May 30, 2020

Death of George Floyd is why Kaepernick & sports must continue fight for justice. New column; plus MLB players picking really bad time to demand more $$$; amid a pandemic, an outrage in Alamance County; new Greg Cote Show podcast Episode 13 out now & more

1) It's SATURDAY, MAY 30. I was pleased to be host last night's Miami Herald All-County Athletic Awards, an annual tradition since 1957 -- but virtual this time because of the pandemic. We honored Miami-Dade & Broward's best in prep sports on the Herald's Facebook & YouTube pages. 2) Our Greg Cote Show podcast is now separately on Twitter and Instagram. Follow us on both! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Greg Cote Show podcast Episode 13, Memorial Day tribute video, our Shula tribute columns & more. 4) Join us on and Instagram.

CoteshowGREG COTE SHOW PODCAST: NEW EPISODE 13 OUT NOW!: Our new(ish) Miami Herald podcast, "The Greg Cote Show With Greg Cote," debuted in early March and the new Episode 13 is out now! Find a new episode out every Monday morning on Apple and Google Podcasts as well as on Spotify, iHeart, iTunes, Megaphone, Stitcher or wherever you do your podding, and of course at Find all 13 episodes we've done so far right here. Please listen, subscribe, rate and review! In new Episode 13, we rock with Brendan Benson, co-founder of The Raconteurs along with Jack White -- a group that had the No. 1 album on the Billboard charts last summer. Brendan visits to talk about his new solo album (which we sample), the night Mick Jagger and and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones visited backstage and more. Packed menu, including a celebration of Ryan Fitzpattrick's glorious pandemic beard. Don't miss it! Find every podcast we've done so far HERE.

My Shula tribute columns: DON SHULA, 1930-2020, R.I.P. and WHAT SHULA MEANT TO A FATHER & SON. THE BOY WAS ME

ThisiswhyGEORGE FLOYD IS WHY KAEPERNICK & SPORTS MUST CONTINUE TO LEAD FIGHT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE: The images are appalling. They evoke disgust, and sorrow, and anger. The cellphone video depicting the violent death of a man is right there for everyone to see. It is in living color — but all black and white. Here was a white officer killing an unarmed black man. Again. Again. George Floyd died with his hands in cuffs behind his back and gasping for air, as Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin pressed a knee on his neck for almost eight minutes, until the defenseless man stopped breathing. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit bill. Surveillance video refutes the officers’ claim that Floyd had resisted arrest. Chauvin and three other involved officers were fired. It isn’t enough. Not nearly. Firing isn’t the justice demanded here. A small-town Mississippi mayor had the gall to say he saw no wrongdoing by the officers in that video. In the video you hear Floyd moaning in pain and saying “I can’t breathe.” Those were the same words said by another black man, Eric Garner, before he died in 2014 in the choke hold of a white New York City officer. There have been far too many other such incidents in between. Garner’s death gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and inspired former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest for social justice by kneeling during the national anthem before games. The irony in that is bitter. That Minneapolis officer used his knee to wrongfully kill a man. Kaepernick used his peacefully, in a cry for the end of deadly police force against unarmed black men. To read our full latest column, please visit George Floyd Is Why Kaepernick & Sports Must Continue Fight For Social Justice.

DEAR MLB PLAYERS: DEMANDING MORE MILLIONS, RIGHT NOW, IS NOT A GOOD LOOK, FELLAS: Everybody is wrong. Nothing is right about baseball’s money-centered negotiations to restart its season. The owners are wrong and the players are wrong. There are two sides to every argument, sure ... but with if both sides are lame? MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 clubs Maxsare wrong because the added pay cuts they want players to accept as outlined in this week’s proposal are way beyond the originally discussed prorated salaries based the number of games played in the eventual season. For example, in the shortened 82-game schedule baseball proposes, players would have made 50 percent (plus one game) of their contracts based on a 162-game schedule. That seemed reasonable. Mathematically logical. That’s why the MLB Players Association agreed to it. But management now wants pay cuts well beyond the prorated total, on a scale that hits big-money superstars hardest. As an example, over 82 games, Mike Trout’s prorated 2020 salary would have been just over $19 million. In the new proposal it would be just under $6 million — a pay cut of more than 80 percent. Seems excessive. Arbitrary more than logical. That’s why the MLBPA flatly objects and will counter-propose playing more games with no pay cuts beyond the full prorated sum. Now here is why the players are wrong, too: The optics. The timing. Even if players have a legit beef about the added cuts MLB wants (and they do), players will come off as greedy at the worst possible time and be the big losers in all of this. If perception is reality, the perception is ready to crush them. Consider: If Trout is forced to play for "only" $6 million this year, that still amounts to more than $70,000 per game — per game — over 82 games. And yet Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer (pictured), a powerful leader of the MLBPA executive subcommittee who makes $36 million a year (non-prorated), insists players will not abide the additional pay cut. But, do players really want to be playing the more-money card right now? During a pandemic that will prevent fans from attending games? During a COVID-19 plague that has now killed more than 100,000 American? In an economy-crushing scourge that has seen more than 40 million Americans file for unemployment? Now is when you want to be the union seen complaining that $70,000 to play one baseball game is unfairly not enough? For our full recent column, please visit MLB Players Demanding More Millions, Right Now, Is A Bad Look, Fellas

OUTRAGE IN ALAMANCE COUNTY: ONE SMALL REASON WHY SPORTS WON'T BE BACK TO NORMAL ANYTIME SOON: Engines were revving Saturday night as Ace Speedway in Alamance County, North Carolina, ran its first race of the season. The bleachers were filled with some 4,000 fans (pictured) sitting shoulder to shoulder, hardly any of them wearing protective face coverings. AceraceMemorial Day on Monday found huge crowds at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, in Daytona Beach, in New York City and around the country, social distancing not a part of the partying and mandates against large gatherings be damned. The United States death toll from the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 plague was on the verge of 100,000 on Tuesday and likely will have surpassed that grim milestone by the time you are reading this. Meantime MLB and the NBA, NHL and MLS all plan to resume their seasons with no spectators allowed, the games television-only for fans. Football, the NFL and the college game, still hope to proceed on time and as usual in the fall, with full stadiums, although that prospect seems more and more in doubt. Sports fans, you may not be seeing your favorite teams in person and being among a large, cheering crowd again for a long while, and the reason goes being the pandemic itself. Blame the idiots among us. Blame the morons who packed Ace Speedway. Blame the racetrack’s owners. And the local sheriff, Terry Johnson, who refused to enforce the state’s shutdown order, refused to do his job, because he found the order "unconstitutional." Blame the countless thousands who gathered on Memorial Day in defiance of local edicts — laws designed to save us from ourselves. Blame the reckless, dangerously selfish among us who simply lack the resolve to be patient, to not socialize. Blame the science deniers, the conspiracy theorists who thought this coronavirus thing was all a hoax. Blame anybody who thought it was fake news when they heard about those two Missouri hairdressers who worked while positive with the virus and quickly infected an estimated 140 customers, who in turn then immediately put everyone around them at risk. The spread of the pandemic and the death toll will never be adequately contained, it will only linger malignantly and metastasize, if enough Americans adopt the mindset of those race fans in North Carolina and those holiday party people who gathered so obliviously in crowds on Monday, volunteering themselves as modern day lepers. Sports — its full stadiums and arenas the ultimate example of large social gatherings — will never get back to normal, to cheering crowds, until the virus is contained enough to do so safely, something delayed exponentially by examples such as the outrageous scene at North Carolina’s Ace Speedway. To read our full recent column, please visit Amid a Pandemic, An Outrage in Alamance County

Our other most recent columns: How Can A Man 6-7 Seem So Small? That's Pierce On LeBron / No Controversy Here. Dolphins Have Ideal QB Situation / and Welcome to Sports Without Fans, the New Normal.

Featured other recent columns: As NBA, MLB Plot Return, We Miss Them -- Yet Sports Have Never Seemed More Trivial / Anticipation of Relevance, Excitement Is Tua's Gift to Miami / Hall of Famer Andre Dawson On Baseball and Owning a Funeral Home Amid COVID-19 / Miami Sports Right Now If Coronavirus Never Happened and Games Never Stopped / and Dolphins Are Winning Rebuild With 3-Year Plan That Won't Rush Top-Prize Tua

Also: Dolphins Aim High, Win Big With Tua Tagovailoa Pick / Greg Cote's 2020 NFL Mock Draft / Coronavirus, Tua Make This Dolphins' Weirdest, Most Interesting Draft Ever / Amid a Pandemic, to Florida, Pro Wrestling is 'Essential' / A Pie Chart of QB Possibilities For Dolphins / Baseball's Bizarre Restart Plan Would Be Unfair to Players / NFL Draft Will Offer Blunt Verdict on Canes' Talent / Ultimate All-Time South Florida Major Sports Trivia Challenge / Sports Should Stop Pretending It Will Resume Anytime Soon As Coronovirus Rages / How a Longtime Herald Sport Writer Came to Own a Top Contender in No-Fans Florida Derby / Time for NBA, NHL to Shut it Down, End Seasons / Le Batard Show Deals with Coronavirus-Related Upheaval / Brady Leaving Patriots for Tampa. Will Belichick Be Proved Right In Letting Him Go? / 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 columns from earlier in 2020: Inter Miami Is Market's Sleeping Giant As Home Opener Nears / Jeter Arrives At Camp, Calls Marlins 'Layered With Talent' / Dwyane Wade, His Transgender Daughter And A Lesson In Love / Pressure On Marlins for Big Improvement Now -- and It's About Time / 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 / 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

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Revisit this blog often because it is updated regularly. The Associated Press Sports Editors writing awards ranked the blog's author a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category in 2018. Greg is also a regular co-host on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio. Finding Greg Cote:  Twitter.  Instagram.  Facebook.  Columns.  Podcast.  Podcast on Twitter.  Podcast on Instagram.  LeBatard Show.  Book: Fins At 50.  Songs: Letting Go and The Ballad Of 1440.

June 09, 2018

Forbes' 100 richest athletes: Five with Miami ties make it and here's who they are; plus Marlins 25th Anniversary weekend, R.I.P. Anthony Bourdain, me rapping 'California Love,' in search of Dolphins' Grand Plan & more


Bourdain1) It's SATURDAY, JUNE 9. Stunned to hear that chef and travel host Anthony Bourdain, 61 (pictured), had taken  his own life. The demons can be so invisible. I hope he has found the peace that eluded him. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the perfect anytime-gift: our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): In search of Dolphins' Grand Plan, how Trump hijacked NFL protest cause, LeBron Summer Sweepstakes, The List (NBA Finals sweeps) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

25logoMarlins' 25th Anniversary weekend: They're the Florida Marlins again, at least temporarily. Fish are back home and in the old teal this weekend vs. San Diego with events marking the franchise's 25th Anniversary season, including an alumni softball game before Sunday's game. The club's anniversary logo is pictured. Fish opened homestand (and celebration weekend) with a 4-0 win on Caleb Smith's gem last night. The rebuild-of-a-season hasn't been one to celebrate, but let nostalaia win the weekend.

CaliloveMe rapping 'California Love." No, seriously: On the LeBatard Show this week it came up that my favorite hip-hop song is "California Love" by Tupuc Shakur with Dr. Dre. I started doing it. The result is one of those simultaneous moments of both intense shame and unfettered delight. Listeners started giving me rap names, including Lil Weezy (I've had a cough) and Notorious O.L.D. Thanks to @Ryan_Cortes for the audio here. To listen: Cote Does California Love. 

FIVE WITH MIAMI TIES AMONG FORBES' 100 RICHEST ATHLETES: Forbes today drops its annual list of the Top 100 richest athletes in the world over the past year, including salary and endorsements, and five men with Miami ties (three current, two former) make the list. Boxer Floyd Mayweather tops the list at $285 million, with the rest of the top 10 populated by Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Conor McGregor, Neymar, LeBron James, Roger Federer, Steph Curry, Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford. Notably, zero female athletes make the list. Click Top 100 for the full list. The five Miami athletes or ex's to make it:

RtNo. 32: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins quarterback, $35.2 million -- Forbes includes Tannehill's near-$18 million salary from last season plus "an upfront $16.7 million payday early in 2018 when the Dolphins converted almost all of his 2018 base salary into a bonus to provide cap room for the team." Notably, his income includes only $500,000 in endorsements (Adidas), quite low for an NFL starting QB. Nevertheless, life is good for Mr. and Mrs. Tannehill (pictured). Tannehill is signed through 2020, but neither of the last two seasons of his deal include any guaranteed money.

No. 42: Dwyane Wade, Heat guard, $31.8 million -- Notably almost half of Wade's income ($14M) is from endorsements. Forbes: "The 12-time All-Star remains a prolific endorser with a dozen partners. His biggest pact is his shoe deal with Chinese brand Li-Ning. He joined the brand in 2012 and was given an equity stake in addition to his multi-million annual guarantee." 

No. 65: Chris Bosh, former Heat forward, $26.3 million -- Includes $1 million in endorsements income. Heat waived Bosh in July 2017 due to medical issues (blood clots) but he has not officially retired. Forbes: "The Heat are on the hook for the remainder of his contract, which ends after the 2018-19 season when he will earn $26.8 million."

No. 77: Hassan Whiteside, Heat center, $24.5 million -- Includes $750K in endorsements. Forbes: "Whiteside re-signed with Heat for $98 million over four years during the summer of 2016. Injuries limited him to 54 games this past season, and the center frequently complained about his minutes when healthy. Heat and Whiteside could be headed for a divorce."

No. 92: Jarvis Landry, former Dolphins receiver, $23.2 million -- Includes $750 in endorsements. Forbes: "Cleveland locked up Landry with a blockbuster five-year, $75.5 million contract. The $47 million in guaranteed money is tied for the third-most ever for a wide receiver. Landry is an aspiring musician and is interning this summer at record label Quality Control Music, which is home to acts like Migos and Lil Yachty."

Gase NEWEST COLUMNS: ON DOLPHINS, TRUMP/NFL: Do Adam Gase's Dolphins have a map on how to get from here to really good? A plan? This offseason has underlined Trumpdoubts. I tackle the state of the Dolphins in my latest column. To read it, click In Search of the Dolphins' Elusive Grand Plan. In my previous column I explore how President Trump's awful yet calculated and politically self-serving subterfuge -- lying -- has brilliantly (for him) hijacked the NFL's anthem protest cause to wrongly make it about the flag and patriotism instead of about police shootings of unarmed black men, about racism, profiling and social injustice. To read that column, click on Uninvited Eagles Latest Pawns In Trump's Subterfuge.

Other recent columns: Handicapping the LeBron Summer Sweepstakes -- now underway with last night's Cavs elimination by an NBA Finals sweep / When Sports Stopped Being All Fun & Games / The King, Indeed: LeBron Tops Michael / NFL Hiding Problem And Hoping It Goes Away / Tannehill's Defining Season / A Solution To Jeter's Impatience / Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris / Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan.

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye. (For all of our most recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 23, 2018

Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill at crossroads: What's your confidence level in him? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus new Back In My Day video (Superheroes!), Canes win in ACCs, The List (richest U.S. zip codes; we're No. 1) & more


Doluni1) It's TUESDAY, MAY 22. A site called has redesigned every NFL team's uniform. Its new Dolphins uni is pictured at right; click on image to see a larger version. Do you hate it almost as much as I do? 2) Flabbergast and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, The List (NBA Game 7s), 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

RtAND THE CROSSROADS SEASON OF RYAN TANNEHILL BEGINS: For the first time since a knee injury last August erased his entire season, Ryan Tannehill is expected back on a Dolphins practice field as the team begins its offseason work with practices today through Thursday. Thus begins a crossroads season in which no NFL starting quarterback has more pressure on him than Tannehill -- or more reason for being motivated. I discuss why in my latest column; click on Tannehill's Defining Season to read in full. I also write about the distinct disconnect between the faith Adam Gase has in Tannehill and the low regard for the QB elsewhere. I'm not even sure how much Dolfans back Tannehill; hence, this poll. We've taken several Tannehill-related blogpolls over the years, but none asking this exact question since October 2016, so we'll be interested to compare results. Vote in the new poll now.

Other most recent columns: On Derek Jeter, Jim Morris, NBA playoffs and more: A Solution To Jeter's ImpatienceHeading For Home: An Ode to Jim MorrisNBA Rolling A Pair of 7sAlso: Supremes Got It Right On Sports BettingConfessions of a Lifelong DolfanAdam Gase Places His Bets and Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money.

JimmCAN CANES BASEBALL FORGE A HAPPY ENDING FOR JIM MORRIS?: Morris' 25th and last season as UM coach before retiring has not been a great one, now at 28-25. But that includes 11 wins in a row including a pair against Boston College in Morris' final home games to end the regular season, and then beating Notre Dame Tuesday night in UM's opener in the ACC Tournament in Durham N.C. The Canes next face No. 5-ranked Clemson Thursday night. It might take Miami beating Clemson to reach the ACC championship game in order to earn an invite to the NCAA Tournament. Might take an ACC championship to assure that. Last year UM narrowly missed an NCAA invite to end a record 44-year streak of making the national playoffs. Can they sneak in and write a proper ending for Morris (pictured)? The answer is emerging. Thursday night may tell.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY' VIDEO: SUPERHEROES!: Longing for the days when Superman and Batman were enough, in our new BIMD video that debuted on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews: 

FisherTHE LIST: AMERICA'S RICHEST ZIP CODES, AND LOOK WHO'S NO. 1!: Bloomberg just listed the richest U.S. zip codes by region, and we extrapolated from those lists to assemble the overall top-10 richest American zip codes. And look what's No. 1, and by a landslide. FYI, the 33109 zip in Miami Beach is Fisher Island (pictured). Just for laughs I looked up that zip on Zillow. The first property I saw listed was a condo selling for $14.9 million. List here is based on AGI, or average household adjusted gross income:

City, state, zip                                    Average AGI

1. Miami Beach, FL 33109                    $2,543,100

2. Atherton, CA 94027                           1,496,500

3. Harrison, NY 10577                              976,200

4. Gladwyne, PA 19035                             957.200

5. Kenilworth, IL 60043                            861,000

6. Weston, MA 02493                               860,400

7. Far Hills, NJ 07931                               747.200

8. Moose Wilson Road, WY 83014              699,200

9. Medina, WA 98039                               691,800

10. Greenwich, CT 06878                         661,500

Note: Other zip codes over $500,000, in order, are in Houston TX, Charlotte NC, Sea Island GA and Ladue MO.

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

For all of our more recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote.

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

September 10, 2016

Upset Bird Day in America! Our NFL Week 1 picks; plus Super Bowl poll. Vote now; also, FIU falls, study slams subsidies for sports facilities including Marlins Park, your verdict on biggest Heat acquisition & more


Wingicecream1) It is SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10. Pictured right, what stars in a Greg Cote sweet dream? Yes. Yes it is. It's Chicken Wing-flavored ice cream! 2) Marlins worth watching tonight: Jose Fernandez vs. Clayton Kershaw. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat's biggest personnel move with poll, computer's gloomy prediction for Dolphins, debut of SOPY rankings, Arian Foster named starter, Canes crack Top 25, miserable Marlins & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

FIU falls hard: The now 0-2 FIU Panthers hosted and lost to Maryland 41-14 last night. The Int'l was only one of seven state FBS teams to open with loss last week, and followed that by allowing 477 yards oif offense to Terps in a blowout loss.

Recent columns, ICYMI or wanted another look: Awesome Vs. Awful, our most recent, on UM's resounding season-opening victory over Florida A&M. Now Can Dolphins, UM Look as Good as the Place They Call Home? (Hard Rock unveiled). NFL Ranking (Best to worst teams, 1 through 32). Brad Kaaya (on UM's key player). She Never Quit (on FIU coach Ron Turner's inspiration). And Kaepernick's Protest Does Not Make Him Un-American (QB sits to take a stand).

Heaviest-bet NFL team over/unders: Via Bovada: The heaviest-bet "overs" on win totals are Cardinals (84 percent on 9.5 wins), Patriots (79% on 10.5) and Panthers (72% on 10.5). Heaviest-bet "unders" are Eagles (82% on 7 wins), Colts (78% on 9.5) and Rams (74% on 7.5).

FripixIT'S UPSET BIRD DAY IN MIAMI. WAIT. NO. IN AMERICA!:It has arrived -- our historic 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald, today in the print edition and also online. A South Florida tradition that began in 1991 continues as myself and the Upset BIrd ("Aawwwk!") bring you our 2016 Kickoff Weekend picks and prediction capsules for Dolphins-Seahawks, our Game of the Week, Upset of the Week, Dog of the Week and every other matchup. Click on Week 1 Gems for all our picks and on Thursday Night Gem for tonight's pick. (We rolled to a big start last night, nailing Denver's upset of Carolina). We also have an accompanying NFL column with our division-by-division forecasts and projected won-lost records along with our Super Bowl pick. Click on Fearful Forecast to read.  We'll also be updating you every Tuesday here in the blog on how we fared the previous weekend with our picks, and with our Greg's Lobos fantasy teams.

Nfl Sb51KING SPORT AWAKENS! IT'S FOOTBALL DAY IN AMERICA!: The college game had a one-week head start. Now let the pros take over, kids. The NFL regular-season begins tonight -- click on Thursday Night Gem for our pick on the Panthers-Broncos game -- and so starts a continuous six-month blitzkrieg of America's immersion in fantasy football and gambling as 32 teams set out to reach and win a Super Bowl. Las Vegas betting odds and the public's reaction to those estimates suggest there are a consensus of six teams pretty clearly above the rest in terms of being likeliest to win it all. We're curious about your thoughts so we have listed all six current betting favorites in our new poll, and we added a seventh team, Denver, in the sentimental belief every reigning champion deserves at least that small nod of respect. No matter the team you cheer for, vote with head, not heart, as if you were given $100 to lay on one team only, straight up, to be this season's champ. Vote and check back often to monitor evolving results.

NEW ECONOMIC STUDY SLAMS FEDERAL SUBSIDIES FOR SPORTS FACILITIES, INCLUDING MARLINS PARK: A new economic study by the respected Brookings BrookingsInstitute think tank says federal taxpayers have subsidized newly constructed or majorly renovated professional sports facilities at a cost of $3.2 billion since 2000, via tax-exempt federal municipal bonds. Because high-income bond holders receive that additional tax break for holding the bonds, the resulting loss in total revenue to the federal government is even larger at $3.7 billion. The Miami Marlins' new stadium is included in the study, and is shown to have received a $100 million tax subsidy at a lost-government-revenue pricetag of $132 million. The study looked at 48 stadiums and arenas in America's Big 4 sports. The Marlins received the 12th most in federal subsidy and caused the 10th most in lost revenue. Click on Brookings Study for the full story.

Poll result: Not LeBron, not Shaq, not Wade -- Riley is Heat's biggest acquisition: We asked what has been the Miami Heat's biggest personnel move or acquisition, and hiring executive Pat Riley was a runnaway winner with 50.3 percent. After that it was 24.7% for drafting Dwyane Wade, 16.9% for signing LeBron James/BIg Three, 6.7% for trading for Shaquille O'Neal, and 1.3% for trading for Alonzo Mourning.

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 11, 2016

A brutal appraisal of Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill: Fair or out-of-bounds? Poll. Vote now!; plus quick hits (updated) on Sharapova, LeBron, Fish, Steeltown, MLB Draft; also, when Ali met Marino, Forbes' rich-athletes list, verdict on Ali v. Jordan & more


Alimarino1) It is SATURDAY, JUNE 11. Headed down to Canes baseball today to see if UM can beat Boston College again and advance to the College World Series. 2) Miami sports icons: The Louisville memorial service for Muhammad Ali was yesterday. Pictured right: the time Ali and Dan Marino posed playfully as if about to fight. Based on appearance of both, I'd estimate the photo as late-'80s. Click on image to see it larger. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ranking Ali among century's greatest athletes poll, Cassius Clay music video, R.I.P. Kimbo Slice, D.Wade in bed, the wonder of Jose, Game of Thrones, Crisis of Character & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVinePeriscope and Snapchat.

The Last 5: My five most recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals, the latest, on LeBron James angling to take back best-player crown from Steph Curry. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Ali set template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on PGA Tour leaving Doral. Morris Vs. 'Almost Impossible' Expectations, as Jim Morris and UM baseball host NCAA Regional.

"Oh. Well then. If former NBA career scrub Brian Scalabrine says he wouldn't be shocked if Kevin Durant signed with Miami, I guess we can start the party now!" --Greg Cote

RtannyCBS SPORTS' BRUTAL APPRAISAL OF TANNEHILL: FAIR OR OUT-OF-BOUNDS?: CBS Sports NFL writer Jason LaCanfora this week ranks all 32 starting quarterbacks and divides them into seven "tiers," with Miami's Ryan Tannehill's ranked in the sixth tier entitled, 'Good Luck With These Guys.' The seventh tier is an "incomplete" on the two rookie starters, so, in effect, Tannehill is lumped on the bottom rung of starters, along with the likes of Tyrod Taylor and Blaine Gabbert. Seems harsh to me. Clearly, you wouldn't place Tannehill in tiers 1 (Bona Fide Franchise QBs) or 2 (Top Pros, Proven Winners). But, arguably, he might have belonged somewhere in tiers 3 (Rising Stars) or 4 (Guys That Can be Winning QBs). Instead LaCanfora ranks Tannehill as no better than 25th of 32 starting QBs, and writes, "Not sure he is going to be Adam Gase's cup of tea. He doesn't make big-boy reads or throws and is very limited downfield. Still looks pretty rudimentary to me." (Click here to see LaCanfora's full story and list). Curious how you feel about the largely negative appraisal of Tannehill as he enters his fifth season, approaching age 28 and still looking for his first playoff berth. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do?


Sharapova: She's right. Her 2-year ban is harsh: No doubt it is the responsibility of athletes -- and their doctors -- to be aware of what substances are on a banned list that marks them as PEDs. But the punishers must put violations in context. In this case Maria Sharapova for many years was prescribed meldonium, a drug said to boost oxygen and blood flow, because of a family history of heart issues. It did not go on the banned-substance list (and become tennis-"illegal") until Jan. 1, after which she tested positive and immediately stopped using it. Sharapova, 29, is appealing the two-year suspension as "unfairly harsh." She's right. Six months or the next two majors seems closer to fair.

NBA Finals: Warriors still winning, but LeBron-Curry percolates: Golden State is up 3-1 after last night's win in Cleveland, with a chance to put it away at home Monday night. But the series within the series -- LeBron James vs. Steph Curry -- is closer, and has been fascinating, with King James seemingly determined to take back the crown (NBA's Best Player) snatched from him by Steph. James is averaging 24.8 points in the four games. Curry is at 21.5 after popping 38 last night. Click on LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals to read my latest column.

Marlins: Call to the bullpen means uh-oh: Fish won a second straight last night but bullpen has been off lately. It's weird, because closer A.J. Ramos has converted 28 consecutive save opportunities. It's everybody else who stinks. Giancarlo Stanton's funk is hurting Miami, but relief pitching is hurting more. Another thing: Miami's record this season against the two worst teams is the majors (Braves, Twins) is 2-7. (But Ichiro keeps hitting!)

Stanley Cup Finals: Rooting for a city, not a team: Pittsburgh leads San Jose 3-2, with Game 6 on Sunday. Penguins can close out their fourth Cup title (1991, 1992, 2009), while San Jose is playing in its first Stanley Cup Finals in its 24th season. The latter fact would normally have me rooting for the Sharks, but I tend to root for cities when I don't care about either team, and in this case, my sensibilities are much closer to blue-collar Pittsburgh than to Silicon Valley San Jose. So, go Pens.

MLB Draft: Marlins take lefty, Canes' Zack Collins goes top-10: Baseball has never been able to package its draft to compete with the NFL's or even the NBA's for allure. Nevertheless! Marlins picked seventh overall and took Alabama high-school lefty pitcher Braxton Garrett. Hurricanes catcher Zack Collins went 10th overall to the White Sox.

FORBES' LATEST LIST OF PEOPLE MUCH RICHER THAN YOU AND I: Forbes' 2016 list of world's 100 highest-paid athletes in combined salary/winnings and endorsements finds soccer star Cristiano CristianoronaldoRonaldo (pictured) No. 1 at $88 million. Rounding out the top five: Lionel Messi 81.4M, LeBron James 77.2, Roger Federer 67.8 and Kevin Durant 56.2. Click here for full list. Heat's Dwyane Wade tops Miami athletes at No. 33 with $32 million. (Oddly, Wade, who wears No. 3, also was 33rd on ESPN's recent World Fame 100 list). Palm Beach's Serena Williams is 40th at 28.9M, Heat's Chris Bosh is 55th at 25.2 and (surprisingly) Heat's Joe Johnson is 77th at 22.9. Notable among the ex's on the list: Former Cane and Dolphin Olivier Vernon is 39th at $29 million, verifying the free-agent deal he got from the Giants makes him -- based on career accomplishment -- maybe pro sports' most overpaid athlete at the moment. Conspicuously absent from Forbes' list is Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton -- conspicuous considering he signed a 13-year, $325 million contract. Explanation: He is making "only" $9 million this season because his contract is heavily back-loaded, a reason cynics might imagine he'll be a Marlin for the next few bargain years of the deal and then perhaps be traded when the mega-bucks begin to kick in.

AliPoll result: Ali edges Jordan for greatest American athlete of 20th Century: We gave you 15 candidates (based on ESPN's SportsCentury list) and invited you to pick your top three. Based on that consensus Muhammad Ali (pictured) edged Michael Jordan for No. 1 overall by 23.06 percent to 22.12%. Those two dominated. A distant third was Babe Ruth with 8.85%, and rounding out your Mount Rushmore is Jackie Robinson with 6.84%. Also challenging for the top four with substantial support were Jim Brown (with 6.43%), Jim Thorpe (6.17%), Jesse Owens (6.03%) and Wayne Gretzky (5.63%). The next tier were Jack Nicklaus (3.08%), Willie Mays (2.68%) and Hank Aaron (2.55%). Pulling up the rear were Wilt Chamberlain (1.61%), Babe Zaharias (1.07%) and Carl Lewis and Joe Louis (both 0.94%). The remaining 2% voted "someone else."

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 14, 2016

And with eighth overall draft pick, the Dolphins select ... Mel Kiper's pick for Miami here; plus what winning Powerball would buy you in sports, CFP 2017 title odds for Canes, Fins' and Marlins' big moves, Marlins caskets & more


1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 14. Back up at Friday Page HQ today working up my NFL Divisional Round playoff picks. Where my coin at !? 2) Goran Dragic has serious hamstring strain, will miss at least three Heat games. 3) Lawrence Phillips died in prison yesterday of an apparent suicide while serving time for the murder of a cellmate after originally being jailed for domestic abuse. He was the sixth overall pick of the 1996 NFL draft and flamed out of the league by '99. His was wasted talent, a wasted life. What a shame. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Insomniac's Dream with 'Bama-Heat-Panthers, R.I.P. David Bowie, CFP championship polls, our NFL wild-card results, your Adam Gase verdict & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, InstagramVine and Periscope.

KIPER'S FIRST '16 MOCK DRAFT: ANOTHER SHAQ IN MIAMI'S FUTURE: ESPN guru Mel Kiper is ahead of the curve today with his first NFL Mock Draft, and he has Miami selecting Clemson DE ShaqlawsonShaq Lawson (pictured) in the first round, eighth overall. The Kipe's nugget on the pick: "Lawson led college football in tackles for loss with 25.5, and Miami should add another edge rusher because Olivier Vernon is about to become extremely expensive if he can even be kept around as an unrestricted free agent. Lawson is just extremely consistent in his ability to beat tackles and makes plays." Also notable: Kiper predictably has Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (from St. Thomas Aquinas) going No. 1 overall. He has  no Canes in the first round but one Seminole (DB Jalen Ramsey, fifth overall) and one Gator (CB Vernon Hargreaves, ninth). He pegs three QBs as 1R: Cal's Jared Goff, second; Memphis' Paxton Lynch, 15th; and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz, 22nd). I can see Miami interest in Lawson. The Dolphins' specific targeted position priority may be linebacker, but that could be problematic in the '16 draft picking eighth. Two of the top three LBs (UCLA's Myles Jack, Notre Dame's Jalen Smith) are coming off major knee injuries; Kiper has Jack going 10th and Smith 20th. Another name to keep an eye on for Miami: Alabama LB Reggie Ragland.

Zamboni PowerballWHAT WINNING THE POWERBALL COULD HAVE DONE FOR YOU IN SPORTS: In today's latest column I calculate what a single winner of last night's Powerball lottery would actually have taken home in cash, and what that might have bought in the world of sports. How many major-league baseballs, how many Zamboni machines, how many Super Bowl trophies. Also, what franchises in the BIg Four sports you could have afforded to buy. Hint: There are 15. Click on Powerball and Sports to read the column.   

Um66-1BECAUSE IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO PLACE YOUR BETS, THAT'S WHY: Fans in Tuscaloosa haven't even sobered up yet but the betting odds are out for the 2017 College Football Playoff national championship, via Bovada. Alabam is the favroite to repeat at 7-1, a half-tick ahead of the team it just best, Clemson, at 15-2. Then it's a trio at 12-1: Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State. Looking to our peninsula, Florida State Seminoles are 10th at 16-1, Florida Gators are tied for 14th at 33-1, and Miami Hurricanes are tied for 30th at 66-1. A big-time coach hire in Mark Richt and a returning star quarterback in Brad Kaaya obviously have not raised the estimation of UM all that much, although I'd be surprised if that 66-1 didn't fall as the seasons nears.

ON DOLPHINS' AND MARLINS' BIG MOVES: Fins: Gase fills in staff: New coach Adam Gase this week completed most of his staff, notably including the hiring of defensive coordinator Vance Vancejoseph ChenJoseph, who' d been the Bengals defensive backs coach. Joseph (pictured left) has not been a coordinator before, just as Gase has not been a head coach before, so both must earn our faith. It isn't given. As I first wrote after the Gase hiring (before it apparently became trendy and was seen echoed elsewhere): "Prove you can fix all of this, and you’ll be a conquering hero. But prove it first, please, because we have been here before, seen this, done this. Another news conference proclaiming another culture. Another declaration how they got the right coach this time. Don’t tell me [again] how it’s different this time. How this is the right coach and the winning is at hand. Do it first. Win. Then talk to me." Fish: Team extends Gordon, signs Chen and two others: Wei-Yin Chen (pictured right) is a legit starter, the likely No. 2 after Jose Fernandez, leaving only 3-through-5 in the rotation to worry about (!). Edwin Jackson may get a shot to resurrect his career as a starter or appear in middle relief. Chris Johnson will be a utility guy as a corner infielder. None of these additions is a difference maker, although the Chen signing is significant. Also, extending second baseman Dee Gordon's contract by five years and $50 million is big. Gordon, NL batting champion, is one of the few things that went right for the Fish last season, and he's a cornerstone moving forward.

MarlinscasketSLIP INTO A MIAMI MARLINS CASKET: Have a loved one dying to prove for all eternity that he or she is the ultimate Marlins fan? Then here is the perfect parting gift. Yes, there are MLB-licensed caskets, and the Marlins version is pictured. For a mere $2,559 (available at Walmart, of all places), your loved one can rest in peace with a Marlins logo embossed in satin staring him or her in the face as the casket is lowered into the earth. Talk about a fitting tribute. Also buried in a Marlins casket: the team's playoff hopes, most seasons.

Poll results: You predicted Alabama, but wanted Clemson: In separate polls we asked who you predicted to win the CFP national-championship game and it was 56.2 percent Alabama. We asked who you wanted to win and it was 84.2% Clemson. Clearly, the Saban Effect at work.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2014

Wed pm 4-16: Heat isn't as good as past two years. True or False? Poll. Vote now!; plus Heat-Charlotte in 1R, scary saga of Puig, local $$$ list & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16. Panthers win lottery for No. 1 overall pick in June NHL draft. Here's betting GM Dale "Trader" Tallon swaps it. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Why No. 2 seed is better for Heat, Philbin on candid camera, Nirvana, NHL playoffs, Bubba, Pacquiao & more. 3) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

Heat open playoffs vs. Charlotte here Sunday: It's Heat vs. Charlotte Bobcats in first-round Game 1 here Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on ABC-TV. No need for instant over-analysis; Miami should sweep. Be interesting though to watch Udonis Haslem's defense against Al Jefferson. Miami rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh in tonight's meaningless regular-season finale vs. Philadelphia, a loss. Recently sidelined Dwyane Wade saw limited action and looked sharp, and Greg Oden returned from injury.

DIFFERENT CHALLENGE AND DOUBT CHASING HEAT INTO PLAYOFFS: The Heat love a challenge. Love to be doubted. LeBron James says that all the time. OK, so here's the challenge and the doubt, Heat, and it's 1aa1abig3heatdifferent than in the past: Are they good enough? Simply that. Because the presumption is that this Miami team seeking a three-peat just isn't as good as the teams that won back-to-back championships. A worse regular-season record is the backbone of the presumption but there's more. Of the two big new additions, Greg Oden hasn't played much and might not at all in the postseason, and Michael Beasley has faded out of the rotation. Departed Mike Miller is sorely missed, still. Ray Allen and Shane Battier just seem older. Depth appears to be thinner. Chemistry doesn't feel as rock-solid. Then there's Dwyane Wade's fragile health of course. These things -- not to mention how great San Antonio is -- cast Miami as a somewhat vulnerable defending champ as the playoffs begin this weekend against Charlotte or Washington. Do you buy the basic premise that this Heat team is not as good as the ones that won consecutive titles? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

THE BIZARRE, SCARY ODYSSEY OF YASIEL PUIG: The L.A. Times' Los Angeles Magazine, in its May issue, has a lengthy and fascinating piece on Dodgers star Yasiel Puig written by Jesse Katz. Get it 1aa1apuigyHERE. It reads like a screenplay. It probably will turn into one. It is the tale of Puig's path from Cuba to the major leagues via Mexico, and it is fraught with shady characters, skullduggery and ominous overtones. Read it, understand Puig a little more, and suddenly you'll be less focused on his speeding tickets or his showing up late for a game. The story gives a new understanding and appreciation for his situation. The young man has a lot on his mind. Reportedly his path out of Cuba was underwritten by a Miamian, Raul Pacheco, and involved smugglers -- human traffickers working for a major and murderous Mexican drug cartel. There are allegations that Puig promised 20 percent of his future earnings and that some exceptionally unsavory people may still be looking for their money. If I were the Dodgers and MLB I'd not only take this seriously, I'd enlist the FBI and anybody else who might help. What a scary tale. Forget protecting your investment, Dodgers. Protect Yasiel Puig.

Sad coincidence for baseball: This week marked the 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, and this week there are exactly -- and only -- 67 active African-American players on MLB rosters. 

"MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY ... MON-EY!" (PINK FLOYD, 1973): ESPN has a list of the world's 1aa1amoneytop-paying sports teams, and Manchester United of soccer's English Premier League is on top with an average salary of $8.11 million per player, edging the Yankees' $8.03 million. The Heat check in 16th at $5.57 million, led by LeBron James and Chris Bosh at $19.1 million apiece. Interestingly, among Greater Miami's other three pro teams, the Panthers are next at $1.85 million per, edging the Dolphins ($1.77M) and Marlins ($1.55M).

Click back often. Am constantly updating/adding to newest blogpost...