Shanoff's Wake-Up Call: 2008 Olympic Closure

Today's Calls: Michael Phelps vs. Wheaties, USA Hoops vs. USA Softball, Denard Span vs. Grady Sizemore, Brandon Webb vs. Cliff Lee, J.T. O'Sullivan vs. Shawne Merriman and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: By Monday morning, the Olympics will be history. Let's give out the quadrennial "Wheaties Award," for the best performances most worthy of staring at on your cereal box: ↵

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↵(1) Michael Phelps: Greatest Olympian ever? (Hmm: Greatest athlete ever?) Regardless: 8-for-8, with a nation riveted. ↵

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↵(And how about a snack-pack box cover for 41-year-old Dara Torres, who fell mind-bendingly short of the gold in the 50 free.) ↵

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↵(2) Usain Bolt: The most exciting and dominant display of track prowess since Jesse Owens (which means "that any of us have seen.") ↵

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↵(3) Nastia Liukin: Shawn Johnson had all the publicity, but Nastia came through with the all-around individual gold. ↵

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↵Also Receiving Votes: Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh (Beach Volleyball); Jason Lezak (Swimming); Mariel Zagunis (Fencing); Women's U.S. 8 (Rowing); Natalie du Toit (Swimming, 1st amputee to compete in the Olympics). ↵

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↵And a special congratulations to Beijing: The Opening Ceremonies were jaw-dropping; there were no notable issues involving protests or protesters (particularly among athletes); and there were no notable issues with air pollution impacting outcomes. If the top storyline was: There was no outside controversy, then it's a great Olympics. ↵

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↵Looking ahead to 2012: I'm not sure if Phelps and Bolt can top what they each did in Beijing, but they'll both be back in London in four years. Let the build-up begin. ↵

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↵USA Oops vs. Argentina: Takes on its biggest rival (and the defending Olympic gold medalist) in the win-or-utter-failure semifinals. If any team can give the U.S. a game, it's the Argentines. ↵

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↵USA Softball ... loses?! This has to rank up there with some of the biggest upsets in sports history. Actually, I would argue it eclipses Giants over Pats as the Upset of the Year. It's that big. ↵

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↵(The good news? The main reason for eliminating softball as an Olympic sport was that the U.S. was just too dominant; not so much, now.) ... ↵

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↵Meanwhile, the U.S. women's soccer team avenged that World Cup semifinal loss to Brazil to win Olympic gold. U.S. Soccer winning, USA Softball losing ... What's going on here? ↵

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↵USA Water Polo loses, too: Not quite as much of an upset as softball losing, but an upset all the same to Holland. ↵

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↵Speaking of shockers, how about Jeremy Wariner losing in the 400? (Though give all the credit to LaShawn Merritt.) Or how about the men's AND women's U.S. 400-meter relay baton debacles? I give NBC's Tom Hammond all the credit in the world for calling out USA Track for this year's uneven performances. ... ↵

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↵(Misty Mea culpa: After being scolded by my mom, I want to give even MORE credit to May-Treanor and Walsh for their gold in quite possibly the worst weather conditions for an Olympic beach volleyball match ever.) ↵

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↵I never took the IOC to be the type of group to be particularly hard-charging when it comes to "investigating" countries — particularly uber-powerful host countries. (Wasn't the IOC in the middle of the Salt Lake City scandal?) Anyway, apparently, they're looking into China's use of underage gymnasts. Don't hold your breath for action. ↵

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↵MLB Instant History: Denard Span, the Twins rookie leadoff sensation, was already making an impact with his OBP (.403); now he's hitting a game-winning RBI in extra innings against the team that is tied for the best record in the AL. (With some help from SP Scott Baker and AL Cy contender Joe Nathan, who earned his 35th save.) ↵

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↵More: Brandon Webb wins 19th. ... Cliff Lee wins 18th (Fantasy Stud: Grady Sizemore: 4-for-5, HR, 7 RBI!). ... Carlos Delgado (career-high 5 hits, game-winning RBI in 9th to sweep Braves) symbolizes the Mets' surge down the stretch (really bad night for the Phils to lose to the lowly Nats). ... Carlos Zambrano: 13th W (and he hit a HR). ... Insert your own Carl Pavano joke here. ... A few minutes of delay from replay won't trump getting bad calls right. ↵

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↵If the MLB season ended today, the Rays would be playing the White Sox and the Angels would be playing the Twins. Blissfully, both the Red Sox and Yankees would both be sitting at home, but just in case it doesn't end that way, you can play "What if?" this weekend. ↵

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↵RIP, Gene Upshaw, Cont'd: I leave it up to Clifton Brown to do justice to Upshaw's place in NFL history. ↵

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↵NFL Preseason: J.T. O'Sullivan is the preseason Peyton Manning. He put up a perfect 158.3 QB rating (7-for-8, 126 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT) in the 49ers' 37-30 win at Chicago. The (former) third-stringer is one of the preseason's great success stories (or maybe Alex Smith is that bad). ↵

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↵NFL Preseason Tonight: Will Matt Ryan look better? Will either the Pats or Cowboys (a conventional-wisdom Super Bowl pairing) get their first preseason win? Will the Barack Obama Bandwagon eclipse the Aaron Rodgers Bandwagon in Denver? ↵

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↵Steven Jackson signs a 6-year deal: I don't want to say "Shaun Alexander Syndrome," so let's leave it at this: I'm highly dubious he makes it the full half-dozen years. ↵

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↵Injury Watch: Looks like Shawne Merriman's knee is worse than we thought (lingering ligament damage, even after surgery five months ago). ↵

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↵CFB: The college football season starts next week. And I'll be in the heart of SEC country all week long, inspired and doing my own super-shallow preview of the new season. Be sure to check back. ... ↵

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↵(Speaking of which: Percy Harvin for Heisman in 2008? I actually was touting that the day after Tim Tebow won last season's Heisman. If Harvin can stay healthy, he could be Reggie Bush to Tebow's Leinart in 2005.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: I listened to that instantly infamous Tiki Barber clip about five times, and I come away convinced that he did NOT say "Total medal COUNT." ↵

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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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