Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: As American As ...

↵Today's Calls: July 4 vs. Productivity, Brett Favre vs. Rumors, Clay Bennett vs. Sonics fans, Rays vs. Red Sox, Joe Saunders vs. Grady Sizemore, Venus vs. Serena, Knicks vs. Magic, Katie Hoff vs. Dara Torres, Competitive Eating vs. Competitive Kicking and More! ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: Heading into July 4, nothing says "American dream" like the biggest headlines hitting the radar today: ↵

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↵Tampa Rays: Work hard, you can make it!
↵Clay Bennett: Capitalism, um, rules?
↵NBA Free Agency: Land of opportunity!
↵A-Rod, wife split: Land of divorce!
↵Olympic trials: National pride!
↵Wimbledon: Showing up the English!
↵Brett Favre: Iffy retirement planning!
↵Hot Dog Eating: Epidemic of obesity!
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↵Happy 4th everyone! Enjoy a safe, relaxing, gluttonous long weekend. ↵

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↵On to today's must-know storylines, including Favre's unretirement, A-Rod's unmarriage, Tampa's joy, Seattle's heartbreak and more ... ↵

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↵Brett Favre unretirement rumor: My big question is ... and? Any fan who knows Favre's schtick was saying that THE DAY HE RETIRED. ↵

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↵Favre doesn't even strongly deny it ("It's all rumor"), which doesn't surprise me; his media neediness has always been Hall-of-Fame level. Let me make myself clear: I would be surprised -- shocked -- if Favre DIDN'T come back, despite his so-called "retirement." ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, can you call it "unretirement" if it seems like he never really had any sincere intention to leave the game in the first place?) ↵

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↵The most entertaining possible outcome to all this? Favre comes back, just not with the Packers. Mike Florio has a few possible alternative teams for Favre. ↵

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↵A-Rod splits with his wife: After this week of rumors swirling about A-Rod and Madonna, it is not particularly surprising. ↵

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↵The breakup doesn't seem to have fazed A-Rod. Quite the opposite: He hit HR No. 17 last night in an 18-run Yankees pile-on vs. Texas. (That good enough for ya, Hank?) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, rumors are flying that Cynthia Rodriguez is having her own affair ... with Lenny Kravitz. This is the best sports story ever. ↵

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↵Rays sweep Red Sox: At this rate, the Rays won't have to learn how to beat the Red Sox at Fenway. If Tampa maintains the better record all the way into the playoffs, the Red Sox will have to learn how to win at the Trop. ↵

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↵Evan Longoria likely punched his ticket to the All-Star Game as an AL reserve by going 3-4 with 3 RBIs. ↵

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↵(Oh, let me follow up my column from earlier this week questioning Rays attendance with this mea culpa: Local Tampa TV ratings for Monday's series opener with the Red Sox were the highest in franchise history. Fans may find the games hard to get to -- and given the Trop's location, they have a point -- but they ARE watching. More reason: Rays rule!) ↵

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↵Speaking of All-Stars, the rosters will be announced on Sunday (voting ended last night). The big drama: Will six Red Sox make the AL starting lineup for a game at Yankee Stadium. ↵

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↵Monday will bring "Final Man" voting, perhaps my favorite All-Star gimmick: Where fans take a couple "snubs" from each league, then vote for one to be added to the All-Star roster. ↵

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↵More MLB Instant History: Joe Saunders is a lock for the All-Star team; he earned his 12th W last night. ... I think Grady Sizemore bashed his way into the All-Star Game, too (2 HR gives him 21 total). ... Would it be ludicrous to suggest Jay Bruce (2 HR) get a spot on the NL All-Star team? (How about saving one guaranteed roster spot on each side for a rookie?) ... Walkoff Watch: Troy Glaus. ... With the D-backs loss to the Brewers, the NL West's "best" is officially under .500. ↵

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↵Seattle sells out, Clay Bennett wins: It cost him a mere $45M to buy the city of Seattle's acquiescence to let the Sonics leave town. ↵

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↵There will be no two-year exit plan; the team will leave immediately for Oklahoma City, with a new name and new team colors. Please stop referring to them as the "Sonics"; that team doesn't exist anymore. ↵

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↵Seattle will get another $30M -- 5 years from now -- if the NBA hasn't agreed to put a new team in the city. Bottom line: Clay Bennett wins. ↵

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↵NBA Free Agency: Corey Maggette is a cause celebre. Looks like he will be stuck taking the mid-level exception at a huge cut from the Clippers salary he opted out of. ↵

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↵On the other hand, this has prompted rumors that he might join a top contender for a shot at a ring, which would surely improve his free-agency stock a year from now. His fan cred has skyrocketed. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, I think Josh Smith ends up in Philly; just a hunch. ... Chris Duhon is reportedly down to the Knicks and Magic. If he wants to win, Orlando should be the pick; if he wants to start, he should go to New York. ↵

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↵NBA Summer: Michael Beasley was hurt in his very first practice with the Heat when he took an elbow to the chest. (Undoubtedly, Pat Riley must resist his urge to make a "no heart" comment.) ↵

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↵NHL Free Agency: Marian Hossa takes less for a chance at a Cup with the Red Wings; regardless of sport, that is my favorite kind of free agent. ... Vogue summer intern Sean Avery signs with the Stars; he will miss the glamour of New York. ↵

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↵Olympics: Katie Hoff is the new Michael Phelps. Last night, she made it 4-for-4 in her swimming events, including yesterday's 200 free and 200 IM (setting new American records in both). ↵

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↵OK, you can not care about swimming, but you have to follow the fate of Dara Torres, trying to make the Olympic team (again) at age 41. ↵

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↵CBB: More bad news for Indiana. The hoops program will lose two scholarships, because all the defections are expected to tank its academic progress, triggering sanctions. Thanks again, Coach Sampson. ↵

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↵Wimbledon: While Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal would make for a fine men's final, I think everyone is looking forward to a Serena vs. Venus women's final. Let's hope they make that happen. ↵

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↵Competitive Eating: Is it me, or does it not feel like the July 4 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has as much hype this year? ↵

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↵Programming Note: No column tomorrow, but I will be back here on Monday. If you want more, as usual, you can check out DanShanoff.com. ↵

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↵The Last Word: A Few Seconds of Panic by Stefan Fatsis is THE sports book of the summer. ↵

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↵Fatsis goes on a firsthand journey into an NFL team, trying out as a 43-year-old kicker. It is a fascinating page-turner, filled with tons of wild new detail about life inside an NFL team, but accessible enough that you feel like it's your own friend doing it. (Um, your own friend who happens to be an insanely talented Wall Street Journal reporter who also wrote Word Freak, one of the great "sports" books of all time.) ↵

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↵If you're going to be sitting around this long holiday weekend, I highly recommend you get to the bookstore (or Amazon) and pick it up. ↵

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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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