Shanoff's WUC: All-Stars, Papi, Wall, Tebow

Today's Calls: American League vs. National League, David Price vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, Big Papi vs. the Home Run Derby, Final Four vs. "First Four," NCAA vs. Facebook, Udonis Haslem vs. Derek Fisher, John Wall vs. Summer League, David Stern vs. LeBron and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: It's a good week for fresh starts. ↵

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↵— Tonight's MLB All-Star Game will feature a record 33 first-time players, including both starting pitchers (a tantalizing match-up between Ubaldo Jimenez and David Price). ↵

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↵— Last night, Big Papi upended a couple years' worth of decline by winning his first Home Run Derby — even if/when the Red Sox don't keep him next season, this felt like a thrilling career re-boot. ↵

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↵— The NCAA Tournament is getting a fresh start, too: A play-in round among the "last four in" from the at-large pool for the right to be Cinderella. Those games' inevitable success will open the door for more Tourney expansion. ↵

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↵— David Stern would like to put the whole "Big Three" recruitment behind us ... but not before fining Cavs owner Dan Gilbert $100K (hmm: for using Comic Sans font?) and blasting LeBron for "The Decision." ↵

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↵— John Wall, making only his second pro start, continued to rack up admirers while putting up a double-double and leading the Wizards to — what's this ... a rout? (Forgive me: It's a new feeling for Wiz fans.) ↵

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↵— It even extends into pop culture: Tim Tebow makes the biggest marketing splash yet of his career, on the front of the box for EA's NCAA Football 11, which comes out today. ↵

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↵(And that's just in the last 12 hours; the list doesn't even count the afterglow of Spain winning its first World Cup title — the celebration undoubtedly continues from Barcelona to Madrid.) ↵

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↵The future of sports is on display: Dozens of rising-star baseball players, brand-new NBA players who are absolutely must-see, an even more compelling March Madness. ↵

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↵Not bad for what is traditionally one of the slowest weeks of the sports year. ↵

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↵More on all those topics after the jump. ↵

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↵MLB All-Star Game: Call it the "Fresh Face All-Star Game" as 33 players are making their ASG debut. Love the picks of first-timers Ubaldo Jimenez and David Price to start the game. Ubaldo was a no-brainer; Price formalizes his leap this season. (Remember, he only played in five games in '08. An All-Star starter after one full year of pitching. Wow.) ↵

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↵Home Run Derby: Big Papi! What symbolism packed into the Derby last night — the aging slugger, with plenty of questions about whether he has lost his pop, re-entering the Derby for the first time since his heyday, then winning the thing with 21 HRs in the first two rounds, then the rare double-digit homer total in the final round. What a classic "take THAT" moment from a larger-than-life character. ↵

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↵NCAA Tournament 68 Details: Love that they're making the "last four in" play in for their 12-seed (or 13 or 11 or whatever). Three implications: ↵

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↵(1) Played on Tuesday or Wednesday before the larger opening round of the tournament starts, these games are going to be insanely popular. ↵

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↵It's not the old "16A vs. 16B for the right to lose to a 1-seed"; it is two Tourney-worthy teams playing for the right to be the 12-seed in the classic 12-5 upset. ↵

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↵(2) I could see the winner of that play-in enjoying a running start and running over the 5-seed. The effect is hard to gauge, because the 12-seed already runs over the 5-seed with regularity. ↵

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↵(3) Even as someone who fills out their bracket on Sunday night, I'm not sure I like the new two-day-early deadline for bracket sheets. That's two days of mindless sports-media chatter you'll be missing! Oh, wait. ↵

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↵NBA Summer of 2011: It's already starting, with Chris Paul implying during a toast at Carmelo's wedding that the Knicks can form a "Big Three" of their own: CP3, Carmelo and Amare. Hey, I'll take it: Anything to stop the Heat. ↵

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↵NBA Free Agent Mania: It's about loyalty. So the Heat lost out on Derek Fisher, who will stick with the Lakers — now the NBA fan's best hope for staving off a Miami title. But the Heat will keep Udonis Haslem, at a huge discount. This is precisely the kind of irrational lucky bounce that will help Miami win a title. LeBron-Wade-Bosh-Miller-Haslem? Yikes. ↵

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↵More: Does the Magic signing Quentin Richardson mean that they are ready to let J.J. Redick head off to Chicago? ↵

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↵(Ooh, watch this signing: The Spurs bring over Tiago Splitter at 3Y/$10.9M, making him arguably the biggest bargain in the NBA. Ink him in on your 2010-11 All-Rookie First Team.) ↵

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↵Trade Rumor: Al Jefferson to the Jazz? Jefferson feels like a less stable version of Carlos Boozer — an undersized post player. Won't it cause the same playing-time conflicts that Boozer had with Millsap? Still: Another big to take on Gasol/Bynum is a good thing for Utah to maintain its grip on a mid-tier playoff seed in the West and their perennial early playoff exits. ↵

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↵NBA Summer League, Wall Edition: 18 points (5-for-12 FG, but 8-for-8 FT) and 10 assists (with 8 turnovers) in a Wiz rout of the Clippers. By the end, even Clipper Darrell was cheering him. For Wizards fans, it is plainly obvious what a top-flight PG does to make a typically lousy team better. ↵

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↵CFB Offseason: Just like the NCAA cracked down on coaches — led by Urban Meyer — who were using the (sorta) new technology of texting to reach recruits, they are cracking down on Facebook messages, too. (Another Meyer-led trend.) How about Skype? What about "FaceTime" on the new iPhone? I want a tear-jerker ad featuring Urban Meyer and the iPhone deaf guy. ↵

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↵Countdown: No. 52 South Florida. The Leavitt Era is over; the (Skip) Holtz Era is here. He is lucky to have QB BJ Daniels to help with the transition, but that early-season game at Florida sizes up as a litmus test. (BTW: In part because of USF, the Gators have arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC.) ↵

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↵EA NCAA Football 11 Release Day: This year's game theme is "Where I Come From..." (a tribute to fan allegiances, which has been brilliantly explored by our friends over at SB Nation's network of college football blogs). Tim Tebow, as you might have heard, is on this year's cover, and this theme might have you wondering "So how did Dan become a die-hard Florida fan, anyway?" Go to UF? Nope. Grow up in Florida? Nope. Parents are Gator fans? Nope. I became a Gator fan when I met my wife, who IS from Gainesville and HAS been a die-hard Florida fan her entire life. I latched on. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Here is my Rams preview — Sam Bradford is going to be a dud. #teamtebow ↵

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↵Favre Watch: Ooh, look — he can keep up with the high school kids. With LeBron's Decision past us, isn't it about time we started the doomsday clock for Favre's version? ↵

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↵You don't say: Dan Gilbert "strongly disagrees" with Jesse Jackson. ↵

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↵Media: Even more people watched the World Cup final than watched U.S. vs. Ghana, which set the old record for number of people in the U.S. watching a soccer game. I'd call that a victory for the sport. ↵

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↵RIP, Harvey Pekar. Wonderful tribute by MDS over at Fanhouse. ↵

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↵The Last Word: No problem. The NBA has no issue with the way Miami's Big 3 came together. Case closed. ↵

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↵But there was enough ire to fine Gilbert $100K. I wonder if Stern doubled it because Gilbert used that joke of a font. In Times New Roman, that's a $50K fine. ↵

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↵But give David Stern credit: He called LeBron's "Decision" show "ill-conceived, badly produced and poorly executed." That is about as stinging of an indictment as Stern is going to hand out. ↵

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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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