Shanoff's WUC: Big Ben, Howard, Halladay

Today's Calls: Ryan Howard vs. $25 million a year when he is 36, Big Ben vs. Contrition, Roy Halladay vs. Felix Hernandez, LaGarrette Blount vs. Stafon Johnson, Magic vs. Sweep, Hawks vs. At Least Two More Games, Lakers legs vs. Thunder fast-break, LeBron vs. Close-Out, Caps vs. Habs, Jan Vesely vs. Samardo Samuels, SEC expansion vs. Big Ten expansion, Tim Tebow's No. 15 Broncos jersey vs. Sam Bradford's No. 8 Rams jersey, Michael Oher vs. Michael Lewis and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: This morning, Pennsylvania is the center of some unbelievable sports statements. ↵

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↵In Pittsburgh: "I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given in my life and will make the necessary improvements." ↵

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↵That's Big Ben, "accepting" his suspension from the NFL. (Yeah, like he was going to fight it.) ↵

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↵"Make the necessary improvements" sounds like a company explaining a couple of product fixes, not a seemingly troubled guy radically fixing his life. Ben's only course is to lay low, get some help and prepare himself to play well when he returns. ↵

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↵In Philadelphia: Ryan Howard is going to make $25 million each year, when he is 34, 35 and -- swallow hard -- 36. ↵

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↵Make no mistake: Howard is a superstar. But this is a silly contract reminiscent of an economic bubble that felt like a million years ago -- the presumption was that baseball teams stopped making deals like these (for good reason). ↵

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↵The absurd number is mitigated by baseball's "it's-just-money" lack of a salary cap, which lets the teams with the cash spend it wildly. But even the Yankees and Red Sox wouldn't pay Howard that kind of money going out that many years. ↵

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↵I appreciate the Phillies' commitment to its core -- Phillies fans should be happy ... but we will see how happy they are half a decade from now when Howard is making $25 million, untradeable and hitting lefties even worse than he does now. ↵

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↵Throw in Larry Brown likely returning to the 76ers (any day now!) and Pennsylvania is the center of the sports universe. ↵

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↵Now, about Roy Halladay losing his first start as a Phillies yesterday. ... ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: So Doc won't be going 30-0? ↵

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↵• Neither will King Felix. ↵

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↵• Walk-off walk! Cubs over Nats ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: SP Josh Johnson (12 Ks) ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud 2: OF Colby Rasmus (6th HR) ↵

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↵NBA Playoff Mania: The Magic can now enjoy a breather while the Hawks extend themselves nearly another week against the pesky Bobcats. ↵

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↵(YouTube Clip of the Day: Bango the Bucks mascot doing a backwards flip off a high ladder for a dunk. h/t: CNBC's Darren Rovell) ↵

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↵Tonight: The Cavs and Celtics can each close things out at home, but settle in for a late night: The Mavs are in a win-or-else game at home against the Spurs (tipping at 9:30) and the Lakers and Thunder, intriguingly tied 2-2, plays their "pivotal" Game 5 in L.A. (tip time 10:30). The Thunder have nothing to lose by keeping the pedal down. ↵

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↵NFL Draft UFA Watch: LaGarrette Blount joins USC's Stafon Johnson in an intriguing battle of undrafted RBs who will be vying for a spot on the Titans. (One-time super-recruit Ryan Perrilloux is getting a tryout with the Vikings, but I am much more intrigued by Minnesota's drafting of UAB QB Joe Webb as a WR; he could be a very valuable Wildcat option.) ↵

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↵NFL Offseason Moves: Anyone else want to bet that ex-Pat Adalius Thomas gets a look from the Jets? ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Habs-Caps is going 7. ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Seemingly every college player who can is going pro ... and yet Jan Vesely, the top-ranked Euro (and Top 10 draft lock) is not going to make himself available for the draft this year. ↵

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↵(Check out DeCourcy's list of 5 players who should stay in school rather than enter the draft. I'm impressed he could limit it to 5, because with this year's numbers game, there are probably 35 who are better off dropping out of the draft.) ↵

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↵CFB Conference Expansion: The SEC is not going to get caught standing still if there is a seismic shuffle. (Hmm: If the SEC tapped Texas, would the 'Horns consider it? Or do they like their comfy place playing the soft heartland defenses?) ↵

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↵Marketing: As expected, Tim Tebow led all rookies in jersey sales during the first weekend after the draft. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Tebow led the entire league in jersey sales this year. ↵

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↵Books: Michael Oher and Leigh Anne Tuohy would both like their piece of the "Blind Side" pie that Michael Lewis (and Sandra Bullock) generated. Both will release books based on the story -- which is a little odd to say, given that they were the story. ↵

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↵The Last Word: 45.4 million. That's how many people watched the NFL Draft this year. It is up 16 percent over last year -- substantial gains, particularly in the DVR/Hulu Era, given the added exposure from primetime for the first two nights. ↵

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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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