August 16, 2019

Why Canes took bold gamble with Jarren Williams at QB. New column; plus Trump fundraiser causing major fallout for Dolphins' owner Ross, latest 'Back In My Day' video (Fake Candles!) & more

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

1) It's FRIDAY, AUGUST 16. Back from our glorious vacation! Nine days in New Mexico, Arizona and California. More on that to come, inevitably. 2) Look for the return of the Hot Button Top 10 this coming Sunday after a two-week hiatus. 3) It's always the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): I'm outta here! Off on vacation & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

WHY CANES TOOK THE BOLD (BUT SMART) GAMBLE ON JARREN WILLIAMS AT QB: Manny Diaz said the other day that the biggest signing in his first months as Miami Hurricanes head coach Jwmswas not a player, not anybody who would be in uniform on the football field. "The best recruit we signed was Dan Enos," he said. We saw why this week as UM stunned most folks by awarding its starting quarterback job to Jarren Williams (pictured). It was a reminder of the essential importance of a head coach having a lieutenant who can be relied upon to lend an experienced, trusted voice. The Hurricanes’ offense was mired in the bog of bad quarterbacking last season in the combination of Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry. A strong defense was wasted in the 7-6 season. Yet the highly recruited Williams was invisible at a time when his spark might have turned a season around. He couldn’t get in a game. (Well, OK, he got in one. Played garbage time against cupcake Savannah State, going 1 for 3 for 17 yards). Why? Because then-coach Mark Richt was too busy waffling between Rosier and Perry to notice Williams’ talent or grow it. And Richt had nobody on his staff to either champion Williams or tell the head coach he was wrong to not give him a shot. Richt’s quarterback coach last season? His oldest son, Jon. The missteps at quarterback that collapsed the 2018 season led to Richt’s abrupt resignation, Diaz’s return to The U from a brief few weeks at Temple — and to Enos. Diaz’s first major decision upon his return to UM was to understand he’s a rookie head coach versed in defense, and needed to hit big on the offensive coordinator. Plenty of coaches’ egos wouldn’t allow that concession. Enos was hired off Nick Saban’s Alabama staff, where he ran the offense, coached the QBs and helped developed Tua Tagovailoa (the Dolphins’ dream get in 2020) and Jalen Hurts. That is hitting big. And that is why Williams will be the Canes’ starting quarterback in the Aug. 24 opener vs. rival Florida in Orlando — even though Williams was not the easiest, safest, most experienced or most expected choice. I explain how and why that came to be in my latest column. To read, kindly visit Here's Why Canes Took Bold Gamble on Jarren Williams at QB

RosstrumpDOLPHINS' ROSS GAMBLED HE COULD HAVE IT BOTH WAYS -- AND LOST BIG: Those of us with lighter wallets can only imagine that when one is wealthy enough to have it all, that luxury might come with a sense of entitlement. Of expecting to have it both ways, all ways, any way the billionaire desires. Doesn’t always work that way, of course, as Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross is being reminded. Ross’ net worth is estimated at $7.7 billion, but he doesn’t have enough money to buy his way out of this controversy of his own design, this distraction his football team hardly needs as it prepares for the NFL season. You still say sports and politics don’t mix? Ross just mixed them, and with combustible results. OK, that's the intro to my recent back-from vacation column, on Ross hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump's re-election campaign, and the resulting fallout. (The two buddies are pictured). The fallout Ross is enduring includes calls for boycotts of his businesses, criticism from Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, and public disappointment within his own Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). To read the full column, kindly visit Dolphins' Ross Cannot Be Surprised By Major Fallout Over Trump Fundraiser.

Previous most recent columns: Le Batard on Miami Radio Turmoil: 'We Were Evicted' / Buoniconti: Hall of Famer, But Even Greater Off the Field / Analyzing QB Battles for Hurricanes, Dolphins, and Why These Players Will Win / 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.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': FAKE CANDLES!: This premiered on Tuesday's Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio, to rather rave reviews, I must say...:

Select other recent columns: 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 / If You Don't Like Rapinoe, USWNT -- That's On You, Not Them / Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing / 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 / 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 22, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 this week and what else falls where; plus our latest columns, Greg Cote Day countdown, 'Redesigning Women' video & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 22. It's always the perfect time to check out my 'Fins At 50' book at Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Le Batard rebukes Trump and ESPN, 4 reasons Heat has had winning offseason, people keep saying the Dolphins are awful, why 2019 may be best sports year ever, Greg Cote Day countdown, Back In My Day video, The List & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook and Instagram.

Gcday 5Greg Cote Day countdown: 5 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 five days to go. (Always said that for me to have a Greg Cote Day would take a Miracle, so I was right). I'll be meeting fans, throwing out the first pitch, singing the national anthem and playing left field. All but one of those four things is actually true. Will I see you there? It's just a couple of hours west of South Florida. Tickets are going fast. Well, I don't really know if they are or not. But they might be! In any case click HERE for the link to buy yours.

Le Batard, Heat, Dolphins and 2019: My most recent columns: Check out my past week's work: 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? / and Wimbledon, Tiger, U.S. Women For Starters. Why 2019 Is Greatest Sports Year Ever.

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. DOLPHINS: Football. Football. FOOTBALL!! Training camp is here: King Sport returns! Preseason training camp is on deck for the Fins as rookies reported to the Davie training facility Sunday, veterans report on Wednesday, and the first full-squad practice is Thursday. The Dolphins are supposed to be lousy this season. All of the media "experts" say so. No matter. In July, Miami is tied for the best record in the NFL at 0-0.

2. GOLF: Lowry wins hometown British Open: Northern Ireland's little known Shane Lowry -- closer to journeyman than star, at least before this week -- carried a big 4-shot lead into Sunday's final round of the British Open being held in his home country for the first time since 1951. He won going away, by six. Much of the air went out of the major, for me, when both native son Rory McIlroy (the betting favorite) and Tiger Woods failed to make the cut. But Lowry winning for his country was sweet consolation.

3. BASEBALL: Cooperstown welcomes 6 new inductees: The Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday welcomed its six latest inductees: Closers Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith; designated hitters Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines; and starters Mike Mussina and the late Roy Halladay. Rivera is a no-brainer, of course. Baines? He was headed to the Hall of Pretty Good and somehow got smuggled into Cooperstown.

4. MARLINS: Fish can't seem to shake 100-loss pace: Brian Anderson's double gave Miami its first walkoff win of the season to end a 3-3 homestand, but Marlins have started 0-3 on a six-game road swing. Fish were swept by Dodgers Sunday and now play three at White Sox before heading home. Current pace: 60-102.

5. HEAT: Might Beal give Miami one last summer splash?: No Russell Westbrook? No problem. Pat Riley worked some magic in a four-team trade to get Jimmy Butler, and might not be done yet as speculation swirls that Riles may be seeking a trade with Washington to acquire rising star Bradley Beal (and if, necessary, injured John Wall as a package deal). Give the Heat this. Miami has been a player in what was supposed to be a dead summer for the club.

6. HURRICANES: Diaz leads UM at ACC Media Days: Coach Manny Diaz, linebacker Shaq Quarterman and receiver K.J. Osborn repped The U at ACC Media Days. They'd have brought a starting quarterback but they don't have one yet. Clemson rules the ACC, but Canes are seen as a strong contender to win the Coastal Division.

7. DAN LE BATARD: Radio hosts blasts Trump, ESPN: Le Batard went on an impassioned four-minute rant against those "send her back" chants at a Trump rally, calling them "un-American," and calling "cowardly" his own network's policy against political talk on the air. The equation: Dan's principles > threat of suspension. 

8. SOCCER: International Champions Cup underway: The creation of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is in midst of seventh edition of its tournament, its 12 teams including giants like Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Real Madrid. No matches in Miami this time, alas. However, Hard Rock Stadium has a Barcelona-Napoli La Liga match coming up August 7. You better be here, Messi!  

9. BOXING: Ageless Pacquiao defies time, wins again: Filipino hero Manny Pacquiao, 40, handed unbeaten Keith Thurman his first career loss in a split decision Saturday night in Vegas to claim the WBA welterweight title. The downside: Could create momentum for yet another Pacquiao-Mayweather bout.

10. CYCLING: Will French drought finally end in Tour de France?: Two-thirds through cycling's biggest race, it is beginning to look like Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe could be the man to finally end France's 34-year drought of no homegrown. Thus exhausts all of my knowledge on the subject. Quick aside: Why do regular people riding bikes dress like they're in the Tour de France? Just so you know, motorists are making fun of you.

Missing the HB10 cut: Sierra Canyon High School outside of L.A. just added a 5-star transfer recruit to a basketball roster already including  the teenage sons of Dwyane Wade (Zaire) and LeBron James (Bronny). Can we just cancel the season and hand them the trophy, please? ..... Hossein Ensan, a 55-year-old German, beat 8,568 other competitors to win the $10 million first-place prize in the 2019 World Series of Poker main event in Vegas. Mamas, put a deck of cards in Junior's crib. No chips, though. Choking hazard! ..... The eight-team 2019 season of World TeamTennis is underway, for those of you who, like me, were under the assumption the WTT had stopped being a thing, like, 30 years ago ..... All of the top U.S. World Cup stars are back with their club teams in the National Women's Soccer League. Another phrase for this is, "Falling off the face of the Earth" ..... MLB trade deadline is July 31. Marlins need bats. But not as much as they to not trade top prospects ..... The FINA World Aquatics Championships are underway in South Korea. I'll see you there! ..... The Rugby Championship is underway to determine best team in Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand and Australia are always up there ..... BIG3 basketball continues, and America continue to not care ..... That reminds me. The WNBA All-Star Game is coming up ..... Update: Countdown now 2,527 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

MEET THE HIGHWOMEN: This is the country supergroup fronted by Maren Morris and Brandi Carlile, and I love everything I've heard from them so far, including this first single, "Redesigning Women," from their forthcoming debut album. Love the music, the smart lyrics, but as much as that I love the very idea of a female group trying to break the old boys' club and carve a meaningful inroad into male-clogged country radio. More power to them. Give a listen:

Select other 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 / Coco's Wimbledon Runs Ends, But U.S. Tennis Just Found Its Next Big Thing / 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 06, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

July 01, 2019

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

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

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

Click here for My Heat/Jimmy Butler column.

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

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

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

Hotbutton1. SOCCER: U.S. women blast into World Cup semifinals: U.S. faces England  Tuesday in the Women's World Cup semifinals, after eliminating host France 2-1 in the quarters -- the American side once again led by Megan Rapinoe. It's Netherlands vs. Sweden in the other semifinal on Wednesday. America's fourth World Cup title and second straight is close enough to taste now. On my count: "Let's gooooo States!"  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 22, 2019

Drip or swag, Herro brings what Heat needs. New column; plus Riley needs to have hit big in draft, Panthers go goalie in draft, O.J. Simpson on Twitter and reaction, latest Back In My Day (Band-Aids!), Taylor Swift's message & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JUNE 22. Excited about the inaugural Miami Beach Pop Festival Nov. 8-10 on the sands of South Beach -- especially The Raconteurs, who are second-line on the bill but should be co-headliners. 2) Here's the new Back In My Day that premiered this week on the Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio/ESPNews: BIMD: Band-Aids! 3) Always football season, so always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life, here: Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Father's Day, Taylor Swift anti-hate video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

TherroDRIP AND SWAG, SPARK AND SPLASH AS HEAT INTRODUCE HERRO: Tyler Herro’s personality can be loud. That we know already. Will his NBA game be just as loud? Half of the fun is in the finding out. Meantime let’s appreciate the personality while fans hope the skills back it up. We need it. The down Miami Heat franchise needs it. South Florida sports needs it. He boasted on draft night Thursday that he had “the most drip in the room” -- as a million older white folks like myself probably said, “What’d he just say? The most what!?” The most drip as in street slang for the most swagger. The most drip as in the floral purple jacket he wore to his entree into the NBA. The most drip as in the rope of gold chain around his neck, and the fat, blingy watch on his left wrist. His game backs it up. "He checks every single box," said Pat Riley on Friday as he introduced Herro. To read my newest column, please visit Drip Or Swag, Herro Brings It, And Heat Need It

WHY HEAT, RILEY NEED TO HIT BIG WITH HERRO AS NO. 1 DRAFT PICK: The pressure isn't on Kentucky guard Tyler Herro to be great as much as it's on Heat president Pat Riley to have been spot-on in seeing greatness in the kid. Riley ended a draft slump by getting Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson in the previous two drafts. Now he needs to keep the run going with last night's bounty: Herro (pictured), whom most mock drafts pegged going a bit lower than 13th overall, and Stanford forward KZ Okpala, whom the Heat traded up to select in the second round. If either or both can become starters or at least promising rotation contributors -- if both show promise -- Miami's roster will look a lot better a year from now to available 2020 free agents when the Heat next has big money to spend. I explore all of this in my column on the pick. To read, visit Heat, Riley Need To Have Hit Big With Herro

THE LIST: HIGHEST HEAT DRAFT PICKS IN RILEY ERA: The Miami Heat's five highest NBA Draft selections of the Pat Riley era:

No.   Year   Player, Pos., School                         Draft grade

2      2008   Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State  D: 12.3 points over 4 seasons here. OK, but not for 2nd overall

5      2003   Dwyane Wade, G, Marquette          A+: Is an explanation really necessary?

10    2002   Caron Butler, F/G, UConn               B: Only 2 years here, but key player in trade that brought Shaq

10    2015   Justise Winslow, G/F, Duke             C: Grade still incomplete, but climbing. Coming off best season

13   2019   Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky                 ???: The fun is in the finding out

SpencerknightPANTHERS GO GOALIE IN NHL DRAFT: Florida Panthers Friday night selected America goaltender Spencer Knight, 18, with the 13th overall pick in the NHL Draft. Best goalie in the draft at a position of urgent need = smart pick. ESPN's scouting report: "The things that makes Knight (pictured) exceptional among his goaltending peers is elite hockey sense, tremendous athleticism balanced with controlled play, great footwork and size and elite puck-moving abilities. I don't put huge value on a goalie's puckhandling skills, but Knight's are so good it's hard not to mention. Knight has really grown a lot in his confidence and poise in the net. There's such little flash in Knight's game, and that's a good thing. He's just always in the right spot because he tracks and anticipates as well as any goalie prospect I've seen in the past few years." Cats still will pursue veteran all-star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in coming free agency. It all spells the likely end of the line for longtime Panther Roberto Luongo, a franchise great but now 40.   

PatdanceHEAT'S FALL FROM CENTER OF PARADE TO SPECTATORS: To quote the top of my own new column in what may or may not be a fit of narcissism: "We were the parade, once. Now we’re on the curb, watching. The NBA is somebody else’s party now. Miami has gone from epicenter to spectator. Basketball summers in South Florida were nearly as exciting as the seasons because Pat Riley and the Heat could be expected to be 'in the room' with top free agents. Now here we are, water all around us and not a whale in sight. Being out of the playoffs is bad enough. Being out of the mix might be worse." Tonight is the NBA Draft, then comes free agency -- basketball's big summer -- but the Heat (selecting 13th overall tonight) figures to be pretty quiet. I explore how and why in my recent column. To read, kindly visit Heat Can Only Watch As Seismic Talent Shift Quakes NBA. Pictured: Been a minute since Riley was happy enough to dance over the fortunes of his franchise. 

OjathomeO.J. SIMPSON IS ON TWITTER. UH OH: Disgraced former Bills star escapes on two murder charges, later serves nine years for armed robbery, is paroled, spends a couple of quiet years under the radar in Vegas and -- now -- reemerges on social media with a Twitter account @TheRealOJ32. "I got a little gettin' even to do," he says in his first video. Wants to "set the record straight," he says in another. What he really wants, obviously, to to remake his image into the good guy who did his time and now wants back into the mainstream. (A smiling O.J. is pictured outside his home in Las Vegas in a recent Los Angeles Times photo that accompanied an AP story headlined, '25 years after murders, O.J. says 'Life is fine'). Simpson isn't the first shamed celebrity to see social media as a means of making over his persona and hoping people will allow him a reboot. The thing is, that is entirely up to us, the public, not up to him. Friendly tweets aren't unlikely to change the minds of the millions who will always think he got away with murder. I explore all of this in my recent column. To read, please visit O.J. Can Tweet What He Wants, But How He's Seen Is Not Up To Him. Below, a Twitter response to an O.J. tweet that is, frankly, what Simpson had to know he was getting into by opening himself up to social media:

Ojexchange

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our other most recent columns: Heat Must Dump Bad Contracts Starting With Whiteside, Dragic / Why Florida Panthers Are Poised To (Finally) Be The Next Big Thing U.S. Women's Soccer Should Be Celebrated -- No Apologies / Miami Dolphins Will Be Better Than You Think In 2019 / Inter Miami Aiming High With Barca's Suarez / Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

#YNTCDMUSICVIDEO: I posted the lyric video for this in my previous blogpost. Here's the proper full video, with array of cameo appearances. The song is good. The message is better:Other select recent columns: Durant Legacy Wobbles With Finals Reinjury / Reasons To Like Flores & 5 Keys To Dolphins Season / For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress / Buckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness /End The Illogical Shame and Honor Schnellenberger / Meet Tyler Gaffalione: Local Jockey Who Made It Big / Smart Decision A No-Brainer: Dolphins Should Start Rosen / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About More Than Golf / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / And our Dwyane Wade Farewell Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And 30-point Star; and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T.

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

June 01, 2019

For Marlins, an encouraging 2 weeks. New column; plus Drama Kings: How NBA won America. With 2 Finals polls; also, the complicated legacy of Bill Buckner, Miami sports' Top 15 athletes 25-and-younger, latest Back In My Day (Food Trucks!) & more

1) It's SATURDAY, JUNE 1. Happy new month, all! Farewell, May. See you next year. 2) Find the new Back In My Day video (Food Trucks!) just below here. 3) It's always football season, so it's always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Learn more or buy on Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Miami sports sucks yeah but has company, Memorial Day tribute video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

MarlinsTHESE ARE THE MARLINS. AN ENCOURAGING HALF-MONTH IS A START: Though Miami lost 3-1 to the Giants Thursday at Marlins Park (I was there) and 5-2 in San Diego Friday to open a road trip, the Fish were a neat 9-5 the past two weeks to end May, a notable upturn after ending the first quarter of the season a dreadful, record-threatening 10-31. Around here, right now, in the midst of a franchise reboot, you take an encouraging half month. You take any reason to try on optimism and hope it fits. For my column, from the ballyard, kindly visit For Marlins, An Encouraging Two Weeks Is Progress. P.s., as a kid who grew up a Carl Yastrzemski fan, it was nice to personally witness grandson Mike Yastrzemski, the Giants rookie, collect his first major-league RBI yesterday. Yaz 2.0 is 28 and played parts of seven minor-0league seasons. Kid didn't coast on his name; he paid those proverbial dues.

Gstor2HOW BASKETBALL BECAME AMERICA'S MOST INTERESTING SPORT: The mess enveloping LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors vs. Raptors/Steph Curry vs. Kawhi Leonard NBA Finals and when Kevin Durant will return. The Zion Williamson draft. Free agency and where Durant, Leonard, Anthony Davis (by trade) and other stars will end up. For all its drama, the NBA has become the most interesting league and sport in America. Or so I make the case in my latest column. To read it, please visit Drama Kings: How NBA Became America's Most Interesting Sport. An added element of interest in these Finals that start tonight is a Canadian team playing for the title for the first time. Ordinarily, much of America outside of Oakland might be predisposed to root for the underdog and against the dynasty. But in this case that means rooting for Canada over the American team. Does it matter? Maybe it's only during the Olympics and World Cup that we think about such things. In any case we present our NBA Finals "Head vs. Heart" polls -- the will and want polls. The first is which team you predict will win -- who you'd bet your money on. The second is who you want to win -- who you''ll be rooting for. Vote now in both!

BbucknerTHE COMPLICATED LEGACY OF BILL BUCKNER: It is wrong, in remembering Bill Buckner, to not appreciate a well above average 22-year MLB career. He was an all-star. Won a batting title. Had a .289 career average. But it also is wrong that a story about that man and career upon his death might not emphasize the one thing for which he is most (unfortunately) remembered -- that infamous 1986 World Series error. I dive into Buckner's complicated legacy in my recent column, from the perspective of a lifelong Red Sox fan who once despised him but outgrew that misplaced passion. To read, please Buckner Legacy One Of Notoriety And Forgiveness.

FutureTHE FUTURE: MIAMI SPORTS' TOP 15 ATHLETES 25 AND YOUNGER: What’s next? Who’s next? What is the path forward from losing for the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers — and who will find it? We last did one of these best-25-and-younger lists in 2013 and I’m surprised to say only one player from that top 10 remains in town. Hopefully our Big Four teams will do a better job hanging onto our expanded list of young talent. In forming the ranking we combined current quality with potential, how essential the player is in his team’s plans, and how good we imagine they’ll be in, say, three years. To read our recent column and see the Top 15 U-25 list, please visit Ranking Dolphins, Heat, Marlins & Panthers' Best Young Players.

Other most recent columns: Take Heart, South Florida. We're Bad, But Hardly Alone / Riley, Heat, Everyone Else Chasing Warriors' Epic Greatness / 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 / All The Ways Dolphins Are Finally Headed Right / Inter Miami's Demolition Ceremony Begins Frantic Race To The Finish / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Brady Is As Brady As Ever / Marlins Losing Big Now, But A Future Is Emerging.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': FOOD TRUCKS!: Food truck owners, don't take this personally...

THREE POWERHOUSE WOMEN VOCALISTS = ONE GREAT SONG: Sheryl Crow. Bonnie Raitt. Mavis Staples. Three of my favorites, together on one song. What could go wrong? Nothing. For me, this song chugs like a locomotive in no hurry. Love the lyrics, the mix of vocals, everything. Hope you might, too. This is a vocals-only vid, but no worry. Close your eyes and let these voices and Bonnie's sublime slide guitar carry you away.

Select other recent columns: Welcome to the New America, Lexi Thompson / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Everything Aligning for Dolphins to Land Tagovailoa in '20 / 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

May 27, 2019

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 and what else falls where this week. (Toronto!?!); plus 2019 Sports Fan Misery Index (latest column), 50,000 Names (Memorial Day) & more

Memday1) It's MONDAY, MAY 27. It is Memorial Day in America. Please hesitate to wish someone a "happy" Memorial Day, bearing in mind it is a day to remember and honor our servicemen and women who lost their lives serving in the United States Armed Forces. Below is a video honoring those soldiers. 2) It's always football season, so it's always the right time to check out our 'Fins At 50' book for the Dolfans in your life. Learn more or buy on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The new Sports Fan Misery Index, genuflecting to Warriors' greatness, getting to know Tyler Gaffalione, new Raconteurs video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

MiseryLatest column: Miami sports suck right now. But oh do we have company!: Dolphins: No championship in 45 years. Panthers: Last won hockey playoff series 22 seasons ago. Marlins: Haven’t made postseason in 13 years or had winning record in 10. (Even the reliable Heat missed the playoffs). So how bad do we have it in South Florida pro sports? I did the research and was stunned to find, for example, that the Fins' 45-year title drought doesn't even make the Top 20 for such futility. If misery loves company, this your column, Miami, as we present the new Sports Fan Misery Index encompassing the 123 franchises in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. To read, please visit Take Heart, South Florida. We're Bad, But Hardly Alone.

Other most recent columns: Riley, Heat, Everyone Else Chasing Warriors' Epic Greatness / 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 / All The Ways Dolphins Are Finally Headed Right / Inter Miami's Demolition Ceremony Begins Frantic Race To The Finish / Maximum Security's Disqualification Is Kentucky Derby's Ultimate Stain / Brady Is As Brady As Ever / Marlins Losing Big Now, But A Future Is Emerging.

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. NBA: Finally, a Finals! It's Golden State vs. Toronto!?: Golden State's long wait to know its NBA Finals opponent is over after sweeping Portland. And that opponent, unexpectedly, is Toronto, which rallied from 15 down at home Saturday night to oust top-seeded Milwaukee and reach its first Finals. Meaning we now must all accept the dreadful hashtag #WeTheNorth. All hail, Kawhi Leonard! For now. King Warriors and Steph Curry are heavy favorites in Finals that start Thursday. Defending champ Golden State playing with extra rest is like Warren Buffett getting a raise.

2. NHL: Boston-St. Louis Finals begins Monday: The Boston Bruins are favored to continue that city's recent across-sports dominance vs. the underdog St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Finals beginning Monday. The Blues were last in the Finals in 1970, and, as we know in Miami, anything that happened even before the Dolphins' first Super Bowl win is officially ancient history.

3. MARLINS: Signs of life for the Fish, sort of: Miami won a season-best six games in a row before dropping the first three games of a four-game set at Washington. Marlins are at Nationals again today before returning home vs. San Francisco. For Miami, odds of finishing worse than the '62 Mets are now suddenly and seriously in jeopardy.

4. TENNIS: Nadal, Halep favorites in French Open: The French Open began in Paris Sunday with Rafael Nadal favored to win his 12th men's crown in the event and Simona Halep the betting pick to repeat her women's title. An odd sight: Serena Williams only the fifth favorite among women. Then again it's a major she has won "only" three times, and not since '15.

5. AUTO RACING: Pagenaud wins Indy 500 roars at the Brickyard: The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 happened Sunday with defending champion Will Power (still love that name) the betting favorite, but ti was Frenchman Simon Pagenaud who lifted the milk bottle. It's the only day on the American motorsports calendar when IndyCar reigns and NASCAR must curtsy.

6. INTER MIAMI: OK, so now they're building three stadiums!?: The David Beckham/Jorge Mas team set to debut in Major League Soccer next year is building a new Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale to play the first two seasons while their permanent Miami Freedom Park home is built. Now they've secured land in Overtown for a potential stadium as well -- perhaps a fallback if the Melreese site falls through? This team better be a beautiful baby, because the pregnancy has shall we say not been smooth.

7. UM BASEBALL: Canes disappoint in ACCs, await NCAA fate: Splitting two games in the ACC Tournament, and blowing a five-run lead in the second, wasn't what coach Gino DiMare had in mind for his 16th-ranked Canes. Now Miami awaits its postseason destination in the NCAA Division 1 Selection Show on Monday. Of course UM will get in. The question: Will Miami host a regional?

8. DOLPHINS: Six workdays left before training camp: Miami has remaining OTA practice days May 28-29 and 31 and then a mandatory minicamp June 4-6. Then it's off for a few weeks before the start of full training camp in late July. All of it leading to what is expected to be a dreadful season!

9. SOCCER: Ticket snafu shadows start of Women's World Cup: The quadrennial event kicks off June 7 in France (two of the 24 teams have been training in SoFla), with the defending champion United States playing its first match June 11. But before any of that there's outrage from fans over ticketing. Say you bought four tickets to Game X. Well, they might not be together! I mean, seriously?

10. SOCCER: Liverpool favored in Champions League final: An all-England Champions League final this coming Saturday In Madrid finds Liverpool a solid betting pick over Tottenham. Some of that is Liverpool seeking its sixth European crown and Tottenham its first. More of it is Liverpool with nine wins vs. only one loss (with four draws) in past 14 league matches vs. the Hotspur.

Missing the HB10 cut: Gabreille Union said on late-night TV that Dwyane Wade was surprised to learn a carton of milk didn't cost $20. Welcome to The Real World Of Rich-Guy Retirement, D-Wade! ..... Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard left to be head coach at his alma mater, Michigan ..... Congrats to the Canes' Estela Perez-Somarriba for winning just the second individual national title in women’s tennis in UM history ..... A Bills player is wearing O.J. Simpson's No. 32 for first time since 1976. Begging the question: Why?!? ..... All-NBA teams came out and LeBron James, for the first time, was relegated to third team. Oh the indignity! ..... A 19-year-old top baseball prospect skipped the MLB Draft to sign with Japan. Dear MLB: Pay your draftees more or see a trend ..... It's Finland vs. Canada Sunday in an expected gold medal game in the IIHF men's ice hockey world championships in Slovakia. Four Florida Panthers represented their country and one is skating for gold: Juho Lammikko of Team Finland ..... WNBA's 23rd season is underway. I'll check back in around the Finals ..... Former NFL star Chris Long admitted he regularly smoked marijuana and got away with it. Roger Goodell is looking into retroactive punishment for retirees ..... Several female squash competitors were outraged after they were given sex toys after a tournament in Spain. We're going to leave it at that and move on! ..... Update: Countdown now 2,583 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

IN HONOR OF MEMORIAL DAY AND OUR FALLEN SOLDIERS: I post this same video every year on Memorial Day. "50,000 Names" is a George Jones song released in 2001. It is specifically about the names carved on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial but, more broadly, it is a tribute to all who have given their lives in service in the U.S. Armed Forces. To anyone reading who has lost a loved one, we remember yours and all of our fallen heroes today.

Select other recent columns: Welcome to the New America, Lexi Thompson / Dolphins Land Big Prize in Wilkins / Everything Aligning for Dolphins to Land Tagovailoa in '20 / Oh To Be Hated Again! Lean Times For Miami Sports / Why Tiger's Masters Triumph Is About So Much More Than Golf / In Joel Quenneville, Panthers Get Their Riley, Their Shula / Dwyane Wade Trilogy: The Last Star: Post-Wade, Miami Sports Is BereftWade Fittingly Goes Out A Winner And A 30-point Star and Thank You, Dwyane Wade, Miami's G.O.A.T. / Why Tannehill's Legacy Probably Isn't What You Think / Case For Kaepernick's Comeback As A Dolphin / Transgender-Athlete Firestorm A Necessary Debate / Across the Rio Grande to the PGA Tour / From Dark and Empty to Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50.

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

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Twitter @gregcote