Shanoff's W.U.C.: Barack Obama, No. 44

Today's Calls: Barack Obama vs. No. 44, DeJuan Blair vs. Tyler Hansbrough, Kobe vs. LeBron, Rex Ryan vs. Eric Mangini, Kurt Warner vs. Ben Roethlisberger, U.S. vs. Dominican Republic and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: What does the inauguration of Barack Obama mean to sports fans? ↵

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↵— It means that pick-up basketball is now officially the national pastime. ↵

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↵— Obama's White Sox could be more popular than the Nationals in D.C. ↵

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↵— When Tim Tebow and Florida arrive at the Rose Garden, you should hear the word "playoff." ↵

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↵— Fantasy football draft strategy sessions will be on the President's vacation schedule in August. ↵

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↵There are a lot of problems to fix, but sports will always be an ultimate distraction — whether you are the President or just someone who is trying to get by. ↵

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↵It's energizing to know that the First Fan is a crazy sports fan, just like you and me. ↵

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↵CBB Last Night: Pitt muscles past Syracuse. There's no use complaining about Pitt's physical style of play, Syracuse fans. In the Big East this season, if you're not ready to play rugged, you're not going to make it. ↵

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↵No one typifies that more than DeJuan Blair (20 pts, 12 rebounds), who led a 40-28 Pitt rebounding advantage and helped intimidate Syracuse into submission in the second half. ↵

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↵(I love Mike D., but I would have had Blair on my midseason 1st-Team All-America squad. Tyler Hansbrough seems to make it because of legacy/inertia; UNC deserves to be tweaked for its first-half failings, and Psycho-T is the leader of the program. I would leave Hansbrough out ... for now.) ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Kobe wants you to pull his finger. No, really, because he dislocated it and it's only 2 minutes into the game and it's a matchup with arguably the best team in the East. No problem: Kobe still scored 20 points with an NBA-day-high 12 assists — the better to showcase the Lakers' superior depth behind their superstar. LeBron's supporting cast may be better than last year, but it's not as good as Kobe's crew just yet. ↵

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↵Meanwhile: Chris Paul's buzzer-beater was the highlight of the MLK Day afternoon slate of games. ↵

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↵NFL Coaching Carousel: Jets hire Rex Ryan. Hmm: Young-ish career defensive whiz with no head-coaching experience hired by the Jets. Haven't we seen this movie before? And it's not like the Jets' QB situation is any better than it was last season — in fact, it's even more complicated. (That said: Where Mangini felt aloof, Ryan is thought to be a "players' coach.") ↵

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↵Bonus: QB Carousel! Donovan McNabb is staying in Philly. That's what Andy Reid says, and I believe it. Despite that small benching issue weeks ago, McNabb has been the MVP of the team's stretch run — they simply wouldn't be as good without him (even if "as good" doesn't mean "Super Bowl-worthy.") ↵

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↵Super Bowl Super Hype: Pay no attention to the disgruntled receiver! That's what the Cardinals would like you to take away from Sunday's win. ↵

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↵Stats: Is Kurt Warner better than Peyton Manning? The geniuses at Cold Hard Football Facts make a pretty strong case. (As for that Hall of Fame debate? Forget it: It's a lock.) ↵

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

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Orioles lock up rising star Nick Markakis at 6Y/$66M. The outfielder is coming off a solid year — he was seventh in the AL in OPS, plays great defense and — most important — seems to be durable (157 games in '08, 161 games in '07). ↵

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↵WBC rosters announced: Yup, A-Rod is playing for the D.R., but the U.S. roster is as loaded as you might expect: Jeter. Pedroia. Longoria. Wright. Youkilis. Braun. Sizemore. (As always: Eyes on the pitchers, who get more work than usual in the spring. Injury watch?) ↵

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↵NHL: Want to pack the fans into the arenas? Just give away $1 million every night. ↵

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↵The Last Word: In honor of Obama, the number "44" is naturally on the minds of sports fans (and sports editors) today. Who are the most iconic No. 44s ever in sports? Rank them this way: ↵

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↵1. Hank Aaron ↵

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↵2. Jerry West ↵

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↵3. Pete Maravich ↵

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↵4. Reggie Jackson ↵

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↵5. Ernie Davis/Jim Brown/Floyd Little ↵

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↵6. George Gervin ↵

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↵7. Willie McCovey ↵

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↵8. Dan Issel ↵

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↵9. Hank Gathers ↵

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↵10. Chuck Foreman ↵

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↵Bonus: ↵Most notable currently wearing No. 44? Luke Harangody ↵

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↵Most notable "44" jersey in movie history? Forrest Gump ↵

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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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