Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: Brown, Nadal, Powe

↵Today's Calls: Big Brown vs. Rafael Nadal, Da' Tara vs. Leon Powe, Joe Crede vs. Hanley Ramirez, Roy Halladay vs. Scott Kazmir, Dominik Hasek vs. Kasey Kahne, David Stern vs. Responsible Parenting and More! ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: Epic failure is far more interesting than dominant success. (That's what made the finish of last night's NBA Finals game so interesting, but I'll get to that in a minute.) ↵

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↵The contrast was most embodied this weekend in the difference between Big Brown losing and Rafael Nadal winning: Big Brown's loss at Belmont was the most dramatic sports letdown of 2008. (No offense to Giants fans, but if you thought the Pats losing to the Giants in Super Bowl 42 was an upset, imagine them losing by 40 points, which was the equivalent of 38:1 Da' Tara beating 1:4 Big Brown.) ↵

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↵Compare that to Nadal, whose fourth straight French Open title was ... hmm, how do you say "Meh" in French? Even obliterating world No. 1 Roger Federer the way he did was vastly less interesting than, say, if Nadal had lost. ↵

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↵ ↵Because the second-by-second change of heart while watching the Belmont was fascinating: ↵

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↵At the start, I found myself rooting for the Triple Crown moment; after all, I hadn't known one in my lifetime of conscious fandom ... ↵

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↵Halfway through, I had flipped: I was hoping for Big Brown to lose (but waiting for his big move, as I waited for the Pats' final drive) ... ↵

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↵Finally, as the horses came down the stretch, I was openly rooting for Big Brown not just to lose, but to finish dead last. ↵

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↵Fans are said to love a dominant champ, a dynasty, success for the history books. But I think that we want that champ to LOSE way more. It sounds horrible, but it's true: Aside from an individual thrill when YOUR team wins, schadenfreude is the most powerful feeling in sports. ↵

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↵The thrill of the unexpected -- particularly failure where success was virtually guaranteed -- is why we really love sports. ↵

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↵NBA Finals Game 2: Celtics up 2-0. It is NOT unexpected that the Celtics would win both of their first two home games in this Finals; that has been their M.O. throughout the playoffs. ↵

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↵Far more interesting was the way that the Lakers closed out the game: Down 24 with less than 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Lakers were within 2 with 22 seconds to go. They made up 22 points in less than 8 minutes in the back half of the fourth quarter on the road. ↵

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↵What I'm trying to say is that this series is far from over. ↵

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↵Sure, the Celtics took two shots to the chin in Boston and are still up 2-0, but the Lakers should have every reason to believe they can win the next three in L.A., regain momentum, come back to Boston -- and win. ↵

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↵Powe Powers Celtics: It was refreshing to see a player other than one of the Big Three step up; in this case, it was Leon Powe, who had 21 points in 15 minutes and instantly put himself on the NBA map. ↵

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↵Big Brown loses, cont'd: Future of horse racing? So now it turns out that Big Brown may have been a juicing fraud, just as much as baseball from 1995-2005 and the NFL from forever. ↵

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↵I seriously doubt Big Brown's epic failure had more to do with his missed cycle of Winstrol than everything else combined -- but it makes for a compelling mystery. ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: The White Sox are the new Cubs. With their sixth straight W, the South Siders are the hottest team in baseball. Joe Crede! ↵

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↵AL Notables: Joba Chamberlain is earning a new nickname: "N.D." (but this no decision looked better than the one he got in his first start: 78 pitches Sunday got him 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB). ... Roy Halladay has won four straight starts (but he's not quite as hot as Scott Kazmir, who has six straight Ws). ↵

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↵NL Notables: Hanley Ramirez, the best shortstop in baseball, pops 2 HR. ... Chipper Jones sits with a quad injury; good news for the Phils. ... You know the Nats are bad when Barry Zito gets a W against 'em. ↵

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↵French Open, Cont'd: Nadal rules (again). To put Nadal's destruction of Federer into perspective, consider that Federer was at least the second-best player in the tournament field -- and Nadal killed him. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, if I had to buy stock in any female athlete making a Maria Sharapova-like leap into mainstream marketing consciousness, it would be French Open champ and new No. 1 Ana Ivanovic. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Kasey Kahne has won two of the past three Sprint Cup races, a "white hat" counterbalance to the success of NASCAR villain Kyle Busch. ↵

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↵NHL: Superstar retirement. Dominik Hasek -- one of the greatest goalies in the history of hockey -- is expected to retire today. A six-time Vezina Trophy winner and two-time MVP, Hasek took a backseat to Chris Osgood during the Red Wings' championship run this season. Hasek's finest career moment may have come outside the NHL, when he carried the Czech Republic to Olympic gold in 1998.) ↵

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↵Euro '08: Can't get into the group-round stuff yet. Is the lack of offense so far supposed to be a good thing (close games) or a bad thing (boring games)? Call me when it's "knockout-round" time. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, in advance of the World Cup qualifiers, how did the United States manage to tie Argentina? That's almost enough to make me think the United States has a shot in 2010. Almost.) ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Do the Heat want to trade down from No. 2? It's hardly a secret that Pat Riley (ludicrously) doesn't particularly like future franchise forward Michael Beasley. ↵

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↵And so he is rumored to be willing to drop down, out of the tough spot of basically HAVING to take Beasley but not so far that he can't grab the guy he covets, O.J. Mayo. ↵

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↵The Grizzlies have been bandied about as a potential trading partner; but if Riley is so high on Mayo, and he can't get a deal done to trade down, I'd like to see him have the guts to take Mayo over Beasley at No. 2. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, a hot rumor is that the Pistons want to trade for Carmelo Anthony, which would undo one of the biggest draft debacles of al time, Joe Dumars taking Darko Milicic over Melo.) ↵

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↵CFB: West Virginia up or down? Spencer Hall has a must-read on the Mountaineers, but the column underscores a reality for any wannabe national champ: Schedule matters. ↵

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↵NFL: I cannot get excited that Jeremy Shockey is unhappy with the Giants. He's just too much of a nonfactor. Meanwhile, is Cedric Benson's career over in Chicago? OK, sure, it's hindsight, but the Bears totally should have traded up to take Darren McFadden. ↵

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↵TV Ratings: Last week was a good one for U-turns in several sports. The NHL started things off with their best rankings of the decade (and incredible traffic numbers for NHL.com, too). ↵

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↵The NBA followed suit with a near-10 for Game 1, a 40 percent increase over last season's worst-ever debacle. ↵

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↵Then, the Belmont matched the NBA's rating, up huge over a year ago for obvious reasons. ↵

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↵The lesson: It's not that fans aren't willing to tune in to sports en masse; they simply want it to matter in historically dramatic proportions when they do. (Oh, is that all?) ↵

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↵By the way, David Stern talked about the 9 p.m. ET start times of the Finals games. If you live on the East Coast, they are brutal. ↵

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↵But the league is in a tough spot: Ratings get better as the game goes on, regardless of time (11:30 p.m. ET is a ratings peak.) ↵

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↵This isn't a "But what about the CHILDREN?!" argument; this is an "I'm too old to stay up until 12:30 and function properly the next day" argument. ↵

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↵Sports Media: Why was there not a bigger deal made that Phil Jackson and Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke basically accused Paul Pierce of faking his knee injury? ↵

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↵From Jackson, that's understandable. From Plaschke, that sounds like exactly the kind of unverified rumor-mongering that bloggers get hammered for all the time. (Even I didn't say it.) ↵

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↵But when Plaschke does it, he lines himself up for yet another "Sports Columnist of the Year" award, of which he's the reigning winner. Give me a break: If nothing else, I want no complaints about bloggers. ↵

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↵(Speaking of controversies, here is one that ain't: Jerry Buss was in Vegas playing high-stakes poker the day before Game 2. And that gets a big, fat: SO WHAT?!) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Jim McKay, 86. Most sports fans under the age of, say, that demographic fault line of 35 only knew Jim McKay as "Hey, wasn't he the guy on Wide World of Sports?" ↵

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↵It is virtually impossible to be a sports fan and not have seen the footage of McKay's work during the 1972 Olympics, which -- particularly given that he was a sports host and not a news anchor -- was arguably the most dramatic piece of live news anchoring of the TV era. ↵

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↵It is a testament to his abilities that more than 35 years later, his legacy from that day still stands out. Condolences to his family, friends and 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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