Greg Cote’s Hot Button Top 10: Messi’s decision, Dolphins big moves, see-through pants, rugby arrives

GREG COTE’S HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (FEBRUARY 25): WHAT IN SPORTS HAS GRABBED US THIS WEEK: Our Sunday Hot Button Top 10 had been blog-only but when our blog retired it moved, re-imagined, to online-only. HB10 means what’s on our minds, locally and nationally, but from a Miami perspective and accentuating stuff that’s big, weird, damnable, funny or otherwise worth needling as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. Welcome to the 49th edition of your Sunday sports-potpourri notes column, the new HB10:

1. INTER MIAMI: Messi faces big choice this summer. Or will he try to do it all?: The Copa America men’s soccer tournament crowning the de facto South American champion is in U.S. this summer from June 20 to July 14, with final at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium -- and Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi is sure to want to help Argentina defend ts 2021 title. The Paris Olympics open July 26, Argentina has qualified, and Messi will be invited onto that team, too, and likely want to play. Inter Miami coach Tata Martino prefers Messi pick either and not play both -- but the only boss of Messi is Messi. The question: Turning 37 in June, can Messi play Copa America and Olympics for his national team, play in Leagues Cup, CONCACAF Challenge Cup and maybe U.S. Open Cup for Inter Miami and still have enough left to lead a strong finish in MLS?

2. DOLPHINS: Xavien Howard, Emmanuel Ogbah out as free agency nears: Miami will release its longest-tenured player, CB Howard, along with DE Ogbah as free agency nears and the NFL raises its salary cap by a whopping $30.6 million to a record $255.4M per team for 2024. Fins have three of NFL’s top 50 free agents (per ESPN)) in DT Christian Wilkins (No. 5), OG Robert Hunt (14) and C Connor Williams (43). ESPN predicts Miami will lose Wilkins to the Patriots (ouch) and Hunt to the 49ers, but re-sign Williams. They also predict Fins will add one top-50 F.A. in edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney when signing period opens March 13. Keeping Wilkins had better be a priority especially now that the cap is higher.

3. GOLF: Charlie Woods, Tiger’s kid, braves the impossible footsteps: Charlie Woods, 15-year-old son of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, attempted to qualify for his first PGA Tour event and proved not even close to ready, collapsing in the spotlight. Charlie shot 16-over 86 in a pre-qualifying round at the Cognizant Classic in Palm Beach. Tiger was not in attendance but mom Elin Nordegren followed her son -- as did a gallery of at-time raucous fans. I feel for Charlie. The glare will always be on him, and the footsteps he follows are big enough to swallow him.

4. RUGBY: Miami Sharks newest team in crowded SoFla sports market: The Sharks open their inaugural season in Major League Rugby next Sunday March 3 vs. the Chicago Hounds. Miami is the seven-year-old league’s 12th and newest club and latest pro team in an already crowded South Florida market. The Sharks are partnered with Inter Miami and will play at that club’s stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Like the soccer team does with Messi, the Sharks have a strong Argentine flavor, owned by three businessmen from there and coached by former Argentina under-20 manager Jose Pellicena.

5. MLB: Ballplayers’ latest gripe? See-through uniform pants!: The Nike-generated, Fanatics-produced MLB uniforms to be used this season are under fire from players with complaints including see-through pants. Yes, see-through pants! With spring training underway, the MLB Players Association is collecting feedback and hopes changes can be made before Opening Day. The controversial new unis have a lighter feel that also have a look that is more, um, sheer. Nike is scrambling to save face. Players are scrambling to make sure their junk isn’t showing.

6. HURRICANES: Miami men’s hoops cratering at just the wrong time: Canes men’s basketball, once 11-2, has lost six in a row and fallen to 15-13 after Saturday’s home loss to Georgia Tech. UM plays at No. 10 North Carolina on Monday then has two left in the regular season and likely would need to miraculously win the ACC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament after reaching the Final Four last season. (Canes women are 16-10 after three straight losses but still pegged a No. 9 seed in March Madness per ESPN’s latest Bracketology projection.)

7. NBA: Denver’s Jokic joins select club in arcane category: Nikola Jokic became only the the fourth player in NBA history to record at least one triple-double against every league opponent with a 21-points, 19-rebound, 15-assist game vs. Washington. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Maurice Stokes are the only others to have triple-doubled against every opponent. What an obscure, comically arcane statistical category!

8. NHL: Matthews fastest to 50 goals since 1990s: Toronto’s Auston Matthews scored his 50th and 51st goals in his 54th game, the fastest to 50 in 28 years, since Mario Lemieux did it in 50 games in 1995-96. Wayne Gretzky holds the record , reaching 50G in 39 games in 1981-82. Matthews is fourth in current NHL MVP odds, after Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid. The Panthers’ Sam Reinhart has 10th-best odds to lift the Hart Memorial trophy but is a longshot.

9. BOWLING: PBA bowler arrested by Feds during tournament: Well, the Feds knew where to find him. A professional bowler was arrested by U.S. Marshals while competing in Indiana in the U.S. Open tournament and extradited to Ohio to face charges related to possessing child sexual-abuse material. Brandon Novak, 35, of Chillicothe, Ohio, has been a minimally successful pro bowler for more than a decade and has won two PBA Tour events.

10. GAME SHOWS: ‘Jeopardy’ gaffe mistakes both sport and gender: A contestant on Jeopardy, San Francisco resident Deb Bilodeau, was embarrassed by a wrong answer mistook a male U.S. figure skater for a female U.S. gymnast. The category was “40 Years Ago 1984” for $800, and a video showed a youthful Scott Hamilton at the ‘84 Olympics in Sarajevo. Biloddeau quickly buzzed in and answered .... “Who’s Mary Lou Retton?”

Other most recent stuff from me: Playoff expansion great for college football, hugely more pressure for Cristobal, Hurricanes // What to expect of Inter Miami as Messi Year 2 kicks off with win? Absolutely everything // Marlins, off playoff year, fail to build, spend in do-nothing offseason // Date, details for ‘Celebration of Life for Jim Martz’ // History repeats: Belichick ending badly? Halas, Landry and Shula all did, too // Previous HB10 // And my latest podcast: