Shanoff's WUC: Nothing Compares to World Cup

Today's Calls: World Cup vs. Anything Else, U.S. vs. England, USC vs. Oblivion, Colorado vs. Nebraska, Texas vs. Pac-10 (or Big Ten), Texas A&M vs. SEC, Reggie Bush vs. Villainy, Celtics vs. Lakers, Tom Izzo vs. Cleveland, Stephen Strasburg vs. TBS, Carson Palmer vs. Chad Ochocinco and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The wild stories this week -- USC, Big 12, Strasburg, Izzo, NBA Finals -- may seem big, but they are nothing -- nothing -- compared to the World Cup. ↵

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↵The 2010 World Cup is going to be the biggest sports event in the world, ever. ↵

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↵Stateside, that is hard to appreciate: Millions marveled about Strasburg or care about college football realignment; billions will soak in the games from South Africa. ↵

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↵The only thing to compare it to is ... previous World Cups. Otherwise, in the stories that dominate U.S. headlines, you are talking about provincial dalliances that mean absolutely nothing compared to the all-consuming worldwide passion for what is going to happen over the next month. ↵

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↵You could gripe about the domestic focus on soccer over the next four weeks, but you would be in a tiny, inconsequential minority. Better to pick a team to root for – U.S.? Sure, but have some fun and find a more obscure country that catches your eye ... or just tune in and catch whatever is on. I watch the entire tournament on Univision; I don't even speak Spanish. ↵

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↵Starting today, the rest of the world is thrilled to embrace an event that draws an audience 10 times bigger than the biggest Super Bowl -- probably 1,000 times bigger than the number of people who care about penalties against USC football or where LeBron signs as a free agent. Or even who care about Stephen Strasburg. ↵

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↵Join us. ↵

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↵Let's get to the World Cup picks: Start with the biggie -- I think the U.S. will tie England tomorrow, but it will feel like a massive victory for the Yanks and their fans (and it will feel equally like a loss for the Brits). ↵

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↵How far will the U.S. go? On my bracket, I have them going on a miracle run to the semifinals. Perhaps I am putting too much stock in their wondrous Confed Cup run a year ago, overlooking coach Bob Bradley's overrated defense. ↵

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↵(Be sure to check out TSB's World Cup preview.) ↵

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↵Champs: I really want to be on the Spain bandwagon -- Spain has replaced Brazil for having the most stylishly dominating approach to the game. And yet I can't help but worry about Spain's historical tendency to choke in the World Cup. ↵

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↵That's why I have Brazil -- with its new "winning trumps style" mantra -- beating Spain in the finals. ↵

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↵Complete World Cup picks at the end of the column. ↵

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↵USC Penalty: I've dubbed it "Death Penalty 2.0." The NCAA couldn't give USC an SMU-in-the-1980s-style death sentence, but it came as close as it has since then, up there with Miami '95. ↵

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↵Forget erasing the 2004 title season; it's all about losing the schollys -- not to mention free transfers for the juniors and seniors (and an opening for any 2010 recruits who, understandably, would like to renege). ↵

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↵In a bit of karmic justice, Lane Kiffin has a miserable job -- holding together the tatters of the program, with national-title contention close to a decade away. Pete Carroll, safely ensconced in the NFL, is humiliated. ↵

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↵And, if you read the report, Reggie Bush becomes one of the great villains in college football history -- the paragon of entitled college superstar and the linchpin for the implosion of one of the country's great programs. ↵

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↵(I would like to see the Heisman Trust strip him of his Heisman, then go a step further and award it to Vince Young -- it's not like there are any fans out there who remember the 2005 season title game who wouldn't be entirely satisfied with that.) ↵

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↵It is impossible to have any sympathy. ↵

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↵Good for the NCAA: Long derided as toothless and in the pocket of big programs, the NCAA finally took a stand -- can you imagine how bad things had to be for the NCAA to hand out a punishment this severe? It is a reputation-saver. ↵

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↵Whither 2004? The NCAA/BCS won't crown a champ from 2004 to replace the title vacated by USC, which is a shame. Auburn was screwed then, and they're getting screwed now. I hope the AP does the right thing and has a re-vote, with Auburn as champ. ↵

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↵CFB Expansion: Colorado is in the Pac-10. Nebraska is headed to the Big Ten. The rest is up for grabs: Texas to the Pac-10? (Likely.) Or is that the Big Ten? (Unlikely.) Or is that Texas A&M to the SEC? (Sorta likely!) Or is that Oklahoma to the SEC? (Ha! Good one!) After yesterday's rumorama, can we just take a break for the World Cup? ↵

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↵NBA Finals: C's Even Up. You can't ask for much more than what these Finals are giving us -- tie series after 4 games, new heroes every night. Last night, it was Big Baby pulling a Derek Fisher with 9 points in the 4th quarter and 18 for the game. If the see-saw momentum holds, the Lakers should bring the series back to LA for Games 6 and 7 needing just one win to secure the title; on the other hand, if they lose Game 5 in Boston this weekend ... it will be a must-see. ↵

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↵Izzo Watch: Izzo picked a pretty good day to try to sneak into Cleveland to think about leaving Michigan State for the Cavaliers. Let's reiterate: He would be insane to go to the NBA. He won't win a title, but he will tarnish his legacy. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Aces high: Johnson over Halladay. ↵

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↵• Stras Effect: Nats get 1st sweep. ↵

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↵• Lady GaGa doesn't like Mets fans. ↵

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↵• Injury Watch: A-Rod's groin. ↵

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↵• Weekend Watch: More interleague ↵

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↵Strasburg Mania: Sunday's game against the Indians will be televised nationally on TBS. So there's that. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Suffice to say, Carson Palmer isn't happy that Chad Ochocinco isn't working out with the team. ↵

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↵Stanley Cup Hangover: Chicago has plenty of reason to celebrate. ↵

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↵NBA Draft: Wall to Wiz? That is the inference you can make from the Wizards canceling their workout with Evan Turner. So let me speak for all Wiz fans when I say: YESSS!!! ↵

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↵(Have to say: I might be even more excited about Ted Leonsis formally taking over as Wizards owner as I am about the Wall pick.) ↵

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↵Tragedies: What sad news that Nelson Mandela's great-granddaughter was killed in a car accident yesterday coming back from the World Cup kickoff concert. ↵

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↵Complete World Cup Picks: ↵

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↵Group A: (1) Uruguay, (2) France ↵
↵Group B: (1) Argentina, (2) Nigeria ↵
↵Group C: (1) US, (2) England ↵
↵Group D: (1) Germany, (2) Serbia ↵
↵Group E: (1) Netherlands, (2) Cameroon ↵
↵Group F: (1) Italy, (2) Paraguay ↵
↵Group G: (1) Brazil, (2) Portugal ↵
↵Group H: (1) Spain, (2) Chile ↵

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↵2nd Round: ↵

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↵(B2) Nigeria over (A1) Uruguay ↵
↵(C1) U.S. over (D2) Serbia ↵
↵(E1) Netherlands over (F2) Paraguay ↵
↵(G1) Brazil over (H2) Chile ↵
↵(B1) Argentina over (A2) France ↵
↵(D1) Germany over (C2) England ↵
↵(F1) Italy over (E2) Cameroon ↵
↵(H1) Spain over (G2) Portugal ↵

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↵Quarters: ↵

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↵U.S. over Nigeria ↵
↵Brazil over Netherlands ↵
↵Argentina over Germany ↵
↵Spain over Italy ↵

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↵Semis: ↵
↵Brazil over U.S. ↵
↵Spain over Argentina ↵

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↵Champ: Brazil over Spain ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Too severe." -- Lane Kiffin, on the NCAA punishment against USC. He would be in the minority on that one. ↵

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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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