Trevor Ariza vs. Ron Artest
In what turned out to be basically a swap of the players, the Lakers will sign Artest (below his market rate) and the Rockets will sign Ariza (for around what he was offered by the Lakers in the first place) when free agents can officially ink deals next week.
Thanks to Ariza (and his agent) looking elsewhere after receiving what they thought was a lowball Laker offer, Artest immediately makes the best team in the NBA tougher, which has been the biggest knock against L.A. the past couple of years. Meanwhile, Ariza will be counted on to be more of a contributor than he's ever had to be during his career, but now on a secretly rebuilding Rockets team.
The Verdict: It's hard to fault Ariza for trying to get a better deal, especially when the Artest contract seemed to come out of nowhere. Really, though, Artest and the Lakers come out victorious here. In addition, the potential storylines are endless, from what designs Artest will shave into his head, to how quickly Artest "accidentally" knocks down a TMZ camera guy next to a valet in Santa Monica. Nothing could possibly go wrong here.
Manny Ramirez vs. The Rest of the Season
Ramirez returns Friday against San Diego after serving his 50 game suspension for testing positive for PEDs. The biggest question is how Manny responds to both so much time off and the extra scrutiny by media and fans.
Considering how much hell Barry Bonds caught in Dodger Stadium a few years ago, Giants fans should be particularly brutal during L.A.'s remaining six games in whatever it is that stadium is called these days. Lucky for Manny, though, it's still San Francisco, so he should probably just get ready for sophisticated puns shouted between swigs of minty green tea.
The Verdict: It seems unlikely that his second half will mirror last year's otherworldly performance, but even clean, it's not unreasonable to think that Manny will be on a mission to prove that he can still crush the ball, even without the aid of the best female fertility masking agents money can buy.
Tennis Fans vs. NBC Sports
This past week, the second of the Wimbledon fortnight, was the week in which NBC had the rights to the majority of the tennis coverage from the All-England Lawn Tennis Club. As has been the case entirely too often during non-US Open majors, most of the coverage has been tape delayed and/or poorly executed, with taped matches not only being shown, but in place of close live ones.
It's a fantastic strategy if you're looking to quell any possible excitement (or ratings) for your sport, but if you're looking for the most important tournament of the year to be as dramatic and interesting as possible, maybe consider making fans actually tune in to your broadcast to see a live event.
The Verdict: Tennis fans and NBC both lose (although the always-necessary fourth hour of The Today Show wins). There's no reason that we should have to resort to finding back alley online foreign TV streams if we want to watch a match unfold. If you can't figure out a schedule to get a maximum audience, let somebody else try.
Takeru Kobayashi vs. Joey Chestnut
In what has become one of the most consistent and electrifying rivalries in well, the realm of physically-challenging events, Chestnut and Kobayashi will compete once again in the Nathan's Hot-Dog Eating Contest for the honor of the prestigious mustard yellow belt.
To put it into the context of another sport, Chestnut appears to be the Rafa Nadal to Kobayashi's Roger Federer. Year after year, Kobayashi was dominant and bordered on untouchable, but Chestnut, the up-and-comer, made the leap in '07 (setting a new record at 66 dogs and buns in 12 minutes) and defended the belt last year.
The Verdict: I'm looking for a Federer-type French Open resurgence from Kobayashi this year. I'm not saying Chestnut goes down early (perhaps by an errant Ed "Cookie" Jarvis elbow?), but I feel like this ends with Kobayashi gearing up, winning, and letting it all out triumphantly. His emotions, that is.
The Real World vs. NYC Prep
Since network summer shows are consistently awful, let's put the two shows with the least intelligence but the most entertainment value up against each other.
First, The Real World: Cancun has a case because it has the history and name recognition. Also, the first two episodes have featured an above-average college football punter, a make-out session between a guy in his 20s and woman in her 50s, and a saliva-filled taco. All in two short episodes. I know.
The newcomer, NYC Prep, a reality show about the lives of privileged Manhattan teens, has also come out of the gates strong. It features a cast that's everything you hope your kids aren't or never will be. If the "stars" aren't perfecting their unintentionally hilarious impression of how they think adults behave, they talk about how their life as a genetics CEO is planned out, how they much prefer cupcakes to ordinary cake, or how, if you go to the right society parties, you can hook up with anywhere between 2 and 16 people per month. Really, it's gripping television.
The Verdict: I'm hesitant to go against the wily veteran, but through two episodes, NYC Prep takes it. If for no other reason than the Bravo show will instantly make you feel better about yourself and your own friends, the show comes out on top.
Dan Rubenstein hosts and produces the SI Tour Guy video series for SI.com and co-hosts The Solid Verbal college football podcast with SI.com's Ty Hildenbrandt. He can be e-mailed here.