January 20, 2020

Miami Super Bowl set! It's 49ers-Chiefs!; plus latest Hot Button Top 10, decision that changed Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson's life (column), new John Anderson song (video) & more

1) It's MONDAY, JANUARY 20. Check out our Miami Dolphins book, 'Fins At 50,' on Amazon. It's the perfect anytime gift for all the Dolfans in your life. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tannehill tops NFL final four from Miami perspective, Clemson favored in 2020, NFL Divisional Round picks, new Ozzy/Elton song & more. 3) Join us on Twitter.com/gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

PicksNFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PLAYOFFS: PEREFECT. WE RODE CHIEFS, NINERS: Update: We were a perfect 2-0 straight-up and 2-0 against the spread on Sunday, with both winners  covering. Original post: Miami awaits. The two-week runup to the February 2 Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium begins this Sunday when the two teams are determined in the AFC and NFC Championship Games. The Cinderella in this final four is discarded Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill trying to lead Tennessee to its first SB appearance in 20 years — in his old stadium. But everybody packs a tale to tell. It has been 50 years (!) since Kansas City’s last Super Bowl appearance and win, and Andy Reid has coached more playoff games (27) than anyone to never win it all. Aaron Rodgers is after his elusive second career championship after Green Bay last reigned in 2010. And San Francisco last appeared in an SB in 2012 — but hasn’t won one since 1994. Of this final four, only K.C. made the playoffs last year, and the NFL is assured a new Super Bowl champ for the 15th season in a row. Two games. Win and you’re in. And Miami awaits. To see who'll get here, visit Will Tannehill Make It? Our AFC, NFC Championship Picks.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (JANUARY 19-20): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday-into-Monday feature (back after a one-week hiatus) is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NFL: It's 49ers-Chiefs in Miami Super Bowl: Chiefs rallied to overwhelm Titans and 49ers comfortably handled Packers on Sunday -- winners take all to reach Miami and the Super Bowl. Ryan Tannehill and Aaron Rodgers were seen as the odd men out and were, with a Kansas City-San Francisco matchup the betting favorite all along. Miami awaited. Fate did its thing.

2. MLB: Sign-stealing scandal rocks Astros, sees 3 managers fired: The Astros fired the manager and GM who'd been suspended for a year by MLB. The Red Sox dumped Alex Cora and the Mets and Carlos Beltran parted. Baseball, if you're serious about stopping sign-stealing, here's your statement: The Astros' 2017 World Series championship is vacated.

3. HEAT: Miami completes excellent first half of season: Heat were 29-12 at the midpoint of the NBA season, second in the East and with a league-best home record (18-1) and seven players averaging in double-figure scoring led by Jimmy Butler's 20.3, before falling in San Antonio Sunday. With Bucks a near-certain No. 1 seed, Miami looks strong to earn playoff home court as season's second half begins.

4. JIMMY JOHNSON: Canes champ, ex-Fins coach makes Canton: Jimmy Johnson made Pro Football Hall of Fame's 2020 class, selected by a blue-ribbon panel as part of NFL 100 celebration. Toasting you with a raised Heineken, J.J! Now here's hoping a guy you draft in Miami, Zach Thomas, a finalist, finally gets in too when players are announced just before the Super Bowl. 

5. INTER MIAMI: New MLS team has first draft, opens camp Monday: New coach Diego Alonso and Inter Miami drafted Clemson forward Robbie Robinson No. 1 overall in recent MLS Draft. Miami opens training camp Monday at Barry University, working toward its inaugural season opener on March 1. Still hoping David Beckham dons a kit, but not holding our breath.

6. DOLPHINS: Miami loses defensive chief to Giants: Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham jilted the Fins for a lateral move to the New York Giants. Hmm. Didn't Miami finish 30th for most yards allowed this season and 32nd (dead-worst) for most points given up? Hey, don't let the door hit you on the way out, Pat!

7. NBA: Top pick Zion Williamson to make NBA debut -- finally!: The New Orleans Pelicans say overall No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson, who has spent all season thus far recovering from a knee injury, will finally make his debut this Wednesday at home vs. San Antonio. Equipment guy, please make sure he doesn't wear the exploding sneaker again.

8. PANTHERS: Cats stay hot as All-Star break nears: Florida is 26-21 off four straight wins after Saturday's W at Detroit, with two other games left before a schedule pause for the Jan. 25 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis. Cats are now right on the edge of playoff pace in an uber-competitive Eastern Conference.

9. TENNIS: Serena, Djokovic favorites as Australia Open begins: Against the backdrop of the country's brushfires catastrophe, the 108th Australian Open,the year's first major, opens with Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic the betting picks. Serena looks (again) to tie Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 major singles titles.

10. HURRICANES: UM basketball isn't bad ... except vs. good teams: Miami's men's and women's basketball teams, both slumping, have proven solid vs. lesser foes and lousy against good teams. The Canes women are 0-5 vs. ranked opponents, and the men are now 0-4 after Saturday's heartbreak of an OT home loss to No. 9 FSU, with a Tuesday game at No. 3 Duke on deck.

Missing the HB10 cut: Canes AD Blake James confirmed that Alonzo Highsmith would not be joining football program in "chief of staff" role advising coach Manny Diaz. Not knowing if he'd have been any good at it, Canes fans nonetheless were outraged in their disappointment after premature, misleading media reports suggested he'd be joining UM ..... Wow. Collegiate Baseball ranks the Hurricanes No. 3 in its preseason baseball poll. No pressure or anything, Gino DiMare! ..... Conor McGregor beat up on some guy in a cowoy hat last night in UFC 246 ..... A former player has sued alleging that Penn State -- of all schools -- and coach James Franklin ignored sexual-based hazing that including older players threatening "to Sandusky" younger guys ... Will the last Tigers player leaving national champion LSU for the NFL Draft please turn out the light? ..... The Winter X Games are this week, and nobody cares ..... Can somebody get Antonio Brown some help, please? Seriously ..... Next weekend, Saturday's Senior Bowl battles Sunday's Pro Bowl to see which football game the fewest Americans will watch ..... Ice Cube's BIG3 basketball league has lowered its minimum age requirement, surprising analysts who were unaware the BIG3 basketball league still existed ..... Update: Countdown now 2,345 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in soccer's 2026 World Cup.

JjHALL OF FAMER JIMMY JOHNSON'S BIGGEST VICTORY WAS KNOWING WHEN TO QUIT -- AND WHY: Twenty years earlier, to the day, Jimmy Johnson quit the NFL in despair, at a low point in his life. He retired from coaching and never looked back. It ended for him on January 15, 2000, on a football field in Jacksonville, his Miami Dolphins eliminated in the second round of the playoffs in a 62-7 humiliation. That wasn’t the worst of it. The recent death of his mother had hit him hard, hit him soul-deep, made him rethink everything. One of his two sons was struggling with alcohol addiction. It felt like his life was getting away from him. Wayne Huizenga, then the Dolphins owner, desperately tried to convince Johnson to stay — even offering to let him be a part-time head coach who handled the draft and worked only home games — but Johnson had to get out. "I needed to spend time with my family, and it paid dividends," the former coach was saying Wednesday, 20 years later, from his home 90 minutes south of Miami in the Upper Keys. "My two sons, we’re as close now as we’ve ever been. I am happier than I’ve ever been. Retiring from coaching — it saved my family." Sunday night, the NFL told Johnson he had done enough. He got out early because he felt he had to. But he had done enough. To read our full column on Johnson being welcomed into Canton, please visit Jimmy Johnson's Biggest Triumph? Knowing When To Quit -- And Why.

Other most recent columns: America and Super Bowl Host Miami Have a Rooting Interest Now. Tannehill, Please! Also: Here's Winner Of the Dan Enos Cup For Biggest Disappointment in Miami Sports / Dream Ticket: Brady, Tagovailoa Both Dolphins in 2020? / Announcing Miami Dolphins' 2010-19 All-Decade Team / On Miami's Home Field, Gators Remind Canes How to Win Major Bowl Game and We Are The Champions: How South Florida Came to Own the State in High School Football.

NEW JOHN ANDERSON SONG/VIDEO : 'YEARS': Careful readers may know I'm a longtime fan of country singer John Anderson, who has one of the most distinctive voices in all of music. Well, he has a new album coming out that was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, a fan of his. This likely will be the first single, a reflective, wistful song about aging, in which a 65-year-old (let's be honest) fading star reflects on a bountiful career and life:

Select recent other columns: Why Minor Bowl, Small Opponent Should Be Of Major Importance to Miami Hurricanes / Fitzpatrick Gives Dolphins Luxury Of Options In 2020 Draft / Beating Canes Was Huge For FIU, But Even Bigger For Butch Davis / FIU's Historic, Magical Night A New Low For Canes / Le Batard Explains the Papi Mystery / If Jeter Doesn't Get In With Unanimous Vote -- Don't Blame Me! / Off Bad End to Down Season, Miami Hurricanes Should Decline Bowl Invite / Busch Stars In Emotional, Memorable End to Homestead's Championship Run / After Not Winning Enough, Are The Dolphins Now Failing At Failing? / Canes Lose Hoops Opener, But It's Fans Who Disappoint / Disgraced Ref Donaghy Opens Up About Game-Fix Scandal / Why Is NBA Doing Business With Human Rights-Violating China In First Place? / Riley Introduces Butler -- 'Cause the Heat Don't Tank / Why Dolphins, Even Epic-Bad, May be Closer to Major Turnaround Than Canes / Quit Whining! Yes Dolphins Are Tanking, And Yes They Should / Dolphins' Ross Cannot Be Surprised By Major Fallout Over Trump Fundraiser / Le Batard on Miami Radio Turmoil: 'We Were Evicted' / Buoniconti: Hall of Famer, But Even Greater Off the Field / It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field / An Era Ends As Panthers' Luongo Retires / O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him / Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / 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.

Revisit this blog often because it is updated regularly. The Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked the blog's author as a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

September 17, 2019

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 24.6% after shutout loss to New England and Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 83.0% after rout of Bethune-Cookman; plus NFL Week 2 picks, odds for ex-Canes, Fins on 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

1) It's MONDAY SEPTEMBER 16. R.I.P. Ric Ocasek, 75. His group The Cars were very big in  my life when I was in my 20s and always held a place in my memory and heart. 2) Check out our 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Week 2 picks, yes Dolphins are tanking and yes they should & more. 4) Join us on Twitter.com/gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

PicksOur NFL Week 2 picks: Will the Miami Dolphins lose by less than the epic 18 1/2-point betting line on Sunday? What is our Game of the Week. Who are our upset winners? Find out that and more by visiting Week 2 Gems for all of our latest NFL picks.

Other most recent work: Quit Whining! Yes Dolphins Are Tanking, And Yes They Should / Also: It's Up to Today's Dolphins to Defend Shula's Legacy / Herald Week 1 QB Rankings / The Dolphins aren't awful. They're worse than that (game column from opening loss).

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G3: 83.0%: Results are certified in the latest of the Miami Herald's Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 83.0 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Saturday's 63-0 UM home Csmvictory over Bethune-Cookman putting the Hurricanes' season record at 1-2 overall and 0-1 in conference play. The CSM is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Online voting determines the weekly verdict, which is announced here the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 10 a.m. today/Monday.

2019 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 64.1% following 24-20 loss vs. Florida in Orlando.

G2: 15.7% following 28-25 loss at North Carolina.

G3: 83.0% following 63-0 victory vs. Bethune-Cookman.

Next poll: Sept. 21 following game vs. Central Michigan.

BcmiaG3: BETHUNE-COOKMAN AT HURRICANES: NAME YOUR SCORE: I know in the NFL very occasionally you see a crazy score like, say, 59-10. (Sorry, Dolphins). But generally speaking you don't get many silly-sized routs in the pros like you see too much in the college game, when major schools play small schools that have no shot. It is why I prefer the NFL. Which brings us to the Miami Hurricanes hosting Bethune-Cookman Saturday at 4 in UM's home opener at Hard Rock. Miami has played B-C four times this decade (most recently in 2017), and the Canes have won all four by a combined 169-37. Could have been worse. That involved a bunch of clear the bench and foot off the gas pedal. This could be more of a classic, thorough butt-whippin' because, at 0-2 for the first time since 1978, Manny Diaz and Miami are frustrated and eager to take it out on ... anybody. I'd be shocked if the final score was remotely close. If B-C had even half of Miami's score. So you're up, B-C Wildcats. The designated punching bag and stress relief for the Canes' early-season frustration. So I'll say it now, Wildcats. I'm sorry for your loss. Cote's pick: Hurricanes, 61-0.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G2: 24.6%: Results are certified in the latest of the Miami Herald’s Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 24.6 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday afternoon's 43-0 DsmDolphins home loss to New England putting Miami's season record at 0-2. (That's an uptick. Tanking crowd weighing in). In its 12th season, the DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game’s performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Online voting determines the official results. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday.

2019 DSM game-by-game results

G1: 18.3% following 59-10 loss vs. Baltimore.

G2: 24.6% following 43-0 loss vs. New England.

Next poll: Sept. 22 following game at Dallas.

NemiaG2: NEW ENGLAND AT DOLPHINS: LET US PRAYMiami is one of eight home underdogs in NFL Week 2, and oh what a dog! Combo of last week’s humiliating 59-10 opening loss to Baltimore and New England being New England has left Dolphins getting 18 1/2 points Sunday at 1. Perspective: That’s biggest NFL spread since 2007, and one of only three times in past 30 years a road team has been favored by this much. Interesting subplots: Brian Flores coaching against his former team, and Antonio Brown’s debut (maybe) for Pats. Oh, and will ornery Bill Belichick want to run it up for the way Miami stunningly beat his team here last season on that late 69-yard miracle lateral-fest? Would it shock for Fins to lose by 30-plus? Nope. But Miami is on a 5-1 run at home vs. Tom Brady, and I’m hunching that whatever pride wasn’t beaten out of the Dolphins last week will be marshaled for a credible performance that beats not the Patriots (don't be silly), but at least the point spread. Cote's pick: Patriots, 34-17. (Click Week 2 Gems for all our latest NFL picks).

ELEVEN EX-CANES, FINS ON 2020 HALL BALLOT: WE HANDICAP THEIR CHANCES: Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed its 122 contenders for 2020 induction into Canton, a list that includes six Ejamesformer Dolphins and five ex-Canes. The mass will be pared to 25 semifinalists in November and then 15 finalists in January, who'll be voted on for induction during Super Bowl Week in Miami. None of the 11 locals is a good bet to get to Canton, but here's how we see them stacking up in terms of at least making the cut to 25: Best chance: Edgerrin James (pictured), because the former UM running back was a finalist in 2019. Decent chance: Ex-Fins LB Zach Thomas deserves Canton (as I've soapboxed many times), longtime stalwart Dolphins LT Richmond Webb has a case, and ex-Canes WR Reggie Wayne has pretty stout career numbers. A tiny shot, maybe?: Dolphins CB Troy Vincent, TE Keith Jackson and punter Reggie Roby, and Canes RB Clinton Portis and TE Jeremy Shockey. Nah, sorry: Punters Jeff Feagles and Matt Turk. 

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Tankier and tankier as Fins crushed again: Miami was an 18 1/2 point underdog. On the bright side, the Dolphins could lose by double that point spread and still come closer than they did in last week's 59-10 loss. That's what I wrote. And it happened. Patriots, 43-0. Can Miami just concede the final 14 games? Please? 

2. HURRICANES: Thank you, Bethune-Cookman. The Canes needed that: Honestly, I wrote that headline Thursday afternoon. But if the Canes do anything but win comfortably Saturday, just go ahead and cancel the rest of UM's season. They won 63-0. That'll suffice. 

3. BASKETBALL: Team USA gags in awful FIBA World Cup performance: Stunner! Team USA was beaten by France and will play for seventh place Saturday in the FIBA Wold Cup in China -- worst finish ever by an American team that included NBA players. Why? Of 35 players originally selected for the U.S. player pool, only four were in China.

4. INTER MIAMI: Messi-to-Miami rumors heating up?: Soccer rumors that bloom and disseminate from Europe and and South America can be notoriously unreliable. Still, there seems to be traction to the notion Barcelona star Lionel Messi could be considering a late-career move to MLS with the new Miami team. Yes, please. Yes. Please!

5. HORSE RACING: Scandal engulfs Triple Crown winner Justify: New York Times reported that 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify failed a drug test one month before the '18 Kentucky Derby, and that the California Horse Racing Board decided to dismiss the case after the colt went on to win the Triple Crown. Shame, shame. Giant asterisk for the record book please.

6. BASEBALL: Going, going ... MLB sets all-time home run record: Baseball broke its all-time home run record with two weeks to spare when the 6,106th was hit this week. Oh, but the ball isn't joined. No way! 

7. PANTHERS: Cats, full of hope, open NHL training camp: The non-superstitious Florida Panthers and new coach Joel Quenneville open training camp on Friday the 13th, working toward the first of eight preseason games this Monday at Nashville. Playoffs or bust, Cats. Excuses all gone.

8. MARLINS: Fish hurtling toward most-losses mark as season wanes: Miami's club-record 108 losses set in 1998 is in play as Marlins play out the string. Currently in midst of a West Coast swing, Miami's final homestand in Sept. 20-22 before ending (mercifully) with seven straight on road.

9. HEAT: Miami announces training camp dates: The new Jimmy Butler-led Heat announced they'd hold preseason training camp Oct. 1-5 at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, after media day Sept. 30. The first of five Heat preseason games is scheduled Oct. 8 vs. San Antonio.

10. SERENA WILLIAMS: She parties after U.S. Open finals loss: Serena rented out a New York Mexican restaurant and partied with friends 'til the wee hours after losing the U.S. Open final to again be denied a record-tying 24th major. Why do I have the feeling I want her to get that record more than she does? 

Missing the HB10 cut: Antonio Brown, just on general principle ..... Sentences I Never Imagined Writing, one in a series: "LeBron James denied trademark application for phrase 'Taco Tuesday' ..... Hated to see Christian Yelich lost injured for rest of season, and in Miami no less ..... Chess World Cup underway in Russia, in case watching paint dry has proved too exciting for you ..... World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships have begun in Azerbaijan. That's like regular gymnastics, only more ridiculous ..... Update: Countdown now 2,471 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Other select recent columns: Trading Tunsil Hurts, But Dolphins Won This Deal / Who's Super Bowl-Bound And Where Dolphins Land (NFL Team Rankings) / Diaz's Choice For Hurricanes QB Not Seen In More Than 50 Years / Luck Deserves Praise For Putting Health, Life Above Football / Hurricanes Have Only Themselves To Blame For Opening Loss / Dolphins' Ross Cannot Be Surprised By Major Fallout Over Trump Fundraiser / Le Batard on Miami Radio Turmoil: 'We Were Evicted' / Buoniconti: Hall of Famer, But Even Greater Off the Field / Le Batard Defies Trump, ESPN's No-Politics Policy / The 4 Ways Miami Heat Had A Winning Offseason / Wimbledon, Tiger, U.S. Women For Starters. Why 2019 Is Greatest Sports Year Ever / Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again / 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 / 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 / Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players / Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / 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

September 02, 2019

Dolphins trade Tunsil in blockbuster deal. My latest column; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated). See who's No. 1 and what else lands where, NFL picks return this week ("Aawwk!") & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2. Welcome, September, month of football, month of autumn. Thanks for hopefully sparing South Florida of Dorian's full wrath. 2) It's the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): On Flores' tough spot with Tunsil, Clowney trade talks, Luck's shocking retirement, Dolphins/Canes preview-section columns & more. 4) Join us on Twitter.com/gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Picks"Aaawwwk!" NFL picks return this week!: Our 29th season -- hard to believe -- of NFL predictions returns this week. A Miami Herald fixture since 1991, our picks appear in print every Friday and online Thursday afternoons. Our Thursday night pick appears Thursday in print and online Wednesday. We are inexplicably coming off our best season ever, with a .705 winning percentage overall last year and .582 against the betting line. Can we slay the evil point spread again this season? Come along for the ride starting this week!

THE TUNSIL TRADE: MY COLUMN: Losing Laremy Tunsil really hurts, but getting two first-round pick and second was too much to turn down. Please visit Trading Tunsil Hurts,But Dolphins Won This Deal.

Our Dolphins and Hurricanes preview-section columns: For our 2019 NFL Team Rankings: Who's Super Bowl-Bound And Where Dolphins Land. And mining UM history for perspective on a bold decision: Diaz's Choice For Hurricanes QB Not Seen In More Than 50 Years.

Previous most recent other columns: Tunsil/Clowney Trade Would Be Powderkeg for Dolphins, Flores / Clowney Would Be Missing Piece in Dolphins' Emerging Plan / and Luck Deserves Praise For Putting Health, Life Above Football. Also: Hurricanes Have Only Themselves To Blame For Opening Loss / Zero Doubt: Rosen, Not Fitzpatrick, Must Start For Dolphins / Here's Why Canes Took Bold Gamble on Jarren Williams at QBDolphins' Ross Cannot Be Surprised By Major Fallout Over Trump Fundraiser / Le Batard on Miami Radio Turmoil: 'We Were Evicted' / and Buoniconti: Hall of Famer, But Even Greater Off the Field.

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

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Tunsil trade, QB decision and a season opener -- oh my!Can't say it's been dull in Finsville. Miami wrapped up a 3-1 preseason by (predictably and unfortunately) naming Ryan Fitzpatrick as starting quarterback, and then Saturday traded tackle Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to Houston for two first-round picks and a second. (My column on that trade here). Club also released long snapper John Denney, a Fin since 2005. Meantime, oh yeah, the regular season starts this coming Sunday for new coach Brian Flores as the Baltimore Ravens fly into Hard Rock.

2. HURRICANES: UM out to shake Gators loss, preps for Heels in ACC opener: Canes are on the road at North Carolina in five days in a game compelling because it is UM's ACC opener and because, with Miami's opening loss to Florida, an 0-2 start would make UM's season feel derailed right out the gate. It shouldn't be a problem, folks. Miami crushed UNC last season 47-10 and the Heels seem down again. Time for coach Manny Diaz and QB Jarren Williams to bag their first career wins -- or y'all might as well not even bother coming back!

3. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No big surprises in Week 0/1 so far: Top 25 teams are 23-1 thus far in opening week of college football's 150th season, with Notre Dame playing tonight. And the only ranked-team loss, by No. 11 Oregon, came to another ranked team. What, you wanted Alabama and Clemson to suffer stunning defeats? Dream on, Bubba.

4. NFL: Three days until kickoff of King Sport's regular season!: As the league continues to reel from the aftershock of the sudden retirement of Colts QB Andrew Luck, life goes on. The NFL's 100th season kicks off this Thursday night with Chicago hosting Green Bay. As for which two teams will cap the season in the Super Bowl Miami in hosting, let's just say if the Dolphins are one of those teams it would be a bigger stunner than Luck quitting. How about by default we just root as always for ABTP? (Anybody But The Patriots).

5. STATE COLLEGES (NON-UM): 'Noles, FIU, FAU all lose openers: The state's seven FBS (nee Division 1) teams limped to a combined 2-5 start in their openers, including Florida State losing at home to Boise State 36-31 and losses by both FIU (to Tulane) and FAU (at No. 5 Ohio State). No. 17 UCF won but South Florida fell hard. Seemed like our state mostly dodged a bullet with Hurricane Dorian, but five of seven teams didn't fare as well.

6. BASKETBALL: U.S. wins debut in FIBA World Cup: The two-week, 32-nation FIBA men's World Cup is underway in China, with the favored Team USA playing its first game Sunday and comfortably handling the Czech Republic, 88=67, led by Donovan Mitchell's 16 points. The U.S. remains the betting fave despite a tuneup loss to Australia last week, the first time in 13 years a U.S. team that included NBA players had lost in international play. (Then again, this is a superstar-less American roster whose biggest name probably is Kemba Walker, so...).

7. TENNIS: Djokovic, Osaka out in U.S Open at major's midpoint: No major upsets had happened yet in the in the U.S. Open -- but that was before No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic dropped the first two sets to Stan Wawrinka on Sunday then retired with a shoulder ailment, and No. 1 women's seed Naomi Osaka lost today/Monday. But Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still alive on the men's side, while women's play finds betting favorite Serena Williams still gunning for the title. A triumph by Serena would be a record-tying 24th major for her. Go Williams, go! 

8. MARLINS: It's official. Jeter calls season "frustrating": You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, and you don't need Derek Jeter to tell you this has been "a frustrating year." Miami, in the midst of a six-game road trip, is on a 105-loss pace entering Sunday and threatening the franchise high of 108 losses set in 1998. Six of MLB's top 100 prospects give the Marlins hope, but when will it begin to show? Meantime, thank god for the Tigers and Orioles, who make even the Fish look good. Well, less awful.

9. FANTASY: Gentleman (and ladies), start your drafts!: This was the biggest weekend for NFL fantasy drafts, because the closer they are to the start of the regular season, the better. You want proof? Talk to anybody whose draft was two weeks ago and who was fist-pumping with happiness to have drafted Andrew Luck.  

10. PANTHERS: Ready or not, hockey is almost back: It's getting close, puckheads. Florida Panthers will stage a two-day rookie camp Sept. 10-11, then open full training camp Sept. 13. With new star coach Joel Quenneville and new star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, hopes are high. Which means a franchise that has let its fans down way too often had better live up this time.

Missing the HB10 cut: Baseball can't even get its playoff chase right. As season wanes, only one of six divisions has a real battle for first place (Cardinals-Cubs), and the biggest wild-card question is whether the Rays will make it. Yawn ..... Countdown: No dates set yet, but Jimmy Butler and the retooled Miami Heat will open training camp in late September ..... R.I.P. Jim Langer, 71, Dolphins glory-days center ..... Update: Countdown now 2,485 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

Select other recent columns: Don't Overthink It, Dolphins. Start Rosen / How Brian Flores Won Dolphins Players' Respect Before Ever Coaching A Game / Countdown To Hurricanes-Gators On As Practices Begin / In Tyreek Hill, Goodell And NFL Turn Blind Eye To Domestic Violence / Le Batard Defies Trump, ESPN's No-Politics Policy / The 4 Ways Miami Heat Had A Winning Offseason / What If Everybody's Wrong About The Dolphins? / Wimbledon, Tiger, U.S. Women For Starters. Why 2019 Is Greatest Sports Year Ever / Heat And Riley Lose On Westbrook, But Loss Might Still Be A Win / Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing / Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again / 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 / 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 / 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 / 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

August 26, 2019

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: G1: 64.1% following 24-20 loss to Florida (with column); latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated), plus why Rosen should start at QB for Dolphins, Fitzpatrick vs. Rosen poll result & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, AUGUST 25. It's the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, case for Rosen as Dolphins' starting QB & more. 3) Join us on Twitter.com/gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Our column on last night's Canes loss to Gators: Please visit Hurricanes Have Only Themselves To Blame For Opening Loss.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G1: 64.1%: Results are certified for the opening game of the 11th 1aa1csmseason of the Miami Herald's Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 64.1 percent overall approval (the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes) in the wake of Saturday night's season-opening 24-20 loss to No. 8 Florida in Orlando. That's a fairly high number following a loss. The CSM is your invitation after every Hurricanes game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM football fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. You may vote here in the blog, elsewhere online here, and also at Twitter.com/gregcote (where the approval was 44%). Online voting will determine the weekly verdict, which will be announced here the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:30 a.m. Monday.

2019 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 64.1% following 24-20 loss vs. Florida in Orlando.

Next poll: Sept. 7 following game at North Carolina.

MiaflaG1: HURRICANES VS. NO. 8 FLORIDA (IN ORLANDO): DIAZ / WILLIAMS ERA OPENS AS BIG 'DOGS: What a stage for Canes rookie head coach Manny Diaz and first-time starting quarterback Jarren Williams to introduce themselves nationally to college football! Miami and old rival Florida own the nation's attention as the sport's 150th season opens with this game, alone, tonight at 7 on ESPN at the old Citrus Bowl. The erstwhile yearly state rivals haven't met since 2013, and the reunion finds the No. 8-ranked Gators big 7-point favorites coming off a 10-3 season capped by a 41-15 bowl thrashing of Michigan. Miami by contrast limped to the finish at 7-6 after a 35-3 bowl loss to Wisconsin, yet expectations are high enough that UM debuts just outside the Top 25 (29th) in the preseason Associated Press poll. This game for me distills to which offense will be better able to find an answer because this matchup figures to be dominated by two strong defenses. Miami's led by linebacker Shaq Quarterman and UF's led by cornerback C.J. Henderson will be very tough to move and score on. The quarterback position alone gives Florida an edge, with Feleipe Franks' experience in contrast to Williams, whose only prior college action was three pass attempts in garbage time vs. Savannah State last year. Diaz surprised most by anointing Williams for the job over returning incumbent N'Kosi Perry and highly touted Ohio State transfer Tate Martell. Tonight we begin to see if Diaz made the right call. Cote's pick: Florida 20, Hurricanes 16.

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. HURRICANES: Miami falls to Gators in season opener: Miami led three times Saturday night in Orlando but fell 24-20 to No. 8-ranked Florida to kick off college football's 150th season and the Manny Diaz era at The U. What if I'd have told you before the game that the Canes would get a really good performance from new QB Jarren Williams and four takeaways from the defense? That's a win, right? Both happened. No win. But a "right direction" feeling moving forward, am I right?

2. NFL: Stunner! Colts QB Luck retires from NFL: Indianapolis and the NFL reel with the news Saturday night that star quarterback Andrew Luck had abruptly and immediately retired from football three weeks shy of his 30th birthday, citing constant shoulder and other injuries. Jacoby Brissett is now the Indy starter. That sound you hear is the Colts falling from top-tier AFC contender to conference also-ran. 

3. DOLPHINS: Three fake games in, Fins' QB battle still undecided: Fins now 2-1 this preseason after beating Jacksonville here Thursday, but nobody cares. Fake games. What does matter is the decision at quarterback, but coach Brian Flores keeps not making it. He's still weighing Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Josh Rosen entering this Thursday's fake finale in New Orleans. Dear Brian: You're trying to find this team's future, remember? Rosen, please!

4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Can anyone bust up the Clemson-'Bama stranglehold?: Canes and one other game snuck in early, but for everyone else the start of college football's 150th season is on deck this week. Highlights: Thursday, No. 1 Clemson whips whomever it's playing and Butch Davis' FIU visits Tulane. Saturday, No. 2 Alabama crushes somebody, Florida State hosts Boise State, and Lane Kiffin leads FAU to slaughter at No. 5 Ohio State.

5. BASKETBALL: U.S. shaky with men's FIBA World Cup on deck: The major 32-nation international hoops event begins this coming Saturday and runs though Sept. 15 in China, with Team USA on shaky ground after a tuneup loss to Australia -- the first time in 13 years an American team with NBA players has lost. Team USA is the favorite but no cinch for gold. Most top NBA stars said nah -- Kemba Walker is the biggest-name U.S. player -- so let's see what Gregg Popovich can do with this B-team roster.

6. TENNIS: Serena, Djokovic favored as U.S. Open begins: Year's fourth and final Grand Slam event begins today/Monday and runs through Sept. 9 in New York, with Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic the betting favorites -- although Serena is only the No. 8 seed. Williams tries again for what would be a record-tying 24th career major, but to do it she must first survive a tough first-round draw in unseeded Maria Sharapova in what, oddly, will be these old rivals' first-ever U.S. Open  meeting.

7. MARLINS: Fish playing out the string as homestand continues: Fish are an NL-worst 47-82 after 0-6 road swing and now 2-1 into a seven-game homestand vs. Phillies and now Reds. The 100-Loss Watch now projects to 59-103. The question: When will the Marlins' bright future get here ... and will Don Mattingly still be around to manage it?

8. GOLF: Mclroy wins season ending Tour Championship: Lightning injured six fans (none seriously) and delayed the Tour Championship in Atlanta, the PGA Tour's season-ending event open only to the year's top 30 money winners. But eventually Rory McIlroy avoided rivals and lightning sufficient to win.

9. YOUTH BASEBALL: U.S. reigns in Little League World Series: Curacao upset powerhouse Japan on Saturday for the international crown and River Ridge, La. beat Wailuku, Hawaii for the U.S. title in the Little League Word Series. Sunday, the U.S. team bopped Curacao 8-0 for the grand title. Now all of those 12-year-old boys can go from being on national TV to being nervous about meeting girls again.

10. SPRING FOOTBALL: XFL reveals team names, logos: Vince McMahon's new eight-team XFL, set to begin play in February 2020, revealed its team names and logos (including the Tampa Bay Vipers). If the history of previous pro spring league attempts is any indication, we can expect the "XFL is folding" announcement any time around midseason 2021.

Missing the HB10 cut: Show of hands. Who drafted Andrew Luck on their fantasy team Saturday? ..... U.S. Patent Office denied Tom Brady's trademark request for "Tom Terrific". About damned time Brady lost at something ..... Orioles set all-time record with a 259th home run allowed. Does the pitching coach walk to the mound in a false nose and glasses? ..... Dolphins coach Brian Flores played eight straight Jay-Z songs at practice a day after receiver Kenny Stills criticized Jay-Z's alliance with the NFL. To "challenge" Stills, said Flores. Weird ..... Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Hahahahaha! ..... Larry Bird complained after an artist painted a mural that depicted him with tattoos. A little too much free time there, Lar? ..... Been a minute Conor McGregor did anything embarrassing. Somebody check, make sure he's OK ..... Update: Countdown now 2,492 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

RosenZERO DOUBT NOW. ROSEN MUST START FOR DOLPHINS! LATEST COLUMN: Me, from the stadium, off last night's Dolphins win over Jacksonville in Fake Game 3: The Miami Dolphins seem prepared to take a big loss even before the NFL regular season begins. Is this a thing that might actually happen? This is the feeling, and we hope we are wrong. Because it would be much easier to say "oops" on what we think and fear might happen than to try to explain why on earth a team in the midst of a rebuild might start bearded fossil Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback at the direct expense of fully finding out what it has in young Josh Rosen. Fins coach Brian Flores acknowledged his Fitzpatrick-leaning after Thursday night’s 22-7 home exhibition win over Jacksonville, saying of Rosen’s performance: "He played well. That makes the decision harder." OK, stop right there. The decision should not be hard. The answer is Rosen (pictured), and it didn't take his leading that 99-yard scoring drive to know that. To read my full column, kindly visit Zero Doubt: Rosen, Not Fitzpatrick, Must Start For Dolphins.

Previous most recent other columns: Here's Why Canes Took Bold Gamble on Jarren Williams at QBDolphins' Ross Cannot Be Surprised By Major Fallout Over Trump Fundraiser / Le Batard on Miami Radio Turmoil: 'We Were Evicted' / and Buoniconti: Hall of Famer, But Even Greater Off the Field.

POLL RESULT: ROSEN CLOBBERS FITZPATRICK IN HERALD TWITTER POLL: We posted a Fitzpatrick-or-Rosen poll on our Twitter feed, it drew 2,380 votes in one day and Rosen beat Fitzpatrick in a landslide with 76 percent of the vote at Twitter.com/gregcote.

Select other recent columns: Don't Overthink It, Dolphins. Start Rosen / How Brian Flores Won Dolphins Players' Respect Before Ever Coaching A Game / Countdown To Hurricanes-Gators On As Practices Begin / In Tyreek Hill, Goodell And NFL Turn Blind Eye To Domestic Violence / Le Batard Defies Trump, ESPN's No-Politics Policy / The 4 Ways Miami Heat Had A Winning Offseason / What If Everybody's Wrong About The Dolphins? / Wimbledon, Tiger, U.S. Women For Starters. Why 2019 Is Greatest Sports Year Ever / Heat And Riley Lose On Westbrook, But Loss Might Still Be A Win / Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing / Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again / 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 / 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 / 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 / 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 20, 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 could be best sports year ever, Greg Cote Day countdown, latest Back In My Day (Apps!), Moon Landing & more

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

Moon1) It's SATURDAY, JULY 20. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing. The United States' Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the moon  on July 20, 1969. I remember watching as a boy. That was a time of widespread protest against the Vietnam War across the country, and the Moon Landing felt a little bit like healing, a reason for Americans to feel good about their country. 2) It's always the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Gcday 7Greg Cote Day countdown: 7 days: We began a 10-day countdown to Greg Cote Day on Saturday, July 27 at Hammond Stadium, home of the minor-league Fort Myers Miracle, and it's now seven 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 13, 2019

Serena denied again in hunt for record. New column; plus Heat loses on Westbrook, but why that could still be win for Miami; also, if you find USWNT polarizing that's on you, not them; U.S. tennis finds new star in Coco Gauff & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JULY 13. Happy 80th birthday to Mavis Staples this week, one of the great voices and messengers of my life, an American icon. 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. wins Women's World Cup with column, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

SerenaSERENA DENIED AGAIN IN PURSUIT OF MAJORS RECORD: Serena Williams (and older sister Venus) introduced themselves at what is now the Miami Open on Key Biscayne, circa late '90s. Now, 21 years later, at age 37, Serena is fighting younger opponents -- and time -- in pursuit of Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 major titles. She has 23. She could have equaled the record Saturday in the final at Wimbledon but was dominated by Simona Halep in a 6-2, 6-2 loss -- her sixth straight time trying and failing to get from 23 to 24. "I'll keep fighting," she said afterward. Her next chance: the U.S. Open commencing in last August. For my column on Serena, from the teenager we first met to the warrior still slugging it out, kindly visit On Brink Of History At Wimbledon, Serena Is Denied Again.

TeammatesHEAT LOSE OUT ON WESTBROOK. BUT WAS IT REALLY A LOSS? NEW COLUMNThe Miami Heat and Pat Riley lost out on Russell Westbrook on Thursday night -- but it might have been closer to a win than a loss. Sometimes, the best trade is the one not made. Yes, the Heat would have been better or at least more dynamic and interesting in the short term by pairing Westbrook with recently acquired Jimmy Butler. But at what cost? That was the line Riley smartly drew. Giving up the young core of Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and June top draft pick Tyler Herro, and more, was too much for Westbrook, whose mega-contract would have grown more and more onerous. Miami in four years would have been paying $47 million to an aging 34-year-old player. So Westbrook reunites in Houston with James Harden instead. Star-chasing is fine, but not to add a veteran while pilfering your own future. Likewise, Miami must be wary of trading for  Bradley Beal if that comes with the John Wall baggage and also costs that young core. And wary of trading for Chris Paul if it drains you of money to be a player in 2021 free agency. I discuss all this and more in my latest column off last night's Westbrook trade to Houston, not Miami. To read it in full, kindly visit Heat And Riley Lose On Westbrook, But Loss Might Still Be  A Win

UnitedCHAMPION U.S. WOMEN'S TEAM MAY BE POLARIZING, BUT THAT'S GOOD: Sometime during the victory celebration along the “Canyon of Heroes” in New York City on Wednesday, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe was handed a Daily News cover that depicts the Statue of Liberty cleverly holding the Women’s World Cup championship trophy instead of a torch. That wasn’t what made Rapinoe hold the newspaper with a smirking frown on her face, a sort of #SMH (shake my head) expression. It was the bold headline in big block letters: UNITED WE STAND. "Really?" Rapinoe’s look seemed to be saying. "Really!?" Later that night — as if on cue — one or more persons walking around full of hate vandalized six Rapinoe posters at the subway station near Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Police are investigating it as a possible hate crime. The posters read, “Dream With Us.” Either that message, or perhaps the fact Rapinoe is gay, led the vandals to scrawl “shemale” and “screw that [bleep]” over her face. United we stand? The preceding is in the intro to my column off the parade. Rapinoe and her USWNT teammates are excellent on the field -- World Cup champs -- and loud off it, loud for LGBTQ equality, racial justice, pay equity. That makes them polarizing to some. If so that's on the offended, the "Shut up and play" crowd -- not o them. For that column in full, please visit If You Don't Like Rapinoe, USWNT -- That's On You, Not Them

RwestHEAT'S PURSUIT OF WESTBROOK IS RILEY'S ALL-OUT, URGENT GAMBLE: [Note: This was my column from earlier in the week, when Miami appeared to be the favorite to land Westbrook]. Did you not think he was going to go out swinging? That he was going to sit quietly in the corner? That a long basketball career full of noise was going to ebb with a whisper? Then you don’t know Pat Riley. Haven’t followed his career real closely. Riley making something of nothing this summer for the Miami Heat — trading for star Jimmy Butler and now angling for an even bigger star in Russell Westbrook — is less surprising than if the Heat’s president had stood pat, OK with mediocrity and the hope something might happen a couple of summers from now, maybe. Instead, the Heat’s godfather is flexing all of the creativity and ingenuity in his toolbox in an impatient desperation to be relevant again, now, not later. Riley is 74 now. When my grandmother was that age she used to like to say “you don’t buy green bananas.” You don’t trust tomorrow. Carpe diem. That's the gist of my recent column. Full for the full read, please visit Heat's Run At Westbrook Is Riley's All-Out Gamble To Win Now. Pictured, Westbrook in a Heat uniform, via clutchpoints.com.

Coco"LOCO FOR COCO!" HAS AMERICAN TENNIS JUST DISCOVERED THE 'NEXT BIG THING' IT SO BADLY NEEDS?: The U.S. winning the Women’s World Cup was the biggest accomplishment in sports the past week, but it wasn’t the most amazing. The continuing reign of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and the rest of those American stars was expected. What has happened the past week in London, at Wimbledon, was the surreal opposite of expected. Surprise is one of the great joys of sports, the rise of the underdog one of the great delights. The rare moment when someone you had never heard of becomes a star, and you can only imagine the trajectory that lay ahead. Her name is Cori (Coco) Gauff. That's the start of my recent column. To read it, kindly visit Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing. At 15 Gauff was the youngest Wimbledon qualifier of the Open era, and youngest to win a match since 1991, before losing in the fourth round Monday to former world No. 1 Simona Halep. It gives hope that American tennis has found its next big star, and I write why that is so needed: On the men’s side, John Isner, aged 34, is, at No. 12 in the ATP rankings, the only American in the top 30. No U.S. male has won a major since Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick in 2003. For the women, Serena Williams is 37 now and sister Venus is 39. Someone must take the baton. Sloane Stephens currently is the highest American woman in the WTA rankings at No. 9, and by winning the 2017 U.S. Open became the first U.S. major winner not named Williams since 2002. But Stephens already is 26, an age by which Serena already had won eight majors. That is to say, Stephens’ career arc suggests a very good player, but one who must accelerate and find another gear to reach and sustain the next-big-star level. Coco Gauff has famously said, "I want to be the best ever. I want to be better than Serena." Tennis is infamously noted for its early flameouts and burnouts, the phenom at 17 and done by 23 type. It will be interesting to see if Coco Gauff can rise above that and fulfill the potential she offered a tantalizing hint of at Wimbledon.

A handful of other most recent columns: Queens of the World. U.S. Soccer Wins Again. Also: 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 / and It Is Megan Rapinoe's World Cup -- On And Off The Field.

Cuckoo"CUCKOO FOR COCOA PUFFS!": : Watching Delray Beach 15-year-old Cori (Coco) Gauff play Wimbledon the past week and writing about her in my latest column (linked above), I was drawn by her nickname Coco to recall the "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" cereal commercials of yesteryear. They began after the introduction of the "Sonny the Cuckoo Bird" mascot in 1962. In the TV ads, Sonny attempts to concentrate on normal tasks but ends up coming across some reference to Cocoa Puffs and is enthusiastically distracted. Fast fact: The actual cuckoo (pictured right) is a mostly grayish-brown European bird (Cuculus canorus) that is a parasite given to laying its eggs in the nests of other birds which then raise the offspring.

Select other recent columns: 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 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 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.

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

Twitter @gregcote