Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: 4x100 a Gold Standard

Today's Calls: Michael Phelps vs. History, Jason Lezak vs. Alain Bernard, Katie Hoff vs. Christine Magnuson, Brandon Webb vs. Cliff Lee vs. Ryan Dempster, Matt Ryan vs. Brett Favre, Mark Sanchez vs. Ben Olson and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The REAL "Redeem Team" put on the greatest show yesterday, but it had nothing to do with LeBron and Co. ↵

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↵The Games have a new gold standard for thrills, courtesy of Michael Phelps and the men's 4x100 freestyle relay team -- including Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones (the first African-American ever to win swimming gold) and uber-anchor Jason Lezak. ↵

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↵Taunted by the French before the race, the US responded by reclaiming the gold -- and smashing the world record -- with an insane come-from-behind win in the final 25 meters, with Lezak, in the fastest relay leg in history, out-touching the loudest French bigmouth, Alain Bernard, by hundredths of a second. ↵

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↵The new signature image of these Games is Phelps releasing his inner Hulk Hogan, flexing and unleashing a series of primal screams over what the team pulled off. (I let out my own scream at the finish. Watch it, re-watch it and watch it again: Everyone else will be.) ↵

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↵NBC was pushing a theory Phelps screamed because it was another gold medal for him; I think it had to do with the thrill of the team effort, because I had never before seen Phelps react to a solo win like that. ↵

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↵This is why we watch the Olympics. This is why NBC insisted the swimming finals were made "live" in the Beijing morning -- there would be no tape-delay spoilers. ↵

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↵This single race had every element that you could want in an Olympics event: Rivalry, star power, uncertainty, a comeback, an insanely close finish, over-the-top emotions, records smashed and history made. ↵

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↵It was the perfect Olympic moment, and the perfect way to close the opening weekend of the Games. ↵

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↵The only problem: How can you top it, if this is as good as it gets? ↵

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↵More Swimming: As amazing as the 4x100 win, Katie Hoff's .07-second loss in the 400 free was crushing. ... Unfortunately, Brendan Hansen was never really close enough to make his finish dramatic in the 100 breast. ... On the other end, Magnuson should be thrilled over her unexpected silver in the 100 fly. ... ↵

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↵Olympic Quick-Hits: Gymnastics' new scoring system seems complex enough that I buy Bela Karolyi's primetime contention that suspicious judging scores are masked (like the kind he claims put the U.S. behind China after the prelims). ... USA Oops crushed China (19 for Wade, who joined the "For $50 mil, I'd play in Europe" bandwagon), but the real game to watch was Lithuania's win over Argentina. ... The U.S. men's soccer team blew its chance to record an unbelievable win over Holland. ... That Opening Ceremony was one of the most amazing spectacles I have ever seen on TV. ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: One more milestone for the Rays, in a season full of them -- most wins in team history. ... Angels sweep Yankees: LAA is making the rest of the AL look like distant contenders. ... Brandon Webb wins No. 17, and despite my CC-for-Cy campaign, Webb's the NL Cy lock right now. ... If Webb stumbles, how about Ryan Dempster? ... In addition to Manny, maybe the Dodgers should have thought about more bullpen help. ... Cliff Lee wins No. 16, but his team still stinks too much to hand him the AL Cy. ... Well, you just KNEW a Ryan Braun Q&A would make it in. ... Does Barry Bonds' warm reception in SF signal that a playoff contender would have the cover to sign him? ... ↵

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↵NFL Preseason: Matt Ryan, not Brett Favre, made the most intriguing debut of the preseason on Saturday (Ryan: 9/15 for 113 yds and a TD. Not bad, rookie). ... Brett Favre Watch: He bumbled a snap and had to run a lap (It made it to YouTube, of course). ... We've got a Byron Leftwich sighting: He'll be backing up Big Ben in Pittsburgh in a MAC All-Time All-Stars tandem. ... Injury Watch: Braylon Edwards' foot, cut in a freak mishap with Donte' Stallworth. ... ↵

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↵CFB: What does the injury to USC QB Mark Sanchez mean? A home win in September over Ohio State -- a prerequisite for a national title run -- is no longer as sure as I thought it was last week. ↵

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↵(Might it open the door for SN No. 15 Oregon to sneak away with a Pac-10 title?) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, UCLA QB Ben Olson's foot injury will keep him out 2 months, and will likely spoil any thoughts Rick Neuheisel had about a breakout first year in Westwood. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins again? That's 8. If it wasn't for Phelps, Busch might be challenging for Athlete of the Year in 2008. ↵

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↵Golf: Padraig Harrington is on a roll, the obvious biggest beneficiary of Tiger's absence, taking the PGA Championship, following his British Open title. Eh, don't get too cocky, Padraig; Tiger's back in '09. ↵

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↵NBA: As enticing as a troika of OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and Josh Smith appeared to be, there was no way the Hawks were going to let Smith go. ↵

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↵The Last Word: In addition to the tragic murder of the father-in-law of the U.S. volleyball coach, there were two sports-related deaths this weekend, from the world of entertainment: ↵

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↵Isaac Hayes, best known for Shaft and Chef, was also a one-time part-owner of the ABA's Memphis Sounds, and Bernie Mac, who starred as the preacher in those classic original LeBron Nike ads, along with a filmography that includes Mr. 3000. ↵

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↵Condolences to family, friends and fans of both. ↵ ↵

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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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