The new year begins oddly on the South Florida sports landscape. Things are out of order. Upside down. Amiss and askew.
The football Hurricanes, Dolphins and Heat are all bad at the same time — a historical anomaly that is nearly unprecedented — while the oft-vilified Marlins and the usually ignored hockey Panthers unexpectedly are the local teams generating the positive vibes.
As it stands right now, this would be only the second time in the 27 seasons of Heat existence that Miami had a losing NBA record during and following the Dolphins and Hurricanes also both finishing non-winning seasons.
The only occurrence so far was when the Dolphins were 1-15 and the Canes 5-7 in 2007, as the Heat were going 15-67 in 2007-08.
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But it is happening now, with the Heat 14-19 approaching midseason entering Saturday’s game, immediately after the Dolphins finished 8-8 and the Canes 6-7.
Dolfans mourn a sixth consecutive non-playoff season, UM fans rattle and hiss against coach Al Golden and Heat fans adjust to the downsized reality of Life After LeBron.
And who should step into the void to take advantage?
The Marlins and Panthers!
The Marlins, typically victims of noxious public relations because of owner Jeffrey Loria’s frugality and unpopularity, are toasts of the town after signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a record long-term contract extension and more recently spending to add other significant pieces. Spring training nears with a sense of buoyant optimism.
And the Panthers are skating hard in search of their first playoff series advance since 1996 with a new coach, a roster of rising young stars and a new six-year contract for one of them, Nick Bjugstad. The Cats finally seem on the ascent for real.
Of course none of this makes Dolphins or Canes fans less angry or disappointed, or Heat fans less anxious about missing the playoffs altogether.
Thank the Marlins and Panthers for the distraction, though — a noble, if futile, attempt.
▪ The Sunday notes column is thrilled to be back after a two-week holiday hiatus. I chose very attainable New Year’s resolutions this time so I wouldn’t be disappointed. For example, I resolved to stop expecting the Dolphins and Hurricanes to both be really good in the same season.
▪ I keep reading how Oregon and Ohio State would not be in the championship game under the old BCS format. Um, maybe that’s just as well, according to people who’d much rather be looking forward to an Alabama-Florida State final.
▪ It’s official. Jim Harbaugh joining Michigan makes Michigan vs. Ohio State (and Urban Meyer) America’s most disliked-coaches matchup other than Alabama (Nick Saban) vs. anybody else.
▪ Oregon claims it will discipline players who chanted “No means no” to mock Jameis Winston’s off-field troubles after beating Florida State. Cannot confirm the discipline will be a crab-legs dinner.
▪ Don’t keep us in suspense, Joe Philbin. Tell us if your list of New Year’s resolutions includes changing defensive coordinators and not putting up with diva receivers who ask to come out of games.
▪ Sack-man Cameron Wake and cornerback Brent Grimes were the only Dolphins to make the Pro Bowl, two more reasons why defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle would be suffering frostbite right now if the ice under him were any thinner.
▪ A camera caught the Cavs’ LeBron James talking to Dwyane Wade after the Christmas game here about maybe “reuniting” someday, but James said the topic was non-basketball. Just as well. With Wade turning 33 this month and James 30, them reuniting as teammates feels like a ship that has left the port.
▪ Meantime, LeBron will be lost to struggling Cleveland for the next two weeks with knee and back ailments. (“There is a Santa Claus!” thought Pat Riley.)
▪ The football Hurricanes finished 6-7 after losing to South Carolina in the Duck Commander Bowl. UM fans clamoring for a coaching change would have preferred it be called the Lame Duck Bowl in Golden’s honor.
▪ Canes star running back Duke Johnson will skip his senior year for the NFL Draft, as expected. God evidently misheard UM fans who’d been praying hard that Duke would stay but Golden would leave.
▪ Congratulations to the Marlins for winning the fictional Winter World Series with a refreshingly aggressive, big-spending offseason. Careful about high expectations, though. Last time this franchise had those, Ozzie Guillen praised Fidel Castro, the Fish fizzled and a fire sale erupted.
▪ Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordon on the NBA’s career scoring list. The national group People Who Think That Means Kobe Is Better will be meeting tonight in the Kia. Front seat.
▪ Mo’ne Davis, the 18th female and fourth American girl to play in the Little League World Series, was named Associated Press female Athlete of the Year — almost as if we only dreamed that Serena Williams won the U.S. Open and finished the year as the oldest woman ever to be ranked No.1.
▪ The ESPN documentary The U Part 2 was much lower rated than the original. Bulletin to ESPN: Hurricanes football has not been very good, or very interesting, for a while now.
▪ Parting thought: Howard Schnellenberger referred to the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl as “larger than life.” Rarely has life been more insulted.
Visit Greg’s Random Evidence of a Cluttered Blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote and also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.
Today: Heat at home. Miami is 6-12 at home entering Sunday’s home game against Brooklyn. How that ranks among the franchise’s all-time worst seasons for lowest regular-season home winning percentage:
Dwyane Wade/Pat Riley
Rony Seikaly/Ron Rothstein
*Through 18 of 41 home dates. Note: Club’s only other losing home records were in 1990-91 and 2001-02 (both .439, 18-23).
What South Florida sports fans are talking about
Wild Card Weekend begins Super Bowl tournament: This was the first time since 2007 that all four home teams were favored in the first round. The playoffs began dubiously with Saturday’s opener: Reeling Arizona led by a third-string quarterback against a Carolina team with a losing record. Luckily, the other games involved actual playoff teams.
2. COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Oregon, Ohio State in first playoff-era title game: Oregon handled Florida State and Ohio State upset Alabama to set up the first College Football Playoff-era championship game on Jan. 12. Las Vegas odds-makers have established the Oregon Ducks as heavy favorites to both win the game and also to wear the most hideous uniforms.
Team prepares for nine-day road trip. Maybe that’s good: Injuries, defensive woes and a little thing called “no LeBron” have Miami struggling to stay on playoff pace, along with a 6-12 home record entering Sunday’s downtown date with Brooklyn. After that, the team hits the road for five games out West. Beleaguered Heat fans could probably use the break!
Philbin back for another year despite no playoffs: The Dolphins missing the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year and third in a row under Joe Philbin didn’t keep owner Stephen Ross from announcing Philbin would be back in 2015. What does Ross apparently have in common with a sadist running a limbo contest? Both set the bar very, very low.
Forget football woes, Canes fans; basketball to the rescue! UM men’s basketball was 10-3 entering its first Atlantic Coast Conference game, a big measuring-stick home test against No.3 Virginia here Saturday evening. It’s fair to say Hurricanes fans really like coach Jim Larrañaga. I mean in general, but especially compared with Al Golden.