Shanoff's WUC: Can You NOT Root for Saints?

Today's Calls: Saints vs. Colts, Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow vs. Budweiser, Carrie Underwood vs. The Who, Watching the Game vs. Twittering the Game. ↵

↵ The Opening Pitch: If the Saints win the Super Bowl on Sunday, it would be the most meaningful Super Bowl champ in NFL history and -- with apologies to Red Sox Nation circa 2004 -- perhaps the most meaningful champion in pro sports history. ↵

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↵When the Rams went from worst-to-first in 1999, it was a big deal. But the Saints winning it all would mark the ultimate for the NFL's ultimate archetype for epic loser. As has been said a lot this season: It's really hard to begrudge the Saints. ↵

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↵It's hard to begrudge their fans, too -- a merry bunch of partiers who have appreciated this run like few fans before them. And, yes, even though it is a shallow interpretation: Because of Katrina, you might even say the region deserves it. ↵

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↵I can't remember a Super Bowl -- or any pro sports championship -- where more fans without a natural rooting interest were so aligned in supporting one team over the other, but not unlike the sentiment after Katrina: "We're all Saints fans." ↵

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↵The Colts -- mirroring their QB -- feel like robots, optimized for offensive efficiency and earning that 2nd ring of the Peyton Era. The Saints, meanwhile, feel like they have a soul. In short: How can you NOT root for New Orleans? ↵

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↵I don't think the collective support of the nation can simply will the Saints past the Colts -- the Saints' superior running game and opportunistic defense will do that job for them. ↵

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↵Pick: Saints 34, Colts 28 ↵

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↵ ↵(I'd like to keep it all happy and positive, but I will say that I am rooting against the Colts -- no matter who they would be playing -- because I feel like they deserve a karmic backlash for tanking the end of the regular season.) ↵

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↵Super Bowl Ad Watch: For the first time ever, the biggest ad hype isn't around beer or monkeys or movie trailers or random Web companies. It's about abortion. (Music screeches to halt.) ↵

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↵The most-talked about -- even the most-anticipated -- ad of the night belongs to Focus on the Family, featuring Tim and Pam Tebow and promoting a pro-life message. My prediction is that the reaction largely will be: "What was all the fuss about?" ↵

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↵(Simply: It would not have been approved had it been at all incendiary. Now, you can have specific views about Focus on the Family's other messages, but this one will be softly lit and soft-pedaled, precisely for the hundreds of millions of viewers.) ↵

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↵Super Bowl Hoopla: There's a prop bet on how long it takes Carrie Underwood to sing the National Anthem (1:42 ... I've heard from good authority to take the under) and The Who extends a post-Janet tradition of "Widely Acceptable Halftime Shows." ↵

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↵The Twitter Super Bowl? This is the first Super Bowl since Twitter reached a critical mass in the middle of last February, and as someone who has been tweeting Super Bowls for the past two years, it is a fun way to supplement watching the game: Plays are instantly analyzed from a hundred angles; ads are instantly reviewed; party stories are shared. (I vividly remember, for an audience of dozens in 2008, the freak-out end of the Giants-Pats game. I believe I typed out the Twitter equivalent of jumping up out of my seat and knocking over the beers of everyone around me.) Be sure to follow @danshanoff for live-tweeting throughout the game. ↵

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↵Freeney Watch: Will he play on Sunday? Won't he? Seems odd that they would try to get him into practice on Friday. Why not just let him keep healing and either play him or don't on Sunday? ↵

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↵Don't forget to keep up with TSB's Michael Tunison and Chris Littmann, who are running around in Miami capturing some really off-the-beaten-path stories. ↵

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↵LT done in SD? "I'm not coming back." That's LaDainian Tomlinson about his future with the Chargers. OK, so mark San Diego down for a RB in the draft. But where might LT land? Teams better understand: Wherever he goes, he wants the ball. ↵

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↵CBB Mania: Games of the Weekend ↵

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↵• Villanova at Georgetown ↵
↵• Gonzaga at Memphis ↵
↵• Mississippi State at Florida ↵
↵• Baylor at Texas A&M ↵
↵• Xavier at Dayton ↵

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↵Big rebound win for Duke last night, thumping Georgia Tech at Cameron. It is meaningful on two levels: (1) It eases the sting of last weekend's loss at G'town, and (2) it eases the sting of last month's beat-down in Atlanta. ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: The Mike Dunleavy Era is over for the Clippers. Wait: You say he's still going to be GM? Well, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? ↵

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↵LeBron leads Cavs past Heat: And you know what they say ... "If you can beat 'em, join 'em." (Obviously, it's the other way around; does that mean that Dwyane Wade will leave Miami for Cleveland this summer? Don't see it happening.) That's 10 straight Ws for the sizzling Cavs, by the way. ↵

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↵CFB Recruiting: You heard yesterday about how Florida and USC and Tennessee helped themselves. But Brian Cook has a great analysis of 5 teams who didn't help themselves -- and may have set their program back in the long-term. (Hint: Ohio State) ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Orlando Hudson for $5M and no more than a 1-year commitment seems like a pretty good bargain for the Twins. (And if they are out of the playoff hunt -- which they won't be, but still -- they can flip the cheap Hudson to a contender for prospects.) ↵

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↵Pujols, Cards working out a deal? I don't have nearly the question about Albert Pujols re-signing with the Cardinals that I do with Joe Mauer and the Twins. Simply put: The Cards will pay whatever they need to in order to keep Pujols. The only question for me is whether Pujols gives them even a bit of a hometown discount. ↵

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↵NASCAR: Danica makes her stock-car debut tomorrow, and it will be the most notable event in the sport this year. As an object of interest -- even if it's just curiosity -- she has quickly become the biggest name in NASCAR. ↵

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↵Tiger Update: He is reportedly leaving rehab today. But does he go home? Head off to the uber-rich guy's equivalent of the "Bachelor Arms" temporary apartments? Head off the Vegas to relapse? He should go straight to the practice range, frankly. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "On a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 14." -- NFL union honcho DeMaurice Smith, on the chance of a lockout in 2011. Enjoy the Super Bowl, everybody! ↵

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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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