The Opening Pitch: LeBron and Kobe could take a lesson from Kavya.
Thirteen-year-old Kavya Shivashankar dominated the Spelling Bee last night. She came in as the favorite, having placed in the Top 10 in the past three Bees. And she never faltered, from the prelims through 16 rounds of tense spelling action.
But Kavya never looked nervous — except perhaps when it was obvious she knew the title-clinching word when it was announced to her (Laodicean) and she was a few seconds away from winning the championship.
Despite win-or-bust expectations, Kavya stuck to her plan — repeat pronounciations ... ask for definitions and languages of origin ... most recognizably, spelling the word out on her hand. Result: The Bee title, almost handily.
LeBron and Kobe are doing better as puppets or Vitamin Water competitors than they are on the court right now.
Despite the Cavs' win last night in Cleveland, they are in serious trouble for Game 6 at Orlando on Saturday night.
Let's be clear: If LeBron can't get this series to a Game 7 back in Cleveland on Monday night — which the Cavs would presumably win, completing an epic comeback — his season is a failure.
It's the same for Kobe: Win or bust. Expect Denver to win Game 6 in Denver tonight, making Game 7 back in L.A. on Sunday a toss-up — way too close for comfort for a player and team expected to cruise to the West title.
The dominance of LeBron and Kobe remains a myth of marketing until they meet expectations by leading their teams to a title — a conference title will do, for now.
If only either were as authentically dominant as a true champion like Kavya.
Memphis/Calipari Scandal, Cont'd: Mike DeCourcy has a must-read take, explaining why the situation is way more nuanced than "CALIPARI IS A CHEATER!"
Stanley Cup: Eric McErlain has the Pens winning in 7, which is good enough for me. Get his reasoning here.
Awards: In a pat on the back for the NHL and its increasing marketing savvy, its Winter Classic (at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day) was named "Sports Event of the Year."
MLB Talking Points
— Zambrano's freak-out was fun: But it cost him 6 games.
— The new Rays? NOT these Rays: Swept by Cleveland.
— Strasburg Watch: Better than Beckett? (Call me when he's got a ring).
— Fantasy Stud: Jason Varitek (2 HR + Ejection!)
— Weekend Series to Track: Reds-Brewers NL Central battle.
NBA Draft: Chicago combine will be this weekend. DeJuan Blair's stock is up — he was my college hoops player of the year, and I think he will be a very productive pro that will have folks saying "How did we ever pass on him?" (Also rising: Jrue Holliday.)
Economy: Delaware is full-speed ahead for sports betting, after its state Supreme Court upheld the new laws making it OK. Things just got much more interesting for folks on the East Coast. (Hmm: Can I finance that Bethany Beach house on NFL gambling?)
Gossip: Gisele isn't pregnant, apparently. But you know it'll happen at some point. And those two half-siblings will have some MAJOR issues.
Pop Culture: Erin Andrews wants to be on "Dancing With the Stars." This is a no-brainer, both for EA and ABC. And she would win, not just because she is super popular, but because with her experience as a Dazzler at University of Florida, she has dance skills.
The Last Word: "I think when you sit on the sidelines for an entire year you realize how much you love it."
— Tom Brady, on his renewed enthusiasm for football.
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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