Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Vote, Ben, Vols, AI

Today's Calls: Obama vs. McCain, Big Ben vs. Byron, Phil Fulmer vs. Steve Spurrier, AI vs. Billups, Jake Peavy vs. Greg Maddux, Greg Oden vs. Marc Gasol, LeBron vs. the Ladies and More.
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↵The Opening Pitch: Sports and politics don't mix. ↵

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↵As engaged as sports fans may be by this greatest of all political seasons, ending today, they insist they don't want their sports and their politics to intermingle. ↵

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↵But it is impossible to ignore the intersection. ↵

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↵Not when ESPN is promoting both presidential candidates during halftime of "Monday Night Football." Not when athletes are making newsworthy public pronouncements about candidates they support. ↵

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↵Not when we judge elections on a 538-run scoreboard not unlike something you'd see on a Jumbotron at the stadium. And not when sports' "Moneyball" transformation has worked its way into politics. ↵

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↵Regardless of who carries the election results, there is at least one clear winner of the 2008 political season. Ironically, he is a sports pundit: Nate Silver. ↵

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↵Silver is a managing partner of Baseball Prospectus. He invented BP's "PECOTA" projection system (which happened to correctly call the Rays' rise in '08). Then Silver turned his eyes to his other passion: politics. ↵

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↵Silver launched FiveThirtyEight.com, a site dedicated to electoral polling, bringing with it the same clear-eyed, convention-busting analysis he brought to baseball. And FiveThirtyEight (named for the number of Electoral College votes) has become THE place for election stats. ↵

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↵Like filling out an NCAA Tournament bracket or managing your fantasy team, fans who love politics now have all the data they need to make their own Electoral College projections. Who needs pundits? ↵

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↵And just as fans track their fantasy team, they will scour the Web today and tonight for the latest scoop, not only relying on the mainstream media. Silver's site should be among your must-reads. ↵

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↵If "Moneyball" has signaled more engaged, informed sports fans AND a more engaged, informed electorate, we have entered a golden era for both. ↵

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↵Obama, McCain stump for votes on MNF: When asked what they would fix about sports, McCain talked about curbing use of PEDs. Admirable. Obama talked about creating a college football playoff. Inspirational. ↵

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↵NFL: Big Ben vs. Byron. The bad news for the Steelers? Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder is injured to an unknown extent. ↵

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↵The good news? Backup QB Byron Leftwich had his most productive game in ages, completing 7/10 for 129 yards and a TD with no INTs, leading the Steelers on two scoring drives and a romp over the Redskins in DC. ↵

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↵(And if you are a Barack Obama fan, it's even better news: According to the "Redskins Rule" of Presidential elections, the Skins' loss in the game immediately preceding an election foreshadows an Obama win.) ↵
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↵CFB: Phil Fulmer out at Tennessee. Throughout this worst season ever for Vols fans, it was always "when" not "if." Now the question is "who" -- as in: Who should replace him? ↵

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↵They need a clean break from Fulmer; that's why former Fulmer assistant David Cutcliffe is the wrong choice, despite engineering at Duke an amazing one-season turnaround. ↵

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↵No, I'd take all that booster money and fan fervor and try to woo Mike Leach from Texas Tech, where he isn't even among the top 5 highest-paid coaches in the Big 12. Bring some of that pirate schtick to Knoxville. ↵

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↵(It will NOT be Steve Spurrier, says the Ol' Ball Coach. Although I'm sure it will hearten Vols fans to know that if they had ejected Phil Fulmer 4 years ago, they could have had Spurrier.) ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: AI to Detroit. Allen Iverson may or may not make the Pistons better in 2008 than they were with Chauncey Billups. ↵

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↵(AI does give Detroit one of the most potent individual scorers in the league, in addition to one of the most dynamic court presences.) ↵

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↵But he makes them even better in 2009 and 2010, when Detroit will lose AI's contract and be a player for any top-tier FA -- including LeBron. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, the Pistons DID hold on to Rip Hamilton, whose deal they extended by a couple of years. Long enough to team with LeBron?) ↵

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↵Fantasy Stud: Marc Gasol, who was unstoppable in a Grizz win over the Warriors (27 pts on 9/11 FG shooting, with 16 rebounds). It's like the Spanish rookie center is who we all thought Greg Oden would be. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Jake Peavy to the Yankees? The Padres ace says he would be amenable to being shipped to the Bronx -- or Anaheim. Steinbrenner vs. Moreno, head-to-head? Expect a bidding war. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, K-Rod files for free agency, instantly becoming the most sought-after -- and expensive -- closer out there. Will the Angels ante up to keep him? Will the Mets pay up to find their own Lidge?) ↵

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↵Retirements: Greg Maddux? I can barely remember baseball without him. The minute he retires, we can simply count down the clock until his should-be-unanimous induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. ↵

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↵More NFL: The Browns are ready to start Brady Quinn. That doesn't mean he is ready to be a productive NFL QB, but it will make Thursday's game more intriguing. (Not that anyone will be watching.) ↵

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↵NFL Must-Read: Florio's 10-Pack. ↵

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↵CBB: Hansbrough leads AP All-America team. Are you surprised? It's his 3rd straight season on the team. Plus: Darren Collison, Stephen Curry, Luke Harangody and Blake Griffin. ↵

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↵Can't argue with any of the 5, although the preseason AP team always sells freshmen short; last year's preseason team ignored Michael Beasley. Which frosh are they ignoring this year? USC's DeMar DeRozan. ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Have you seen the Nike ad for LeBron's new shoes? It's as if "Red Shoe Diaries" was now sponsored by the Swoosh. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Vote. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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