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Move over, Oscar! This sports lineup is golden

The Week of the DVR

The lead up to Sunday, February 26, is a confluence of sports and entertainment like no other. Stacked on top of each other are signature events from the NFL, NBA, NASCAR, and golf, as well as the Academy Awards. If you're a sports fan, it’s nearly impossible to decide what to watch live and what do you entrust to your DVR.

Here’s a look at these must-see events, based on ratings, trends and celebrity cachet. As for sports fans who choose to watch the Oscars instead, there’s still a way to get your sports fix. "Moneyball" was nominated for six Academy Awards and Rooney Mara, granddaughter of late Giants Owner Wellington Mara, is up for best actress for her role in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."

 

NBA All-Star Weekend

The 2012 NBA All-Star Game is shaping up to be one of the hottest tickets in the event's history.  The game is scheduled for Sunday at the year-old Amway Center in Orlando. Tickets are not available to the public, causing the secondary market to set exorbitant prices.

The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that 3,000 tickets were sold in a lottery to Magic season ticket holders, with face value tickets priced at $750 for lower bowl seats and $500 for upper bowl seats. Recent listings on Stubhub show the cheapest tickets priced at well over $500.

NBA partners love All-Star Weekend for the number of events they can sponsor. On the docket during NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm are the Haier Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, and Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Orlando projects more than $100 million in economic impact from All-Star festivities. If the lockout forced the weekend to be cancelled, the effect would have been devastating for the local economy.

 

Daytona 500

Even though the Daytona 500 isn’t until Sunday, we’re well into Speedweeks, NASCAR’s annual two week-long kickoff to the NASCAR season. 

After a 2011 finale at Homestead that saw Tony Stewart barely edge Carl Edwards for the Sprint Cup Series title, the start of the season is highly anticipated by race fans. However, the biggest NASCAR story in 2012, of course, revolves around Danica Patrick and her full-time jump to NASCAR from the IndyCar circuit. NASCAR insiders feel that if Danica is going to win a Sprint Cup race this season, and that Daytona International Speedway is where it will happen. Patrick has close to half a million Twitter followers and racy national TV ads for GoDaddy.com. Should she become the first-ever female winner of a Sprint Cup Series race, at the Daytona 500 no less, the buzz would be off the charts.

While the 2011 Daytona 500’s live broadcast reached 30.1 million viewers, NASCAR executives want to significantly better those numbers this time around the track: NASCAR’s TV rights come up for renewal within months, and they are hoping to in turn better the TV rights revenue they currently get from Fox. 

 

WGC-Accenture Match Play 

The first World Golf Championships event of 2012 returns to The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, near Tucson. The 32 first-round matches begin Wednesday, with Official World Gold Ranking No. 1 Luke Donald looking to defend his title.

While Donald has more than 206,000 followers on Twitter, he’s hardly the only reason to tune into the tournament. Also leading the list of the 64 golfers who qualified for the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship is charismatic world No. 3 Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, playing in the first event after his meltdown at Pebble Beach last Sunday. Woods has won the Accenture three times.

Last year, NBC Sports and Golf Channel generated significant viewership increases for their combined 28 hours of live coverage. Despite Tiger being eliminated on Wednesday, Golf Channel’s three-day average viewership was up 84 percent from 2010, while weekend viewership on NBC rose 71 percent.

 

NFL Combine

Also beginning Wednesday, close to 300 top prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft descended on Indianapolis to participate in the league’s annual Combine. Under the scrutiny of executives, coaches, scouts and doctors from all 32 NFL teams, these NFL hopefuls will bench press, vertical jump and run cone drills. If that’s not exhausting enough, they’ll also be required to undergo hour-long team interviews, pass physical exams and drug tests, and take the Wonderlic, a 12-minute, 50-question aptitude test.  Average football player’s score is 20, with only one guy from Harvard ever nailing a perfect 50 – and no, it wasn’t Jeremy Lin.

While Lin-less, the Combine will have lots of People to Watch, including top quarterback prospects Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Brandon Weeden, who leads the pack on Twitter with 25,000 followers. All told, the NFL has credentialed approximately 700 media members for this year’s Combine. The event’s popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, with the four-day event now shown almost in its entirety on NFL Network.

 

Rick Horrow is the "Sports Professor," and is the Sports Business Analyst for Fox Sports. He has been the Visiting Expert on Sports Law at the Harvard Law School, and has authored "When the Game Is on the Line" and "Beyond the Scoreboard: An Insider's Guide to the Business of Sports." His show "Beyond the Box Score" is posted on a weekly basis on FoxSports.com, and the latest emerging trends in sports business can be found at www.horrowsports.com.

Brian Finkel is Creative Director for Horrow Sports Ventures. You can follow him on Twitter @TheFinkTank.