April 15, 2019

Mount GOATmore: Marino vs. Riley vs. Shula vs. Wade. Who has accomplished and meant the most to South Florida sports? Shockingly close. And last day to vote!; plus new Hot Button Top 10, my D.Wade trilogy, Tiger's triumph & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 15. We're back from a long weekend with friends in Chicago. Missed the finale-season premiere of Game Of Thrones. Will watch it tonight. Can't wait! 2) Football is never done, and so it's always the perfect time to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Learn more or buy on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane Wade's final Heat home game, your next-Dolphins-QB verdict, our NCAA bracket sticks landing & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

ThanksdwOUR TRILOGY OF DWYANE WADE WEEK COLUMNS: The latest -- The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is Bereft. Exploring what's next, who's next, in the tremendous void left by Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat retirement. From his final home game -- Wade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And A 30-point Star. How No. 3, the Heat, fans and this community stuck the landing on an emotional night of gratitude. And the first -- Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. Unabashedly, a tribute column for the retiring generational star who meant so much to a city and to basketball.

Other most recent columns: Panthers' new coach, Dolphins next QB: In Joel Quenneville, Panthers Get Their Riley, Their Shula and Analyzing, Predicting Dolphins' Next Starting QB.

MIAMI'S MOUNT GOATMORE: WHO'S ON TOP? CLOSE. LAST DAY TO VOTE!: I declare the all-time Mount Rushmore of Miami professional team-sports figures Goatis pretty clear. The four men etched in stone, alphabetically, are Dan Marino, Pat Riley, Don Shula and Dwyane Wade. But who's the greatest of our four G.O.A.T.s? Who has accomplished the most and meant the most to South Florida fans? I know it's a tough ask because you (probably) love/admire all four. But life is full of difficult decisions, right? I know timing is everything n a poll, and the timing of this one unquestionably and probably unfairly favors Wade. Still, the other three are of such an historic stature their names speak for themselves, and stand up to time and timing. So. Four Miami pro team-sport G.O.A.T.s, but only one can be the G.O.A.T.iest of them all. Who is it? Your call. Very close vote when last I checked. We'll close the poll and announce the winner very early tomorrow morning, so today and tonight really are your last chance to vote. So vote now!

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUTOur blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, early this week, 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. HEAT: An era ends. With no playoffs, Wade's epic career is over: The G.O.A.T. has left the building. Heat eliminated from playoff contention last Tuesday night at home means no Wade encore. Wednesday at Brooklyn ended the season, and now No. 3 is officially retired. But not before a fitting sendoff by Miami fans in a love-in of a final home game, with Wade's 30-point night the exclamation point. (See links to our Wade Week trilogy above).

2. GOLF: Tiger masters Masters to end majors drought: The Masters was Thursday though Sunday at Augusta, and most of eyeballs were on Tiger Woods to see if he can win his fifth green jacket but first in 14 years. And he did! The power of this man? At age 43 and 11 years removed from his last major win of any kind, we still care. A lot. Sunday proved it.

3. MARLINS: Flailing Fish looking for home bump: Miami is 4-12, tied for worst record in bigs, in midst of  nine-game homestand that continues tonight at with Cubs visiting. Lots of Cubbie fans in SoFla, so, who  knows? Maybe Marlins Park will actually be almost sort of fillled!?

4. NBA: Playoffs, a.k.a Golden State Coronation, are undereway: First-round NBA playoffs are underway and one game in, with three better-seeded teams -- Raptors, 76ers and Nuggets-- also losing the series opener. The postseason's overarching question: Can anyone in the West -- or in the league -- keep Golden State from a third straight championship and fourth in five years?

5. DOLPHINS: Fins pad roster as draft nears: Ten-day countdown, people. NFL Draft April 25-27 is getting close, with Miami holding 13th overall pick and no real idea what they'll target first to fill one of their many, many needs. Meanwhile Fins just signed seven players from the folded Alliance of American Football. Um, is that a good thing?

6. PANTHERS: New coach Quenneville's first draft is set: Lottery results last week determined Florida would select 13th overall in first round of the June 21-22 NHL Draft in Vancouver, the first under newly introduced Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup champ as a head coach. Cats have hit big with recent top-15 picks like Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad.

7. MARCH MADNESS: They're still celebrating in Charlottesville: Virginia is still euphoric over the recent win over Texas Tech for the NCAA men's championship. (Me, too, since I had Cavaliers winning it all in my bracket). One disappointment? Just found out Virginia coach Tony Bennett is some other guy and not the 92-year-old crooner.

8. NHL: Stunner! Tampa Bay on brink on first round: First-round NHL playoffs are well underway, and the big question was: After Tampa Bay's 62-win, 128-point, plus-103 goals differential mega-season led the league, by a lot, could anybody stop the Lightning from raising the Stanley Cup? Answer: Yeah, Columbus in the first round, apparently. Blue Jackets up 3-0 and can sweep at home Tuesday night. 

9. MAGIC JOHNSON: Lakers' president abruptly resigns: Once an all-time great player, Magic has since failed pretty miserably as a broadcaster, a coach and now as a club executive. The good news? There has to be some way to blame LeBron James for this, no?

10. HURRICANES: UM set to wrap up spring football work: Remaining Canes spring football workdays include an open scrimmage April 20 to conclude offseason work at the old Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Mid-April, and Manny Diaz still is unbeaten as UM head coach!

Missing the HB10 cut: The 123rd Boston Marathon hit the streets Monday. No idea who'd be the men's women's champion, but it's always a good bet if your money was on "Somebody From Kenya." (P.s., a Kenyan guy won) ..... A citation was issued against a man accused of flashing a laser at Patriots QB Tom Brady during the past AFC Championship Game. I vehemently deny the charges ..... A woman is suing the Astros for $1 million because her finger was injured by a T-shirt cannon. Must be a Goldfinger ..... Saturday is Record Store Day. Go to your local indie shop and buy some wax, Jack! ..... Update: Countdown now 2,624 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Select other recent columns: Bosh Honored On A Wistful Night Of 'What If' / Beckham's Miami Soccer Odyssey Takes Latest Detour / Will Diaz's Canes Justify 'The New Miami' Hype? Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / 'Coach Crutch' Has Nova Southeastern Soaring / Dolphins Not Better Now Than When Last Season Ended / Trip to Miami Inspired a National Bobblehead Shrine / The Intrigue Left: Will LeBron Go Out On Top? / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 05, 2019

The 3 bonus delights of Wade's Heat swansong. Latest column; plus Kiper/McShay's 1st-round guess for Fins, NCAA Final Four polls, latest Back In My Day (Breakfast!), reader rebuts slam on Marlins fans, NBA/NHL title odds & more

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

Bimd1) It's FRIDAY, APRIL 5. Visit Breakfast! for the new Back In My Day that debuted on Tuesday's Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews. 2) Football is never done, and so it's always the perfect time to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Learn more or buy on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Florida Derby, the 3 bonus delights of Wade's farewell season, our updated NCAA bracket, your Marlins-expectations verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

THE THREE BONUS DELIGHTS OF WADE'S 'ONE LAST DANCE': Even in last night's hurtful home loss to Boston that (at least temporarily) dropped the Miami Heat off playoff pace with four games left, it was easy to appreciate the three bonus delights of Dwyane Wade's farewell season. For my latest column from the arena last night, please visit Playoff Chase Drama Enriches Wade's Swansong.

Eoliver RgaryESPN: D-LINE THE DOLPHINS' FIRST-ROUND TARGET: The latest guess by ESPN's rival mock drafters, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, is that the Miami Dolphins will go defensive line with the 13th overall pick later this month. Kiper has Miami selecting Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, saying, "You have to think the Dolphins, who are undergoing a serious rebuild, would be thrilled to get a high-ceiling pass-rusher like Gary here." McShay has the Fins taking Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, saying, "In this scenario, the top quarterbacks are gone. Don't overthink it; take the best available player. That's Oliver." (Gary and Oliver are pictured). QBs Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State definitely will be gone before Miami picks. There is a chance Missouri's Drew Lock could be available to the Dolphins, but Kiper and McShay have him going 11th and 10th, respectively. Kiper has Duke QB Daniel Jones going 15th overall. McShay has Miami selecting  North Carolina State passer Ryan Finely in the second round. 

Dolphins are NFL early birds: The Dolphins were one of only three NFL teams (Browns, Bucs) to start their official offseason program on Monday, April 1. Most teams (23) are starting on April 15. Dolphins follow with a voluntary mini-camp April 16-18. The NFL Draft is April 25-27. The nine OTA practice/work days are May 13-14, 16, 20-21, 23, 28-29 and 31. Mandatory mini-camp is Jun 4-6. Then it's a bit of time off until the start of full training camp. Football, baby!

FourTHE GLORY OF AN UNEXPECTED FINAL FOUR!: No blue blood programs. No Cinderellas. No Zion Williamson. No problem. Why this NCAA Tournament men's Final Four is a really good and refreshingly interesting one is the gist of my newest offering. Visit An Intriguing Final Four Despite What's Missing to read our latest column. Virginia vs. Auburn and Michigan State vs. Texas Tech this Saturday in Minneapolis gives us three programs trying to win a first national championship -- two in their first Final Four and one last this far in 1984. Then there's Michigan State, after its first national title since 2000. I both want and think Virginia will win it all, with no rooting interest other than the health of my barely breathing bracket, as I have the Cavaliers as champs and nobody else still alive. Curious what y'all think so we offer "will" and "want" polls below, with teams listed alphabetically. Who you think WILL win seeks your honest prediction, who you'd bet money one. Who you WANT to win is strictly your (or your bracket's) rooting interest. Take a dip in both polls. Vote now!

A REBUTTAL TO KISZLA ON ROCKIES VS. MARLINS: Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla during the recent Marlins-Rockies series wrote one of those my- Denverpostcity's-better-than-your-city columns by saying that, of the two teams that both entered MLB in 1993, the Rockies have been much more successful even though the Marlins are ahead 2-0 in World Series titles, because they have bigger crowds. I'll give him the fan factor, although championships are sort of you, know, how success is measured! The Rockies have won nothing despite the stats-ballooning advantage of high altitude, by the way. (Kiszla also mocks the Marlins Park neighborhood with a couple of gratuitous Hispanic-stereotype swipes). I got an interesting email from a Marlins fan living in Colorado, who passed along a letter he'd written to the Denver Post. Here it is with his permission, only very slightly condensed:

Kiz,
I’d like to say, 'I hate to tell you' but it actually gives me great satisfaction to say, 'Marlins 2, Rockies 0!' It is telling that you have to take cheap shots at an entire fan base to make you feel good about yourself.  Last I checked, Marlins were 110-97 against the Rockies. That means the Marlins have won more games against the Rox, just to clarify. This town, Denver, places a huge emphasis on winning. (I’ve been to more than one Broncos game vs. Miami where I felt my family’s safety was compromised by drunken Bronco fans because we were winning).  Seems like the Marlins have a winning record against the Rox, a fact you overlooked in your assassination piece on Marlin fans. May I also point out that the Marlins are batting a thousand in the World Series?  I seem to recall the Rox are batting zero in the World Series. As a Marlins fan living in Colorado for the last 20 years, I have to say I am disappointed, albeit not surprised, in your feeble attempts at self-aggrandizement. You should be ashamed for stopping to such low levels as to attack an entire fan base, when what matters in Colorado is wins and losses. On that point, the Marlins clearly are the winners.
 
Warm Regards,
Andy Anderson 
Conifer, Colorado

StephNEWEST NBA, NHL TITLE ODDS: Via BetOnline.ag, Golden State is now a prohibitive 1-2 favorite for NBA title, with Milwaukee a distant second at 8-1. Then  it's Houston 10-1 and Philadelphia/Toronto both 12-1. Miami Heat are tie-13th at 250-1 but not favored (at -250) to make the playoffs, though now holding the 8th seed. MVP race shows The Greek Freak (1-2) and James Harden (3-2) the only two left on the board. Over in hockey, Tampa Bay is NHL favorite for the Stanley Cup at 11-4, followed by Calgary at 8-1 and a bunch at 10-1.

Our other most recent columns: A horse once for sale for $16,000 in a claiming race wins the Florida Derby. Read Maximum Security, Maximum Results, because you needn't be a fan of horse racing to appreciate what happened at Gulfstream Park. Also, from Marlins Opening Day: Growing Pains Commence For Rebuilding Marlins. And previewing the season: The Marlins Will Be Better Than You Think.

Other select recent columns: Bosh Honored On A Wistful Night Of 'What If' / Beckham's Miami Soccer Odyssey Takes Latest Detour / Will Diaz's Canes Justify 'The New Miami' Hype? Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / 'Coach Crutch' Has Nova Southeastern Soaring / Dolphins Not Better Now Than When Last Season Ended / Trip to Miami Inspired a National Bobblehead Shrine / Jeter Gets Reminder Why Marlins Boss Is His Toughest Position Yet / The Intrigue Left: Will LeBron Go Out On Top? / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 11, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 and what else lands where this week; plus our newest column (Dolphins), Blake Shelton Friends and Heroes concert review & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, MARCH 11. Football is never done, and so it's always the perfect time to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins boss Jeter's toughest position yet, Radio Friday, latest Back In My Day video, final-season Games Of Thrones trailer & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami on playoff pace now: Heat still a we-ain't-braggin' 31-35 but had won four in a row before Sunday's home loss to tough Toronto. Miami still is alone in 8th place in the East, holding the last playoff card. You know those coveted tickets you're holding to Dwyane Wade's final regular season home game? Looking now like he may have at least two more home games after that.

2. DOLPHINS: Team's makeover underway as free agency nears: Fins this week released WR Danny Amendola, DE Andre Branch and OG Ted Larsen, the three-veteran purge alone freeing up some $15 million in salary cap space with NFL free agency beginning this coming week. Don't expect the re-booting Dolphins to be big players, as evidenced by the signing of tight end Dwayne Allen. Does that mean the two TEs they drafted last year aren't very good?

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women disappoint in ACCs; men on deck: The 16th-ranked UM women are 24-8 after falling to No. 18 Syracuse 92-85 in opener of ACC Tournament, a one-and done that won't help Katie Meier's team in its NCAA seeding. The Canes men, after a letdown of a 13-17 regular season, open their ACC tourney Tuesday vs. Wake Forest in Charlotte. Jim Larranaga's guys would need a miracle run in ACCs for even a prayer to reach March Madness.

4. NFL: Raiders getting Antonio Brown: Brown is done griping about being a Steeler and now can begin finding ways to gripe about being a Raider after teams reached a trade agreement that will become official Wednesday. Oakland gives up only 3rd and 5th-round draft picks for Brown. Big winner? Derek Carr.

5. MARLINS: Even amid losing, Jeter says at least you'll have fun: Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, this week: "One thing you always remember is the experience you had while you were at the park. And that’s what we’re focusing on." While most teams focus on winning and the product on the field, the Fish's focus is the ballpark experience. Hmm. Marlins are 7-10 with three straight wins this spring training entering the next week. We havin' fun yet?

6. CANES BASEBALL: UM tops Georgia Tech in first ACC games: Canes retired Jim Morris' No. 3 before the Georgia Tech series that opened Miami's ACC schedule, and won Sunday to take two out of three games. Coach Gino DiMare's guys are 12-3 and may finally get some love in the new polls.

7. PANTHERS: Cats seeking another miracle on ice: After losing six in a row, erratic Cats followed a much-needed 6-2 win over Minnesota with Sunday's 6-1 rout of Detroit to go to 30-39 and move within seven points of NHL playoff pace with 13 games left. Do you believe in miracles? Big four-game road trip ahead will shape Florida's hopes. 

8. NBA: LeBron, Lakers season implode: LeBron James' first season in Los Angeles has been an unequivocal mess, and now TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy is on the air suggest the Lakers shoudl trade LeBron this summer. The bright side? The Lakers haven't been this interesting in years.

9. A-ROD: Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez trying knot: A[Rod, 43, and J-Lo, 49, announced their engagement. This will be Lopez's fourth marriage and Rodriguez's second, and each has two children from previous marriages. Hope the two can scrape together enough money for a decent wedding.

10. DONALD TRUMP: President partied with spa owner: President Trump reportedly partied on Super Bowl Sunday with a group that included the owner of the "spa" that got Patriots owner Robert Kraft busted in a police solicitation sting at a place suspected of human trafficking. Or, did that go without saying?

Missing the HB10 cut: The grueling Iditarod Sled Dog Race is underway in Alaska. Don't know who'll win, but I know who loses. The dogs ..... Had a bad week? Wasn't as bad as Real Madrid's ..... Twenty-one horses have died mysteriously at Santa Anita. Um, somebody wanna figure this out, please? ..... Fox Sports North announcer Doug McLeod was pulled from the broadcast of a boys’ state hockey tournament in Minnesota after saying one team’s fans should "get out the lynching ropes." McLeod needs a new title: Former Fox Sports north announcer ..... Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly strained his back while spending five hours minding the boiling crawfish at a Cajun party for teammates. I blame the Dodgers. His contract prohibited skydiving and motorcycle racing but said nothing of minding boiling crawfish ..... R.I.P., Dan Jenkins, sports writing titan ..... Update: Countdown now 2,659 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Goretanny WakeTANNEHILL, GORE AND WAKE ALL BACK WITH DOLPHINS? WE EXPLORE: Making two things clear: 1. Not predicting this will happen! Miami is poised to move on from all three of ts biggest-name veterans, especially if it is serious about being fine with being bad this coming season; i.e., tanking. 2. The Fins' clear priority should remain finding its quarterback of the future in the 2019 or 2020 drafts, no matter what. Having said that, if the Fins are serious about being as competitive as possible this year, as they now claim, another year of RB Frank Gore and DE Cameron Wake begins to make sense. And, with QB options diminishing for Miami in both pending free agency and the draft, one more stopgap season of Ryan Tannehill -- at a reduced price! -- begins to seem a viable option as well. Worth exploring, anyway. And I do, here. Visit and read our latest column at A Case For Tannehill, Gore And Wake All Returning.

Other most recent columns: Jeter Gets Reminder Why Marlins Boss Is His Toughest Position Yet. Also: The Intrigue Left: Will LeBron Go Out On Top?, Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate and Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour.

COTE GOES COUNTRY: A REVIEW: We saw the Blake Shelton Friends & Heroes concert last night at the Panthers arena. I looked forward to it -- but not for Shelton, who I think is OK but diminished by having turned into a cheesy music game-show judge. One of his friends on the bill, Lauren Alaina, I'd not heard of. But the three others? Really like a couple of Bellamy Brothers songs. Think Trace Adkins is great. And! John Anderson. OMG. I've been a fan since Seminole Wind and Swingin'. He's a country hero of mine, and the only other time I've seen him live was before a couple of hundred folks in a country western club. Here's the Shelton video announcing the tour below. Our quickie review: It was a 4 hour 15-minute marathon, much too long, largely because opening act Alaina played way too long and the delay after her set was way too long. It meant the concert really dragged before it ever really started. Not good. But the rest of the show was great. Shelton impressed with his stage presence and catalog, my man Anderson sent chills with the opening violin on Seminole Wind, and Adkins proved he's still headliner-quality with that sub-baritone of his. Drastically pare back the Alaina opening and you got you a nice concert format there, Blake.

Other select recent columns: Riley Scoffs At Retirement Because His Work Isn't Done / Wade's 'Last Dance' A Masterwork In How To Say Goodbye / Six Reasons To Be Hopeful About Marlins' Rebuild / Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed / He Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too / Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 08, 2019

Derek Jeter softly bracing Marlins fans for harsh reality. My new column; plus big day for Canes women's hoops, baseball; also, Radio Friday, latest 'Back In My Day' video & more

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

Theu1) It's FRIDAY, MARCH 8. Big day for Katie Meier, Jim Morris and Canes sports today. Meier's UM women's basketball team opens play in the ACC Tournament, looking for a good run to enhance its positioning for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. And Morris, longtime former baseball coach, gets his No. 3 retired as Miami opens ACC play. 2) Football is never done, and so it's always the perfect time to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Martina Navratilova starts a Necessary Firestorm, Hot Button Top 10, Radio Tuesday & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

It's Radio Friday!: Double-duty this week as I'm back co-hosting today on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz. It airs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. nationally on ESPN Radio and ESPNews, after a local-only 8:55-10 hour on Miami's 790 The Ticket. Join us! 

DjeterSHORTSTOP FOR YANKEES? NAH. JETER IN HIS TOUGHEST POSITION YET, RIGHT NOW,  WITH MARLINS: Impossible task, really. Derek Jeter, Marlins CEO, goes from being the king of New York, The Captain, to the baseball basement, trying to completely reboot the Marlins. This begins Year 2. Jeter has at times portrayed his inbred competitiveness, professing a lack of patience for losing. But, just this week, Jeter was extolling the ballpark enhancements and said (unfortunately for him): "Look, people come and they don’t even know who won or lost sometimes. They don’t even know who was playing. But they do know if they had a good experience, and that’s what we’re focusing on." OK, show of hands. Who's ever been at a Marlins game and been unsure of who was playing or who won? Jeter was all but admitting the Marlins' "focus" is on ballpark enhancements helping you endure the expected continued losing as the cub regrows from the ground up. For more, visit my new column here: Jeter Gets Reminder Why Marlins Boss Is His Toughest Position Yet.

Other most recent columns: The Intrigue Left: Will LeBron Go Out On Top?, as King James' first season in L.A. turns nightmare. Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate, on why what Martina Navratilova said merits civil discussion. And Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour, on the extraordinary, heart-lifting journey of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': GOLF DRIVING RANGES!: This is my newest Back In My Day video that premiered Tuesday on the Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio/ESPNews:

OMG! THE FINAL-SEASON 'GAMES OF THRONES' TRAILER: Cannot wait for April 14. Forget more cowbell. More dragons!:

Other select recent columns: The Evolution Of Sports Into Big Business / Riley Scoffs At Retirement Because His Work Isn't Done / Zion Should Say See-Ya Duke and Shut It Down / Wade's 'Last Dance' A Masterwork In How To Say Goodbye / Six Reasons To Be Hopeful About Marlins' Rebuild / Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed / He Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too / Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

March 05, 2019

A Necessary Firestorm: Why Martina Navratilova's controversial comments on transgender athletes sparks a valuable conversation. Our new column; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), Radio Tuesday, our holiday in Mexico & more

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

1) It's TUESDAY, MARCH 5. Happy to be back. Wife and I took a long weekend off on a four-night cruise to Mexico. Cozumel is better than Cancun and it ain't even close. Our tour guide's passion about his Mayan culture was really great to hear. All in all we had a great time there after successfully scaling Trump's border wall. 2) Football is done, but never too late to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The extraordinary journey of Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Wade's signature 'Last Dance' moment & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today on the Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz. It airs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. nationally on ESPN Radio and ESPNews, after an exclusive local hour 8:55 to 10 on Miami's 790 The Ticket. Join us!

MartinaWHY MARTINA NAVRATILOVA'S COMMENTS ON TRANSGENDER ATHLETES HAVE STARTED A VALUABLE CONVERSATION. OUR LATEST COLUMN: This is complicated. It's about equal rights on one side, but also about fairness on the other. Tennis great Martina Navratilova (pictured) is now  being vilified by the same LGBTQ community that once adored here because she dared to suggest, in an  op-ed piece for the Sunday Times Of London, that transgender women have an unfair advantage competing in sports against athletes born female, and thus should not be allowed to. Evidence backs her on the advantage claim, yet the comments have been angrily portrayed as transphobic. To read our latest column, please visit Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate. I believe Navratilova raises valuable points that merit a civil discussion. There is much gray here. I do not think it is at odds to be both pro LGBTQ-rights (as I am) but also to find merit in Navratilova's concerns.    

Other most recent columns: Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / The Evolution Of Sports Into Big Business / Riley Scoffs At Retirement Because His Work Isn't Done / Zion Should Say See-Ya Duke and Shut It Down / Wade's 'Last Dance' A Masterwork In How To Say Goodbye / Six Reasons To Be Hopeful About Marlins' Rebuild / Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed / He Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too / Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature (one day late here because of our weekend away, and updated today), 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. HEAT: Miami wins, now needs to get on a run: Dwyane Wade's exhilarating game-winning buzzer-beater vs. Golden State was a signature moment for his Last Dance season, but it doesn't erase the fact Heat are wallowing at 29-34 and on the far edge of playoff contention after last night's 1-point home win over Atlanta. Wednesday in Charlotte, Miami aims for its first three-game winning streak since before Christmas.

2. DOLPHINS: Kyler Murray wows at Scouting Combine: Oklahoma's Heisman-winning quarterback was thought to be in play for the Dolphins with the 13th overall pick in the draft. But after his showing at the recent NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis there is talk he may go top-five or even No. 1 overall. The big news? He measured 5-10 1/8th -- not 5-9 as some feared. (Woo hoo!) Do the Dolphins have a major trade-up in them? Yeah, I doubt it, too.

3. GOLF: Keith Mitchell wins Honda Classic: Who!? Yeah, it was Mitchell's first PGA Tour win, by one shot over big names Brooks Kopeka and Rickie Fowler in a mostly low-watt event in terms of star power. Mexico's Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, whom we wrote about (see link above) missed the cut.

4. MLB: Phillies land Bryce Harper: Free-agent prize Harper stays in the NL East after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract with Philadelphia. Always thought he was overrated. Add overpaid now. He'll next be a free agent at age 39 entering the 2032 season. Think the rebuilding Marlins might be good by then?

5. UM BASKETBALL: Ranked Canes women prep for ACC tourney: No. 15-ranked UM women bring a 24-7 season record and No. 4 seed into the ACC Tournament, which opens for the Canes Friday vs. a yet-to-be-determined opponent in Greensboro, N.C. Expectations are high. Not so much for the Miami's men's team, which is only 12-16 entering Tuesday's season finale vs. Pitt prior to next week's ACC tourney.

6. PANTHERS: Are we still pretending Cats have playoff shot?: Four straight losses, all by one goal, have left Florida 28-37 and a big 10 points off NHL playoff pace entering Tuesday's game at Pittsburgh. Cats had been hot(ish) before the current tailspin that is ill-timed to say the least.

7. CANES BASEBALL: Hot UM prepares for ACC schedule: Gino DiMare era is off and running at 9-2 entering a Wednesday home game vs. Appalachian State, with ACC play opening with a home series starting Friday vs. Georgia Tech. DiMare seems up to the Ron Fraser/Jim Morris lineage so far.

8. NFL: Jaguars zeroing in on QB Nick Foles: As NFL free agency commences next week, Jacksonville reportedly has plans to release Blake Bortles in favor of signing Eagles free agent-to-be Foles. Miami could have opted for a similar upgrade, said nah.

9. NBA: LeBron calls out Lakers teammates: LeBron James called out his young Lakers teammates for being distracted from basketball, and later yelled at teammate Mo Wagner. Oh the indignity of me, LeBron James, not making the playoffs! It's an outrage!

10. MARLINS: Yep, it seems Fish may be as bad as we thought: Marlins are 3-7 one-third through spring training after yesterday snapping a five-game losing streak. But the last three of those losses in a row had been by only one run. (Nobody said accentuating the positive was easy, folks).

Missing the HB10 cut: Division II men's basketball team Indiana University of Pennsylvania traveled for a road game without its uniforms, and had to play in the nude. Just kidding! They borrowed the host team's road unis ..... L.A. high school safety Antoinette "Toni" Harris, the first female football player (non-kicker) to sign a college letter of intent. Missouri's Central Methodist University, y'all just made history ..... The Montreal Alouettes released Johnny Manziel and the CFL banned him from the league for violating his contract. "Operator, could I have a number for the Alliance of American Football, please?" ..... Pacman Jones was arrested at an Indiana casino. Or, did that go without saying? ..... Because NFL officials were not present, ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy berated high-school basketball referees after a loss by his stepson's team ..... Update: Countdown now 2,666 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup. ..... Farewell and happy retirement to Clark Spencer, the Herald's longtime baseball writer. Mostly congratulations, for not having to cover the Marlins anymore. 

Select other recent columns: Taking On NFL Cost Costas His Job, But Not His Integrity / The State Of South Florida Sports in 2019 / The Redemption Of Manny Diaz / Here's Why Dolphins Hit Big With Flores Gamble / Bonds and Clemens Inch Toward Cooperstown, But A-Rod Faces Tougher Road / Kooch Never Made Canton But Helped Make Dolphins History / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 18, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Kaepernick and Kuchar columns, your verdict on Murray vs. Tagovailoa for Dolphins & more

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

Prezday1) It's MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18. Happy Presidents' Day. I honor the office and what it stands for. Not always the man in it. But the office. 2) Football is done, but never too late to buy our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Matt Kuchar/underpaid caddie tempest, Dolphins' QB plan with poll, Parkland 1-year anniversary & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Colin Kaepernick, Caddiegate, Kyler Murray: Our most recent columns: Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is SignedHe Was Wrong To Stiff Caddie, But Vilifying Kuchar is Wrong, Too /  And Why Murray Is Perfect Fit For Dolphins.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT/NBA: Wade's 'Last Dance' pauses for All-Star Game: It was Team LeBron rallying to beat Team Giannis 178-164 in a typically defense-oriented (!) NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte Sunday night. Heat's Dwyane Wade, a special all-star roster addition, scored seven points with four assists off the bench in 10 minutes of action in the final all-star bow of his Last Dance farewell season. Now back to earth: Miami will return from the break Thursday at 26-30 and narrowly off playoff pace.

2. MARLINS: Fish open full spring training: Marlins are up in Jupiter (the city, not the planet) for Monday's first full-squad work of spring training. With catcher J.T. Realmuto now a Phillie, every Miami veteran with any appreciable trade value has now been swapped out for prospects. Fish could be good someday. We just have no idea when.

3. MOTORSPORTS: Hamlin takes Daytona 500: Denny Hamling won the Daytona 500 for the second time in four years Sunday in NASCAR season-opening race, one marred as usual by multiple wrecks. William Byron (whom Hot Button is not pretending to have heard of) was on the pole. Too bad. Nobody has won this race from the pole position since Dale Jarrett in 2000.

4. UM BASKETBALL: Canes women win at No. 2 Louisville: After earlier stunning No. 4 Notre Dame, Katie Meier's Canes women -- 22-5 and ranked 20th -- visited second-ranked Louisville Sunday and won 79-73. The drama for UM's men is of a far different sort. Jim Larranaga's guys (11-14) will need a miracle finish in last five games and in ACC Tournament for any prayer of an invite to NCAAs.

5. COLIN KAEPERNICK: QB, NFL settle collusion grievance: I'm no lawyer, but this I know: the settlement of a collusion grievance is a compromise but one that does not mean there was no collusion to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league. Simple to end all doubts, though. Somebody sign the guy!

6. CANES BASEBALL: Canes open season, DiMare era with sweep: With Jim Morris retired after 25 seasons, Gino DiMare took over as coach as the Hurricanes wrapped their season-opening home series vs. Rutgers Sunday with a three-game sweep: 19-3, 7-1, 9-3. Canes are unranked. For now.

7. MATT KUCHAR: 'Cheapskate Champ' finally does right by caddie: The PGA Tour's Caddiegate starred Matt Kuchar, who, after winning a tournament and its $1.3 million prize, paid his fill-in caddie a paltry $5,000. Social media vilification ensued. Friday, Kuchar relented, apologize and said he'd give the bag man 50K.

8. PANTHERS: Barkov hat trick lifts Cats: Florida, in the midst of a seven-game homestand, beat Montreal Sunday behind Aleksander Barkov's hat trick. But Cats are still a big 11 points off playoff pace two-thirds into the NHL season. Panthers have won than three games in a row only once all season. Streak, please?

9. BOB COSTAS: Broadcaster breaks silence on NBC split: Bob Costas revealed details of his breakup with NBC Sports after a 38-year run, saying it came down to his outspokenness on NFL brain injuries clashing with NBC's pricey partnership with the league. No surprise: Costas leaves with his integrity intact.

10. INSPIRATION: A coach with no arms or legs: ESPN told the story of Rob Mendez, a California high-school football coach born without arms or legs. Store away the previous sentence in the back of your mind for use the next time you start feeling sorry for yourself.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Dolphins introduced new coach Brian Flores' staff of assistants to the media on Friday. Time now for them to introduce Miami to something nearly forgotten: a winning Fins team ..... Week 2 for the new Alliance of American Football, and I can already feel interest fading ..... Bengals RB Mark Walton, the ex-Cane, was arrested in Miami for snatching a cell phone from a woman during an argument. And the propensity of some pro athletes to be their own worst enemy continues to astound ..... Finalists for the 2019 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class are led by Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, Ben Wallace and Paul Westphal, verifying once and for all they're letting too many people in ..... David Beckham watched his first Salford City match since becoming a 10-percent owner of the English non-Premier League club. Hey Becks, how about you concentrate on Inter Miami, yes? ..... R.I.P. Gordon Banks, famed British goalkeeper who ended his career with Fort Lauderdale Strikers in late '70s, gone at 81 ..... Update: Countdown now 2,681 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

KaepNO KAEPERNICK COLLUSION? ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN SETTLEMENT: Colin Kaepernick settled his collusion grievance against the NFL on Friday, but the quarterback remains unsigned entering his third season of suspicious unemployment. For my newest column, please visit Stain On NFL Stays Until Kaepernick Is Signed. Friday's settlement should not have surprised anyone. The player knows how difficult it is to prove collusion in court. And the NFL wanted very badly to spare commissioner Roger Goodell and several team owners from being deposed and having their phone records and emails examined. It also is important to note that settling the collusion grievance does not mean there was no collusion to blackball Kaepernick from the league, or that there isn't still. I'd rehash the whole background here, but you're living under a rock if you don't know the polarizing QB is where he is as the father of the NFL players' social justice movement that has included kneeling during the national anthem. All it will take is one brave team to see in the "athlete/activist" first as a really good quarterback who is better than what they've got. Only then will the stain of collusion begun to fade.

POLL RESULTS: IT'S TAGOVAILOA OVER MURRAY FOR FINS: We asked, "Which of these 2 options would you prefer as a Miami Dolphins quarterback plan?" And you preferred drafting Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 over Kyler Murray in 2019 by 57.50 percent to 42.50%. So a somewhat less than overwhelming majority is buying into the prevalent "tank in '19 for Tua in '20" theory -- even though odds are against Miami being bad enough next season to draft high enough to get him. And a sizable minority agree with me about fast-tracking the future by going for the more gettable Murray in this April's draft.

Other most recent columns: Taking On NFL Cost Costas His Job, But Not His Integrity / The State Of South Florida Sports in 2019 / The Redemption Of Manny Diaz / Here's Why Dolphins Hit Big With Flores Gamble.

Additional select recent columns: Bonds and Clemens Inch Toward Cooperstown, But A-Rod Faces Tougher Road / We All Got Cheated, Not Just Saints / Kooch Never Made Canton But Helped Make Dolphins History / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff / The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

February 04, 2019

New: Why Dolphins are poised to hit big with Flores gamble; plus Patriots win and so did I on Super Bowl Sunday; also, our SB pick, Smirk Quintet, your Canton verdict, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4. Happy new month, all. Do good, Feb! 2) Football is at its crescendo so it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the (late) gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Super Bowl With a Smirk I-II-III-IV-V, Pro Football Hall of Fame poll, Super Bowl pick & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

NEW COLUMN: DOLPHINS POISED TO HIT BIG WITH FLORES HIRE:The Dolphins have made only two head-coaching since the Don Shula era that should have had fans truly excited: Jimmy Johnson in 1995, and Nick Saban in 2005. Brian Flores, in 2019, could be the third. I explain why in my new column: Visit Here's Why Dolphins Hit Big With Flores Gamble to read.

PATRIOTS WON SUPER BOWL SUNDAY. SO'D DOLPHINS. AND SO DID I: Unorthodox game and odd score, 13-3, but Patriots last night won sixth championship of the Brady/Belichick era. The Dolphins won, too, because now they get Brian Flores, the New England defensive play-caller whose handprints were on Sunday's win and who now becomes the Fins next head coach. I won, too. I had the Patriots winning outright. (Check). I had the Patriots comfortably covering at minus 2 1/2 points. (Check). And I had the 'under' on what what a 56 1/2-point line on total scoring. (Check). A fitting end to our personal-record-setting season of picks!

SbliiiSUPER BOWL LIII: RAMS VS. PATRIOTS: THE PICK: Do you suffer from Super Bowl Week Syndrome? This is a medically recognized malady that causes headaches and victims’ eyes to glaze over from the the incessant parade of media hype for the big game. Do you suffer from Patriot Fatigue? Symptoms of this diagnosis — prevalent to nearly epidemic levels outside of Massachusetts — include acute irritability over the very idea of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick winning yet again. Either way, folks, for better or worse, it’ll all be over soon! Atlanta hosts the 53rd SB and Brady and Belichick haven’t actually been in all of them, it only seems that way. New England’s Double-G.O.A.T. quarterback/coach combo is merely making a ninth Super appearance together, in search of a record sixth NFL championship. These two have more rings than Saturn. But will they add one more or is the dynasty about to end as 120 Americans bear witness? An L.A. Rams team led by a 24-year QB (Jared Goff) and a 33-year-old coach (Sean McVay) is well-poised to represent “Next!” But can they? I’m doubting it. There’s a neat full-circle thing in play here, because it was the Rams (then in St. Louis) who gave Brady/Belichick its first Super Bowl win 17 years ago. Rams haven't been back to the Big Game since, ‘til now. New England was way back then a 14-point underdog; Sunday they're 2 1/2 -point favorites. Faith in the Pats is easy by now. New England is playing its best ball of the season, nobody is more clutch on this stage than Brady, and now it seems Rob Gronkowski has gotten his second wind. That’s huge, because the Rams have defended tight ends poorly all season. The Patriots’ defense also is better all-round than L.A.’s, which has given up 30-plus points seven times. Then there’s Belichick. He has a great track record vs. young QBs, of which Goff still qualifies. He also earned his Genius Card by limiting opponents’ most dangerous threat, which is why I think he’ll find a way to insulate Brady from the Rams’ up-the-gut pass rush led by Aaron Donald. I know that underdogs tend to be a smart Super Bowl play; that ‘dogs have won six of the past seven SBs outright. But that trend ends here. Yes, the Patriots have been much better at home than on the road this year. But consider this: For New England, the Super Bowl is home. (For the full preview/predix, visit Super Bowl Gem). Our pick: Patriots, 31-24.

SmirkTHE 'SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK' QUINTET: Smirk returned with five daily notes columns poking fun at the self-important NFL and the gravitas of its big game:

Smirk V: Mahomes, Reed top Honors night. But what about Miss Colombia? -- Previewing NFL Honors night hosted by Steve Harvey. Also: Lamb belly, Lil Yachty, Greg Economou. 

Smirk IV: Of 100-plus Super Bowl Canes, he was 1st -- Meet UM Hurricane whose historical distinction will always be his alone. Also: Merriam-Webster's SB analysis, amputation, Etrade Baby.

Smirk III: No comment, say halftime performers -- Maroon 5 canceled halftime-show presser as Roger Goodell tried to explain away Saintsgate. Also: Romo's non-pick, 442 prop bets. 

Smirk II: No. 1 Dolfan on edge of history -- For 34th straight season Miami didn't make Super Bowl. But team's biggest fan did. Also: Clydesdale dates Betty White, Hungary, Ed Mangan. 

Smirk I: Welcome to 'Suit' Bowl LVIII -- Join host city Atlanta in welcoming Patriots, Rams, lawsuits, anger and a squirming NFL commissioner. Also: Dodgeball, Pizza Hut, haggis.

EdreedPOLL RESULT: REED, GONZALEZ TOP YOUR PICKS FOR CANTON: We asked, "Which of 18 finalists should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?" and gave you up to six votes. The maximum vote for any one player would be 16.7 percent if every voter used all six votes, and you'd multiply any player's total by six for an idea the percent of ballots that included that person. Got all that? Your top six: Safety Ed Reed (pictured) with 17.27%, tight end Tony Gonzalez 15.07%, cornerback Champ Bailey 11.77%, running back Edgerrin James 7.69% and tackle Tony Boselli 6.91%. (Next best were coach Don Coryell 5.34% and receiver Isaac Bruce 5.18%). Applying the 80 percent requirement used in actual Hall of Fame voting, only Reed and Gonzalez were voted into Canton by you all, although Bailey came close.

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

Hotbutton1. NFL: Patriots beat Rams in weird Super Bowl: The Patriots were 2 1/2-point favorites over the Rams as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady attempt to win (what seems like) their 943rd Super Bowl together. It was actually their sixth, 13-3, in an oddly low-scoring, somewhat boring letdown of a game. New England is the team we love to hate. Los Angeles shouldn't even have been there except the officials screwed the Saints. Um, was anybody else rooting for both teams to lose?

2. HEAT: Wade's 'Last Dance' includes All-Star nod: His team is the epitome of mediocrity at 24-27 after three straight losses and eighth in the East entering a six-game road trip starting Tuesday. The good news? Dwyane Wade's farewell season will see him  in the Feb. 17 All-Star Game after Wade and Dirk Nowitzki made as it "special additions" of commissioner Adam Silver. Hi-yo, Silver!

3. HURRICANES: Transfer Portal kings await national signing day: After a bad end to the season, an unexpected coaching change and a lousy early recruiting period, UM football has roared back as this Wednesday's National Signing Day looms. Miami nabbed four of 247sports' top 17 available transfer including Ohio State QB Tate Martell to make what happens Wednesday less urgent than it might have been.

4. NFL HONORS: Ex-Cane Reed makes Canton, Mahomes is MVP: Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes won league MVP in a runaway and ex-Hurricane Ed Reed led the new Hall of Fame class at the NFL Honors awards show on Super Bowl eve in Atlanta Saturday night. Joining Reed in Canton: Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Johnny Robinson, Kevin Mawae, Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt. Shoulda been picked but denied: Isaac Bruce.

5. PANTHERS: Cats trade Bujgstad, McCann: Florida (21-29 and nine points off playoff pace even with Saturday's win over Vegas) traded forwards Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to Pittsburgh for Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three 2019 draft picks. That's either a white towel waving on this season or a last shot at jolting it to life. We'll see.

6. NBA: Unibrow fined for trade talk as deadline nears: Player movement a hot topic approaching Thursday's NBA trade deadline. Anthony Davis was fined 50K for publicly saying he wanted out of New Orleans. The Knicks dealt Kristaps Porzingis. Kyrie Irving may be moving. And who will LeBron lure to L.A?

7. DOLPHINS: As Flores arrives, Tannehill on way out: Pats assistant Brian Flores will soon be introduced as Miami's next head coach now that his team's season is (finally) ending. Meantime, it was reported the Fins will parts ways with QB Ryan Tannehill. Wait. Is that news? Hearing Miami will part with Tannehill is like hearing your 104-year-old grandpa died. It wasn't if, just when.

8. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men continue freefall: Jim Larranaga's guys, once 5-0, fell to 9-12 overall and 1-8 (ugh) in ACC play with Saturday's 56-46 loss at No. 3 Virginia. At least the No. 23 Canes women are 19-5 after a Sunday home win over Virginia.

9. MARLINS: FanFest ushers in spring in five days: FanFest is this coming Saturday and the start of spring training will soon follow as the Marlins gear for Year 2 of the Derek Jeter era. Meanwhile trading away catcher J.T. Realmuto for prospects (to the Braves, perhaps?) continues to percolate on the hot stove.

10. SKIING: Vonn announces she's retiring: American Lindsay Vonn, 34, said she'll retire after the World Championships in Sweden later this month. She has won 82 World Cup races, second all-time. Also could describe Tiger Woods naked, if she wanted to.

Missing the HB10 cut: Sentences I Never Imagined Writing (one in a series): "Golfer Sergio Garcia was disqualified from an event in Saudi Arabia for intentionally destroying greens ..... Update: Countdown now 2,695 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Most recent non-Smirk columns: Le'Veon wants Dolphins, And Interest Should Be Mutual / Bonds and Clemens Inch Toward Cooperstown, But A-Rod Faces Tougher Road / We All Got Cheated, Not Just Saints. Also: This Is Offseason for Dolphins to Be Bold, Not Think Tanking / Blueprint For Dolphins Is Right In Front Of Them / Kooch Never Made Canton But Helped Make Dolphins History / A Better Coach Isn't Dolphins' Biggest Need / From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / Hurricanes' Wild Ride From Chaos to Calm / Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff / The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Richt Can Call It Retirement, But He Just Quit On The Canes / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 08, 2019

What was Miami's biggest sport story of 2018? Our 20 finalists. You pick top 6. Annual poll. Last day to vote!; plus my LeBatard and Canes columns, Radio Tuesday, Hot Button Top 10, how we did on NFL playoff picks, your top-national-story winner & more

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

1) It's TUESDAY, JANUARY 8. Yes I might still say "Happy New Year" and I don't care who objects with their silly rules. 2) Football is at its crescendo and the holidays are upon us. That means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the (late) gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Wild-Card Weekend picks, biggest-national-sports-story-of-2018 poll, make-Wade-an-all-star column & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today on the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, my first time back with Dan and Stu since before the holidays. Show airs 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Miami's 790 The Ticket and nationally on ESPN Radio affiliates and on ESPNews from 10 to 1. Join us! 

The Le Batard, Canes' Chaos to Calm columns: Visit From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 for a special, unusually personal column by me. And, in my latest column, UM director of athletics Blake James takes us behind the scenes on the day when Canes football when from a bombshell of upheaval to the calm of continuity within hours. Visit Hurricanes' Wild Ride From Chaos to Calm.

Other most recent columns: Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff. Also: The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Richt Can Call It Retirement, But He Just Quit On The Canes / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

PicksNFL playoff picks: Wild-Card Weekend results: I finished 2-2 straight-up and 2-2 against the spread in the Saturday/Sunday TV doubleheaders that got the postseason underway. Straivght-up, I called the Chargers upset win and also had Cowboys winning. ATS, got the Chargers and Eagles covering at Chicago. Got a bit unlucky. Was sailing with Dallas to cover until that late Seattle score and 2-point conversion. And had Bears straight-up if not for that double-boink final makeable field goal miss. Thanks, Cody Parkey. Visit NFL Wild-Card Weekend Gems for all of our opening round selections.

Miami18WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2018? VOTING CONTINUES!: [Note: Voting continues through today and results will be announced here Wednesday morning]. This is our third year doing this. In 2016 you voted the tragic death of Jose Fernandez the biggest local story of the year, and for 2017 it was the Hurricanes' Turnover Chain-fueled surge to UM's first 10-win season in 14 years. The vote to name the biggest local story of 2018 could be tougher, and closer. We'll see. And you'll decide. Previously we invited you to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (results below). Now we invite you to select the 2018 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from a roughly alphabetical top 20 of my choosing. You may vote for your top six (6). I offer no synopsis beyond the description phrase in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. Voting will continue until results are announced here mid-afternoon Tuesday. OK. Ready? Vote!

VOTE FOR YOUR TOP SIX (6)

EaglesYOUR BIGGEST NATIONAL SPORTS STORY VERDICT: We gave you The Associated Press year-end list of Top 10 national sports stories for 2018 and invited you to select your top three. That means the highest possible percentage for any one answer would be 33.3 percent if all voters cast all three votes. Triple each vote total below for the approximate percent of times that answer was included in a top three. Your results: 1. Eagles win first Super Bowl 22.43%; 2. Larry Nasser/gymnastics sexual abuse scandal 20.15%; 3. Supreme Court allows sports betting beyond Las Vegas 15.59%; 4. Tiger Woods comeback from back surgery 9.89%; and 5. Maryland-Baltimore County first 16-seed to beat a No.1 in NCAAs 9.13%. (Nasser/gymnastics scandal won The AP vote). Others: Red Sox win World Series 6.84%; Sister Jean, 98, inspires Loyola-Chicago to NCAA Final Four 4.94%; expansion Golden Knights reach Stanley Cup Finals 4.18%; Alabama wins fifth national title under Nick Saban 4.18%; and Russia doping scandal continues into Pyeongchang Olympics 2.66%.

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins in search for Gase's replacement as coach: Adam Gase is out. Chris Grier gets the personnel power Mike Tannenbaum had. The search is on for a new head coach. And none if it matters as much as this: Finding a quarterback better than Ryan Tannehill.

2. HURRICANES: Diaz continues assembling new staff: New head coach Manny Diaz digs in to try and find a new offensive coordinator to breathe life into the underperforming half of the team. Major Applewhite, perhaps? No matter who the new OC is, will N'Kosi Perry be his guy?

3. NFL: Colts, Cowboys, Chargers, Eagles advance as playoffs begin: Indianapolis won impressively in Houston, handled Seattle, the Chargers upset Baltimore and Philly upset Chicago to open the playoffs -- the latter only because Cody Parkey blew a 43-yard FG try in last seconds.

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Clemson routs Alabama for CFP title: Crimson Tide and Tigers met Monday night in Santa Clara, Calif., with both teams 14-0 and 'Bama a 5 1/2-point favorite, but it was Clemson winning in a rout, 44-16. We've seldom seen Nick Saban look so sad. Ain't it great!?

5. HEAT: All-star push for Wade is on: As Heat have won eight of past 11 and are at .500 in East race, the push is on to send Dwyane Wade off as an all-star in his final season. He's running second in fan voting. Now we'll see if the player and media vote gets it right, too.

6. UM BASKETBALL: ACC schedule begins for Canes men, women: Now it gets real. Struggling UM men dropped their ACC opener, fell at Louisville last night and now play at No. 9 Florida State Wednesday. Canes women are 14-3 after two wins to open ACC play but somehow slipped from Top 25.

7. JAMES HARDEN: Rockets star's pointfest continues: Harden has now scored 30 or more points in 13 straight games, and NBA record. There are points hidden in Harden's beard.

8. PANTHERS: Hints of hope for Cats, but is it too late?: Cats at midseason are 17-23 and a big nine points off playoff pace as they head out on five-game road trip. Even a big second half might not be enough -- not a good position to have placed yourself.

9. NBA: Warriors, King set 3's mark: Golden State and Sacramento combined for 41 3's, an NBA record. The game's evolution is such, when you pull up for a 2-point jump shot now, they look at you funny.

10. BASEBALL: Biggest deals still on hold: A destination of top free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. A trade of Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Women carry babies in their wombs less time than it's taken these deals to happen.

Missing the HB10 cut: Update: Countdown now 2,724 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

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

Twitter @gregcote

July 23, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Dolphins training camp? Wade to China? Soccer? See what's No. 1 and who else falls where; plus our latest column (Fins), your Dolphins anthem-policy verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 23. R.I.P., Tony Sparano, former Dolphins head coach, dead suddenly and unexpectedly at age 56. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins anthem policy poll, Miami MLS stadium wins to get on ballot, Time's Trump/Putin cover, your ASG vs. HRD verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Dolphins poised to exceed expectations as camp opens: The offseason segues into the preseason for the Dolphins and 31 other NFL teams with the full start of training camps this week. For Miami it's been a brutal offseason in terms of media criticism and low public perception. But fans should expect better as camp opens. I explore why in my latest column. Click Dolphins Results Will Exceed Brutal Offseason to read.

Other recent columnsSoccer Stadium Progress, But Much Work LeftReasons For Hope As Jeter Plan Takes RootWhy 'Melo To Miami Would Be Strange MarriageLeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth ApplaudingTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursTannehill's Defining Season.

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Training camp opens under (more) anthem cloud: Offseason turns to preseason with Thursday's first full Dolphins practice of training camp. Meantime the NFL firestorm over national-anthem protests enters its third year with Miami in the middle. Dolphins instituted a policy threatening four-game suspensions for on-field protests, then walked that back as NFL put on hold its new go-hide policy mandating that any protests be off the field and out of view.

2. SOCCER: Miami MLS stadium gets onto ballot: By the perfect soccer score of 3-2 the Miami City Commission voted to allow the Miami Freedom Park soccer stadium initiative onto the November ballot. Public approval of a stadium at the Melreese site would then lead to lease negotiations between the Beckham group and city. Meantime the team set to begin play in 2020 has targeted Atlanta United VP Paul McDonough as its new general manager.

3. HEAT: No 'Melo. Now can Miami keep Wade from China?: Heat and Houston were after Carmelo Anthony, but he was traded to Atlanta in a three-team deal instead, continuing a quiet free agency period for Miami. When your biggest move is re-signing Wayne Ellington for one year, your offseason has been a Lollopa-snoozer. But that could change for the worse if Dwyane Wade, a free agent, actually leaves Miami for the Chinese league's Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who reportedly are offering a monster contract. "Qing buyao zou, Dwyane!" (That means please don't go).

4. MARLINS: Fish back at it after break, stay hot: Miami is now 23-19 since June 5 including 2-1 after the All-Star break after winning the series in Tampa Bay today before now playing six straight at home vs. NL East rivals Atlanta and Washington. With the July 29 trade deadline looming, let's see if Derek Jeter does right and holds onto all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto and ace closer Kyle Barraclough.

5. SOCCER: Hard Rock poised to host ICC soccer: The annual International Champions Cup, a brainchild of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, is coming to Hard Rock Stadium, with Manchester City facing Bayern Munich this coming Saturday and then Manchester United vs. Real Madrid July 31. No more Ronaldo for Real, alas. Still, these club giants figure to deliver a level of futbol comparable to or even exceeding what we just saw in the World Cup.

6. GOLF: Tiger falters, Molinari wins British Open: Tiger Woods shot 66 at Carnoustie in Scotland Saturday, his best major round in seven years, and briefly held the lead Sunday before faltering in the British Open. Tiger in the hunt in a major was all we can ask for. Wait. Check that. I guess all we can ask for would have been his first major win since 2008. Instead Francesco Molinari became the first Italian to win a major. Quick aside: British Open courses are the ugliest on Earth, and those painted-green greens surrounded by brown look ridiculous.

7. HURRICANES: ACC Media Days means football is near: As Mark Richt plans for his Paradise Camp this coming Saturday, ACC Media Day were held in Charlotte. The consensus? Miami should be really good in 2018, and with eight returning starters on defense that Turnover Chain should be flyin'. Canes should win the Coastal Division and have a rematch with Clemson for the conference crown. Wait, we had to fly to Charlotte for that

8. NBA: Kawhi Leonard trade tops the week: San Antonio Spurs traded disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard to Toronto even-up for DeMar DeRozan n a deal that didn't seem to please either player but likely helped both teams. It was NBA's biggest offseason move; well, other than that guy whatshisname going from Cleveland to the Lakers.

9. MLB: It was an especially wild All-Star break: The AL beat the NL 8-6 in a homerfest, one night after hometown hero Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby. Oh, and Hialeah-born Manny Machado was being traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers during the game. And, oh yeah, it blew up on social media in the middle of the ASG -- while he was on the mound -- that Brewers pitcher Josh Hader had a teenage history of racist, homophobic tweets. Oy!

10. ESPN: ESPY Awards go heavy on emotion: Nobody will remember who won the top individual awards, but few will forget the emotional chords struck as ESPN (appropriately) honored the sexual abuse survivors of disgraced Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser and the three coaches who were among the mass shooting victims at Parkland's Stoneman Douglas High.

Missing the HB10 cut: Big3 basketball, a league of unretired former NBA players, came to the Heat's arena with a tripleheader Friday night. Somewhere, the guy running the Harlem Globetrotters, once the sport's reigning novelty act, is softly weeping ..... Baseball Hall of Fame inductions are next Sunday in Cooperstown. Terrell Owens is boycotting that one, too ..... The Tour de France ends next Sunday. It will be won by somebody I've never heard of and whose name I'll immediately forget ..... Update. Countdown now 2,892 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

POLL RESULTS: POLARIZING, BUT MAJORITY AGAINST NEW DOLPHINS ANTHEM POLICY: We asked, "What do you think of the Miami Dolphins' new national anthem policy threatening players who protest on the field with four-game suspensions or fines?" The response was voluminous (you may still vote), and last we checked it was 60.61 percent against, 36.60% for and 2.79% undecided. Of note, it opened around 70% percent against, but the "for" votes gained traction.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): YELICH PUSHING STANTONThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .859   96  378  59 105   57  18-1-23    .278

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .856   85 330  62 100   47  18-3-12     .303

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .685   95 370  39  98   51   9-1-10      .265

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

July 09, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No.1 this week and what else falls where; plus your World Cup rooting-interest verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 9. Surprise the Dolfans in your life. Give them our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): World Cup final-8 poll, LeBron to Lakers poll, the president and the press & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

I'm back!: Missed new columns from me lately? It's because I was on vacation last week. I'll be back with a new column later today. Meantime, our most recent columns: LeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth Applauding. Our four other columns from the past week: LeBron's 1 Choice to Meet His Legacy Head-OnMLS Miami Says All Are Welcome7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. And Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports Town).

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

Hotbutton1. WORLD CUP: Unorthodox final four set to go!: It'll be neighbors France vs. Belgium on Tuesday and then England vs. Croatia on Wednesday in World Cup semifinal matches from Russia. No Brazil or anybody else from South America left. No world No. 1 Germany. Italy didn't even qualify. And no surviving team has won it all in at least 20 years. No matter the results from here, the 2018 World Cup will have been nothing if not ... refreshingly different. 

2. TENNIS: Top-seed Halep out as Wimbledon reaches midpoint: Unseeded Su-Wei Hsieh stunned No. 1-seed Simona Halelp as the forthnight at Wimbledon bounced to halftime with upsets galore on the women's side. Meantime her nanny revealed that new mom Serena Williams, still in play, missed her baby's first steps while practicing in London. Ouch. Onus now on Serena to win her first post-pregnancy major to make up for the missed milestone.

3. MARLINS: Realmuto an all-star; Fish ready to ride homestand to break: After closing victoriously at Washington Sunday the Marlins have a six-game homestand starting tonight to carry them into the midseason break for the July 17 All-Star Game. Catcher J.T. Realmuto will be the Marlins' lone representative in the ASG, selected as a reserve Sunday evening.

4. DOLPHINS: Low grade for Fins as camp nears: Oy! With Dolphins training camp poised to start in six days with rookies reporting, Miami's offseason is graded a C-minus in an ESPN ranking of how all 32 NFL teams have done. Only two teams (Carolina and Detroit) are graded lower.

5. MLB: All-Stars announced on Sunday: The selection show for the July 17 All-Star Game was last evening on ESPN. No Marlins were voted in, but catcher J.T. Reamuto made it as a reserve. Now comes a few days of baseball writers chewing over their list of top "snubs." (Bor-ring!)

6. NBA: Is LeBron-as-Laker any closer to crown?: LeBron James going to L.A. seemed a huge deal, but then champ Golden State also got better in summer free agency, and now one wonders if LeBron is any closer to what he wants now than he was in Cleveland. The answer may lie in the biggest offseason prize left: Kawhi Leonard. Will the Spurs trade him? And to whom?

7. HEAT: Miami continues in Summer League play: Quiet on the free agency front, the Heat are now 0-2 in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas after going 2-1 in Sacramento. Miami next faces Utah on Tuesday. Derrick Jones Jr. has been tearin' it up. Um, can we even pretend we really care?

8. NASCAR: Jones survived wreck-o-rama: Erik Jones didn't so much win as survive a wreck-filled race at Daytona for his first NASCAR title. Meantime Brad Keselowski vowed to wreck blockers moving forward. By the time the race finished it felt like there'd been more yellow flags than cars left on the track. 

9. UFC: Cormier wins heavyweight title: Daniel Cormier defeated Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight championship at UFC 226. The obvious question arising from the bout? Who on Earth names their baby boy "Stipe"?

10. THAI RESCUE: Cave rescues begin: The first four boys have been removed from that flooded cave in Thailand. A soccer team and their coach have been trapped. I just bet big that they'll be honored on the ESPY Awards. There's a wager for everything, isn't there!

Missing the HB10 cut: Scandal rocks the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest! Apparently some of the totals were suspect. No wonder. You couldn't pay me enough to judge that mess. I get nauseous just watching ..... The Big3 basketball league is back. Some things you can't stop no matter how hard you try ..... The Tour de France is underway. Gentlemen, start your PEDs? ..... The British Open is in 11 days. You know it's a slow time on the sports calendar when we're counting down to the British Open ..... Update. Countdown now 2,906 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

EnglandPOLL RESULT: YOUR WORLD CUP ROOTING INTEREST? ENGLAND ALL THE WAY!: With the World Cup down to its final eight teams (before the paring to four), we asked, "Which of the final eight teams do you hope wins it all?" Your results, among the four surviving teams: England with 32.89 percent, Belgium 14.91%, France 9.18% and Croatia 8.60%. Among the now-eliminated teams it was Brazil 11.47%, Uruguay 10.90%, Russia 6.12% and Sweden 5.93%. Considering it was a combined 65.58% for the surviving teams and 34.42% for the ousted ... you got the final four you wanted.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): WILL BRINSON EVER GET TO .200?Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .852   86  337  52  90   51  17-1-21     .267

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .821   74  281  55  80   36  12-2-11     .285

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .714   85 331  36  91   47   9-1-10      .275

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote