May 25, 2017

Do you agree with NFL relaxing rules to allow TD celebrations? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Canes brace for Friday must-win in ACC; also, Marlins column, a clue in death of Cortez Kennedy?, new Back In My Day video, Hot Button Daily (Thu) & more


1) It is THURSDAY, May 25. Thoughts and condolences with the loved ones of the victims of the Manchester concert terrorism in the U.K. R.I.P., innocents. So terribly sad that a miserable coward in a suicide vest can wreak such sorrow. #GivePeaceAChance. 2) Click BIMD: Senior Discounts to watch my latest Back In My Day video from Tuesday's LeBatard Show. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Surprise and delight them with our book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Sunday Marlins column & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

New column: The Marlins' mysterious future: In what figures as a blockbuster summer for sports in South Florida, who buys the Marlins and what they do with the roster looms as the great unknown. Easy to say blow-it-up-and-start-over, but that wouldn't be easy. Or smart. Click on What's Next, Marlins? for my latest column.

EzpartyPARTY'S ON! NFL RELAXES RULES ON END-ZONE CELEBRATIONS: At this week's NFL spring owners meeting, the lords of King Sport reduced overtimes in the regular season from 15 to 10 minutes (because everybody loves ties!), flip-flopped host cities for the 2021 and '22 Super Bowls, and approved the Raiders' stadium lease in Las Vegas. But the talking-point, clearly, was a seismic shift on allowing personality back into the game -- as in, end-zone celebrations. Yes, the Old Fuddy-Duddy has loosened the corporate collar. The "No Fun League" is ready to party. New rules give players much leeway in how they celebrate a touchdown. Once banned but now allowed: orchestrated end-zone dance parties, using the football as a prop and group celebrations. As a further example, the NFL said players may now "roll around or flap their arms like snow angels on the ground again if they choose." Defensive players who just allowed the TD that ignited the celebration might not like it. I'm more interested in what you think. For me, it's good for the league, it's fun -- as long as the celebrating is reasonably brief and does not devolve into taunting. What say you? Take a dip in our poll and let us know.

TezHEADACHES A CLUE IN DEATH OF UM FOOTBALL GREAT CORTEZ KENNEDY?: Miami Hurricanes football great, Cortez Kennedy, the dominating defensive tackle, has died at age 48, Orlando police said Tuesday. Kennedy died alone in Orlando, where he lived. Police are investigating but initially reported nothing suspicious. A relative told the New York Times that Kennedy recently had been experiencing headaches. Kennedy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 after an 11-year career with the Seattle Seahawks in which he made eight Pro Bowls. Kennedy made the Associated Press NFL All-Decade team for the 1990s. "Tez" was the third overall pick in the '90 NFL draft out of UM after a stellar Canes career that included his being MVP of the 1989 national championship team. Kennedy is one of six former Canes inducted into Canton, and he and fellow Hall of Famer Warren Sapp are considered the greatest defensive tackles in school history.

JimmCANES WIN ACC TOURNEY OPENER, KEEP HOPE ALIVE TO CONTINUE 44-YEAR NCAA STREAK!: UM  yesterday beat Georgia Tech 6-5 in 13 innings in the Canes' ACC Tournament opener in Louisville. The Canes now face Wake Forest on Friday at 11 a.m., delayed from Thursday by rainouts in other games Wednesday. The winner advances to Saturday's semifinals. UM considers Friday's game a must-win in terms of the Canes staying alive to reach the NCAA Tournament for a record 45th straight season. Click on The Weight of History for my column by me previewing the Canes' challenge in the tourney. Original post: Miami Hurricanes baseball owns the top of our blog's marquee today. Most years at this time, UM is planning for a near-certain NCAA Regional host's role and dreaming of getting back to the College World Series in Omaha. This time, though, that's getting way ahead of ourselves. UM's record-setting 44-year NCAA streak is in jeopardy after an uncommonly common 29-26 regular season. Can the young men of Jim Morris (pictured) win the ACC tourney to secure an automatic bid? Or, falling short of the title, can they win win two games this week or perhaps even three to make an at-large invitation likely? That positions UM, a four-time national champion, in the unlikely role of underdog. Odds are against the Canes. That also lends an unusual drama to the start of conference-tournament play for Miami. Will Morris' next-to-last season end in ignominy? UM last missed the NCAAs in 1972. Today we begin to learn if the weight of that 44-year streak lifts or crushes the Canes.

THE LIST: LOCAL PLAYERS IN MLB DRAFT: The MLB Draft is June 12 and, according to Baseball America's Top 200 prospects list, here are the players from South Florida high schools who are highest rated:

Rank    Player, Pos., School

38        Mark Vientos, SS/3B, American Heritage (Plantation)

50        M.J. Melendez, C, Westminster Christian (Palmetto Bay)

59        James Marinan, RHP, Park Vista (Lake Worth)

60        Jake Eder, LHP, Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale)

68        Jeter Downs, SS, Pace (Miami Gardens)

75        Joe Perez, RHP/1B, Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches)

89        Shane Drohan, LHP, Cardinal Newman (West Palm Beach)

Note: Among college players, three Gators, one Seminole but no Miami Hurricanes make Top 200.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / THU 5-25-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NBA playoffs, 8:30 p.m.: Cavaliers up 3-1 at Celtics as Cleveland tries to close out Eastern finals.

2. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: Ottawa at Pittsburgh in a winner-take-all Game 7 of Eastern finals.

3. Dolphins OTA day: Third of three this week, but this one's closed to the public, too.

[Note: Marlins off today, and UM/ACC baseball game postponed until Friday].

Select other recent columns: Awful Team Continues Marlins Curse: Fish fans deserve a medal. Big Risk For Big Upside: On chance Heat could land Harry Giles in NBA Draft. NFL's Moral Obligation: League must do more for brain-injury sufferers like Buoniconti and Kiick. LeBron And Steph To the Rescue: How a third straight Warriors-Cavs Finals will save a lopsided postseason. The Dolphins' Eight Ifs: Explaining dichotomy of opinion on Fins. On The Team's Terms, Not His: What it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. Not In Our Stadium: N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa: Why Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons: Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami: Bush/Jeter group as frontrunner to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose: Controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy: Suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall: Tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph: strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?: A curiously unemployed QB. Also: Thank You, Mae Riback, A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City, Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 14, 2016

Is it naive to think terrorism will not try to target American sports? Orlando reminds us again the U.S. is not immune, and neither are our leagues, teams, games or the fans who watch them


1) It is TUESDAY, JUNE 14. LeBron James and the Cavaliers win Game 5, stay alive in NBA Finals. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes reach Omaha, Hot Button Top 10, thoughts with Orlando, criticism-of-Tannehill verdict & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz today, 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m. locally on 790 The Ticket, 10-1 nationally on ESPN Radio, a new "Back In My Day" in hand. Show will be back on TV, too, soon. 

The Last 5: Five selected recent columns, ICYMI or thought them so wonderful they deserved another look: The Weight of Tradition, the latest, off Sunday's Omaha-clinching Canes baseball win. LeBron Wants More Than Title From Finals, on LeBron James angling to take back best-player crown from Steph Curry. Ali Legacy Should Include Other Athletes' Thanks, on how Muhammad Ali set template for individuality in sports. A Baseball Odyssey Finds Its Mountaintop, on local kid Richard Bleier's long climb to Yankees. Nobody Wins When a 55-Year Marriage Ends In Divorce, on PGA Tour leaving Doral.

Note from Cote: Readers, what's below is something I wanted to write Monday as a Miami Herald column for both print and online, in the wake of the hateful mass killing at the Orlando nightclub, but my editors (politely) said no. Thus, I offer it here exclusively as a blog-only column:

IS IT NAIVE TO BELIEVE TERRORISM WON'T TRY TO TARGET OUR GAMES: And so America and the world are stunned to tears again -– and reminded, yet again -– that any combination of hatred, mental illness, terrorism and available assault weapons puts us all at risk. That is not being overly dramatic. When the killing can happen without warning in an elementary school classroom, where is safe? When it can happen during the Boston Marathon or at a crowded music concert in Paris or amid the revelry of a nightclub in Orlando, who is free from imagining it might happen anywhere?

    Sports are hardly immune from the threat. If anything the opposite seems true. Full stadiums and arenas might be closer to prime targets, an increasing new reality that must be met with urgent force not only by government agencies and police but by leagues and teams whose highest priority must be to protect their players and paying customers. Sports are a ripe target, especially in terms of terrorism, specifically because they are such an integral part of our society, of our culture and lifestyle, and also because they tend to be high-profile events that offer the largest gathering of people as well as on-hand media coverage.

Eurosecurity    It was sadly no surprise, then, that the Stade de France, a soccer stadium, was among targets of the Paris attacks last November, though thankfully that particular attack was largely aborted. It is no surprise that multiple agencies including the FBI gird forces every year to protect the Super Bowl. Sports and the threat of terrorism again are intertwined this month as France hosts the Euro ’16 tournament, the biggest international soccer event outside of the World Cup. They will be again during the Rio Olympics in August. Sports as a politicized target of terrorism may date all the way to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, but it is fair to say the threat has increased exponentially thanks to the scourge of Islamic State and other terror groups encouraging so-called "lone wolf" attacks.

    Also it must be asked: Do we have the luxury to believe the only threats are to the most major of sporting events on the biggest stages in the biggest cities? That a game at Yankee Stadium (for example) might be a potential target but a game in Milwaukee wouldn't be? That seems a risky assumption.

    These are no longer the good old days when a fan’s biggest concern was his team losing, or maybe the guy next to him getting too drunk and rowdy. I remember we’d make fun that the obligatory 'Prohibited Items' sign at the entrance of a stadium included No Weapons. Doesn’t seem so funny anymore. Not when we have seen, again in that Orlando nightclub, how the wrong weapon in the wrong hands can reap so much havoc and sorrow in so little time. I read the account of a policeman describing how cell phones were ringing and ringing on dead bodies strewn inside that nightclub, loved frantically calling to see if they were alright. How imaginably chilling, and awful.

    A friend asked me, rhetorically, "What prevents any lunatic with an assault rifle from walking into any store anywhere and going up and down the aisles killing people?" Well, the answer today is, essentially, "Nothing." And it should quake us to the heels as long as that is the answer. I leave it to people a lot smarter than me to explain why these military-grade weapons, these killing machines, are available to the general public, let alone to the mentally unstable or potential terrorists. In the case of the gay-hating Orlando shooter with apparent radical-terrorists leanings, he'd been on the FBI's radar since 2013. Yet he could buy an assault weapon!?

    As long as these weapons are available to the exact people who should not have them, lone wolf-styled terror attacks may continue and it seems naive to think a target won't someday be an American stadium or arena during a sporting event. That wouldn't necessarily mean inside a venue; it could mean outside, before or after an event. I should say I think an attempt may be inevitable. I hope a successful attack is not. Counter-terror agencies, Intelligence networks and expert policing stand between an attempt and completed attack. So might metal detectors and scanners in regular use. Soon, perhaps a ban on assault weapons will, too.

G4s    The London-based group, G4S Risk Consulting, released a recent study called "Growing Terrorism Challenge for Sports Events" (read it here), and it's fascinating, and important. The study notes European soccer (football) is an especially prime target: "Football tournaments are highly attractive targets, with non-Muslim and Muslim supporters and players alike creating a multicultural environment. This cultural and religious diversity is a key motivating factor for IS and such attacks are anticipated to continue. Furthermore, the media attention generated by sporting events is another driver. IS is critically aware of its propaganda campaign and the manipulation of social and mainstream media to increase its profile. As such, the combination of the growing threat from IS, the media attention garnered by the group and sporting events, as well as the presence of a large, condensed crowd of people in a restricted area, makes sport a prominent terrorism target. This is underpinned by what sport is deemed to represent -– togetherness, integrity, inclusivity, among other values that IS, and other groups, diametrically oppose."

    The report continues, "Heightened security at high-profile sporting events will become standard procedure. Paradoxically, increased stadium security will present attractive terrorist targets as potential target locations expand into areas around the stadium where large crowds gather, particularly on approach routes and at nearby transport hubs. The threat against sporting events from IS and other Islamist militant groups is set to remain a long-term concern.e UK, has reported an increasing number of foiled terrorist attacks since IS declared its so-called caliphate in June 2014. As such, securing sports events, particularly high-profile games such as the Olympics, the European Championships, Wimbledon and the French Open, has become more challenging and a long-term issue.

    G4S Risk Consulting's report is written more from a European/soccer vantage, but American sports would be mistaken to not act as if the same threat could be carried out here. Already, the FBI has warned that cyber-terrorism and drones also may become threats against American sporting events.

    The report concludes that "sports event organizers will have to commit to long-term heightened security ... and consider the threat and associated escalated security as the norm. Regardless of the magnitude of the sporting event, higher security costs, logistical issues and crowd control, particularly measures to manage congestion, will become key factors for organizers necessitating much closer relations with the police and public security agencies, with further financial resources likely in terms of private security personnel."

    Again, this report is from a European perspective on the threat of terror, but we know by now that the United States is not immune. Sadly, Orlando is the latest reminder of that.

    There will be no excuse for American sports leagues and teams to be caught off-guard or unprepared by the potential threat of terrorism at their events. It's nice the improved Dolphins stadium will be covered by a shade canopy. But it's security better be top-notch. If the NFL and other U.S. leagues and major sporting events are not working with national and local law enforcement agencies on preventative measures against the threat of a terror attack, they're already behind.

    You know the American spirit. And sports fans in particular have it in abundance. We don't back down. We won't not go to games because of the threat of terrorism or change our way of life because of it.

    Our leagues and teams need to make our stadiums and arenas and surrounding areas safer than ever before, though, even if it means an inconvenience us. Just win, baby? OK. But first and foremost, just keep us safe.

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

Twitter @gregcote