Greg Cote: Hamlin shuts up the idiots, NFL final 4, Tua’s troubling update in new Hot Button Top 10
GREG COTE’S HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (JANUARY 29): WHAT IN SPORTS HAS GRABBED US LATELY: Our online-only, every-Sunday Hot Button Top 10 is what’s on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective and accentuating stuff that’s major, offbeat, damnable, funny or worth needling as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. Think of it as 10 one-inch mini columns. Welcome to the second edition of the re-imagined HB10:
1. Hamlin speaks at length, disappointing millions of idiots: Bills safety Damar Hamlin spoke in a 6-minute video released Saturday for the first time since suffering a near-fatal cardiac arrest on the field January 2.. He said he waited until it felt right, saying his situation was a lot to process mentally, physically, and spiritually. The video refuted the QAnon crowd and lunatic conspiracy theorists convinced the NFL was trying to cover up his death.
2. NFL: AFC teams win landslide over NFC in rooting interest: Geo-tagged Twitter data indicates that fans in 42 of the 50 U.S. state are rooting for either the Bengals (23 states including Florida) or Chiefs (19) to win the Super Bowl -- versus only six states supporting the Eagles and a mere two for the 49ers. Makes sense, with Cincy the only one of the final four teams yet to win a Super Bowl. Biggest takeaway? Geez, we pretty much hate San Fran, huh?
3. DOLPHINS: Is Tua update prudent/smart ... or worrisome?: First-alternate Tua Tagovailoa was in line to replace either Joe Burrow or Patrick Mahomes in next Sunday’s Pro Bowl but has withdrawn because he reportedly remains in concussion protocol -- a full month after his most recent brain-rattle on December 26. ESPN says the Dolphin QB’s time in protocol has been “deliberate” with multiple meetings with doctors and specialists but that there have been no setbacks. Meanwhile Adam Schefter reported the Dolphins are not expected to pursue Tom Brady. And the angels sang!
4. TENNIS: Nightmare championship weekend at Aussie Open: Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus faced Russian-born Elena Rybakina for the Australian Open women’s title Saturday. The preferred result at least in war-ravaged Ukraine -- that both would lose or withdraw with sprained knees -- did not occur as Sabalenka won. In Sunday’s men’s final anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic won his 10th Aussie title. Father did not attend. Dad had been criticized for posing with pro-Vladimir Putin demonstrators this week.
5. HEAT: Kareem still Riley’s G.O.A.T. That a shot at LeBron?: LeBron James is a week or so from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s long-standing NBA points record of 38,387. Miami Heat prez Pat Riley coached both. “I always said Kareem was the greatest of all time [with] the greatest weapon [skyhook] in the history of the game,” Riley told ESPN. “He’ll always be the guy.” Hmm. Likely a different tune if LeBron hadn’t disrespected Riley and left Miami with bad blood gurgling in 2014.
6. HURRICANES: UM bids frosty adieu to offensive coordinator: He arrived at Miami from Michigan hailed as a major hire at offensive coordinator. He lasted one season. Here was The U’s entire press release to announce his firing: “CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Josh Gattis has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator, Miami head football coach Mario Cristobal announced Friday.” No thanks for the effort, no good luck in the future. Cold in here!
7. INTER MIAMI: Pink says new star Martinez may be the perfect fit: Inter Miami’s newest star, Josef Martínez, former MLS MVP, may have been destined to sign last week with a team whose color scheme includes all-pink uniforms, plays at DRV PNK Stadium, and introduced him during a preseason game in a cloud of pink smoke. Martinez’s current hair color is a sort of blondish-copper, but he played much of last year in Atlanta with a bright pink ‘do.
8. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Bethune-Cookman: Bold to running scared in 25 days: FCS Florida football program Bethune-Cookman entered into an agreement to hire Hall of Famer Ed Reed as coach and pulled out 25 days later -- tantamount to firing him before they’d really hired. Thought he was HBCU’s next Coach Prime. Then got scared after he cursed in a social media rant about poor campus conditions. You made a bold hire, B-C. Should-a balled up and stuck with it.
9. GOLF: McIlroy, Reed on front lines in Golf War: The PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf acrimony showed again as LIV defector and aggressive litigant Patrick Reed tried to say hello to Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic and was frostily rebuffed -- throwing a tee at McIlroy in response. “Yeah, I was subpoenaed by his lawyer on Christmas Eve,” McIlroy explained. “Trying to have a nice time with family and someone shows up on your doorstep and delivers that, you’re not going to take it well.” UFC needs a golfers-only division.
10. NHL: Florida Panthers limping hosts for All-Star Weekend: NHL’s 67th All-Star Weekend will be in Sunrise for first time since 2003 with Skills stuff this coming Friday and the Game next Saturday. Host Panthers, despite two all-stars in Matthew Tkachuk and replacement-add Aleksander Barkov and despite Saturday’s nice OT win over big bad Boston, enter the showcase as one of hockey’s most disappointing teams at 24-28 and just off playoff pace after last year leading the NHL in scoring with the best regular season in club history.
Other stuff from me this past week: NFL Championship Round playoff picks / Why is Tom Brady in Miami? And is that really Damar Hamlin? / Bethune-Cookman hoped Ed Reed was next Coach Prime -- then got scared / And my latest podcast: