Shanoff's WUC: Top Athlete: Jimmie or Tiger?

Today's Calls: Jimmie Johnson vs. the Field, Giants vs. Cowboys, Mike Holmgren vs. Eric Mangini, Brett Favre vs. Brad Childress, Oregon State vs. BYU, Kentucky vs. 2,000, Carlos Zambrano vs. Jason Marquis, Kings vs. Comebacks and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: It's a good time to be a Jimmie Johnson fan. ↵

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↵You're probably pretty excited: Your guy just became the first NASCAR driver ever to be named AP's male athlete of the year. It's a perfectly fine choice -- although SN picked Mariano Rivera, and a very strong argument can be made for Usain Bolt. ↵

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↵It's a testament to the damage done to Tiger's brand that his placement on these year-end lists of awesomeness come with chuckles and caveats. ↵

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↵Of course, for its year-end awards, sports media has always turned a blind eye to its athletes’ scandals -- it's done under the cover of "we like to focus on the sports," but in theory the award should be for overall impact, not just winning. (That's what made the PGA naming Tiger its "Player of the Year" so unintentionally hilarious.) ↵

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↵And it is obvious: No athlete had a bigger impact on the sports year than Tiger -- it doesn't matter that it was back-loaded into the year's final five weeks. ↵

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↵Sometimes, sports is sublime -- the defining sports event of the decade was the breathtaking 2004 ALCS -- but sometimes it is subsumed by scandal. ↵

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↵The fans know it, and cheerleading from the press box doesn't change reality. ↵

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↵If sports media doesn't want to talk about it, there's always TMZSports.com. ↵

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↵The Giants were in "must-win" mode, and got it. Wow, they were lucky to have been playing the hapless Redskins, who did little to impress new GM Bruce Allen. Unfortunately for the Giants, they still need help from the Cowboys to make the playoffs; fortunately, the Cowboys' record of chokery in December -- Saints win notwithstanding -- is still in effect. ↵

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↵Mike Holmgren takes over Browns: It's a splashy hire for a team desperate for direction. Florio's got 10 things Holmgren needs to do, and I agree with the very first item on his list: Fire Eric Mangini. ↵

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↵Brett Favre vs. Brad Childress: At least three issues between them? Back in August, I definitely had the over on that. How emasculating must it feel to be Favre's coach? ↵

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↵Gone Bowlin': MAACO Las Vegas! Oregon State vs. BYU. Remember when BYU beat Oklahoma and everyone had them crashing the BCS title-game? That feels like a few years ago. Remember when Oregon State was playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl? That feels like ... well, a few weeks ago, actually. Consolation prizes are never all that great. Still: A fun matchup, given that it's only the 4th bowl game of the season. ↵

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↵USC Would-Be Scandal: Wonder if Joe McKnight would have "paperwork" to do back in LA, rather than traveling to the team's bowl game, if the SUV thing didn't happen? (Meanwhile: You get the sense that USC just doesn't care about the Emerald Bowl. Think they would have suspended any players if they were in the national-title game?) ↵

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↵Brandon James out of Sugar Bowl: Arguably the best return specialist in the country (certainly the best in Florida history), he will be missed -- if only for the threat of what he might do. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: UK 2K. Kentucky earned its unprecedented 2,000th win as a program. You can be critical of the Rupp Era. You can be critical of the Sutton Era. You can lament that UK's most famous game is a LOSS (and lament they didn't beat Duke in '92 in the Elite Eight). You can even wonder if they sacrificed integrity for winning by hiring John Calipari. But 2,000 is 2,000. (Oh, and this: John Wall is the greatest UK player to suit up in any of those 2,000 wins.) ↵

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↵Great Read: I love that Mike DeCourcy is already previewing a Kansas-Texas game that will take place 7 weeks from now. (Of course, like all "big" regular-season college basketball games, it is meaningless, because both teams will be high NCAA seeds and their seasons will be defined by winning national titles, not winning conference regular-season games.) ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: ↵

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↵(1) After losing to the Dirk-less Mavs, the Cavs became the first team to beat the Suns in Phoenix. All at once, you see Cleveland's potential -- and their inconsistency. ... ↵

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↵(2) Kudos to the Kings, who pulled off the biggest comeback of the decade. (Sorry, Brandon Jennings: Tyreke Evans is the NBA's Rookie of the Year.) ... ↵

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↵(3) Great NBA Read: Shoals on the Lakers' ownership succession plan. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Can you imagine if the Yankees were able to trade for Carlos Zambrano? (Thankfully, Zambrano can't.) ... Not sure if signing Jason Marquis is going to take the Nationals to the next level, but he is better than any starter they had last season. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Everyone has a "bad beat" story for fantasy football. I had mine last night: As the scrappy 4-seed in my league's playoffs, I needed 3 points from Kevin Boss to tie the top seed. I got 2, just three freaking receiving yards shy of that 3rd. Ah, well. (Shakes fist: Bossssss!) ↵

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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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