March 30, 2020

Greg Cote Show podcast new Episode 5 out now!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10, Florida Derby's no-fans ghost race, longtime Herald sports writer buys racehorse and hits jackpot, time for NBA & NHL to shut down, latest 2 'Back In My Days' & more

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 30. Our new Greg Cote Show podcast now has its own Twitter and Instagram sites! Follow both at TheGregCoteShow. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Back In My Day (Quarantining), NBA controversy over coronavirus testing & more. 2) Join us on Twitter.com/gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

New 'Back In My Day': Streaming services!: It debuted on Tuesday's Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio. Listen here. We're doing the show remotely from our homes these days, me via Zoom. Sound isn't great. Hope you enjoy, anyway! Starts around the 23:15 mark of Hour 1. 

CoteshowHEAR NEW GREG COTE SHOW PODCAST -- EPISODE 5!: Our new Miami Herald podcast, "The Greg Cote Show With Greg Cote," premiered this month and Episode 5 is now available! You can find a new Greg Cote Show out every Monday morning on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Megaphone or wherever you do your podding, and of course at MiamiHerald.com. Or find all five episodes we've done including the new one directly right here. Please listen, subscribe, rate and review! Our podcast is a variety show, sports and non-sports, 3-0-5 and national, fun and (when absolutely necessary) serious. In new Episode 5 we interview the man who brought notorious sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein to justice. There's fun stuff, too, as we share things we're doing in the Stay at Home era, I get mocked over halibut fishing and we introduce a new Q&A feature called Greg's Mail Sack. Check it out now HERE!

'BACK IN MY DAY': QUARANTINING!: I talk about being hunkered down at home in this recent BIMD, which probably has generated more favorable reaction than any I've done. Here is the link to it from the Le Batard Show's Instagram: Back In My Day; Quarantining!

My column on (but not at) the Florida Derby: Tiz the Law won the ghost race. No fans. No cheering. Clark Spencer's horse finished fourth. My column: In Midst Of Pandemic, A Horse Race.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (MARCH 29-30): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday-into-Monday 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. CORONAVIRUS: A sports ponders when and how the games will resume: America is two full weeks into staying at home and turning hand-washing into an art to fight the still-growing global coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. And adjusting to a life without sports as leagues try to figure out when they'll be able to resume and play a major role in our return to normalcy.

2. OLYMPICS: Summer Games in Tokyo delayed a full year: The IOC finally relented, found its senses, and announced the 2020 Games set to start in late July will now be the 2021 Olympics. 

3. HORSE RACING: Tiz the Law wins the "ghost race" Florida Derby: xStrong favorite Tiz the Law won the 69th Florida Derby Saturday on a race day with no fans and no media allowed.

4. MLB: The Opening Day that never happened: Opening Day on March 26 found baseball shuttered and wondering when it might start, increasingly likely with a shortened season. Meantime Strat-O-Matic is simulating the entire season, surprising those who were unaware the board game still existed.

5. DOLPHINS: Fins use social distancing to intro new free agents: Miami introduced its newly signed free agents led by cornerback Byron Jones in a video press conference via the Zoom app.

6. HEAT: Haslem scolds spring breakers in his town: The Heat's Miami-born Udonis Haslem damned spring breakers for partying in his city and being slow to leave in The Players Tribune.

7. DREW BREES: Saints QB makes huge donation to fight virus: Brees donated $5 million to Louisiana toward feed the needy and helping health car workers. Hero.

8. DORIS BURKE: ESPN fixture reveals she has virus: Burke, ESPN's much-loved NBA broadcaster, says she is now asymptomatic and feeling better. 

9. NHL: Hockey postpones three June events: The 2020 NHL Scouting Combine (June 1-6), awards show (June 18) and draft (June 26-27) all were indefinitely postponed.

10. AUTO RACING: Indianapolis 500 postponed: The biggest of the IndyCar races will be delayed three months, moving from May 24 to, it hopes, August 23. 

Missing the HB10 cut: The Greg Cote Show podcast, Episode 5, is out Monday morning! Please listen, subscribe, rate, review and stay home ..... WNBA will hold its April 17 draft virtually, and televise it. You hearing that, NFL? ..... UFC starJon (Bones) Jones got arrested for DUI and firearms possession. Or, did that go without saying? ..... Can we please stop acting like guys playing video games (i.e. teams in the Overwatch League) are playing an actual sport? ..... Marlins "classic games" are being replayed on 940 WINZ. Yes, wise guy, there actually are a few ..... Keep booing the sign-stealing Astros, please. Even when they're not playing ..... R.I.P., Curly Neal, all-time Harlem Globetrotters great ..... And in other news, Eric Dickerson says the new Rams logo "looks like a penis" ..... Update: Countdown now 2,282 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in soccer's 2026 World Cup, by which time hopefully we're all out of our houses.

LONGTIME HERALD SPORTS WRITER BUYS RACEHORSE, HITS JACKPOT: [Thanks to Peter King for naming this his Spots Column of the Week] "This all started the day I got hit in the [crotch] my last day on the job." And thus begins the unlikely tale of a South Florida man who retired after a long career, bought a small share of a racehorse on a whim and on Saturday will watch his thoroughbred run in the prestigious Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park Clarkjose Thegovwith a chance to qualify for the postponed Kentucky Derby and a shot at winning the Triple Crown. Clark Spencer is the man who played the lottery for the first time and won. A gamble that almost always proves to be a losing proposition and major money drain — owning a racehorse — has a chance in this case to be profitable. The name should be familiar to Miami Herald readers. Spencer, of Pembroke Pines, was a journalist 40 years and a Herald sportswriter for 30, first covering horse racing, and the last 20 as the Marlins baseball beat writer. That ended last year during spring training in late February in Jupiter. Clark was standing outside foul line 150 feet away during batting practice, looking down at his phone. He heard someone yell, "Heads up!" It was too late. The baseball hit him squarely in that most sensitive of anatomical regions, and he fell to the ground in agony. He was OK, but, "maybe it was a sign," Clark says. At that time the Herald was offering early retirement buyouts. He accepted and suddenly was a 60-year-old retired man looking for something to do. And, man, did he find something. This is a fun, feelgood story at a time when maybe we all could use one of those. For my full latest column (no paywall!), please visit How a Longtime Herald Sport Writer Came to Own a Top Contender in Saturday's No-Fans Florida Derby. Pictured: Left, Clark at his old job, chatting with the late Jose Fernandez; and right, Gouverneur Morris, the racehorse he lucked into buying into. 

OlytokyoOLYMPICS POSTPONED. TIME FOR NBA, NHL TO ALSO SHUT IT DOWN FOR THE YEAR, END SEASONS: Sports, collectively, has difficult choices ahead. They are about more than safety. They are moral decisions, too. Monday came reports the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed until 2021. That’s smart. Canada and Australia already had withdrawn. There would have been mounting and justified pressure on the U.S. to do the same had the Games started this July 24 as scheduled. Sports and leagues around the world debate when to return to play, but sports, collectively, don’t matter right now — not when we are in the middle of a global pandemic, at war with coronavirus/COVID-19. The plague already has killed nearly 20,000. It is not nearly contained. Some projections estimate it could result in two million or more deaths in the United States this year alone. This is a war we quite literally cannot afford to lose. Everything is weird right now. By government edict or common sense, we practice “social distancing,” avoid crowds, “self-quarantine” in our homes. We miss our sports so much. Our home teams, the simply pleasure and comforting routine of seasons, of cheering crowds, of yelling at the ump. We know that the eventual return of sports will be a major symbol of our return to normalcy. We long for that. The simple normalcy more than the games. And yet we know this is not the time. Not when health care is under siege, doctors and nurses fighting this war under-equipped. Not when this thing is not nearly contained. And not until it is. For our full recent column (no paywall), please visit Time for NBA, NHL to Shut it Down, End Seasons

Our other most recent columns:

Backlash Over NBA Coronavirus Testing Mirrors Growing Anxiety, the New National Mood

Le Batard Show Deals with Coronavirus-Related Upheaval

Dolphins' Most Important Rebuilding Is Yet to Come

Brady Leaving Patriots for Tampa. Will Belichick Be Proved Right In Letting Him Go?

Desperate Fans Turn to NFL After Reality Of First Weekend With No Games

Miami Sports Now Utterly Engulfed By Coronavirus Threat -- But Precaution Is Justified

It's Dominate Or Bust For Dolphins GM Grier Over Next 6 Weeks.

Select additional recent columns: Repentant Cheater A-Rod Slams Astros With Lesson On How to Handle Their Own Scandal / Inter Miami Is Market's Sleeping Giant As Home Opener Nears / As NFL Free Agency & Draft Near, All You Need To Know About Dolphins' QB Situation / Beckham, Inter Miami Survive To Finally Reach Opening Week / Jeter Arrives At Camp, Calls Marlins 'Layered With Talent' / Dwyane Wade, His Transgender Daughter And A Lesson In Love / Why Marlins Aren't Pursuing Puig All About Change In Ownership / and Pressure On Marlins for Big Improvement Now -- and It's About Time / It's Time For Anonymous Lone Voter Who Denied Jeter To Step Forward / Heat And Gloriously Impatient Riley Win In Trade For Iguodala / Return Of Ed Reed, Even If Mostly Symbolic, Leads Surge By Canes Football / Poor Dolphins Finally Getting Rid Of Brady Only to Have Mahomes Take His Place / Our two-part series: How One Man Long Forgotten Changed Everything For the Miami Dolphins and How Shula Made Dolphins Perfect and Made Miami Matter, And the Coach Today at 90 / Kobe's Death Sends Sports World Reeling, But Immortality Is His / Jimmy Johnson's Biggest Triumph? Knowing When To Quit -- And Why / and Announcing Miami Dolphins' 2010-19 All-Decade Team.

Visit Greg Cote Column Headquarters, and revisit this blog often because it updates regularly. The Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked the blog's author a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Author of 'Fins At 50,' available on Amazon. Regular co-host on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio and ESPNews. Follow on Twitter @gregcoteAnd check and our new The Greg Cote Show With Greg Cote podcast HERE and listen, subscribe, rate and review for free!

March 05, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): A new No. 1 not used to being there, and see what else falls where; plus our APSE-winning columns, Miami's Top 25 Sports Figures & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 5. Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking Miami's Top 25 Sports Figures for 2018, thank you APSE & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Ranking Miami's 2018 Top 25 Sports Figures: I last did one of these in late 2015 and man has a lot changed around here in two-plus years. Does Dwyane Wade hang on to No. 1? Where do newcomers Derek Jeter and David Beckham land? Who's the top Dolphin? You're a click away from those answers and more. For the column and full list, click Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018.

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, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hot1. PANTHERS: Six straight! Cats surging toward playoff pace: The HB10 doesn't often smile this much on the Panthers, but they've been as good as any team in NHL the past five weeks, winning 13 of the past 16 games including six straight after Sunday's 4-1 win over Philly in a home matinee. Florida is today one only one point off playoff pace but with three games in hand. Cats failed to make a trade-deadline deal, but apparently no help is needed, thanks.

2. HURRICANES: UM men open ACC tourney; women out: Jim Larranaga's Cardiac Canes ended regular season with four straight wins by three points or less to finish 22-8 entering the men's ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. UM opens Thursday night vs. winner of North Carolina  vs. Syracuse or Wake Forest. Meanwhile Katie Meier's Canes women followed a 20-9 season with a 1-1 ACC run, beating Wake Forest then being eliminated by Florida State. Both UM teams should get an NCAA Tournament invite, the men more assuredly.

3. DOLPHINS: Combine, Landry, Quinn fill busy week: With top receiver Jarvis Landry hot on the trading block, Miami dealt a 4th-round draft pick to the Rams for starting-caliber defensive end Robert Quinn. Meantime the NFL Scouting Combine in Indy wrapped up this weekend with coach Adam Gase giving incumbent QB Ryan Tannehill a strong vote of confidence ... and Dolfans left to wonder if that's a good thing.

4. HEAT: Miami gets lift from homestand: Miami hardly seemed a playoff team in that defenseless 131-113 home loss to the Lakers but is 3-1 on this homestand. As Heat hosted its annual Family Fest for fans on Sunday, team had lost nine of its past 12 before beating Detroit here Saturday -- the team chasing Miami for that eighth and last East playoff spot. Heat is erratic but it appears depth will earn a postseason ticket.

5. MARLINS: Hot spring so far for Fish: Little is expected this season of the Fire-Sale Fish, but they're 6-3-1 this spring entering Monday. I know. It's meaningless. A mirage. A dream. Still, um, can we start the playoffs right now!? 

6. HORSE RACING: Big upset in Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream:  Quite a spring for the Hallandale Beach track. The Pegasus World Cup just ran and the Florida Derby is coming; now, Sunday brought the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race highlighted by 7-5 betting pick Good Magic. Alas, 18-1 longshot Promises Fulfilled led wire to wire to cast the Derby picture into unfocused confusion.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Six days 'til Selection Sunday: Brackets ready? March Madness will be upon us in six days, after this week's conference tournament results dole out automatic bids and let the bubble teams make their case.

8. ALY RAISMAN: Olympic gymnast sues over Nassar scandal: Gold-medalist Aly Raisman is suing the U.S. Olympics Committee and USA Gymnastics over the Dr. Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Right on! This will settle, because there's no way those two shamed groups will want to endure further shame in open court. 

9. SOCCER: MLS in Miami, yes, but where still in doubt: Major League Soccer's 23rd season began this week. Miami will have an expansion team in the 25th. But where will team's permanent home be? Overtown as assumed? A larger site in Doral? Somewhere else? If David Beckham doesn't even know, we sure can't.

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes face rival FIU, begin ACC play this week: Slow-starting UM is 5-6 after two straight wins, but the season gets interesting starting this week. Wednesday the Canes visit rival FIU, then host Notre Dame in a series launching the ACC schedule. 

Missing the HB10 cut: Well, [bleep], I made the national Top 10 in column writing from the Associated Press Sports Editors this week, a pretty big deal in the sports journalism biz, and if Greg Cote can't brag in his own damned blog, where can he  brag!? ..... When do the Winter Olympics start? In South Korea, right? ..... Jerry Jones vs. Roger Goodell. Any way they can both lose? ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "New manager Dave Martinez had a trio of camels brought to Nationals spring training to help players get over franchise playoff hump" ..... And another: "J.R. Smith threw soup at a Cavaliers assistant coach." What a terrible waste of soup! ..... Keep doing what you're doing, Stoneman Douglas survivors and other students. Show us the way. The world is watching.

ICYMI: OUR APSE CONTEST-WINNING COLUMNS: These were the five submitted 2017 columns that earned us a Top 10 national designation from the Associated Press Sports Editors:

March 1: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing.

April 22: Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose.

May 15: NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering.

July 24: What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer.

October 1: With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional recent columns: For One Night: Magic City  /  Fins Must Find Their Future  /  Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed  /  Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season  /  Will You Make The Leap Of Faith The Marlins Are Asking? And our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing. Also: UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them? LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade. Others: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameThe Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksWade Will End Where He BelongsRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae RibackThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 03, 2018

Ranking Miami/SoFla's Top 25 Sports Figures in 2018. New column!; plus thank you, APSE: 3 ways I'm grateful, and 1 reason it doesn't matter; also, Magic City for one night & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's SATURDAY, MARCH 3. Happy to be done with sad February. Welcome, new month! 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our Fins At 50 book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): This is week Dolphins must find their future, latest Back In My Day video (Uber!) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DwadeRANKING MIAMI/SOFLA'S 2018 TOP 25 SPORTS FIGURES: I last did one of these in late 2015 and man has a lot changed around here in two-plus years. Does Dwyane Wade hang on to No. 1? Where do newcomers Derek Jeter and David Beckham land? Who's the top Dolphin? You're a click away from all of those answers and many more. For the column and full list, click Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018.

Our most recent other columns:  For One Night: Magic City  /  Fins Must Find Their Future  /  Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed  /  Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season  /  Will You Make The Leap Of Faith The Marlins Are Asking? And our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing.

THANK YOU, APSE: THREE WAYS I'M GRATEFUL, AND ONE REASON IT DOESN'T MATTER: Yesterday the Associated Press Sports Editors completed its annual contest judging, and look who turned up as Top 10 in column writing. Yep, me. The five columns the Miami Herald entered for me are listed below. I'd like to tell you three reasons why I'm honored by this, and one reason why it doesn't matter:

Apse(*) I'm honored because the APSE awards are to written sports journalism what the Oscars are to actors. It's national. It's the big prize. And in my case, the Miami Herald is in the major-outlet category (over-175,000 circulation), and so our competition is the likes of the New York Times, Boston Globe, USA Today, L.A. Times and ESPN.com. It was me against the giants, so it pleases me to be placed in their company. (By the way, I laughed out loud the first time I saw on Twitter that, in my case, some joked that they thought "over 175,000" was an age category. Funny!).

(*) I'm honored because variety is the thing I like most about my job. I have been a beat writer who covers the same team every day, and, for me, it got boring. Column writing presents me a blank palette, more freedom to roam. I go for variety in my subject matter, and so it was very pleasing to me that of the five 2017 columns chosen by my boss to enter in the contest, none were standard Dolphins/Heat/UM football fare. All were off the beaten path to a degree.

(*) And I'm honored because the columns of mine that got me in the top 10 offer a little bit of a lesson, I think, for the evolving newspaper business, which, in its increasing and understandable emphasis on the digital product over the print product, is increasingly obsessed with writing only stuff that generates a lot of online "clicks," and eliminating subject matter that does not. I think most of my five winning columns were probably not click monsters, but resonated very much with those who did read them. Sometimes, that still needs to be enough.

(*) Now, why it doesn't matter is because of the capriciousness of contests and judging, the randomness of it. I have always believed that about writing awards; now I can say it without it sounding like sour grapes. There is no validation here. I have had better years and better columns, but got lucky that these five happened to resonate with enough judges who liked them. Hundreds of sports writers who've never been handed a plaque are doing good work every year, every day. Keep it up, brothers and sisters, because it's always about readers, not judges.

Thanks to all of our readers, listeners, followers, clickers and thinkers -- especially those loyal long-timers. Now here are the five 2017 columns that happened to win for me:

March 1: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing.

April 22: Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose.

May 15: NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering.

July 24: What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer.

October 1: With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: UM Morally Right, But Will the Force (Majeure) Be With Them? LeBron Wins In Latest Power Play, But So Does Miami. Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The Night / Heat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 / Welcome Home, D.Wade. Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamAppreciating Wayne HuizengaWhen Victims Seize The PowerNo Way to Escape Her ShameThe Hurricanes Are Back; Deal With It, AmericaThe Godfather SpeaksWade Will End Where He BelongsRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Specials: Thank You, Mae RibackThank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 10, 2017

Thank you, Mae Riback. Story of how I (finally) met my oldest fan; plus Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP race, Canes await Selection Sunday, Dolphins bashed for Stills/Branch deals, background on why 'Ballad Of 1440' happened, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is FRIDAY, March 10. Who is panicking more right now: the fading Panthers, losers of six of past seven and now six points back in NHL playoff chase? Or Jim Morris, whose baseball Canes are 2-8 since starting 2-0? 2) Know any Dolfans? Buy them all our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): "The Ballad of 1440" video debut, the dead we forgot (Ghost Tour addendum), Jimmy Buffett's retirement communities, Marlins odds & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Canes blown out in ACC quarters, await Selection Sunday: UM lost Thursday 78-53 to top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. Nobody except super freshman Bruce Brown (21 points) scored in double figures for UM. Canes had beaten Syracuse 62-57 on Saturday led by two  men who know Brooklyn well in coach Jim Larranaga and senior forward Kamari Murphy. Click on At Home in Brooklyn for my column off Saturday's win. Next: Selection Sunday should find Miami a mid-seed for NCAA Tournament, with an 8 vs. 9 opener most likely.

THANK YOU, MAE RIBACK: There are no "average readers." The story of most every life is a tale worth telling, which brings us to Mae Riback of Hollywood. Next week she will turn 104 -- still alert, still reading the Miami Herald daily, still turning to the sports section first. She had written me a lovely letter in late 2015, kind words in appreciation of my writing. She said how she Tinyhad read me for decades, told me I should write a book. She apologized for tremors in her penmanship, noting she was then 102. Her letter sat in a cardboard box, unseen, for 18 months. I rarely visit my office, and almost never answer envelope mail, because readers reach me by email 95 percent of the time. But on a recent visit to our Doral building I went through old mail that had accumulated, tossing most of it but somehow drawn to open this one envelope. Guilt overrode me. Here this centenarian had taken time to write such a kind letter, and I had ignored it! Eighteen months later, as I finally wrote back, I dreaded I might be too late. I cannot tell you who was happier when she called me on the number I'd given. We met this week, at the Hollywood apartment she shares with a fulltime aide in the Hillcrest area. Her handshake was unexpectedly firm. She uses a walker and struggles to hear but is sharp, and looked 20 years younger than I'd imagined. I gave her a copy of my Herald book, "Fins At 50," which I'd signed. She has been a Dolphins fan for years. ("But they annoy me lately!" she said). Ms. Riback was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. but moved here in 1971 after a 25-year career teaching phys-ed. She loved tennis and golf, so retiring with her husband to South Florida was a dream. Her aide produces a Sept. 30, 1950 page from The Grossinger Times with Mae "Tiny" Riback in a headline for having won a tennis tournament. Only 0.02 percent of Americans live to be 100. I asked how she explains her longevity. "I played. I moved all the time," she said. "Tennis I was best at, but sports, to me, were No. 1." Her racket is retired now but she remains active. Plays bridge every week. Reads the Herald voraciously, devours CNN or CNBC to stay up on current events. We parted with another strong handshake, and this time she asked me to lean down so she might kiss my cheek. She was was delighted by our meeting, and said she'd tell everyone she knew all about it. Tiny, the pleasure and honor were mine. [Click on Thank You, Mae Riback to see the column as it appears online

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (65 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 31-34 after Wednesday night's home win over Charlotte, here's The Luddite's 13th installment, with 60-game rank in parentheses.

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (65 games):

Luddite1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,869

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,721

3. James Johnson (3)          1,207

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,189

5. Dion Waiters (5)               994

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      674

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         651

8. Josh Richardson (9)         561

9. Willie Reed (8)                558

10. Luke Babbitt (10)          421

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 154, Udonis Haslem 72.

ESPN ANALYST SLAMS DOLPHINS' RE-SIGNING OF STILLS, BRANCH: While some in the local media genuflect over the Dolphins re-signing their own free agents in receiver Kenny Stills (pictured) and defensive end Andre Branch, at least one prominent ESPN analyst slams the deals. Bill Barnwell grades each a "D+" (ouch) in this analysis of early free-agent activity. (Teams may begin signing others' unrestricted free agents beginning at 4 p.m. today). An excerpt/synopsis of Barnwell's criticism of the Stills deal: "Miami shelled out $20 million in guarantees as part of a four-year, $3e2 million deal to bring its third wideout back to South Florida. The Dolphins are bringing back a player coming off a nine-touchdown season, one that isn't Stillssupported by usage rate and is almost guaranteed to regress toward the mean. In terms of total production during his two seasons with the Dolphins, Stills is 77th in the league in receptions and 57th in receiving yards. Nobody's expecting him to catch a high percentage of his passes because he is thrown so many deep balls, but Stills has the fifth-worst catch rate in the league among guys with 100 or more targets the past two seasons, at 47.9 percent. Because it takes so many passes for him to hook up with his quarterback, the Dolphins generate only 8.1 yards per Stills target, which is 35th in the league. Unless the Dolphins target Stills more, he isn't going to offer much of a return on this deal. Where are those targets coming from? Jarvis Landry probably isn't going anywhere. DeVante Parker has at least two years left on his rookie deal and has looked brilliant when healthy. The Dolphins committed to a run-heavy approach once Jay Ajayi got the starting job last season. This is the same organization that traded three picks, including their third- and fourth-round selections in the 2017 draft, to move up and grab Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo in April. Carroo now has no path to a meaningful role in the offense one year after he was worth what amounted to a mid-second-round pick off draft capital. Carroo might very well be a bust, but it's both too early to judge and a horrible sign for Miami's ability to gauge talent if he's a sure-fire failure after one season. Mike Tannenbaum is paying for the player the Dolphins want Stills to be, which is something approximating DeSean Jackson. At 24, Stills could develop into that sort of player, but he hasn't been that guy yet in his career. This is a receiver who has one 100-yard game (and that was exactly 100 yards) in his time with the Dolphins, a wideout who did most of his damage against average-or-worse pass defenses, such as those of the Bills, Browns, Bengals, 49ers and Jets last season. That's a guy worth taking a shot on, but even in this inflated market, $20 million in guarantees is an exorbitant sum." Now, Barnwell's criticism of the Branch deal: "The Dolphins have one of the league's most expensive defensive lines, anchored by two elite players in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. They wanted a third pass-rusher last offseason and paid a premium for Mario Williams while quietly adding Branch, a former Jaguars bust, on a one-year, $2.5 million deal to serve as a backup. Williams busted in spectacular (if predictable) fashion, while Branch was a useful reserve, racking up 5.5 sacks and 12 hits on 430 pass rush attempts. You would think that the Dolphins would figure that most players are going to look effective playing next to two Hall of Fame-caliber defenders and allow Branch to leave while signing the next buy-low opportunity to play alongside Suh and Wake. Instead, the Dolphins paid a hefty premium to keep Branch around, giving him $27 million over three years. Much depends on the structure of this deal, but in a draft exceedingly deep in pass-rushers, Miami likely overpaid to hold onto a player whom it could have replaced at a fraction of the cost." My take: Somewhere between the local fawning and Barnwell's harsh view is the truth. The Dolphins kept two very useful players in Stills and Branch ... but paid dearly, likely paid too much.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 3-10-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Minnesota at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Fading Cats have lost 6 of 7, now 6 points off NHL playoff pace.

2. United States vs. Colombia, 6 p.m.: U.S. opener in World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.

3. ACC Tournament semifinals, 7 p.m.: It's Duke-North Carolina and then Florida State-Notre Dame.

4. Florida vs. Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.: No. 2-seed Gators men debut in SEC Tournament in Nashville.

5. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball, off to 4-8 start, hosts ACC opener.

'THE BALLAD OF 1440': HOW, WHY IT HAPPENED: "Greg, why are you standing in your very messy garage, appearing in a very homemade video and singing while wearing a suit and cowboy hat?" It is a reasonable question. Why the suit and hat is hard to answer. I guess I just felt like it, and wanted something that might stand out visually. The rest of it is easier to answer. I have 1440always enjoyed singing, which is not the same as claiming I have a good voice, which I do not. (I have an earnest voice that means well). "The Singing Sportswriter" used to be an alter-ego of mine on Dan LeBatard's radio show as I'd write what were meant to be humorous parodies related to sports. A few years ago I recorded a serious song, called "Letting Go," that my late friend Alan Cherry had written. This new song, "The Ballad Of 1440," was borne of nostalgia, wistfulness and gratitude. The newspaper business, socked hard, is working hard to reinvent itself. I have grown old enough to have retirement now on the back burner. My mentor, Edwin Pope, just died. These things together led me to reflect on growing up and falling into the career I did -- how unexpected that was, and how lucky I am. I happened to hear an old and obscure song called "Muswell Hillbilly" and though the structure would adapt well to autobiographical lyrics I could write. "1440" is the street address where I grew up in Hollywood, Florida, and the song is about how I'll always be that little barefoot, lower-middle-class kid who was the first in his family to go to college. The video, shot by my oldest son Christopher, includes opening and closing credits (with a dedication), and is interspersed with several old family photos of me when I was a boy. The song may be hard for some to take seriously -- it is, after all, me singing in a messy garage wearing a cowboy hat! -- but know that the sentiment behind it is genuine. This is meant as a thank-you to a lot of people who have helped me along the way, including our most loyal and longtime Miami Herald readers and radio listeners. I hope you enjoy it and in case you missed it,the video is below:

Select recent columns: Thank You, Mae Riback, as I (finally) meet my oldest fan. At Home in Brooklyn, on UM's win over Syracuse in ACC tourney. A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, on our history of defunct teams. A Tradition Ends In Silence, on Doral's first March without a PGA Tour event since 1961. Also: Amar'e Joins the Shame Club.  NFL's Arrested Development.  The Wonder of Coach L.  The Miracle of Liberty City.  Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?  French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!  Loria: The End Of An Error.  Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 01, 2017

PopeFest: Thanks for making celebration of Edwin Pope a huge success! Sharing thoughts and videos; plus over/under on Marlins wins, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games), my NFL player-arrests column, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is WEDNESDAY, March 1. Happy new month, all! 2) You a Dolfan? Know any? Buy our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, World OutGames Miami, your Tannehill vs. 3 options verdict, Seinfeld on his game & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Over/under on Marlins wins: MLB victory over/unders via Bovada find Cubs on top at 95.5. In NL East it's Nationals 90.5, Mets 88.5, Marlins 76.5, and Braves and Phillies both 73.5.

My latest column: NFL still all over map on arrested players: The NFL has banned certain player with arrest histories from this week's Scouting Combine, but will welcome those same into its draft. College and pro football could get serious on this if they chose, but it's easier (and self-serving) to just pretend to care. Click on NFL's Arrested Development for my latest column.

Popefest2'EDWIN POPE DAY' IN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY CRESCENDOS WITH CELEBRATION: Thanks to the hundreds who showed up last night for PopeFest at The Clevelander/Marlins Park -- a celebration of the life and career of the late, great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope. Dan LeBatard and I were pleased to co-host the event in honor of our great friend and mentor. Guests included championship football coach Howard Schnellenberger, Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, Miami-Dade School Board icon G. Holmes Braddock, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dave Barry, sports broadcasting's Hank Goldberg, ESPN's Amin Elhassan and king of Liberty City Luther (Uncle Luke) Campbell, in addition to Heat, Dolphins and Orange Bowl Committee officials. The crowd also includes readers, of course, folks who never met Edwin but felt like they knew him through his writing. Evening highlights included the proclamation of "Edwin Pope Day" by Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez. Here are couple of videos from last night.

Video 1: LeBatard, Cote and Hank Goldberg share thoughts and feelings about Edwin Pope:

Video 2: Cote welcomes the crowd, mayor proclaims "Edwin Pope Day":

UPDATED: THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS (60 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 27-33 after Monday night's 96-89 loss at Dallas, here's The Luddite's 12th installment, with 55-game rank in parentheses.

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (60 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,734

2. Goran Dragic (2)             1,580

3. James Johnson (3)          1,120

4. Tyler Johnson (4)            1,107

5. Dion Waiters (5)               885

6. Rodney McGruder (6)      626

7. Wayne Ellington (7)         562

8. Willie Reed (9)                523

9. Josh Richardson (8)         495

10. Luke Babbitt (11)          370

Others: Justise Winslow 355, Derrick Williams 234, Josh McRoberts 232, Okaro White 120, Udonis Haslem 72.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 3-1-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Philadelphia at Heat, 7:30 p.m.: Miami enters game 2 back of 8th place in playoff chase.

2. Marlins at Houston, 1:05 p.m.: Spring game vs. Astros in West Palm Beach.

3. Arkansas at Gators, 7 p.m.: No. 12 UF men in next-to-last regular season game.

4. ACC women's tournament, 1 p.m.: In Conway, S.C., with UM Hurricanes' first game Thursday.

5. NHL trade deadline, 3 p.m.: But no big Panthers deals expected.

Select other recent columns: The Wonder of Coach L, off Canes' win over Duke, on job Jim Larranaga has done this season. It's What's Great About Sports, on Heat and Panthers' concurrent surge. The Miracle of Liberty City, on how youth football there is about more than scoring TDs. Also: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs? French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! Loria: The End Of An Error. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 21, 2017

Details on open-to-the-public Miami celebration of the late, great Edwin Pope; plus the magic of Liberty City youth football (with video), Greg Cote at age 7, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, February 21. Hope you all enjoyed your Presidents Day, to the degree that's still possible in 2017. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Whiteside column, your Marlins-expectations verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

EpopeDETAILS: CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF EDWIN POPE IN A PUBLIC EVENT IN MIAMI: A public celebration in honor of the late, great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope has been set for next Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Clevelander bar inside Marlins Park. A private ceremony was held this past weekend in Okeechobee for Pope, who passed away Jan. 19 at age 88, but this will be the first event in his honor held in Miami and open to the public. The celebration is free and will include an open bar and light food. However, only a limited number of invitees may be chosen from those who RSVP and describe what Pope meant to them in a Herald career that began in 1967 through his retirement as full-time sports columnist in 2003. RSVPs should be emailed as soon as possible to: edwinpopememorial@gmail.com. The event is being hosted by two of Edwin's biggest fans, ESPN Radio's Dan Le Batard and the Herald's Greg Cote. Hey. That's me!

NEW DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHTS THE MAGIC OF LIBERTY CITY YOUTH FOOTBALL: I was pleased to interview Miami icon Luther Campbell (Uncle Luke, pictured) yesterday for my new column to help promote a forthcoming Libcity Lukedocumentary film about the Liberty City Optimist youth football program he helped found more than 20 years ago. It has produced current NFL stars such as Antonio Brown, Amari Cooper, Devonta Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater and Duke Johnson and continues to be a thriving community focal point on Saturdays during football season. I wrote about this now because the film, Rivals: The Boom Squad, is premiering Wednesday night at 10:30 on the Viceland cable channel. Click Viceland.com and click channel finder to track down where you can see it. There also will be a live local showing of the 45-minute film on Sunday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 N.W. 22nd Ave., Miami. A 30-second trailer is presented directly below. The Liberty City Warriors, Gwen Cherry Bulls and other teams thrive because they are needed in a city that can be a tough place for kids to grow up, too often under the threat of gun violence. It is about more than football. As Campbell told us, "Our purpose is to save lives." Click on The Miracle of Liberty City to ready my full column.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 2-21-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins spring training, 9:30 a.m.: Another workday in Jupiter, with spring games starting next weekend.

2. South Carolina at Gators, 7 p.m.: No. 13 UF hosts 'Cocks in SEC men's game.

3. Delray Beach Open, 11 a.m.: Second-tier men's ATP event continues.

Other select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

GREG COTE, AGE 7: In the autobiographical song I'll soon post on social media, called "The Ballad of 1440," there is a lyric that refers to "Tonka tanks on a pebble drive." Well, lo and behold, looking through scrapbooks, I unearthed an old photo (very) of me around age 7 playing with said tank. Wish I still had it. I leave you with that ghostly photo today...

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 18, 2017

How will Marlins do this season? Set the early bar on expectations. Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Cam Wake, my Fish column, Edwin Pope news, what Kate Upton is (not) wearing, ode to the Monopoly thimble, new Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mepic1) It is SATURDAY, February 18. We're about to put out a new song, "The Ballad of 1440," an autobiographical tale of a little boy in Hollywood, Florida who grew up to have an unexpected life. Click on image at left to see larger version. Will post a video of song on social media later this month. Stay tuned. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Trump sticks nose in Marlins' sale, Branden Albert, Shane Battier, 3 Fins in PFF 101, Fish farm barren, your Villain Purge verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Dolphins extend Cam Wake contract: Announced today, it's through the 2018 season.

My new Marlins column: From Jupiter and the team's first full-squad workday of spring training, I wrote of how nothing is ever simple for this team. Still getting over the Jose Fernandez grief, now the players deal with questions about the prospective sale of the team and other off-field stuff. Click on French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball! to read.

Edwin Pope news: The Miami Herald longtime former sports columnist, who passed away earlier this year,  is being honored today in Okeechobee in a private celebration for family, friends and colleagues. There had been no public event planned. However, myself and Dan LeBatard are putting together a Miami event to honor Edwin that will be free and open to the public. Stay tuned for details. 

MattinglyWHAT IS YOUR OPTIMISM ON MARLINS SEASON AS TEAM STAGES FIRST FULL-SQUAD SPRING WORKOUT?: I'll be up in Jupiter for a column today as the Marlins stage their first full-squad workout of the spring. Much swirls around this team (as usual). The tragic offseason death of Jose Fernandez is a huge loss both from emotional and baseball standpoints. Now the team also deals with the distracting speculation about Jeffrey Loria selling the team and the White House-related Kushner family maybe buying and the possible offer to Loria of an ambassadorship to France (!) tossing a monkey wrench. But somewhere amid all of that there will be a baseball season, Miami's second under manager Don Mattingly (pictured). Most NL East estimations are that the Nationals are clear favorites and the Mets are next, with the Marlins in the middle -- better, at least, than the Braves and Phillies. The playoffs seem a longshot. Again. Although the Marlins toying around with .500 and contention seems plausible. We invite your thoughts on the matter. Take a dip in our poll and set the expectations bar on this Marlins season.

KateUptonNO, IT IS NOT SEXIST TO SHOW THIS COVER PHOTO IN MY BLOG BECAUSE IT'S FROM A SPORTS MAGAZINE AND SHE IS WEARING (HALF OF) WHAT COULD ALMOST BE A SWIMSUIT, SORT OF: Cover your eyes, Junior! And click on the image to see a larger version, Dad. The Sports Illustrated "swimsuit issue" continues as a sublime and ridiculous slice of Americana and an annual $$$-maker for SI. This year three models get the cover prize of this week's current issue, with Kate Upton pictured here, setting a record in the category, "Minimalist Swimwear." (Note to self: Consider an abrupt career change; apply to be a Sports Illustrated photographer. Unless, that is, SI's budget and staffing have gone the way of the newspaper, in which case the person taking this photo may have been the lone remaining SI editor, or perhaps one of the other models using a smartphone). Where was I ? Is this a swimsuit bottom or jewelry? How come on my occasional forays to the beach I see not a person who looks like this (un)dressed like this, but rather a matronly, waddling Canadian packed into a black one-piece like 20 pounds of potatoes crammed in a 10-pound sack? That's a rhetorical question. Keep doing the great work you do, Kate Upton!

ThimbleFAREWELL, THIMBLE. R.I.P.: The Monopoly board game is retiring its Thimble after 82 years. The Thimble, though never respected like the Dog or the Tophat, has stood sturdily across the generations, moving inexorably around the board, easing past the Iron, passing go, landing on Free Parking, staying out of jail, quietly making money for its owners. Farewell, great, humble Thimble, and a thumb's up to you. Gone ... but never forgotten.   

HOT BUTTON DAILY / SAT 2-18-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Clemson at Hurricanes, noon: UM men playing for NCAA Tournament seeding in final regular games.

2. Panthers at Los Angeles, 10 p.m.: Playoff-chasing Cats have won three in row and five of past six.

3. NBA All-Star events, 8 p.m.: Including 3-Point and Slam-Dunk contests.

4. Kansas at Baylor, 1 p.m.: A men's Final Four feel with No. 3 at No. 4.

5. Rutgers at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: Second of three in opening baseball series at The Light.

Select recent columns: French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, the new one, from the start of Marlins spring training. Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, on how Heat's recent run has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 23, 2017

The latest Hot Button Top 10: Show us the way, Edwin Pope, Falcons-Patriots SB, Women's March, Juan Pablo Montoya & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is MONDAY, JANUARY 23. There is a new Miami Herald Facebook page, debuting today. Click HERE to visit. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Remembering Edwin Pope, NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside battered in all-star voting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's a Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl!: Click on Championship Game Gems for yesterday's Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots NFC and AFC title-game picks, and on A Dramatic Final Four for my preview column.

Montoya wins historic Miami Race Of Champions: Historic? The 28th annual ROC had never before been held in the U.S. before Saturday's race in Miami, on a racetrack built inside Marlins Park. And Miami driver Juan Pablo Montoya won. Crazy, one-of-a kind day. Click on Home Run For Montoya, Miami for my column from the race.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

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, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. EDWIN POPE: Herald sports icon dies at 88: If you are from South Florida, are aware life existed before ESPN SportsCenter or have ever held a newspaper in your hands, then you probably said or thought last week, “I grew up reading Edwin Pope.” Thank you, kind sir, friend, colleague and mentor. R.I.P. 

2. NFL: Championship Sunday gives us a Falcons-Pats Super Bowl: Atlanta walloped Green Bay and New England dispatched Pittsburgh on Sunday for the NFC and AFC titles to reach Super Bowl 51 Feb. 5 in Houston. The blowout games were decided by 23- and 19-point margins. The challenge? For the Super Bowl to be better. You know, an actual good game?

3. WOMEN'S MARCH: Women lead world's biggest protest march. Ever: Estimates are more than 4 million women worldwide including more than 500,000 in Washington, D.C. marched Saturday to protest Donald Trump and stand up for the freedoms and rights. Hmm. Impressive. But can't help but wonder: If that same passion and numbers had participated in the election, would there have been a need to march?

4. MOTORSPORTS: Montoya wins Race of Champions at Marlins Park: Most different, unique sporting event in Miami history? You could do worse than nominating NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One stars racing against each other inside a baseball stadium this weekend in the ROC series' first U.S. appearance. Miami won twice as hometown driver Juan Pablo Montoya won Saturday's main event.

5. HEAT: Three straight wins in a lost season as trade deadline looms: Good news? Miami has its first three-game win streak of season. Bad news? Everything else. Record is still only 14-30 and streak is unlikely to reach four as Heat host Golden State tonight. Be honest. The most compelling things left in this lost season are the two dates for the trade deadline and draft lottery.

6. MARLINS: Fish acquire quality starting pitcher: The latest aftershock of the Jose Fernandez tragedy: Miami dealt three prospects to Cincinnati for righty starter Dan Straily, who was 14-8 in 31 starts for Reds last year.

7. BASEBALL: Two ex-Marlins elected to Hall of Fame: Pudge Rodriguez, of course, had a starring role in helping Marlins win the 2003 World Series. But count yourself a real Fish fan if you also recall that, the year before, Tim Raines ended his 23-year career as a reserve here.

8. TENNIS: Both No. 1 seeds out as Australian Open enters final week: No. 1 seeds Andy Murray and Angelique Kerber both were ousted the same day, the first time in the modern era the Australian Open has lost both No. 1s before the quarterfinals. An even bigger shock: Why wasn't Serena Williams No. 1?

9. PANTHERS: Three straight losses, but Florida still in playoff hunt: As NHL all-star break looms, Cats have cooled off with three straight losses but lurk only two points off playoff in Eastern Conference. Still, when you were talking Stanley Cup and are scrambling for an eighth seed -- that's a disappointing season.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Tough stretch for Canes men, women: Miami's No. 14-ranked women have lost three of past six. The men have dropped four of past five  after Saturday's loss at Duke. Better snap out of it fast, Team Larranaga. No. 9 North Carolina visits in five days.

Missing the HB10 cut: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich devoted seven minutes of a news conference Saturday to a pro-women's march, anti-Donald Trump soliloquy, pretty brave for a man who lives and works in Texas. It's enough to make me root for a Spurs championship just to see if he gets a White House invite, or goes ..... Former Marlins ace Josh Johnson retired at 32 from elbow issues, surprising analysts who thought he'd retired years ago ..... Prior to Bellator 170, Chael Sonnen talked trash. Tito Ortiz made his statement in the fight ..... A 25-year-old dunce from Boston was arrested for pulling a fire alarm in the Steelers hotel at 3 a.m. Put him in a room alone with James Harrison for 20 minutes ..... Saw the headline, 'Beagle scores in OT as Capitals beat Stars,' and thought, "Wow, what a great story!" But it turned out to be a guy named Jay Beagle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "Florida Panthers owner and Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army Vinnie Viola once was accused of punching a man in the face at a horse auction."

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 21, 2017

Remembering an epic life and personal hero: Edwin Pope, 1928-2017, R.I.P.; plus NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside collect further disrespect, Women's March, Race Of Champions & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Edwin Pope dies, Kiper's mock draft for Dolphins, two ex-Marlins make Hall, cowardly Goodell, your Super Bowl preference, BIMD video (The Circus) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Women's March on Washington: Much respect to the hundreds of thousands participating today in the Women's March in D.C., a grass-roots stand-up for freedoms and rights. Proud to say my wife, and many others I know, are among them.

Race Of Champions: The ROC series is in the U.S. for first time today in Miami, with stars from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One all racing together inside Marlins Park. I like big events and am a curiosity seeker, so I'll be there columnizing.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, my latest column, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald legend. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

TO A MONUMENTAL CAREER, AN EPIC LIFE AND A CHERISHED MENTOR: THANK YOU, EDWIN POPE: [Blog note: I rarely do this. I link to columns of mine, but rarely reprint them in their entirety here in the blog. But the death of my great friend and mentor, last night at age 88, is too important to me to not share as broadly as I can. So here is my tribute column]:

Epope
The Edwin I first knew, circa mid-'70s

"I grew up reading Edwin Pope." How many generations in South Florida will be saying that, thinking it, feeling it today? I was coming of age as a sports fan who hadn’t yet discovered he was interested in writing when Pope was at the peak of his powers, and reading him kindled and sparked something in me.

What it did was give me a future, a passion, a career.

Thank you, Edwin. For your inspiration, your talent, your grace, your mentorship and your friendship.Thank you so much.

South Florida and the Miami Herald have lost a giant with the passing of Edwin Pope at age 88. Newspapering and sports journalism and the craft of putting words in just the right order have all lost a giant.

Edwin came to the Herald in 1956 in his late 20s. He was sports editor and main sports columnist from 1967 until he retired in 2003, though still writing occasionally the next several years until age and Alzheimer’s dictated otherwise. I loathe the frivolous overuse of words like "legend," but the superlative has not yet been invented that can properly describe the epic arc of Pope’s career chronicling Miami sports.

From the black and white days of Cassius Clay in the 5th Street Gym to the Heat drafting some kid named Dwyane Wade — and everything in between — Edwin was the eyes and ears for South Florida sports fans, the rhyme and the reason.

He reigned before ESPN "SportsCenter" and before the Internet changed everything, putting news and opinion everywhere, and right now, diminishing the influence of the local newspaper. He reigned when "the paper" thudded onto front lawns every morning, up and down your block, and you turned to the sports section first to see what Pope had to say.

Dan LeBatard and I tried to replace him when he left. We never had a chance. Voices are everywhere, but there is no replacing Sinatra. Pope ends an era.

I felt smarter, as a teenager, when I read Edwin. There might be a word (or three) in every column that sent me to the dictionary. I liked that. He never talked down to readers. It’s a concept that has informed my own writing.

Edwin wrote with poetic elan. He told stories. He could make the scene on a racetrack’s backstretch as interesting as the horse race itself. You smelled the hay. You closed your eyes and saw the groom mucking-out the stable.

Epope2
Edwin in his career's latter stage

Edwin also could be direct. When he wanted a column to throw a punch, it landed.

When Lou Saban abruptly left the University of Miami football team after only two years following the 1978 season to coach at West Point, the lead to Pope’s column was: "You wanted a deserter, Army? You got one."

Edwin didn’t tap-dance into a column or, in the parlance of a former editor of ours, "clear his throat." He got to it. He was concise. He didn’t overwrite, either in style or length. He valued his readers too much to waste their time.

He was like that off the page, too.

He was a gentle man, but one whose humor could be sharp, and bite.

He’d had a stormy relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, and once kidded the only thing wrong with the name of the stadium was that it wasn’t Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium. (At least I think he was kidding.)

Edwin commanded utmost respect in press boxes. He was the dean, the monarch, the legend. If the clatter got too noisy too close to deadline, Edwin eventually would raise a hand and loudly snap, "Quiet!" and the room would shut up. He didn’t have to say it twice.

You didn’t want to be a waiter who ignored Edwin once too often when he was fishing for another drink.

"What’s a man got to do to get another Heinekin around here!?!" he once stood and loudly squawked from our table in some far-flung city after some game, Southern drawl lifting into a high pitch.

Epopejoelouis
A favorite photo of his: A young Edwin Pope with boxer Joe Louis

Edwin was a drinker. May I say that? We had a good time on the many road trips we took together.

I was in the company of Edwin and more than one unnamed UM football coach as the two of them killed a 12-pack of beer hours before a game. You’d visit his hotel room and not be surprised to see a jug of red wine on ice in the bathroom sink. Once we closed down a bar in (I think) Indianapolis, stumbled out into the cold and were discussing how to go about getting a cab when it dawned on us our hotel was right in front of us.

I delighted to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics with Edwin in Barcelona, in a cramped, barracks-style dorm room we shared. After two weeks, the day before we flew out, we treated each other by taking a cab to the city’s famous nude beach to take in the sights. Why not!

Edwin was a wonderful colleague and road-trip companion of mine for 30 some years. Mostly he was a writing hero, somebody who was what I wanted to be. I have never stopped striving or falling short, or being grateful for his influence in my life and career.

His was a long, wonderful life well-led.

Thank you, Edwin. Always. Thank you.

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FripixPLAYOFFS: CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S SUNDAY AFC, NFC TITLE GAMES: Lots of football fans call this Sunday the single best day of the season, better even than the Super Bowl, and I expect Packers at Falcons and then Steelers at Patriots to live up to expectations. A great final four! Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and we're 6-0 in the postseason after rolling a perfect 4-0 last week. Click on Championship Game Gems for my latest picks on the AFC and NFC title games. I see one game going as expected and the other not. We also offer our accompanying NFL column that today quantifies how good this final four is, historically, and how it gets the attention back where it belongs, on the field, after a weird week of drama for the NFL. Click on A Dramatic Final Four to read.

THE LIST: THIS FINAL FOUR IN THE POSTSEASON: Historically, this NFL final four includes three league giants and one interloper, as this list verifies. The franchise, head coach and quarterback records of these four teams in the postseason, listed in order of most all-time postseason wins, with total NFL championships listed in parentheses:

Team                                Franchise            Head coach                   Quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers (6)       36-23, .610         Mike Tomlin, 8-5           Ben Roethlisberger, 13-6

Green Bay Packers (13)      34-21, .618        Mike McCarthy, 10-7       Aaron Rodgers, 9-6

New England Patriots (4)   30-19, .612         Bill Belichick, 24-10       Tom Brady, 23-9

Atlanta Falcons (0)             8-12, .400         Dan Quinn, 1-0              Matt Ryan, 2-4

HwhitesideHEAT BATTERED IN ALL-STAR VOTING, WHITESIDE SNUBBED: Hassan Whiteside collects perceived slights the way others of us collects stamps or coins, and he has added a big new one to his collection. He barely made the East frontcourt top 10 in NBA all-star voting, slotting in 10th overall after finishing eighth in the media vote, 11th by fans, and only 14th by players. Your colleagues don't respect you, bro! Get angry! Get even! No Goran Dragic in the East backcourt top 10. Starters were named Thursday. Reserves get added next week. I'd think Whiteside (pictured) will be included, but it sure isn't a given after his comeuppance in the triangular vote.

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 05, 2016

Revisiting my infamous "trade Marino" column, 22 years later; plus Mario Williams to Fins?, Phil Mickelson reborn, the silly outrage over my Eric Reid impression & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 5. R.I.P. Bud Collins, 86, respected tennis writer/broadcaster/historian. 2) You want a cheap laugh at Donald Trump's expense? Who doesn't! Visit TrumpDonald.org, click on the horn and enjoy. 3) A terrific read (click here) by our former Herald colleague Joe Goodman on the terrible hazing injuries Bart Starr suffered while at Alabama. Strong work, Goody! 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Three reason why this week's Doral golf is special, Marriott's shameful attack on Erin Andrews, FIU's women's basketball scandal, Dolphins draft, cheerleader saves NFL Combine, Heat/Panthers betting odds, your Best-Oscar verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

Mario Williams to Dolphins?: The recently released Bills defensive end, 31, is visiting with the Dolphins today, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The four-time Pro Bowl'er has 96 career sacks, though only five last season. Exploring Williams is smart, especially considering Miami may yet lose Olivier Vernon in free agency, which begins next week. Signing Williams would be costly, though, and not easy. Other potential suitors could include the Cowboys, Cardinals, Raiders, Giants and Eagles.

PhilMickelson: Golf's reinvigorated star: Click on The Rebirth of Phil Mickelson for our latest column from the World Golf Championships event at Doral. Mickelson is on leaderboard at 5-under, tied for seventh place entering Saturday play to continue a strong early 2016. At age 45 and with a new swing coach, he is determined to win again on the PGA Tour, which he last did in 2013. The sport is about Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and the young guns now, but old favorite Mickelson ain't done yet.

REVISITING MY INFAMOUS "TRADE MARINO" COLUMN: That's the easiest way to recall what I wrote on Nov. 4, 1993 and how many folks remember it, although I put "trade Marino" in quotes here because the column did not make an unequivocal case that Miami should trade its veteran quarterback. My opinion was not quite as strong as the headline pictured conveyed -- I only wrote that it may be time to consider that then-blasphemous notion. The column, Trademarinoabout which I still get occasional and mostly snarky emails and references, arose anew recently because a Twitter site called Freezing Cold Takes (@OldTakesExposed) cited the column. The Twitter site has made a cottage industry of holding media folks accountable for things written or said that have proved wrong, things that the writer (or sayer) surely now regrets. Two quick points: A) What I wrote seems even more legit now, in 20/20 retrospect, than it did at the time. B) I don't regret writing it; quite the opposite. More on both points in a second. First, a word about that Twitter site. It is a good idea. We media blowhards should be held accountable for what we put out there. It's also a weird idea, though. It's akin to political fact-checkers divining the truth of what candidates say in debates, only in the Silly Division. It's funny to me: A self-appointed Twitter Watchdog protecting society from the idea Stephen A. Smith (or I) might say something that proves ludicrous and get away with it. We're in the toy department, people. We're giving opinions (now doing business as hot takes) on sports, for God's sake. OK, back to what I wrote late in a Dolphins season over 22 years ago. That was a great column. Seriously. I don't say that often of my own work. It was great because it was intensely debated and remains memorable, and because it broached a taboo topic and made a case. It made news. Local TV stations interviewed me about it. The only thing I didn't like about it being a part of @OldTakesExposed is the implication the column is a dark secret I'd rather have kept hidden, or that it was a column I regret writing. Neither is true, or close to it. Marino, then 32 and out with an Achilles injury, was in his 11th Dolphin season still looking for that elusive Super Bowl ring. He would play six more seasons, and retire still ring-less. Great as Marino was, big as his stats were, Miami was not getting where it wanted to go with him and, at 32, he still had trade value. Maybe it was time to get a bounty for him and move on, that's all. What I wrote might have been stupendously mockable had Miami gone on to win a couple of Super Bowls late in his career. But the way it turned out, what Dolfan can honestly say the Fins might not have benefited from the change I wrote about? It was worth considering, which essentially is all I said. I'll never forget Marino's reaction the next day in the lockerroom. He was asked about the column because it had become news in a way, something requiring a response. So what did he think of what Cote wrote? "He may be right," Marino said. Twenty-two years later, you can still make fun of the column if you wish. You can still bring it up like something I'd rather you didn't and try to pin it on me like a regret. I'll wear it like a medal, thanks.    

ON MY IMITATING HEAT BROADCASTER ERIC REID: This, like what's above, is sort of about me, but I wish to respond to the 790 The Ticket morning radio show slamming me the other day over my Ericreid"disrespectful" impersonation of Heat play-by-play broadcaster Eric Reid (pictured), which I do very, very occasionally (when asked) when guest-hosting on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz. I LOL'd when I heard Zaslow's outrage replayed by LeBatard on Thursday, finding it doubly funny because I knew he wasn't kidding. Zas, who refers to himself as "a two-time Champion Broadcaster for the Miami Heat Radio Network," was defending his friend and colleague Reid, which is fine, but does a harmless impersonation really rise to a level meriting anger? Whatever happened to "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"? Reid's face and voice are well-known in this market. He's a local legend of sorts, which is why he rises to the level of somebody someone might imitate in the first place. Eric has a distinct delivery and well-known catchphrases that make an audio caricature of him so inviting. He also is obsessed with providing statistics and arcane facts, which I find funny. ("That's Whiteside's third block tonight and 51st this month!") I consider my impression a compliment more than disrespect. In fact I respect Reid very much. Doesn't mean I can't have a little good-natured fun with him. Is it disrespectful when impressionist Frank Caliendo does his Jim Rome? Or when a caricature sketch artist exaggerates someone's features? I'm a Miami guy, on a fun-first radio show, mimicking the Heat's popular play-by-play man. That's all. It's benign frivolity. Save the outrage for something that matters.

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Twitter @gregcote