The Opening Pitch: National Signing Day ("NSD") is college football's Christmas. It is arguably the single best day of the college football season.
Fans get to unwrap a new recruiting class, and all there is ... is potential. And potential might be the sweetest word in college football.
Expectations may be high, but that's all they are. Fans are free to dream about giving Recruit X a couple of years ... and, wow, won't he be something then! A very rare few might make the two-deep as true freshmen, but otherwise all the pressure is deferred.
For now, fans of the elite teams can revel in their number of "5-stars" and "4-stars." Fans of re-building programs can take stock of their new coaches' impact. Fans of middle-tier programs can ID any "name" schools their new recruits turned down for a chance to be a star earlier.
All the while, fans sit and pound message boards and recruiting blogs waiting for news that members of the class have officially faxed in (seriously: faxed? in 2010?) their "LOI" (letter of intent). The anticipation and the class build in tandem.
Some school -- probably Florida, but possibly Texas -- will be declared the "No. 1" class and, more interestingly, some unlikely interloper will crash the Top 20, but that misses the point: Everyone can enjoy NSD.
Even if you haven't been following recruiting and have no idea who these players are that are signing with your team, they are now part of your team. And so you embrace them, and the annual renewal of hope that accompanies them for a better team next season.
NSD Eve: RB Marcus Lattimore, arguably the top-rated RB left uncommitted (and SN's No. 2 overall prospect), decided to stay in-state and play for South Carolina, rather than Auburn. Lattimore could see reps as a true freshman and makes Spurrier's Gamecocks all the more intriguing as a trendy pick to win the SEC East next season.
Super Bowl Media Daze: I cannot stress this enough -- check out Tunison and Littman's coverage from Media Day and the surrounding insanity/inanity. I can't even pick out one post to point to; they're all terrific. It will give you a fantastic feel for the scene on the ground. As always, the foreign TV correspondent was a big hit (but Idol re-tread Kimberly Caldwell's "Super Bowl Idol" for Entertainment Tonight? Eh, pass.)
Super Bowl Lead-Up: Here's a handy cheat-sheet of what to look for when either team is on offense or defense.
CBB Mania: John Wall is back (as if he ever left). 17 pts and 7 assists in a Kentucky win over Ole Miss. Wall quote that should scare the other national contenders: "It felt great to have the fun back."
That Michigan State lost at Wisconsin is, in the grand scheme of the NCAA Tournament, not that big of a deal. What IS is a big deal is whether Kalin Lucas' ankle injury will bug him for the long-term, which would impact State's chances in March ... significantly.
Women's Hoops: You really need to be paying attention to UConn, which won its 61st straight game and absolutely decimated West Virginia, only the No. 8 team in the country. If you are too young to have witnessed UCLA's run in the late-60s/early-70s (and anyone under the age of 45 would be), this is the closest thing to it we have seen in major sports.
NBA Talking Points: Check out this terrific analysis by Eric Freeman about whether a middling team is better off with a short stay in the playoffs or focusing on building for the long-term at the expense of making the playoffs. (My take: All fans want to know is that the team is building toward something, which the Knicks fatally failed to grasp throughout the Aughts.)
MLB Hot Stove: Not sure what the big deal is about the Twins wanting to give Joe Mauer a "legacy contract." What mega-deal in baseball -- or any other sport -- isn't about what a player has done before, in addition to what they still might do? The Twins don't need to try to spin paying Mauer $20 million a year; that's his market value, and it's not like the fans will care how much he gets paid, as long as the team keeps him.
CFB Scheduling: Boise-VA Tech moved to Labor Day, giving Boise State a second straight season of a super-high-profile opener (last season was the opening-night late game against Oregon). Look at the awesome ratings that Miami-FSU got on Labor Day '09. Meanwhile, a win over the Hokies in VA Tech country -- if not Blacksburg -- will give BSU a nice jump on the BCS.
Super Bowl Ads: At this point, I'm open for any other companies to start trying to break through the lock that the Tebow/Focus on the Family ad has on pre-Bowl buzz (which must be frustrating the heck out of marketers trying to get coverage this week). The LeBron/Howard McDonald's ad? That'll do.
NFL Offseason: Mike Vick wants to start somewhere. The Eagles reportedly want to keep him, but it would be as a backup. Something's gotta give. (If a team legitimately wants to make Vick its starter -- and I'm not quite sure why they would, at least in 2010 -- the Eagles should release him. At the same time, Vick owes the Eagles his loyalty for giving him a chance. If he didn't want to give them a Year 2 option, he shouldn't have signed the deal.)
Fines: Rex Ryan is on the hook for $50K for his flipped bird the other night. Eh: It was worth it, if only to maintain his brand credibility.
Entertainment: I know that expanding the list of Best Picture Oscar nominees to 10 would lower the bar, but "The Blind Side?" Really? For Best Picture? In that context, "It's an honor to be nominated with this great group of films" has never been more meaningless.
The Last Word: Panel mania! If you live in NYC, this afternoon I'm hosting a Social Media Week panel about sports media, featuring SN's own Will Leitch, sports media futurist Jason Fry, golf blogger Stephanie Wei and ESPN's Amy Nelson. It's at Destinations (Avenue A and 13th St) from 5-6, but doors open at 4:30. Believe it or not, there's supposedly going to be a crowd. I'm always skeptical, but WUC NYC folks are welcome!
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.â†µ
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