The Opening Pitch: I think there is a very good reason NFL commissioner Roger Goodell won't announce his punishment for Ben Roethlisberger today:
Today is the release of the 2010 NFL schedule, an event that has become a huge part of the league's "no-offseason" strategy of tentpole events, like the Winter Meetings, the Combine, the start of free agency, training camp, fantasy football prep and the draft.
The release of the schedule has become a recognized off-field holiday of the sports calendar — the chance to spot potential games of the year, make travel plans for road trips and start "realistically" projecting complete team records.
The last thing the Commish wants is for media and fans to be hedging their obsessive scrutiny of the league's new schedule by simultaneously talking about what kind of punishment Big Ben got.
So the Ben punishment will wait for tomorrow — we will still be talking about the new schedule, and pre-draft discussion (final mocks, etc) will be reaching a fevered pitch in the last 24 hours before the day of the first primetime draft.
Perhaps sandwiched between the two biggest days of the offseason, the NFL can mitigate the otherwise embarrassing news of how long it will be suspending one of its marquee players.
NFL Draft: Interesting take on the teams that will likely serve as linchpins of the draft.
Tim Tebow Watch: I don't think that any team will draft Tebow specifically for his massive marketing potential, but it doesn't hurt that by drafting him, you ensure your team is the lead story of every draft recap.
NBA Playoffs: LeBron did his best to shut up the Bulls. As President Obama might say: "Wap. Wap. Wap. Wap. ..." LeBron kept hitting jumpers (see Last Word), racked up 40, posterized James Johnson and put the Bulls in a 2-0 hole, with no indication Chicago can win this series. (Kudos to the Bulls for making it interesting with their trash-talk, though; it's so good for the game.)
Meanwhile: The Jazz apparently don't need any frontcourt players — just one particular backcourt player, Deron Williams (33 pts, 14 ast), to take home-court advantage back from the Nuggets with the series shifting to SLC.
— Will the C's be more or less energized without KG?
— Will Durant recover vs. Lakers’ D?
— Will Suns recover after losing HCA to the Blazers?
— Is anyone paying attention to Hawks-Bucks?
NBA Draft: Kyle Singler is coming back to Duke and, consequently, a sure-fire preseason 1st-team All-America season — probably National Player of the Year. Let's see: Nolan Smith is back. Kyrie Irving is arguably more dangerous than Jon Scheyer. And the emergence of the Plumlees can supplement the loss of Zoubek and Thomas in the frontcourt. It's probably time to revise those pre-pre-season Top 25s with Duke at No. 1.
NHL Playoffs: The Habs' momentum over the Capitals feels like a long, long time ago.
MLB Talking Points: The Rays crushed the spirit of the Red Sox, not just beating them on the classic 11 a.m. Patriots Day game, but sweeping four games at Fenway.
(It's probably a good thing I didn't publicize my preseason pick that the Red Sox were going to win the World Series. Do I still have time to swap out "Boston" for "Tampa" as the second playoff team from the AL East?)
— Rookie Watch: NYM 1B Ike Davis (2 H in NY W)
— Eric Gagne retires: Will be remembered as a cheater with an epic save streak.
— Does MLB really care that Joe Maddon wears a hoodie? (Apparently so.)
CFB Offseason: I love the Big Ten expansion story, because there is legitimate drama over which teams they will pursue (and which will say yes) — plus the unintended consequences of how those defections will impact other conferences. Plus: There is Brian Cook's smart outrage, which every fan with a vested interest should read.
Signings: Much-needed good news for Florida in two sports — Billy Donovan is getting Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, who can be the most talented 2-guard ever to come through Gainesville (sorry, Kenny Boynton). And Urban Meyer got a commitment from Orlando-area QB stud Jeff Driskel, who could come out of the summer camping season as the top-rated QB of the 2011 class.
The Last Word: "They asked me to shoot a jumper so I did that. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again."
— LeBron James, on the Chicago Bulls' bench.
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.
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.