Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: ESPNFL, NBA Draft

Today's Calls: NFL vs. ESPN, Michael Beasley vs. OJ Mayo, Carmelo vs. Nuggets, USA Hoops vs. Chris Paul, Mark Teixeira vs. Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Dempster vs. Justin Duchscherer, Brandon Jennings vs. the NCAA, Fresno State vs. Cinderella, Candace Parker vs. Gravity, NHL vs. KHL, George Carlin vs. Baseball and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Is the NFL taking over ESPN Classic? ↵

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↵If you weren't looking at the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, you may have missed what would be the biggest sports media story of the decade: The NFL Network and ESPN are rumored to be joining forces to turn ESPN Classic into ... um ... "ESPN Football?" Hmm: "ESPN Goodell?" ↵

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↵Got it: "ESPNFL." ↵

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↵The NFL Network desperately needs wider distribution; ESPN would love a tighter relationship with the most popular sports league, including those coveted 8 Thursday/Saturday games. ↵

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↵Fans would win. (Well, except for projected increases in what is likely already your chokingly high cable bill.) ↵

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↵Questions remain about how ESPN could objectively cover the NFL when they have an even more vested interest in boosting it, but there is a check in place: Beyond the games themselves, most fans can tell the difference between analysis and P.R. ↵

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↵The bigger question is: Can there ever be too much of the NFL on TV? It looks like we might be about to find out. ↵

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↵NBA Draft Mania: The NBA Draft is my favorite pro sports event of the year, and I can't get enough of the rumors and innuendo: ↵

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↵Is Seattle trying to vault from No. 4 to No. 2, so they can grab Michael Beasley and fascinatingly pair him with Kevin Durant? ↵

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↵(If the Heat dropped to No. 4, there is a good bet they can still get their guy OJ Mayo ... unless the T'wolves grab him at No. 3.) ↵

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↵I am finalizing my mock draft -- coming Wednesday -- and, among other things, I am projecting the Knicks to make a bold move. ↵

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↵The Suns are rumored to be working on a makeover: Boris Diaw to the Raptors for TJ Ford and the No. 17? Leandro Barbosa to the Blazers for Martell Webster and the No. 13? Hmm: Hey, why not both? ↵

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↵The Nuggets insist they won't trade Carmelo Anthony, and they are rumored to have turned down a deal with Detroit that would have netted them Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince. ↵

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↵(I think that's a mistake: Despite age issues, Billups-AI is a perfect backcourt; Prince is a lock-down SF defender and Melo's scoring can be picked up by everyone else.) ↵

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↵Olympic Hoops: The 12-player team (with more pressure to bring home gold than any in U.S. Olympic history) will be revealed today, but half the roster seems public already, including the latest: Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. (The real drama: Will Chris Bosh be on the roster? How could he NOT be?) ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: Justin Duchscherer is the hottest pitcher in baseball. He hasn't lost in June (4-0 this month) and leads the AL in ERA (1.99). ↵

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↵Second City Sweep: After trading "hot" labels over the last few weeks, the Cubs swept the White Sox to earn intra-city bragging rights. Ryan Dempster is making a run at the All-Star game with his 9th win (9th straight at home). ↵

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↵The AL Central's latest sizzling team? The Twins, who swept the D'backs (beating Brandon Webb) and have won 6 straight. ↵

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↵Justin Verlander had his biggest win of the season: His 1st road win of 2008, in San Diego, featuring 10 Ks. ↵

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↵Speaking of firsts, Cito Gaston got his 1st win as Jays manager ... um, this stint, at least. It was the Jays' 1st win in 8 games. ↵

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↵Walk-Off Watch: Kevin Youkilis, who won the game for the Red Sox in the 13th with a HR, his 2nd of the game (and 13th of the season). ↵

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↵Fantasy Stud: Mark Teixeira, who clubbed 3 HR leading the Braves over the Mariners. (Runner-up: Prince Fielder, with 2 HR). ↵

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↵Is Curt Schilling's career over? It's not like he doesn't have a choice fallback as baseball's next great TV talking head. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, is Schilling a Hall of Famer? By the numbers, he might be borderline; add in his rings and media manipulation, and he's a lock. ↵

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↵I'm kind of obsessed with Pat Venditte, the Yankees' new minor-leaguer who switch-pitches, righty AND lefty. What a gimmick! ↵

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↵CBB: Brandon Jennings is the smartest player in college basketball -- and he won't even be playing college basketball. ↵

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↵He is the best PG of the current class of prep seniors. He had committed to Arizona, but might not make the test scores necessary to enroll. It might be the best thing to ever happen to him. ↵

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↵If he was in the 2008 draft, given the current hysteria for talented PGs, he would likely be a Top 5 pick ... but the NBA has decided -- for him -- that he isn't draft-worthy. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the NCAA won't have him, so he is sounding like he will opt out of the whole rigged cartel by playing in Europe. ↵

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↵Perhaps Jennings' forced move will encourage other prep players with no intention of spending more than 1 year in college to skip it for a 1-year paid pro development deal, arguably better for their career than an unpaid year under a college coach. ↵

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↵(Question: Why wouldn't the NBA encourage Jennings to play in the D-League, rather than to flee to Europe? Jennings could cash in with a sweet shoe endorsement AND give the D-League new cachet.) ↵

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↵College World Series: The Fresno State Cinderella story rolls on to the finals, after the Bulldogs ousted UNC in an elim game to continue the most unlikely CWS run in a generation. ↵

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↵Fresno will play Georgia in a best-of-3 for the title starting tonight. Between this and the Final Four, UNC had its 2nd playoff letdown in the last 3 months. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins again, in Sonoma this time, his 5th win of the season, officially nicknamed "This Time, The Bad Guy Wins." ↵

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↵Open-Wheel: Scott Dixon calls Danica a "menace" on the track, which, yes, would qualify as a backlash. It has more impact than usual, given Dixon's status as the IndyCar points leader. ↵

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↵WNBA: Candace Parker dunks, but it's double-edged: It was only the 2nd in-game dunk in league history, particularly meaningful given Parker represents the league's best hope yet for mainstream relevancy. ↵

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↵And yet "woman dunks" is still a novelty item -- a slightly demeaning one, at that. At some point, WNBA dunks need to be so common that they aren't remarkable -- but they do drive buzz for the league. ↵

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↵Euro 08: Final Four is set. Winning Sunday in PKs, Spain will play Russia (which dispatched popular bandwagon fave Holland) in one semi; Germany will play miracle-working Turkey in the other. ↵

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↵NHL: The KHL is coming. Just as the NHL seems ready to turn a corner and regain some relevancy, here comes Russia's KHL. Evgeni Malkin is a target; could Alex Ovechkin be next? ↵

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↵Sports Media: Rumors are rampant that Mike and the Mad Dog will split up, in what should end up as one of the least amicable sports divorces ever. Who gets to keep WFAN? And who bolts for ESPN? ↵

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↵The Last Word: RIP, George Carlin. Among his more memorable bits was one about the difference between football and baseball. Here is a YouTube clip that captures it. (h/t: MDS at Fanhouse) ↵

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↵My favorite part is the way Carlin describes football in an imposing John Facenda-style baritone ... ↵

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↵... Then switches to a Beaver Cleaver-style falsetto to describe baseball. ↵

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↵It is one of the most memorable pieces of sports-related stand-up comedy of all time. ↵

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↵Condolences to his family, friends and many fans. ↵

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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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