Shanoff's W.U.C.: Cards Are America's Team

Today's Calls: Tony Dungy vs. Jim Caldwell, Rickey Henderson vs. Jim Rice, Eddy Curry vs. Mehmet Okur, Oklahoma vs. Louisville, Josh McDaniels vs. Jim Schwartz, Tim Tebow vs. Myron Rolle, Billy Packer vs. Roger Clemens and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: So the Arizona Cardinals are the new “America's Team.” ↵

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↵How does a team qualify for such an honor? There is a misconception that it is about some sort of correlation to longtime dominance — the Cowboys, the Yankees, Notre Dame. ↵

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↵In fact, it is the unexpected — rather than expected — success that triggers nationwide fascination with a team. But this is no Rays-style Cinderella story; there is little about Arizona that makes you think "feel-good." ↵

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↵What the Cards have going for them is what the Rays were missing and what March Cinderellas can't sustain: The woeful franchise-long history of awful performance. Decades upon decades of poor showings in turn created the worst of all states for a team: Irrelevance. ↵

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↵But this season's division title and the two-week playoff run have given the Cards the flip-side of irrelevance: Novelty. ↵

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↵The Cards have been off the national radar for so long — for so forever — that it couldn't be cooler now to root for them. ↵

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↵It doesn't hurt that they have pulled two straight playoff upsets, or that most fans have never seen the Cards succeed like this before ... perhaps unlike something we will ever see again from them, given their franchise history. ↵

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↵The Cards aren't a feel-good team, but fans without a rooting interest remaining in these NFL playoffs can feel good about jumping on the bandwagon. ↵

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↵Tony Dungy Retires: He is widely judged as a soothing person, a rare trait among NFL coaches — especially successful ones. But make no mistake: Dungy's career is ultimately validated by that Super Bowl title. ↵

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↵Without it, he's just a "really good guy (who can't win the big one)" — in fact, I suspect he probably wouldn't have retired yet without that ring on his finger. It speaks to the affirming powers of even a single Super Bowl title. ↵

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↵The same can't be said for "coach-in-waiting" Jim Caldwell: The way this team was drummed out of the playoffs this year in the first round means the pressure is on the new coach next season. ↵

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↵Baseball Hall: Rickey, obviously; Rice, finally. The only real questions are these: (1) Which 24 "expert" voters didn't think Rickey Henderson was worthy of the Hall — and why do they still have voting privileges? (2) Which voters will claim to be the handful that put Jim Rice over the top? ↵

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↵(Not making it: Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson, but both "moved up," nudging closer to that magic 75-percent mark and taking Rice's place as "closest to making it without making it." The new trend seems to be if you're not a first-year lock, the voters will make you sweat it out, Rice-style.) ↵

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↵Fun With Lawsuits: Eddy Curry's former driver is suing him ... for racist slurs and — um — sexual harassment? Curry seems genuinely shocked by the allegation, particularly the part about the racist comments. The shock for fans will be in the details of the claims of sexual harassment. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Have the Celtics righted the ship? Only if they were playing in a division alone with the Raptors, who seem to be the only team that can't beat Boston these days. The Celtics beat Toronto for the second straight night/game, behind Paul Pierce's 39. ↵

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↵Fantasy Studs: Mehmet Okur, who scored a career-high 43 in a Jazz win over the Pacers. ... Nets rookie Brook Lopez (31 and 13 in a NJ win over the Thunder). ↵

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↵CBB Mania: Oklahoma throttled Texas in a battle of the Big 12's best. OU held UT to 33.8 percent FG shooting (incl. 5/23 3-pt), but Blake Griffin was unstoppable, as usual (20 and 10, his 14th double-double in 17 games this season). ↵

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↵Alas for the Sooners, there is no BCS in college basketball: This win means nothing — even a Big 12 regular-season or tournament title means little — if they can't finish a season with the best player in the country with a run into the Final Four. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, Louisville is back. That loss to UNLV (and Minnesota ... and WKY ...) is a faded memory, now that the Cardinals are whip-sawing their way through the Big East, including last night's overtime win over Notre Dame. The win sets up an incredible matchup this Saturday with No. 1 Pitt. ↵

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↵NFL Coaching Carousel: Quotes edition! ↵

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↵— Josh McDaniels: "I think you'll certainly see me bring a little bit of a different vibe [than Bill Belichick] ... I'm going to have a lot of energy. I can smile." ↵

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↵— Jim Schwartz: "It's probably time to find a replacement for Bobby Layne ... I don't shy away from a challenge ... There's no better feeling than turning a situation around." (If the Lions are putting him in front of the media in a sanctioned event, I think the job is his.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, are the Jets about to hire Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan? They will have to wait at least a week, maybe longer. ... Are the Rams about to hire Jason Garrett? Why else would he get labeled the "mystery candidate" unless there was a strong chance he would get hired? ↵

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↵Will the Giants take Plaxico Burress back? Apparently, losing inspires forgiveness — particularly losing at home, as the league favorites to win the Super Bowl. (Does anyone really think Burress would have been the difference for the Giants between winning and losing on Sunday?) ↵

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↵NFL Must-Read: Mike Florio's 10-Pack. ↵

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↵Tim Tebow Watch: Surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. But will the nation survive? ↵

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↵Myron Rolle is my hero, cont'd: The All-American safety will skip the 2009 NFL Draft to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, then enter the 2010 Draft. (Can someone clarify for me: Isn't he draft-eligible? Couldn't a team draft him and try to sign him, then stash him in England for the season?) ↵

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↵CFB Must-Read: Spencer Hall's final Alphabetical. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Braves want Derek Lowe? The reported $60M offer shows just how desperate the Braves are to salvage an otherwise unremarkable (even debilitating, given the Rafael Furcal situation) offseason. ↵

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↵Sports Media: How the Billy Packer has fallen. One year, you're calling your umpteenth straight Final Four; the next, you're a shill on the Vegas Strip (with Bobby Knight, no less). Hey: Will he help fans pick a first-round parlay? (Hint: Hope you like overrated "senior leadership!") ↵

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↵Superlative of the Week: Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme had the worst performance by a QB in an NFL playoff game ever. (h/t: Chris Mottram and With Leather) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Did Roger Clemens perjure himself in front of Congress? At the time, you could listen and judge for yourself (which most of us did, harshly) — now, a grand jury will reportedly investigate it. Losing in the court of public opinion is one thing; losing in court is much nastier. ↵

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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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