Shanoff's W.U.C.: All-Star, Daytona 500, CBB

The Opening Pitch: A week after the worst all-star game in sports (the Pro Bowl), we get the best all-star game in sports: NBA All-Star Weekend, the signature event of the season for the league. ↵

↵What makes it so successful? ↵

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↵Scope: It's not just a game; it's a weekend. From the celeb game Friday night to the community-service work Saturday afternoon to the freak-show carnival of events Saturday night to the game itself on Sunday, you can tune in virtually anytime and be entertained. ↵

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↵Stars: It used to just be about the mega-stars. Then the NBA got smart and added the Rookie-Soph grudge game, which gave the league's next-gen of stars their own platform. (If they're not going to make Kevin Durant an All-Star, this is the next-best thing.) ↵

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↵Scene: Stars and celebrities everywhere, watching and marveling at their peers. One of my favorite details of any All-Star Weekend is watching the stars in flashy street clothes, with their eyes and jaws wide watching a player do a dunk that has never been done before. ↵

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↵Sneakers: In what other sport is what is on the players' feet as much of a spectacle as what they are doing on the court? ASW has always been a moment for outrageous variations on standard NBA kicks — and, for sneaker fetishists, the "ooh!" is more for the patent leather than the alley-oop. ↵

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↵Experimentation: Give the NBA credit for always trying to make the weekend even more engaging. This season, they added a H-O-R-S-E comp that has more buzz than the Dunk, 3-point and the "Game" itself, combined. It will be the hit of the weekend. (Oh, and there's even an All-Star live-video iPhone app.) ↵

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↵Take a lesson, NFL. ↵

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↵NBA All-Star Game Picks: ↵

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↵— Celeb Game MVP: T.O. ↵

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↵— Rookie-Sophs: Rookies (MVP: Rose) ↵

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↵— H-O-R-S-E: Joe Johnson ↵

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↵— Shooting Stars: Phoenix ↵

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↵— Skills: Tony Parker ↵

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↵— Dunk: Dwight Howard ↵

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↵— 3-Point: Roger Mason ↵

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↵— ASG: East (MVP: LeBron) ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: OK, so I'm not a Paul Pierce fan, but I can appreciate (a) the way he can take over games, and (b) his All-Star bonafides. ... So does this mean the Suns aren't trading Amare? ... How can you miss an interview with Shaq? ↵

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↵Daytona 500: As a non-fan of NASCAR, I appreciate the spectacle of Daytona, and I have always enjoyed that NASCAR put its biggest event at the start of its season. It seems to have little bearing on how the rest of the season will go, but "Daytona winner" is a special, lifetime title. Of any driver, I am most intrigued by rookie sensation Joey Logano (No. 20) making his first D-500 ride and starting 9th. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: ↵

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↵(1) Just when you think you understand the Big East, Louisville gets absolutely trounced at Notre Dame, which needed this win SO badly (Harangody: 32 pts). ... ↵

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↵(2) I still can't buy Arizona State, but a season-sweep of UCLA (for whom I always seem to have a blind spot) is strong evidence the Devils are legit. ... ↵

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↵(3) One more time, Gonzaga sneaks past a Mills-less St. Mary's; just wait until Mills comes back. ... ↵

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↵(4) If Northwestern was on the NCAA Tournament Bubble, they aren't anymore, after a devastating nationally televised last-second home loss to Illinois. ... ↵

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↵(5) Game to Watch: Pitt at UConn — how does UConn look without injured guard Jerome Dyson? This is the Big East Game of the Year; it's not just a meeting of two Top-5 teams (the Big East's top 2 teams), but a barometer (for March) of how much different the No. 1 Huskies are without Dyson. ↵

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↵MLB: Jealous that the Indians and Red Sox got a jump on pitchers and catchers reporting yesterday? The rest of baseball catches up this weekend, and spring training is officially underway. Must-Reads: The big questions in the A.L. and N.L.. ↵

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↵Bud Selig won't/can't punish A-Rod: Nor should he. But Selig can chastise with the best of them, saying A-Rod and other cheaters "shamed the game." ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, if A-Rod has an opportunity to publicly speak out against steroids at an anti-drug event, he should do it — more than that, he should donate significant millions to establish his own anti-PED education initiative for kids. Image rehab is so easy if you have the money; where is A-Rod's interest in pursuing this?) ↵

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↵NFL Draft: HowhowHOW is Matt Stafford sitting there as a lock as the No. 1 overall pick? The guy is Rex Grossman 2.0! ↵

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↵CFB Coaching Carousel: Kirk Ferentz gets a seven-year extension at Iowa. Apparently, beating Penn State and earning a New Year's Day bowl appearance offsets his otherwise atrocious handling of the team — and their various scandals — off the field. ↵

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↵CFB Recruiting: Bryce Brown to ... LSU? The kid may be talented, but all signs point to a high-maintenance head-case. I can understand the appeal, then, for Lane Kiffin — is LSU really that desperate? I guess all's fair in recruiting. ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Very excited/intrigued to see HBO's new comedy "Eastbound and Down," from executive producer Will Ferrell, who is about as big of a super-fan as exists in Hollywood. (He certainly has made sports the signature of his career — from “Talladega Nights” to “Blades of Glory” to “Semi-Pro.”) ↵

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↵The Last Word: "It's all rumors." Ken Griffey doesn't sound particularly enthusiastic about returning to Seattle, does he — even though it is the best thing he could possibly do for his career (or to end his career). The fans there will love him unconditionally; that has to have SOME value. ↵

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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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