Shanoff's WUC: Tiger, NFC East, AFC Wild

Today's Calls: Tiger Woods vs. Accenture, NFC East vs. AFC Wild Card, Saints vs. Colts, Chris Johnson vs. Adrian Peterson, Brandon Marshall vs. DeSean Jackson, Keith Null vs. Charles Dickens, Mark Ingram vs. Toby Gerhart, Xavier vs. Cincinnati, LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, Prairie View A&M vs. Awesome and More. ↵

↵Tiger WoodsThe Opening Pitch: The Tiger Woods story is not about morality. It's about money. It always has been. ↵

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↵The PGA and its players have laid low, because he's the cash cow. The sponsors have laid low, because they have so much invested in him. Sports media have tried their best to avoid the personal side of the subject, because he drives audience interest (and ad dollars). ↵

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↵"Biggest fall from grace in sports history" isn't about a champion losing his rep; it's about the endorsement king being so humiliated that you can actually see his billion-dollar net value dropping with the fans' approval ratings. ↵

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↵The story of the weekend wasn't Tiger taking an "indefinite" leave — that could be a couple weeks or a couple of months. He'll be back. ↵

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↵No, the story of the weekend was that the first major sponsor — Accenture — dropped Tiger over the scandal. ↵

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↵Now we're beyond "what might this mean to Tiger's reputation" (meaning: his ability to make money). Now we're talking real money. I was walking through the grocery store this weekend and saw a Gatorade "Tiger" bottle, laughed, then bought it as a collector's item. Most sponsors are sticking by Tiger — though they are noticeably quiet about him. ↵

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↵Ironically, the scandal might be the best thing possible for the PGA and sports media: Even if they don't want to talk about Tiger, everyone will be tuning in for his next event — maybe all the events after that. Tiger used to get all the casual fans to watch on the weekend, when he was in contention. Now he will get non-fans to tune in, if only to check out the spectacle. ↵

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↵Meanwhile, my biggest problem with Tiger's latest absentia is that it is just one more example of reacting precisely the opposite of what he should be, in a series of them going back to the car accident. ↵

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↵Rather than burrow deeper into hiding, avoiding the one environment he has control — the golf course — he should have gotten out THIS weekend and taken as much punishment as everyone could dish out. Once everyone was all punched out, there would be nothing really left to say. ↵

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↵His sponsors who spend all that money would be happy. The folks who rely on him to make all that money would be happy. ↵And that's all that matters. ↵

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↵AFC Playoff Race: Only four out of 16 AFC teams are NOT a factor in the playoff race. With three games to go, there are four 7-6 teams (Ravens! Jags! Dolphins! Jets!) vying for that second Wild Card slot (and the Broncos at 8-5 are in pole position, but no lock for the 1st), and three other teams at 6-7, including the wrong-way Steelers and right-way Titans. Expect a crazy finish. ↵

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↵NFC Playoff Race: Five of the six slots seem to be accounted for, with only the runner-up of the NFC East seemingly ready to back into the sixth spot. If only the NFL season ended in November, maybe the Cowboys would feel better. Dallas fans just have to be shaking their heads at the fortune of knowing that the Giants are even worse right now, if you thought that was possible. ↵

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↵More NFL Week 14 Talking Points: ↵

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↵— Another week, another omen that this is the Year of the Saints. (Now, even Reggie Bush is getting in on it.) ↵

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↵— Milestones: Colts win record 22nd straight regular-season game AND set the record for most wins in a decade. Does that make them the TEAM of the decade? Not with only one Super Bowl title. ↵

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↵— Just as the Pats get it together, Randy Moss becomes the story. ↵

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↵— MVP Watch: Drew Brees is a lock, but Chris Johnson is the best all-around player in the NFL. On the other end of the spectrum ... ↵

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↵— Worst Debut Ever: Keith Null lived up to his name. If Charles Dickens was an NFL columnist, this would be his QB. ↵

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↵— Jay Cutler gets confused and flustered, then ultimately throws the game away? You don't say. ↵

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↵— The Jets will never cop to a QB controversy, but if they actually want to win games, they should play Clemens over Sanchez. ↵

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↵— Fantasy Studs: QB Drew Brees, RB Quinton Ganther, WR Brandon Marshall ↵

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↵Mark Ingram wins Heisman: For all the talk about "closest race ever" and "Suh breakthrough," the winner was the most prominent player on the No. 1 team in the country, no more transcendent than when No. 1 Miami's QB Gino Torretta won in 1992. ↵

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↵If there is one takeaway, it's the Pac-10 desperately needs a TV deal that makes their teams even remotely as high-profile as the SEC. Toby Gerhart nearly won the Heisman with one prominent nationally televised game; Ingram had 7 or 8. ↵

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↵(I did like Ingram's heartfelt acceptance speech. See: Alabama fans? It's OK to cry.) ↵

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↵Brian Kelly Watch: @coachbriankelly is going to win the nation over, one tweet at a time. ↵

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↵Weekend's Best: Prairie View A&M. When you think about most incredible story lines of the decade, how about at least an honorable mention for Prairie View? After setting a college football record for futility through the 90s, the program won the SWAC title on Saturday — a turnaround story right up there with the Rays for the best in sports this decade. ↵

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↵LeBron vs. Durant: Undoubtedly inspired by what folks viewed as a 1-on-1 battle, LeBron showed Kevin just how far he has to go. LeBron scored 44, with 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals in a Cavs rout in OKC. Durant had 29, but it was on 9-for-19 shooting, with 7 turnovers and a woeful -17 plus-minus when he was on the court. Keep working at it, KD. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: John Wall wasn't quite as transcendent on Saturday against Indiana as he was last week against UConn. Then again, he didn't need to be — Kentucky just rolls along. (Although Wall did have another sick highlight.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, if you're creating an all-American team, you could do worse than a backcourt of freshmen: Wall and Kansas' Xavier Henry, who had a huge game Saturday. ↵

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↵CBB Game of the Year: After last night, the gold standard is Xavier's win over Cincy — a chippy rivalry game that went two OTs and featured an upset. (Top THAT, UNC-Duke.) ↵

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↵(Oh, and a big "Boo!" for Roy Williams, for having a fan tossed out of the game for heckling UNC's Deon Thompson at the free throw line. Let the fans practice a little vigilante justice, but that's not any coach's job.) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Roy Halladay remains the most intriguing name of the offseason. The Angels, Yankees and Red Sox are all scrumming for him, but don't count out the Phillies. ↵

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↵Coaching Carousel: Turner Gill to Kansas. Love this hire — Gill should have had a major-conference coaching job after the 2008 season, and I'm glad that schools didn't hold Buffalo's drop in 2009 against Gill. He's back home in the Big 12. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "LeBron will come to New York if he knows they're gonna win. ... So, if they sign a free agent first, that would probably seal the deal, I believe."
↵— Magic Johnson, who doesn't really know anything, but is certainly doing his best to make taboid headlines in New York. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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