in it a little bit," Macdonald said. "That includes the business side of things now, also. The past couple months, I've been doing more business than hockey."

MARLINS: Marlins have a small, tight-knit baseball operations department that has shown very little interest in analytics. Team president Michael Hill was a two-sport athlete at Harvard, but like GM Dan Jennings, is a former player with a background in player development and scouting. The job of keeping the Marlins aware of analytics trends falls to director of baseball ops Dan Noffsinger, a longtime staffer who majored in applied math and economics at Harvard. Noffsinger has good reputation but a broader, less technical skill set than the leading sabermetricians being hired by other organizations. In a sign that Marlins might be ready to change their ways, they are looking to hire their first analytics interns this year to get their program off the ground.

HEAT INVITES YOU TO WISH BOSH WELL: Everything is so organized now. For example the Heat on
1aa1acbgetwellMonday (prior to beating lowly Philly at home) unveiled a getwellcb.com website to encourage fans to send best wishes to Chris Bosh, who will miss the rest of this NBA season as he undergoes treatment for blood clots in his lungs. Not sure the prompting was needed. Great player, great guy. Everybody rooting for Bosh. (He'll be on blood thinners probably at least through May, but is expected back fully for next season's training camp).

1aa1adanteesoffIT'S (STILL) GOOD TO BE DAN MARINO: Dolphins icon (and ambassador and now front-office consultant) Dan Marino tees off during his second annual Marino & Friends Bahamas Weekend event, as a deployed small battalion of the team's cheerleaders stand in the background looking all cheerleader-y. (The excellent photo is courtesy the Miami Dolphins). The Marino event isn't a fundraiser but rather a cross-promotion in which the Dolphins grow their brand in the Caribbean while the Bahamas promotes itself as a tourist destination.

 A race should not end under a caution flag. Start 1aa1ajloganothere. So it was the antithesis of a thrilling ending in NASCAR's season opener Sunday as Joey Logano (pictured) coasted to the finish. In NASCAR's dream it would have been fan favorite and defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and retiring Jeff Gordon duel-barreling to the checkered flag. Or maybe Tony Stewart finally ending his Dayton jinx. Nope, just Logano under a yellow flag. NASCAR, reeling from the domestic-abuse suspension of Kurt Busch, could have used a result that wowed fans in one of its signature events. Didn't get it. That's racin', I suppose.

Poll result: Hoping Pacquiao wins but predicting Mayweather: We asked your feelings on the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight and it was split. Most hope Pacquaio wins, 56.5 percent to 23.4%. But most predict Mayweather will win, 57.9% to 22.0%. (The other 20.1% said they have no interest in the fight).

THE ACADEMY AWARDS REVIEW: Sunday's Oscars telecast may or may not still be going on. The Big 3 winners were Birdman (best picture with Michael Keaton), Eddie Redmayne (actor for The Theory of Everything) and Julianne 1aa1abirdmanMoore (actress for Still Alice). Admit it: No other Oscar category really matters that much except to the winner. Admit it II: You'd never 1aa1abirdheatheard of Eddie Redmayne, either, before last night. Evening lowlight: Host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. Admit it III: Against high expectations, NPH wasn't all that good. Summary: Boyhood

took 12 years to make and one night to pretty much ignore. Quick aside: While watching a film called Birdman, 1aa1abirdraphow must Chris Andersen and Bryan Williams feel? Andersen of course is the popular Heat reserve nicknamed Birdman. Williams is better known as the rapper whose stage name is Birdman, co-founder of Cash Money
records. I'm no lawyer but think the two Birdmen pictured at right should sue the movie for royalties. Speaking of the Heat and movies, I cannot confirm that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the story of how an NBA team works to integrate newly arrived Goran (Dragon) Dragic into its lineup.

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February 22, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10 including Heat-Dragic-Bosh, Marlins, Daytona, UM, Tiger; plus Mayweather-Pacquiao poll (vote now!), snorting Oscar & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat acquire Dragic with poll, Bosh medical crisis, athlete-media relationship poll, Mount Rushmore/QBs result, sign spinners & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NOW LET'S HOPE PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER IS WORTH THE WAIT: The camps of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have been negotiating six years to make this happen -- six years! -- and now (supposedly) it 1aa1afightfinally will, on May 2, in Las Vegas. This is the fight for the ages, the one to save the sport, the one to set pay-per-view records, the one to remind UFC that a major boxing title fight (this for the welterweight crown) still rules the fighting world. Credit the Miami Heat for a small role, perhaps in making this happen. Recall Pacquiao and Mayweather met courtside at a Heat game here three weeks ago -- astonishingly the first time the two had ever met and conversed. The unbeaten Mayweather opens as a betting favorite, the bigger question is whether two past-prime fighters can put up a show that lives up to the hype ... and the wait. Pacquiao just turned 36; Mayweather turns 38 on Tuesday. We're wondering here who you hope will win and also who you predict will win. Heart vs. mind. The answer for you may be one in the same. Or not. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 22: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Dragic arrives but Bosh out for season in wild, emotional week: In a late-week whirlwind Miami fans cheered the trade for Goran Dragic then mourned Chris Bosh's medical news -- blood clots on his lungs that will shelve him the rest of the season. Almost forgot. Dwyane Wade returned from injury. Otherwise, slow week for the Heat.

2. MARLINS: Play ball! Upbeat Fish begin spring training in Jupiter: First spring game vs. big-league foe isn’t until March 5, but practice for the practice games has begun. Excitement in So-Fla and national media buzz suggest Miami will be playoff contender, although the Las Vegas over/under of a modest 81 1/2 wins says, “Whoa, now!”

3. BOXING: Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is (finally!) set: The May 2 bout in Vegas, finally on after some six years of negotiations, is expected to set pay-per view records. Question now is whether two past-prime fighters -- Manny Pacquiao is 36 and Floyd Mayweather is about to turn 38 -- can produce an event worthy of the hype ... and worth the wait.

4. UM FOOTBALL: Golden convenes spring football practice: Offseason football is under way in Coral Gables culminating with annual offense vs. defense Spring Game March 28. Spring traditionally is time for optimism, except among perpetually dissatisfied Canes fans, who complain UM is only .500 in intrasquad spring games under Al Golden.

5. NASCAR: Earnhardt, Gordon in Daytona 500 spotlight: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will try to become only fourth back-to-back champ in event’s 62 years and first since 1995 as Sunday's Daytona 500 begins Jeff Gordon’s farewell year. NASCAR opener will start with the traditional call: "Gentlemen, start your feuding and backbiting!"

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men miss big opportunity at Louisville: Miami, on the bubble in terms of making NCAA Tournament, blew a late lead and lost 55-53 Saturday at No. 12 Louisville, missing what would have been a huge win. Should coach Jim Larranaga's Canes wind up settling for NIT instead of being on the Big Dance card, they'll maybe blame this.

7. PANTHERS: Cats blow chance to take over No. 8 seed in East: Florida lost 4-1 at Ottawa last night when a win would have overtaken the idle Boston Bruins for eighth and final playoff spot in NHL’s Eastern Conference. Hey, when your team last won a postseason series in 1996, close counts and this is Playoff Fever.

8. NFL: Scouting Combine nears conclusion in Indianapolis: And, really, other than questions about his weight problem, his shoulder weakness and all of the baggage of his immaturity-fueled college shenanigans, it was a great Combine for Jameis Winston. 

9. GOLF: Honda Classic in Palm Beach loses Tiger Woods: PGA Tour’s Honda Classic starts in four days, but sans Tiger Woods, who is taking a short break from golf. Jack Nicklaus called Tiger’s struggles "between his ears." NBC analyst Johnny Miller said he "must have demons in his head." On the other hand, Sigmund Freud thinks Tiger’s problem is just a hitch in his backswing.

10. MLB: Baseball institutes speed-up rules: Effective this year, for example: Hitters must remain in batter’s box after asking for time, and pitching changes will be on the clock. Good! I don’t wanna say baseball got much too slow, but the sport fell so far behind it is just now about to begin the 2009 season.

Also considered: Roger Federer bows out of Key Biscayne tennis, A-Rod's apology letter, Canes at Gators baseball, beagle wins Westminster dog show, Cricket World Cup.

HEAT FIZZLE IN DRAGIC DEBUT AS POST-BOSH RUN BEGINS: Newly acquired Heat point guard Goran Dragic (pictured) debuted for Miami at home last night in a disappointing, never-led loss to New Orleans. With Chris 1aa1adragicBosh sidelined for the remainder of the season with blood clots in his lungs, this unveiled the post-Bosh Heat. With Dragic here and Dwyane Wade back, this is your new-look team. And if last night was any sort of good test and good gauge, Miami could struggle to make the playoffs without Bosh. Miami had whipped the awful Knicks the night before without Dragic, but that was no gauge. When Udonis Haslem makes his first career 3-pointer, Mario Chalmers has eight steals, eight of the only nine players available score in double figures and Tyler Johnson is on the end of an alley-oop dunk, you know the opponent is awful and all things are flowing your way.

Poll result: Heat fans loving -- loving! -- the Goran Dragic trade: We asked, and you had no doubt, with 80.4 percent "loving" and another 16.1% "liking" the Heat's trade for point guard Goran Dragic. Fewer than 4% disliked or hated the deal.

Poll result: Athletes should deal with media, but it's arguable: Little consensus. We asked if leagues and teams had a right to expect players to be available to media, and it was 47.8 percent yes and 43.8% no, with 8.4% undecided.

1aa1aoscarcokeSATIRIZING THE OSCARS: The Academy Awards are Sunday/tonight as most know, and I found funny the pictured work of a Los Angeles street artist named Plastic Jesus. (Yes, Plastic Jesus). It depicts an iconic gold Oscar statuette on all fours snorting two lines of cocaine. The sign reads, 'Hollywood's Best Party.' Ah, artistic freedom! It's a wonderful thing. Although Academy Awards lawyers may not have agreed. The display was soon removed.

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December 16, 2014

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 5.1%; plus New England routs Miami 41-13, ending realistic playoff hopes and, likely, Philbin's Fins future; also Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, DECEMBER 15. Click on Random Evidence for the return of our Sunday notes-column package after a two-week hiatus. 2) Our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 also returns today. Find it here right below the Dolphins-Patriots post. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Johnny Manziel poll, Dolphins/NFL Week 15 predix, Marlins' winning week, The U Part 2 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Find Dolphins-Patriots gamepost and postgame thoughts immediately below new DSM poll.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G14: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 5.1 percent overall satisfaction -- the season's second-lowest approval rating -- in the wake of Sunday's 41-13 loss at New England putting Miami's season record at 1aadsm7-7. The DSM, in its seventh season, is a continuous weekly gauge of how fans are feeling about the Dolphins and their direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Results are usually certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2014 DSM results

G1: 96.4% (following 33-20 victory vs. New England)

G2: 12.2% (following 29-10 loss at Buffalo)

G3: 2.0% (following 34-15 loss vs. Kansas City)

G4: 62.3% (following 38-14 victory vs. Oakland in London)

G5: 14.2% (following 27-24 loss vs. Green Bay)

G6: 80.7% (following 27-14 victory at Chicago)

G7: 63.2% (following 27-13 victory at Jacksonville)

G8: 97.4% (following 37-0 victory vs. San Diego)

G9: 40.3% (following 20-16 loss at Detroit)

G10: 93.3% (following 22-9 victory vs. Buffalo)

G11: 38.9% (following 39-36 loss at  Denver)

G12: 69.6% (following 16-13 victory at N.Y. Jets)

G13: 6.1% (following 28-13 loss vs. Baltimore)

G14: 5.1% (following 41-13 loss at New England)

Next poll: Dec. 21 (following game vs. Minnesota)

G14: NEW ENGLAND 41, DOLPHINS 13 (FINAL): GOODBYE PLAYOFF HOPES AFTER 27-0 SECOND HALF: Final: The game  began with a 50-yard completion to Mike Wallace. The first half ended with momentum Miami's after a late TD. The second half was an unequivocal nightmare. What else can be said? Realistic playoffs hopes are now finished. So is the realistic chance that coach Joe Philbin will somehow save his job. Mediocrity, they record is 7-7. ..... Fourth quarter: Pats tack on FG for 41-13. ... If you're going for it on 4th and 18, why you wanna throw a way-short pass? Can this game end, please?. ... Dumb, dumb. Roughness penalty on Brandon Gibson, then Gibson gives the yards right back with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. ... All over but the wailing. ..... Third quarter: Suddenly, a rout. Pats up 31-13 on Brady-Gronkowski 27-yard TD pass immediately following Tannehill's second INT. This was off a deflection so not entirely on the QB. ... Pats tack on a 35-yard FG for a 24-13 lead. ... NE up 21-13 on 79-yard drive to open second half capped by LeGarrette Blount 3-yard scoring run. ..... Halftime: Though down by a point, a Dolfan might be reasonably if cautiously optimistic. The defense is looking great, with one Pats TD coming on a blocked FG return and the other set up by a long interception return. With a turnover-free second half Miami will have a chance. Meanwhile, the Dolphins offense has discovered the long ball, with seven deep passes in half. A welcome sight! ..... Second quarter: Tannehill-Wallace 32-yard TD pass -- Miami's longest scoring pass of season -- on an overturned call on review. Right decision. Jarvis Landry 32-yard punt return helped set it up. That kid's the real deal, man. ... Fins within 14-6 on 53-yard FG but it's more settling. Damien Williams dropped a shoulda-been TD pass. ... NE 14-3 on Shane Vereen 3-yard TD run, after Pats' Duron Harmon intercepts Tannehill overthrow and returns it 60 yards to inside Dolphins 10. ..... First quarter: MIA within 7-3 on 24-yard FG late in quarter but it's another red-zone disappointment. Fins had a 1st-and-10 but settled. ... Jason Trusnik intercepts Brady to abort Pats drive. ... Only the Dolphins, right? Miami begins game with 50-yard Tannehill-to-Wallace completion (a TD if not underthrown), settles for 41-yard FG try, sees FG blocked and returned 62 yards for Patriots TD by Kyle Arrington. Only the Dolphins. Geez. MIA's previous blcoked FG returned for a score was in 1991. Geez again. ..... Original post: Miami lost more than a game at home to Baltimore last week. It lost all margin of error in the playoff chase. Beat the Ravens and "at New England" becomes less than a must-win. Now? All but a must win. Beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady  in 1aa1adolpattheir chilly backyard today at 1 and postseason hopes are rescussitated. But lose and Miami is all but done, the season flatlining. Unfortunately for the Dolphins "at New England" is a tall task anytime and brutally so in wintertime. Miami has lost four in a row and seven of the past eight December-or-later games in Foxborough, and the exception was a 2005 game in which Pats had already clinched the dvision title and let Matt Cassel play three quarters. Pats are 6-0 at home this season, 52-9 in Foxborough in December under Bill Belichick and have much to play for today. A win here clinches yet another AFC East crown for NE, and Pats still gun for a first-round bye as well. Miami will get the A-game, in other words. Tom Brady averages 303.8 passing yards at home this year, with 17 TDs vs. only two INTs. I worry some about the Fins’ secondary as it welcomes back CB Cortland Finnegan but loses injured S Louis Delmas. I worry more about a run defense that has been pretty awful the past three games, making MIA stand for Missing In Action. Miami must both run better than it has lately and also stop the run to have a chance at an upset — a result that would make the playoffs hugely more likely. Dolphs beat Pats 33-20 in an exhilarating season opener. Don’t see a repeat in the chill, although I like Miami with the points. If only close counted for Joe Philbin. His job is slipping away from him, and Sunday won’t help. My pick: Patriots, 27-21.

HOT BUTTON DEC. 14: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature, back after a two-week hiatus, is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Will Foxborough be the end of line for playoff hopes?: Miami must beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in their backyard, something done only once in past eight late-season meetings (and only then because Brady sat out three quarters), to keep postseason hopes alive.

2. Marlins: Team acquires leadoff hitter, starting pitcher in big week: First they sign Giancarlo Stanton long-term. Now they acquire MLB base-stealing champ Dee Gordon and quality starter Mat Latos. Not fair. This is seriously infringing upon my ability to complain about Jeffrey Loria.

3. Heat: Still looking for answers at Chicago visits today: Miami hosts Bulls in marquee Eastern matchup today that will be a chance for Heat to get back to .500, but it'll take better defense than we've seen. Phrase you'd hear in a courtroom or among Heat fans: "The defense rests."  

4. Hurricanes: UM accepts invitation to Quack Bowl: Choices for 6-6 teams are limited, so Canes are headed to Duck Commander Independence Bowl vs. South Carolina in Shreveport, La. Those are TV's "Duck Dynasty" folks. Please tell me there won't be ducks calls blaring across the PA system.

5. College football: First four-team playoff set amid controversy: No argument Alabama, Oregon and Florida State would be the top three, but much debate when Ohio State snuck in fourth ahead of TCU and Baylor. What, you thought a playoff would end the arguing? It didn't. (Ain't it great!?)

6. Heisman Trophy: Oregon's Mariota takes top prize: Ducks QB Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy last evening. That's no surprise, although, since he plays on the West Coast with its late starts, Mariota is pretty much a rumor to a lot of fans on the East Coast.

7. Panthers: Cats semi-surge to NHL playoff pace: Florida today has won five of its past nine games and stands tied for No. 8 (the final spot) in the NHL Eastern playoff chase. Granted that's not exactly red-hot, but with this team we grade on a curve.

8. Johnny Football: Manziel makes first career start today: Cleveland is swooning but be careful what you wish for as we find out how much of Johnny Manziel, pro version, is all hype. New defintion of temporary insanity: You signed Manziel to start your fantasy playoff opener.

9. Canes hoops: For UM men, great start but real challenges are ahead: Jim Larranaga's guys are 9-1 and ranked No. 20. You know it's a promising basketball season when fans already are looking forward to a Jan. 13 date at No. 2 Duke.

10. Film: 'The U Part 2' can't live up to original: The first one in 2009 covered Canes football glory teams with all the swagger. The sequel premiering last night focuses on more recent, less interesting times. Pray there's no Part 3. Might lead with a 6-6 team preparing for the Duck Commander Bowl.

Poll result: Disagreement but prevailing doubt about Johnny Football's future: We asked and a plurality of 42.3 percent predicted Johnny Manziel in his NFL career would be OK -- neither a star nor a bust. But more than twice as many thought he'd have a short, failed career (36.3%) than prolonged stardom (17.0%). The other 4.4% were undecided.

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