July 19, 2019

On the Le Batard-gets-political/ESPN controversy. New column; plus 4 ways Heat have had winning summer, is everyone wrong about Dolphins?, why 2019 looking like best sports year ever, 'Greg Cote Day' countdown, latest 'Back In My Day' (Apps!) & more

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

1) It's FRIDAY, JULY 19. It's always the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Gcday 8Greg Cote Day countdown: 8 days: We began a 10-day countdown to Greg Cote Day on July 27 at Hammond Stadium, home of the minor-league Fort Myers Miracle, and it's now eight days to go. I'll be meeting fans, throwing out the first pitch, singing the national anthem and playing left field. All but that last thing are actually true. Will I see you there? Tickets are going fast. Well, I don't really know if they are or not. In any case click HERE for the link to buy yours. (Click image for larger version).

 

DanlLE BATARD REBUKES TRUMP, ESPN'S NO-POLITICS POLICY. NEW COLUMNThis isn’t the first time Miami-based ESPN star Dan Le Batard has defied his network and faced consequences. It happened in 2014, when the radio and television host was suspended two days for buying billboards in Cleveland that needled LeBron James — "You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami" — after he’d left the Heat. That was playful. This isn’t. Le Batard on Thursday took on the president of the United States and his own network’s no-political-talk policy in a fiery, four-minute rebuke of both Donald Trump and ESPN management’s stick-to-sports edict. His voice emotional, Le Batard called it "deeply offensive" that a Trump crowd chanted "send her back" at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night, a chant directed at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee who now is a U.S. citizen representing Minnesota. Le Batard accused trump of instigating racial division and called the chant "un-American." And called his own network's stick-to-sports policy "cowardly." He was back on the air Friday (no mention of the controversy), but faces a possible suspension. I dive into the whole thing in today's latest column. To read, please visit Le Batard Defies Trump, ESPN's No-Politics Policy.

Priley4 REASONS HEAT HAS HAD WINNING OFFSEASON -- AND RILEY MAY NOT BE DONEThey could close the summer ledger right now and claim victory. What was supposed to be a dead summer in South Florida for Heat activity ended up delightfully noisy. Pat Riley (pictured) somehow maestro’d a four-team trade to get genuine star talent in Jimmy Butler despite being salary cap-strapped. The Heat essentially got Butler for Josh Richardson, a swap that by itself makes the Heat better and competitive in an Eastern Conference now looking refreshingly wide open. Three other ways the Heat won: Unloading Hassan Whiteside. Declining to give up too much in order to get Russell Westbrook. And saying no to Chris Paul. Now, might Riley still find a way to land Bradley Beal? I explore all of this in my recent column. To read it, please visit The 4 Ways Miami Heat Had A Winning Offseason.

BfloresPILING ON! ESPN LATEST TO CALL DOLPHINS THE WORST. BUT, IS EVERYBODY WRONG?: The idea of the Miami Dolphins as snakebit in their recent history has only been underlined, not alleviated, this summer. The NFL season is right around the corner, but for this team what’s around the corner always seems to be a blindside punch waiting to land. Training camp is mere days away — rookies report Sunday and veterans next Wednesday — but the Fins are losing before they ever hit the football field. Miami lost a defensive tackle candidate, Kendrick Norton, to a terrible truck accident that caused his left arm to be amputated. Days later assistant head coach Jim Caldwell announced he would take a medical leave of absence and miss the entire 2019 season to address health issues. Now — and this should be a piling-on penalty — ESPN has calculated in its new NFL Future Power Rankings that the Dolphins not only are No. 32 (dead last) right now but will be for the next three years. I explore all this, and say why I think Miami will be much better than expected, in my recent column. One reason for my optimism, new coach Brian Flores, is pictured. To read our latest column, please visit What If Everybody's Wrong About The Dolphins?

2019WHY 2019 IS LOOKING LIKE SPORTS' BEST YEAR EVERYou know it when you are watching it, not just watching but feeling it. Sports has that power. Suddenly, what might have been an ordinary, forgettable competition blooms into something epic, something that will leave its mark on the history of that sport, and on your memory. We have  been full of that stuff in sports this year, and the calendar is barely half done.That's why I think this shapes up to be the greatest. Tom Brady's sixth Super Bowl. Tiger Woods' Masters win. First-time champions in the NBA, NHL and men's college basketball. League-changing NBA free agency. U.S. women winning a record fourth World Cup. The Angels' no-hitter the night they honored a fallen teammate. Right through to Sunday and Novak Djokovic's epic five-hour Wimbledon win over Roger Federer. Oh, and the Cricket World Cup! (Yes, cricket...) And so much more. I explore fall of this -- the wonder and joy and surprise of sports -- in my recent column. To read it, kindly visit: Wimbledon, Tiger, U.S. Women For Starters. Why 2019 Is Greatest Sports Year Ever.

Our previous most recent columns: On Brink Of History At Wimbledon, Serena Is Denied Again / Heat And Riley Lose On Westbrook, But Loss Might Still Be  A Win / If You Don't Like Rapinoe, USWNT -- That's On You, Not Them / Heat's Run At Westbrook Is Riley's All-Out Gamble To Win Now and Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': APPS!: This video includes quite a bit of chatter leading into the new Back in My Day and a little bit afterward. The actuall BIMD kicks in around the 3:10 mark:

THE LIST: FIRST-TIME NBA, NHL CHAMPS IN SAME YEAR: What happened this year in basketball and hockey is a rarity, and one of the many reasons I like 2019 as the best sports year ever (see above). The only times since 1970 that the NBA and NHL have had a first-time franchise champion the same year:

Year        NBA champion                    NHL champion

2019       Toronto Raptors                  St. Louis Blues

2006       Miami Heat                         Carolina Hurricanes

1999       San Antonio Spurs               Dallas Stars

1991       Chicago Bulls                      Pittsburgh Penguins

Select other recent columns: Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again / U.S. Women Reach World Cup Final -- Not With Arrogance, But Excellence / Bold Moves To Get Jimmy Butler Make Heat -- And Pat Riley -- Relevant Again / New-look Panthers: Lots Of Hope, Zero Excuses Left / It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field / Kawhi to Lakers Would Mean More Rings, Last Laugh For LeBron / An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires / Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire / Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It / O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him / U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

July 15, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 in a wide-open week and what else lands where; plus our Serena column & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 15. Football season almost here, so it's the perfect time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, at Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Serena denied again, Heat lose out on Westbrook, USWNT is polarizing but that's good, U.S tennis finds next star in Coco Gauff & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Our columns from past week: Tennis (2), Heat (2) and Soccer: On Brink Of History At Wimbledon, Serena Is Denied Again / Heat And Riley Lose On Westbrook, But Loss Might Still Be  A Win / If You Don't Like Rapinoe, USWNT -- That's On You, Not Them / Heat's Run At Westbrook Is Riley's All-Out Gamble To Win Now and Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing.

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 loses out on Westbrook, but is the loss really a win?: Heat once seemed the frontrunner to trade with Oklahoma City for Russell Westbrook, the last available big prize of summer, to pair him with Jimmy Butler. Then Houston swooped and got Russ instead. Why? Miami wouldn't part with both Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. Smart. Sometimes the best trade is the one not made. Meantime, Heat narrowly missed Summer League playoffs with Saturday's 101-100 OT loss to Pelicans after resting a bunch of guys including Herro. Which tells you how inconsequential Summer league really is.

2. TENNIS: Epic Wimbledon men's final after Serena fails to tie majors record: Wimbledon's championship weekend began Saturday with Serena Williams gunning for her 24th career major to  tie the all-time record -- and failing miserably in a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Simona Halep. Sunday it was Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in a heavyweight men's finale -- Djokovic winning in a tiebreak after a 12-12 fifth set to end the longest men's final in tournament history. Epic!

3. SOCCER: Celebration (mostly!) of U.S. women's team continues: Winning the World Cup, a ticker-tape parade in New York City, honored at the ESPY Awards, and now a five-city Victory Tour starting Aug. 3 in Los Angeles with a friendly vs. Ireland. Heady days for Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and crew. Hasn't been all cheers though as conservatives try to come to grips (or not) with a team of strong women who rep LBGTQ rights, equal pay and other progressive activism. If you aren't proud of this team, hey, that's on you

4. MARLINS: Second half of season underway for Fish: Marlins are 1-2 since the All-Star Break in midst of a six-game homestand. At 34-57 (.374), Fish are on pace to finish 61-101. And you are officially having a bad season when the big drama is whether you'll loss under 100 games. MLB trade deadline is end of this month. Bats, please.

5. GOLF: British Open closes majors season this week: Golf's 148th British Open -- snobbily called "The Open," officially -- begins this coming Thursday in Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy from the host nation and Brooks Koepka are co-favorites at 8-1, followed by Dustin Johnson at 12-1. Tiger Woods slid to 16-1, perhaps because he hasn't played for five weeks and because, despite winning The Masters, public trust that he's truly back is fragile as balsa-wood stilts.

6. MLB: Baseball back to work after All-Star break: Baseball is back to work following its All-Star break. The AL won the All-Star Game for the seventh straight year and nobody cared, not even the AL. In the Home Run Derby the Mets' Pete Alonso outslugged the Blue Jays' Vlad Guerrero Jr., although I use "outslugged" generously. I mean, are we supposed to be impressed these guys can go yard against 40 mph "fastballs" tossed by their Dad?

7. INTER MIAMI: Fort Lauderdale complex gets green light: The city of Fort Lauderdale voted to officially green-light Inter Miami's development of the former Lockhart Stadium site as their training facility and temporary stadium. Allows construction to start on the 18,000-seat stadium to serve as their home for MLS matches the first two seasons starting next spring, until their permanent ground at Miami Freedom Park is built if it ever is. Now all they have to do is build the New Lockhart in well under a year. Good luck, fellas!

8. ESPN: Big winners and the one big loser at The ESPYs: ESPN's annual awards show to celebrate ESPN the sports year crowned NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo and U.S. soccer's Alex Morgan as best athletes, and Morgan's USWNT as best team. (They needed a best hair category for Megan Rapinoe). The night's big loser? Tracy Morgan as host. He will never emcee another awards show. Ever. I mean, not even at a local Rotary club.

9. DOLPHINS: Assistant coach taking the year off for his health: Fins assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, 64, announced he is taking a leave of absence for the 2019 NFL season to address an undisclosed health issue, but will serve as a consultant. "I will be stepping back due to some medical complications that require my full attention," he said. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, who suffered a career-ending amputation of his left arm in a truck accident, was reportedly at fault in the crash and cited by police, which seems a bit cruel to us. Best wishes for both men.

10. CRICKET: England wins its first Cricket World Cup crown: It was England vs. New Zealand Sunday in London for the ICC Cricket World Cup crown, with both countries seeking their first title. England was generally seen as a (very) narrow betting favorite to do what its women's soccer team failed to do last week -- and the Brits did so dramatically, winning in a Super-Over, the sport's equivalent of a penalty-kick shootout. Yes, we're talkin' cricket!

Missing the HB10 cut: The World Series of Poker main event's final table is down to five as play resumes Monday night in Vegas with Hossein Ensan still holding the chip lead. I don't know why, but "Hossein Ensan" sounds like a rank in the Navy ..... Angels toss no-hitter on night they honor pitcher Tyler Skaggs who'd died suddenly. Magical ..... The NBA is now the NBL.A., because it's all about Clippers' Kawhi Leonard and Paul George vs. Lakers' LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That should be the Finals. Start it tomorrow. Two-on-two, of course ..... Manny Pacquiao, 40, and unbeaten Keith Thurman fight this coming Saturday. I'm probably rooting for Pac Man, if only to derail any unfortunate momentum for another Pacquiao-Mayweather fight ..... In UFC, Jorge Masvidal wants to fight Conor McGregor. Based on what I know of each, can they both lose, please? ..... Ice Cube's Big3 basketball league is underway. That's where old former players try to show a disinterested NBA they've still got it. It's called the Big3 because "Has-Beens On Parade" sounded a bit harsh ..... The Tour de France continues. Current leader is a kid on an old Schwinn with baseball cards in the spokes ..... The FINA World Aquatics Championships are underway in South Korea. Sorry, but my contract says I only have to feign interest in swimming for two weeks once every four years ..... The WNBA All-Star Game is in two weeks. I'll watch, but only if one team includes Megan Rapinoe dribbling with her feet and lobbing a pass that Alex Morgan heads into the basket ..... Update: Countdown now 2,534 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Select other recent columns: Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again / U.S. Women Reach World Cup Final -- Not With Arrogance, But Excellence / Bold Moves To Get Jimmy Butler Make Heat -- And Pat Riley -- Relevant Again / New-look Panthers: Lots Of Hope, Zero Excuses Left / It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field / Kawhi to Lakers Would Mean More Rings, Last Laugh For LeBron / An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires / Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire / Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It / O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him / U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

July 08, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): U.S. women, Kawhi, All-Star Break, Loco for Coco ... see who's No. 1 and what else lands where this week; plus USWNT wins World Cup. My new column & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 8. Soccer Sunday in America! "Let's gooooo States!" 2) Always football season around here, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, at Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. beats England and Morgan sips tea, sorry Lebron no Kawhi, Riley and Tallon's big summer, happy Fourth with Seeger video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

U.S. wins Women's World Cup! New column: The reigning queens of soccer over came everything and everybody to keep the dynasty going and win a fourth World Cup and second straight today in France. My new column: Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again.

UsfansFive of our other most recent: U.S. Women Reach World Cup Final -- Not With Arrogance, But Excellence. Also: Bold Moves To Get Jimmy Butler Make Heat -- And Pat Riley -- Relevant Again / New-look Panthers: Lots Of Hope, Zero Excuses LeftKawhi to Lakers Would Mean More Rings, Last Laugh For LeBron and It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (JULY 7): 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. SOCCER: U.S. women top Netherlands for World Cup crown!: The favored American women chased and caught a fourth U.S. World Cup championship and second straight on Sunday in beating the Netherlands 2-1 Sunday in France. "Let's gooooo States!" By the way, "nether" is an adjective meaning "lower in position." As in nether world, or nether regions. I'd go back to Holland if I were them. England and Sweden met Saturday in The World's Saddest Game, a 2-1 consolation win by the Swedes for third place.

2. NBA: Clippers steal Kawhi from LeBron: Waiting for Godot was a 1953 Samuel Beckett play in which two men wait for the arrival of someone who never shows. Waiting for Kawhi was a 2019 drama in which three basketball teams, the Lakers, Raptors and Clippers, waited for someone who would arrive for only one of them. Most media thought LeBron James' Lakers would get him. ESPN's Jalen Rose called it "99 percent" he'd stay in Toronto. Wrong. Wrong. Leonard chose Clippers, who also traded for Paul George. Clippers and the LeBron/Anthony Davis Lakers are now 1-2 in betting odds for '20 title. And the NBA just got interesting ... well, in L.A., at least.

3. MLB: Home Run Derby, All-Star Game on deck: Many now see the Home Run Derby as the star of the All-Star Break, and it's tonight/Monday in Cleveland, with Christian Yelich, Pete Alonso and Vlad Guerrero Jr. 1-2-3 as betting favorites. Tuesday night is the All-Star Game itself and, well, who cares, really. Marlins fans get to see pitcher Sandy Alcantara (if he gets in), but also have to endure seeing Yelich and J.T. Realmuto in somebody else's uniform.

4. TENNIS: Loco for Coco! was the story of Wimbledon so far: Halfway through the fortnight in London, it was 15-year-old Cori (Coco) Gauff of Delray Beach who was the talk of the tournament. Little-known and ranked 319th in the world, Coco won three straight matches (starting with Venus Williams) and reached a fourth-round match today/Monday vs. No. 7-ranked Simona Halep before finally losing, 6-3, 6-2. Even though the dream ended, what a magical run for Kid Coco!

5. SOCCER: U.S. men fall to Mexico in Gold Cup final: Regional men's rivals U.S. and Mexico played Sunday night for the CONCACAF Gold Cup title at Soldier Field in Chicago, and the Americans fell, 1-0, failing to generate the same big win the U.S. had earlier in the day. The American men and Mexico are intense adversaries who had been even at 2-2 with one draw in their previous five meetings. Mejico was a slight betting favorite last night and showed why. 

6. DOLPHINS: Tragic accident for Dolphins player from UM: Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, a former Hurricane, had his left arm amputated due to injuries suffered early Thursday morning in a career-ending -- but thankfully, they say, not life-ending -- auto accident. Our best wishes for his fullest possible recovery.

7. HEAT: Miami kiddies ballin' in summer play: Heat went 3-0 in the tournament in Sacramento and is now 2-0 in the full Las Vegas Summer League after Sunday's win over the Jazz. Top draft pick Tyler Herro has mostly impressed, averaging 19 points in the five games so far. This is just gravy, though. Far as I'm concerned, Heat already won the summer by trading for Jimmy Butler and getting rid of Hassan Whiteside.

8. MARLINS: Fish wrap first half of season today: Fish are 33-55 (season pace: 61-101) entering entering the All-Star Break, with pitcher Sandy Alcantara repping the Marlins.  Miami resumes play Friday at home vs. Mets. Marlins have been as bad as we all figured, but with young talent beginning to shine and show signs of a brighter future. In fact three Fish prospects were in last night's Futures game: 2B Isan Diaz, OF Monte Harrison and P Sixto Sanchez. 

9. SOCCER: Brazil beats Peru for Copa America crown: Who'd be the kings of South America? Brazil is a big betting pick over surprise-finalist Peru in Sunday's Copa America title match in Rio de Janeiro, and rolled to a 3-1 win. A comfortable win but not nearly as lopsided as their group-stage meeting, when Peru got crushed 5-nil in a Brazilian samba.

10. CYCLING: Tour de France is underway: The biggest race in cycling has begun and betting favorites to win at the July 28th finish are Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas and Jakob Fuglsang. Fast fact: I'd never heard of any of them. I'm more interested in who wins the Lance Armstrong (Urine) Cup given annually to the first cyclist caught doping.

Missing the HB10 cut: President Trump spoke on the Fourth of July about the U.S. Army "manning the air" during the Revolutionary War, and has been widely mocked. In Trump's defense, he was only off on the invention of air travel by 120 years ..... India and Australia looking good in the Cricket World Cup, and thus exhausts my CWC knowledge. Fast fact: A Sri Lanka-South Africa was interrupted by a swarm of bees ..... The new definition of basking: Florida Panthers president/GM Dale Tallon on a dais, flanked by Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky ..... NBA's Vegas Summer League saw a few games postponed by that 7.1-magnitude earthquake. Come to Florida, where at least our natural disasters come with a warning ..... Update: Countdown now 2,541 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Select other recent columns: An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires / Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire / Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It / O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him / U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

July 06, 2019

Sorry, LeBron. Looks like Kawhi to Clippers; plus U.S. beats England, reaches World Cup final. Column and Alex Morgan tea-sip vid; also, my new Florida Panthers column & more

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

Fourth1) It's SATURDAY, JULY 6. Hope y'all had a Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans! Don't always like my president. Always love my country. 2) Always football season around here, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, at Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat get Jimmy Butler, Megan Rapinoe owns World Cup, Hot Button Top 10, Raconteurs video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

My Megan Rapinoe, Jimmy Butler and Florida Panthers columns: It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field and Bold Moves To Get Jimmy Butler Make Heat -- And Pat Riley -- Relevant Again and New-look Panthers: Lots Of Hope, Zero Excuses Left.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY MY FELLOW AMERICANS: The country we love can be great, but only if we make it better:

Newbig3SORRY, LEBRON. NO LAST LAUGH. KAWHI REPORTEDLY HEADED TO CLIPPERS: Update: Sorry, LeBron. ESPN reporting Kawhi Leonard headed to Clippers. Original post: With the ball on his palm, in basketball IQ, in business dealings, in shaping his own brand, we should agree LeBron James is brilliant in in lots of ways. We have learned something new this summer, though. We have learned how astute James is at recognizing how the man in the mirror has changed. He is 34 now, relegated to third-team All-NBA last season. He is no longer the consensus best player in the league — not when age is factored. More significantly, he now seems content with not even being the best player on his team. This summer has been about James admitting he needs help. It has been about him orchestrating the end of his career, and making it easier for him to age gracefully, not desperately. It has been about him trying to make sure that epic career goes out on top — brilliant again, if he can pull it off. LeBron haters were reveling last season as the Lakers went 37-45 and missed the playoffs in his first season in L.A. What had he gotten himself into? Well, with Anthony Davis now beside him and Kawhi Leonard maybe joining him, too, LeBron is poised to have the ultimate last laugh. We explore more deeply in our newest column. To read, please visit Kawhi to Lakers Would Mean More Rings, Last Laugh For LeBron.

Alexm"LET'S GOOOOO STATES!" U.S. BEATS ENGLAND, REACHES WORLD CUP FINAL!: It took a winning goal by birthday girl Alex Morgan (pictured) yesterday to beat England 2-1 in France and vault the Americans into Sunday's Women's World Cup final. Also took two huge second half occurrences -- a review call that (properly) negated an England goal, and a U.S. goalkeeper save on a Brits penalty kick. Megan Rapinoe sat out with a hamstring injury. No problem, evidently. For my column off the game, please visit U.S. Women Reach World Cup Final -- Not With Arrogance, But Excellence. The United States national team has now rolled through this soccer World Cup with a 6-0 record, 24-3 goals differential, and having never trailed and been tied only twice once. In short the USWNT has shown why it is the reigning world champion and No. 1-ranked team as it guns for its fourth World Cup trophy. England has never won but had a best-ever third place finish four years ago. The Americans advance to play the finale vs. the winner of today's other semifinal: Netherlands-Sweden.

MORGAN SCORES WINNER, SIPS TEA: Alex Morgan's winning goal for U.S. Tuesday, followed by her sipping-tea celebration that conveys American arrogance to others which is why I love it. No, she is not pretending to take a puff from a joint! She is pretending to sip tea with pinky raised. Jolly good! Cheerio! 

Dtallon PrileyBIG SPLASH BY OLDIES RILEY, TALLON: I get to call Heat president Pat Riley and Panthers general manager Dale Tallon old because I'm old. And both veteran team builders were pouring like good wine this week as their teams stepped hard and well into NBA and NHL free agency. Riley, entering the summer seemingly capped-out and hands-tied, managed to get four-time all-star Jimmy Butler, keep Goran Dragic and unload Hassan Whiteside, all positives, and to do it gave up (player-wise) only Josh Richardson, whose rise stalled last season. (Read Bold Moves To Get Jimmy Butler Make Heat -- And Pat Riley -- Relevant Again). And Tallon made a bunch of smaller moves and one big one, landing goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, two-time Vezina Trophy winner, the best available in free agency and Florida's top target. (Read Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing. Good work by both men.

Other most recent columns: An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires / Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire / Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It / Heat, Riley Need To Have Hit Big With Herro / Heat Can Only Watch As Seismic Talent Shift Quakes NBA / O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him.

Select earlier recent columns: U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

July 01, 2019

The new Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Heat/Jimmy Butler, U.S. World Cup run, Luongo retirement all battle for week's top spot. See who's No. 1 and what else lands where; plus the Rapinoe and Butler columns, radio today, Raconteurs video & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 1. Radio today in addition to Tuesday. Le Batard Show. ESPN Radio. Tune in now! 2) Welcome July, month of independence! See ya next year, June bug. 3) Always football season around here, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, at Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. women roll into World Cup semifinals, Roberto Luongo retires, Udonis Haslem takes flamethrower to critics, Willie Nelson's "Immigrant Eyes" video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Click here for My Heat/Jimmy Butler column.

MeganrapMEGAN RAPINOE OWNS THE WORLD CUP, AND IT'S GLORIOUS! NEW COLUMN: Megan Rapinoe is not afraid of a fight. Not afraid of expectations, any opponent, criticism, controversy or the president of the United States. It is her World Cup now. She is the most important athlete on the planet at the moment, a woman in full power, on a mission, carrying her team, taking on the world. And it is a rather awesome thing to see. Rapinoe has scored all four U.S. goals in the knockout stage of this World Cup to lead America into Tuesday's semifinal vs. England. But she has been just as noteworthy off the field, standing up for equal rights, social justice and equal pay. She is outspokenly anti-Trump, polarizing for that, but unabashedly unapologetic it. She is on a mission, a woman in full power, and she will not shut up. For myy latest column, please visit: It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field.

Other columns from this week: An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires and Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire. From previous week: Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It / Heat, Riley Need To Have Hit Big With Herro / Heat Can Only Watch As Seismic Talent Shift Quakes NBA / And O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated through Monday, 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. SOCCER: U.S. women blast into World Cup semifinals: U.S. faces England  Tuesday in the Women's World Cup semifinals, after eliminating host France 2-1 in the quarters -- the American side once again led by Megan Rapinoe. It's Netherlands vs. Sweden in the other semifinal on Wednesday. America's fourth World Cup title and second straight is close enough to taste now. On my count: "Let's gooooo States!"  

2. HEAT: Miami, Jimmy Butler agree to terms: A lot going on! Heat are getting Jimmy Butler in a three-way sign-and-trade that sends Josh Richardson to Philly and sees Hassan Whiteside go to Portland. Meantime, Heat No. 1 draft pick Tyler Herro out of Kentucky and Georgetown's undrafted Trey Mourning -- Alonzo's son -- headline Miami's 12-man NBA Summer League roster. Games start July 5 in Las Vegas, after a three-game tournament in Sacramento starting Monday. Heat's five-game preseason schedule opens Oct. 8 at home vs. Spurs. In other team news, Udonis Haslem, on Instagram, took a flamethrower to critics who say he should retire. He may yet, but doesn't want you telling him what to do.  

3. PANTHERS: Luongo retires; Cats sign Bobrovsky: Busy time for the Cats, led by Luongo -- third-winningest goaltender in NHL history -- announcing he's calling it quits after 19 seasons including 11 in two stints with Florida. Decision not a shock, but still seismic news. Farewell, Lu. The Panthers wrapped up their four-day developmental camp for young guys including No. 1 draft pick Spencer Knight, and Monday signed their top free-agent target, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

4. NBA: 'Special K's' free agency begins Sunday: Gentlemen, start your spending! NBA's wheelin' and dealin' all started Sunday and call it the "Special K's" free agency, with Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant (reportedly to Brooklyn) and Kyrie Irving (also Nets-bound) the three biggest available prizes, and Kemba Walker (headed to Celtics), Klay Thompson (staying put) and Kristaps Porzingis (to Mavericks) perhaps next. Should be an exciting offseason -- even in Miami, presuming the Jimmy Butler thing goes through.

5. SOCCER: U.S. men in Gold Cup semifinals, Copa America to semis: A couple of nice men's little sideshows to the Women's World Cup. The oft-maligned U.S. men's national team beat Curacao 1-0 Sunday night to advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament, after sailing through group play at 3-0 by a combined 11-0 score. And the Copa America is down to the semifinals, highlighted by a Brazil-Argentina heavyweight match Tuesday. Viva futbol!

6. MARLINS: Alcantara selected for ASG as Fish head on road: Marlins fell to Phils in Sunday's matinee to wrap a six-game homestand, now it's six straight on the road heading into the All-Star Break. Miami's best bet to be picked as an All-Star reserve? No clear frontrunner. I liked Brian Anderson -- but it was young pitcher Sandy Alcantara getting the nod today.

7. HORSES: Gulfstream's Summer Of Speed tops summer schedule: Gulfstream's 14-race Summit of Speed was led by the $250,000 Grade 2 Princess Rooney Stakes, won Saturday by favorite Stormy Embrace for the second straight year, earning an automatic entry into November's Breeders’ Cup Grade 1 Filly & Mare Turf Stakes. Saturday's card marked Gulfstream's biggest race day of the summer meet.

8. TENNIS: Upsets begin fortnight at Wimbledon: The sport's third of four Grand Slam majors began Monday in London and runs two weeks. Defending men's champ Novak Djokovic is men's betting favorite ahead of usual suspects Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Women's pick is Ashleigh Barty ahead of Serena Williams, with 2018 winner Angelique Kerber only the fifth pick. Serena needs one more major win to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 favorite, but can she? She's 37 and last won a major in early 2017, now fighting much younger opponents but also time. Two big women's upsets Monday: Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka and Venus Williams both ousted.

9. INTER MIAMI: MLS expansion team after U.S. men's star: While they're trying to build stadium(s), the 2020 Major League Soccer arrival is also trying to build a roster. Latest speculation: David Beckham's team is after U.S. national team rising star Tyler Boyd, a 24-year-old winger currently leading the American's Gold Cup charge. Inter Miami has his "discovery rights," which are, well, like first dibs.

10. DOLPHINS: Fins set training camp dates: New head coach Brian Flores will lead Miami through 11 practices starting July 25 through Aug. 6, prior to the first preseason game Aug. 8. All practices will be at the Davie/Nova Southeastern HQ except for an Aug. 3 scrimmage at Hard Rock Stadium. Bring your sunscreen. But at least you won't be wearing 40 pounds of equipment.

Missing the HB10 cut: Yankees swept Red Sox in London. Teams totaled 50 runs in two games, giving Brits the mistaken impression baseball is an exciting sport ..... Baseball named its 16 All-Star Game starters, excluding the two pitchers. The Democrats have more presidential candidates than baseball has starters ..... Bob Ley retired from ESPN this week after 40 years. He was kind enough to have us on Outside The Lines several times. Terrific guy ..... Some sentences are so absurd they need no elaboration. So: Breakdancing is headed to the 2024 Olympics ..... A Kansas City radio station fired host Kevin Kietzman for saying Chiefs coach Andy Reid "fix" either his players or his family. Reid has lost one son to a drug overdose and has another son who has had addiction problems. Ouch ..... Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo was named NBA MVP, deserved it and gave an emotional acceptance speech, after which the classless Rockets embarrassed themselves with tweets saying James Harden shoulda won ..... Australia banging in the Cricket World Cup. Updates as warranted ..... The Tour de France starts in six days. It was more fun when everybody was getting suspended for doping ..... Vanderbilt wins College World Series ..... O.J. Simpson: "I did it!" No, not that. He just meant he's on Twitter now ..... Answer: The U.S. championships in taekwondo and fencing are both going on. Question: What are two sports nobody except participants and their families will watch? ..... Somebody check on LaVar Ball to make sure he's OK. Been almost a week since he's said anything stupid ..... Update: Countdown now 2,548 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

THE RACONTEURS HAVE RETURNED TO SAVE ROCK 'N ROLL: Jack White, Brendan Benson and The Raconteurs are back with their first new album in 10 years, Help Us Stranger, and here is the (almost) title track, "Help Me Stranger":  

Select other recent columns: Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big ThingU.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

June 29, 2019

U.S. beats France to reach World Cup semifinals! "Let's gooooo States!"; plus Panthers' Luongo retiring not unexpected but still seismic. My latest column; also, will Heat's Haslem be next to call it quits?, Willie Nelson's "Immigrant Eyes" video & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JUNE 29. Always football season around here, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, at Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, our (Tyler) Herro sandwich of columns & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

UswntU.S. RIDES RAPINOE INTO WORLD CUP SEMIFINALS!: U.S. beats host France 2-1 behind two more goals by Megan Rapinoe to reah Woemns' World Cup semifinals vs. England. Original post: A few thoughts on the U.S. women reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup and next facing host France on Friday, after beating Spain 2-1 Monday in the round of 16. 1) Tired of hearing how the second U.S. penalty kick was a "soft call." American Rose Lavelle did not trip over her own feet in the box, nor the wind blow her over. She was tripped. It may have been inadvertent and the opponent's foot barely made contact, but barely counts. It was a PK call that survived VAR review. Move on. 2)  The U.S. survived as much as beat Spain, and that same effort/performance on Friday will not be good enough to beat France. It's also a shame that group pairings were such that the U.S. and France -- the two World Cup favorite -- would meet in the quarters and not later. Friday's game will feel like the championship match. 3) To beat France the Americans will need better individual play, especially from star Alex Morgan (pictured being fouled vs. Spain Thursday) and from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and her defense. Morgan was unusually quiet and seemed bothered by Spain's close marking, fouling and aggression. And the defensive lapse that caused Spain's goal (Naeher's dumb short rollout to a defender closely marked and pickpocketed) was not the only mistake that led to Spanish chances. The U.S. is the best team in this tournament, but Thursday reminded the Americans are not unbeatable.

PANTHERS ALL-TIME GREAT LUONGO RETIRES. NEW COLUMN: Farewell, Roberto Luongo. A big piece of Florida Panthers history has faded to past tense. The man who guarded the Cats' goal Rluongofor more than twice as many games as anybody else said goodbye to hockey Wednesday afternoon, retiring at age 40 after 19 NHL seasons. With typical good humor Luongo announced his decision on Twitter by saying, "I’ve decided to take my talents to a South Beach retirement home." Cats fans in turn say goodbye to one of the most popular players in franchise history, an 11-season Panther from 2000 to 2006 and again from 2014 through this past season. He was the league’s active leader in games played and games won in goal, and made five all-star teams. All-time, Luongo is second in games played in goal, second in saves and third in wins. He is, in our view, a certain future Hall of Famer, and he’ll certainly get the ceremonial night he deserves from the club this coming season. Luongo, his wife Gina and their two kids live in Parkland, where he did all he could to help that community heal after the Stoneman Douglas tragedy. Look for Luongo to continue to have a role with the club in some capacity -- but off ice. "This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve faced in my life and it took me a long time to make it,” Luongo wrote in an open letter on NHL.com and the Panthers’ website. “After thinking about it a lot over the past two months and listening to my body, I made up my mind. It just feels like the right time for me to step away from the game." He said his kids Gianni and Gabriella cried when he told them. "We cried together," he said. The retirement was not unexpected given his age and declining production. Plus, the Panthers just drafted a goalie in the first round and are targeting another, Sergei Bobrovsky, in coming free agency. Still, though expected. Luongo's retirement hits heavy. An era ends. For my latest column, please visit An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires

UdUDONIS HASLEM TAKES A FLAMETHROWER TO THOSE WHO WANT HIM GONE: Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem can be fierce presence on the court but off it has always kept a low profile. Not this week! U.D. broke character Monday on Instagram with an angry rebuke for those critics and Heat fans who think it's time he retired, at 39, so Miami can use the roster spot on a younger guy who'd contribute more. A few thoughts. 1) He might retire, and doesn't need your help in deciding. If anything, in a life and career fueled by doubters, the more volume that he should retire, perhaps the less likely he is to do so. 2) Nobody who's the 14th or 15th man on any NBA roster is going to play or contribute much. 3) Haslem's contribution to the Heat cannot be measure in minutes or points or games played alone. His value as a lockerroom presence and mentor is palpable, only more so with Dwyane Wade retired. Haslem embodies Heat culture. He should be showed the respect to retire on his terms, at his time. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra are giving him that. So should all Heat fans.  I explore all of this and more in standing with Haslem in my recent column. To read it, kindly visit Heat's Haslem Doesn't Need Us Telling Him Whether To Retire.

Our previous week's columns: Heat introduces its top pick: Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It. From draft night: Heat, Riley Need To Have Hit Big With Herro. As free agency nears: Heat Can Only Watch As Seismic Talent Shift Quakes NBA. And, uh oh: O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him. Also: Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 /  Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

WILLIE NELSON'S "IMMIGRANT SONG": The times we are living in have given rise to a new era of protest songs. Recently I mentioned Taylor Swift's bouncy pro-LGBTQ, anti-hate anthem "You Need to Calm Down." Here now is Willie Nelson's impassioned bid that we remember the ideals that helped found our nation. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," is what we remember from school, of Emma Lazarus' The New Colossus poem. But my favorite part of that Statue Of Liberty inscription, "A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name is Mother of Exiles." Make this about politics if you must. For me, it is about heart,

Select other recent columns: Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic /Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

June 24, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Heat, soccer, drafts brawl for top spot. See who gets it, and what else falls where this week; plus our two Heat draft columns (a Herro sandwich) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JUNE 24. Always football season, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life: Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat draft guard Tyler Herro and why Riley needs to have hit big, Panthers draft goalie Spencer Knight, The List (Heat high picks), O.J. on Twitter, Taylor Swift's message & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

TherroOur most recent column quartet: The latest: Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It. From draft night: Heat, Riley Need To Have Hit Big With Herro. As free agency nears: Heat Can Only Watch As Seismic Talent Shift Quakes NBA. And, uh oh: O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him. Also: Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic / Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 / Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / And Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Miami gets flashy Kentucky guard Herro in 1st round: The Heat just got a little more swaggery. That's a good thing. Kentucky guard Tyler Herro arrived in a purple suit and all blinged out with the 13th overall pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night. Miami later got Stanford forward KZ Okpala in the second round. Heat may have reached a tad for Herro, but a South Florida sports scene shy on starpower just got an infusion of interesting. Heat are expected to be quiet in upcoming free agency, but at least their draft was splashy.

2. SOCCER: U.S. women face Spain in World Cup knockout stage: The round of 16 is underway in France after no major surprises in group play. The reigning champion U.S. women breezed through with a 3-0 record and 19-0 (!) goal differential and now face Spain today/Monday at noon in the must-win knockout stage. Once again, I am totally neutral here. ("U-S-A! U-S-A!"). 

3. NBA: King Zion and trades highlight NBA Draft: The top three picks went as expected Thursday night, led by Duke's Zion Williamson to New Orleans as the NBA's most anticipated arrival since LeBron James. After that? Choas. In all 38 of the 60 overall picks involved trades, including 15 in the first round. Next: The NBA's main summer act, free agency, starting June 30.

4. PANTHERS: Cats go goalie in draft's 1st round: To Florida comes Boston College goaltender Spencer Knight, 18, with the NHL Draft's 13th overall pick, filling the Panthers' biggest need with the draft's acknowledged premier goalie. Cats also expected to chase veteran all-star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in upcoming free agency -- all of it likely spelling the end of an era for now-40-year-old Roberto Luongo.

5. MARLINS: Yamamoto wins again as as Fish wrap road trip: Miami wrapped up a 5-2 road trip with  sweep of the Philles Sunday as Hawaiian rookie pitching sensation Jordan Yamamoto won a third straight game. Marlins are now home for six straight. Yamamoto was not as sharp Sunday but in his first three career starts is 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA with 19 strikeouts and only six hits allowed in 19 innings.

6. SOCCER: U.S. men looking good (!) in Gold Cup so far: The oft-maligned U.S. men's national team -- motto: Yeah, We Know We're Not As Successful As The Women -- is sailing through the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, first beating Guyana 4-0 and last night crushing Trinidad & Tobago 6-0 -- the team that kept the U.S. men out of the last World Cup. Americans play Panama Wednesday but will be in the quarterfinals no matter the result. Championship game is set for Soldier Field. ("Let's gooooo States!").

7. HURRICANES: UM football hosts annual "Paradise Camp": Manny Diaz's first Paradise Camp as head coach was this past weekend -- an annual celebration of UM football and the program's family culture as current recruits mingled with famous football alums. It's a rather amazing thing, largely because it really is a made-up, non-newsworthy event, yet is covered rapturously by local media. Fun fact: Paradise Camp also is the name of a 1986 documentary film about the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

8. SOCCER: Messi, Barcelona coming to Miami: Soccer god Lionel Messi and his mighty Barcelona club team will play a friendly Aug. 7 vs Italy's Napoli club at Hard Rock Stadium, it was announced. HRS continues to draw sexy international matches. Aside to David Beckham: While he's here, please quietly kidnap Messi and put him in an Inter Miami kit.

9. NHL: Draft. Done. Awards. Given. Next: Free agency: New Jersey selected American center Jack Hughes, 18, No. 1 overall, and this is where I don't even pretend to have ever heard of him. Meanwhile Tampa's 128-point scorer Nikita Kucherov was named league MVP. (He should-a saved a few of those points for the playoffs. Ouch. Too soon?) Panthers' Aleksander Barkov won the Lady Byng Trophy for "gentlemanly conduct." (Don't they make fun of you for that in hockey?) Next stop: Free agency.

10. UM BASKETBALL: Canes extend women's coach Meier: Katie Meier signed a contract extension through the 2024-25 season, a well-deserved security for both the coach and the program. UM women's hoops has been a consistent winner under the aegis of the classy Meier, and good for athletic director Blake James to extend the run.

Missing the HB10 cut: Major League Soccer is at midseason, meaning we are now about nine months from Inter Miami kicking off. How those stadium(s) coming along, fellas? ..... Dewan Hernandez, 6-10 former Hurricanes center, snuck into the NBA Draft as the 59th overall pick, by Toronto. Good to see, after a brutally harsh NCAA suspension cost him all last season ..... Turns out David (Big Papi) Ortiz was shot and nearly killed in the Dominican Republic in a case of mistaken identity. Dude should keep on his old Red Sox uni at all times ..... Cricket World Cup continues. Updates as warranted ..... It's Michigan-Vanderbilt in best-of-three College World Series final starting Monday in Omaha. Scouting report: the Vanderbilt Whistler is a fan who annoys everybody with his constant loud whistling, so I hope Michigan wins ..... Copa America soccer tourney continues. Fast fact: Event's mascot is Zizito, a capybara, which is the world's largest rodent ..... A 103-year-old woman won gold in the 100-meter dash at the Senior Games. I'd tell you her time, but she hasn't finished yet ..... The U.S. Fencing Championships begin later this week in Ohio. How terrible. A competition for folks who deal in stolen goods! ..... O.J. Simpson on Twitter didn't take long to get boring. His fourth Tweet was about fantasy football. Come on Orenthal. A confession or I'm unfollowing! ..... Yeah, I mean, other than giving a platform for LaVar Ball's sexist comment and ignoring Tyson Fury's homophobia and misogyny as it promotes boxing, it was a good week for ESPN ..... Update: Countdown now 2,555 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Select other recent columns: Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And, our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

June 17, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See the late flip at No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Happy Father's Day, our latest column links, Taylor Swift's anti-hate anthem & more

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

Fathers1) It's MONDAY, JUNE 17. Hope your Father's Day was as happy as  mine! Thanks, family. 2) Always football season, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, here: Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Can Riley unload Whiteside/Dragic contracts?, Panthers poised to be Next Big Thing,  U.S. women's soccer deserves praise not criticism, Kevin Durant's legacy, O.J. Simpson's happiness, latest Back In My Day, The List (Game 7s) & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our week's work: Latest columns on Heat, Panthers, U.S. women's soccer, Durant: Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, DragicWhy Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing / U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / and Durant Legacy Wobbles With Finals Reinjury. Other most recent columns: Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 / Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / and Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

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

1. NBA: Lakers get Davis in blockbuster trade: LeBron James has help now. L.A. acquired Anthony Davis from New Orleans on Saturday in exchange for three young players including Lonzo Ball plus three first-round draft pick's including the Lakers' No. 4 overall in this Thursday's draft. World's Most Annoying Dad LaVar Ball swooped in to complain L.A. had just made the worst trade it ever had. So, if it made LaVar upset, then I love the trade!

Hotbutton2. SOCCER: U.S. women win second straight, advance in World Cup: After a 13-0 opening rout of Thailand that saw the United States accused by some of running up the score or celebrating too much -- oh bleepin' boo hoo! -- the reigning-champ Americans were back with Game 2 of group play vs. Chile Sunday and a comfortable 3-0 win that could have been double that. U.S. is now assured of advancing to the knockout stage. On my count: "U-S-A! U-S-A!" (Sorry, all my Chilean readers. Quizas la proxima vez.

3. HEAT: Miami picks No. 13 in this week's NBA Draft: The two-round NBA Draft is this Thursday night, with 13th overall Miami's lone selection, after Zion Williamson surely goes No. 1 overall to New Orleans. No consensus on Heat's thinking; latest ESPN mock had them taking Kentucky 6-8 forward P.J. Washington. The intrigue beyond Heat's pick and Zion: Possible draft-day trades ahead of pending free agency. Anthony Davis already has changed jerseys. Will possible Heat target Mike Conley be next?

4. NBA: Oh Canada! Toronto wins first NBA title: NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors topped reigning champ Golden State in six games for Toronto's first-ever championship. Sorry Canada, but slap an asterisk on the crown, eh? Warriors were missing Kevin Durant first to a calf injury and then to a ruptured Achilles for all but 15 minutes of the Finals, and were missing Klay Thompson to a torn ACL for much of Thursday's deciding game. The Warriors didn't lose. The semi-Warriors did.

5. GOLF: Woodland (not Woods) wins the U.S. Open: American Gary Woodland held a shaky one-shot lead over more pedigreed Englishman Justin Rose entering Sunday's final round but wound up winning by three strokes over star Brooks Koepka in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Woodland's 13-under was good for his first career major, while Tiger Woods tied for 21st at 2-under.

6. PANTHERS: Cats await this week's draft, then free agency: The Panthers, with GM Dale Tallon and new coach Joel Quenneville at the helm, have the 13th overall pick and nine selections in all in the NHL Draft this coming Friday and Saturday. Cats would take gladly take a defenseman like Sweden's Philip Broberg, thank you. Stakes are even higher in free agency commencing July 1, with high-aiming Florida's reported targets including all-star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus.

7. NHL: St. Louis wins Game 7, first-ever Stanley Cup: St. Louis and NHL Final MVP Alex Pietrangelo upset host Boston 4-1 in Game 7 Wednesday to win the Blues' first NHL crown in 51 seasons, overcoming the Bruins' early 2-1 series. Nobody sober saw it coming before the season, or when St. Louis had the league's worst record on January 3 before an epic rally. Miracle On Ice 2.0?

8. HURRICANES: UM football scoring big in recruiting: Canes have risen to a No. 5 national ranking in ESPN's 2020 college football recruiting charts, led by this past week's big get: premier offensive tackle Jalen Rivers from Orange Park, whose other finalists were Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Florida State. Running back Don Chaney Jr. leads a group of nine other ESPN top 300 recruits. Meanwhile, RB Frank Gore Jr. is headed to Boca and joining Lane Kiffin at FAU.

9. MARLINS: Fish wrap up homestand, head on road: After being 10-31 at the season's quarter mark Miami went on a 13-5 run -- two weeks of magic (relatively speaking). But it's been 2-8  since after Sunday loss to Pittsburgh wrapped up a losing homestand, with a seven-game road next. Thud! That's the Marlins coming back to earth. 

10. BOXING: Fury crushes Schwarz in Vegas: Andy Ruiz Jr. beat Anthony Joshua in a stunning upset earlier in June. It wouldn't happen again Saturday night in Vegas as heavily favored 6-9 British giant Tyson Fury (astoundingly his real name) easily handled unheralded German Tom Schwarz. Fury, by the way, seems like pretty decent guy, other than being a raging homophobe and unapologetic mysogynist.

Missing the HB10 cut: Happy Father's Day my fellow padres! ..... Beloved former Red Sox star David Ortiz was shot in the Dominican Republic in an apparent assassination attempt, requiring five hours of emergency surgery, but thankfully Papi is expected to make a full recovery ..... First it was Barcelona's star striker Luis Suarez. Now, reports are that Argentine forward Mauro Icardi, who plays for Italy's Inter Milan, is being shopped and that David Beckham is interested in him for his MLS expansion team Inter Miami. Points for now: Becks is aiming high ..... NHL Awards Show is Wednesday in Vegas, with only one Panther, Aleksander Barkov, a finalist in any of the 11 categories. He's up for the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player, which has to be the most un-hockey-like award in hockey ..... The 24 Hours of Le Mans ends today, the college baseball World Series is underway, so is the Cricket World Cup, and I'm planning to watch not a single minute of any of them ..... O.J. Simpson is on Twitter now. Uh oh ..... Update: Countdown now 2,562 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup

TAYLOR SWIFT'S NEW ANTI-HATE ANTHEM: Taking aim at hate, especially that which spews on social media: 

Other select recent columns: Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is ProgressBuckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness /End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Dwyane Wade Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 15, 2019

Can Heat's Riley trade Whiteside and Dragic's big contracts? New column; plus NHL Panthers poised to be Next Big Thing, U.S. women's soccer should be celebrated, Durant's legacy, newest Back In My Day, O.J.'s happiness, The List (Game 7's) & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JUNE 15. Always football season, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, here: Amazon. Thanks for making it Amazon's 902,432nd best-selling book as of this morning. Seriously. I think I'm right behind the guy who self-published a book about his lifelong battle with ingrown toenails. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, will Dolphins be too good for Tua & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

HwBIG SUMMER FOR HEAT WOULD BE RILEY UNLOADING TRADING WHITESIDE, DRAGIC. NEW COLUMN: Goran Dragic opting in will cost the Heat 19.2 million next season. If Hassan Whiteside (pictured) also opts in as expected at $27.1M, that's a combined $46.3 million for two aging, injury-prone players who are made expendable by the rise of Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo, both vitally a part of the Heat's future. Meaning? Meaning this would be a good summer for Miami if Pat Riley becomes a master salesman and is able to unload both in trade. Maybe a package deal could pry point guard Mike Conley from Memphis for a year before he becomes a free agent. I explore this and more in my latest column. To read it, kindly visit Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic.

Catstwo BobPANTHERS POISED TO BE NEXT BIG THING. (AND THIS TIME THEY MEAN  IT): As next week's NHL Draft and then free agency loom, the Florida Panthers have positioned themselves, with a big summer, to be the next big thing in hockey and in South Florida pro sports. They've done it with a strong young core led by budding superstar Aleksander Barkov. They've done it with a great coaching hire in three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville. They've done by stockpiling draft picks. They've done by freeing up a ton of money to chase major free agents. One they really want, and need, is goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, 30, a four-time all-star and twice Vezina Trophy winner as goalie of the year. A strong draft and a Bobrovsky-led FA haul would give Quenneville a lot to work with. Pictured right: Bobrovsky, and Florida GM Dale Tallon introducing his new coach. For my column as the Panthers enter their summer of reckoning, please visit Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing.

U.S. WOMEN NEED NOT APOLOGIZE FOR WORLD CUP ROUT: [U.S. rolls over Thailand 13-0 in most lopsided match in Women's World Cup history, and team gets blasted for running up the score and celebrating too much. That's baloney. For my column, please visit U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies] ..... Original post: It's U.S. Women's National Team vs. Thailand in the Americans' first group-stage match of the month-long World Cup in France. Kickoff Amorganis 3 p.m. in the East. U.S. is the defending WC champion and a narrow betting favorite this time to repeat and earn a record fourth world title overall, although host France and Germany will be tough competition for the crown. States are led by a familiar, veteran team spearheaded by Alex Morgan (pictured) up front. There is a popular notion that the world is catching up to the Americans' dominance. We're about to find out. I love everything about this team, from their style and skill on the pitch to their outspoken fight for pay equity and for gender equality. Oh, and their coach, U.K.-born Jill Ellis, lives in Palmetto Bay just south of Miami. I'll be rooting for the U.S. and I don't care who knows it. "Let's gooooo States!"

DURANT RETURNS, GETS REINJURED, BUT GOLDEN STATE SURVIVES ANYWAY: Kevin Durant has spent his entire NBA career as the dispensable superstar. He still is. Durant finally returned from his calf injury last night, left reinjured in the second quarter (with a torn Achilles, they fear), but Golden State won anyway, 106-105, in Toronto to force an NBA Finals KdurantGame 6. Durant was set up to heroically be the oxygen and rescue his team from a 3-1 series hole — something done only once before in Finals history — and carry it to a third consecutive championship. As a parting gift for likely leaving in free agency in a month, Durant could have saved Golden State’s dynasty. Nothing less would do. What is Durant’s value? To the Warriors, and in free agency. That would the question in play the rest of these Finals. Durant is elite. A perennial all-star. A former league MVP. Hall of Fame-bound. But he has never been what he had a chance to prove himself as the rest of this series: Indispensable. He was great for Oklahoma City but never good enough to lift the Thunder to a championship in eight seasons. Did Golden State need Durant to become what they have? No. They won a title before he got there. Then had the single-best regular season in league history before he got there. Now, as Golden State steamed into the Finals with Durant absent, sidelined since May 8, there was audacious talk that the Warriors somehow might be a better team without Durant. It was quantifiable, the team’s record much better with Steph Curry but no Durant than with Durant but no Steph. That could all have changed starting last night. Instead, it only affirmed the Warriors can win without him. Now, sadly, he likely will leave Golden State the way he did Oklahoma City, a dispensable superstar not feeling a lot of love on the way out. To read the column, kindly visit Durant Legacy Wobbles As Warriors Win Without Him

Other most recent columns: Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 and Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez. Also: Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / Drama Kings: How NBA Became America's Most Interesting Sport / Buckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness / Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': COMMERCE!: This premiered on today's Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio. Hashtag: #SaveTheRetailStore. Dan liked it. Maybe you will, too. (By the way, thanks to all the show fans we met today the the Father's Day Fiesta event at Fogo de Chao on South Beach).

THE LIST: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 7s: Including this week's Boston-St. Louis NHL Final as the latest, the 10 most recent championship-deciding Game 7s in baseball, basketball and hockey:

Year Sport       Winner                Loser                    Score

2019 NHL        Blues                   @Bruins                4-1

2017 MLB        Astros                  @Dodgers             5-1

2016 NBA        Cavaliers             @Warriors             93-89

2016 MLB        Cubs                   @Indians               8-7 (10i)

2014 MLB        Giants                 @Royals                3-2

2013 NBA        @Heat                 Spurs                   95-88 

2011 NHL        Bruins                 @Canucks             4-0

2011 MLB        @Cardinals          Rangers                6-2

2010 NBA        @Lakers              Celtics                  83-79

2009 NHL        Penguins             @Red Wings          2-1

Notes: Road teams have now won five (!) Game 7s in a row and seven of past 10. The only Game 7 involving South Florida teams in addition to '13 Heat was @Marlins beating Indians 3-2 (11i) in 1997.

OjnowARE WE HAPPY THAT O.J. SIMPSON IS HAPPY?: The Associated Press scored an exclusive interview this week with the media-shy O.J. Simpson, the former Bills running back who of course skated in 1995 on that infamous double-murder charge but later did nine years for a robbery/kidnapping conviction. He was released in 2017 and now lives in Las Vegas. The AP story ran with the headline, '25 years after murders, O.J. says 'Life is fine'. It describes a now 71-year-old who plays lots of golf, poses for lots of selfies and is happy or at least content, not overcome with guilt, anger or anything of the sort. He declines to discuss the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, for which Simpson was acquitted to the shock (mostly) of white America. He describes the not looking back as his "no negative zone." The story is worth the read anyway. To do so, click here. The photo is an AP shot taken last week.

Other select recent columns: End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Zion Williamson's Power to Reject Lottery / Inter Miami's Demolition Ceremony Begins Frantic Race To Finish / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / In Joel Quenneville, Panthers Get Their Riley, Their Shula / Dwyane Wade Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 10, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): There's a surprise in the No. 1 sport and see what else falls where this week; plus will Dolphins be too good for Tua? (latest column), happy birthday to world's most famous Duck & more

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

Dduck1) It's MONDAY, JUNE 10. Happy birthday, Donald Duck, born on yesterday's date in 1934. 2) Always football season, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, here: Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins will be better than expected, Inter Miami casts for Luis Suarez, Fins wrap up offseason, Marlins draft bats, Schnellenberger snubbed again, latest Back In My Day video, R.I.P. Todd Tongen and Dr. John & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Will Dolphins be too good for Tua? Latest column: A bright new coach, interesting quarterback battle with upside, really good receivers, strong defensive tackle rotation, productive linebackers, better than average secondary -- too many positives for Miami to be god-awful in 2019. Meaning it may be difficult to be bad enough for the No. 1 overall 2020 draft pick and grand-prize Tua Tagovailoa. To read my newest column, visit Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019.

Other most recent columns: Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez and Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season. Also: For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / Drama Kings: How NBA Became America's Most Interesting Sport / Buckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness / Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

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

Hotbutton1. SOCCER: Inter Miami aims high, guns for Luis Suarez: Inter Miami, the MLS expansion team set to debut in 2020, wants the Barcelona striker Suarez to be its signature star, a massive get if they can make it happen. Suarez has scored 25-plus goals seven straight seasons for Liverpool and then Barca at the highest levels of futbol. He might instantly be the biggest star in MLS. Might also be the biggest score of David Beckham's career.

2. NBA: Can a Golden State miracle deny Toronto?: Toronto won on road Friday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead over reigning champion Golden State in the NBA Finals, and now the Warriors face a must-win to stay alive in Game 5 Monday night/tonight in Canada. They hope to have Kevin Durant back ... but will it be enough? Meanwhile, a dumbass Warriors minority owner was banned for a year for shoving the Raptors' Kyle Lowry in a courtside incident.

3. SOCCER: U.S. debuts Tuesday in Women's World Cup: Month-long Women's World Cup is now underway in France, with the reigning champion United States team led by Alex Morgan up front and Hope Solo in goal playing its first group match on Tuesday vs. Thailand. Americans will be expected to win; no Thais allowed. (Sorry). U.S. are a narrow betting favorites to again win it all but host France and Germany will be stout challengers. On my count: "Let's gooooo States!"  

4. NHL: Boston forces Game 7 in Stanley Cup: Boston had to win and did, 5-1, in St. Louis Sunday night to force an NHL Final Game 7 Wednesday in Beantown. St. Louis seeking its first-ever Stanley Cup but odds swing now to the Bruins. Somebody will win the Cup. Somebody won't win. But the big loser might be the NHL and its officiating, whose controversial calls and non-calls have shadowed this Final.

5. MARLINS: Recently hot Fish back home, and back to losing: In mid-May the Marlins were 10-31, threatening the 1962 Mets for historic futility. Since then they've been 13-9 -- but have now dropped four straight with Sunday's blown-lead loss as they continue a nine-game homestand. Meantime Miami went offense in the MLB Draft, starting with top pick J.J. Bleday, a Vanderbilt corner outfielder who led NCAA Division 1 with 26 homers this season. Fish went bats with first five picks before finally taking a pitcher.

6. TENNIS: Nadal, Barty take French Open crowns: It was Rafael Nadal winning his record 12th French Open title Sunday in Paris over vs. little-known Dominic Thiem in the men's final, after Thiem upset Novak Djokovic in a five-set semifinal. In Saturday's who's-that women's final, No. 8-seeded Ashleigh Barty won her first Grand Slam title by beating unseeded Marketa Vondrousova. Amanda Anisimova, a 17-year-old who lives in Aventura north of Miami, reached the semifinals before falling.

7. GOLF: U.S. Open rolls this week at Pebble Beach: The second of four men's golf majors begins this Thursday at Pebble Beach in Cali, with Brooks Koepka (13-2 betting odds) and Dustin Johnson (7-1) the near co-favorites. Masters champ Tiger Woods (10-1) and Jordan Speith (14-1) are next. Jack-chasing El Tigre has won three U.S. Opens, but none since 2008, and no USO top-10 finish since '10.

8. HORSE RACING: Sir Winston wins Belmont Stakes: A memorably wacky Triple Crown season in thoroughbred racing ended fittingly Saturday in New York. After a disqualified winner rocked the Kentucky Derby and a riderless horse in the Preakness, the Belmont went to a 10-1 longshot as Sir Winston beat favorite Tacitus by a length. Only one horse, War Of Will, ran in all three TC races, a continuing problem for the sport.

9. DOLPHINS: Fins minicamp wraps up offseason work: This week's mandatory Dolphins minicamp ended the team's offseason program. Next stop, ready or not: Training camp in late July, then exhibitions, then the season. Meantime the one pressing question -- Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen? -- remains unanswered, and likely won't be until August.

10. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Three ex-Canes on Hall ballot, but no Howard: Former Miami Hurricanes defensive stalwarts Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis and Dan Morgan are on the 2020 College Football Hall of Fame ballot revealed this week, but once again, championship coach Howard Schnellenberger was illogically denied. The problem: the Hall's minimum winning percentage requirement unfairly penalizes coaches like Schnellenberger who take on challenges such as turning around a moribund Louisville program and starting FAU football from scratch.

Missing the HB10 cut: Dwyane Wade spoke at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High's graduation ceremony. D-Wade is everywhere. It's the "Don't forget about me!" withdrawal phase recently retired athletes tend to go through ..... Four-star prep offensive lineman Jalen Rivers commits to Miami. Sorry kid. Only five stars rate the HB10 ..... Golf analyst Hank Haney got in trouble for saying South Korea had taken over the LPGA and predicting "somebody named Lee" would win the Women's U.S. Open last week. The winner? Jeongeun Lee ..... We're down to eight NCAA Super Regional baseball teams playing to reach the College World Series, but since none are from Florida, it isn't happening ..... UCLA beat Oklahoma for the women's softball title, thanks to somebody's walkoff single ..... Hurricanes' Michelle Atherley won a bronze medal in the heptathlon to lead UM performers in the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track & Field Championships ..... Panthers girding for June 21 NHL Draft and free agency to follow ..... Tom Brady tried to patent "Tom Terrific" to (he claims) stop people from calling him that, all the while drawing the wrath of Mets fans on behalf of original Tom Terrific Tom Seaver. Dumb story, but anything that gets folks made at Brady has my attention ..... 24 Hours of Le Mans is next weekend. My word for two straight days in a car? Hell ..... Cricket World Cup continues. Top seeds Jiminy and Buddy Holly still in it ..... Update: Countdown now 2,569 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup ..... R.I.P., Todd Tongen and Dr. John

Other select recent columns: End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It (Really) Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Zion Williamson's Power to Reject the Lottery / Inter Miami's Demolition Ceremony Begins Frantic Race To The Finish / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About So Much More Than Golf / In Joel Quenneville, Panthers Get Their Riley, Their Shula / Dwyane Wade Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And A 30-point Star and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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Twitter @gregcote